In our study of Revelation chapter eleven, we look at the two witnesses in the final days. It reminds me of an older popular song called "Can't Touch This" but, as we shall see, when God says that He really means it.
"I was given a reed like a measuring rod and was told, 'Go and measure the temple of God and the altar, and count the worshipers there.'" NIV translation
John tells us that he was told to do some measuring. Throughout the Bible, when this occurs it is a sign that God is starting to deal with his people (Israel). We must remember that, at this time, those that believe in Jesus Christ have been taken out of the world. John is told to count the worshipers in the temple and this too refers to the Jewish people.
"'But exclude the outer court; do not measure it, because it has been given to the Gentiles. They will trample on the holy city for 42 months.'" NIV translation
John is told to exclude all that are not Jews and not to measure their place because it is only temporary. We are told that the Gentiles (anyone that is not a Jew) will trample Jerusalem for 42 months. This time period corresponds to the midpoint of the seven year peace deal between Israel and the world. (see Daniel 9:27)
"'And I will give power to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth.'" NIV translation
Now we are introduced to God's two witnesses who speak to the people during this 42 month period. There is much speculation about the identity of these two men but we are not told who they are. Many believe that one is Elijah because of the promise that Elijah would come back before the day of judgment (see Malachi 4:5) but this is not so. When Jesus was asked about Elijah coming back, He explained that Elijah had already came back in the person of John the Baptist. We must conclude that their identity is not important for us to know or God would have told us who they are. It is significant to note that there are two because that was legally required under Jewish law for a man to be put to death (see Deuteronomy 17:6). It is also important to see that they were "clothed in sackcloth" which was a sign of repentance and mourning over sin.
"'These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth.'" NIV translation
The two witnesses are further described as olive trees which are a symbol of spiritual richness. The garden where Jesus prayed before He was betrayed is named Gethsemane which means "olive press" and is located on the Mount of Olives. And the lampstands are a symbol of the "church" (see Revelation 1:20).
"'If anyone tries to harm them, fire comes from their mouths and devours their enemies. This is how anyone who wants to harm them must die.'" NIV translation
God is going to fight for the two witnesses and protect them and He will do the same for us. We, like the witnesses, are overcomers and nothing can stand against us (see Romans 8:31). Really, when God says "Can't touch this", He means it and that same promise is for us!
"These men have power to shut up the sky so that it will not rain during the time they are prophesying; and they have power to turn the waters into blood and to strike the earth with every kind of plague as often as they want." NIV translation
These two are given unlimited authority from God and it is demonstrated by their control over natural forces as well as the fact that they cannot be touched by their enemies. This is similar to yet different from the power that God granted Moses and Aaron in Exodus chapters seven through eleven. They are similar in that the purpose of them being granted this authority is for the deliverance of God's people. In Exodus it was deliverance from bondage under Pharaoh while here it is deliverance from bondage under sin and Satan. They are different in that, in Exodus, Moses' authority was limited but here the witnesses have the ability to cause the plagues as often as they wish. We, as Christians, have the same type of authority and protection through Jesus Christ.
"Now when they have finished their testimony, the beast that comes up from the Abyss will attack them, and overpower and kill them." NIV translation
The two witnesses are killed but only after they have completed what God sent them to do. If you are a Christian, then God has prepared things for you to do (see Ephesians 2:10). A cool thing about this is that, if you are in the center of God's will for your life and doing what He has prepared for you to do, you cannot be touched (just like the two witnesses here). This death that the two witnesses suffer is not a bad thing at all as they get to go to be with God forever and we must remember that God was even in control of this and its timing. There is true freedom in knowing that God is in control!
Revelation 11:8 & 9
"Their bodies will lie in the street of the great city, which is figuratively called Sodom and Egypt, where also their Lord was crucified. For three and a half days men from every people, tribe, language, and nation will gaze on their bodies and refuse them burial." NIV translation
When the two witnesses are killed, their bodies will be left in the street at Jerusalem. For three and a half days they will be shown contempt as everyone sees them but nobody will bury their bodies.
"The inhabitants of the earth will gloat over them and will celebrate by sending each other gifts, because these two had tormented those who live on the earth." NIV translation
The people will really be celebrating at the death of the witnesses. The people hate the truth so much that they celebrate the fact that the two are silenced. We may think that this is really out there but there are already places where the gospel is hated that much.
"But after the three and a half days a breath of life from God entered them, and they stood on their feet, and terror struck those who saw them." NIV translation
The party is over! Can you imagine the look on the faces as the two dead witnesses were raised to life? What is described here is the same thing that God did with Adam in the garden (see Genesis 2:7).
"Then they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, 'Come up here.' And they went up to heaven in a cloud, while their enemies looked on." NIV translation
Now, the people hear the very voice of God speaking to the witnesses. There are those that say that God does not speak to His people anymore but there is no basis for this claim and no reason to limit God and what He can or will do. It is interesting to note that the witnesses go up to heaven the same way that Jesus did in Acts 1. The witnesses have done their job and they now depart in peace to be with God forever.
"At that very hour there was a severe earthquake and a tenth of the city collapsed. Seven thousand people were killed in the earthquake, and the survivors were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven." NIV translation
As soon as the witnesses complete their mission, God judges the city with a severe earthquake. One in ten buildings were destroyed and seven thousand people died. It is so terrible that the survivors know that it can only be from God and they wonder at His power.
"The second woe is passed; the third woe is coming soon." NIV translation
As bad as all of this has been, there's still one more woe to come. We are told that it is "coming soon" and we know that there is not a big pause in time as it feels as if things are speeding up to their final conclusion.
"The seventh angel sounded his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, which said: 'The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign for ever and ever.'" NIV translation
The final trumpet is sounded and John heard the celebration in heaven as a multitude rejoiced. They are rejoicing because Jesus is taking ownership of the earth and He will reign for eternity.
Revelation 11:16 & 17
"And the twenty-four elders, who were seated on their thrones before God, fell on their faces and worshiped God, saying: 'We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty, the One who is and who was, because you have taken your great power and have begun to reign.'" NIV translation
Now, we see the elders (leaders of the twelve tribes and the twelve apostles) in worship. They are thanking God for the fact that He is finally reigning on earth.
We each should ask ourselves a serious question which is "Will I rejoice when Jesus comes to reign or will I be sad at the passing of the old way?" If Jesus is the Lord of your life (reigning) now, it will be a celebration but, if you are still trying to do things your own way, you may be sad at the thought of giving up control because that will no longer be an option.
"'The nations were angry; and your wrath has come. The time has come for judging the dead, and for rewarding your servants the prophets and your saints and those who reverence your name, both small and great - and for destroying those who destroy the earth.'" NIV translation
The elders now tell us of the coming two judgments. The first mentioned is that of salvation while the second is of rewards. It is comforting to know that not only are we going to live forever with God but, as we see here, he has other rewards for us based on how we used the new life that we were given when we came to Christ.
"Then God's temple in heaven was opened and within his temple was seen the ark of his covenant. And there came flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, an earthquake and a great hailstorm." NIV translation
Now, we get a look inside the temple in heaven and see the ark of the covenant. We are told of the construction of this ark in Exodus chapter 37.