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A. There is a two-part interlude between the sixth trumpet and the seventh trumpet. Both parts are in anticipation of the seventh and final trumpet, which comes next.
B. We examined the first part last week, about the angel and the little scroll.
C. As I was finishing up the preparation for this sermon, the second part was just two much to squeeze into one sermon. So, I decided to split it in two. So, we’ll do the first half today & finish next week.
D. BTW, as I’m preparing for these messages, I often find myself hoping that you are praying for me.
E. Revelation 11:1-6 Then I was given a measuring rod like a staff, and I was told, “Rise and measure the temple of God and the altar and those who worship there, 2 but do not measure the court outside the temple; leave that out, for it is given over to the nations, and they will trample the holy city for forty-two months. 3 And I will grant authority to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth.” 4 These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth. 5 And if anyone would harm them, fire pours from their mouth and consumes their foes. If anyone would harm them, this is how he is doomed to be killed. 6 They have the power to shut the sky, that no rain may fall during the days of their prophesying, and they have power over the waters to turn them into blood and to strike the earth with every kind of plague, as often as they desire.
F. Rev.11:7-13 And when they have finished their testimony, the beast that rises from the bottomless pit will make war on them and conquer them and kill them, 8 and their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city that symbolically is called Sodom and Egypt, where their Lord was crucified. 9 For three and a half days some from the peoples and tribes and languages and nations will gaze at their dead bodies and refuse to let them be placed in a tomb, 10 and those who dwell on the earth will rejoice over them and make merry and exchange presents, because these two prophets had been a torment to those who dwell on the earth. 11 But after the three and a half days a breath of life from God entered them, and they stood up on their feet, and great fear fell on those who saw them. 12 Then they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, “Come up here!” And they went up to heaven in a cloud, and their enemies watched them. 13 And at that hour there was a great earthquake, and a tenth of the city fell. Seven thousand people were killed in the earthquake, and the rest were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven.
II. Explanation of Revelation 11:1-6
A. Revelation 11:1-2 “Then I was given a measuring rod like a staff, and I was told, “Rise and measure the temple of God and the altar and those who worship there, 2 but do not measure the court outside the temple; leave that out, for it is given over to the nations, and they will trample the holy city for forty-two months.”
1. Well, before we get into the interpretation of the particulars here, let’s talk about interpreting the book of Revelation. Mostly, Revelation is like a patchwork quilt of Bible parables, images and passages. And there’s a reason each piece of cloth is chosen.
a. And sometimes a patch is actually a conflation of two or three pieces of Scripture.
2. Measuring of the temple
a. When we read about the temple, we should know that every time the temple is mentioned in the book of Revelation, it is referring not to the literal building but to God’s spiritual temple made up of living stones (Rev.3:12; 7:15; 11:19; 14:15, 17; 15:5-6, 8; 16:1, 17; 21:22).
b. Then what is this measuring of the temple here? In Ezek.40-48 and then again in Rev.21:15-17 we have a similar phenomenon of measuring various features of the temple complex. And it’s pretty clear that the point of it is that the security and protection of the temple are being well attended to. Because of this, we know that measuring the temple represents securing, caring for and protecting God’s temple, similar to how Jesus tending to the seven lampstands in Rev.1-3, and also similar to how God’s people were sealed in Rev.7:3-8.
c. This may sound strange to your ears, but you can actually see this right here in these verses. John is told to measure the temple and the altar and the worshipers, but he’s told NOT to measure the court outside the temple. Why not measure that part of the temple area ? Because that part was to be given over to the nations, to trample the holy city for 42 months. So, not measuring it was the same as leaving it unprotected and vulnerable to attack.
d. So, they are allowed to trample the holy city for 42 months, but not the temple. God allows the world to attack His people and cause various forms of external harm, but never internal harm. They may suffer bodily, economically, politically, or socially, but their connection with God, and their eternal status with Him cannot be trampled.
3. And what about the 42 months?
a. Well, this time period is actually a frequently-used time period in the Bible.
b. Here it’s referred to as 42 months (cf. Rev.13:5), but elsewhere (like in the next verse and Rev.12:6) it is called 1260 days, or 3½ years, or one more, more cryptic than the others: a time, times, and half a time (Rev.12:14, where it clearly means a year plus, two years, plus a half year, i.e. 3½ years – see Rev.12:6). The numerical significance of this amount is that it’s half of seven years, a week of years, as Daniel 9:27 indicates.
c. So, what does this period of time refer to?
(1) The general idea from all the times it’s used seems to be a period of time when God’s people are allowed to suffer but at the same time protected and cared for by the Lord.
(2) That’s definitely what this period is here in Rev.11, but it’s even more clear in Rev.12:6, where a woman who represents the church flees from Satan “into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, in which she is to be nourished for 1,260 days...and (in v.14) for a time, and times, and half a time.”
(3) The primary event in mind here is Elijah’s 3½ year drought (1Kings 17-18; Luke 4:25) during which God provided for His people.
d. So, this time is used not to give us some indication of how many calendar years this time period will last, but to reflect the nature of the era. It is a time when God’s people will be persecuted, but even while they’re being afflicted, God will take care of them &watch over them, as here in ch.11
B. Rev.11:3-4, 6 And I will grant authority to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth.” 4 These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth... 6 They have the power to shut the sky, that no rain may fall during the days of their prophesying, and they have power over the waters to turn them into blood and to strike the earth with every kind of plague, as often as they desire.
1. So, during this 42 months (or 1260 days), there will be two witnesses who will be given authority to prophecy, to speak God’s word. So, who are these two witnesses?
2. The general consensus is that the two witnesses are representatives of Christ’s people, as witnesses of His truth and authority.
3. Is this so surprising? Think about it. In Rev.17, an individual harlot represents the ungodly. In Rev.12, an individual woman signifies the community of faith during the same three and a half year period as here in ch.11. It makes sense then that the image of two individual prophets could also represent Christ’s witnessing people during the same period.
4. There are a couple of hints in this passage which incline us in this direction.
5. Hint #1: referred to as two olive trees and two lampstands in v.4.
a. The lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth remind us of Rev.1, where Jesus was standing among the lampstands, tending them with the sword coming out of His mouth. There the seven lampstands referred to the seven churches. So, that’s a crucial connection.
b. But it also reminds us of Zechariah 4, where the prophet sees a vision of a lampstand with two olive trees by it to supply the oil (Zechariah 4:2-3, 11-14). And God tells Zechariah – in very similar language to Rev.11 – that the two are “the two anointed ones who stand by the Lord of the whole earth.” (Zech.4:14) The Jewish rabbis interpreted this to mean Israelites of the end time (Sifre Deut.10 and Pesikta Rabbati 51.4 and Pesikta Rabbati 7.7). So, a first century Jew would have interpreted Rev.11:3-4 as referring to the people of God.
6. Hint #2: In v.9 we told that after the two witnesses were killed, “for three and a half days some from the peoples and tribes and languages and nations will gaze at their dead bodies and refuse to let them be placed in a tomb, 10 and those who dwell on the earth will rejoice over them and make merry and exchange presents, because these two prophets had been a torment to those who dwell on the earth.”
a. How could people of every tribe, language, people group and nation on earth gaze on their dead bodies as they lie in the street if there were only two witnesses?
b. This seems to imply that the witnesses were actually many, all over the world.
7. Now some have suggested that these two representative witnesses might be Peter and Paul.
a. Peter and Paul are considered the greatest witnesses of the apostolic period. Peter represented the church’s witness to Jews and Paul the church’s witness to the Gentiles, as we’re told in Gal.2:7-9.
b. And this may be part of it, but there are even clearer implications of another pair of Bible heroes.
8. The description of the powers of the two witnesses in v.6 draws our attention to Moses & Elijah.
a. In v.6 it is said of the two witnesses that “They have the power to shut the sky, that no rain may fall during the days of their prophesying, and they have power over the waters to turn them into blood and to strike the earth with every kind of plague, as often as they desire.”
b. Who was the one who “shut the sky, that no rain may fall during the days of their prophesying”?
(1) Elijah, of course – in 1Kings 17:1; Luke 4:25; James 5:17. (Remember Elijah shut up the sky for 3½ years, the very time these two are said to be witnessing.)
c. And who was the one who exercised “power over the waters to turn them into blood and to strike the earth with every kind of plague”? Moses, of course – in Exod. 7:17-25.
d. In both cases, these punishments were applied to unrighteous kings who persecuted God’s people.
e. So, why would God want to draw our attention to Moses and Elijah here?
(1) Well, Moses represents God’s law, and Elijah represents God’s prophets.
(2) So, alluding to the two of them here may imply that these two witnesses are testifying to what the Law and the Prophets promised about the coming Christ. After all, that seems to be the reason why these two were witnesses of Christ’s transfiguration – Mk.9:4-7.
(3) There’s another thing. In Deut.18:15 God promised that later He would send another Moses.
(a) And in Mal.4:5 God promised that later He would send another Elijah.
(b) Both would come again to restore Israel and to judge the ungodly.
(c) And who was the new Moses who the people must listen to? Jesus, of course – John 5:46, Luke 9:28-35. And who was the new Elijah? John the Baptist, of course – Matt.11:13-14; Luke 1:15-17; Mark 9:11-13.
(d) So, Elijah and Moses, the two great OT witnesses, get us to John and Jesus, the two original NT witnesses, both of whom died in a similar fashion to the two witnesses here in Rev.11.
f. So, the two witnesses here represent Moses & Elijah, the precursors of Jesus & John the Baptist.
g. And in that, they act as representatives of all the witnesses who came after them in their wake, in their spirit, in their authority, in their message.
9. There’s another dimension of the two-ness.
a. In the OT, every judicial matter was to be proved by the testimony of two or three witnesses (Num.35:30; Deut.17:6, 19:15). This principle is continued in the NT when Jesus sent the disciples out to witness two-by-two in Luke 10:1-24, and when in 2Corinthians 13:1 Paul said his multiple visits to Corinth were validated by this principle. So, this is why the two is significant.
10. So, I think the best way to think of the two witnesses is as representing Christ’s witnessing church, the light of the world, standing like two lampstands shining into the dark night of the world, fueled by the oil of the HS, bearing testimony before the world of the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.
11. The two witnesses are clothed in sackcloth. Sackcloth suggests that there is a sad part of this witnessing, probably on account of the judgment which comes on those who refuse it. Sackcloth, of course, was also part of the regular wardrobe of Elijah and John the Baptist.
C. Rev.11:5 And if anyone would harm them, fire pours from their mouth and consumes their foes. If anyone would harm them, this is how he is doomed to be killed.
1. The point here is this: if anyone tries to harm the two witnesses, fire will pour our from the mouths of the witnesses and consume their enemies. This is how persecutors will be killed.
2. So, what is this about the fire from the mouths of the witnesses consuming their enemies?
a. Well, like the sword coming out of the mouth of Jesus in several Revelation visions (Rev.1:16, 2:16, 19:15), this doesn’t seem to be literal. The destructive fire coming out of the mouth is symbolic of the message which brings judgment on those who do not heed it.
b. Jeremiah 5:14 Thus says the LORD: “Because you have spoken this word, behold, I am making my words in your mouth a fire, and this people wood, and the fire shall consume them.”
3. Persecution is what ultimately cements their doom.
A. The Lord’s people are His witnesses.
1. This isn’t a minor part of our role as the people of Christ. We bear His message.
2. This isn’t an office only some are called to. This isn’t a gift only a few are given.
3. As the whole body of Christ we are told to bring the message to every people, proclaiming everything God has said in His word.
4. But because this provokes so much animosity, there is tremendous pressure to do two things:
a. To soften the message – to amputate the parts of Christ’s truth which the world finds offensive
b. To hide the message – to be incognito Christians
5. These are temptations which must be resisted.
6. Sometimes the reason we’re not persecuted is because we are trying so hard not to be.
B. Christ protects His people.
1. We saw in ch.1 that Jesus is tending to the lampstands in the temple, that is He is tending to His churches, His people: watching over them, maintaining them, fixing them, helping them.
2. We saw in Rev.7:1-8 that they are given a protective seal shielding them from spiritual harm.
3. And now, here in Rev.11 we see that the temple grounds representing His house – constructed out of living stones like you and me – are being well-looked over and well-cared for.
4. This doesn’t mean God will not permit attackers to attack and haters to hate.
5. But it does mean that there is a boundary line to the malicious persecution of God’s city.
6. He will permit outward, eternal damage to be done, but that’s where it stops, that’s where He draws the line, that’s where He says, “You can’t come any farther.”
7. Christ’s church is protected so that we might bear a faithful witness to the gospel.
8. You have unimaginable Power, “power to shut the sky, that no rain may fall, power over the waters to turn them into blood and to strike the earth with every kind of plague.”
a. And you might say, “I’m not Moses or Elijah!” But was it really those two men who had that power? Not at all. It was God! And the same God who was with Moses and Elijah is with you to protect you. All the powers of God are marshaled for the protection of His people.
C. Overcoming fear
1. When a person is learning to swim/bikeride/drive, they have to trust their teacher.
2. It’s not going to be easy; you’re going to have some foul-ups. But you’re not going to die.
3. Your teacher is not going to let anything like that happen.
4. It’s not because the situation is not latent with danger. It is! You can drown in water. You can die in a car crash. You can do serious damage in a bike accident. Ask Bob Sowers.
5. So, it’s understandable that people are afraid when they are learning these things.
6. But in order to make it through successfully, you have to have more than fear. You have to trust your teacher. You have to know that your teacher is strong enough and attentive enough and cares enough to not let you get hurt.
7. When my children were overtaken by fear while I was teaching them to ride a bike, sometimes as I was running alongside them I would lift them and their bike up into the air to show them how I had their back. Sometimes I’d lift them out of the water for the same reason.
D. You are not alone. There are real dangers. There are people who are threatened by you because you believe in Christ. There are people who hate you even though they don’t even know you.
1. But your Daddy is right there with you, constantly attentive, completely loving, perfectly wise.
2. And you’re only going to be able to face the fearful parts of life if you know that.
3. He’s got you!! Do you think He would have died on the cross for you if He didn’t care enough about you to watch over you and protect you?
4. Do you think it’s even possible for Him to be neglectful?
5. He loves you more than a parent loves a child.
6. Isaiah 49:15 “Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you.” says the Lord.
7. You can expect persecution. You can expect trouble. You can expect heartbreak.
8. But you can also expect that Jesus is going to be right there by your side through it all.
9. Lk.21:17-18 “You will be hated for Christ’s name’s sake. But not a hair of your head will perish.”