Interpreting Revelation 11

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The Creation Concept

A brief commentary

The temple in heaven

Malachi's prophecy

Measuring the temple of God

The two olive trees

How heaven is shut

War with the beast

Spiritual warfare

The church overflowed by the world

Samson and the two witnesses compared

John Napier's paraphrase

Commentary on Revelation 11:1-15 by David Pareus

Thomas Cartwright on the two witnesses

The Two Witnesses

Revelation 11:1-14 with a brief commentary

And there was given me a reed like unto a rod: and the angel stood, saying, Rise, and measure the temple of God, and the altar, and them that worship therein.

To measure here means describe, or evaluate the church, which is what the temple represents. [Ephesians 2:20-21; Revelation 3:12]
A rod is an instrument of correction, and reproof; the altar represents the spiritual sacrifices, and prayers of the saints. [Revelation 8:3]

But the court which is without the temple leave out, and measure it not; for it is given unto the Gentiles: and the holy city shall they tread under foot forty and two months.

The temple itself represents the saints, those who are "circumcised in heart;" [Romans 2:29; Philippians 3:3] while those who have only a superficial association with Christian religion are not included in the prophecy; Gentiles represent worldly people, who dominate the saints, and rule over the visible church.

And I will give power unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days, clothed in sackcloth.

The two witnesses are identified as the scriptures, [John 5:39] and the holy Spirit [John 15:26], which are two things Jesus said would "testify" of him. "They shall prophesy" refers to their witness for the gospel during the church age. The 1,260 days are symbolic of the whole church age; it completes the ministry of Jesus. Together the ministry of Jesus and the symbolic half-week make a seven, which corresponds to the 70th week in Daniel 9:24-27. Sackcloth clothing represents mourning, or humility and was worn by the prophets Isaiah, [Isaiah 20:2] and Daniel, [Daniel 9:3].

These are the two olive trees, and the two candlesticks standing before the God of the earth.

The two olive trees may represent the two trees in the garden of Eden. [Genesis 2:9] They are also seen in Zechariah 4:11. Two lamps or candlesticks represent light of the gospel; man is lord of the earth. [Genesis 1:28]

And if any man will hurt them, fire proceedeth out of their mouth, and devoureth their enemies: and if any man will hurt them, he must in this manner be killed.

Fire from their mouth represents the warnings in God's word, and warning about judgment to come. [2 Samuel 22:9; 2 Kings 1:10, Psalm 18:8; Isaiah 11:4; Jeremiah 5:14; 23:29; Luke 12:49; 2 Peter 3:7; Revelation 2:23; 19:15, 21; 20:9]

These have power to shut heaven, that it rain not in the days of their prophecy: and have power over waters to turn them to blood, and to smite the earth with all plagues, as often as they will.

They have power to shut heaven: there has been no further revelation, no scripture written, since the time of the apostles; the gifts of God ceased;  [Amos 8:11-12; Luke 4:25; James 5:17] turning water to blood: the waters of life, and the gospel, appear unpalatable to the world, perhaps because of literalism; [Exodus 7:21] their power to "smite the earth with all plagues" refers to prophecies contained in scripture. [Exodus 9:14]

And when they shall have finished their testimony, the beast that ascendeth out of the bottomless pit shall make war against them, and shall overcome them, and kill them.

The beast is Satan; [Revelation 20:3] flawed literal interpretations dominate, and the true gospel is suppressed. The saints are at war with the beast. [Daniel 7:21; Revelation 12:7; 13:7]

And their dead bodies shall lie in the street of the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified.

The scriptures, and all the acts of the church throughout its history, remain in public view, and are studied by scholars; the city is worldly society, or mystical Babylon; Jesus was crucified outside Jerusalem. [Hebrews 13:12] Both Sodom and Egypt were places from which God's saints were delivered, and so escaped judgment.

And they of the people and kindreds and tongues and nations shall see their dead bodies three days and an half, and shall not suffer their dead bodies to be put in graves.

Three days and an half signifies a portion of the church age; the Bible, and the saints are ridiculed by the world, as in the media handling of everything to do with the church. [Psalm 79:2]

And they that dwell upon the earth shall rejoice over them, and make merry, and shall send gifts one to another; because these two prophets tormented them that dwelt on the earth.

The world makes merry, as the Philistines did over Samson. [Judges 16:23] The Bible and the saints are discredited. They direct scorn to the scriptures, and ridicule the gospel. [Psalm 79:4]

And after three days and an half the spirit of life from God entered into them, and they stood upon their feet; and great fear fell upon them which saw them.

Their revival indicates the vindication of scripture, and the saints. Perhaps this involves a spiritual interpretation, rather than a literal one. The event parallels Ezekiel's prophecy about the valley of dry bones coming to life, which represents the church's spiritual condition. [Ezekiel 37:1-14]

And they heard a great voice from heaven saying unto them, Come up hither. And they ascended up to heaven in a cloud; and their enemies beheld them.

This alludes to the Jesus ascending the heaven. [Acts 1:9] The revived witnesses minister to the saints.

And the same hour was there a great earthquake, and the tenth part of the city fell, and in the earthquake were slain of men seven thousand: and the remnant were affrighted, and gave glory to the God of heaven.

Natural disasters, and widespread trouble in the world, result in many deaths. Prophecies coming to pass cause fear and dread. [Psalm 79:12; Psalm 105:38]

The second woe is past; and, behold, the third woe cometh quickly.

The resurrection of the saints follows.

Copyright © 2010 by Douglas Cox
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