The Two Witnesses. 1* a Then I was given a measuring rod like a staff and I was told, “Come and measure the temple of God and the altar, and count those who are worshiping in it. 2But exclude the outer court* of the temple; do not measure it, for it has been handed over to the Gentiles, who will trample the holy city for forty-two months. 3I will commission my two witnesses* to prophesy for those twelve hundred and sixty days, wearing sackcloth.” 4b These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands* that stand before the Lord of the earth. 5* If anyone wants to harm them, fire comes out of their mouths and devours their enemies. In this way, anyone wanting to harm them is sure to be slain. 6They have the power to close up the sky so that no rain can fall during the time of their prophesying. They also have power to turn water into blood and to afflict the earth with any plague as often as they wish.c
7When they have finished their testimony, the beast that comes up from the abyss* will wage war against them and conquer them and kill them.d 8Their corpses will lie in the main street of the great city,* which has the symbolic names “Sodom” and “Egypt,” where indeed their Lord was crucified. 9* Those from every people, tribe, tongue, and nation will gaze on their corpses for three and a half days, and they will not allow their corpses to be buried. 10The inhabitants of the earth will gloat over them and be glad and exchange gifts because these two prophets tormented the inhabitants of the earth. 11But after the three and a half days, a breath of life from God entered them. When they stood on their feet, great fear fell on those who saw them.e 12Then they heard a loud voice from heaven say to them, “Come up here.” So they went up to heaven in a cloud as their enemies looked on.f 13At that moment there was a great earthquake, and a tenth of the city fell in ruins. Seven thousand people* were killed during the earthquake; the rest were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven.
14The second woe has passed, but the third is coming soon.
The Seventh Trumpet.* 15Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet. There were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdom of the world now belongs to our Lord and to his Anointed, and he will reign forever and ever.” 16The twenty-four elders who sat on their thrones before God prostrated themselves and worshiped God 17and said:
“We give thanks to you, Lord God almighty,
who are and who were.
For you have assumed your great power
and have established your reign.
18The nations raged,
but your wrath has come,
and the time for the dead to be judged,
and to recompense your servants, the prophets,
and the holy ones and those who fear your name,
the small and the great alike,
and to destroy those who destroy the earth.”g
19Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and the ark of his covenant could be seen in the temple. There were flashes of lightning, rumblings, and peals of thunder, an earthquake, and a violent hailstorm.
* [11:1] The temple and altar symbolize the new Israel; see note on Rev 7:4–9. The worshipers represent Christians. The measuring of the temple (cf. Ez 40:3–42:20; 47:1–12; Zec 2:5–6) suggests that God will preserve the faithful remnant (cf. Is 4:2–3) who remain true to Christ (Rev 14:1–5).
* [11:2] The outer court: the Court of the Gentiles. Trample,forty-two months: the duration of the vicious persecution of the Jews by Antiochus IV Epiphanes (Dn 7:25; 12:7); this persecution of three and a half years (half of seven, counted as 1260 days in Rev 11:3; 12:6) became the prototype of periods of trial for God’s people; cf. Lk 4:25; Jas 5:17. The reference here is to the persecution by the Romans; cf. Introduction.
* [11:3] The two witnesses, wearing sackcloth symbolizing lamentation and repentance, cannot readily be identified. Do they represent Moses and Elijah, or the Law and the Prophets, or Peter and Paul? Most probably they refer to the universal church, especially the Christian martyrs, fulfilling the office of witness (two because of Dt 19:15; cf. Mk 6:7; Jn 8:17).
* [11:4] The two olive trees and the two lampstands: the martyrs who stand in the presence of the Lord; the imagery is taken from Zec 4:8–14, where the olive trees refer to Zerubbabel and Joshua.
* [11:5–6] These details are derived from stories of Moses, who turned water into blood (Ex 7:17–20), and of Elijah, who called down fire from heaven (1 Kgs 18:36–40; 2 Kgs 1:10) and closed up the sky for three years (1 Kgs 17:1; cf. 18:1).
* [11:7] The beast,from the abyss: the Roman emperor Nero, who symbolizes the forces of evil, or the antichrist (Rev 13:1, 8; 17:8); cf. Dn 7:2–8, 11–12, 19–22 and Introduction.
* [11:8] The great city: this expression is used constantly in Revelation for Babylon, i.e., Rome; cf. Rev 14:8; 16:19; 17:18; 18:2, 10, 21. “Sodom” and “Egypt”: symbols of immorality (cf. Is 1:10) and oppression of God’s people (cf. Ex 1:11–14). Where indeed their Lord was crucified: not the geographical but the symbolic Jerusalem that rejects God and his witnesses, i.e., Rome, called Babylon in Rev 16–18; see note on Rev 17:9 and Introduction.
* [11:9–12] Over the martyrdom (Rev 11:7) of the two witnesses, now called prophets, the ungodly rejoice for three and a half days, a symbolic period of time; see note on Rev 11:2. Afterwards they go in triumph to heaven, as did Elijah (2 Kgs 2:11).
* [11:13] Seven thousand people: a symbolic sum to represent all social classes (seven) and large numbers (thousands); cf. Introduction.
* [11:15–19] The seventh trumpet proclaims the coming of God’s reign after the victory over diabolical powers; see note on Rev 10:7.
a. [11:1] Ez 40:3–5 / Zec 2:5–9.
f. [11:12] 2 Kgs 2:11.