The Revelation – Two Witnesses & the Seventh Trumpet – Rev. 11

Tonight we are studying Revelation 10-11. These chapters will conclude the opening of the seals which began in Chapter 6 and will set up the coming conflict between Christ and Satan.

The Measuring of the Temple:

John’s vision in vv.1-2 harkens back to Ezekiel 40-42 and Zechariah 2. In each of these prophetic visions, the temple and Jerusalem were being measured with a view toward their protection by God. The measured temple has security because God is there. In John’s vision, of course, the “temple” is the church, the people of God, that God is measuring for protection. In the Second Temple (which the Romans destroyed in 70AD), the outer courtyard was known as the Court of the Gentiles where non-Jews could gather and engage in commerce. In John’s vision, this courtyard is given over to those outside of the Church.

The “trampling” of Jerusalem goes back to Daniel 8:13 and his vision concerning Antiochus Epiphanes IV’s desecration of Jerusalem in c.160BC. The timeframe of John’s vision – 42 months – is taken from Daniel 7:25’s words “a time, two times, a half time” or three and one-half years.

John draws from these very Jewish sources and applies them to the church itself. Just as the prophets foretold of the trampling of Jerusalem but that God will ultimately protect his people and prevail, so now these same prophecies are now being fulfilled in the Roman persecution of Christians.

Two Witnesses:

In vv. 3-13, John has a vision of two witnesses (Gk. martyrs) who will prophesy, have the power to call down plagues, be killed, be resurrected, and then assumed into heaven. John does not tell us who these two witnesses are or what they said. These witnesses could be Joshua and Zerubbabel of Zechariah 3-4 who were the two men who oversaw the beginning of the reconstruction of the Temple. The witnesses could also be Elijah and Moses, both of whom were given the power to call down fire from heaven, heralded the coming of the Day of the Lord, and (presumably) assumed into heaven. Mal. 4, Matt. 17. In the Jewish tradition, both of these men were often paired together.

The witnesses, however, may not be two actual people, but the church itself. The Mosaic Law requires two witnesses to convict anyone of a crime. Deut. 19:15 (This is also the rule for treason under the Constitution. Art. III, s.3). Therefore, there must be two witnesses in order for God to pass judgment against evil. Here the “two witnesses” are the collective witness of the church, and specifically, those who are being persecuted. It is the church that witnesses/martyrs against the evil powers of this world against whom God’s judgment is being rendered.

If we understand the witnesses as the church itself, then the beast from the bottomless pit is the power of the world who will kill the witnesses. But, it is the church who will rise from the dead and ascend into heaven. It is the church who will have the victory over the beast of this world, and who will be joined with God.

The Seventh Trumpet:

The seventh trumpet sounds and with its sounding the twenty-four elders (Rev. 4:4) rejoice in victory. Although the beast of the bottomless pit (and other beasts and dragons that will appear in the following chapters) remain at large and terrifying, the elders know that this trumpet sounds the beginning of the consummation of God’s kingdom. The battle remains, but the victory is assured. The doxology said by the elders in vv.17-18, is a paraphrase of Psalm 2 which speaks of the victory of God and his Messiah over the military powers of this world. The words of the psalmist are now being fulfilled.

The Ark of the Covenant:

Revelation is about worship. The scroll with the seven seals appears in the hand of the One seated on the Throne in Revelation 5:1 who is being worshiped by the 24 elders, the 4 creatures, and the hosts of heaven. The seven seals are opened with the seventh seal containing the seven trumpets. As the seventh trumpet sounds, the scroll is finally and completely opened, and the 24 elders worship. This worship, however, has moved from the throne room into the inner sanctum of the Holy of Holies where the Ark of the Covenant resides. It is in this place where atonement was made for the sins of the people on the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur). Lev. 16. It is the location of the highest worship.

Revelation is also about the battle between good and evil. From the Exodus where the Ark was created (Ex. 25, 37) until it was placed in Solomon’s Temple (1 Kings 8:6), the Ark often lead the Israelites into battle. Scripture tells us that “whenever the ark set out, Moses said, ‘Arise, O Lord, and let thy enemies be scattered; and let them that hate thee flee before thee.’” Num. 10:35. It is the Ark and seven days of trumpets that cause the walls of Jericho to fall. Jos. 6. And it was the Ark itself that defeated the Philistine god Dagon. 1 Sam 5. In John’s vision, the Ark is once more being brought out for battle.

Revelation 11 Today:

The challenge for us as we read through Revelation is its relevance to us. John’s vision of Roman persecution belongs in the past. And looking out for the identity of two specific people in today’s world who bear witness to God and can call down fire from heaven is a fool’s errand (Matt. 4:36). John is not speaking of future events but of his own circumstances.

However, what we do see in tonight’s study are the promises of God written in flashing neon letters. The spiritual struggle is real, not only between the forces of Good and evil within the world but between the forces of Good and evil within ourselves. The promise is that God measures and protects that image and likeness which is his own. The promise is that the Good will triumph even when circumstances seem otherwise. The promise is that God himself, through Christ, the true Ark of the Covenant (Hebrews 9), will lead us to victory within this struggle.

Dinner is at 6:30. The menu is Rueben Rollups. Discussion about 7:15. Hope to see you here.

Let me announce the decree of the Lord: *
   he said to me, “You are my Son;
   this day have I begotten you.
Ask of me, and I will give you the nations for your inheritance *
   and the ends of the earth for your possession.
You shall crush them with an iron rod *
   and shatter them like a piece of pottery.”

Psalm 2:7-9

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