"And there was given to me a reed like a rod, saying, Rise, and measure the temple of God, and the altar, and those that worship therein. But the court which is without the temple leave out, and measure it not; for it is given to the Gentiles, and they shall' tread under foot the holy city forty-two months." Their treading down is soon to come to an end; and Jerusalem appears in the foreground. This is the centre of concern now, while the Beast may ravage there, though his own sphere be in the western world "And I will give* to my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred [and] sixty days, clothed in sackcloth." Their task is for a time comparatively short - for three years and a half. "These are the two olive trees, and the two lamps that stand before the Lord of the earth." The witnesses are two, not because necessarily limited to two only, but as giving an adequate testimony according to the law. It is not the Messianic order yet.
* Probably here, as in Rev_8:3, the word implies "efficacy" or "power," as our Authorised translators saw in one text if not in the other.
One often hears, for the purpose of illustrating the Revelation, a reference to Isaiah, Jeremiah, or the like; but we should bear in mind that these prophecies are not in their structure symbolical. Therefore the reasoning founded on the books and style of Jeremiah or Isaiah (Ezekiel being partly symbolical, partly figurative) cannot decide for Daniel or the Apocalypse. Here the figures have a language of their own. Thus the regular meaning of "two," if figuratively used, is competent testimony - enough and not more than enough. "In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established." According to Jewish law a case could not be decided by one witness; there must be at least two for valid proof and judgment.
"And if any one desire to injure them, fire proceedeth out of their mouth, and devoureth their enemies: and if any one desire to injure them, he must thus be killed." Clearly in this parenthesis we have not yet Israel as a whole in view, but a remnant of true worshippers owned, while the mass are given up, and the raising up of witnesses in sorrow, yet guarded by power after a Jewish sort, till the Beast, of whom we shall hear far more, rises up to kill them. For now that Christ's title to the universe is asserted, Satan pushes forward the Beast to claim the earth for himself.
But is this the testimony of the gospel? Is it thus the Lord protects the preachers of the gospel of His grace? Did fire ever proceed out of the mouths of evangelists? Did a teacher ever devour his enemies? Was it on this principle that even Ananias and Sapphira fell dead? Are these the ways of Christianity? Is it not evident that we are here in a new atmosphere, that a state of things is before us altogether different from that which reigned during the church condition, though even then sin might be unto death in peculiar cases? No more proofs are needed as enough has been given. "These have authority to shut heaven, that it rain not in the days of their prophecy." That is, they are something like Elijah "And they have authority over the waters to turn them to blood, and to smite the earth as often as they will with every plague." In this respect they resemble Moses also. It is not meant that they are Moses and Elias personally; but that the character of their testimony is similar, and the sanctions of it such as God gave in the days of those two honoured servants of old. "And when they shall have finished their testimony, the beast that cometh up out of the abyss shall make war with them, and shall overcome them and shall kill them." They are however preserved In spite of the Beast, till their work is done; but directly their testimony is completed, the Beast is allowed to overcome them. This is anticipation; and so the description of the Beast is characteristic rather than an existing fact. That is to say, all had not yet been given him which was to be.
So it was with the Lord. The utmost pressure was brought against Him in His service. So their hour, we may say, has not yet come, just as He said of Himself before them. There was all possible willingness to destroy them long before, but somehow it could not be done; for the Lord protected them till they had done their mission. But we see the character of grace which filled the Lord Jesus, and essentially belonged to Him. Here we meet with the earthly retributive dealing of the Old Testament. The Spirit will form them thus; and no wonder, because in fact God is recurring to that which He promised then, but has never yet performed. He is going to perform it now He does not merely purpose to gather people for heavenly glory; He will govern on earth the Jews and the Gentiles in their several places - Israel nearest to Himself. He must have an earthly people, as well as His family on high. When the heavenly saints are changed, then He begins with the earthly. He will never mix them all up together. This makes nothing but the greatest confusion.
"And their body [is] on the street of the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also their Lord was crucified." It was Jerusalem, but spiritually called Sodom and Egypt; because of the wickedness of the people and their prince. It had no less abominations than Sodom; it had all the darkness and the moral bondage of Egypt; but it was really the place where their Lord had been crucified (i.e. Jerusalem). So the witnesses fell, and men in various measures showed their satisfaction. "And [some] of the peoples and tribes and tongues and nations see their body three days and a half, and do not suffer their dead bodies to be put into a tomb. And those that dwell on the earth rejoice over them, and [their hatred being more intense] make merry, and they shall send gifts to one another, because these two prophets tormented those that dwell on the earth. And after the three days and a half a spirit of life from God entered into them, and they stood upon their feet; and great fear fell upon those beholding them. And I heard a great voice out of the heaven, saying to them, Come up here; and they went up to the heaven in the cloud, and their enemies beheld them. And in that hour came a great earthquake, and the tenth of the city fell, and in the earthquake were slain seven thousand names of men; and the remnant were affrighted, and gave glory to the God of heaven."
"The second woe is past; behold, the third woe cometh quickly." This is to be as emphatically from God, as the first came from the abyss on the wicked Israelites, and the second from the multitudinous powers of the east on the faithless west. For it is the seventh Trumpet. This is important for understanding the structure of the book. The seventh Trumpet brings us down to the close in a general but final summary. This is clear, though often overlooked. "And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in the heaven, saying, The kingdom of the world of our Lord and of his Christ is come." You must translate it a little more exactly, and with a better text too. "The kingdom of the world" (or "the world-kingdom," if our tongue admits of such a combination) "of our Lord and of his Christ is come." It is not merely power in general conferred in heaven, but "the world-kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ is come, and he shall reign for ever and ever. And the twenty-four elders that sit before God upon their thrones fell on their faces, and did homage to God, saying, We give thee thanks, O Lord God the Almighty, that art, and that wast; because thou hast taken thy great power, and didst reign. And the nations were enraged, and thy wrath is come."
Here, it will be observed, the end of the age is supposed to be now arrived. It is not merely frightened kings and peoples who say so, but the voice of those who know in heaven. The nations were enraged, and God's wrath come; but further, "the time of the dead to be judged." Not a word here speaks of the saints caught up to heaven; it is a later hour. "And the time of the dead to be judged, and to give the reward to thy bondmen the prophets, and to the saints, and to those that fear thy name, small and great, and to destroy those that destroy the earth." No mention is made here about taking them to heaven, but of recompensing them. There can be no such thing as conferring that reward till the public manifestation of the Lord Jesus. They had, in fact, been translated long before, and were seen glorified in heaven since the beginning of Rev. 4. The taking of those changed out of the scene is quite another association of truth. The reward in due time will fail to none that fear the Lord's name, small and great; but He will also destroy those that destroy the earth at that time. It is the general course of judgment summarised to the close, and proclaimed on high.
This is the true conclusion of Rev. 11. The next verse (19), though arranged in our Bibles as the end of the chapter, is properly the beginning of a new series. For the prophetic part of the book divides into two portions at this point. This is another landmark that cannot be despised, if we would acquaint ourselves with its structure and the bearing of its contents. And it is absolutely requisite to have a generally correct understanding of its outline; else we are in imminent risk of making confusion, the moment we venture to put the parts together, or to form anything like a right connected view of that which it conveys to us. The seventh Trumpet brings us down to the end in a general way.
This is the habit of prophecy. Take, for instance, our Lord's prophecy in Matthew 24. There, first of all, we are given the broad outline as far as verse 14 to the "gospel of the kingdom" preached in all the world for a testimony to all nations; and then the end comes. Having thus brought us down to the close comprehensively, the Lord turns back, and specifies a particular part of that history in a confined sphere, namely, from the time that the abomination of desolation is set up in the holy place. This clearly is a little time before the end. It does not indeed go back absolutely to the beginning, but it returns a certain way, in order to set forth a far fuller and more precise view of the appalling state of things found in Jerusalem before the end comes.
Just so is it in the Revelation. The Seals and the Trumpets which follow one another conduct us from the time that the church is seen in heaven glorified till "the time of the dead to be judged," as well as the day of wrath for the nations on the earth. Evidently this is the end of the age. Then, in the portion which begins with the last verse of Rev. 11, we return for a special communication. The prophet had been told that he must prophesy again before many peoples and kings; and from this point seems to be his prophesying again.
"And the temple of God in the heaven was opened." It is not a door opened in heaven to give us the veil lifted up from what must take place on the earth as regarded in the mind of God. This John did see, the general view being now closed; and we cuter on a distinct line which connects itself with O.T. prophecy. It is not now the throne; but the temple of God in heaven was opened, "and there was seen the ark of his covenant in his temple." This is the resumption of the divine link with His ancient people Israel.
Not that it is yet the day of blessedness for the Jew. Nor is heaven itself opened for Jesus, attended by risen saints, to appear for the judgment of the Beast and the False Prophet with their train. It is still a transition state of things, but a further advance. When God deigns to look upon and gives us to see the ark of His covenant, He is going to assert His fidelity to the people. Of old He gave promises, and will shortly accomplish all which had been assured to their fathers. The ark of His covenant is the sign of the unfailing certainty of that to which He bound Himself. Doubtless as the Gospels show, and the Epistles prove, we do now enjoy the blessings of the new covenant as far as is compatible with higher privileges; yet prophetically its direct establishment awaits Israel, and this is here pledged. Blessed tokens now come to view, with even aggravated proof that God will be then dealing with the world, not in grace as now, but in ever-growing severity of judgment.
"And there were lightnings, and voices, and thunders," and besides not "an earthquake" only but "great hail." It was not yet "the day": on the contrary the deepest darkness must intervene. Judicial ways still prevail, and more than before. In the first scene of Rev. 4, when the door was seen open in heaven, there were "lightnings, and voices, and thunders," but not even an earthquake. In Rev. 8 this addition appears. Now besides all the rest there is "great hail." Clearly therefore we are thus prepared for greater detail in the judgments from heaven inflicted on the earth.