I think I have said before but I know there are so many great commentators out there who have researched and wrote far better than these devotional thoughts. I feel dwarfed by the task when there are so many books out there. But I also know there is a lot of speculation and nonsense also!
This may seem a difficult chapter to read. So what is happening in chapter 11? It is just before the 7th and final trumpet sounds. It is the time of the second woe.
John measures the temple; the Holy City is trampled on for 3.5 years; 2 Witnesses prophesy for 3.5 years; they are then killed by the beast from the Abyss and they lay unburied for 3.5 days; after this they are then raised to new life and ascend to heaven; then there’s a severe earthquake and 7,000 die but the survivors worship God; that’s the second woe over.
“I was given a reed like a measuring rod and was told, “Go and measure the temple of God and the altar, with its worshipers. 2 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. 3 And I will appoint my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth.” 4 They are “the two olive trees” and the two lampstands, and “they stand before the Lord of the earth.” 5 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. 6 They have power to shut up the heavens 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. 7 Now when they have finished their testimony, the beast that comes up from the Abyss will attack them, and overpower and kill them. 8 Their bodies will lie in the public square of the great city—which is figuratively called Sodom and Egypt—where also their Lord was crucified. 9 For three and a half days some from every people, tribe, language and nation will gaze on their bodies and refuse them burial. 10 The inhabitants of the earth will gloat over them and will celebrate by sending each other gifts, because these two prophets had tormented those who live on the earth. 11 But after the three and a half days the breath[b] of life from God entered them, and they stood on their feet, and terror struck those who saw them. 12 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. 13 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. 14 The second woe has passed; the third woe is coming soon.” (Revelation 11: 1-14)
We must keep to the fact that this vision contains numbers that are symbolic. The number seven is symbolic of divine completeness and perfection.
John knows that the temple is not a literal one, in fact it was destroyed probably around 20 years before this vision on the island of Patmos. But he is called to measure the Christian community, the holy place, the place where the Spirit of God dwells. For a season, for half of perfection, the Church is going to be trampled on by the nations of the world. It was certainly not feeling like perfection stuck on Patmos nor for the Christian community under the power of Rome but more of that later.
The 2 Witnesses, the 2 Olive trees and the 2 lampstands are the Church. I think so anyway! It is not 2 individual personalities but a symbol for the Church. The Bible shows us in many places that to settle disputes you do so with at least 2 witnesses. Steeped in his culture is the story of King Zerubbabel and the High Priest Joshua told in Zechariah 4. They are standing alongside the lampstand and we already know that the lampstands of Revelation 2 and 3 are the seven churches.
The Church enters into a season of mourning (sackcloth) and rightly so because of the sin and wickedness of the world. During this time they move with supernatural authority. Like Moses who brought the plagues and who stood against Pharaoh and like Elijah who stopped the rain and who stood against Ahab so the Church will operate with signs and wonders against evil. That’s what John saw.
I was reading yesterday of how in 2016 Canada had 1,018 deaths by medical assistance (euthanized) but by 2021 just 5 years later this figure rose to 10,064! Then I immediately read a pop-up social media flash about the state of Britain in 2022 with regards the abuse of children. The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) published a seven year inquiry where they concluded that child abuse is at an epidemic stage with millions suffering. It found that in any group of 200 children, 10 boys and more than 30 girls would be victims before the age of 16. Statistics showed the age of victims was getting younger, with a 45% rise in offences against those aged under four in recent years!! God have mercy!
I am writing this from Brazil as the nation is trying to elect their new President amidst what seems like a long period of corruption. But I am conscious also of the lack of moral compass in our own political life in Britain. Leadership with integrity and values is seriously lacking in every party!
The Church in every corner of the world and as in previous generations at various times need to put on sackcloth figuratively and call for repentance. But we must do that within the atmosphere of supernatural activity. The Church is not toothless and powerless. We have the Spirit of God dwelling amongst us and we must step out and change the world we live in!
Repentance and the supernatural is our message and our response!