Summary: We don’t have the right to judge. It is the heart that is broken over the destruction caused by sin, not the heart that is proud of its sinlessness, that God can use to correct the ills of his world.
Revelation Chapter 11
1. And a reed rod was given to me, like a staff, saying,
“get up and measure the temple of God, and the altar, and those worshiping in it. 2. And exclude the court that is inside the temple and don’t measure it, because it is given to the nations, and they will trample down the holy city forty two months. 3 And I will give to my two witnesses and they will prophecy one thousand two hundred sixty days, wearing sackcloth. 4 these are the two olive trees, and the two lamps (light bearers), standing before the Lord of the earth. 5 and if anyone wishes to hurt them, fire goes out of their mouths, and eats up their enemies. And if anyone wants to hurt them, it is necessary for them to be killed in this way. 6. These have the power to close the sky, so that no rain falls in the days of their prophecy, and they have the power over waters, to turn them into blood, and to strike the earth with every plague as often as they like.”
v 1 John is told to measure, just as Ezekiel was (Ez 40-48). The temple seems to be needed for the work of the antichrist to be finished (Dan 9:27; 12:11; 2 Thessalonians 2:4). For a little confusion, see also Mat 26:61; John 2:19-21; 1 Corinthians 3:16-17; 6:19; 2 Corinthians 6:16; and 1 Peter 2:5, all of which state that the Church is the temple of God.
v 2 The outer court is the location of the dome of the rock mosque today. 42 months is 3 1/2 years (Dan 9:25-27; 12:11 etc.). The Gentiles treading is spoken of as part of the last events of history in Luke 21:24 and Rom 11:25-26.
v 3 See vv 5-6 for the two witnesses. The word witnesses is, as usual, martyr. As we’ll see before the end of the chapter these super powerful witnesses do, indeed, sacrifice their lives. Sackcloth indicates repentance and supplication.
v 4 Zech 4 describes olive trees as symbolic of the Spirit of God, feeding the lampstand in the temple. The fact there are two lampstands indicates this is something somewhat different from Zechariah, yet the idea is that these two are inspired by the Spirit of God, and bear His light.
vv 5-6 Fire, etc. is seen in Numbers 16 and 2 Kings 1:10-12. The rain and plagues are described in Ex. 4-12. For these reasons (and also because both left the earth in an unusual manner) many people think of these two as some kind of resurrection of Moses and Elijah. Since Jesus saw John the Baptist as the fulfillment of the prophecy that Elijah would come before the Messiah, and since the Bible teaches it is appointed to every person to die once and then the judgment (Lazarus & such, who were resurrected before their bodies decayed, don’t count as some form of re-incarnation). These two martyrs do, indeed, look like the embodiment of the Law (Moses) and Prophecy (Elijah) of God.
I took Kung Fu lessons for awhile. It was Shaolin Shuan Fa, the Shaolin ‘art of the fist’. I never learned a single means of attack. We learned Kata, or forms, and Defensive Maneuvers, that’s all. We never practiced initiating an attack, except to “punch in” so one of our sparring partners could practice their defensive maneuvers on us. One of the teachers called the Defensive Maneuvers “aggressive defense”. Someone may attack you, even though you would never attack, but that person will pay a price for the choice to attack. The two Witnesses receive from God the ability to defend themselves. I think their means of defense, fire and blood and plagues, could be called aggressive defense. They also have the ability to stop the rain when they’re preaching. I’m sure there are many outdoor event organizers who wish they had such ability. The Witnesses have extraordinary abilities, and, it seems, extraordinary character.
The Right to Judge and Prophesy
Jesus said, “judge not or you will be judged, for the same way you judge others you will be judged, and the measure you use to measure others will be used to measure you” (Matthew 7). So how is it ok for these two witnesses to call down fire from heaven, stop the rain (a big problem if there are fires), and turn the waters to blood? It seems to me their clothes give us a hint.
Sackcloth was worn in the Old Testament as a symbol of mourning and repentance. It is a course, itchy fabric usually made of goat hair. It’s warm but not comfortable against the skin. It’s better as a cloak or blanket, something you use with something softer between it and your skin. Sackcloth indicates you have made a conscious choice to be uncomfortable. You are going against our natural instinct to pursue comfort. It’s like fasting from food to focus on spiritual pursuits, or taking time away from work to “retreat” and seek God. It is the discipline of those who acknowledge that spiritual realities are more important than the physical. And it can indicate identification with the suffering of others. Sackcloth indicates grief over the conditions of the day, and an unwillingness to accept those circumstances. Jacob grieved in sackcloth over the apparent death of his son Joseph (Genesis 37). Job grieved the loss of his children, health, and wealth (Job 16, 42). Mordechai protested the impending genocide against Jews (Esther 4). The Prophet Joel calls on the priests to mourn for the judgment of God that was coming against Israel (Joel 1).