V11Then there was given me a measuring rod like a staff; and someone said, “Get up and measure the temple of God and the altar, and those who worship in it.. Although it is not said in so many words it seems that this chapter tells about the contents of the little book from the previous chapter. The place of activity is Jerusalem with the temple of God. The temple is called “the temple of God”, because God takes into consideration the true worshipers who draw near to Him there. But in reality it is the temple of the antichrist, which was built in unbelief and where the antichrist will place an image of the beast from the sea during the three and a halve years of the great tribulation (Rev 13:14-1514And he deceives those who dwell on the earth because of the signs which it was given him to perform in the presence of the beast, telling those who dwell on the earth to make an image to the beast who *had the wound of the sword and has come to life.15And it was given to him to give breath to the image of the beast, so that the image of the beast would even speak and cause as many as do not worship the image of the beast to be killed.; 2Thes 2:44who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God.).
It is most likely that this image will be placed in the court of the temple and not in the building itself. The court is also allowed for the people to enter. Because of the image of an idol that is placed there, the court is not measured.
This temple is next to the last temple of all temples that have been built in the course of time on earth. We read in Scripture about five earthly temples:
1. the temple of Solomon (1Kgs 7; was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar in 586 B.C.);
2. the temple of Zerubbabel (Ezra 3; 6; was robbed later and consecrated to Jupiter by Antiochus Epiphanes in 168 and 170 B.C.;
3. the temple that was built by Herod (Jn 2:2020The Jews then said, “It took forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?”; its construction was started in 17 B.C. and it was destroyed by the Romans in 70); this temple is by the way not a completely new temple, but an enlargement of the temple of Zerubbabel;
4. the temple built for the antichrist (2Thes 2:44who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God.) and
5. finally the temple of Christ (Eze 40-48).
For the sake of completeness I would like to point out that in the New Testament there is still mention of three spiritual temples: the body of the Lord Jesus (Jn 2:2121But He was speaking of the temple of His body.), the body of the believer (1Cor 6:1919Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?), and the church (1Cor 3:1616Do you not know that you are a temple of God and [that] the Spirit of God dwells in you?). Finally, we read in Revelation 11 about a temple of God in heaven (Rev 11:1919And the temple of God which is in heaven was opened; and the ark of His covenant appeared in His temple, and there were flashes of lightning and sounds and peals of thunder and an earthquake and a great hailstorm.) and in Revelation 21 that God Himself and the Lamb is called the temple of the new Jerusalem (Rev 21:2222I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.).
Just like it was with the eating of the little book John has to participate actively in the events. He is ordered to rise and measure some matters. Therefore “a measuring rod like a staff” was given to him. This ‘measuring rod’ is to define the border of what belongs to God; it defines His ownership (cf. Psa 16:66The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places;
Indeed, my heritage is beautiful to me.
; Zec 2:1-51Then I lifted up my eyes and looked, and behold, [there was] a man with a measuring line in his hand.2So I said, “Where are you going?” And he said to me, “To measure Jerusalem, to see how wide it is and how long it is.”3And behold, the angel who was speaking with me was going out, and another angel was coming out to meet him,4and said to him, “Run, speak to that young man, saying, ‘Jerusalem will be inhabited without walls because of the multitude of men and cattle within it.5For I,’ declares the LORD, ‘will be a wall of fire around her, and I will be the glory in her midst.’”; Rev 21:15-1715The one who spoke with me had a gold measuring rod to measure the city, and its gates and its wall.16The city is laid out as a square, and its length is as great as the width; and he measured the city with the rod, fifteen hundred miles; its length and width and height are equal.17And he measured its wall, seventy-two yards, [according to] human measurements, which are [also] angelic [measurements].). The temple is His, the altar is His and those who worship Him in the temple are His. The measuring rod like a staff represents the support, which faith finds in the thought that God also in times of darkness makes clear what is His and who belong to Him.
V22Leave out the court which is outside the temple and do not measure it, for it has been given to the nations; and they will tread under foot the holy city for forty-two months.. John is not allowed to measure the court. He even has to reject it. That is, because the court does not belong to God. He has no relation with it, for the nations have got access to it, because the antichrist has made a covenant with them (Dan 9:26-2726Then after the sixty-two weeks the Messiah will be cut off and have nothing, and the people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. And its end [will come] with a flood; even to the end there will be war; desolations are determined.27And he will make a firm covenant with the many for one week, but in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering; and on the wing of abominations [will come] one who makes desolate, even until a complete destruction, one that is decreed, is poured out on the one who makes desolate.”). With “the holy city” Jerusalem is meant.
During a period of forty-two months (that is three and a half years, the duration of the great tribulation) Jerusalem will be in the hands of these unholy allies. They will trample underfoot and profane the city in such a way that in the (court of the) temple which is built for the antichrist, a gruesome image of the Roman emperor will be placed.
V33And I will grant [authority] to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for twelve hundred and sixty days, clothed in sackcloth.”. Despite the domination of the gentiles and the pressure of the antichrist, God will kindle a powerful testimony in Jerusalem. Many people would have fled from Judea (the region around Jerusalem) to the mountains (Mt 24:1616then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains.), but in the city itself there will be a remnant of worshipers (Zep 3:1212“But I will leave among you
A humble and lowly people,
And they will take refuge in the name of the LORD.
). In the midst of it God will revive two witnesses whom He calls “My two witnesses”. Two represent a sufficient testimony (Deu 19:1515“A single witness shall not rise up against a man on account of any iniquity or any sin which he has committed; on the evidence of two or three witnesses a matter shall be confirmed.; 2Cor 13:11This is the third time I am coming to you. Every fact is to be confirmed by the testimony of two or three witnesses.). Many will repent because of their witness (Dan 12:1010Many will be purged, purified and refined, but the wicked will act wickedly; and none of the wicked will understand, but those who have insight will understand.).
They will pass through the city “clothed in sackcloth”. The sackcloth is a sign of mourning because of the miserable situation the people find themselves in (cf. Joel 1:1313Gird yourselves [with sackcloth]
And lament, O priests;
Wail, O ministers of the altar!
Come, spend the night in sackcloth
O ministers of my God,
For the grain offering and the drink offering
Are withheld from the house of your God.
; Jer 4:88“For this, put on sackcloth,
Lament and wail;
For the fierce anger of the LORD
Has not turned back from us.”
). It also supports the gravity of the message which is an appeal for repentance. They will warn and point out to the people who want to enter the temple to worship the image of the beast that Christ is coming soon. You also see with John the baptist that his clothing was fitting to the gravity of his preaching (Mt 3:44Now John himself had a garment of camel’s hair and a leather belt around his waist; and his food was locusts and wild honey.) and how he finally had to pay with his life for this preaching (Mt 14:5,105Although Herod wanted to put him to death, he feared the crowd, because they regarded John as a prophet.10He sent and had John beheaded in the prison.).
The duration of their preaching is indicated in days, probably to make clear and to emphasize that their preaching is heard every day. This indication is also to make clear how valuable each day is to God that a testimony of Him is given on earth. Another thought attached to that is that these twelve hundred and sixty days are again the same period of the great tribulation. Twelve hundred and sixty days is three and a half years. Because the testimony is given under the greatest possible tribulation, the count is indicated in days. God counts the days of His tested and persecuted witnesses. Because He has given power to His two witnesses the enemies cannot do anything until God allows them to.
V44These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth.. The witnesses are compared with “the two olive trees and the two lampstands” (see Zec 4). As ‘two olive trees’ they show the full power of the Holy Spirit (oil) and as ‘the two lampstands’ they spread Divine light as a testimony in the darkness that will then be reigning. They stand “before the Lord of the earth” (Psa 24:11A Psalm of David.
The earth is the LORD’S, and all it contains,
The world, and those who dwell in it.
), which means that their testimony is related to the Lord Who sets His foot on the earth and on the sea and Who will soon claim His right to it.
V55And if anyone wants to harm them, fire flows out of their mouth and devours their enemies; so if anyone wants to harm them, he must be killed in this way.. As long as they are to testify, they are unassailable and nobody can harm them. Every attack will be paid with the lives of the attackers. The witnesses actually have the fire of God at their disposal. That fire comes out of their mouth and it consumes every enemy that wants to harm them in order to eliminate them and silence them so that they cannot testify anymore.
This course of action makes clear that this concerns a totally different time than the time in which we now live. Instead of consuming our enemies who want to harm us when we testify of our Lord, we are to bless them. The Lord rebukes John and James when they suggest to Him to command fire to come down from heaven to consume the village of the Samaritans because He is not welcome there (Lk 9:53-5653But they did not receive Him, because He was traveling toward Jerusalem.54When His disciples James and John saw [this], they said, “Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?”55But He turned and rebuked them, And they went on to another village.).
V66These have the power to shut up the sky, so that rain will not fall during the days of their prophesying; and they have power over the waters to turn them into blood, and to strike the earth with every plague, as often as they desire.. The witnesses have even more power. As often as they desire they can shut heaven, they can turn water to blood and they can strike the earth with all kinds of plagues. If you know some of the history of the Old Testament, particularly the histories in which Moses and Elijah play a role, you will recognize them in these plagues. These expressions of power you find in particular with these two greatest prophets of the Old Testament. “The power to shut the sky” you find with Elijah (1Kgs 17:11Now Elijah the Tishbite, who was of the settlers of Gilead, said to Ahab, “As the LORD, the God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, surely there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word.”) and the “power over the waters to turn them into blood, and to strike the earth with every plague” you find with Moses (Exo 7:14-10:2914Then the LORD said to Moses, “Pharaoh’s heart is stubborn; he refuses to let the people go.). Elijah testified towards God’s people who had become apostate. Moses testified against the enemy of God’s people, namely Egypt.
Elijah and Moses are more often mentioned together. In that sense you find them both with the Lord on the mountain of transfiguration, where they as it were get a foretaste of the millennial kingdom of peace (Mt 17:33And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Him.). Also Malachi, the last prophet of the Old Testament, speaks about Moses and Elijah as persons who in the last days will perform once more (Mal 4:4-64“Remember the law of Moses My servant, [even the] statutes and ordinances which I commanded him in Horeb for all Israel.5“Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the LORD.6He will restore the hearts of the fathers to [their] children and the hearts of the children to their fathers, so that I will not come and smite the land with a curse.”; cf. Mt 11:1414And if you are willing to accept [it], John himself is Elijah who was to come.; 17:11-1211And He answered and said, “Elijah is coming and will restore all things;12but I say to you that Elijah already came, and they did not recognize him, but did to him whatever they wished. So also the Son of Man is going to suffer at their hands.”; Lk 1:1717It is he who will go [as a forerunner] before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, TO TURN THE HEARTS OF THE FATHERS BACK TO THE CHILDREN, and the disobedient to the attitude of the righteous, so as to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”). It is not much in the sense of their performance in person, but it relates to a performance in which the characteristics of their services are to be seen.
V77When they have finished their testimony, the beast that comes up out of the abyss will make war with them, and overcome them and kill them.. When the time of their testimony which was ordained by God, has come to an end, they will be killed. This also happened to the Lord Jesus, Who was delivered only when His time had come, not a single hour earlier. They will be killed by the beast. In chapter 13 you will be more informed about the beast.
It may look strange that the beast will make war with two men, but there are more examples that an army was sent out to take one single man captive. You see that for instance with Elijah who several times was attacked by a small army (2Kgs 1:8-148They answered him, “[He was] a hairy man with a leather girdle bound about his loins.” And he said, “It is Elijah the Tishbite.”9Then [the king] sent to him a captain of fifty with his fifty. And he went up to him, and behold, he was sitting on the top of the hill. And he said to him, “O man of God, the king says, ‘Come down.’”10Elijah replied to the captain of fifty, “If I am a man of God, let fire come down from heaven and consume you and your fifty.” Then fire came down from heaven and consumed him and his fifty.11So he again sent to him another captain of fifty with his fifty. And he said to him, “O man of God, thus says the king, ‘Come down quickly.’”12Elijah replied to them, “If I am a man of God, let fire come down from heaven and consume you and your fifty.” Then the fire of God came down from heaven and consumed him and his fifty.13So he again sent the captain of a third fifty with his fifty. When the third captain of fifty went up, he came and bowed down on his knees before Elijah, and begged him and said to him, “O man of God, please let my life and the lives of these fifty servants of yours be precious in your sight.14Behold fire came down from heaven and consumed the first two captains of fifty with their fifties; but now let my life be precious in your sight.”), with Elisha in Dothan (2Kgs 6:11-1411Now the heart of the king of Aram was enraged over this thing; and he called his servants and said to them, “Will you tell me which of us is for the king of Israel?”12One of his servants said, “No, my lord, O king; but Elisha, the prophet who is in Israel, tells the king of Israel the words that you speak in your bedroom.”13So he said, “Go and see where he is, that I may send and take him.” And it was told him, saying, “Behold, he is in Dothan.”14He sent horses and chariots and a great army there, and they came by night and surrounded the city.) and even more with the Lord Jesus in Gethsemane (Mt 26:4747While He was still speaking, behold, Judas, one of the twelve, came up accompanied by a large crowd with swords and clubs, [who came] from the chief priests and elders of the people.). The witnesses have shown their power and that makes clear to the beast that he is facing very dangerous persons.
V88And their dead bodies [will lie] in the street of the great city which mystically is called Sodom and Egypt, where also their Lord was crucified.. When the two witnesses are killed, their dead bodies will lie ”in the street of the great city”. From the addition “where also their Lord was crucified” it becomes clear that it is about Jerusalem. But that name is not mentioned. The names that are mentioned indicate the spiritual decay of the city, where the city spiritually has landed. It has become like Sodom and Egypt. Jerusalem is ‘Sodom’ because of its corruptness and ‘Egypt’ because of its oppressing God’s people. This wickedness altogether has shown its pinnacle in the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus.
The two witnesses are killed, after they have borne their witness, in the very same place where their Lord had borne His witness and was killed. They suffer His fate and partake in it.
Now read Revelation 11:1-8 again.
Reflection: What does God make His two witnesses perform for?