Revelation 11:1-14 Part 5


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.


Before Jerusalem and the desecrated 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 the Word of God being sent, and the city’s continual persecution of the ones who were sent – 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 abomination of 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.  John and the elders and teachers in the Churches are to make the connections with the prophecies of the older Scripture.

And the testimony, according to former prophecy, and according to the decree here from Jesus, will last for three and a half years, during which the prophets bring down the wrath of God in drought and plagues and death, 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”.

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.

As verse four says, the two witnesses are identified with two olive branches and two lamps standing before the Lord of the earth (Zechariah chapter four).  It is two lamps with two olive branches standing before the Lord of the earth to “witness”, to “testify” against Jerusalem!

Now.  There are two portions of the older Scripture that prophesy and foreshadow the “two witnesses” here in John’s text.  (Remember, the letter to the Churches is the fullness of all that has been written; so we expect to find Old Testament passages that are “filled up” here in our text.  In other words, here in the “latter days” of Israel’s existence, all of the prophetic Word reaches its fullness.)

We find the two olive branches and lamps (the Spirit and the Word) in Zechariah chapter four (where one of the greatest statements in all of Scripture occurs, i.e. “Not by might or power, but by My Spirit”).

And, then, in the prophetic words and actions of Moses and Elijah – two prophets to whom our Lord refers here in verses five and six of our text in chapter eleven.

So, Jesus tells John of the two witnesses in terms of two olive branches and two lamps, directly from Zechariah chapter four.  And then, at the same time, He speaks of two witnesses (Moses and Elijah) who shut the heavens for three and a half weeks and brought terrible plagues and death.

So there are two references here in our text 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 perfectly makes those connections here in speaking to John; and the Churches are to recognize those connections as well.

So the two witnesses here in the text summarize all the older prophetic Word all the way to John the baptizer, who is the forerunner of the One Who IS the Light with the “measureless” portion of Holy Spirit, in order that “all things that have been written” are filled up.  And they, as were all the prophets of old, are “eye-witnesses” to the Lord against Israel’s entire covenant-breaking existence.  They are “Word and Spirit”, “Olive-branches and Lamps” testifying before Yahveh of Hosts as to the whole state of the matter!

The witness of Moses was to the Greater Prophet; the witness of Elijah was to the Greater Prophet; and that Greater prophet is the “Son of Oil”… the Anointed One of God Who is the Light of God shining outward from the throne.  And He is the One to Whom the witnesses are to testify.

The apostle John in his Gospel of Jesus Christ was made aware of all these things by Holy Spirit long before he was caught up into the heaven to see and hear them.  Here’s what he said right at the beginning of his Gospel:


1)    In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God;

2)    This One was in the beginning with God;

3)    all things through Him did come to be, and without him not even one thing that has come to be is in being.

4)    In Him was life, and the life was the light of men,

5)    and the light in the darkness did shine, and the darkness did not perceive it.

6)    There came a man having been sent from God whose name [is] John,

7)    this one came for testimony, that he might testify about the Light, that all might believe through Him;

8)    that one was not the Light, but that he might testify concerning the Light.


So as we read in his Gospel, the apostle John (by Holy Spirit) was already well aware of the fullness of the prophetic Word when He saw and heard all of these things recorded in our text, wasn’t he?  It’s obvious from the words in his Gospel.

And especially since he and his brother James and Peter were with our Lord on the mountain when Jesus was “transformed” before their eyes.  He was shown to them in all His glory.  The Creator of light is the original “Light”!

And as John looks on here (recorded in our Revelation text), he must have understood that there on that mount before Jesus’ crucifixion was the “connection” to all that he was seeing and hearing; for the testimony of these “two witnesses” against Jerusalem was that final eyewitness testimony of all the persecuted prophets in Israel’s sordid history… indeed, all the blood of the righteous from the beginning!  That’s why God has proclaimed it an event like no other in all of history; and like no event shall be in all of history.

That transformation of Jesus on the mount (which John himself saw) is recorded for us in Matthew’s Gospel of Jesus Christ in chapter seventeen.  And it is most important to us in understanding all the connections here in our Revelation text.  Here are the first three verses:


“And after six days Jesus takes Peter and James and John his brother with Him and leads them up into a high mountain privately.

And He was transformed before them, and His countenance shone as the sun, and His garments became white as the light.

And lo, it was shown to them Moses and Elijah conferring with Him.”


Just a note about the translation of verse three here before we go any further.  Some of the translations will have “and there appeared to them Moses and Elijah….”  And others will read like this, “Moses and Elijah appeared to them….”  Either way the subject of the sentence in these errant translations is Moses and Elijah – and either way the action in this badly translated sentence is their appearance to Peter and James and John.

But that’s not the way the Greek reads.  This sentence has a singular subject, so you can’t force Moses and Elijah into the singular number!  There are two of them!

So the subject of Matthew’s statement isn’t Moses’ and Elijah’s “appearance”, to the disciples, is it?  In other words, how could Moses and Elijah have purposed to appear to Jesus’ disciples if the subject of this sentence isn’t Moses and Elijah?

Put another way, if the subject of this sentence is singular, how can Moses and Elijah be doing anything with regard to Jesus’ disciples?  The two of them together make a plural subject!

And, secondly, the action here is passive – it’s not active.  So the subject is acted upon (passive voice) rather than taking the action (active voice)!  The object of this sentence is Moses and Elijah conferring with Jesus – not Moses and Elijah appearing to the disciples.  And Moses and Elijah conferring with Jesus was shown to the disciples.  In other words, Yahveh has taken a specific action to show to Jesus’ disciples a conference between Moses and Elijah and Jesus.  The conference between Jesus and Moses and Elijah was shown to them.  “It was shown to them Moses and Elijah conferring with Jesus….

And Matthew begins his description of that event with the word which we’ve seen a number of times before – the little word “lo”.  And we now know that in every instance where Matthew used this word to introduce an event or statement of our Lord, it is always one of unusual and cosmic significance!  And the significance has always had to do with the prophetic “end of the age” termination of the old “heaven and earth”, and the inauguration of the “new creation”!

It always has to do with the day-of-Yahveh-decreation of the old heaven-and-earth, and the coming of a new day – the life and light of Messiah! – the end of an age, and the beginning of a new one! – the terminus of what had been, and the creation of what was to be! – the “shaking” of the foundations of the old, and the establishment of all things upon the Rock which is Christ!


“And lo, it (singular) was shown to them (passive) Moses and Elijah conferring with Jesus.”


Now, it is evident from the text leading up to this event that the context is the revelation of the purpose of Christ – that is, to go into Jerusalem and to suffer many things at the hands of the elders and scribes, and priests, and to be killed, and the third day to be raised.  Then Jesus takes them up into the “high mountain” where He is transformed before them into the form of Glory – His ascended and glorified Person.  So we know that the conference between Moses and Elijah and Jesus has to do with that which is shortly to take place.

The Gospel writer Luke is more specific.  In chapter nine and verse thirty-one of His Gospel Luke writes that they were conferring about His Exodus.  It was shown (to Peter and James and John) Moses and Elijah conferring with Jesus about things which would soon take place – namely, Jesus’ Exodus, and that which He was going to do at His Exodus!

It was already evident that the “high mountain” transformation of Jesus was connected to the “glory-cloud” appearance of God on the high mountain of Sinai in Exodus twenty-four; but now Luke provides us with a specific reference to the Old Testament event in the suffering and death and resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ (i.e. His Exodus), and the work which He was now to do.

And now we can also make other connections between this event and the Old Testament one.  For example, Matthew’s text says, “after six days Jesus takes (three witnesses) up into a high mountain.”  Exodus twenty-four also says that there was a six-day waiting period before Moses and three chosen witnesses went up into Mount Sinai.

The Glory-cloud is also present in both – as is the “voice” of Yahveh of Hosts.  And now we have Moses conferring with Jesus about His Exodus!

So, in addition to the obviously eschatological/end of the age manifestation of the Glory of Christ – the “Light of The World”, we also have this typological “Exodus” to think about.  (The connections to our text here in the Revelation are so very obvious.)

And then comes the very Voice of God the Father, Whose Words recall four, very important Christological passages of the Old Testament – and which also link the Lord Jesus Christ to the prophets Moses and Elijah!

But in order to get to all of that, let’s just go back and ask the simple question (at least the question is simple):  Why Moses and Elijah?  Why did God reveal to these three witnesses Moses and Elijah speaking with Jesus about His Exodus?  And why does our Revelation eleven text obviously do the same?  I’ll try to cut to the bottom line here on these things so that we can see them quickly and clearly.

Moses was the prophetic foreshadowing of The Anointed One –The Christ.  We can say that he was the “prototype” of the Prophet, Priest and King to come – the Lord Jesus Christ.  Moses’ birth and infancy were “prototypical” of the birth and infancy of Christ.  And Jesus is said to be One Who came out of Egypt – as Moses and the people of God came out of Egypt.  Pharaoh ordered the killing of the infant males of Israel – just as the male babies of Israel were ordered to be killed by Herod in Jesus’ time.  Moses lived in the wilderness for forty years, and he fasted forty days and forty nights at Mount Sinai – just as Jesus fasted forty days and nights in the wilderness.  Moses delivered the Law of God to the people from Mount Sinai – just as Jesus delivered the Law in the Sermon on the Mount.

Just as an aside here while we’re at this point, there was a well-defined system of eschatological thought in Israel at the time of Christ, in which it was believed (through a gross misinterpretation of Scripture) that Moses and Elijah and Messiah would come into Jerusalem from the wilderness to assume power and return the nation of Israel to its original glory.  We’ve explored that false expectation a number of times.

In other words, since Moses died in the wilderness without leading the people into the promised land, and a great mystery surrounded his body and burial; and since Elijah was translated into heaven without dying, while still in the wilderness; and since Messiah was said to “come out of Egypt”, then an entire corpus of eschatology was worked out from those things – leading many (most all of Israel, as a mater of fact) to believe that a final “coming out of the wilderness into the promised land of Israel” would some day occur!  And Israel would have its king and its prophets; and it would then be returned to all its former glory.

And this may be the basis of Peter’s question there on the mount about building three “booths” for them to live in, in the wilderness, until such time as Israel’s messiah would come into Jerusalem at the right time and assume the throne! 

Now, even though this kind of judaist eschatology is still prevalent in most premillennial and dispensationalist Churches, we’re not going to deal with that this morning.

But it’s very apparent in the Scriptures that Moses was the foreshadowing and “type” of the Messiah to come.  And after we talk about Elijah for a few minutes, we’ll go back to the text in The  Revelation and examine the roles of the “two witnesses” – the “two olive branches and lamps” as they are revealed to the apostle John; for Jesus opens up for him what was happening at the end of the age and the beginning of the “new heavens and the new earth.”

But a tremendous amount of legend arose down through the annals of Israel’s history concerning the prophet Elijah.  That’s mainly due to the fact that he was the great prophet of the coming “day of the Lord”, and because of the unusual circumstances of his being taken up into heaven by a great “whirlwind”, and because the last verses of Old Testament Scripture (Malachi four) predict his return before “the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord” in which he would preach repentance and “turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers…” lest God come and smite the land with a curse. 

This comes from the same chapter where Yahveh prophesies that the proud and wicked shall be “burned as stubble”, and they will be left with “neither root nor branch”.  But that the “Sun of Righteousness will arise with healing in His wings.”  And that’s the same passage that commands adherence to the Law of Moses which was delivered at Sinai!

Now, the eschatology of the pharisees and priests and scribes of Israel included the restoration of Israel, by Elijah, before the coming of the Messiah, who would then come into Israel (as the new Moses) out of the wilderness into a peaceful and restored Israel – and would assume the throne of King David.

Of course, none of that had happened!  Even though everybody sincerely believed it, that’s not what God revealed! After the pattern of pharisaical interpretation, it was all a misappropriation of Scripture!

So when Jesus was on the cross, and He cried out “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani”, they thought He was crying out for Elias (Elijah) to come and save Him like he was supposed to do!  But Elijah had not come in accordance with their faulty “end-time” theology.  Nothing that was happening “fit” their eschatology, so this Jesus of Nazareth certainly could not be the Messiah!  So they persecuted Him and killed him like they had done to all the prophets of God!

Elijah was not like what Israel expected!  Of the twenty-nine occasions in the New Testament to which he is referred, four things about his prophecy and ministry are specifically mentioned.  And they are the same things that we’ve already connected in our preaching here in chapter eleven!

 One – he proclaimed the three and a half year drought and its associated famine and plagues.  That’s the same as the time of the tribulation at the end of the age in Daniel chapter twelve; and it’s the same as the forty-two months of the tribulation of Israel in Revelation chapter eleven!  We’ll get to that in a minute.

Two – he went to the Gentiles during that famine!  That fact is used by Jesus, in Luke chapter four, to indicate that Light and Life would be given to the Gentiles rather than to Israel; for He is the Light and Life – the Savior of the world!

Three – in his dejection over the state of Israel (still during the three and one half year drought), Elijah was ministered to by an angel/messenger.  And God told him that He had reserved unto Himself seven thousand of Israel (a perfect number) who had not bowed the knee to Baal.  And Paul the apostle uses that very incident (Romans eleven) to proclaim that God had reserved a sacred remnant of Israel according to the election of grace.  That even in the “cutting off” shortly to come, God would save His chosen people.  These are the same “lost sheep” that Jesus had sent His disciples to find – in the earlier chapters of Matthew; and it’s the same one hundred and forty four thousand of the twelve tribes of Israel in the text of Revelation.

And, four – the New Testament refers to the Divine judgment which was brought down on the prophets of Baal by Elijah.  And that Divine judgment was fire from heaven upon the idolatrous teachers of Israel!

And, as you can see, all of these incidences in which Elijah was the primary figure, and which are connected to in the Revelation of the New Testament, are events of great “end of the age” significance!  The eschatological ideas of the elders of Israel at the time of Christ had to do with Elijah coming out of the wilderness to restore Israel to its greatness – in advance of Messiah.  But according to the Old and the New Testaments, that wasn’t what Elijah was supposed to do at all!  The return of Elijah –John the baptizer – included the preaching and baptism of repentance and peace to the remnant of Israel in anticipation of the coming of Messiah – and the separating out of apostate Israel for destruction by fire – and the signaling of the coming of salvation to the Gentiles!  (the salvation of the world!) 

The return and appearance of Elijah as the forerunner of The Messiah (John the baptizer) was the sign of the coming “Day of the Lord” during which Israel would be “decreated” forever!  The return and appearance of Elijah (John the baptizer) as the forerunner of Messiah was also the sign of the coming Day of the Lord in which Messiah would bring salvation out of Israel and into the wilderness of the world!  Not “from” the wilderness “into” Jerusalem; but “from Zion” comes salvation unto the wildernesses of the world – the pagan Gentile peoples, tongues and tribes.  The eschatology of the pharisees, priests and scribes was the exact opposite of that which was prophesied!

Now.  The Revelation given to John concerning these things (Revelation eleven) includes the prophecy of two witnesses – Moses and Elijah, both of whom John saw conferring with Jesus about His Exodus, and who prophesy for one thousand, two hundred, and sixty days (forty-two months) as officers of the Covenant of God, representing the prophetic Word and Spirit of Yahveh of Hosts. 

And during that period of time (half of seven) fire will proceed from their mouths to devour their enemies; and they have the power to “shut up the sky in order that rain might not fall” during the one thousand, two hundred, and sixty days; and they have the power to smite the earth with plagues – including turning the waters into blood… all these things being the acts and deeds of God through Moses and Elijah – of whom it was said (in the last message of the Old Testament Scriptures)


“Remember the Law of Moses My servant….  Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet….”


Elijah and Moses appeared on the “high mountain” at the point of Jesus’ “transformation” into the form of Glory.  And they spoke with Him about His Exodus.  And now it’s time.  Jesus is about to suffer and be killed at the hands of Israel’s leadership.  And then He will be resurrected and ascend to His Father in the form of Glory and take His seat as King of Kings and Mediator of the covenant.  The time has arrived – and this is what they were speaking about.  The two witnesses are here as the two covenantal officers, representing the entire prophetic Word, to testify against the apostate nation.

They are here as the two officers of the covenant – the olive branches and lamps standing before God – they are Word and Spirit of God bringing testimony before the Mediator in this court of law, eyewitnesses of Israel’s disobedience of God’s Law and their refusal to repent!

Moses has said to them on Sinai that if they obey they would prosper; but if they would not they would suffer holocaust.  And when they did not obey, Elijah pleaded with them for repentance.  The Law was ignored and the prophets were persecuted and killed.  And they were here as witnesses to testify to that fact. 

The time had arrived.  The Law and the prophets.  Moses and Elijah.  The type of Christ and the forerunner of Christ – both there to witness His glory.

It was all shown to Peter and James and John – the three witnesses to the Law and the Prophets.  The time had arrived – the inauguration of the “last days”.  The old was ready to vanish away, in order that the new might come in with its fullness of grace and truth and light for the whole world.  The Way, The Truth, and the Life would come out of Zion into the wildernesses of the world for the salvation of the nations!

These two appeared on that unnamed mountain in homage to Jesus Christ, the beloved Son of God.  And they disappeared when God said,


“This is My beloved Son – hear Him!”


A New Heavens and a New Earth were about to be created, and the old would pass away.  What Moses, as great as he was, could not do, i.e. bring in obedience to God among the nation of Israel, Christ would do. “Hear Him”.

 What Elijah, as great as he was, could not do, i.e. restore the tribes of Israel from apostasy to peace with God, Christ would do as He brought reconciliation to all the “seed” of Abraham all over the world.  “Hear Him.”

“Not by might or by power, but by My Spirit”, says Yahveh of Hosts.  You, Moses and Elijah, could not bring obedience and reconciliation to My people.  And as the prophetic officers of My Covenant, you will testify as eyewitnesses of the idolatry and harlotry of Israel and Jerusalem.  And you will testify as eyewitnesses of the relentless, vicious and unrepentant persecution and murder of My prophets in the streets of Jerusalem and before the altar in My Holy Place.

But My Son, Who is Life and Light in and of Himself, will raise up unto Me a people made righteous before Me.  He will glorify Me with a people made holy by the shedding of His Own blood and the pouring out of My Spirit.  And I will be their God, and they will be My people.

They will be a new “House of Israel”, with a new holy city and a new holy temple; and all the earth will be filled with the knowledge of God as the water covers the sea.  “Hear Him.”