Revelation 11:1-14 Part 4


1)    Then a reed like a measuring rod was given to me saying, ‘go and measure God’s temple and the altar and the worshippers in it.

2)    And cast out the exterior courtyard of the holy place; you shall not measure it, for it and the holy city have been given to the nations and they shall be trampled forty-two months.

3)    And I will give to my two witnesses and they will prophesy a thousand two hundred and sixty days having been clothed in sackcloth;

4)    these are the two olives and the two lamps standing before the Lord of the earth.

5)    And if anyone wills to harm them, fire goes forth out of their mouth and consumes their adversaries; this is how anyone who wills to harm them is doomed to be destroyed.

6)    The authority to shut the heaven belongs to them in order that it might not rain during the days of their prophecies.  And they have the authority over the waters to turn them into blood and to smite the land in every plague as much as they wish.

7)    And when they have completed their testimony, the beast which is coming up out of the abyss will wage war against them and will overcome them and will kill them,

8)    their bodies on the street of the great city (which is called, spiritually, Sodom and Egypt where also their Lord was crucified),

9)    their bodies being observed for three and a half days from the peoples and tribes and tongues and nations suffering not their bodies to be entombed.

10) And those dwelling on the land rejoice and are gladdened; and they will send gifts to one another, for these two prophets did torment those dwelling on the land.’

11) Then after the three and a half days Breath of Life from God did enter in to them, and they stood upon their feet, and great fear fell upon those beholding them.

12) Then they heard a great sound from the heaven saying to them: ‘Come up here!’  And they did go into the heaven in the cloud, and their adversaries beheld them.

13) And in that hour great shaking did arise, and the tenth of the city fell.  And killed in the shaking were names of men… seven thousands.  And the rest became terrified and gave credit to the God of heaven.

14) The woe, the second, did go forth; lo, the woe, the third, comes quickly.


As we continue to consider our Lord’s perception of the “great mystery” – the “end” of His covenantal nation Israel, and the inauguration of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ over all the nations, and the raising of a new Holy Temple for all His elect people – we are faced with complex connections and contexts which run all through the Scripture.

As mentioned in the second hour last Lord’s Day, He sees this Revelation from beginning to end in all its perfections; for Jesus said (as quoted by Luke in chapter twenty-one) “these are days of vengeance, to fulfill all things that have been written.”  From all that we’ve learned so far, that’s a very substantive statement by our Lord, isn’t it?  For us to say that “all-things-that-have-been-written” is “comprehensive” would be re-stating the obvious, wouldn’t it?

We’re sitting here reading and listening to The Revelation of Jesus Christ in January, the beginning of the eleventh year of the twenty-first century AD; and we find it bewildering – almost “abstract” (at first reading - especially this chapter).  And I, by no means, exclude myself from that disposition.  Just reading it – before I do all the work required in order for me to preach it – I’m often astonished at how complex it seems.

One could read it, and read it, and read it again, and it would still seem impenetrable.  However, our God perceives it as a perfect “whole”, fulfilling “all things that have been written”!

To Him, it isn’t complicated; it’s not confused; it’s not a tortuous and entangled maze; and it isn’t meant to be mysterious. He’s the One Who spoke it all and caused it to be written; so it’s perfectly clear to Him!  And it is “revelation”; it is not a hidden and mysterious letter.

And John’s Revelation is a letter written to the Churches concerning the fullness of all that has been written heretofore!  And it’s written so that all the Church of Jesus Christ can be comforted and given assurance!

The fact that it IS the fullness of all the written Word is exactly what the Church needs, isn’t it? – not only the Church of the first century, but the Church of all time!  That’s the very thing that gives us assurance!

If you’ll remember the messages sent to the seven Churches back in chapters two and three, our Lord chastened some in the Churches; one of the Churches He even threatened to take away their “lamp” (which is kind of pertinent to our text here, isn’t it?).  And the reason for the threats was that some didn’t believe the assurances given to them (they were judaist sympathizers and false teachers); and therefore they were “faithless”, i.e. disobedient to the King of Kings and High Priest of the Church.

Assurance is a critical issue for the Church; for without it there is no “light” to the world… the olive oil is cut off, and the lamp is extinguished.  The lamps are the very “eyes” of God the Spirit; and the light is to proceed “outward” from the throne of God.

God’s Word is a “lamp” to our feet; and to see the perfections that are revealed – that our God did “decree” from His Holy Place; and that He did do every thing that He promised; and that He did do every thing to the degree that He promised; and that every thing that He promised is written for us; and that every thing written is for the comfort and assurance of His Church – that’s where our assurance comes from… and therefore the light of Christ to the world.

But the fact that what we’re reading is complex doesn’t mean that it’s impenetrable; just because it is intricate and weighty doesn’t mean it’s incomprehensible; just because it is profound doesn’t mean it’s abstract and unfathomable.  And just because we can’t see it all doesn’t mean that there are abstractions and hidden meanings.

Even so, our Triune God is Self-determined and Self-defined; and what He wishes us to know of Him He has revealed in His written Word.  And all His creatures must rest secure in what He wants us to know – while, at the same time, understanding that there is an incomprehensibility inherent in the Creator-creature distinction… there is an exclusion of comprehension intrinsic to “creaturehood”.  We only know what we are created to know.  We don’t even know what we don’t know!

So, by the very nature of “creature”, we have limitations.  Even in our new heritage in Christ the Second Adam, we still have these “remnants” of our former heritage in corrupt, depraved and cursed man-kind which further limits our capacity for knowledge, and further limits our abilities to discern and retain all of that which our God has revealed.

But through “rebirth” into our new heritage in the Second Adam, we now have “life from death”; and “Light”; for He IS the Light of Life.  And the (perfect seven) “eyes” of Holy Spirit (the seven lamps on the lampstand before the throne of God) point us to Him and guide us to Him and cause us to live IN HIM.

The Light always shines outward from the throne to illumine our every way.  He is the Word of God Made Flesh.  And the Word is that Lamp to our feet.  And therefore we can know much; and we can understand much; and we can retain much.  Limited?..... yes.  Given much?..... you bet.  Aided in our inabilities?...... absolutely!

Holy Spirit Himself (the Seven Eyes of God, the Lamps before the throne) – Holy Spirit leads us and points us and “lights” the way to the Word – the Word of God Made Flesh.  Word and Spirit.

Let’s just summarize what we learned last Lord’s Day in dealing with verses three and four; we’ll make reference to it, I’m sure, many more times.  And the way the Word of God says we learn will set in… here a little, there a little.

Before Jerusalem and the man-made temple are destroyed, the apostle John hears further testimony of its guilt, which is a summary of the entire history of the city (and therefore the nation), a summary of its continual persecution of God’s prophets… and therefore a continual rejection of, and rebellion against, God’s Word.

The Lord tells John that He has decreed two Witnesses to prophesy for twelve hundred and sixty days (i.e. forty two months, three and a half years, a number that we heard from Daniel’s prophecy), a period of time in the last days, decreed to put an end to the sin and apostasy, bring in the final desolation, and fully establish the fifth Kingdom, the eternal Kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ.  And remember that at least two witnesses are required to convict an offender against God’s Law and administer the death penalty.

So what we’re seeing here in one of several representations, is two un-named witnesses whose testimony establishes the guilt for which the death penalty is required.  And the testimony, according to former prophecy, and according to the decree here from Jesus, will last for three and a half years, at which time the two witnesses are persecuted and put to death just as former prophets from God were killed.  And that’s the second “woe” (as verse fourteen says).

The witnesses (the two bringing the charges against Jerusalem) are clothed in sackcloth (verse three), which is the prophesied and required dress for God’s prophets beginning with Elijah and continuing all the way to John the baptizer.

The form of dress and their diets and the restrictions placed on them by God as He sent them throughout the nation’s history to speak His Words, are all indicative of the Message sent, which was one of “mourning” over Israel’s national idolatry and adultery, and one of “warning” regarding her continued abominations.

We see that form of dress, and the locations from which the prophets were sent, and the restrictions against wine, and the restrictions against the varieties and abundance of foods, in such passages as Second Kings chapter one, and Isaiah chapter twenty, and Zechariah chapter thirteen… and in reference to John the baptizer in Matthew chapter three.

So the form of dress here in our text refers back to all the prophetic Word (as everything in the text does) with reference to all the prophets themselves as they were sent to speak the mournful and judgmental Word against an apostate covenant people.  And the visual “eccentricities” of the prophets matched the message.  And, in fact, the way they looked and lived (the extreme privation) was intrinsic to the message, for those things were foreboding as well of the things to come.

And as we’ve learned so well from Matthew’s text, all of God’s prophets were subjected to humiliation, persecution and death at the hands of those to whom they were sent, for the ones to whom they were sent didn’t like the Word of God that was sent to them.

So, in some ways the “two witnesses” revealed to John are representative of the entirety of the Word of God to Israel through all the prophets from Moses to John the baptizer.  And the fact that there are “two” will become more clear as we proceed through verse six.

Now, as verse four says, the two witnesses are identified as two olive branches and two lamps standing before the Lord of the earth.

And this is where God’s perception of this second “woe” becomes a bit more complex; for we have seen, through the eyes and words of the prophets, the seven golden lamps on a golden stand, fed fuel from a golden bowl filled with pure olive oil.

But as our Lord decrees this second woe, it is two lamps with two olive branches standing before the Lord of the earth to “witness”, to “testify” against Jerusalem!

And as the text says at the beginning of verse three, it is “given” them (by the Lord and Judge of the earth – the land) that they are the two witnesses; they are the two that are to present the testimony in the presence of the guilty!  They are to present all the evidence that they have seen as eye-witnesses!

And remember the two things that we’ve heard so far: first, we’ve heard that the lamps burning before the throne of God are the eyes of Holy Spirit going to and fro in all the earth; and that the “light” of the lamps proceeds outward from the throne.

Secondly, the light of the lamps is the Word of God spoken through the prophets, the Word Who was made flesh and dwelt among us.

So the two “lamps” and “olive branches” are given to testify concerning the evidence.  And the evidence is that Jerusalem (God’s holy city) has “heard” God’s covenantal Word, spoken by God through His prophets, and that she has continually broken His covenant, and that she has been “seen” doing it from the beginning, for the “seven” eyes of Holy Spirit have perfect vision of all that Jerusalem has done.

And two of the lamps projecting their light outward from the throne are sufficient testimony for a death penalty conviction for Israel’s idolatry, its harlotry, its persecution of God’s prophets, and its persecution of the people marked out for Himself by our Lord Jesus Christ.

Now, with regard to this second woe, in God’s perception of His covenantal lawsuit against His Own covenant people, there are (remarkably) two other references to two witnesses in the history of His Word to this covenant people.

And these two give us additional understanding as to why there are two witnesses here in chapter eleven (which is the final deliberations in the trial and execution of the harlot Jerusalem).

And the two we’re about to look at also provide us with additional insight as to the murderous rage and the gnashing of the teeth toward the witnesses in Jerusalem at hearing the testimony; for God had given Israel two pre-incarnation foreshadowings of the two witnesses!

The first one is the passage from Zechariah chapter four that we read at the end of the preaching last Lord’s Day.  I had left you with that for your consideration through the week; but just in case you had no opportunity to ponder it, I’ll read it for you again:


2)    and (the messenger) says to me, `What are you seeing?' And I say, `I have looked, and lo, a lampstand of gold - all of it, and its bowl on its top, and its seven lamps upon it, and seven pipes to the lights on its top,

3)    and two olive-branches by it, one on the right of the bowl, and one on its left.'

4)    And I answer to the messenger who is speaking with me, saying, `What are these, my lord?'

5)    And the messenger who is speaking with me answers and says unto me, `Have you not known what these are?' And I say, `No, my lord.'

6)    And he answers and speaks to me, saying: `This [is] a word of Yahveh unto Zerubbabel, saying: Not by force, nor by power, But by My Spirit, said Yahveh of Hosts.

7)    Who are you, O great mountain before Zerubbabel; you will become a plain!  And he has brought forth the capstone accompanied by shouts of “Grace, Grace” to it.'

8)    Then there is a word of Yahveh to me, saying,

9)    Hands of Zerubbabel did found this house, and his hands complete it, and you will know that Yahveh of Hosts has sent me unto you.

10) For who despised the day of small things? These seven are the eyes of Yahveh; they are going to and fro in all the land; and they shall see the plumb-line in the hands of Zerubbabel and rejoice;

11) Then I say unto him, `What are these two olive-branches on the right of the lampstand and on its left?'

12) And I spoke a second time and said to him, `What are the two branches of the olive trees that, through the two golden pipes, empty the oil out of themselves?'

13) And he speaks to me, saying, `Have you not known what these are?' And I say, `No, my lord.'

14) And he says, `These are the two sons of oil (i.e. anointed ones), who are standing before the Lord of the whole earth.'


God’s Revelation to John returns once again to the prophecies of the Older Scripture – specifically (in this case) the prophecy of Zechariah.  This is the second occasion to refer to Zechariah - the first being in chapter one of The Revelation (which we also read last Lord’s Day).

Zechariah is caused to see the seven lamps on the lampstand; and connected to them, one on each side, are the two olive branches from which flow an unceasing supply of fuel for the lamps.

But in verse twelve of the prophecy, Zechariah changes his question in order to discover the meaning of the two branches and the two pipes, through which flows oil to two lamps.

The explanation that he receives is that these are two “witnesses”, two “sons of oil” (anointed ones).  Since God’s covenant people have just returned from seventy years of captivity and find a desolate city and no temple, God has raised up two anointed ones – one a Godly king of Israel (to re-build the city), and another, a Godly priest to re-institute temple worship as God had prescribed in His Word.

By doing that which God had spoken, they are said to be witnesses to Israel’s sin and rebellion, the consequences of which are before them and all around them as they stand amidst the rubble of what once was Israel and Jerusalem and the temple.

The two “anointed ones” – the olive branches and “lamps” standing before God – are perceived by God as prophetically descriptive in many ways of the two witnesses here in our text, for there are “two”; and they are “given” to be witnesses, fueled by Holy Spirit, and “lamps” shining the light (the Word) outward from the throne.

And since they are lamps (Word) fueled by Holy Spirit, the revelation to Zechariah makes it very plain that these anointed witnesses accomplish the Will of God the Spirit.  It’s not by will or by might or by power, but by Word and Spirit!  Here’s the quote from Zechariah four verse six:


“Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit, says Yahveh of Hosts.”


I’ll summarize all of this for you shortly; but before I do that, let’s look at the other of the “two” portions of the older Scripture that prophetically foreshadow the “two” witnesses that John sees and hears here in our text. And what John hears (verse five) is this

“And if anyone wills to harm them, fire goes forth out of their mouth and consumes their adversaries; this is how anyone who wills to harm them is doomed to be destroyed.”


And where in Israel’s history have we heard two prophets of God destroy their enemies by fire?

Listen to Moses fourth book at chapter sixteen.  This is a rebellion against God’s Word through His prophet Moses toward the end of the forty years in the Sinai.  Korah and two hundred and fifty of the “princes” of Israel took offense to the fact that Moses was the prophetic voice of God for all of Israel; and the fact that Aaron was the high priest of God for all of Israel.  Two witnesses.

Korah and the others rebelled against Moses’ words, and against Aaron’s priesthood, by gathering before the tabernacle and burning incense in their own censers as if they were just as qualified as Moses and Aaron to lead Israel and perform priestly duties in the Holy Place!

Here’s the passage from Numbers sixteen:


35) And fire came out from Yahveh and consumed the 250 men offering the incense.

36) Then Yahveh spoke to Moses, saying,

37) "Tell Eleazar the son of Aaron the priest to take up the censers out of the blaze. Then scatter the fire far and wide, for they have become holy.

38) The censers of these men who have sinned at the cost of their lives, let them be made into hammered plates as a covering for the altar, for they offered them before Yahveh, and they became holy. Thus they shall be a sign to the people of Israel."

39) So Eleazar the priest took the bronze censers, which those who were burned had offered, and they were hammered out as a covering for the altar,

40) to be a reminder to the people of Israel, so that no outsider who is not of the descendants of Aaron, should draw near to burn incense before Yahveh, lest he become like Korah and his company—as Yahveh said to him through Moses.


And what does our text say here at verse five of chapter eleven?


“And if anyone wills to harm them, fire goes forth out of their mouth and consumes their adversaries; this is how anyone who wills to harm them is doomed to be destroyed.”


Moses spoke God’s Words, and fire from under the throne of Yahveh consumed his adversaries!  That’s the first of the two witnesses that foreshadowed what John sees here in verse five.

The second (remember there are two witnesses from whose mouth fire proceeds to devour anyone who would harm them), the second witness (prophetically foreshadowing what John now hears in our text) is the prophet Elijah.

In an event the text from which we read previously, the prophet is hated in all of Israel; a godless king wishes him dead; all the prophets of Israel are prophets and worshipers of ba’al and be’elzebub; the king sends squads of fifty men to capture Elijah and bring him to the king.

As the first captain leads his fifty men up the mountain, Elijah calls out to Yahveh and fire consumes all fifty-one soldiers.  Then the second fifty were led by a captain up the mountain and the exact same thing happens.

Then a third troup of fifty were sent.  But this captain asked for mercy from Elijah, and Yahveh spared him and his fifty soldiers.

There are mighty things to explore in this and other passages concerning Elijah, but the text of John’s Revelation chapter eleven at verse five obviously refers to two witnesses from whose mouth came the Word of God; and their adversaries were devoured in fire.

Then in verse six of your text (and remember that Jesus Christ is still speaking to John, and John writes His words to the Churches), verse six extends the Lord’s references to the two witnesses – Elijah and Moses.

He says that “the authority to shut the heaven belongs to them in order that it might not rain during the days of their prophecies”.  The days of their prophecies is twelve hundred and sixty; and that’s the same duration of the drought called forth by Elijah in First Kings chapter seventeen. (If you would like to read our Lord’s New Testament account of that event, it’s in Luke chapter four where He specifically refers to three and a half years during which the heaven was shut.)

Back in verse six of our text now, John hears the words of the Christ as He continues to extend the references to the “two witnesses”.  He says the witnesses “have the authority over the waters to turn them into blood and to smite the land in every plague as much as they wish”.

We’ve seen the reference to Elijah and his shutting the heaven for three and a half years.  So who is it the Lord refers to next? 

Of course it is Moses who by the Word of Yahveh turned the waters of Egypt into blood, and the entire nation of Egypt was smitten with horrible plagues.

Now, quickly, the summary of all of that (just to help you bring it all together), Jesus tells John of the two witnesses in terms of two olive branches and two lamps, directly from Zechariah chapter four.  And then He speaks of two witnesses (Moses and Elijah) who shut the heavens and brought terrible plagues.

So there are two references to two witnesses in the older prophetic Word, both in relation to the three and a half year siege of Jerusalem.  Our Lord Jesus Himself makes those connections in speaking to John

And the two witnesses summarize all the older prophetic Word all the way to John the baptizer, the forerunner of the One with the “measureless” portion of Holy Spirit, in order that “all things that have been written” are filled up.

This is the Word of Yahveh of Hosts, “not by might or by power, but by My Spirit”.

At the beginning of the Revelation, John sees The Word of God standing “in midst” of the seven lamps – the Light shining outward from the glorious throne, and the Eyes of Yahveh of Hosts.

And it is NOT by might, or force, or will, or power… but “by My Spirit”, He says.  The Word of God and Holy Spirit.

As we’ll see later, even when Jesus the Christ is put to death by a coalition of judaists and the pagan nations; and even when the prophets of God lie dead in the streets of Jerusalem, it is “by My Spirit”.

Even when the “beast of the abyss” rises up to persecute the people of God, it is “by My Spirit”.

It is by the Word of God and the Spirit of God that He brings to pass that which He has decreed… no man can boast of his will or his power or his strength.  The prophets were sent to speak – to testify – to witness.  It was by the witnesses that the great harlot was convicted and executed.

We are to “speak” the Word of God, for it is only by Word and Spirit.

The last prophecy in the older Scripture, Malachi, points the two prophets, Moses and Elijah, to the advent of the “Greater Prophet”, Jesus Christ.  Yahveh tells the prophet in chapter four, “remember the law of Moses My servant… behold, I am going to send you (the prophet) Elijah.”

The two witnesses culminate in the witness of John the baptizer, the forerunner of the Word of God Made Flesh, who said, “behold the Lamb of God Who takes a way the sin of the world”.

The witness of Moses was to the Greater Prophet; the witness of Elijah was to the Greater Prophet; the witness of John was to the Greater Prophet.  And that Prophet is the Word of God.

And now the apostle John is to once again prophesy to the peoples, tribes and tongues of all the earth as he witnesses to the Great Prophet of God, The High Priest of His Church, and The King of all His creation.

The Word of God says “it is by My Spirit”.  It is not by your will or your power or your force.  Rather you are to “speak” the Word of God.  Remember Moses and Elijah who, by speaking God’s Word, breathed out fire from the throne of God against their adversaries.  It is by Word and Spirit that Yahveh deals with His adversaries.