At the conclusion of chapter 10, John was given the commandment, “You must again prophesy about many peoples and nations and languages and kings.” (Revelation 10:11). Revelation 11 begins with a prophetic act. Verses 1-2 read,
“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.”
Measuring the temple of God, the altar, and the people who worship there is akin to counting and judging or discerning the people of God. Who are His people and are they faithful and spirit-filled? Are they worshipping in Spirit and in Truth? John was told not to include the court because it is overtaken and trodden by the nations who rejected Christ. It is not time for them to be counted. For 3 ½ years they will disregard and blaspheme the Lord. They will treat Jerusalem as theirs and it will be terrible. But they won’t walk on the Temple of God, we are His temple and the enemy cannot have us. They will run roughshod over the City of God, but we are the City of God and they will not defeat us. For the same 3 ½ years that the nations blasphemously trample over the courts and Jerusalem, The Lord’s two witnesses will prophesy with His authority. Verse 3 reads,
“And I will grant authority to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth.”
The two witnesses will be dressed in sackcloth indicating that they suffer and mourn. They mourn because the world isn’t listening to the trumpet warnings. They suffer because everyone will suffer through that great tribulation. But they do not let that stop them from obeying God and prophesying, both in action and in word. We are given God’s authority and power for a reason. We are not meant to keep Him gagged inside us while we hide from the troubles and woes of life. God’s word must be expressed, He must be glorified. Paul described it this way in 1 Corinthians 9:16-17,
“For if I preach the gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! 17 For if I do this of my own will, I have a reward, but if not of my own will, I am still entrusted with a stewardship.”
Who are the two witnesses? Over the years people have guessed and assigned them various identities. They have been called Moses and Elijah by some, Peter and John by others. Cults such as the Muggletonians[i] and the Shakers[ii] have been created by naming the witnesses. The Muggletonians named the two witnesses John Reeve and Lodowick Muggleton. The Shakers said that the first witness was the male aspect of God in Jesus Christ and the second was the female aspect of God in Ann Lee, who founded the movement and called herself Mother Ann Lee.
Identifying the two witnesses as individuals is not the wisest choice. Let’s look at who scripture says they are. Verse 5 reads,
“These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth”
They are the two olive trees. The Hebrew word for olive tree is es shemen and it means to shine brightly like the sun. It means richness, anointing, fat, fruitful, oil, and ointment. The olive tree symbolizes the fruitful strong righteous man in the Bible and its oil represents The Holy Spirit. Psalm 52:8 reads,
“But I am like a green olive tree
in the house of God.
I trust in the steadfast love of God
forever and ever.”
They are the two lampstands. The lampstands are symbols of the church (Revelation 1:20). The light they produce by the power of the olive oil is the Light of Christ. (John 8:12). And having Christ in us, makes us lights to the world as well (Matthew 5:14). We must glorify Christ. If He is in us we have to shine as brightly as the Son.
There are two witnesses, but two olive trees and two lampstands. They are both an olive tree and a lampstand. The two witnesses are representatives of Christ and preach His grace. They are filled with the power of the Holy Spirit and exercise His authority. Zechariah 4:1-7 describes the olive trees and lampstands this way,
“And the angel who talked with me came again and woke me, like a man who is awakened out of his sleep. 2 And he said to me, “What do you see?” I said, “I see, and behold, a lampstand all of gold, with a bowl on the top of it, and seven lamps on it, with seven lips on each of the lamps that are on the top of it. 3 And there are two olive trees by it, one on the right of the bowl and the other on its left.” 4 And I said to the angel who talked with me, “What are these, my lord?” 5 Then the angel who talked with me answered and said to me, “Do you not know what these are?” I said, “No, my lord.” 6 Then he said to me, “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts. 7 Who are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you shall become a plain. And he shall bring forward the top stone amid shouts of ‘Grace, grace to it!’”
You and I are God’s witnesses. We are the olive trees and the lampstands. We are ambassadors for Christ, filled with His Holy Spirit. Although we may be clothed in sackcloth, we are not powerless. Look at what the two witnesses will do while the trumpets call people to repentance. Verses 5-7 read,
“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.”
Those who do not worship in the temple and trample the courts will try to hurt those who do. They will hate God’s witnesses. But by God’s power and by His might, we can call down God’s holy fire and consume our adversaries. We have the power to stop the rain from falling and turn water to blood. We have the power to strike people with plagues and diseases. These prophetic acts bring to mind the first four trumpets (Revelation 8:6-13). We do not currently call curses down on our enemies. We bless those who persecute us. But in the Great Tribulation our enemies will not be coming to Christ because of our love and blessings. They will fight by Satan’s side and reject Christ. We along with Jesus will have control of the first four trumpets and use them to warn people to repent and come to Christ. But our rivals will not come to Christ and the enemy will hate us all the more. He will make war on us and it will even appear he wins. Verses 7-10 describe his apparent victory.
“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.”
The celebration over this supposed conquest will be immense. It will be like a worldwide Christmas people will make merry and exchange gifts they will be so happy. We will no longer be there to say they are suffering because they rejected Christ or remind them of the sins they commit. They will be free to make Jerusalem as evil as Sodom and despicable and slave-filled as Pharaoh’s Egypt. But their revelry won’t last. Verses 11-13 read,
“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.”
God will bring His witnesses back to life, we will be resurrected and He will call us to come to Him. We will go up to heaven in a cloud of witnesses and all those previously partying people will see it. The sixth trumpet and the second woe will close with an earthquake that kills 7,000 people and destroys a tenth of the city. Verse 14 reads,
“The second woe has passed; behold, the third woe is soon to come.”
Will they listen to the seventh trumpet? They didn’t heed the first six and they will be without the Holy Spirit or the light of Christ. But we are here now. We can warn them now! We can prophesy now. We are God’s witnesses and so we must testify! We have the power and might of Almighty God within us. If we tell a mountain to move it will (Mark 11:23). If we tell a storm to stop raining it will. If we ask anything as Jesus’ witnesses, He will do it (John 14:14).