Summary: The two witnesses
Revelation 11:1-14, is one of the hardest chapters in the whole of the Bible. It uses imagery and symbolism to draw its point and conclusions but also draws from historical perspective as well. I will attempt to offer some suggestions as to understand this chapter but in reality the opinion regarding this chapter is so varied that it is hard to be conclusive in any fashion. It is best then that we see this chapter as a whole. The two witnesses are literal people more than likely Moses or Elijah, but we will examine that in our discussion here. Within this Chapter we have now turned to the second half of the tribulation where the Anti Christ will break his agreement with Israel, and the increase of the persecution towards believers in the Messiah will increase. We will also see the beginnings of revival among the people of Israel as the direct result of the witnesses being raised from death to life. I will only attempt to offer some suggestions it is up to you to decide for yourself to think through the issues being presented here. As I said there are quite a lot of opinions and positions all of which can be defended equally well.
Some have tried to over spiritualize Jerusalem to be Rome and its power, but that is hard to believe since in context the Temple is here mentioned and the view is surrounding the rebuilding and protection of Israel itself. There are many as well that see these two witnesses as not two witnesses but the church at this point being persecuted but again that cannot be right because the description of the two and there ministry is listed within 11:1-13.
Revelation 11:1-2, “Then I was given a measuring stick, and I was told, "Go and measure the Temple of God and the altar, and count the number of worshipers. But do not measure the outer courtyard, for it has been turned over to the nations. They will trample the holy city for 42 months.”
John here is actively involved in this vision (Revelation 1:17;4:1;5:4-5;7:13-14; 10:8-10). Kalmos (measuring rod) refers to a reed like plant that grew in the Jordon Valley to a height of fifteen to twenty feet. It had a stalk that was hollow and lightweight, yet rigid enough to be used as a walking staff (Ezek 29:6) or to be shaved down into a pen (3 John 13). These stalks were able to be used because they were long and lightweight; however in Ezekiel’s vision they were used to measure not this temple but the millennial kingdom.
Barclay points out, “In the picture of the passage the seer is to measure the Temple. There is a difficulty here which can e solved when we understand the situation. The difficulty is that the date of the Revelation, as we have seen, is somewhere about A.D. 90; and the Temple in Jerusalem had been destroyed in A.D. 70, and Jerusalem had been shattered. How then could the Temple be measured? The solution lies in this. Almost certainly John is here taking over and using for his own purposes a picture which had already been used. Almost certainly this passage was originally spoken or written in A.D. 70, during the last siege of Jerusalem. During that siege the party of the Jews who would never admit defeat were the Zealots. Rather than admit defeat they would die to a man, as indeed they ultimately did. When the walls of the city were breached, these Zealots retired into the Temple to make a last desperate resistance there. At that time it is almost certain that some of their prophets said: “Be of good cheer. Never fear. The Gentile invaders may reach the outer Court of the Gentiles; they may trample on and defile it; but they will never penetrate into the inner Temple and its most sacred courts. God would never allow that.” That hope and dream and confidence were disappointed; the Zealots perished and the Temple was destroyed; but originally the measuring of the inner courts and the abandoning of the outer court stood for the Zealot hope in the last terrible days.” Here then the focus turns upon the preservation of God’s people and God’s Covenant nation Israel since the Temple is not bound within building it is the people as the Apostle Paul says in 1st Corinthians 3:16, “Don’t you realize that all of you together are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God lives in you?”
God often choose to measure of mark things off for destruction (2nd Sam 8:2; 2nd Kings 21:13; Isa 28:17; Lam 2:8; Amos 7:7-9, 17). John’s measuring here though is better understood as signifying ownership defining the parameters of God’s possessions (21:15; Zech 2:1-5). Then the focus here is upon Israel’s protection and her salvation; towards God’s favor towards Israel and His wrath on the pagan world. As we have seen already historical this would have brought great comfort to John since in A.D. 70 the temple was destroyed. The Bible mentions five temples (naos) one by Solomon, Zerubbael after the Exile, Herod built the third (during the time of Christ), and the Lord Himself will built he five during the Millennium (Ezek 40-48; Hag 2:9; Zech 6:12-13). The temple John saw here in this vision was the fourth temple; which will be built in Jerusalem during the Tribulation (Matthew 24:15; 2 Thess 2:4), and along with it the Jewish sacrificial system will be restored (Daniel 9:27; 12:11)