REVELATION 10 - 11:14
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We come now to the second interlude in the book of Revelation. It extends through chapter 11 verse 14. This is the interlude between the sixth and seventh Trumpets, just as there was an interlude between the sixth and seventh Seals. These interludes are given to fill us in on many additional and pertinent pieces of information before the text continues on with the linear action of the ongoing judgments of the Tribulation. During the interlude between the sixth and seventh Seals (chapter 7), we were introduced to two groups: the 144,000, and an innumerable multitude of Tribulation saints. Here in this second interlude, we will be introduced to several things:
1. Three crucial personalities of that future day.
2. The concept of the fulfillment of the mystery of God on Earth.
3. A strategic and all important Jewish temple at Jerusalem that will play a key role during the Great Tribulation.
Here in chapter 10, we will be introduced to the first of these personalities and the concept of the mystery of God as it applies to these final days of world history that we are studying.
I saw still another mighty angel coming down from heaven, clothed with a cloud. And a rainbow was on his head, his face was like the sun, and his feet like pillars of fire. He had a little book open in his hand. And he set his right foot on the sea and his left foot on the land, and cried with a loud voice, as when a lion roars. When he cried out, seven thunders uttered their voices. Now when the seven thunders [NU changes uttered their voices to sounded] I was about to write; but I heard a voice from heaven saying, [NU omits to me] ’Seal up the things which the seven thunders uttered, and do not write them.’
From a literary point of view, someone has said, No greater scene, no more riveting passage or personage, no more majestic event is found written in ancient literature than the Mighty Angel of Revelation ten. That certainly is true. Let’s look at him and see if we can determine his identity. The description that is presented to us here is awesome. We read:
…he was clothed with a cloud. I take this to be a reference to the Shekinah (glory) of God (see page 12 … Revelation :1:7).
…a rainbow was on his head. Rainbows are signs designated by God as reminders of the Noahic Covenant (Gen. 9:12-17). Wherever a rainbow is found, it is a sign that speaks to God of his covenant to never destroy the Earth again with water. Not, mind you, that he needs any reminders. But, he has chosen to have that sign before him at all times. That’s why there is one around his throne. There are literally thousands of rainbows that are visible on the earth at any one given moment in time and our God is a covenant making and keeping God. His Word is his bond.
…his face was like the sun. He possessed great glory. You will remember that Jesus was seen having such resplendence, back in chapter one, where we read, and his countenance was as the sun shining in his strength.
…his feet and legs burned like pillars of fire. This too is a parallel to the description of Christ back in 1:15, which spoke of the fact that he was the one who will carry out all of the judgments of God.
…his voice was as when a lion roars. His voice added great authority to his overall demeanor. When he spoke, they listened.
…in his hand he held the now opened scroll, from chapter 5. The scroll was a little book now, in as much as the majority of events that were written in it had already been revealed. However, there is still more to come. The actual number of events that will yet take place after the blowing of the Seventh Trumpet are relatively few. Time-wise, here in chapter ten, we are very close to the end of the Great Tribulation, perhaps within mere days or even hours of Christ's Second Coming.
If John had not specifically called this amazing personage another strong angel, who would you have taken him to be? Jesus, am I right? And, that is a very common interpretation. However, this is not Christ for several reasons which we will shortly see. But, if he is not Christ, who is he? I believe this to be a very unique and special archangel of God. In fact, he is the only archangel who is named in the Bible. His name is Michael. His name means, who is like God. This explains his appearance, does it not? If you and I were to see the archangel, Michael, we would think we were looking at God himself! He truly must be a sight to behold and a personality extrordinaire. Apparently, God created him specifically to visibly reflect many of his own attributes. Michael is also found in the following scriptures:
Yet Michael the archangel, in contending with the devil, when he disputed about the body of Moses, dared not bring against him a reviling accusation, but said, The Lord rebuke you! Jude 9
At that time Michael shall stand up, The great prince who stands watch over the sons of your people; and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation, even to that time. And at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone who is found written in the book. Daniel 12:1
Notice that, in the Daniel prophecy, it clearly says that Michael will play a key role in relation to Israel during the Great Tribulation. It specifically says that Michael will intervene on behalf of the Jews during a time of trouble such as never was since there was a nation. Also, it predicts, at that time your people shall be delivered. So, Michael will be instrumental in the help of the Jewish people during the Great Tribulation. He will do battle for them in the spiritual realm and be a key element in their help and preservation. We will get more details about this standing up for the Jews when we get to chapter 12. There, we find that it is Michael who will ultimately toss Satan out of Heaven.
What a scene John saw here in relation to this mighty archangel of God. Back in chapter 4, John was told to come up here and I will show you things that must be hereafter. This event, beloved, is one of those things. What we are reading about here, that John witnessed, will actually occur in history one day. I believe you and I will actually see this event for ourselves, when Michael stands up (Dan. 12:1), thunders his powerful proclamation and then, sets out on his mission to help the Jews, down on the earth.
As John continued to watch, the mighty angel took a huge stance, planting one great foot on the land and the other on the sea. In his left hand, was the little book that was given to Christ back in chapter 5. You will remember that it contained the complete program of just exactly how Christ's kingdom and eternal dominion would come about on the Earth. What a scene! Clutching this great document in his left hand and lifting his right up to Heaven above … like a mighty conqueror … he let out a lion-like roar! It was a battle cry. It was like a trumpet sounding a cavalry charge. And immediately his cry was answered by seven thunders from Heaven above. In reality, this was the voice of God. The term, seven thunders, is an ancient Jewish idiom for the “voice of God.” The scholar and grammarian, Vincent, says that the Jews spoke of thunder as the seven voices of God. John was about to write what the seven thunders said, when another voice said, Seal up the things which the seven thunders uttered, and do not write them.Why do you suppose John was told not to write God's response to his mighty angel's cry? Well, God always has the right to be God, does he not? With him there will always be mysteries and unrevealed things. This is a reminder of that reality. I believe we will continue to encounter mysteries from and about God throughout eternity. The main thing though is that we trust him even when he does not see fit to reveal all that we would like to know. In those times, when we do not have all the answers, by faith we must simply lean on him though our finite minds may not grasp his purposes. Some time ago, I read that a wonderful Christian leader and educator that I highly respect had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. My first reaction was to ask, Why, Lord? Why that dear saint, of all people? And, you know, God didn't answer. That was because, frankly, it was none of my business. God will be God. My assignment is to trust him, not to understand everything he does or allows. His secrets are his glory and our opportunity to exercise faith. As you have it in Proverbs 25:2a,
It is the glory of God to conceal a matter…
The angel whom I saw standing on the sea and on the land raised up his [NU adds right] hand to heaven and swore by him who lives forever and ever, who created heaven and the things that are in it, the earth and the things that are in it, and the sea and the things that are in it, that there should be delay no longer, but in the days of the sounding of the seventh angel, when he is about to sound, the mystery of God would be finished, as he declared to his servants the prophets.
Next, the mighty angel swore by him who lives forever and ever, who created heaven and the things that are in it, the earth and the things that are in it, and the sea and the things that are in it. Make no mistake about it, Michael’s oath was grounded on the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ. God’s unique Son is the one who lives forever and ever and who created heaven and Earth. As we had it back in 1:18,
I am he who lives, and was dead, and behold I am alive forevermore. Amen.
Speaking of Christ as the Creator, Colossians 1:16 says,
For by him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through him and for him.
And again, in John 1:3,
All things were made through him, and without him nothing was made that was made.
And, as you have it in Hebrews 1:1-3,
God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by his Son, whom he has appointed heir of all things, through whom also he made the worlds; who being the brightness of his glory and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high…
So, the mighty angel swore his dramatic oath in Jesus name. In His matchless name, the angel swore that there should be delay no longer, but in the days of the sounding of the seventh angel, when he is about to sound, the mystery of God would be finished. Now, it is very important here to get the translation straight. The problem lies in the phrase, about to sound. The King James Version correctly renders it, when he shall begin to sound. Grammatically, it could be rendered either way, but it is clear from the whole of Scripture that the mystery of God will not be finished before, nor during, the days when the seventh angel is blowing his trumpet. Rather, it will be completed after this all important seventh Trumpet ceases to sound. In point of time, the mystery of God will not be completed for over a thousand years after the seventh angel blows his Trumpet. I will address that further in a bit. Now, just exactly what is the mystery of God? Let’s look to the Scripture for the answer. Consider the following scriptures:
First Timothy 3:16 says,
And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifested in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen by angels, preached among the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up in glory.
Isaiah 25:6 says,
And in this mountain [Zion, at Jerusalem] shall the Lord of hosts make unto all people a feast of fat things of wines on the lees, of fat things full of marrow, of wines on the lees well refined. And he will destroy in this mountain the face of the covering cast over all people, and the veil that is spread over all nations.
The mystery of God, to which the angel was referring then, is Christ Jesus himself and refers to just who Jesus truly is. After the days of the sounding of the seventh angel, the God-Man will no longer be a mystery. By the end of those days, there will no longer be any question in all of God's wide universe, or any other realm, about the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. Presently, Jesus is a mystery to the vast majority of people in our world. Even here in gospel saturated America, his person remains a mystery to most people. At his Second Coming when every eye will see him, the mystery of Christ will be cleared up for all who are living at that point in time. After that, however, subsequent generations will have their enlightenment as they feast (Isaiah 26:6-7 above) with Christ at Jerusalem. But, the mystery of God will, even then, not be complete until all men of all time understand who Jesus is. This will not come about until the end of the Millennium. The Millennium itself falls under the seventh Trumpet. After the final battle of Gog and Magog, at the end of the Millennium (Rev. 20:8), this mighty angel's prophecy will reach its ultimate fulfillment. What a wonderful day that will be, when the mystery of God is cleared up once and for all and for all time. Then the words of Philippians 2:9b-11 will find their ultimate fulfillment.
…that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Then the voice which I heard from heaven spoke to me again and said, ’Go, take the little book which is open in the hand of the angel who stands on the sea and on the earth.’ So I went to the angel and said to him, ’Give me the little book.’ And he said to me,‘Take and eat it; and it will make your stomach bitter, but it will be as sweet as honey in your mouth.’ Then I took the little book out of the angel's hand and ate it, and it was as sweet as honey in my mouth. But when I had eaten it, my stomach became bitter. And [NU omits he and adds they] said to me, ‘You must prophesy again about many peoples, nations, tongues, and kings.’
John was told to approach the mighty angel and take the little book from his hand. When he obeyed, the angel told him to take and eat it. This is a familiar symbolism in the Bible. It meant that what remained of the little book was now to become the rest of the subject matter of John's writing and preaching. This remainder of Christ’s scroll contained all the rest of the program of God for Christ and his kingdom. Though much of it had already been revealed, there was still more to be looked at. This same symbolism is found in Ezekiel. There we read,
Now when I looked, there was a hand stretched out to me; and behold, a scroll of a book was in it. Ezekiel 2:9
Moreover he said to me, ‘Son of man, eat what you find; eat this scroll, and go, speak to the house of Israel. So I opened my mouth, and he caused me to eat that scroll. And he said to me, ‘Son of man, feed your belly, and fill your stomach with this scroll that I give you.’ So I ate, and it was in my mouth like honey in sweetness. Then he said to me: 'Son of man, go to the house of Israel and speak with my words to them.' Ezekiel 3:1-4
So the Spirit lifted me up and took me away, and I went in bitterness, in the heat of my spirit; but the hand of the LORD was strong upon me. Ezekiel 3:14
As it was with Ezekiel, when eating the scroll, John found it to be sweet to his tongue but bitter in his stomach. In Ezekiel's case, this was because the words in the book he ate contained both blessings (sweet), and curses (bitter), grace (sweetness) and judgment (bitterness) concerning Israel. The scope is much broader with Christ’s little book, however. It contained both blessings and curses upon the whole world. John would find them to be both bitter and sweet to think and speak about. Nevertheless, he was told he must tell them to many peoples, nations, tongues and kings. This is why, when we read the book of Revelation, it is sometimes very sweet to us and, at other times very bitter as well.The vision ends with both the archangel and the Father saying, in effect, John, you’ve got your work cut out for you. You must tell the rest of the story. You must get this Word out to many people. Way down here, some twenty odd centuries later, we realize this included us, dear reader. The Apostle John got those bittersweet words out, didn't he!? Now it is up to us to get them out as well. Let me share something else here before we move on. Both John and Ezekiel symbolically ate God’s Word. The Word of God is something to be experienced, brother and sister. Have you been experiencing it … eating it up? If not, you’re missing out on God's best for you. Jeremiah said,
Your words were found, and I ate them, and your word was to me the joy and rejoicing of my heart; for I am called by your name, O LORD God of hosts. Jeremiah 15:16
Psalm 119:103 says,
How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!
I am convinced that the greatest need of God's people in the world today is that they be systematically and regularly partaking of the Word of God. Do you read your Bible? Do you feast daily on the Word of Christ? Do you allow it to dwell down in you richly (Col. 3:16)? By doing so, you are sitting at Jesus’ feet, you know. Therein lies salvation (1 Pet. 1:23; 2 Tim. 3:15), victory over sin (Ps. 119:9, 11; Jn. 17:17), wisdom (Prov. 1:2), knowledge (Prov. 2:1-5), fellowship with God (Rev. 3:20), evangelism (Rom. 10:14, 17), answered prayer (Jn. 15:7), the filling of the Holy Spirit (Eph. 5:18 compare Col. 3:16), and much more. None of these things, however, can be acquired apart from the regular in-take of the Word of God. You and I, like John and Ezekiel, need to be assimilating the Word of God so it can work its life-changing power in and through us. There was a fellow, where I once worked, who gave his heart to Christ. The striking thing though, was that he immediately began to devour the Bible like no one I had ever known before. In six short months he had read the entire Bible through and many of its books several times over. Needless to say, his love for the Savior was remarkable and his testimony for Christ was powerful and without reservation. Is it any wonder the Spirit of God began to use him in the lives of other people? There are no shortcuts, beloved. Read the Word.
…like newborn babes, long for the pure milk of the Word, that by it you may grow in respect to salvation… First Peter 2:2 (NASV)
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom… Colossians 3:16a (KJV)
If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples. John 15:7-8 (KJV)
Then I was given a reed like a measuring rod. And the angel stood, saying, ’Rise and measure the temple of God, the altar, and those who worship there. But leave out the court which is outside the temple, and do not measure it, for it has been given to the Gentiles. And they will tread the holy city underfoot for forty-two months.’
We continue here in chapter 11, with the interlude between the sixth and seventh Trumpets and we will be given three more crucial pieces of information before we return to the ongoing events of the Great Tribulation. We will learn that during the days of the Great Tribulation:
1. A Jewish temple will be located at Jerusalem.
2. Two men will appear on the earth who will be incredible witnesses for Christ.
3. A beast will reign over all the earth who is Antichrist.
Before we look at this passage, let me share a thought or two about this future temple at Jerusalem. For the past nineteen hundred plus years, the Jewish people have had no home or national identity in their Biblical homeland. Only in my generation have they stepped back out upon the world stage as a nation. In 1948, when I was eight years old, they achieved that status. Since that momentous year, many Jews have returned to the homeland of their fathers. It has been intriguing to watch, to say the least. Furthermore, after the Six Day War, they captured and now control their ancient capital of Jerusalem. However, prophetically speaking, there are still many pieces of the puzzle that are still missing. One major piece is the temple. It must be rebuilt at Jerusalem in order to fulfill many prophecies concerning the last days. However, one of Islam’s holy places, the Dome of the Rock, stands squarely on the site where the Jews’ ancient temple once stood and where the Jews’ new temple must be rebuilt. That is a problem. Therefore, the temple mount continues to be a major source of friction between the Jews and the followers of Islam. Orthodox Jews still hope and plan to build their temple there. As far back as 1967, a group of American Jews placed an ad in the Washington Post soliciting donations to purchase building materials for this temple. Not long ago, on the Internet, I found multiple web sites dealing with the rebuilding of the Jew's temple at Jerusalem. It is a current affairs issue today. Malachi, prophesying the Second Coming of Messiah, said,
Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to his temple, even the Messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight. Behold, he is coming, Says the LORD of hosts. But who can endure the day of his coming? And who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner's fire and like launderer's soap. He will sit as a refiner and a purifier of silver; he will purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer to the LORD an offering in righteousness. Malachi 3:1-3
Daniel, speaking of Antichrist’s wheeling and dealings during the Tribulation, said,
But in the middle of the week he shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall be one who makes desolate, even until the consummation, which is determined, is poured out on the desolate. Daniel 9:27
Jesus, speaking of this very prophecy, said that this abomination would take place in the Holy of Holies, ναοῦ (naou from naos) the holiest inner sanctum of the temple saying,
Therefore when you see the 'abomination of desolation,’ spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place [naos] (whoever reads, let him understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Matthew 24:15-16
There are a good many things to study in the above sited scriptures concerning the temple but first, let’s talk about their time periods for a minute. Daniel’s prophecy above spoke of a week and the middle of the week during which Antichrist would make and then break a covenant with the Jews. When this occurs, Daniel said Antichrist will cause the sacrifice and offering to cease. The weeks that Daniel is speaking of have been proven by Biblical scholars to be prophetic weeks of years. That is, each one of Daniel's weeks actually equal a time period of seven years. The middle of the week then would mean three and a half years into it. See Appendix B for a more detailed discussion of this. Also, I refer you to Sir Robert Anderson's book, The Coming Prince, for the classic work on these prophetic years. When the prophecy from Daniel 9 is carefully analyzed, we glean the following facts:
…When Antichrist, who both Daniel and Jesus said would bring about the abomination of desolation, begins his rise to power, amongst his first official acts as world dictator will be to enter into a seven year treaty with the Jewish people (he shall confirm a covenant with many for one week). A key part of that treaty will very likely grant the Jewish people the right to rebuild their temple on its original site, removing the Dome of the Rock. This future temple at Jerusalem will be the fourth on that site. The first three were:
Solomon’s Temple… destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar in 586 BC
Ezra's Temple … completed on March 12, 515 BC (Ezra 6:15)
Herod’s Temple … Ezra's temple was remodeled and expanded during Jesus' lifetime and subsequently destroyed by the Romans in AD 70. There has been no temple at Jerusalem since that time.…At the mid-point of Antichrist’s seven year covenant with the Jews, he will break his treaty and seize their temple at Jerusalem. Then, he will institute the worship of himself at the Jew's temple. Emperor Worship will once again be instituted on Earth, following the ancient practice of the Roman Caesars who were before him. Second Thessalonians 2:3-4 speaks of this:
Let no one deceive you by any means; for that day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.
Jesus forewarned the Jews that this day would come when Antichrist would break his treaty with them saying,
…when you see the abomination of desolation standing in the holy place spoken of by Daniel the prophet, let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Matthew 24:15-16
When Antichrist breaks his covenant with the Jews, like Hitler before him, he will then begin a systematic attempt to exterminate them. That’s why Jesus warned them that, when they saw these things come to pass, they were not to waste any time getting out of town. The point is, there will be a temple at Jerusalem during the Great Tribulation so that all these things can be fulfilled.
Now, let's look at this passage. You will remember, in chapter 10, John’s vision of the mighty angel took place down on Earth. He is still down on the earth here. He saw a temple and was told to measure the temple of God, the altar, and those who worship there. There are two important things to note here:
First, this temple is real. The command to measure it emphasizes the reality of that temple in that future day. It is something you can lay a line to.
Second, it belongs to God, as does the altar and all those who worship there (the Jews). Measuring is an act of ownership. The temple, the altar and the Jews who worship there in that future day belong to God. They are his possessions and the Jews are his chosen covenant people. However, the angel instructs that the outer court of the temple is not to be measured because it has been given to the Gentiles and they will tread the holy city underfoot for forty-two months (three and a half years). The outer court was called the Court of the Gentiles in Jesus' day because that was as far as a Gentile was allowed to enter into the temple area. During the three and a half year Great Tribulation, it will still function in that capacity.
When you put the pieces of the puzzle together, it goes something like this. At the beginning of the Tribulation, Antichrist will make a seven year treaty with the Jewish people, allowing them to dwell safely in their homeland and to rebuild and worship unhindered at their temple (Daniel 9:27). However, three and a half years into that treaty, he will break his treaty, turning on the Jews and seizing their temple. Then he will blasphemously establish himself there to be worshipped (Daniel. 9:27; Matthew 24:15-16; 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4). From that day on, Antichrist's worshippers will come from all over the world to stand in the outer court of the Gentiles, bringing their gifts and sacrifices to him. That’s why the angel told John not to measure it. During those days, that area will not belong to God. This detail is fascinating because, apparently, Antichrist worship at the temple will have the same restrictions as was imposed in the Old Testament on the Jews so that no one but his priests will be allowed to enter the Temple proper. Satan is such a counterfeiter. And, so will his man, Antichrist, be! I suspect that only the False Prophet, acting as High Priest, will be able to enter into the Holy of Holies where the abomination of desolation (Antichrist's image?) will sit (Matthew 24:15). So, the temple at Jerusalem is a key ingredient in the outworking of the events of the last days. It will serve as:
…A Jewish place of worship during the first half of the Tribulation
…A possession for Antichrist to seize for his own at the middle of the Tribulation
…The center for Antichrist worship during the last three and a half years (the Great Tribulation)
…The temple to which Jesus will return at his Second Coming.
After setting foot on the Mount of Olives, our Lord will enter Jerusalem through the Eastern Gate suddenly coming to his temple as prophesied in Malachi 3:1. This was foreshadowed, by the way, when he rode the donkey colt into that city on Palm Sunday some two thousand years ago. Do you remember where he went? He went directly to Herod’s temple and unexpectedly pounced upon the thieves there! Having made himself a whip, he cleaned the place out crying,
It is written,‘my house is the house of prayer, but you have made it a den of thieves! Luke 19:46
These truths are very exciting. You and I are very likely living at the very edge of the fulfillment of these prophecies. There is such a stirring of the Jews in the land of Palestine today and there is such tension over Jerusalem and the Temple Mount there. Thousands of Jews gather daily there for prayer at the Wailing Wall (all that is left of Solomon's temple). Tensions with their enemies continue to escalate over that all-important city and temple site. Never has the Church seen such exciting signs that the close of the age is drawing to its conclusion!
And I will give power to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy one thousand two hundred and sixty days, clothed in sackcloth. These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands standing before the [NU changes God to Lord] of the earth. And if anyone wants to harm them, fire proceeds from their mouth and devours their enemies. And if anyone wants to harm them, he must be killed in this manner. These have power to shut heaven, so that no rain falls in the days of their prophecy; and they have power over waters to turn them to blood, and to strike the earth with all plagues, as often as they desire.
The Old Testament prophets foretold that Messiah would have two forerunners. Because only one is specifically named in Scripture, the Jews only recognize one. The forerunner that the Scripture names, is Elijah. As you have it in Malachi 4:56,
Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD. And he will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the earth with a curse.
Orthodox Jews still look for Elijah to appear. Every year, they symbolically set a place for him at their tables during Passover. Elijah will indeed be sent to Earth, just as Malachi prophesied, before the great and dreadful day of the Lord (the Great Tribulation).
The second prophesied forerunner of Christ appeared on the scene at his first coming. He was John the Baptist. When the Pharisees asked him who he was, he replied that he was the one of whom Isaiah spoke when he said,
The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ’Prepare the way of the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.’ Isaiah 40:3
It is important to note that Jesus also tied John the Baptist to Malachi's prophecy of his Second Coming. In Luke 7:27, concerning John, he said,
This is he of whom it is written: 'Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way before you…' Malachi 3:1a
Jesus stopped his quote right in the middle of the verse. The rest of that verse, however, is of weighty import because it goes on to say, and the Lord, whom you seek, shall suddenly come to his Temple. These words refer to the time of the end of the Great Tribulation when Christ will return to his temple and begin his earthly reign. It seems to me, this is strong evidence that one of the two witnesses here in Revelation 11 is John the Baptist. It also seems logical that both of the two witnesses in Revelation 11 would be Messiah‘s two prophesied forerunners, Elijah and John the Baptist. Luke 1:17 also links these two prophets together. I believe that both of these powerful prophets will be on the scene during the three and a half year Great Tribulation, just prior to the Lord’s Second Coming. When they appear, what a dynamic duo these two forerunners of the Messiah will make, aye? Let's look a bit closer at them.
In verse three, it says, and I will give power to my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy. Clearly, they will be preaching in that day. Both Malachi and Isaiah confirm that the Messiah’s forerunners will be preachers. Our text says they will prophesy for one thousand two hundred and sixty days (three and a half years), clothed in sackcloth. Sackcloth is the ancient Jewish clothing worn for mourning. There are many good reasons why these two witnesses will dress that way. I can think of a half dozen off the top of my head. They will dress in sackcloth because:
…Thousands of believing Jews and Gentiles will be suffering and dying daily for their faith in Christ.
…Countless other Jews and Gentiles will be perishing from off the earth to go off into a Christless eternity.
…A great number of Jews (2/3rds) will be stubbornly refusing the two witnesses’ preaching and be continuing on in their obstinate refusal to believe in Christ.
…Satan's deceptions and distortions will be everywhere.
…Immorality and sin will be rampant.
…And last, but most importantly, Antichrist will sit in the Jew's temple … being worshipped there.
Sackcloth will be very appropriate under such conditions as these, wouldn’t you say?
John continues … They are the two olive trees and the two lampstands standing before the Lord of the earth. This is a direct reference to the symbolism of Zechariah 4. That passage refers to Joshua and Zerubbabel, two Spirit filled servants of God in their day. The meaning is identical here. This is simply saying the two witnesses will be Spirit filled men as well. Remarkably, the Bible says that John the Baptist was filled with the Holy Spirit from his mother, Elizabeth’s, womb (Luke1:15). And, Elijah was so Spirit filled that when his successor, Elisha, asked for a double portion of his Spirit … Elijah told him that he didn’t know if that was possible (2 Kings 2:9-10)! These two men were mighty Spirit filled servants of God in the past and so, I believe, they will be again … during the dark days of the Great Tribulation.Notice here, what raw supernatural power they will possess. The text says, And if anyone wants to harm them, fire proceeds from their mouth and devours their enemies. Literally? Yes, they will be formidable and invulnerable witnesses indeed. I suspect there will be precious few attempts made on their lives, however, after their enemies get a taste of the fiery consequences of such attempts! Elijah, by the way, called down fire from heaven on his enemies when King Ahab tried to arrest him. Do you remember that? We read about it in Second Kings 1:9-10,
Then the king sent to him a captain of fifty with his fifty men. So he went up to him; and there he was, sitting on the top of a hill. And he spoke to him: "Man of God, the king has said, 'Come down!' So Elijah answered and said to the captain of fifty, ‘If I am a man of God, then let fire come down from heaven and consume you and your fifty men.’ And fire came down from heaven and consumed him and his fifty.
Elijah was not easily arrested back then … nor will he or John the Baptist be, in the days of their testimony during the Great Tribulation. Also, notice it says that these two witnesses will have power to shut heaven, so that no rain falls in the days of their prophecy. That is something that Elijah also did in the past. Further, it says they will have power over the waters to turn them to blood and to strike the earth with all plagues as often as they desire. Boy, are they going to be thorns in the side of Antichrist and his followers. Some take this last statement as grounds for assuming the other witness is Moses because he too used such plagues. But, personally, I believe the evidence that he is John the Baptist is far more weighty and compelling. Herod had a great fear that John the Baptist would come back from the grave, by the way (Matthew 14:1-2). And, I am confident, so he shall.
When they finish their testimony, the beast that ascends out of the bottomless pit will make war against them, overcome them, and kill them. And their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also [NU changes our] their Lord was crucified. Then those from the peoples, tribes, tongues, and nations will see their dead bodies three-and-a-half days, and not allow their dead bodies to be put into graves. And those who dwell on the earth will rejoice over them, make merry, and send gifts to one another, because these two prophets tormented those who dwell on the earth. Now after the three-and-a-half days the breath of life from God entered them, and they stood on their feet, and great fear fell on those who saw them. And they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, ‘Come up here.‘ And they ascended to heaven in a cloud, and their enemies saw them. In the same hour there was a great earthquake, and a tenth of the city fell. In the earthquake seven thousand people were killed, and the rest were afraid and gave glory to the God of heaven. The second woe is past. Behold, the third woe is coming quickly.
We come now to a third personality to be introduced to us here in Revelation 11. This is the first of thirty-six references to the beast in Revelation. It is one of the names for Antichrist. We haven’t encountered him under this name in Scripture before. However, this name will be used extensively to refer to him from here on. Our text says that he ascends out of the bottomless pit. I believe this refers to his miraculous resurrection which we will look at when we get to Revelation 13.
Second Thessalonians 2, clearly tells us Antichrist will be a man. At this point, it would be helpful to read some of the several scriptures that refer to this fellow. They are as follows:
He shall speak pompous words against the Most High, shall persecute the saints of the Most High, and shall intend to change times and law. Then the saints shall be given into his hand for a time and times and half a time. [three and a half years] But the court shall be seated, and they [I take this to be a reference to the Trinity] shall take away his dominion, to consume and destroy it forever. Daniel 7:25-26
And forces shall be mustered by him, and they shall defile the sanctuary fortress; then they shall take away the daily sacrifices, and place there the abomination of desolation. Those who do wickedly against the covenant he shall corrupt with flattery; but the people who know their God shall be strong, and carry out great exploits. And those of the people who understand [I take this to be the 144,000 and others] shall instruct many; yet for many days they shall fall by sword and flame, by captivity and plundering. Now when they fall, they shall be aided with a little help; but many shall join with them by intrigue. And some of those of understanding shall fall, to refine them, purify them, and make them white, until the time of the end; because it is still for the appointed time. Then the king shall do according to his own will: he shall exalt and magnify himself above every god, shall speak blasphemies against the God of gods, and shall prosper till the wrath has been accomplished; for what has been determined shall be done. He shall regard neither the God of his fathers nor the desire of women, nor regard any god; for he shall exalt himself above them all. But in their place he shall honor a god of fortresses; [I take this god” to be Satan] and a god which his fathers did not know he shall honor with gold and silver, with precious stones and pleasant things. Thus he shall act against the strongest fortresses with a foreign god, which he shall acknowledge, and advance its glory; and he shall cause them to rule over many, and divide the land for gain. Daniel 11:31-39
Let no one deceive you by any means; for that day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshipped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God. Second Thessalonians 2:3-4
And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will consume with the breath of his mouth and destroy with the brightness of his coming. The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. Second Thessalonians 2:8-10
Little children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come, by which we know that it is the last hour. First John 2:18
Returning to our text, we read that when the two witnesses finished their testimony the beast will make war against them, overcome them and kill them. Verse eight tells us this will occur at Jerusalem. The phrase, where also their Lord was crucified, tags down that location as the place of their deaths. It goes on to say that Jerusalem, during those future dark days, is spiritually called Sodom and Egypt. She is called Sodom because of the sin and perversions that will exist in her during Antichrist's reign. And, she is called Egypt because of her persecution of God's people, the Jews, just as they experienced when in bondage in Egypt so long ago. Now, this is not the first time that Jerusalem has been called Sodom. Isaiah also called her that:
Hear the word of the LORD, you rulers of Sodom; Give ear to the law of our God, you people of Gomorra… Isaiah 1:10
After Christ's two witnesses are slain by Antichrist, our text says their dead bodies will lie in the street of Jerusalem for three and a half days, precipitating a worldwide celebration and viewing of their bodies. This is further evidence of how ripe for judgment the Earth will be in that day. The three and a half days they will be dead corresponds to the three and a half years of their ministry. However, their down time will only be a moment compared to duration of their great ministry. Someone has called this worldwide celebration, The Devil’s Christmas.
John continues … Now after the three and a half days, the breath of life from God entered them and they stood on their feet. Won't that be something!? Then, when they were taken up to heaven, John says, and their enemies saw them. You know, for the past nineteen hundred plus years no one has been able to make heads or tails of just how the entire world could simultaneously look upon these two dead bodies and then observe them ascend up into Heaven. So, for centuries men chalked this prophecy up to just another inaccuracy in the Bible. They said it was physically impossible for all the enemies of God’s two witnesses to simultaneously view their dead bodies much less their ascension. With the advent of satellite television and the Internet, however, the how of it has become clear. This is another piece of evidence as to just how close we may be to these actual events. I believe Christ's two witnesses will be raised from the dead and ascend into Heaven right in front of a viewing audience of billions! Can you picture it? I can almost hear someone at one of Satan's cocktail parties yell, Hey look!!! Then, as all eyes will turn to their TVs, laptops, iPads, cell phones and such like … there … where once two dead and mutilated bodies were lying … they will be seen standing on their feet again. I think I heard a glass break!
Once again, John heard a voice from heaven call out those three special words, Come up here, and Christ's two witnesses were out of there! Our text says, great fear fell on those who saw them. Celebration will turn to horror and then a great earthquake will strike the city called Sodom and Egypt. Our text says that seven thousand will perish and a tenth part of the city will be knocked to rubble in retaliation for the atrocities Jerusalem had inflicted on the Lord's two witnesses … no doubt, all right in front of the media of the entire world. Because of the unprecedented nature of these things, our text says that even the ungodly at that time will, in their own impulsive way, give glory to the God of heaven.
In conclusion, our text says the second woe (begun by the sixth Trumpet back in 9:12-13) is past and the third woe is coming quickly. This also clues us that we have come to the end of the second interlude and will now be returning to the linear action of the Great Tribulation.
Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
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