Summary: According to William Barclay, the eleventh chapter of Revelation "is at one and the same time the most difficult and the most important chapter in the Revelation."
According to William Barclay, the eleventh chapter of Revelation “is at one and the same time the most difficult and the most important chapter in the Revelation” (2:65). This chapter is part of that second interval or parenthesis (10:1-11:13) which concludes with the sounding of the seventh trumpet (third woe). This particular judgment covers the rest of Daniel’s Seventieth Week and anticipates the return of Christ and the setting up of His kingdom.
John was given a rod and told to measure the temple and altar, but to exclude the outer court as it was to be given to the Gentiles (nations) to be trampled under foot for forty-two months or the last three-and-one-half years of the seven-year tribulation period. In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus warned: “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.” The “Times of the Gentiles” began under the rule of the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar in 606 B.C. and will end with the return of Christ at His Second Advent. Note also that the restored temple mentioned here in Revelation chapter eleven would be the same one that the Antichrist or beast enters and desecrates in the midst of the tribulation week (Matthew 24:15; 2 Thess. 2:4).
The two witnesses will prophesy for a period of 1,260 days or 42 months. Some believe this will take place in the first half of the tribulation period, whereas, some Bible scholars view the two witnesses as prophesying in the last half of Daniel’s Seventieth Week. I believe that the 144,000 Jews will be converted through the preaching of these two witnesses during the first half of the tribulation period. The preaching of the “gospel of the kingdom” (Matt. 24:14) by the 144,000 will result in the salvation of the blood-washed multitude of Gentile believers (Rev. 7:9-17) who attribute their salvation to God and the Lamb and are a direct result of the ministry of these 144,000 Jewish missionaries.
The “two olive trees” mentioned in verse four are described in Zechariah chapters four and five and portray Zerubbabel and Joshua, the governor and high priest who were anointed by the Holy Spirit to rebuild Jerusalem and the Temple after the Babylonian captivity. Clarence Larkin comments: “Zerubbabel and Joshua are types of the ‘TWO WITNESSES’ whose work it will be to proclaim that the time has come to rebuild Jerusalem and re-establish the Temple worship, for the ‘KINGDOM OF HEAVEN’ is at hand” (87).
But who is this dynamic duo that witness during the tribulation hour? Some believe they are the church, some the two testaments of the Bible, and others think they represent the law and the gospel. But these two individuals speak and perform miracles and are killed by the beast that ascends from the bottomless pit. After lying in the streets of Jerusalem for three and one-half days without burial, they are then brought back to life and ascend to heaven in a cloud of glory.
Those who hold a literal view believe that the two witnesses are either Enoch and Elijah or Moses and Elijah. John Walvoord has a different view in that he states: “It seems far preferable to regard these two witnesses as two prophets who will be raised up from among those who turn to Christ in the time following the rapture” (179). Merrill F. Unger adds: “Although the two witnesses are commonly identified as Moses and Enoch or Moses and Elijah, such identifications are unlikely since both of the witnesses are killed and resurrected, something which could not be true of these OT prophets as glorified men (Mt 17:3). These witnesses are evidently two members of the latter-day remnant” (661). These are points that are well taken, and ones which we must answer, but first let’s take a closer look at each of the individuals that we’ve discussed above.
Some view Enoch as a likely candidate for one of the two witnesses in that he never died before he was translated to be with God. This would, of course, be in line with the general rule of Hebrews 9:27: “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment.” But we must remember that this is a general rule of Scripture and not necessarily binding to all of God’s Word. Many were resuscitated in the Old and New Testament only to die again (1 Kgs. 17:17-22; 2 Kgs. 4:32-35; 2 Kgs. 13:20, 21; Matt. 9:23-25; Luke 7:11-15; John 11:43, 44; Acts 9:36-40). In fact, there will be one generation of believers that will not experience death. They will be raptured out before the Antichrist arises and the tribulation hour begins (1 Thess. 4:16-17; 1 Cor. 15:51-52).