Revelation Chapter Eleven Part I

Two Olive Trees, Two Witnesses

Two Olive Trees

Revelation 11:1 “And there was given me a reed like unto a rod: and the angel stood, saying, Rise, and measure the temple of God, and the altar, and them that worship therein.”

This chapter is essentially about the two witnesses. There is also a temple in this chapter. Let us discuss the temple first. What temple is it? Is it the second temple better known as Herod’s Temple?1 Is it the third temple to be built in Jerusalem in the future? Or is it the temple in heaven?

In order to determine our answers to those questions, we must tie the last verse of Chapter 10 to this first verse in this chapter. In chapter ten, beginning with verse eight (Rev 10:8) where the voice of God spoke to John and told him to take the little scroll in the hands of the angel conversing with John.

John was to take the scroll from the angel and eat it. When he did it was sweet in his mouth and bitter in his stomach. This was to demonstrate that John had taken in the words of God. After consuming the scroll, the angel said to him, “Thou must prophesy again before many peoples, and nations, and tongues, and kings.”

The words were the perfect and sweet words of God, but John, like Ezekiel (Eze 2:8; 3:14) and Jeremiah (Jer 15:16, 17) would learn that not everyone would accept those words; many would rebel against them. The Revelation would reveal the rebellion and ultimate fate of the rebellious against God’s Words. That would be the bitterness John would have to bear.

The Greek in our current verse is naos, which means the sanctuary of the temple containing the Holy Place and the Most Holy Place. The temple precincts, or the entire temple area is hieron in the Greek. John is to measure just the sanctuary (naos) not the entire temple complex (hieron).

That this temple is symbolic of Herod’s Temple in first century Jerusalem is evident because of verse 2, because the layout is similar: There are the temple precincts and the most holy place. The current (at the time of this writing) temple precincts are now occupied by two Muslim structures: the shrine called the Dome of the Rock and the Mosque Al-Aqsa. The spot where the Most Holy Place stood is disputed. Some believe it to be under the area of the Cupola (the Dome of the Tablets or the Dome of the Spirits), that stands on the pavement of the temple mount. It is said that this marks the true location of the Holy of Holies where the tablets of Moses containing the Ten Commandments were stored in the Ark of the Covenant.

Others contend that it was located directly over the rock under the Dome of the Rock. Many believe this to be Moriah where Isaac was taken to be sacrificed. There are theories that the Temple stood to the north, south, and west of the Dome of the Rock. Let us understand then, that the Temple assuredly stood somewhere on the Temple Mount, yet the exact location is publicly unknown. It is possible that the exact location is secretly known by some, but that is just conjecture.

I have stated in my answer to a question about the temple that I did not believe that a third temple will be built in Jerusalem. Yet, I admit that it is possible that a third temple may be built2, however, that is currently only speculation. The references in the Olivet Discourse (Mat 24:15) refer to an abomination of desolation that the Romans took into the holy place of Herod’s Temple which they had destroyed circa, AD 70.

The Roman soldiers, who consisted of soldiers from Palestine, brought standards, which were their idols into the temple, and brought sacrifices to them there (See Josephus’ Wars 6.6.13). This was the abomination of desolation that Christ spoke about in Mat 24:15, Mar 13:14, and Luke 16:15. That was the final destruction of the temple, for Jesus told the disciples that their house would remain desolate (Mat 23:38; Luk 13:35).

If that is the case, it leaves little room for the temple itself to be rebuilt. God allowed that temple to be destroyed by the Romans precisely because the physical Temple is no longer the dwelling place of God on Earth. Since the curtain before the Holy of Holies was torn in two, the Spirit of God now resides in the hearts of Christians. Hence, Christians are “lively stones” (1 Pet 2:5), or the building blocks of the true Temple of God, meaning that the physical Temple is no longer necessary. (Mat 27:51; Mar 15:38; Luk 23:45; Heb 10:20; 1 Cor 3:16-17; 6:19; 2 Cor 6:16; Eph 2:21; Rev 11:15).

The “prince that shall come” of Daniel 9:26, which is a precursor or type of the of Antichrist of 2 Thes 2:4 (some incorrectly attribute that “prince that shall come” to Jesus Christ and not the Antichrist), could stand or sit on the temple mount, in the Al-Aqsa Mosque, near the mosque, near the Cupola, in the precincts, etc., or even in the Vatican, and that could easily be considered by many to be the temple.

How a new temple could be built is in question. This Mosque Al-Aqsa was built precariously on fill, pillars, and vaults, making for a shaky foundation. It was susceptible to earthquakes. This area was originally riddled underneath with tunnels and old rooms and arches from a Byzantine church that is dated from the time of Justinian (c. 1700 AD).

The mosque was damaged by and earthquake in 1927. In the years since the earthquake damaged the mosque, the Muslim Council in charge of the area has completed some construction beneath the mosque, likely shoring up weak points. However, it is still possible, though unlikely, that an earthquake or some other catastrophe could destroy the mosque.

That could give impetus to the rebuilding of the temple on that spot. It is unlikely that the either structure will fall down or otherwise suffer destruction. Of course, if one or both did fall, the possibility remains that the fourth temple could be built there. However, the reality is that Muslims would not appreciate that; they would do all in their power to prevent it. That could erupt into a war. It is difficult to speculate how and when the temple could be rebuilt or even who would build it. Of course, the antichrist himself may rebuild it. But that is just speculation and no more.

Of course, the antichrist himself may rebuild it. If the antichrist did rebuild it, it would be necessarily anti-Christian in nature; and not just because Antichrist had it rebuilt. The object of the old Temple/Sacrificial system was fulfilled by Christ and to rebuild that system would be anathema to Christ and His church. It would cheapen the work Christ did at Calvary. But again, that is just speculation and no more. Only the future will give us the answer.

John is to measure the naos (sanctuary) of the temple at Jerusalem during the time of the two witnesses. The reed he is given with which to measure it is likened to a cudgel or a club, or even a scepter. A reed could also be a writing instrument, a pen that is dipped in ink and used to write on papyrus or vellum, or even paper for that matter. The fact is that the reed mentioned here, in context, is a plant stalk and is used like a surveyor’s rod to measure the naos (sanctuary).

Is John to measure the physical temple? If so, that would be some evidence that the temple was still standing when John wrote this work. That would lend credence to the early date of the writing of this Apocalypse. Additionally, if he did measure the actual Temple in the First Century, why did he not add its dimensions to the passage? Let us find a more fitting explanation. (See the Foreword, where there is a discussion of the dating of this writing).

If not the physical Temple, then to what does the passage refer? A better idea here is that the Angel told John to measure the temple that began its existence when Christ called out “it is finished” from the cross. That was the point at which Jesus “gave up the ghost” and died. (John 19:29-30) According to the Synoptics, that was the very moment the veil before the Most Holy Place was rent in twain (or torn in two). That meant that we are now able to go directly to God without a high priest that could go into the Most Holy Place to offer sacrifices for our sins. At that moment Christ became our High Priest and believers became stones in the Temple of God (1 Cor 3:16; 1 Cor 6:19; 2 Cor 6:16; Eph 2:20-22; Heb 3:6; 1Pe 2:5).

Heb 10:19-22:”And so, dear brothers and sisters, we can boldly enter heaven’s Most Holy Place because of the blood of Jesus. (20) By His death, Jesus opened a new and life-giving way through the curtain into the Most Holy Place. (21) And since we have a great High Priest who rules over God’s house, (22) have been sprinkled with Christ’s blood to make us clean, and our bodies have been washed with pure water.

Thus an earthly physical temple is no longer necessary. Jesus provided our sacrifice once for all. No more sacrifices are needed. Is that not what the purpose of the Tabernacle/Temple was? Wasn’t it for the offering of sacrifices for our sins? Yes it was. It was also the place where God dwelt on Earth. It is no longer needed. In fact, at that moment, God’s dwelling place became the hearts of Christians. The spirit of God dwells in our hearts (John 14:17), and our bodies are the temple of God (2Co 6:16; Eph 2:21-22; Heb 3:6; 1Pe 2:5). That means that there is no need for a new temple. If anyone builds a new temple, it will not be God’s will.

If a new temple was built and the sacrificial system was reinstated, would that not nullify Christ’s crucifixion? For those readers who are Dispensationalists, there is no other way to be saved except by believing on Christ’s death and resurrection. There are not two separate paths to salvation, one for the church, and one for the Jews. That is heresy. There is only one way:

John 14:6, “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me”
(emphasis added).

Paul added:

        • Rom_1:16  For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.
        • Gal_3:28  There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.

The answer to our questions above about the temple, viz, “What temple is it? Is it the second temple better known as Herod’s Temple? Is it the third temple to be built in Jerusalem in the future? Or is it the temple in heaven?” The answer is none of the above, this temple is the body of Christ, that is Christians.

So what temple sanctuary was John to measure? There is only one; it is the one built of living stones and we Christians are those living stones from which it is built. If that is the case, perhaps John was to measure the characteristics, size, Spiritual maturity, and other things about the general state4 of the Church of Jesus Christ and its worshippers, in other words, believers in Christ. Please note that John, unlike Ezekiel (Eze 44:40, 41, 42), did not record any measurements. That may be because he did not make physical measurements. This is something to be considered.

John also measured the altar. An altar is a place of sacrifice. It is an elevated place made of earth, stone, wood, etc. It is a place of worship, prayer, communion, or reflection. In many modern church buildings, the dais, or platform itself where the preacher stands to preach, or even the steps leading up to the dais, can be considered an altar when people kneel there to pray or worship God. John was told to measure the altar and the worshippers there as well. This also was undertaken to ascertain the general state of the true church and their devotion to God.

Revelation 11:2 “But the court which is without the temple leave out, and measure it not; for it is given unto the Gentiles: and the holy city shall they tread under foot forty and two months.”

Who are the Gentiles? Technically, they are all of the human beings that are not Israelites. Yet, as we know from Paul’s writings, true Israelites are only those human beings that believe in Jesus as Savior. That includes both Jews and Gentiles.

Rom 9:6 Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect. For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel:

Rom 9:22-24 What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction:  (23)  And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory,  (24)  Even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?

God considers all of His true children to be a part of Israel. To be a true child of God requires faith in Him (Gen 15:6; Rom 4:3; Jam 2:23; Eph 2:8,9). Our faith in Christ makes us children of God, thus we are a part of Israel (Genesis 15:6; Joh 1:12-13; Rom 4:3; 8:14-17; Gal 3:6; 3:26; Jas 2:23). In other words, in Romans 9:6, not all who claim to be truly God’s people (Israel) are, because not all Jews believe in Christ. Only believers in Christ are now God’s children, and that group is made up of both saved Jews and saved Gentiles. Paul identifies two Israels: the Israel according to the flesh (1 Cor 10:18), meaning unsaved Jews, and the Israel of God (Gal 6:16), which consists of saved Jews and Gentiles. Dispensationlism would dispute this, but the Scriptures are quite clear on this matter.

Biblically, humanity is made up only of Jews and Gentiles, for no one is outside one of those groups. Politically speaking, and hereditary Jews are of Israel, and non-Jews are not of Israel and thus are Gentiles. However, spiritually, in God’s eyes, if all believers in Christ are of Israel, then in God’s eyes, all non-believers are Gentiles and spiritually, unbelieving Jews are outsiders and thus are also Gentiles.

We need to clarify that according to the world’s standards, physical, flesh and blood humans that are not Jews are considered to be Gentiles and physical, flesh and blood Jews are considered not to be Gentiles. The world sees two types of people—Jews and Gentiles.

However, we are speaking spiritually. God also sees two types of people—believers in Christ and unbelievers. In God’s eyes Israel is made up of believers in Christ, and unbelievers are not of Israel, thus they are Gentiles. The church does not replace Israel; the church is a grafted-in part of Israel (Rom 11:11-17; Eph 2:11-13). Christianity is not a new religion, but rather the completion of the Jewish faith5.

Dispensationalists and those who are taught under dispensational leaders will have big trouble with what I just wrote. Dispensationalism teaches that Israel and the Church are forever distinct6.

If that is the circumstance, and according to Scripture it is, then the Gentiles that “tread under foot the Holy City” are unbelievers. Saved physical Gentiles will not be included in those who tread because God considers them a part of Israel, for “all Israel shall be saved” (Rom. 11:26). This will be seen to be true as we learn more in this study of Revelation.

Concerning 42 months, 1260 days, 3½ years, etc.; due to much confusion on these topics, I will defer to the era prior to J. N. Darby and C. I. Scofield to illustrate these issues. I will abstain from using any explanations from Dispensationalism (e.g. dividing the Bible into sections each with a different path to be saved, pretribulation rapture, seven-year tribulation, rebuilt temple, the separation between Israel and the church; two different avenues to salvation for the church and Israel, tribulation saints, Christians ruling over unbelievers in the Millennium, etc.), which I consider to be erroneous.

Two or three witnesses establish any matter (Deut 17:6; 19:15, Mat 18:16). In order to show that Jerusalem is indeed the holy city, we will look to some scriptural witnesses in order to establish that as true. Here are three witnesses:

1. Nehemiah 11:1
And the rulers of the people dwelt at Jerusalem: the rest of the people also cast lots, to bring one of ten to dwell in Jerusalem the holy city, and nine parts to dwell in other cities.

2. Isaiah 52:1Awake, awake; put on thy strength, O Zion; put on thy beautiful garments, O Jerusalem, the holy city: for henceforth there shall no more come into thee the uncircumcised and the unclean.”

3. Revelation 21:2 “And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.”

The word, ‘Gentiles,’ is the translation of ethnos, which means nations; the word does not mean countries or nation-states; it means peoples of different ethnical backgrounds. In context here, the word ‘nations’ means all the people in the world who do not have Jesus Christ as Savior and are thus bound for the lake of fire. Paul tells us that Israel is the spiritual root, and that we Christians are branches grafted into that root. He also tells us that the only true Israelites are those that believe in Christ as Savior (Rom 2:28, 29; Rom 9:6, 30-31; Gal 3:7; Php 3:3). Since we Christians are grafted into the root of Israel (Rom 11:17), then we are children of Abraham by adoption (Gal 3:7; 4:5; Eph 1:5). In the Scriptures, there were only two groups of people, Israelites and Gentiles and the term Gentiles has always meant those who are not the People of God. Thus ‘Gentiles’ as used here, actually refers to those who are not saved by the blood of Christ, who are indeed not God’s people.

John is not to measure the outer courts because they are under the control of those who are not God’s children. When the Gentiles (nations) tread upon the area, they are in control of it. In fact, today, the Temple area is controlled by the Muslims. The city of Jerusalem itself is holy to Christians Jews, Israelites, and Muslims (although Muslims claim Jerusalem because Muhammed supposedly set his foot one time on the Temple mount at the al Aqsa Mosque that was not even extant when Muhammed lived. This occurred on his “Night Journey” on a “flying donkey-mule” to heaven; thus their claim is weak at best). The city is an international city which, at the time of this writing, was controlled by the nations or Gentiles. The US, the Palestinians, the Syrians, Israel, the UN, and many others are vying for control of or influence over Jerusalem.

The part that John measured, that is, the sanctuary, and the altar, and the people worshipping at the altar, represent those set apart to God—His people, the saints. Remember the 144,000 who were sealed. They represent the whole of the people of God. They are sealed and set apart. They will be protected from the wrath of God.

John measured only the part of the temple where those set apart to God could gather and worship: The Most Holy Place. While God’s people are protected, the remainder of the peoples of all nationalities will suffer His wrath. Accordingly, it is imperative that we make our peace with God and believe on the Only Begotten Son of God, Jesus Christ, and confess Him as our Lord if we wish to avoid God’s wrath.

Revelation 11:3 “And I will give power unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days, clothed in sackcloth.”

The voice from Heaven (Rev 10:4) is speaking again. This is the voice of the Godhead, meaning God the Father or God the Son.

Our immediate attention is drawn to the two italicized words here. The KJV italicized words that were not in the original language. We can disregard the second italicized word, “and.” It is irrelevant because the phrase makes sense without it7. The King James Marginal note for this verse reads, “I will give power unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy: Or, I will give unto my two witnesses that they may prophesy.”

The literal Greek reads, καὶ δώσω τοῖς δυσὶν μάρτυσίν μου καὶ προφητεύσουσιν ἡμέρας χιλίας διακοσίας ἑξήκοντα περιβεβλημένοι σάκκους (kai doso tois dusin martusin mou, kai propheteusousin hemeras xilias diakosias hexekonta peribeblemenoi sakkous).

Or, “And I will give to the two witnesses of Me and they will prophesy days a thousand two hundred sixty, having been clothed (in) sackcloth.”

In context, this passage could be translated several ways, which is what we find in different Bible versions. The verb διδωμι didōmi, ‘to give’, inflected here as δωσω, dōsō, ‘I will give’, has many definitions and many of those could accurately be used here.

For example, we could say that God would give the witnesses what they need in order to prophesy for Him. Below are some examples that follow that pattern, yet they do not alter the meaning of the Scripture. In these examples, I have added the words ‘to prophesy,’ which are not in the Scripture, so I placed them in parentheses to aid in our understanding what the verse says.

        • And I will empower my two witnesses (to prophesy), and they will prophesy…
        • And I will commission my two witnesses (to prophesy), and they will prophesy…
        • And I will endow my two witnesses (to prophesy), and they will prophesy…
        • And I will authorize my two witnesses (to prophesy), and they will prophesy…

In other words, God has given His witnesses the ability to prophesy. He could empower, commission, endow, authorize, grant, permit, supply, appoint, deliver, or cause them to prophesy. Each of those words is one of the definitions of διδωμι didomi, according to Thayer.

Nevertheless, in order to properly understand the Scripture here, it would be prudent to stick with synonyms of empower to get the correct understanding of this verse. Other translations add authority, empower, grant authority, send, endow, etc.

In the Scriptures there are recurring themes, figures, or patterns of prophetic events that repeat themselves8. These rhythms of the fulfillment of past prophetic events give insight into comparable future fulfilments of prophecy. We certainly find that such is the case for the two witnesses.

Some theologians refer to this as dual fulfilment of prophecy. Others refer to it as typology (see appendix 3). We also see patterns in Scripture that help our understanding of the symbols in the Revelation of Christ given to John. John based this writing on other apocalyptic Scriptures like Daniel and Zechariah. He followed Old Testament patterns in his writing. All three devices are evident in apocalyptic Scriptures.

Here are some examples of items that occur in two or more instances in Scripture:

  • Two or three witnesses in the Law
  • Moses
  • Elijah
  • The number 3½
  • 1260 days or 3½ years
  • The two Testaments of the Bible

Who are these two witnesses? We cannot definitively know their names, for God did not provide them; He only gave us their characteristics. Let us not speculate on the names. Instead let us discuss the characteristics of the Two Witnesses from the Scripture.

 

Do you know Jesus Christ as your Savior? He is going to return to the world soon. Are you ready? When He does if you do not know Him as your Savior, you will join all those who do not know Him in “Outer Darkness where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Mat 22:13-14).

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Mark Oaks,  January 24, 2020

Footnotes:


  1. Herod refurbished and added to Zerubbabel’s temple, which was the second temple. Solomon’s temple was the first, Zerubbabel’s the second
  2. There is a movement in Jerusalem to build the third Temple. Plans are being made and many of the sacred Temple vessels have been manufactured. Whether or not or when the Temple will be rebuilt is unknown. See the website of the Temple Institute in Jerusalem.
  3. “And now the Romans, upon the flight of the seditious into the city, and upon the burning of the holy house itself, and of all the buildings round about it, brought their ensigns to the temple and set them over against its eastern gate; and there did they offer sacrifices to them, and there did they make Titus imperator with the greatest acclamations of joy.”—”Wars of the Jews,” Josephus 6.6.1, William Whiston translation.
  4. The general state of the Church includes such things such as their character, their profession, their faith, their devotion, their worship, etc.
  5. Two Jews Identify Spiritual Israel, 12/29/12,https://www.amazingfacts.org/news-and-features/inside-report/magazine/id/10747/t/two-jews-identify-spiritual-israel, Steve Wohlberg and Doug Batchelor
  6. “What, then, is the sine qua non of dispensationalism? . . . A dispensationalist keeps Israel and the church distinct.” Dispensationalism, Charles C. Ryrie, Moody Press, Chicago. 1995. Page 39. (sine qua non—Latin for ” without which it could not be”)
  7. The phrase “a thousand two hundred and threescore days” can be easily understood as “a thousand two hundred sixty days.”
  8. See the first few paragraphs of the Foreword for a broader explanation.
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