KALEO Notes on Revelation 11

Introduction: Why does the world have so much Christo-phobia? Eastern Michigan University recently expelled a student—a young African-American woman—over her Christian belief that homosexuality is morally wrong. She was in the graduate program in school counseling, and her explusion was upheld by a federal judge. Legal experts say this could lead to the expulsion of potentially thousands of Christian students from universities across the country. It is going to become increasingly difficult to stand for Christ in an age that is characterized by discrimination against believers. But that’s nothing compared to what will happen to two men who stand for the Lord during the Great Tribulation in Revelation 11.

Background: As we open this chapter, we’re still awaiting the seventh trumpet. In chapters 6 and 7, we began the Tribulation judgments with seven seals; and as each seal was broken, a new judgment was unleashed. Then in chapter 8, we moved to the seven trumpets, and so far six of the seven have sounded, each one announcing a new catastrophic judgment on earth. As we get to the beginning of chapter 11, we’re coming to a difficult chapter. Some commentators claim this is the hardest chapter in Revelation to interpret. We may not understand some aspects, partiularly of the timing of this chapter, but it helps if we take it with reasonable literality. This is talking about two real men in a real city (Jerusalem) that has a real temple. These men literally die and are resurrected and taken up to heaven just as the chapter claims.

V. 1-2a: In the interim between the sixth and seventh trumpets, John is told to inspect the temple that has been built in Jerusalem. This is the famous Third Temple, and plans for its construction are being made. The first temple was built by Solomon and destroyed by the Babylonians. The second temple was built by Zerubbabel and renovated by Herod the Great and destroyed by the Romans. The Muslims came and built the Dome of the Rock on the site and the al-Aqsa Mosque. But the Bible teaches that during the Great Tribulation, a Third Temple will be sitting in Jerusalem. And if you can believe it, the prospect of that Third Temple is behind all the great world events that are frightening us today. What are we fighting wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan? Because of Al-Queda, which is a fundamentalist Islamic movement that targets nations supporting Israel. Why are we in Iraq and considering going to war in Iran? Because of the Islamic hatred of Israel. Why is the Middle East in turmoil? Because of the presence of tiny Israel. The first time I visited Israel in 1976, I remember walking across the Temple Mount in Jerusalem and my pastor said, “This is powder keg of history.” And it seems to me the fuse is lit. There are forces in the world today that are working day and night to rebuild the Third Temple, even though it would mean the desecration or destruction of the Dome of the rock and the al-Aqsa Mosque and lead to world war. An article appeared last week in the Jewish newspaper Haaretz, featuring an interview with the Tel Aviv Chief Rabbi. The reporter asked him if he still believed the Third Temple would be rebuilt in Jerusalem, and he replied, “Certainly. We believe in that. We pray for that three times a day.” The building of the Third Temple is implied in Matthew 24::15 and 2 Thessalonians 2:4. Here in Revelation 11:1-2, we see this Third Temple standing in Jerusalem and John is told to measure its dimensions and to observe its size and scope.

V. 2b-3: The length of time for the Great Tribulation is given in three different ways as three and a half years: 1260 days, 42 months, three and half years. This corresponds to the predictions in Daniel 9:27. (The entire Tribulation will last seven years; the Great Tribulation is the final half of that period. Commentators are divided about whether Revelation 11:2-3 represent the first half or the second half of the Tribulation).

V. 3-6: During the entire duration of this Great Tribulation, there will be two indestructible witnesses preaching in downtown Jerusalem. These may be contemporary characters who were saved during the tribulation period, or they could be Old Testament characters who descend to the earth with prophetic power. If it’s the latter, some have speculated that it might be Elijah and Moses, since these men will call fire down from heaven as Elijah did in the days of Ahab, and will unleash a series of Exodus-like plagues as Moses did in ancient Egypt. Moses and Elijah were both with Christ on the Mount of Transfiguration. Moses and Elijah would represent the Law and the Prophets. Since the Bible doesn’t give us their identities, there’s no need to speculate. It is their message and ministry that is important, not necessarily their identity.

V. 7a: This is the first of thirty-six references in Revelation to the antichrist (“the beast”).

V. 7b-11: These two witnesses are finally overcome and slain by the antichrist and his forces, which sparks a worldwide celebration. These verses seem to anticipate the era of television and instant global communication; but the jubilation is cut short because these two witnesses suddenly rise from the dead and ascend to heaven.

V. 12: The cry from above that results in their rapture is “Come up here!” Like the cry of Jesus to Lazarus—“Come forth!” or “Come out!”—this cry gives us an indication of what the Lord will shout when He comes again at the rapture of the church (1 Thessalonians 4:16).

V. 13: As the witnesses ascend to heaven, another great earthquake strikes the earth, and a tenth of Jerusalem is destroyed with 7000 fatalities. The result is that the survivors in Jerusalem, the Jewish population, begins to have a change of heart. Perhaps this is the beginning of a spiritual movement that will lead Israel to Christ when Christ returns, as we read in Zechariah 12-14.

V. 15-18: Now the seventh trumpet sounds, but we aren’t told of what happens on earth at the sounding of the trumpet. Instead the scene shifts to the celebration in heaven and another convocation of worship occurs with loud songs and intense praise.

V. 19: This verse with its description of heavenly pyrotechnics is the prelude to the next several chapters that are an extended parenthesis in the story (chapters 12-14) and introduce us to the seven great personages that will dominate the headlines during the Great Tribulation.

V. 15-18: Now the seventh trumpet sounds, but we aren’t told of what happens on earth at the sounding of the trumpet. Instead the scene shifts to the celebration in heaven and another convocation of worship occurs with loud songs and intense praise.

V. 19: This verse with its description of heavenly pyrotechnics is the prelude to the next several chapters that are an extended parenthesis in the story (chapters 12-14) and introduce us to the seven great personages that will dominate the headlines during the Great Tribulation.

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