The two witnesses 3 ½ year ministry
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. 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.
There is a literal temple here, as the Gentiles will tread its outer court for 3 and a ½ years, which is the time of the Great Tribulation as it was the time of the great drought of Elijah’s time, as that is the number of chapters (42 months) in the book of Job, a book about God’s person suffering.
Ezekiel writes about a third temple as his description does not seem to fit either Solomon’s temple, destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar, or Herod’s version, destroyed by the Romans in AD70, decades prior to this writing. There is a group of devout Jews who call themselves the Temple Mount Faithful, whose website is templemountfaithful.org. They want to set the cornerstone to rebuild the temple. When their leaders die there will be others, you can rest assured. So, it is not an unknown impulse in modern Judaism, to rebuild the temple.
The temple is being measured except for Solomon’s Porch, the outermost court, which is the only place that Gentiles, even Roman citizens in Herod’s day, were allowed to come providing their behavior was good. It is mentioned in John 10:23; Acts 3:11; 5:12. Notice that the worshippers in the temple are also being measured. Jerusalem, along with the outer court, are tread upon for this period of time.
Luke 21:24 And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.
Daniel 12:7 And I heard the man clothed in linen, which was upon the waters of the river, when he held up his right hand and his left hand unto heaven, and sware by him that liveth for ever that it shall be for a time, times, and an half; and when he shall have accomplished to scatter the power of the holy people, all these things shall be finished.
In Daniel there are interesting additional times mentioned of 1290 days and 1335 days and 2300 days which are thought by some to be a reference to years. In fact, the founder of the Millerites who eventually became the Seventh Day Adventists used these as years to get to an end times date in the 1840’s.(17) These days as years have also been used to add up to 1776, as the founding of America, to justify making the United States to be the stone that was cut without hands that became a great mountain and covered the whole earth in Daniel 2:35, 45.(18) There is a great danger in trying to set the exact date as the calendars don’t match up, having changed since then, and prophecy is twisted to fit the agenda of the speaker on it so often. Remember what Jesus said to His disciples;
Acts 1:6 ¶ When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? 7 And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power.
To gleefully say, “Aha! Then, since God didn’t say day or hour I can know that!” is the beginning of a journey down a long and confusing road.
Here, Paul mentions this time.
Romans 11:25 For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.
(17) Ruth Alden Doan, The Miller Heresy, Millennialism, and American Culture (Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press, 1987), 33.
(18) Fountain E. Pitts, A Defence of Armageddon or Our Great Country Foretold in the Holy Scriptures In two discourses, Delivered in the Capitol of the United States, at the request of several members of Congress, on the anniversary of Washington's birthday, 1857 (Baltimore: J.W. Bull Publishers, 1859),23. https://openlibrary.org/works/OL12264015W/A_defence_of_Armageddon
3 ¶ And I will give power unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days, clothed in sackcloth. 4 These are the two olive trees, and the two candlesticks standing before the God of the earth. 5 And if any man will hurt them, fire proceedeth out of their mouth, and devoureth their enemies: and if any man will hurt them, he must in this manner be killed. 6 These have power to shut heaven, that it rain not in the days of their prophecy: and have power over waters to turn them to blood, and to smite the earth with all plagues, as often as they will. 7 And when they shall have finished their testimony, the beast that ascendeth out of the bottomless pit shall make war against them, and shall overcome them, and kill them. 8 And their dead bodies shall lie in the street of the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified. 9 And they of the people and kindreds and tongues and nations shall see their dead bodies three days and an half, and shall not suffer their dead bodies to be put in graves. 10 And they that dwell upon the earth shall rejoice over them, and make merry, and shall send gifts one to another; because these two prophets tormented them that dwelt on the earth. 11 And after three days and an half the Spirit of life from God entered into them, and they stood upon their feet; and great fear fell upon them which saw them. 12 And they heard a great voice from heaven saying unto them, Come up hither. And they ascended up to heaven in a cloud; and their enemies beheld them. 13 And the same hour was there a great earthquake, and the tenth part of the city fell, and in the earthquake were slain of men seven thousand: and the remnant were affrighted, and gave glory to the God of heaven.
Breaking this passage down verse by verse;
3 ¶ And I will give power unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days, clothed in sackcloth.
This mirrors the first verse in that the two witnesses will prophesy 3 ½ years based on the 360 day year. The two witnesses, said to be prophets in verse 10, will preach God’s word for the future during the time of the Tribulation. Remember, power is authority, not just strength.
Luke 4:36 And they were all amazed, and spake among themselves, saying, What a word is this! for with authority and power he commandeth the unclean spirits, and they come out.
1Corinthians 15:24 Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power.
Revelation 13:2 And the beast which I saw was like unto a leopard, and his feet were as the feet of a bear, and his mouth as the mouth of a lion: and the dragon gave him his power, and his seat, and great authority.
Sackcloth is a reference to coarse material like putting on burlap from old feed bags for farm animals as a sign of mourning.
Psalm 30:11 Thou hast turned for me my mourning into dancing: thou hast put off my sackcloth, and girded me with gladness;
Psalm 35:13 But as for me, when they were sick, my clothing was sackcloth: I humbled my soul with fasting; and my prayer returned into mine own bosom.
4 These are the two olive trees, and the two candlesticks standing before the God of the earth.
Zechariah 4:2 And said unto me, What seest thou? And I said, I have looked, and behold a candlestick all of gold, with a bowl upon the top of it, and his seven lamps thereon, and seven pipes to the seven lamps, which are upon the top thereof: 3 And two olive trees by it, one upon the right side of the bowl, and the other upon the left side thereof. 4 So I answered and spake to the angel that talked with me, saying, What are these, my lord? 5 Then the angel that talked with me answered and said unto me, Knowest thou not what these be? And I said, No, my lord. 6 Then he answered and spake unto me, saying, This is the word of the LORD unto Zerubbabel, saying, Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the LORD of hosts.
Who are these two witnesses that represent God on earth? Although some commentators in history believed they were Enoch and Elijah because they did not die when they were on earth we have a hint in the episode where Christ is transfigured before a small group of the Apostles, as He gives them a taste of how He will appear to those in His millennial reign on earth.
Matthew 16:28 Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom. 17:1 ¶ And after six days Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into an high mountain apart, 2 And was transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light. 3 And, behold, there appeared unto them Moses and Elias [Elijah from Greek] talking with him. 4 Then answered Peter, and said unto Jesus, Lord, it is good for us to be here: if thou wilt, let us make here three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias.
5 And if any man will hurt them, fire proceedeth out of their mouth, and devoureth their enemies: and if any man will hurt them, he must in this manner be killed.
People clearly try to interrupt the efforts of the two witnesses and this is how they are dealt with, a supernatural weapon before noted in reference to God.
Psalm 18:8 There went up a smoke out of his nostrils, and fire out of his mouth devoured: coals were kindled by it.
Remember that Elijah called fire down from heaven.
2Kings 1:9 ¶ Then the king sent unto him a captain of fifty with his fifty. And he went up to him: and, behold, he sat on the top of an hill. And he spake unto him, Thou man of God, the king hath said, Come down. 10 And Elijah answered and said to the captain of fifty, If I be a man of God, then let fire come down from heaven, and consume thee and thy fifty. And there came down fire from heaven, and consumed him and his fifty. 11 Again also he sent unto him another captain of fifty with his fifty. And he answered and said unto him, O man of God, thus hath the king said, Come down quickly. 12 And Elijah answered and said unto them, If I be a man of God, let fire come down from heaven, and consume thee and thy fifty. And the fire of God came down from heaven, and consumed him and his fifty.
6 These have power to shut heaven, that it rain not in the days of their prophecy: and have power over waters to turn them to blood, and to smite the earth with all plagues, as often as they will.
These extraordinary witnesses have a great deal of discretion on what they will do, having the ability to cause drought, power over waters to turn them into blood, and unleash plagues, as much as they want. We should note these events that follow as which ones come from them. That’s three and a half years of power to cause immense suffering. These events are mentioned throughout the book of Revelation.
7 And when they shall have finished their testimony, the beast that ascendeth out of the bottomless pit shall make war against them, and shall overcome them, and kill them. 8 And their dead bodies shall lie in the street of the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified.
The beast that ascended out of Hell will overcome these witnesses and kill them. This will not happen until toward the end of the 3 ½ years. This gives us a hint of the identity of the angel that is the king over the bottomless pit.
Revelation 9:11 And they had a king over them, which is the angel of the bottomless pit, whose name in the Hebrew tongue is Abaddon, but in the Greek tongue hath his name Apollyon.
Remember, he is the destroyer. No other beast, a term that elsewhere in the Revelation refers to an animal-like creature like the cherubim or living creatures around the throne of God, of evil has been referenced yet other than the one from the bottomless pit.
The city referred to, the locus of the witnesses’ activities, is Jerusalem.
Jeremiah 23:14 I have seen also in the prophets of Jerusalem an horrible thing: they commit adultery, and walk in lies: they strengthen also the hands of evildoers, that none doth return from his wickedness: they are all of them unto me as Sodom, and the inhabitants thereof as Gomorrah.
9 And they of the people and kindreds and tongues and nations shall see their dead bodies three days and an half, and shall not suffer their dead bodies to be put in graves. 10 And they that dwell upon the earth shall rejoice over them, and make merry, and shall send gifts one to another; because these two prophets tormented them that dwelt on the earth.
Cable TV or some future version of that technology will show their bodies to the world. People are refusing to bury them, probably even to touch them for fear. It will be a time of rejoicing. My thinking is that they will have caused a great many catastrophes we will read about next and a lost world will be so relieved when they are “gone.”
11 And after three days and an half the Spirit of life from God entered into them, and they stood upon their feet; and great fear fell upon them which saw them. 12 And they heard a great voice from heaven saying unto them, Come up hither. And they ascended up to heaven in a cloud; and their enemies beheld them. 13 And the same hour was there a great earthquake, and the tenth part of the city fell, and in the earthquake were slain of men seven thousand: and the remnant were affrighted, and gave glory to the God of heaven.
God’s Spirit revives them. Many preachers insist they are beheaded but the text doesn’t say that so we should not take that too dogmatically. Of course, the picture of them standing up and picking up their heads and carrying them is dramatic but may not be true. They were overcome by the beast, killed, and then rose again from the dead.
The is the third time that the phrase Come up hither is used in the Bible.
Proverbs 25:7 For better it is that it be said unto thee, Come up hither; than that thou shouldest be put lower in the presence of the prince whom thine eyes have seen.
Revelation 4:1 After this I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven: and the first voice which I heard was as it were of a trumpet talking with me; which said, Come up hither, and I will shew thee things which must be hereafter.
Now the trouble starts again with an earthquake but now the remnant gives glory to God. This must give us pause as when the sixth trumpet blew in 9:13 those who were not slain did not repent of their sins nor did they stop doing them.
9:20 And the rest of the men which were not killed by these plagues yet repented not of the works of their hands, that they should not worship devils, and idols of gold, and silver, and brass, and stone, and of wood: which neither can see, nor hear, nor walk: 21 Neither repented they of their murders, nor of their sorceries, nor of their fornication, nor of their thefts.
Remember how in the sixth seal in 6:12 every man wanted refuge from the wrath of Christ, so they knew who was causing their trouble.
Revelation 6:15 And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains; 16 And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: 17 For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?
So, does this mean that repentance from fear is not acceptable? If you prayed a prayer to get saved just because you were afraid of Hell were you actually saved? After the terrorist attack on 9/11 there was a big and temporary boost in church attendance. Did that mean anything at all? Judgment is continuing on this earth at this time without stopping simply because people know who is delivering it and are afraid. I have questioned persons who prayed a prayer at a preacher’s insistence and they did not necessarily believe that Christ rose from the dead or was God or even gave it much consideration. They simply wanted a better life because their choices had led them down a bad road or they had grown to be terrified of going to Hell. Were they really saved or had some preacher done them a great disservice?
14 ¶ The second woe is past; and, behold, the third woe cometh quickly. 15 And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever. 16 And the four and twenty elders, which sat before God on their seats, fell upon their faces, and worshipped God, 17 Saying, We give thee thanks, O Lord God Almighty, which art, and wast, and art to come; because thou hast taken to thee thy great power, and hast reigned. 18 And the nations were angry, and thy wrath is come, and the time of the dead, that they should be judged, and that thou shouldest give reward unto thy servants the prophets, and to the saints, and them that fear thy name, small and great; and shouldest destroy them which destroy the earth. 19 And the temple of God was opened in heaven, and there was seen in his temple the ark of his testament: and there were lightnings, and voices, and thunderings, and an earthquake, and great hail.
The seventh trumpet sounds and it is announced that Christ is assuming control of all the kingdoms of earth, to come and rule physically. Of His rule there will be no end.
Isaiah 9:7 Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.
Among other things the elders announce that God’s wrath has come and judgment.
Revelation 6:17 For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?
God and Christ are one God who is eternal.
Deuteronomy 32:40 For I lift up my hand to heaven, and say, I live for ever.
Isaiah 57:15a For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity…
Revelation 1:4 John to the seven churches which are in Asia: Grace be unto you, and peace, from him which is, and which was, and which is to come; and from the seven Spirits which are before his throne;…8 I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty.
Revelation 4:8 And the four beasts had each of them six wings about him; and they were full of eyes within: and they rest not day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come.
The time of judgment of mankind is upon them.
Daniel 12: 1 ¶ And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which standeth for the children of thy people: and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book. 2 And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. 3 And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever. 4 But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased.
Matthew 25: 31 ¶ When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: 32 And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: 33 And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. 34 Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: 35 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: 36 Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. 37 Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? 38 When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? 39 Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? 40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. 41 Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: 42 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: 43 I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. 44 Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? 45 Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. 46 And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.
What does it mean to say, and shouldest destroy them which destroy the earth? Not meaning to sound like a radical environmentalist I must say that one of the symptoms of a wicked heart is to hold in contempt that which belongs to someone else. Those who have destroyed God’s earth, a physical place, a physical object, will suffer destruction as part of their sin against a holy God. The earth and all that is in it is God’s property.
Exodus 19:5 Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine:
Psalm 24:1 « A Psalm of David. » The earth is the LORD’S, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein.
Psalm 50:10 For every beast of the forest is mine, and the cattle upon a thousand hills. 11 I know all the fowls of the mountains: and the wild beasts of the field are mine.
The concept of private property only applies to relations between men. You have no private property, if you are a Christian, in regards to God. We acknowledge that all things are His possession, over which we are mere stewards. He will hold mankind accountable for the massive destruction of the earth in the pursuit of wealth and ease of living. Decimated rain forests, sludge filled bays, poisoned water supplies, and polluted countrysides will not go unpunished. What God does with the earth is irrelevant because it is His property and He has the ability to recreate and restore. Mankind is a steward of God’s property and not always a very good one. But, this is just a thought on that phrase and there are other takes on it than what I’ve said.
Verse 19 shows us where the Ark of the Covenant is. It is not in some village in Ethiopia or buried under the former Jerusalem temple site. The last time it was seen, as mentioned in the Bible, was here;
2Chronicles 35:3 And said unto the Levites that taught all Israel, which were holy unto the LORD, Put the holy ark in the house which Solomon the son of David king of Israel did build; it shall not be a burden upon your shoulders: serve now the LORD your God, and his people Israel,
Here is another earthquake, the fourth of five mentions in Revelation. There is a rapture/resurrection here. Read Matthew 24 and also see;
1Corinthians 15:52 In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.
Now, from another perspective we will see the same 3 ½ years.