Sermon: The Two Witnesses (Part Seven)
Their Death and Resurrection (Conclusion)
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Given 24-Aug-02; 76 minutes
When I gave the last sermon, about three weeks ago, we discussed mainly just one verse—Revelation 11:6. That whole sermon pretty much concentrated on the two plagues that are mentioned there. That is, (1) the lack of rain and (2) the water to blood. We also talked about their very clear connection to the ministries of Elijah and Moses, as only those two are shown doing those particular plagues or curses.
We saw that God often decrees drought or lack of rain as a punishment for idolatry. And that was specifically the sin that Israel was guilty of in the time of Elijah, which was emphasized by the 400 prophets of Baal and of Ashteroth. We also saw that turning the water to blood was the first plague that struck Egypt. It seems to be a punishment for obstinate rebellion against God. It's a sign of death and defilement.
Any one of us who has blood on his hands feels dirty, feels sick, feels awful. The expression itself—blood on your hands—has to do with murder. You are guilty of a sin. So they all seem to fit together with those plagues. Idolatry and rebellion, of course, will certainly be evident when the two witnesses preach. These two particular plagues will point that out very significantly.
Then we briefly discussed the various pairs of prophets that God has used down through history, who could be considered types for these two witnesses. Because the testimony of two or three witnesses is necessary to establish a matter, God has frequently used pairs of men in order to make it clear that this is the truth. This is what is going to happen, and it has God's stamp of approval on it. And, of course, in Israel the necessary amount of proof that was needed to convict was two or three witnesses; and God follows this in His own operations.
So, we saw the pairs of men like Moses and Aaron, and later Moses and Joshua. We saw that Joshua and Eleazar worked together when the conquest of the land was going on. We saw that in the time of Judah's downfall there were actually three prophets; and there were probably one and two others as well, at the same time. But most significantly we have Jeremiah, Daniel, and Ezekiel. In three different places, they are making very similar prophecies or doing very similar things—to make sure that the plan of God moved on, and that we have a record of it (a prophecy of it) so that we could follow how God is working. And there was also Zerubbabel and Joshua.
In the New Testament we have John the Baptist and Jesus Christ. Although they did not work together, John the Baptist's testimony was certainly witnessed also by Jesus Christ. They had very similar ministries and were able to emphasize one another's words. Jesus sent out the disciples two by two. We saw that John and James, the sons of Zebedee, are a pair that is shown in the Bible. Peter and John, in the first part of the book of Acts, went around together as the leading two apostles at the time. Barnabas and Saul were sent out together as a pair of apostles to the Gentiles. And there are probably others that I did not go over. But we see the pattern there of "two by two."
However, we saw from the eternal evidence though—from Revelation 11—that the most likely pair of types never worked together. They were actually 500 years apart, or so. That is, Moses and Elijah. Their lives, or their works, are what are pointed to in Revelation 11:5-6 concerning fire proceeding from their mouth and devouring their enemies, and also the drought and the water to blood. So it seems like the primary types of the two witnesses are these two men—Moses and Elijah—with bits and pieces of the others thrown in for good measure.
What you come down to is that the two witnesses fulfill many of the prophetic types. You might call them the ultimate definitive prophets. Everything that God wants to see in a prophet will be fulfilled in these two witnesses. Of course, they are not "the Prophet." The Prophet, from Deuteronomy, is obviously Jesus Christ. He was Himself modeled after Moses—as it says, "A prophet like unto you." So Moses is certainly a prototype prophet. And the two witnesses will be a lot like him and Elijah. They are going to be what the world needs, exactly when it needs it; and they will do the work.
Okay, that was all the review I'm going to do. Now we are going to gallop through these last few verses—from Revelation 11:7-14. Hopefully I'll have time at the end to summarize what we've learned from this much-too-long series of seven sermons. So, let's take it verse by verse.
Revelation 11:7 When they [the two witnesses] finish their testimony, the beast that ascends out of the bottomless pit will make war against them, overcome them, and kill them.
The previous four verses—from verse 3 to verse 6—covered the whole of their 3½ year ministry. It didn't tell us a great deal of detail, except that they'll have this carte blanche power to protect themselves from harm throughout this 3½ years. Also, they will have a great deal of power in determining what sort of curse, miracle, or what-have-you to put on the people to emphasize their words.
This tells us that they finish their testimony. Herbert Armstrong very frequently said that God always allows His servants to complete their work. They always do what it is that God wants them to do. They get it done—without exception. God doesn't just leave something hanging. He's a very thorough and complete God. When He sends somebody to do a work, He gives them the ability, the gifts, and the means to make sure all the situations are right so that they do finish it before they die. I think we can see this in many cases throughout the Bible and throughout the history of the church.
This word finishmeans: complete or fulfill. Either one of those words are fine. I think that maybe the best one is the word: accomplish. They will accomplish their testimony. That gives the idea of being filled and complete in itself. They will do what God asks of them, and it will take exactly 1260 days. God always finishes on time when it comes to the fulfillment of His purpose. He is very meticulous about that sort of thing. If He says it's going to take 1260 days, then it's going to take 1260 days; and that's all it needs—no more, no less.
Here we have, believe it or not, the first mention in the book of Revelation of the Beast. Now, what's so strange about this is that we are already in chapter 11 of the book, and the Beast hasn't been mentioned at all. In fact, he doesn't really get described until two chapters later in Revelation 13. But we have to remember that this is NOT part of the chronological flow of the book. This is an inset chapter. And in reality the Beast has been active, on the scene, doing his thing, for the whole length of their ministry. He doesn't suddenly pop up at the end and kill them—like the world has finally found a champion to match the two witnesses. He has actually been their adversary the whole time, and been doing his work.
This word beast is very interesting. It is the Greek word theerion. It's not the normal word for "beast" or "creature." If you go back to chapter 4, it talks about the living creatures. That's zooon. It simply means living creature, an animal, a creature that breathes and has life. But theerion means wild beast. It emphasizes their wildness, their bestiality, their non- or un- domestication. This Beast is NOT a tamed beast. It's something that is on the scene, and it is totally removed from the way God is. God is never described in a wild, haphazard fashion. This is on the far end, or the other end, of the spectrum from God—totally wild and unpredictable. So there is a definite contrast here between the living creatures that are mentioned elsewhere. This is definitely NOT a domesticated type person. [Look at how he is described in Daniel 11.]
Daniel 11:36-39 Then the king [meaning the king of the north, which we believe to be a type of the Beast at the end; and this is describing his actions] shall do according to his own will. [There you have it. This is a wild man, who wants to do only what he wants to do.] He shall exalt and magnify himself above every god [That's a pretty wild action.], 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 [magnify] himself above them all. But in their place he shall honor a god of fortresses [He's a very militaristic type of person.]; 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.
This is an ambitious, violent, wild man—as he is described here in Daniel 11, and as Revelation 11 also makes note of. If you want to write down Revelation 13:1-8, his actions are also talked about there—as well as Revelation 17:8-14, where it talks about the ten kings that are given power with him for a time and how he goes to war against God's people and against God Himself (Jesus Christ).
So this is the enemy—the one that these two witnesses are face to face with in the ring, so to speak. They are the opponents. And so God puts up His human champions, and they go blow for blow against the Beast. God's champions are no less powerful, no less up to the challenge, than Satan's champion.
The next word we need to look at here in Revelation 11:7 is ascends. I just want to bring this up because it's very interesting in comparison. We'll see that there's a comparison with the Beast and the two witnesses throughout this section that we are looking at here. In verse 12, you'll see that the two witnesses ascend to heaven. They go from this middle area here on earth (And you'll know why I use that term in a minute.) up to heaven. But it says that the Beast ascends out of the bottom, up to the middle area; and that's as high as he'll go. He ascends out of bottomless pit, in order to wreak as much damage as possible—specifically upon God's people and upon God's plan.
So we have a comparison here—a contrast—between the two witnesses and the Beast. The two witnesses are of such a quality that they go from earth to heaven; and the Beast comes out of the bottomless pit (which is the ultimate of depths) only up to earth, in order to wreak destruction. I'll point out these contrasts as we go. But I thought that was interesting. By the way, in both places ascends is the same word.
Out of the bottomless pit identifies the Beast's source—his origins and his inspiration. In Revelation 9:11, we'll see that this has been mentioned before. This is part of the fifth trumpet, the first woe; and talking about this army that had come, it says:
Revelation 9:11 And they had as king over them the angel of the bottomless pit, whose name in Hebrew is Abaddon, but in Greek he has the name Apollyon.
This obviously identified Satan, the devil, as the king—the angel of the bottomless pit. So you see the origin, then, of the Beast. He's a descendant—a child of—Satan, the devil. He traces his lineage to Satan. Not literally! I don't want you to get that impression. But he would definitely call Satan his 'father' in a spiritual way.
Now this word bottomless pit. I think the best way we can look at it is the word abyss. He ascends out of the abyss. Literally this word means "the bottomless" or "the deep." Actually the word "pit" is not there. It's been supplied by the translators, because how else do you explain something like this? It's like a great hole. But it's really just "the bottomless."
And now you have this contrast again. God is the God of the infinite heaven. And here Satan is the king over the bottomless—over the deep. So you have this contrast of up and down, heights and lows, light and darkness. What we are showing here is totally diametric opposites. The two witnesses and the Beast, and God and Satan. They are just poles apart. Two ends of the spectrum, you might say.
The next thing here is that the Beast will make war against them. This is the normal word for war, but it has a spectrum of meaning. It can go all the way from actually doing battle with, or making war (like armies would make war), all the way to a quarrel between two people. What I think then is that what we have here is a specific use of the general term, to show that this war is going to be fought on many fronts and in many different ways. We'll have real war and fights against them, battles. We'll have strife of one thing or another. We'll have disputes, verbal war, and quarrels—all trying in some way to defeat, in some way, the two witnesses in their witness.
So let's not look at this merely as lobbing grenades, or fighting with swords or machine guns, or whatever. This is going to be an all out assault—by whatever means are at the Beast's disposal—to try to put these two down.
The next word is overcome. This is nikao. This is the word that is derived from the god Nike, which is the god of victory; and that's what the word means—to be victorious, or to conquer. It's the same word, believe it or not, that is used in Revelation 2 and 3 in the phrase "he who overcomes." So it is correctly translated here as "the Beast will overcome them." It means, "be victorious over them." There will come a time, at the end of the 3½ years, when the Beast will seem to win—to have the victory.
The next verb in here is kill. This is the general word for kill, apokteino; and it literally means "kill, extinguish, or abolish." This is a literal death. It can't be taken any other way. These are real people, and they really die. What we see here then, using these three verbs indicates a process—or a plan—in the Beast's mind. He wants to silent these [two witnesses], and he'll set about systematically to do it.
He'll oppose. He'll conquer. And he'll kill. They'll vex him throughout his rule. They'll distract him from what he's trying to do. That will frustrate him to no end. And he will systematically go about putting them out of commission. God will not allow it until the 1260 days are accomplished, because He has a job for them to do. He says right here in His Word—which is the more sure word—that they are going to finish their work. So the Beast can just go to twiddle his thumbs for all God cares, for these 1260 days.
Revelation 11:8 And their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified.
This may be the most controversial verse in this entire sermon today; and it's strange, because there's no controversy with me. There's probably no controversy with you.But the commentators all want to say that this city that we are talking about here is Rome. They are looking at it mostly from a Protestant perspective, where Rome is the bad guy all the time. The popes are always the antichrist, and they cannot see how this could be Jerusalem. They make all kinds of convoluted arguments to say that this is not Jerusalem. But it is Jerusalem!
I'll get to that in a minute, but first I want to go over the phrase "dead bodies." This is a really strange thing. It literally is fallen. And it's singular. It's really strange. This word—literally, "fallen"—came to mean (in Greek) a corpse or dead body. And so it is correctly translated here "dead body." It's singular.
Why God would inspire John to write a singular "body" (rather than two) is unknown. That's why I said it's weird. It's strange. But I came up with two reasons as to why this could be singular. The first would be that they fall as one. That is, in whatever manner that they are killed by the Beast, it happens to both at the same time. So their bodies fall 'as one' to the street—whether they are both killed with bullets at the same time; they are both beheaded at the same time; crucified at the same time—it doesn't say what means of death accomplishes that. But that is one way of looking at it—that they fall 'as one.'
The other thing is a more spiritual way of looking at it. That is, that God considers them as one—as a team. They are so united in everything that they do that God looks on them almost like one person—or as a unit, you might say. But it's kind of a strange thing. And what makes it stranger is that it is used in the singular one more time, and then the next time it is used it is plural.
The word street here is literally broad place. The dead bodies lie in the street. Actually, that word lie is not in the text. So it is "their dead bodies in the street." There's no verb in this sentence actually. The translators have had to add one. So it could be that the Greek word for "fallen" was supposed to kind of supply the verb here—that their fallen bodies are in the street (or, "fallen bodies in the street"). I don't know. There's no verb here. But the street here is a broad place.
I don't know how accurate this is. It's only conjecture. But some have conjectured that it means a courtyard—as in the courtyard of the temple, or a courtyard of some holy place. It will be a place where there are cameras galore, so that all this can be recorded. And who knows, their death may even be arranged for that particular media. But they will be executed publicly, so they would use a large place like a courtyard to do that.
The next word here is great city. This is where the controversy starts—that wherever this is, it is called "the great city." The Bible, believe it or not, does not call Jerusalem a great city very often. But it is called a large city, meaning "great," in Nehemiah 7:4. It is specifically called a great city in Jeremiah 22:8 and Lamentations 1:1 (talking about the widows of the great city lamenting). And, believe it or not, here in Revelation it is called the great city one time; but it is one of those places in the Bible that are disputed, because there are certain texts that do not have "the great city." They have "the holy city." So these commentators wonder whether that should be used at all as proof that we are talking about Jerusalem here.
However, on the other side of the coin, the "great city" is used almost all the time in the book of Revelation to mean Babylon. Let's just go to a couple of them.
Revelation 14:8 "Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city..."
Revelation 16:19 Now the great city was divided into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell.
Revelation 17:18 And the woman whom you saw is that great city which reigns over the kings of the earth.
Revelation 18:10 'Alas, alas, that great city Babylon, that mighty city!'
Revelation 18:16 'Alas, alas, that great city that was clothed in fine linen...
Revelation 18:18 ...and cried out when they saw the smoke of her burning, saying, 'What is like this great city?'
Revelation 18:19 'Alas, alas, that great city, in which all who had ships on the sea became rich...'
Revelation 18:21 Then a mighty angel took up a stone like a great millstone and threw it into the sea, saying, "Thus with violence the great city Babylon shall be thrown down."
That is why a lot of commentators think that this allusion to a great city means Babylon—because it is so frequently called a great city in the book of Revelation. However, the descriptors that come on after that all point to Jerusalem. It couldn't be any place else.
But before we get there, the word spiritually comes up. Some have translated it allegorically. Others have translated it prophetically. But it means "spiritually." It is pneumatikos, which means "spiritually." That's the same word that is translated in a different form as pneuma—as in Hagios Pneuma, which is the Holy Spirit. So the word phenumatikos means "spiritually." So we should look at this from a spiritual perspective. What it may be referring to is the city's spiritual state. That's obviously what it means. We should look at this from a spiritual perspective.
It calls it two names: Sodom and Egypt. With Sodom, the first thing that comes to mind is perversion. Sodom has been known throughout history, since it was overthrown, as the center of immorality and unrighteousness—and specifically homosexuality and other sex sins. Egypt is a symbol of opposition to God, or we could say oppression of God's people, or idolatry, or of worldliness. That is, the world as opposed to God. So what we see here is a city that spiritually has these hallmarks of perversion of everything that is good and of opposition to God.
And then it says, "where our Lord was crucified." There's only one place where Jesus Christ was crucified, and that was Jerusalem. You should see the loops, and hoops, and mental gymnastics that the commentators go through in order to try to make this fit Rome. They don't want to take the Bible at its word. That it means, "where the Lord was crucified"—Jerusalem! But they say "More Christians have been killed in Rome, so it's just like killing Jesus Christ afresh every time one of His people are martyred." That's one of the normal explanations that they give.
Why don't they just read the Bible? Where our Lord was crucified means Jerusalem. So what we see here is that, at the time the armies encompass Jerusalem, the city is no longer called "the holy city." It has nothing to do with God. It is a city of the world. It is a city of blasphemy, of perversion, of being diametrically opposite or opposed to the way of God. So there's no reason to consider this any other place other than the city of Jerusalem. If you can come up with an argument, fine. But it's going to take a good one to convince me that it's not Jerusalem.
Revelation 11:9 Then those from the peoples, tribes, tongues, and nations will see their dead bodies [That's the next singular one.] three-and-a-half days, and not allow their dead bodies [plural] to be put into graves.
It's just kind of a weird way of writing. It wouldn't have gotten past my desk like this. I would have corrected it and made them all plural. But God had something in mind when He did this. He wanted us to get this point of unity, possibly. I don't know what; but maybe He wanted us to see that it was "two in one," as it were. It's interesting. I'm just talking off the top of my head here, but it may be a reference to God and Jesus Christ. They are united in spirit. They are united in Their work. But They are two distinct Persons. So, take that for what it's worth. As I said, it's coming off the top of my head.
Also remember that I've mentioned throughout this series that the two witnesses have a great deal of connection with Jesus Christ Himself, and with God. There could be some sort of typology here, but I'm probably reaching for it. So I don't want to put too much emphasis on that. I just mention it as a possibility.
"Those from the peoples, tribes, tongues, and nations will see their dead bodies." This really confused commentators up until about 1940 or '50, because they did not understand how the whole world would be able to see dead bodies in Jerusalem. So they kind of scratched their heads and thought of it as something that was just a mystery. Well, now we know. Television makes it possible for us to see anything that happens, anywhere on earth. So with the modern technological advancements over just a little more than the last half century, we have Bible prophecy fulfilled in a way.
I've mentioned that the dead body and the dead bodies in this verse are singular and plural. I still shake my head over that one. But the next thing is not allow. These people do not allow their dead bodies to be put into graves. This is the ultimate in disrespect and desecration. Let's go back to Amos 2, and I just want to pick up one verse here; and just show you how much God is against this sort of thing. That's why it's mentioned here in Revelation 11. In Amos 2, He's going through the judgment on the nations that are surrounding Israel and Judah.
Amos 2:1 Thus says the LORD: "For three transgressions of Moab, and for four, I will not turn away its punishment [meaning, I will punish], because he [that is, the king of Moab] burned the bones of the king of Edom to lime."
He evidently dug up the grave, or dug up the dead body. Then, in the sight of the defeated Edomites, he burned the bones of one of their kings. This is so heinous a crime—to defile the dead—that God says, "Just for that, I'm going to come and wipe you out." (Or, do whatever He needed to do to Moab.) It was a terrible thing for a nation to do against the king of another nation—even though he had been dead for who knows how many years. So God is very much against that sort of desecration.
Now, not allowing the body to be buried—more specifically it means to be put into a tomb. It doesn't mean in a grave necessarily. They are talking about a tomb here. It reminds me very much of what the Italians did in World War II. They strung up the body of Mussolini for public show. Who knows—it may be a bunch of Italians again that do this. I don't know if there's anything particular about their way of looking at life and their mindset. I don't know.
It's been thought in the past that these particular Italians—the Gentiles—are from Babylon. That is, that they are Babylonians that migrated from the area of Babylon to Italy. They made up the priestly caste there; and that wouldn't be surprising to me, if God worked it that way. I'm probably getting myself in a hole here, and making Italians hate me. But that's not my purpose. It just seems that these things happen at regular intervals, and the same people tend to repeat the same mistakes.
So I just wonder if these [people] will be Babylonians who have come down through the centuries in their same opposition to God, and do this heinous thing against two of God's servants. So let's use the word "Babylonians." That'd be a lot better. It's hard to know who's who anyway these days. It's a wonder—just a question mark in my head—that maybe these same people will be doing that sort of thing again.
Revelation 11:10 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, here in the same verse is those who dwell on the earth. It's a formulaic expression in the book of Revelation. And it simply means those who want nothing to do with God, or the worldly. Maybe the easiest way to define it would be simply the carnal, or the fleshly. If you'll flip back to Colossians 3, we'll see the opposite of this.
Colossians 3:1-2 If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.
So there's a definite distinction between those who are godly (those who seek those things which are above) and those who dwell on the earth. Those who dwell on the earth are those who have no higher desire. That is, no higher spiritual desire. They are perfectly happy here with their life on the earth. And anybody who wants to tell them about the truth just gets the cold shoulder. They have their minds set on things of the earth.
Here's another set of three verbs—rejoice, make merry, and send gifts. You could say that they are going to be joyful; they are going to celebrate; and they are going to make a holiday out of it by sending gifts to each other. All this action that they take at the death of the two witnesses grows out of a sense of relief, it says, that their problems have been solved. "Happy days are here again," in other words.
They'll be so happy that these, who have been thorns in their sides, have been defeated—been killed—that they'll just have pretty much a wild celebration, maybe for the whole 3½ days. They are just going to be so glad that these men who tormented them (as they think of it) are dead and finally out of their hair. And their supposed 'heaven on earth' can now go on. But it's the wrong 'heaven on earth.' It's actually the abyss on earth! But they don't know it, because they've been deceived.
The word tormented here is the same word that is found in Revelation 20:10.
That's the same word—tormented. Satan and his demons will indeed be tormented. What the two witnesses did to the people of the earth at this time was NOT torment, but that's how it felt to these people. This means torture. That's its strongest meaning. It can mean vex (which is a kind of irritation). It can mean harassment, or distress, or question (as in you question someone, or interrogate them, under duress). Probably the most interesting of the definitions of this word is test. They were "tested" by these two prophets, and they didn't pass. They thought the tests were torture, and they did not change at all. We see that in their actions here. They rejoice at their deaths.
I just want you to notice that the two witnesses are called "two prophets." They are not called apostles. They are not called ministers. They are called prophets, and that's the way their work seems to go. They do the prophetic type of work, rather than an apostolic type of work. There are overlaps to the two types of work, but God seems to emphasize the prophetic one.
Revelation 11:11 Now after the three-and-a-half days...
I should mention here that the 3½ days of their death—lying in the street—corresponds very well with Jesus' time in the tomb. (We are only off by a half-day.) He was dead for 3 days—exactly 72 hours. These will be dead 84 hours. Remember that I said there are tie-ins here between the two witnesses and Jesus Christ, and a contrast between the two witnesses and the beast. So just be thinking about these things as we go through.
Revelation 11:11 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.
Another thing that is interesting here is that the verb tense changes with verse 11. Up to now, the verb tense had always been future—that they will do this, this will happen, that will happen. Now we see here that the verb is "entered," and it looks like past tense. The Greek tense is aorist, which some commentators called in this particular case "the prophetic tense." Aorist is normally translated as a simple past tense. But the way that it works is that it happens in the future, but it is said as if it had ALREADY happened.
So it's past tense, yes; but it hasn't happened yet. However, it is so sure to happen that God writes it down in the Book as if it has already happened. This is the aorist tense in this particular case, since this is prophecy. It is really kind of hard to explain; but I think that once you get it, you understand. Yes, it's written in the past tense. But it hasn't happened yet. But it will happen. You can put your money in the bank on that one.
This breath of life here—the breath of life from God entered them—is the same expression in the Greek as is used in Genesis 2:7 (for the breath of life entering Adam) as well as Ezekiel 37:1-7 (for the breath of life coming into the dry bones). It means a resurrection, obviously. The sense is that they are brought to life. They are "quickened" is the way that the old King James would probably translate something like that. They are made alive! They had definitely been dead. There was a literal death. And now God puts into them the ability to have life again, and that is most easily seen in the fact that we breathe. So they will breathe once again.
What this means is that it could very well be a physical resurrection. He resurrects them first back to physical life. Then, immediately, He calls them up to heaven; and they are glorified, and given the new body, and their change comes. But it seems to be—if we just look literally at what it says here—that they will breathe; and spirit beings don't necessarily need to breathe. So this looks like a physical resurrection first; and then, quickly, the first resurrection to glory.
It's interesting that it says here that they "stood on their feet." This isn't really necessary to say. But, it is stated that God gave them breath and they stood up. This did two things—one figuratively, and one physically or in reality. I'll take the reality first. It showed that they were alive. It showed that they could stand once again, whole. They were breathing. Everybody could see that they were no longer lying on the street (on the broad place). They actually had the energy to get up—to stand up.
The second thing—the more figurative of the two—was that they were ready to do some work. Often in the Bible, when people are said to be standing here and there, it means that they are active in something. They are doing something. Jesus Christ is said to be standing at the right hand of God. He is in His place. He's doing His work. And these two servants (prophets) have been going, going, going for 3½ years. [They've been] serving God, preaching, doing miracles, cursing the areas and regions and whatever—totally non-stop for 3½ years as God's main witnesses to the world. Then, for 3½ days, they are dead. But, suddenly, life comes into them; and they are up and at 'em again. "What do You want us to do, God?" is the way that the people who see them think of them.
So here we have, at the very end of this verse: "And great fear fell on those who saw them." Why? It wasn't necessarily because they were alive again. It was, "Uh oh. Here we go again. Run! Hide! Rocks, fall on us!" These two had tormented them for 3½ years, and they thought they were over it. But now, suddenly, the big bad monsters were back. They didn't know what was going to happen.
The Beast had killed them. And, if the Beast had gone so far as to kill them, what was going to be the retaliation for that? If they had done water to blood, if they had done drought, if they had hail rain down on the crops, if they had had earthquakes occur, if they had had tidal waves come in—if they had done this, that, and the other thing—what are they going to do to top that? "Great fear fell upon them." The Bible is wonderful in its understatement. They were shaking in their shoes (or, will be)—terrified, petrified.
Revelation 11:12 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.
There is some question about who hears this. Maybe the simplest explanation is that everybody hears it. "Come up here."It could be. The antecedent here seems to be those who saw them. The last pronoun or noun that is mentioned (in verse 11) is that those that saw them had great fear. But it could just as easily have been the two witnesses that hear this. They will definitely hear it, because they respond to it. But the antecedent—if we are just going to go with syntax—seems to be that the people who are shaking in their shoes also hear it. The next pronoun definitely refers to the two witnesses—that is, "they ascended" was the two witnesses.
So it could be either one, but I just thought that it was interesting that there is this grammatical question again. Who are they? It could be everyone. It is definitely the two witnesses. But it could be that those around them have their ears open to hear the voice of God. Or it could be like happened to the apostle Paul where, on the road to Damascus, he heard what Jesus was saying; but everybody else just heard a noise—a sound of some sort. So it is hard to say. Definitely, there are going to be a lot of things happening at this point—lots of sounds, a lot of commotion; and somebody is going to hear. We know especially that the two witnesses will, because it says "and they ascended to heaven in a cloud, and their enemies saw them."
The words "Come up here." are kind of interesting. It means "move up higher—move on up. Here you go." It's a command, obviously; but it's not said in a demanding way. From what I could get out of the Greek, it's an order. They obey it. But it's softer than a master would use to a slave (let's say). "Come up here!" It's more like a welcoming "Rise."—in the sense that they are now going to be rewarded.
Then "they ascended"—as I mentioned before, this is the same word as "ascended out of the bottomless pit." They are going to be ascending to something much greater than that, and here we have the word heaven. "They ascended to heaven." Of course, all of your Protestant commentaries say that this is God's throne—where God is. But that is NOT the case. We are talking about the sky here. That is, the first heaven (not the third heaven); and we can see this very easily.
I Thessalonians 4:16-17 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven [That's the third heaven.] with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.
The same thing is happening to these two witnesses as is happening to the rest of the saints. In Hebrews 11, the author is very specific about who is resurrected when.
Hebrews 11:39-40 And all these [the heroes of faith], having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise [meaning they weren't resurrected and glorified when they died, or after they died], God having provided something better for us [those who came later], that they should not be made perfect apart from us.
The first resurrection, the glorification, the change of men into spirit is going to happen all at once. The only differentiation that the Bible makes is that the dead in Christ shall rise first. Immediately after them, those who are alive will be caught up into the air with them. So this happens all at once. So, we answer our question. This is the first heaven—the sky, where all the clouds are. And it happens at the same time as the glorification of the rest of the saints. It all happens at once. These two [witnesses] are NOT rewarded separately from the rest of the saints. The dead in Christ and the living saints all are glorified together.
Now notice that they ascend up in a cloud—just as Jesus ascended to heaven.
Acts 1:9-11 Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, who also said, "Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven."
So what we have here is another comparison to Jesus Christ. The two witnesses will ascend to heaven in the same manner as Jesus Christ ascended to heaven, which gives you an indication that their glorification will be just like their Elder Brother's glorification. They will follow the same road. He was merely the Forerunner; and they will then go into the Family of God in the same manner as their Elder Brother, Jesus Christ. What was good for the goose (one might say) is good for the gander. What was good for Christ—and the way that Christ went and did things—will be the same thing that His younger brothers and sisters will do them.
Just an interesting point here—it says that their enemies saw them. The only people on earth left to watch such a thing are their enemies. All the rest, their friends, are going to be doing the exact same thing at the exact same time. It's very interesting that this is a contrast to what happened with Christ. When Christ went into heaven, it was His friends—His disciples—that were looking up and watching Him go. But now—when the two witnesses rise, and are resurrected, and changed—it is only their enemies that can see them.
And this gives you an indication of the different times. The beginning of the church age, when Christ was resurrected, is the time of grace, of mercy, of hope—a time of moving forward, of building. But this time—when the two witnesses rise—is a time of war, of judgment, of death and destruction; and the only ones that are around are the enemies of God and the two witnesses. So it's two very different times.
Revelation 11:13 In the same hour there was a great earthquake, and a tenth of the city fell. In the earthquake seven thousand people [men] were killed, and the rest were afraid and gave glory to the God of heaven.
As we begin this verse, here we have another indication of the very close timing that God has. When Christ comes and the two witnesses rise into the air, at the same time a great earthquake is going to take place. He has these things timed all exactly the way that He wants them to go. Here we have a great earthquake. If you are interested, the study of earthquakes at the end makes a very interesting study. There are a lot of them. And to try to put their timing right makes a very interesting chart, if you want to go do that.
There was a great earthquake when Jesus died and was resurrected. You'll find that in Matthew 27:51-52. Remember the great earthquake, the darkness; and people actually rose from the dead and a few days later presented themselves in Jerusalem, and scared quite a lot of people. But this earthquake that happened during Christ's time was not necessarily a very destructive one. The Bible doesn't say anything about it destroying anything, except that (in the temple) the curtain that separated the Holy of Holies from the Sanctuary was ripped down the middle—signifying Christ opening the way to God the Father.
But this one at the time of the two witnesses is a very destructive earthquake. And it seems that this earthquake is one we should connect to Zechariah 14.
Zechariah 14:3-5 Then the LORD will go forth and fight against those nations, as He fights in the day of battle. And in that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which faces Jerusalem on the east. And the Mount of Olives shall split in two, from east to west, making a very large valley; half the mountain shall move toward the north and half of it toward the south. Then you shall flee through My mountain valley, for the mountain valley shall reach to Azal. Yes, you shall flee as you fled from the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah. Thus the LORD my God will come, and all the saints with You [Him].
So this seems to be the earthquake that we are talking about in Revelation 11:13. While you are in the Old Testament, let's go back to Joel 3.
Joel 3:10-16 Beat your plowshares into swords and your pruning hooks into spears; let the weak say, 'I am strong.' Assemble and come, all you nations, and gather together all around. Cause Your mighty ones to go down there, O LORD. Let the nations be wakened, and come up to the Valley of Jehoshaphat; for there I will sit to judge all the surrounding nations. Put in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe. [That goes back to Revelation 14.] Come, go down; for the winepress is full, the vats overflow—for their wickedness is great. Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision! For the day of the LORD is near in the valley of decision. The sun and moon will grow dark, and the stars will diminish their brightness. The LORD also will roar from Zion, and utter His voice from Jerusalem; the heavens and earth will shake; but the LORD will be a shelter for His people, and the strength of the children of Israel.
You might also want to write down Luke 21:25-28, which is part of the Olivet Prophecy. It's also in Matthew 24 and Mark 13, where it talks about the heavens being shaken (and that would include the earth), and Revelation 16:17 where it says:
Revelation 16:17-18 Then the seventh angel poured out his bowl [This is the seventh bowl.] into the air, and a loud voice came out of the temple of heaven, from the throne, saying, "It is done!" And there were noises and thunderings and lightnings; and there was a great earthquake as had not occurred since men were on the earth.
This earthquake shakes great Babylon and it falls into three parts. So possibly this earthquake is centered in Babylon, or Rome, or whatever that city will be; and the affects of it will be felt in Jerusalem in what is said here in Revelation 11:13. Whatever the case, this is a massive shaking that does great destruction as Christ descends to earth to make war on the Beast and to pass judgment.
It says that a tenth of the city falls. This is literally "a tithe." He will tithe this city. It may have the idea of decimation. When we talk about decimation, it literally means a tenth will be killed. A tenth will be destroyed. Certainly it means a great physical destruction. And it's not talking about people in this particular instance. It's talking about buildings. A tenth of the city will fall.
It says that seven thousand men are killed. This is probably a literal figure. I would think it would be. But it could possibly also be figurative. It's hard to say. If you remember, seven thousand is the number of those that were left in Elijah's day. He had reserved 7,000 to Himself, who had not bent the knee to Baal. That's found in I Kings 19:18.
Paul mentions this again, in Romans 11:4—that there is a remnant of Israel that is 7,000 strong. What it may mean, if we want to take it figuratively, is that God kills a remnant of the Beast's people. He takes maybe a tithe of them? I don't know. Maybe He does it this way in symbolic retribution for their disrespect to the two witnesses? It's just possible. I'm just conjecturing there. I'm not exactly sure.
But it's interesting that it says "men" here, and it's really NOT men—[although the word] "men" is there. Anthrophon would be the Greek word. But they leave out a word here, and that is the word "name." The phrase is actually "men of name." It's also used in Acts 1, when it is talking about the disciples. There were 200 names, or men, that were disciples that Christ had converted during His ministry. The word is really names of men.
What it possibly means here is, "men of distinction"—men of a certain name, men who are well known, men of renown. Or maybe we would say particular people. God causes the death of 7,000 particular people—men whose names He knows. This is my conjecture again, but what that could possibly mean is that God kills the cream of the Beast's retinue in Jerusalem. God knows which 7,000 He's going to kill with this earthquake.
It says that they "were afraid and gave glory." This is probably not true repentance, but merely acknowledgement of God's power. Throughout the book of Revelation, men are shown to be unrepentant. At this point, I'm sure they are just equally unrepentant. If you go back to Luke 4:15, 28-29—it says that the people of Galilee were amazed and gave glory to God at the miracles and healings and things that Jesus did. Then, before you can turn your back, these same people are trying to throw Him off a cliff. So they could give glory to God, they could acknowledge God's power in all of this; but that doesn't mean that they'd repented.
Just one little point about using this term "God of heaven"—where it says they give glory to the God of heaven. This is used only one other time. That's in Revelation 16:9, where it says that men were scorched with great heat and they blasphemed the God of heaven. So all the indications of this term are that there's no repentance in their glorification of God. In fact, there may be a hint of blasphemy in it.
Now for the last verse, and I only go to this one because I want to point something out. The New King James I know for sure puts this at the tail end of this narrative about the two witnesses. It should NOT be here. It should stand all by itself. This is a transition verse.
Revelation 11:14 The second woe is past. Behold, the third woe is coming quickly.
It's telling you, "Okay. We're going back now to the chronological flow. And remember where we were? The second woe had just passed, and now the third woe is going to come in the next recitation of events." So that's what it is doing. We have come through an entire inset here in chapters 10 and 11; and this puts us back on the track, for where we were back in Revelation 9:21. So this should be, in publishing terms, a sidebar. It should be outside the flow of the main chronology of the book of Revelation. And if you look in Revelation 8:13, that's where the woes are announced. It says:
Revelation 8:13 "Woe, woe, woe to the inhabitants of the earth, because of the remaining blasts of the trumpet of the three angels who are about to sound!"
That's very clear. The woe, woe, woe are the three remaining blasts of the trumpet. That means that the fifth trumpet (which comes next, in Revelation 9:1-12) is the first woe.
Revelation 9:12 One woe is past. Behold, still two more woes are coming after these things.
Then it goes to the sixth trumpet, which runs through verses 13-21. That's the whole second woe—the sixth trumpet. Then we have two inset chapters—Revelation 10 and 11—hooked together, because they talk about the same thing. And then, after you get through Revelation 11:13, the inset is done. So the narrator, John, says, "Okay. Now we're getting back to the story flow." The second woe is past. Remember that was in chapter 9. Now, behold, the third woe is coming quickly. So now we are back on track in the chronology.
Quickly, let's summarize what we've learned in this series. Go over in your mind the things we've seen in these seven sermons.
- Our study of prophecy should not be so much about being certain about what will occur (about being dogmatic) but understanding what God's Word says about a particular topic (a particular prophecy)—so that we will be prepared to recognize things as they happen and get on board.
- Chapters 10 and 11 [of Revelation] are a unit. They are an inset chapter—chronicling and describing the message of the church throughout history, from Acts 2 on.
- The little book that is in the hand of the angel is God's Word—specifically the gospel the church proclaims and teaches.
- The gospel is wonderful to our minds, but bitter in its application and result—meaning that it gives us joy and hope; but it sometimes produces conflict, difficulty and pain because the message is so diametrically opposed to human nature.
- Those who are called to preach this gospel must have a kind of fiery zeal—a bitter hot anger in the belly that can be channeled by God's Spirit to produce the works necessary to make an effective witness. There has to be some sort of frustration, or some type of zeal, to make sure that the witness is effective. Otherwise it just becomes blah, blah, blah, blah, blah; and there's no energy or strength behind it.
- The two witnesses' first work will be to measure the church, its worship, and its people.
- They must initially disregard preaching to the world, and concentrate on ejecting the world from the church.
- God will endow the two witnesses with authority to make a stunning witness to the world for the entire length of the Tribulation and Day of the Lord.
- The two witnesses will conduct themselves in humility and a deep sense of spiritual poverty. (That has to do with being clothed in sackcloth.)
- The two witnesses fulfill the symbolism of Zechariah 4. They supply the church with an abundance of teaching to maintain them through the 3½ years.
- The two witnesses will have carte blanche power from God—carte blanche authority—to protect themselves, and to curse people and regions for sin and rebellion against God.
- The two most prominent types that the two witnesses fulfillment are Moses and Elijah.
- The two witnesses will get the job done.
- The two witnesses will be killed in Jerusalem, by the Beast; but they will be raised to life and ascend to meet Christ in the air as He returns.
- As the narrative shows, their primary testimony is to warn of coming judgment and call men to repentance, just as the Old Testament prophets did. And just as the Old Testament prophets, they will have very few take them up on it. The real results will come in the Second Resurrection.
I hope this series, then, has been insightful and helpful and that it gives you a detailed idea of what to look for in the coming years.