LESSON XXIV (Revelation 11: 5, 6) The Power of the Two Witnesses
1. Vs. 5. a. “And if any man will hurt them”:
(1) The expression indicates that it is the desire of “men” to hurt them. But the question is: in what sense: in the physical or in the spiritual sense?
(2) It is evident that the enemy cannot realize this desire to hurt them: they are devoured.
(3) And this seems to indicate that no physical hurt is meant here, for that the two witnesses can be hurt physically is plain from vs. 7ff.
(4) Hence, the meaning is: if any man would hurt them in their capacity as witnesses and prophets:
(a) After all, physical suffering does not really hurt the Church, the ministry, believers. By persecution and suffering they are only strengthened, and death is for them a passage into glory.
(b) But they are very really hurt, when they are tempted to become unfaithful, to apostatize, to corrupt their testimony.
(c.) “Men” will surely attempt to hurt them thus: by false doctrine and philosophy; by offering them the pleasures and treasures of the world; by persecuting them, and making it hard for them to live in the world, unless they change their testimony and become unfaithful. See ch. 13:17
b. “Fire proceeded out of their mouth and devoured their enemies.”
(1) This corroborates the view that spiritual hurt is meant.
(2) Notice that the fire proceeded out of their mouth, so that it is evident that no literal, material fire is meant. Even though there is in the entire passage a reference to Elijah, and in vs. 5 probably to II Kings 1:9ff. Where we are told that Elijah calls for fire from heaven to destroy his enemies, yet, the meaning here is not that they call for fire from heaven: the fire proceeds directly out of their mouth.
(3) The fire must, therefore, be understood in a spiritual sense and likewise the devouring of the enemies:
(a) Out of their mouth proceeds the fire of the Word of God, i.e. they bear testimony of the Word of God and this testimony is quickened and made powerful by the Spirit of God.
(b) And by that fire of the Word of God proceeding out of their mouth the enemy is vanquished, so that they cannot hurt them. In this sense they are killed.
(c.) That this is the meaning is confirmed by the emphatic repetition: “and if any man will hurt them, he must in this manner (i.e. not by the sword or by physical power, but by the fire that proceeds out of the mouth of the witnesses) be killed.” See for the same idea: Jer 5: 14.
2. Vs. 6. a. “These have power to shut heaven, that it rain not in the days of their prophecy.” The power of the Word is accompanied by signs and wonders that bring judgments upon the earth
(1) “Power to shut heaven,” a figurative expression; the firmament is presented as the storage chamber of rain. The sign refers to the history of Elijah:
(a) Who prophesied to Ahab that it would not rain but according to his word. I Kings 17:1,
(b) And this in answer to his prayer, James 5:17.
(2) “That it rain not”; this means that they have power to bring drought and famine and all that is connected with these.
(3) “In the days of their prophecy”; not merely and indication of time, but also expressing that this power accompanies their prophecy as a sign.
b. “And have power over waters to turn them into blood.”
(1) As the first sign refers to the history of Elijah, so the second is taken from that of Moses in Egypt. That the reference in the text is to these great prophets of the Old Testament is due to the fact, that Moses appeared for the salvation of Israel over against the world-power; Elijah prophesied in a time of great apostasy. So these witnesses prophesy when the holy city is trodden under foot by the Gentiles.
(2) The second sign gives the witnesses power over the waters, to spoil and poison them, to spread disease etc.
c. “And to smite the earth with all plagues, as often as they will.”
(1) Here their power to bring judgments on the earth is generalized: all plagues.
(2) And complete power over them is ascribed to them: “as often as they will.” It is left to their judgments to call for these plagues.
Note: Because of the extraordinary powers that are ascribed to these witnesses, interpreters have either concluded that these witnesses are two extraordinary figures, such as Moses and Elijah, or Enoch and Elijah that will appear in the latter days; of they have allegorized the text so that their powers are spiritual. But there is no need of this. The witnesses are the “two olive trees,” the ministry representing the Church. Let us remember:
a. That the Church in the past plainly had these powers. This is evident from the Old and New Testament both.
b. That the Lord Jesus Christ certainly has all power in heaven on earth.
c. That judgments are represented in the book of Revelation as an answer to the prayers of the saints. They call for them.
d. That in the latter days, when Antichrist shall rage and perform his signs, this will, no doubt, become clearly evident.
LESSON XXV (Revelation 11: 7 – 10) The Killing of the Two Witnesses
1. Vs. 7. a. “And when they shall have finished their testimony.” There comes a time when the measure of preaching by the Church is full. Gen. 6:3; Matt. 23: 34 -39. So also in the end. It is the time when the gospel shall have been preached to all nations, and that, too, for a witness: Matt 24:14; Mk. 13:10; and over against many false prophets; Matt 24:11; Mk 13:6. “The beast that ascended out of the bottomless pit.”
(1) This is evidently the same beast that is described in detail in ch. 13; the little horn of Dan. 7:8, 20, 21. The final manifestation of the antichristian world-power.
(2) Here described with reference to his spiritual character and origin; “out of the bottomless pit” or abyss.
c. “Shall make war against them, and shall overcome them, and kill them.”
(1) The anti-christian power shall persecute the Church and its ministry, “shall overcome them,” i.e. so that their testimony is silenced; and that too by actually killing them.
(2) The meaning is not that every last one of the saints shall be put to death (there shall be living saints at the time of the Lord’s coming); but many of them, especially of the faithful ministers, shall be killed; and for the rest, the Church shall be so persecuted that worship is impossible, preaching is forbidden, the testimony of the Church is silenced.
2. Vs. 8. a. “And their dead bodies shall lie in the street,” etc.
(1) There would be nothing strange in the literal fulfillment of this prophecy, so that a decent burial would be refused some of the martyrs. This has happened before.
(2) It is, however, much more in harmony with the highly symbolic language of the whole section (the two olive trees, the candlesticks, the temple court, holy city, Sodom and Egypt, etc.) to understand this expression as figurative and meaning: the Church and its ministry shall be exposed to utter shame and reproach as a public spectacle.
a. “The great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified”
(1) The great city is evidently the same as “the holy city” of vs. 2. It is Jerusalem, for there “our Lord was crucified.” But here as in vs. 2 not the literal Jerusalem is to be thought of, but the New Testament continuation of apostate Jerusalem in the anti-christian world, the apostate Church united with the world-power. There “our Lord” is always crucified afresh. Heb 6:6; 10:29.
(2) It is here described according to its antichristian spiritual character
(a) It is called Sodom, because of its carnal lust and corruption. Isa. 1:9.
(b) And it is called Egypt, because of its oppression and persecution of the true people of God.
(3) The addition “where also our Lord was crucified” denotes the fellowship (our Lord) in suffering for the “witnesses” with Christ. The suffering of Christ is upon them. That is their comfort. Even as they hated Him, they shall hate them also.
3. Vs. 9. a. “And they of the people and kindred and tongues and nations” etc.
(1) The meaning is: from among all nations and tongues and peoples of the earth, men shall see, etc.
(2) Notice the fourfold division: people, kindred, tongues, and nations, expressing universality.
b. “Shall see their dead bodies,” etc.
(1) It is evident that any narrow literal interpretation of two men literally lying in a street of literal Jerusalem is out of the question here. All the people of the earth do not literally pass through a street to see two dead men.
(2) But the meaning is that the whole antichristian world shall take cognizance of the utter defeat and bitter reproach of the Church whose testimony is finally silenced.
c. “Three days and a half.” For the meaning of this indication of time we refer to the notes on vs. 11 next time. At the termination of this period the “witnesses” are called back to life.
d. “And shall not suffer their dead bodies to be put in graves.” This is further explanation of the reason why their bodies are lying in the street: they are refused burial. The antichristian powers do not permit their burial. The meaning is, that the silenced and oppressed and persecuted Church, “killed all the day long” is not forgotten by the world, but a spectacle of reproach and shame.
4. Vs. 10 a. “and they that dwell upon the earth shall rejoice over them.” etc.
(1) The whole world rejoices over the defeat of the Church.
(2) And notice, that they are here described as “they that dwell on the earth.” It was as “dwellers on the earth” and its fullness that they were tormented by the witnesses.
(3) They make merry, celebrate their victory in parades, banquets, etc.
(4) Send gifts to one another, expressing their mutual friendship.
b. “Because these two prophets tormented them,” etc.
(1) That is “because they overcame their tormentors.”
(2) Who tormented them by the “fire” from their mouth.
(3) And by their mighty signs (shut the heavens, etc.).
LESSON XXVI (Revelation 11: 11 – 13) The Glorification of the Witnesses
1. Vs. 11. a. “And after three days and a half,” etc. The period of the public reproach of the Church (the bodies of the witnesses lie in the street) is designated by “three days and a half,” or half a week. There is a reference to this same period in Dan. 9:24-27:
(1) The “seventy weeks” mentioned there (vs. 24) cover the entire period from the return of Israel from captivity to the end of the world: “to bring in everlasting righteousness,” etc.
(2) But in vss. 25-27 this period is divided into three parts
(a) Seven weeks from “the going forth of the commandment (by Cyrus) to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince (the first coming of Christ).
(b) Sixty two weeks during which “the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times,” i.e., the Jerusalem of Rev. XI, the Church of the New dispensation even unto the very last times. They are troublous times. For “the court and the holy city” are given unto the Gentiles (Antichrist), and they shall be trodden under foot by him. See Dan. 9:26.
(c.) And one week during which Antichrist “shall confirm the covenant with many” (a federation of many nations), vs. 27.
(3) This last “week” is divided into two halves:
(a) During the first part of this period “shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself” or: “and there shall be none for him,” vs. 26. “In the midst of the week” or in half of the week, “he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease,” vs. 27. The witnesses (Rev 11) are overcome; preaching ceases, worship is forbidden. The Church is dead!
(b) And this shall last from “the midst of the week . . . Even until the consummation,” i.e., the end. This last period, then, is the tree and a half days (half a week) of Rev. XI:9, 11.
(4) As of the significance of the number 3 ½ we may say the following:
(a) The length of the “weeks” of Daniel and of this half a week cannot be determined in number of years or months or days.
(b) The 3 ½ days correspond to the 3 ½ years (1260 days) of this whole dispensation; it is a contraction of this period; all the ravings of Antichrist are packed into a short time.
(c.) That the period is numbered in days indicates that it will be a short time.
(d) That it ends in ½ indicates that “the days will be shortened.”
b. “A spirit of life from God entered into them, and they stood upon their feet.” This must not be allegorized; it can only mean
(1) The resurrection of the saints that have died.
(2) And the transformation of the living saints to glory. Both by the Spirit of Christ, Rom 9:11, I Cor. 15:51, 52; I Thess. 4: 13-17.
c. The glorification and justification of the saints that were persecuted and killed all the day long, shall not be in secret, but before the eyes of all the world.
(3) Whether this shall be after also the wicked shall be changed, is left out of the picture.
2. Vs. 12. a. “And they heard a great voice from heaven.”
(1) They heard, that is, the glorified and raised saints.
(2) The text does not say whose is the great voice, but judging from what it says, and from I Thess. 4:16 and Rev. 4:1 it is none other than Christ Himself that speaks.
(3) The voice calls to them: “Come up hither,” i.e., to heaven. This implies that by this voice they are empowered to ascend to heaven. Notice, that as usual, heaven is pictured as being “above” in relation to the earth.
b. “And they ascended up to heaven in a cloud; and their enemies beheld them.”
(1) Also this may not be allegorized. Even as in vs. 11 the resurrection and transformation of the saints is described, so here their ascension into heaven. I Thess. 4:17.
(2) They ascend in a cloud. Same kind of cloud as in the transfiguration of Jesus on the mount, Matt. 17:5; and as that in which Jesus was taken up, Acts 1:9.
(3) And that again, not secretly, as some picture “the rapture,” but in the sight of their enemies.
3. Vs. 13. a. “And the same hour there was a great earthquake.”
(1) “The same hour” refers to the same period in which the witnesses are raised and glorified and taken up into heaven . Hence, not after all this takes place, but simultaneously with those events the earthquake takes place.
(2) For the earthquake see also ch. 6:12; 8:5; 1:18, 16:18.
b. “And the tenth part of the city fell.”
(1) This is the result of the earthquake.
(2) The city is the same as in vss. 2, 8: antichristian Jerusalem, Babylon, the antichristian world-power.
(3) The “tenth part” is, of course, to be taken symbolically, indicating “a complete part,” the center of the antichristian world-power.
C. “And in the earthquake were slain of men seven thousand,” a large, complete number; seven with a view to the anti-christian covenant against God’s covenant. Just retribution.
D. “And the remnant were affrighted and gave glory to the God of heaven.” Not in true repentance, but see Dan. 2:47, 3:28’ 4:34 ff.; Phil 2: 10,11.