The Two Witnesses, Revelation Chapter 11 Verses 1-14 (NASB)


    And there was given to me a MEASURING ROD like a staff;
This is a continuation of chapter 10. We will now see the "active" part of the prophesy. Up to now, John was to hear, see, and write. Now the prophesy starts, and it usually begins with the prophet measuring (assessing) the spiritual state of the nation.
    and someone said,
Many scholars believe this is Christ speaking. However, it also could be the strong angel with the little book (Revelation 10:1).
    "Rise and measure
The figurative meaning would say this refers to the Christian church in general. The literal meaning would mean the rebuilt temple in Jerusalem. Since Revelation is first and foremost a Jewish writing, this should be taken literally.

What does the measuring mean? The Jews in rebuilding the temple and resuming animal sacrifices signify they refuse to accept Jesus as Messiah as He came 2000 years ago. Instead, "the beast" in the rest of Revelation is accepted, Daniel 9:27, Daniel 12:11, 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4, Matthew 24:15.

Those who accept Christ realize "the temple" is man's body with Christ and Holy Spirit living therein, 1 Corinthians 6:19-20.

Thus, the "measuring" is to show the Jews how lacking Old Testament temple and altar (ritual) are compared to Jesus Christ and His COMPLETE forgiveness and High Priestly authority (Hebrews 7:11-19).

The "measuring" also denotes preparation for destruction of old Jewish tradition (Isaiah 65:7, Lamentations 2:7-8, Amos 7:7-9, and 2 Kings 21:13) and reconstruction (or restoration) of Messiah (Ezekiel 40:3-5, Zechariah 2, Revelation 21:1,15-27).

Note the order of measuring: 

    'The TEMPLE OF GOD' the devout Jews will be tried first.
    'the ALTAR' this was for atonement in Old Testament times; now Christ has done it, and 144,000 sealed and 2 witnesses talk about it (Hebrews 10:11-18)
    'those who WORSHIP in it' finally, this is for the "religious" (as opposed to agnostic/atheist). The measuring is a separation (Matthew 25:31-46)
LESSON: If you call yourself a Christian, your worship, sacrifice, and praise MUST be to the Lord and not to a building, pastor, or fellow believers. You will be MEASURED!
    "And leave out the court which is outside the TEMPLE, and do not measure it,
Traditionally, the outer court has been the only place where non-Jews are allowed. Since the three previous temples: Solomon's, Zerubabel's, and Herod's, which was destroyed in AD70, the TEMPLE mount has been under Gentile control. Even today, the Dome of the Rock, a Moslem edifice, occupies the site. This is prophesied by Jesus in Luke 21:20-24.

Apparently, a pact will be made with the Antichrist (Daniel 9:25) which gives the Jews 3 1/2 years to rebuild the TEMPLE on that site. Even today, Jews have gathered materials for the temple utensils. The time is near for the rebuilding of the TEMPLE.

The TEMPLE is so protected from non-Jews that Paul was accused of bringing Greeks into the temple area, Acts 21:27-28-30, instead of leaving them in the court. Some scholars suggest that the reason the court is not to be measured is that the Gentiles already have been measured, 2 Samuel 8:1-2-8.

    for it has been given to the nations (Gentiles); and they will tread under foot the holy city for forty-two months.
This part of the verse clearly indicates that for 3 1/2 years (42 months) the holy city is occupied, particularly the TEMPLE mount, by the nations. The expression 'the nations' usually is interpreted to mean non-Jews. Whether this is limited to Arabs, also of Abraham's seed, or wider, such as Russians, Americans, Africans, etc. is open to conjecture.

This time, 42 months, is terminated when the "times of the Gentiles" is finished, Luke 21:24. The "times of the Gentiles" began with Nebuchadnezzar, 2 Chronicles 36:1-21. Here are some related prophesies: Daniel 9:26-27; Daniel 11:40; Ezekiel 38-39; Zechariah 14; and Joel 2.

There is an interesting observation that pre-Tribulation rapture proponents make. For the true believers in Christ, there was no temple. True believers worship God in Spirit and in Truth, John 4:23-24. Furthermore, we are called to worship God in the heavenly sanctuary, Hebrews 10:19-22. If the true believers are, in fact, gone prior to these 3 1/2 years, then there is no reason to try to measure the non-Jewish believers. Some interpret this verse in that manner.

Lastly, the 'holy city' has always referred to Jerusalem (not Mecca or Rome or any other religious 'headquarters' city). It is where the devil took Jesus to be tempted, Matthew 4:1-5-11. It also explains why Israel (and Arabs) get so much news coverage. Inherently, the spiritual side of mankind knows something important is going to happen there.

    And I will grant authority to my two witnesses,
This has a legal sound to it. In fact, it was required to have two witnesses to accuse someone (Deuteronomy 19:15; Matthew 18:16; and 2 Corinthians 13:1)

These two witnesses are accusing the beast (chapters 13-19) of apostacy and desecration of the temple, earth, and human soul. That this verse personalizes the two witnesses with "MY" two witnesses indicates that this authority comes straight from the throne. God always has had witnesses, whether human or His creation (Acts 14:16-17).

    and they will prophesy for twelve hundred sixty days,
Note the precise fixed time = 3 1/2 years or 1/2 of 7 years.
    clothed in sackcloth.
Sackcloth shows mourning, humility, affliction of the soul, and true repentance. Jews fully understand what this means (Genesis 37:33-34; 1 Kings 20:31-32; and Jeremiah 4:7-8). It is an Old Testament example to the nation that things are WRONG. This symbolism may not be well understood by non-Jews or non-Arabs. Gentiles just don't do this.
    These are

  • the two OLIVE TREES and

  • Olive trees give oil for the lamps on the two lampstands. Often in scripture the oil represents the Holy Spirit, so these two witnesses are filled with the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:18). Compare this description to Zechariah 4:1-14.

  • the two LAMPSTANDS

  • When witnessing (verse 7) or giving their testimony, they stand our as lights to the Jewish nation. Recall from the previous verse that under Old Testament methods, there are two or more witnesses required.
that stand before the LORD OF THE EARTH.

These two have a special place before the "Lord of the earth". Abram in Genesis 14:22 swore to "Lord God Most High, possessor of heaven and earth.".

After the destruction of the Jewish nation, God is referred to as the 'God of heaven'; for example Daniel 2:18, 37, 44. Here with this expression "Lord of the earth", God is again addressing Himself to the Jewish nation. They are witnessing in 'the Great City', verse 8.

Some scholars believe these two are not humans but angels in human form such as the ones at Christ's tomb, Luke 24:3-4, and at His ascension, Acts 1:10.
    And if any one desires to harm them,
Apparently, the two witnesses' testimony angers the Jewish people first and the rest of the world second.


  1. If you believe in either a pretribulation or midtribulation 'rapture' , people who thought they were Christians and were left behind don't want to hear the Gospel/testimony (verse 7) again. They are guilty and too ashamed to admit it; their hearts are hardened.
  2. The AntiChrist as 'world leader' doesn't like what they say because they talk of the preeminence of Christ and not his.
There is an implication that these two witnesses can read thoughts by the use of the phrase "desires to harm them". They understand the desires/intent of those around them. It is not clear that they also know of their death (verse 7) and restoration (verse 11).
    fire proceeds out of their mouth and devours their enemies;
This is a spoken judgment. Elijah was so anointed to 'speak fire' (2 Kings 1:9-10-12-16). Jeremiah 5:14 indicates Jeremiah was able to speak and the people were like wood.

Note the results of these spoken judgments:

    and if anyone would desire to harm them, in this manner he must be killed.
This is the second time the phrase "desire to harm" is used in this verse. This gives an emphatic clue to the way the world and AntiChrist will be "terminated". It is an 'eye for eye' principle. Also, this is reactive witnessing (Matthew 12:9-15-16) as opposed to proactive witnessing, that is, attesting to signs, wonders, and miracles.
    These have the POWER to shut up the sky, in order that RAIN may not fall during the DAYS of their PROPHESYING;
Power is associated with the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8). When the anointing is upon someone, they have this kind of POWER. Elijah in 1 Kings 17:1-7 shut off the rain. Elijah's POWER is equated with prayer for sick and confession of sins, James 5:13-18. Note the exact time it didn't rain in Elijah's time....what is the duration of these two witnesses PROPHESYING (verse 3).
    and they have POWER over the WATERS
      This carries forth the spirit part of power. If water is the abode of spirits, these witnesses by shutting off the water in effect are not giving evil spirits (demons) an abode. See Revelation 9:14. This is another reason why the antichrist is irritated by these two witnesses.
    1. to turn them into BLOOD,
      In the Old Jewish laws, there is a direct relationship between life and BLOOD. Atonement comes through the blood into ETERNAL LIFE. Thus, the two witnesses not only have the unique ability to inhibit the evil spirit abode but also to change that abode into life. That is exactly what Christ did for us on the cross (John 19:31-37)
    2. and to smite the earth with every plague, as often as they desire.
      This chapter in Revelation may be a retrospective look to the seven seals and the seven trumpets. Much of what has been described up to this point during the first half of the tribulation looks like it was/is done under the power of these two witnesses. What is interesting is that these two witnesses are not brought up in Revelation chapter 4 when the seals and trumpets appear. This chapter is like an afterthought which explains how the seals and trumpets are executed.

      'Every plague' denotes that these two witnesses are dealing at a spiritual level. Recall that plagues and diseases are part of the sin curse, Genesis 3:17-19.

    And when they had finished their testimony,
This is 3 and 1/2 years (verse 3); some feel this is half way through the tribulation. They are immortal until their work is done. All of our life spans are fixed by God (Job 7:1-10, Hebrews 9:27-28, and James 4:13-17)
    the BEAST that comes out of the ABYSS
This is the first mention of the BEAST. John does it so matter of fact that one wonders if he hadn't seen 'the BEAST' before but just didn't write it down. On the other hand, the two witnesses are not in chronological order so this may be at the beginning of John's vision and just now he is getting around to writing it down. He refers to the BEAST later in Revelation 13:1,7 and Revelation 17:8.

The ABYSS, the evil abode, is so bad that even the evil spirits do not wish to be there, Revelation 9:1-2,11.

So scholars believe this 'coming up from the ABYSS' is a mimic of the resurrection of Christ. How else will the world accept this evil-occupied human as "Messiah" (he is the only one to be able to kill the two witnesses. Whether the BEAST is in suspended death/trance and then "wakes up" is not clear. Mystic Eastern cults claim such suspension.

  1. will make war with them,
    Weaponry will be used to kill them. This follows Daniel's prophesy in Daniel 7:17-21-22.
  2. and overcome them and KILL them.
    With the two witnesses' death , it appears that the last great obstacle to total evil control of the earth has been conquered. The 144,000 witnesses in chapter 7 seem to remain until the dragon makes war with the 'rest of the woman's offspring' (Revelation 12:17).
    And their DEAD bodies will lie in the street of the GREAT CITY
Perhaps these two are the prophets referred to in Matthew 23:33-34-36, and maybe they are crucified in front of TV cameras "Live from Jerusalem". Then their bodies will be left, undignified in the street. This is very much not Jewish; burial comes quickly after death in Jewish tradition.
    which mystically is called Sodom and Egypt.
Mystically (pneumatikos [Greek]) is only used in the New Testament in 1 Corinthians 2:14 where clearly this is spiritual (not of natural man).

Sodom - Here is wickedness beyond belief. It came to the point of wanting homosexual relations with God's angels (messengers) (Genesis 19:1-11).

- It is an apostasy associated with the AntiChrist (2 Thessalonians 2:3-10)

- See Deuteronomy 32:28-33 - fruit like poisonous grapes or bitter venom.
Egypt - first country to enslave God's people (Exodus 1:8-14).
These two witnesses were ultimately oppressed.

- It is also equated with the center of materialism.
    where also THEIR LORD was CRUCIFIED.
These two witnesses clearly testify about THEIR LORD (verse 7)!
    And those from the peoples and tribes and tongues and nations
No doubt, the two witnesses "sang" the song in Revelation 5:9-10. What infuriated the world (people and tribes and tongues and nations) is that they were guilty of the Messiah's blood, and that true believers would eventually reign. The world had gone along with the devil, were decieved, and had a gut feeling these two witnesses were RIGHT. The world couldn't accept that they had chosen incorrectly.
    will look at their DEAD BODIES for three and a half days, and will not permit their DEAD BODIES to be laid in a tomb.
Maybe there was a fear (belief) that these two (or one of them) was the Messiah. Jesus in John 2:13-22 indicates that after three days the "temple would be raised again". If Jews only considered Jesus a prophet, then they (and the world) would want to watch this happen. Modern television will make this verse possible. At four days much decay sets in (John 11:38-39-44). The two witnesses are DEAD nearly four days! The "unburied" act also was a reproach to Jews which left them open to scoffing and derision. The devil has always tried to make fools of God's chosen people, Psalm 79:1-7.
    And those who dwell on the earth
The phrase "who dwell on the earth" is used in particular for non-believers: Revelation 3:10; Revelation 6:9-10; Revelation 8:13; Revelation 13:8; Revelation 14:6-7; and Revelation 17:8.
  • will REJOICE over them and make MERRY; and they
    Why the rejoicing?
    • The two witnesses caused them to suffer physically (verse 6).
    • The two witnesses bothered the world's collective conscience greatly.
    Most likely, Christmas was a celebration without even the possibility of remembering Christ's birth. The antichrist will have decreed it so. These two witnesses had reminded the world WHY they had sent gifts.
  • will SEND GIFTS to one another, because these two prophets TORMENTED those who dwell on the earth.
    This celebration coincides with the Festival of Purim (Esther 9:20-28), the Jewish gift-giving festival. Since the festival is held on the 13th day of Adar month (Jewish calendar), most likely these two witnesses are killed on this day. Watch for it. Note: the Desert Storm Persian Gulf conflict concluded on the Festival of Purim. Coincidence or ???
    The two witnesses, as witnesses usually do, cause a study in contrasts. To believers, they would have brought joyous testimony. To non-believers, they will bring terrible torment.
    And after the three and a half days
Note the precision in time again. John could have said something like "during the 4th day ... ", but he is very exact at 3 1/2 days. What is so fascinating is that to God, time does not exist inasmuch as He is eternal. However, this precision indicates that even our human ties to time is well understood by Him. Furthermore, this precision gives credence to the rest of Revelation. When this event takes place, there will be NO DOUBT in the observer's minds as to what this means.

What happens after this is a GOD EVENT in 4 parts: a) a God miracle, b) clear evidence, c) result on observers, and d) a personal invitation.

  1. the breath of life from God came into them,
    All life is breathed into us from God. Physically, Genesis 2:4-9, we breath; spiritually, John 1:1-4-5, we have eternal breath; and our reward, Revelation 2:10, is LIFE.
  2. and they stood on their feet;
    We, humans, instantly equate someone lying down as asleep, unconscious, or dead. Standing up requires us to be alive, awake, and conscious. The evidence of BREATH on dry bones is clear in Ezekiel 37:1-10.
  3. and great fear fell upon those who were beholding them.
    Why would a GREAT FEAR fall on the observers?
    • They remember the past three and a half years.
    • The beast, verse 7, DID NOT have ultimate power over death (Revelation 1:18).
    • The observers realize the two witnesses were telling the truth, and now they must face the consequences, Revelation 20:14-15.
    1. they heard a loud VOICE from HEAVEN saying, "COME UP HERE."
This confims the two witnesses are of God (not false teachers) because only God's own people are invited into heaven. This parallels the request to John in Revelation 4:1.
    And they went up into HEAVEN in the cloud,
Note, it is 'the cloud' not 'a cloud'. There may be a special "God's cloud" which not only transports Jesus (Acts 1:9) and witnesses around but also contains the GLORY of God (Exodus 40:34-38).
    and their enemies beheld them.
'BEHELD' is probably better translated 'STARED TRANSFIXED'. This is not a twinkling-of-an-eye exit (1 Corinthians 15:52). It is a slow deliberate departure. Most likely 'their enemies' were watching them closely to see what the two witnesses were going to do next. Their departure may have been a relief but even as believers are exhorted to be watchful, Luke 21:34-36, the enemies probably wonder if the two witnesses are going to return. Interestingly, they probably do with their Commander in the lead, Revelation 19:14.
    And in that hour
    Again, note the precision. It's "in that hour" not "some time later". God's timing is always "on time".
  • there was a great earthquate, and
    There is no mistaking that these are God's two witnesses (verse 4). The earth through a physical quake acknowledges their true standing.
  • a tenth of the city fell; and
    It was violent enough that buildings collapsed. It is not clear that the epicenter was where the two witnesses were whisked away into heaven or at the spiritual center of the city. Note that the veil of the temple (some distance from Golgotha) was torn in the earthquake that followed Christ's death on the cross, Matthew 27:51-56.
  • seven thousand people were killed in the earthquake, and
    Some of these people may have been "big shots" from the political realm, the news media, and religious leaders. The world had kept a close watch on these two witnesses and their departure. And this is the price they will pay for rejoicing over the two witnesses' death (verse 10)!
  • the rest were terrified and gave GLORY to the GOD OF HEAVEN.
    Those alive recognize God as the one who caused the earthquake. but note they only can give GLORY. The time for repentence is passed. When God performs a miracle such as this uptaking or a healing, it is not only an event for the ones taken up or healed, it most directly affects the onlookers including skeptics (Luke 5:17-26).
This concludes the TWO WITNESSES interlude.
    The second WOE is past;
Remember the eagle in mid-heaven cried out "WOE, WOE, WOE" (Revelation 8:13). Revelation 9:13 through Revelation 11:13 has been the second WOE which contained:
  • Sixth trumpet,
  • Little Book, and
  • The two witnesses and the beast.
    behold, the third WOE is coming quickly.
Behold means "pay attention". The tense of "is coming" means it has started already and is on its way. NO STOPPING IT!

The 'terror' in Jerusalem in the previous verse shows that the 'rest of Jerusalem' also realizes it. WOEs are common to Jewish experience over the centuries but lest they become ordinary, they (the Jews) and we are told to 'behold' the third WOE:

  • Seventh trumpet - Revelation 11:15,
  • Woman and dragon - Revelation chapter 12,
  • Sea and Earth Beasts - Revelation chapter 13,
  • Lamb and Mount Zion - Revelation chapter 14,
  • Songs of Moses and the Lamb - Revelation chapter 15,
  • Seven Bowls - Revelation chapter 16, and
  • "It is done" - Revelation 16:17.
"Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, © Copyright The Lockman Foundation, 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 Used by permission."

References to the Revelation of Jesus Christ are in bold italics. All other references are in bold only