The Two Witnesses and The 7th Trumpet
Zechariah in his 5th vision: "The angel who was talking to me came back and roused me as through rousing someone who was asleep. And he asked me, 'What do you see?' I replied, "As I look, there is a lamp-stand entirely of gold with a bowl at the top of it; it holds 7 lamps, with seven openings for the lamps on it. By it are two olive trees, one to the right and the other to the left.' I then said to the angel who was talking to me, 'What are those things, my lord? The angel who was talking to me replied, 'Do you not know what they are?' I said, 'No, my lord.' He then gave me this answer, 'These seven are the eyes of Yahweh, which range over the whole world.' Then I went on the ask Him further, 'What is the meaning of the two olive branches discharging oil through the two golden openings?' He replied, 'Do you not know what they are?' I said, 'No, my Lord.' He said, 'These are the two anointed ones in attendance on the Lord of the whole world.'" Zechariah's 5th vision: the lampstand and the olive trees: Zech 4:1-14
"I heard the man speak who was dressed in linen, standing further up the stream: he raised his right hand and his left to heaven and swore by him who lives forever, 'A time and two times, and half a time; and all these things will come true, once the crushing of the holy people's power is over." -Daniel 12:7
The prophet Ezekiel, 14 years after the destruction of Jerusalem: "..the hand of Yahweh was on me. He carried me away in divine visions, He carried me away to the land of Israel and put me down on a very high mountain, on the south of which there seemed to be built a city. He took me to it, and there I saw a man, whose appearance was like brass. He had a flax cord and a measuring rod in his hand and was standing in the gateway." Ezekiel 40:2-3
The prophet Daniel's prophecy of the mystery of the 5th Kingdom: "In the days of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which will never be destroyed, and this kingdom will not pass into the hands of another race: it will shatter and absorb all the previous kingdoms and itself last for ever..."Daniel 2: 44
Parallel passages to Ezekiel:
-Measuring the Temple: Ezekiel chapter 40 / Revelation 11:1-2
-Comparing Jerusalem to Sodom: Ezekiel 16:45-58 / Rev. 11:8
-The breath of God bringing life to the dead: Ezekiel 37:4-11 / Rev. 11:11
Please read 11:1-13 The Two Witnesses
Verses 1-2 "Then I was given a long cane like a measuring rod, and I was told, 'Get up and measure God's sanctuary, and the altar, and the people who worship there; but exclude the outer court and do not measure it, because it has been handed over to gentiles they will trample on the holy city for forty-two months.
John is given a cane (or reed used for measuring) and is commanded to measure the Sanctuary of God in Jerusalem. Sanctuary is a better translation than Temple because the Greek word is naos (from the root naio= to dwell) which was the sacred space occupied by the god in Greek temples. In effect, John is told to measure the Holy of Holies along with the altar and the people who worship there. Now if John's revelation is taking place in 96AD the Temple in Jerusalem no longer exists; it would have been destroyed 26 years earlier. But John does not protest that he cannot fulfill this command. This is more evidence that John's vision is taking place prior to 70AD.
The measuring of the Temple in Revelation is once again parallel in the book of Ezekiel but it is used in a different way. In Ezekiel chapters 40-42 Ezekiel has a vision of a "man, whose appearance was like "brass" who has a measuring rod and is measuring a temple that Ezekiel discovers is the new Temple of Yahweh. The "man" is measuring what will become the ideal Temple = the New Covenant people of God, the universal Church (see Mark 14:58; Jn 2:19; 1Cor 3:16; Ep 2:19-22; 1Tim 3:15; Heb 3:6; 1Pet 2:5; and Rev 3:12).
The inspired writer of Hebrews writes that the earthly Temple is only a copy and shadow of the heavenly Tabernacle "It is not as though Christ had entered a man-made sanctuary which was merely a model of the real one.."(Heb. 9:24). And it is because Christ has now become our high priest in the heavenly sanctuary that even though we are still here on earth, we are now, through Christ, participating in the heavenly worship of the heavenly sanctuary. It is this heavenly sanctuary, this "naos" or Holy of Holies that will become the center of the New Covenant Church; we will no longer be separated by the "veil" that separated God's people from Him in the old earthly Temple.
In John's vision he is told to measure the inner court, the Church, but he is commanded to "exclude the outer court" that is outside the Temple. Measuring is a symbolic action in Scripture to show division between the holy and the profane. The "holy" is set aside for protection from destruction (see Ezek. 22:26; 40-43; Zech. 2L1-5; Jer 10:16; 51:19; Rev. 21:15-16). This aspect of measuring and setting up boundaries is linked to "seeing" and "judging" as we have already mentioned in God's covenant actions in Genesis chapter 1 "God saw that it was good..", repeated 7 times and in Rev. 5:6 "...it had 7 eyes, which are the 7 Spirits that God has sent out over the whole world.." Incidentally, St Peter's name in Hebrew is Shimown (written in Old Testament English translations as Simeon), Simon in Greek. Some scholars say his name in Hebrew comes from the root "to hear" or "to listen" = shema. Others believe his name comes from the Hebrew root shebet meaning, "cane" or "rod." Either way, how perfectly and prophetically he was named even before Jesus changed his name to "rock"(kepha or cepha in Aramaic; or Petros [a masculine form of the feminine petra/rock] in the Greek), Cepha-Peter. It would be Simon-Peter, the first Vicar of Christ who would "hear" the message and set the measure and the boundaries for the New Covenant Church!
The Greek word used in verse 2 "but exclude the outer court" is ekballo. A more literal translation might be to "cast out" or "excommunicate." This word ekabllo is most often used in the New Testament for casting out evil spirits (see Mk 1:34, 39; 3:15; 6:13, etc). In other words John is being told to "cast out" or "excommunicate" the outer court which is where those not part of the Covenant could gather. Prior to 70AD that group of non-covenanters was considered to be the "gentile dogs." Now the definition of non-covenanters will be changed to include those Jews who reject the Messiah.
In this Revelation passage the contrast is between the inner and outer courts. Question: What happened between the 6th and 7th Seals concerning the 144,000 saints of the True Israel? Hint see Rev. 7:1-8. Answer: They were protected from the coming judgment. That action is now being paralleled here between the 6th and 7th Trumpets. John's measuring of only the inner court is the protection of the true, New Covenant Israel from the outpouring of God's judgment and wrath. The outer court represents apostate Israel which is to be cut off from the number of the faithful New Covenant people who are now God's Temple (His dwelling place). Jesus Himself warned the Jews in Matthew 8:5-13 and Luke 13:22-30 that unbelieving Jews as a whole would be "cast out" from the Church while the Gentiles who accepted Him as Savior would be welcomed into the Kingdom and receive the blessings promised to the descendants of Abraham. Please read the Matthew and Luke passages. Matt 8:11-12 "And I tell you that many will come from east and west and sit down with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob at the feast in the kingdom of Heaven; but the children of the kingdom will be thrown out (ekballo) into the darkness outside, where there will be weeping and grinding of teeth."
The Jews who rejected Jesus as Messiah have been excluded from the protective measuring and unbelieving Israel "has been handed over to the gentiles (the nations) they will trample the holy city for 42 months." 42 months is a very interesting number. It equals 1,260 days and three and a half years. It is a number that can be a reference to Daniel 7:25 where it symbolizes a limited period during which the wicked are victorious. It speaks of a limited period of wrath and judgment caused by apostasy where 7 represents wholeness and completion: three and a half is a "broken" 7.
Question: Can you think of another three and a half year period of judgment in the Old Testament? Hint: see 1Kings ch. 17-18. Answer: Elijah's three and a half year period of drought on Israel. The drought ends with Elijah's defeat of the priests of Baal on Mt. Carmel. Also see the passages in Daniel. A broken 7 yields death, destruction, and judgment (Dan 9:24; 12:7' Rev. 12:6, 14; 13:5).
The 42 months are probably symbolic but there is a literal historic fulfillment in the three and a half years from the invasion of Vespasians's legions until the destruction of Jerusalem in the summer of 70AD.
It is also worth noting that the periods of time in the Trumpets section of Revelation are arranged in a chiastic pattern that is another indication of the symbolic nature of this time period:A. 11:2 - 42 months
You should understand that this kind of imagery is used throughout the Bible. In Matthew's Gospel (geneology of Matt. 1:1-17), for example, he deliberately goes out of his way to draw our attention to the number 42. He artfully arranges the list of Jesus' ancestors to add up to 42 generations in three lists of 14 generations each. But he has manipulated the list to come out to 42 by deleting three generations and by counting one name twice (Jeconiah; see Mat. 1:11-12). The symbolic importance of the 42 was more important than the accuracy of the list because then the number 42 becomes the number between promise and fulfillment and between bondage to redemption. The Matthew passage is clearly linked to Revelation where the message is now the Church does not need to wait 42 generations but only 42 months. The Church of the New Covenant will be saved through the coming Tribulation during which Judea and Jerusalem is to be destroyed by an invasion of Gentiles. The end of this period of Tribulation (which Jesus prophesied will mean the full establishment of the Kingdom of heaven on earth = The New Covenant, universal Church.
Question: Where did Jesus prophesize the destruction of Jerusalem which would end in a gentile invasion and slavery for the Jews? Answer: The Olivet Discourse in Matthew ch. 24, Mark ch.13, and Luke ch. 21: "For great misery will descend on the land and retribution on this people. They will fall by the edge of the sword and be led captive to every gentile country; and Jerusalem will be trampled down by the gentiles until their time is complete." Luke 21:24
Verses 3-4 "But I shall send my two witnesses to prophesy for twelve hundred and sixty days, wearing sackcloth. These are the two olive trees and the two lamps in attendance on the Lord of the world."
But before Jerusalem is destroyed, God provides John with further evidence of its guilt in a summary of the apostate history of the City, focusing on its persecution of the holy Prophets of God. God tells John that He has ordained two prophets to witness to Jerusalem for 1,260 days. This equates to a 42 month period made up of a month of 30 days each and is related to the period preceding the full establishment of the Kingdom of God as it was mentioned in verses 1-2. (When we come to Rev. 13 we will address some interesting aspects of the number 1,260 and its relationship to the number of the Beast: 666).
Question: How are the 2 witnesses dressed and how does this manner of dress relate to their message? Answer: they are wearing sackcloth (a rough fabric woven of hair), the traditional dress of the prophets from Elijah through John the Baptist which symbolized their mourning and their call for repentance over national apostasy (see 2 Kings 1:8; Isa. 20:2; Jonah 3:6; Zech. 13:4; Matt, 3:4-6; Mark 1:5-6).
Question: What is the significance of two witnesses? Hint: see Num. 35:30; Deut. 17:6; 19:15; Matt. 18:16) Answer: Biblical law required two witnesses in order to bring legal action. Hebrews 10:28-29 "Anyone who disregards the Law of Moses is ruthlessly put to death on the word of two witnesses or three; and you may be sure that anyone who tramples on the Son of God, and who treats the blood of the Covenant which sanctified Him as if it were not holy, and who insults the Spirit of grace, will be condemned to a far severer punishment."
Question: How are they identified symbolically and what is the significance? Hint: see Zech. 4:1-5 as well as Ps 52:8; Jer. 11:16; Rev 1:4, 13, 20; 4:5. Answer: Read all of Zech 4. In Zechariah chapter 4 the 7 lamps on the lampstand are connected to two olive trees and from them flow an unceasing supply of oil which symbolizes the Holy Spirit's filling and empowering work in the leaders of His Covanant people. The impact of the symbolism is summarized in Zechariah 4:6 "He then gave me this answer: 'These are the 7 eyes of Yahweh, which range over the whole world.'" (referring to the 7 lampstands; remember the same reference in Rev. 5:6) and then when Zechariah asks the angel about the 2 olive branches discharging oil through 2 golden opens he is told: "These are the two anointed ones in attendance on the Lord of the whole world." And then the angel says "Not by might and not by power, but by My Spirit'says Yahweh Sabaoth."
"Sons of oil" is the another way of saying "anointed ones" who lead God's people. In Zechariah the angel is speaking of Joshua the high priest and Zerubbabel, the descendant of the royal house of King David = spiritual and temporal power. A priest is anointed and so is a king. In the Revelation passage the connection is to the two Witness-figures who belong to the royal house and the priesthood as we all do in the New Covenant. We are all called to a holy priesthood and we have become sons and heirs of the King. But John's two witnesses are members of the Old Covenant rather than the New. This is evident, along with other indications, like their wearing of the sackcloth = Old Covenant privation instead of New Covenant fullness of blessings.
Verses 5-6 "Fire comes from their mouths and consumes their enemies if anyone tries to harm them; and anyone who tires to harm them will certainly be killed in this way. They have the power to lock up the sky so that it does not rain as long as they are prophesying; they have the power to turn water into blood and strike the whole world with any plague as often as they like." John's vision now connects the two Witnesses to two great Old Testament prophets. Question: Which two Old Testament prophets had the power to 1) stop the rain and cause drought, and 2) power to turn water into blood and to bring plagues? Hint: see 1Kings 17 and Exodus ch 7-13. Answer: Elijah and Moses.
There is another connection to Moses and Elijah in verse 5. In Numbers 16:35, fire came down from heaven at Moses' command and consumed the false worshipers who had rebelled against his leadership and in 2Kings 1:9-12 fire fell from heaven and destroyed Elijah's enemies when he called out.
Most scholars believe these witnesses are symbolic and point beyond themselves. Both Moses and Elijah, representing the Law and the Prophets are bound up with Jesus' coming and His ministry.
Question: Whom did God send to meet with Jesus on the Mt. of Transfiguration to discuss His "exodus" from Jerusalem? Hint: see Matt. 17:1-8; Mk 9:2-8; Lk 9:28-36. Answer: Moses and Elijah.
It is also important to note that the very last message of the Old Testament mentions both Moses and Elijah together in a prophecy of Christ's Advent: "Remember the law of Moses My servant...Behold I am going to send you Elijah the prophet..." Malachi 3:22-24. The prophecy was that Elijah's ministry would be revisited in the ministry and life of John the Baptist ( see Matt. 11:14; 17:10-13; Luke 1:15-17). But John the Baptist, like Elijah, was only a forerunner who prepared the way for the One coming after him who would have a double portion (in Jesus' case an immeasurable portion) of God's Spirit (Elijah "God is Yahweh", was succeeded by Elisah "God is salvation", who had a double portion of Elijah's spirit). The imagery continues with Moses who was succeeded by Joshua /Yeshua in Hebrew ("Yahweh saves" or more literally "I save") and John the Baptist who was succeeded by another Joshua-Yeshua (in English Jesus), whose name truly means "I SAVE." The two Witnesses therefore, represent and summarize the line of God's prophets, the witnesses of the Old Covenant, who bore witness against Jerusalem during the history of the people of Israel, and culminating in the witness of John the Baptist.
Even though I agree with most biblical scholars that these two witnesses are symbolic there is a very interesting historical connection to this passage in an account given by the historian, Josephus, in his book The Jewish War: "There was one Jesus, the son of Ananus, a plebeian and a husbandman, who, four years before the war began, and at a time when the city was in very great peace and prosperity, come to that feast whereon it is our custom for everyone to make tabernacles to God in the Temple, began on a sudden cry aloud, 'A voice from the east, a voice from the west, a voice from the four winds, a voice against Jerusalem and the holy house, a voice against the bridegrooms and the brides, and a voice against this whole people!' This was his cry, as he went about by day and by night, in all the lanes of the city." Josephus goes on to record that this man was brought before the Roman procurator who had him whipped until his bones were laid bare and yet Jesus never cried out he only answered at every beat of the lash "Woe, woe to Jerusalem!" Procurator Albinus (predecessor of Gessius Florus) pronounced him a harmless madman and released him. Josephus continued that: "He continued this ditty for 7 years and 5 months, without growing hoarse, or being tired therewith, until the very time that he saw his presage in earnest fulfilled in our siege, when it ceased; for as he was going round upon the wall, he cried out with his utmost force, 'Woe, woe, to the city again and to the people, and to the holy house!' And just as he added at the last,- 'Woe, woe, to myself also!' there came a stone out of one of the engines, and smote him, and killed him immediately; and as he was uttering the very same presages, he gave up the ghost." Josephus, The Jewish War, 6.5.3
Verses 7-8 "When they have completed their witnessing, the beast that come out of the Abyss is going to make war on them and overcome them and kill them. Their corpses lie in the main street of the great city known by the symbolic names Sodom and Egypt, in which their Lord was crucified."
Question: This is the first mention of "the beast" in Revelation. How many times is the Antichrist mentioned? Answer: 0
It appears the "beast" from the Abyss has defeated the witnesses. The "beast" theme is a familiar one in Biblical history. When Adam and Eve yielded to the temptation of the beast/serpent in Genesis they become "beasts" themselves. They even dressed as the beasts, clothed in animal skins as they left Eden (Gen. 3:21). Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, through pride sought godhood and was judged. He became like a beast in his insanity (Dan. 4:33). The beast is the image of man's rebellion against God. The enemy of God and the Church is therefore always the "beast" in various historical manifestations. The Prophets spoke of pagan states in this imagery: as terrifying ravenous beasts that warred against God's Covenant people (Ps. 87:4; 89:10; Isa. 51:9; Dan. 7:3-8, 16-25). All this "beast" imagery and symbolism will be gathered together in John's descriptions of Rome and apostate Israel in Revelation chapter 13. But it is important to remember that there is one "beast" who is behind all the manifestations of rebellion down through the history of redemption. Question: Who is the ultimate "beast" ? Answer: Satan, the beast who rises from the Abyss. Throughout the history of redemption he has made war against the Church, particularly against God's prophetic witnesses.
Question: In Matthew 23:34-36 for what crime did Jesus say "this generation" would be held accountable? Answer: Murdering God's prophet/witnesses; the dead bodies of the two witnesses are symbols of the dead bodies of the Old Covenant Witnesses "from the blood of Abel the holy to the blood of Zechariah .." who lie metaphorically "in the main street of the great city known by the symbolic names Sodom and Egypt..." A city and a nation who also persecuted God's people.
Question: Can you identify this city which is symbolically called Sodom and Egypt? Answer: Many commentators insist that this city is Rome despite the clear reference to Jerusalem "the city in which their Lord was crucified." Their argument is that even though Christ was crucified in Jerusalem at the insistence of the Jews, it was Rome who Him crucified. But that is an empty argument. Rome was only the instrument.
Question: Who did St. Peter charge with responsibility for the crucifixion of Jesus? Hint: read Acts 2:36 Answer: Peter held Judea, the Jews and Jerusalem responsible. "For this reason the whole House of Israel can be certain that the Lord and Christ whom God has made is this Jesus whom you crucified."
The death of God's people through the Roman Emperor Nero's persecution from 64-68AD cannot compare with the death inflicted on God's prophets by the city of Jerusalem down through the centuries.
Jesus, speaking of His own death, said of Jerusalem in Luke 13:33 "Today and tomorrow I drive out devils and heal, and on the third day I attain my end. But for today and tomorrow and the next day I must go on, since it would not be right for a prophet to die outside Jerusalem."
Rome will play a role in this drama as it unfolds. Jerusalem, the capital of the Roman province of Judea, is a client-city of the Roman Empire. The Jewish leadership of Jerusalem had been subservient to the Roman government since 63BC and had effectively since that time used their influence to keep Judea from revolt. Any of the minor revolts that had occurred generated from the lower classes. It was Gessius Florus' mistake (or maybe part of his cunning) in 66 to murder such a large number of the Jewish aristocracy who would have provided "a voice of reason" against such drastic action as an all-out revolt. These are my reasons for supporting those scholars who identify Jerusalem as the great City:
2. The references to Sodom and Egypt: there is ample evidence that Sodom has long been associated biblically with apostate Israel: for example: Deut 29:22-28; 32:32; Isa. 1:8-10; 3:9; Jer 23:14-15; Ezek. 16:46-51.
Deut. 29 enumerates the covenant curses if Israel rejects God "Devestation like tht of Sodom and Gomorrah..by Yahweh in His furious wrath....because they deserted the covenant of Yahweh, God of their ancestors..." (v. 22-24)
Isaiah 1:8-10 "Had Yahweh Sabaoth not left us a few survivors, we should be like Sodom, we should be the same as Gomorrah. Hear what Yahweh says, you rulers of Sodom; listen to what our God teaches, you people of Gomorrah. What are your endless sacrifices to me?"
Jeremiah 23:14-15: "I have seen something horrible: adultery, persistent lying, such abetting of the wicked that no one renounces his wickedness. To me they are all like Sodom and its inhabitants are like Gomorrah. So this is what Yahweh Sabaoth says about the prophets (false prophets) 'Now I shall give them wormwood to eat and make them drink poisoned water, since from the prophets of Jerusalem godlessness has spread throughout the land.'" In this last passage notice the references not only to Sodom but to wormwood and bitter water that are all referenced in Revelation.
Ezekiel 16: 48 (Yahweh speaking to Jerusalem) "As I live, declares the Lord Yahweh, your sister Sodom and her daughters never did what you and your daughters have done."
The connection with Egypt is of course that Jesus is the "new Moses" who has led God's people from slavery to sin to salvation and the "Promised Land"/heaven. This theme is in all the Gospels.
3. Judea/Jerusalem's history of murdering God's prophets:
Question: Who is glad that the witnesses are dead in verse 10. Note: what is translated in the New Jerusalem " people of the world" is literally in the Greek "people of the land."
Answer: "people of the land" is always a biblical reference for the people of Israel. The irony is that the Jews themselves have now joined with the heathen nations in oppressing the righteous people of God. Remember the circumstances of John the Baptist's death?
Question: What was the situation that led to John's execution? See Matt. 14:3-12. Answer: a party for Herod Antipas. The heathen and the Jews united in Christ's death: Luke 23:11-12 (speaking of Jesus) "Then Herod (Antipas), together with his guards, treated Him (Jesus) with contempt and made fun of Him; he put a rich cloak on Him and sent Him back to Pilate. And though Herod and Pilate had been enemies before, they were reconciled that same day." Also recall the record of Jewish oppression of Christians in the book of Acts.
God's plan for Rome: Dr. Scott Hahn makes an excellent point that modern Biblical scholars are too influenced by 1st century Jewish apocalyptic literature in interpreting the identity of the great wicked city. Non-biblical 1st century apocalyptic literature does identify Rome clearly as the new Babylon, a harlot city doomed for destruction. The Jews clearly wanted the destruction of the oppressive Roman Empire. But is that what the Christians wanted? No. The Christians wanted to convert Rome and the Roman Empire as a springboard to the conversion of all the gentile nations under the control of the Empire. This is what Jesus commanded them to do in the great commission and that is why God relocated the geographic center of the Church from Jerusalem to Rome! Jesus' command in Matt. 28:19 is "Go, therefore, make disciples of all nations..." and at His ascension His last words to his disciples were: "..but you will receive the power of the Holy Spirit which will come on you, and then you will be my witnesses not only in Jerusalem but throughout Judea and Samaria and indeed to the earth's remotest end."
The end of the earth in the 1st century was understood to be the far reaches of the Roman Empire from the British Isles to N.Africa, to India and by 66AD the disciples had carried the gospel to "the ends of the (Roman) earth."
city is simply that Rome was never completely destroyed, which is why so many commentators who favor Rome as the city also favor a futuristic view, which for many is colored by anti-Catholic bias. Rome is, after all, the geographic center of the Holy Roman Catholic Church.
Verses 11-14 "After the three and a half days, God breathed life into them and they stood up on their feet, and everybody who saw it happen was terrified; then I heard a loud voice from heaven say to them, 'Come up here,' and while their enemies were watching, they went up to heaven in a cloud. Immediately, there was a violent earthquake, and a tenth of the city collapsed; seven thousand persons were killed in the earthquake, and the survivors, overcome with fear, could only praise the God of heaven." That was the second of the disasters: the third is to come quickly after it."
Three and a half is symbolic of a broken 7: a number of fullness and perfection. It is a short period of sadness and oppression.
Have you noticed how in each section of Revelation, John's figures harmonize with each other?
Question: How are the Seal judgments numbered? Answer: in fourths
How are the Trumpet judgments numbered? Answer: in thirds
How are the numbers in chapters 11-13 set? Answer: correspond to three and a half ( the 42 months and 1,260 days both equal three and a half years).
"God breathed life into them and they stood up on their feet.." This phrase recalls the well known passage of the resurrection of the "dry bones" in Ezekiel chapter 37. God gives Ezekiel a vision of a valley full of dry bones. (Yahweh to Ezekiel) "He said, 'Prophesy over these bones. Say, 'Dry bones, hear the word of Yahweh. The Lord Yahweh says this to these bones: I am now going to make breath enter you, and you will live.'"(37:4-5) ......
"He said to me, 'Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man. Say to the breath, 'The Lord Yahweh says this: Come from the four winds, breathe; breathe on these dead, so that they come to life! I prophesied as He had ordered me, and the breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feed, a great, an immense army."(v. 9-10). This vision is given to Ezekiel after the destruction of the Temple. The word for "breath" in Hebrew, ruah, is the same as the word for "wind" and "Spirit"... God's Holy Spirit! Ezekiel's vision is of the resurrection of the dead and may be a key to our understanding of the Revelation passage. Keep this passage in mind as we continue.
The time of evil is brief just like the brief time the wicked were triumphant after the crucifixion of Christ. There is probably a connection to the three days of Christ's descent into Hades (Sheol) to rescue the righteous dead when the earth believed Him to be dead and defeated. During that time the entire Covenant community was as though dead and lying in the streets under a curse. But after the 3 ½ days in Rev. 11:11 there is resurrection. This is a symbolic 3 ½. Christ was resurrected in 3 days but the resurrection for the New Covenant Community in Jerusalem was Pentecost Sunday when the Church was baptised by the Holy Spirit! Jesus' resurrection and the transformation of the disciples from frightened men and women to crusading heroes and heroines caused terror and consternation to their enemies. There were witnesses who did not survive the persecution (Stephen, Acts ch.7)) but in Christ's resurrection they rose to power and dominion through the very "breath" (of eternal life) of God. In union with Christ they were able to ascend to glory Eph 2:6 .."and raised us up with Him and gave us a place with Him in heaven, in Christ Jesus." Through the resurrection of Christ the New Covenant Church was raised to life and became unstoppable! (also worthy of note is that when Jesus' appeared to the 10 Apostles closed up the room after His resurrection, He "breathed" on them).
Notice the parallel between the ascension of the Witnesses and the language used in 11:11-12 and John's own ascension in Rev. 4:1:
-Rev. 11:11-12 "And after the three and a half days....then I heard a loud voice from heaven say to them: Come up here."
-Rev. 4:1 "Then in my vision, I saw a door open in heaven, and heard the same voice speaking to me, the voice like a trumpet, saying: Come up here..."
The story of the two Witnesses is the story of the witnessing Church down through the centuries which has received a divine command to be God's holy witness and the promise that one day those witnesses will be called to enter the throne room of God.
The reference to the quaking of the earth may be symbolic. The earth was symbolically shaken during this pivot point in history with the resurrection of Christ and the descent of the Holy Spirit, but the gospels also record such an incident at the crucifixion of Christ in Matthew 27:51-53 when the earth shook and even the dead were raised from their graves! (I could only find one reference by the historian Josephus for a great earthquake and that was during the reign of Herod the Great in 31BC).
"a tenth of the city fell" : Actually the whole city of Jerusalem fell in 70AD but the Trumpet judgments do not announce the final end until the blowing of the 7th Trumpet in 11:14, and we're not there yet. If we were looking for a historical fulfillment, this period probably still refers to the suffering of the Jews under the Roman legions led by Cesstius Gallas. The reference to a tenth could be a form of "a tithe"(which is the 1/10 that belongs to God see Lev 27; Num 18; Deut 14 &26) of Jerusalem that fell in the first siege that ended in November of 66AD.
"Seven thousand killed": This is clearly a symbolic number. Many more than 7 thousand people would die but this number probably represents the exact reverse of the situation in the Prophet Elijah's day. In 1 Kings 19:18 God told Elijah that only 7,000 in the Northern Kingdom of Israel remained faithful to the covenant. Even that number was probably symbolic, signifying the completeness and spiritual perfection of the faithful even though they were a minority. Now, in reverse, the New Covenant will become the majority and the apostates who face judgment will be the minority compared to the number that will be converted and saved. This interpretation is supported by the next line:
"the survivors, overcome with fear, could only praise the God of heaven." This is Biblical language for repentance and conversion: Josh 7:19; Isa 26:9; 42:12; Jer 13:16; Matt 5:16; Luke 17:15-19; 18:43; 1Pet 2:12; Rev.14:7; 15:4; 16:9; 19:7 21:24.
Question: How many disasters have come and how many will follow? Answer: 2 and one more to come quickly.
Please read 11:15 - 12:2 The 7th Trumpet: The Kingdom Comes!
Verses 15-17 "Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and voices could be heard shouting in heaven, calling, 'The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and His Christ, and He will reign for ever and ever.' The twenty-four elders, enthroned in the presence of God, prostrated themselves and touched the ground with their foreheads worshipping God with these words, 'We give thanks to you Almighty Lord God, He who is, He who was, for assuming your great power and beginning your reign.'"
The priest/king elders fall down before God's glory proclaiming "Eucharistoumen!" "We give thanks!" The verb for 'give thanks' is eucharisteo which is used throughout Christian history for the Communion of Christ's Body and Blood: The Eucharist. As we have from the opening verses of this book, John continues the liturgical setting of God's redemptive action in the unfolding of history. They praise God and declare that He has BEGUN His reign! Is this the 1st century or the far distant future? It must be the 1st century.
Question: When did the reign of Christ begin and what exactly was it that happened with the blowing of the 7th Trumpet?
Answer: The 7th angel blows the 7th Trumpet which announces that the "Mystery of God" has been fulfilled and accomplished (from Rev. 10:6-7): Gentiles and Jews are now united in the Family of God. Christ's reign over the Kingdom of Heaven on earth has begun with the destruction of the Temple. The way is now opened to the New Covenant. See Hebrews 9:8."..as long as the old tent stands, the way into the holy place is not opened up;"
In the liturgical calendar of the Old Covenant, the 7th trumpet was sounded on Tishri 1, the first day of the 7th month of the liturgical year but it was also the first month of the civil year. It was called the Feast of Trumpets or Rosh Hashanah. There are a number of interesting aspects of this Feast day that impact on our passage in Revelation and the blowing of the 7th Trumpet:
1. Before the first Pentecost at Sinai, which was the birth of the Old Covenant Church, and before the establishment of the 7 Holy Days of Obligation of the Old Covenant, this was the day which apparently began the biblical year. It also appears that this was the day when people were advanced one year in life, no matter when in that year they were born (this was not an uncommon practice in some ancient cultures). In Genesis 8:13 Noah became 601 years old "in the first month" [Tishri]. That also happens to be the very day Noah removed the covering of the Ark and discovered their long journey was over: the ground was dry! (v. 13). It was not only Noah's official birthday, it was the new birth of the earth as well. There may even be a connection to the Creation. We are told in Genesis 1:29; 2:, 16-17 that all the fruit was on the trees ready for Adam and Eve to eat; fruit harvest is an early Fall event. Now biblically our seasons weren't set until after the flood, but perhaps we are meant to make the connection between the first Creation, Noah's new birth of the earth after the great flood, and the blowing of the 7th Trumpet signaling the birth of the New Covenant in Christ. The Jews celebrating in their synagogues today recognize the Feast of Trumpets as the memorial day that commemorated the beginning of the world. For them New Year's Day (Tishri 1) is regarded as the birthday of the world, an anniversary of creation but more importantly, as a renewal of it. In the Jewish celebration this is when the world is reborn. (Theodor H. Gasster, Festivals of the Jewish Year, p. 109).
end of one civil year and the beginning of the next civil year. Each of the Jewish months was officially introduced by the blowing of trumpets (Num. 10:10). In the 7 month festival calendar, the last month of the civil year, Tishri (considered both the last as well as the first) was the last month for a trumpet introduction. This is one of the reasons that the day was called the "Feast of Trumpets." The 'last trump' in the series was always sounded on this day, therefore, it was the final trumpets' day! (Lev. 23:24; Num 29:1)
of David) celebrated their Coronation Day. It was customary at the final ceremony that there was the blowing of the trumpets: 1 Kings 1:34; 2Kings 9:13; 11:14.
the final coming of God's glorious reign with penitence at the thought of the judgment which His reign will bring. It is marked by the blowing of the Shofar (Lev. 23:24) and by three Scripture readings: one on God's judgment of man's deeds and God's remembering the Covenant; one on the blowing of the shofar from Mt. Sinai to the very last trumpet which shall gather the elect, and the first reading which is 10 verses from Zechariah 14 on the kingship of God and looking to the time of His ultimate reign. (Gasster: Festivals of the Jewish Year, p.109.
All of these aspects of the Feast of Trumpets would have been on the minds of the 1st century readers of John's Revelation as they realized that the Last Trumpet had been blown! They would have realized that with the sounding of the 7th Trumpet and the destruction of Old Covenant Israel and the Temple that a new nation has been revealed just as Jesus prophesized in Matthew 21:43-45 when Jesus was teaching in the Temple and speaking to the chief priests and the elders. He told them the parable of the Wicked Tenants and then He said: "I tell you, then, that the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit. When they heard His parables, the chief priests and the scribes realized He was speaking about them.."
Verses 11:18-12:2 "The nations were in uproar and now the time has come for your retribution, and for the dead to be judged, and for your servants the prophets, for the saints and for those who fear your name, small and great alike, to be rewarded. The time has come to destroy those who are destroying the earth.' Then the sanctuary of God in heaven opened, and the Ark of the Covenant could be seen inside it. Then came flashes of lightning, peals of thunder and an earthquake and violent hail. Now a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman, robed with the sun, standing on the moon, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. She was pregnant, and in labor, crying aloud in the pangs of childbirth."
When I read verse 18 the first New Testament verse I thought of was 1Thess. 2:15-16 when Paul said of the apostate Jews who had rejected Christ: Their conduct does not please God, and makes them the enemies of the whole human race, because they are hindering us from preaching to gentiles to save them. Thus all the time they are reaching the full extent of their iniquity, but retribution (from God) has finally overtaken them." (some ancient MSS [manuscripts] add 'from God' after retribution).
When talking about the destruction of Jerusalem, Jesus told His disciples: "And then the sign of the Son of man will appear in heaven; then, too, all the peoples of the earth will beat their breasts; and they will see the Son of man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And He will send His angels with a loud trumpet to gather His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other." Matt. 24:30-31. A number of commentators point out the poor translation of Matthew 24 verse 30 that often leads to incorrect interpretation. The Literal Greek reads: "And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in the heaven and then shall wail all the tribes of the land, and they shall see the Son of man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and glory great..." The point is that it isn't that a sign appeared in heaven...the Son of man is in heaven. The phrase "in heaven" defines the locality of the Son of Man and not the sign. The sign is the destruction of Jerusalem which signaled the fact that the Son of man was reigning in heaven. The devastation of Jerusalem and the fall of the Old Covenant Temple really signaled the beginning of a new and world-wide, universal kingdom, marking the end of legalistic Judaism and its separation from the Universal, Catholic Church. It is the fulfillment of the "Fifth Kingdom" prophesized in Daniel chapter 2: "In the days of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which will never be destroyed and this kingdom will not pass into the hands of another race: it will shatter and absorb all the previous kingdoms and itself last for ever." Dan. 2:44. In Scriptural numerical symbolism 5 is the number of grace. God's grace will be offered to all mankind through this 5th Kingdom, the Universal (catholic) Church: "So I now say to you: You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my (ekklesia) Church. And the gates of Hades can never overpower it." Matt. 16:16
When the Bible was written there were no chapters or verses designated. Those helps were introduced in the Middle Ages and we probably have the great Catholic Archbishop of Cantebury, Stephen Langton (d. 1228) to thank for our chapter and verse separations. But the important point here it that there is no separation between 11:19 and 12:1 in the handwritten manuscripts!
"Then the sanctuary of God in heaven opened, and the Ark of the Covenant could be seen inside it. Then came flashes of lightening, peals of thunder and an earthquake and violent hail. Now a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman, robed with the sun, standing on the moon, and on her head a crown of 12 stars. "
This statement would certainly have riveted 1st century readers! The Ark of the Covenant had been missing since just before the destruction of Solomon's Temple in 586(7)BC when the prophet Jeremiah removed it from the Holy of Holies and hid it in a cave at Mt. Nebo. The Holy of Holies of the Second Temple was an empty room! Read 2 Maccabees 2:1-8. The important point here is that the sanctuary in heaven could not be opened until the old Temple was removed (Heb. 9:8). Now the sanctuary is opened and the heavenly, true, Ark is revealed. Remember the earthly one is only a "copy." It was God's "mercy seat" that held 3 items.
Question: What 3 sacred items were in the earthly Ark? Hint: read Hebrews 9:3-4 Answer: jar of manna, heavenly bread; the branch or staff of the high priest Aaron which miraculously came back to life and budded as a sign of his authority; and the tablets of the Covenant, the word of God.
Question: When the sanctuary is opened and the thunder and lightening cease John sees the ark; what does it look like? Read Rev. 12:1. Answer: it is "The Woman" that John sees. The woman of Genesis 3:15 from whose seed the devil would be defeated.
Question: By what title did Jesus address Mary, His mother? Read John 2:1-4 and John 19:27. Answer: "Woman" Gune in Greek which is better translated "little woman."
Question: What event that occurred in 1531 confirms the identity of the "woman" of Rev. 12:1 as Mary, the Mother of God? Answer: the vision of the Virgin of Guadalupe who appeared to St. Juan Diego at Tepiac hill in Mexico clothed with the sun and standing on the moon!
Question: What is the connection between "the woman" of 3:15 and Jesus' unusual address of His mother? Answer: She is the promised "woman" of Genesis 3:15. She is the new Eve who, unlike the first Eve, was obedient to God and through her obedience helped to bring about the redemption of mankind.
Question: What is Mary's connection to the Ark of the Covenant? Hint: remembering those items in the Ark (bread from heaven, Aaron's branch, the 10 Commandments), what was Jesus inside Mary womb? Answer: He was the true "bread come down from heaven"(Jn 6), He was the "Branch" (Messianic title; see Is. 11:1; Jer. 23:5; 33:15; Zec. 3:8; 6:12) that was dead but came back to life; and He was the "Living Word of God (Jn 1)." Mary, the Mother of God, is that sacred vessel, the Ark of the New Covenant!
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