Revelation chapters eleven and twelve depict how God’s people will prepare for their final encounter with antichrist’s unified, systematic, worldwide attempt to annihilate them, and also their powerful and difficult mission during the final three and a half years of earth’s history, in which they are represented as “the two witnesses. However, before discussing the two witnesses of Revelation chapter eleven, we will first examine the final spiritual preparation of God’s people in Revelation chapter twelve.
Revelation 12 begins with a vision of a “woman” clothed with the “sun” and having a crown with twelve stars upon her head. She delivers a male child that the dragon (devil) tries to kill at birth. It states that this Child was to rule all nations, and that He was “caught up” to God’s throne (Revelation 12:9; Revelation 12:1-5). What is this vision portraying?
We know that a “woman” often represents God’s people or Church (Jeremiah 6:2; Isaiah 54:5-6; 2nd Corinthians 11:2; Revelation 19:7-9). And, her being pictured in such a “pure” manner, in contrast with the harlot woman in Revelation 17, would seem to depict a “pure church”, God’s faithful people. This text stated that the woman or Church was clothed with the “sun”. We’re told in Malachi 4:2 that the “Sun of Righteousness” would come with healing in His wings, which nearly all theologians agree refers to the coming of Jesus into our world. And, Jesus referred to Himself as the “light” of the world (John 8:12; John 9:5). Furthermore, the Bible states that God’s people or Church have “put on” Jesus Christ (Romans 13:14; Galatians 3:27). So, God’s people are truly clothed with the “Sun/Son”. The twelve stars in her crown probably represent the twelve patriarchs of Israel and/or the twelve New Testament apostles who have led God’s Church and served as His messengers to His people because, in Revelation 1:20, “stars” are said to represent angels or messengers (the same Greek term is used for both words). The Child who was born through the woman or Church is an obvious reference to the birth of Jesus, His genealogy traced through a faithful ancestry of God’s people that goes back to Adam (Luke 3:23-38). And, the dragon’s attempt to kill Him was clearly fulfilled when the devil had the wicked King Herod kill all of the male babies in Bethlehem under two years of age in an effort to murder Jesus (Matthew 2:16). The Child’s being “caught up” to God’s throne obviously refers to Jesus’ triumphant ascension while surrounded by His followers/Church (Luke 24:50-51). All of these things indicate that this “pure woman” clothed with the sun at the beginning of Revelation 12, does indeed represent God’s faithful people or Church.
Then, in Revelation 12:6 and Revelation 12:14, the “woman/Church” is pictured as being carried on the “wings of an eagle” into the wilderness, where she is nourished and fed by God in a place He has prepared for her for 1260 days or a “time, times and half a time”; in other words, three and a half years. What is this describing, and when will it happen? And, where or what is this “wilderness” that God’s people are carried to?
The Greek word translated as wilderness in these verses is “eraymos”. It is usually translated as wilderness, but is also translated as “solitary” in Mark 1:35, to describe the place where Jesus went to spend time with His Father in prayer. Eraymos is also used to depict the wilderness where the “word of God” came to John the Baptist (Luke: 3:2). And, eraymos is used to portray the wilderness where Jesus fasted for 40 days in preparation for His ministry, and where angels ministered to Him (Matthew 4:1-2; Mark 1:13; Luke 4:1-2). Additionally, eraymos is used to describe the wilderness where Jesus often withdrew to pray (Luke 5:16). Moreover, eraymos is used to denote the wilderness where God personally spoke to Moses in a flaming bush, calling him to his mission for Israel (Acts 7:30).
Therefore, this Greek word, eraymos, that is used to describe the wilderness where God’s people are taken on eagle’s wings, nurtured and fed by God for 1260 days or three and a half years in Revelation 12:6 and Revelation 12:14; this same word is used elsewhere in Scripture to designate the place where John the Baptist heard from God, where Jesus was ministered to by angels as He fasted in preparation for His ministry, where Jesus resorted for private intimacy with His Father in prayer, and where God personally spoke to Moses to call him to his mission for Israel. In all of these instances eraymos or wilderness was more than a “geographical location”; it was a “spiritual location” of separation from the world, solitude with God, and a place of nurturing and preparation for their mission.
Is it possible, if not probable, that the eraymos wilderness location of God’s people or Church in Revelation 12 is also a “spiritual location” of separation from the world, solitude with God, and a place of nurturing and preparation for their momentous final three and a half year mission described in Revelation 11, which we’ll discuss shortly? Revelation 12:6 and Revelation 12:14 do say that this wilderness is a place where God’s people are fed and nourished. And, we know that Jesus referred to Himself as the “Bread of Life” (John 6:48); moreover, He said that man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God (Matthew 4:4); furthermore, that the Scriptures in general testify of Him (John 5:39), thereby depicting a “feeding” on God’s word about Jesus Christ that is much more important than eating physical food. Also significant, is that Revelation 12:14 states that God’s people/Church are brought to this wilderness experience on “eagle’s wings”. And, how do we get eagle’s wings in Scripture? Isaiah 40:31 says that it happens by “waiting on the Lord”; once again depicting a spiritual preparation and solitary focus on God. This text also states that this “waiting on the Lord” renews our strength so that we won’t faint or grow weary. That is certainly relevant for God’s people in the last days, who will need to have their strength renewed to keep them from fainting or growing weary as they conduct their mission in the days of antichrist. Certainly the picture of eagle’s wings achieved by “waiting on the Lord” in order to come into this solitary, powerful, intimate, God-centered, eraymos wilderness experience with God, being nurtured and fed by His word in preparation for their momentous mission; this picture is surely descriptive of what God’s people will need in those final climactic days of earth’s history, even as Moses, John the Baptist and Jesus did in their eraymos wilderness experiences.
It is significant that, immediately after discussing the “woman’s/Church’s” three and a half year wilderness experience, the book of Revelation then focuses on the dragon’s (devil’s) rage and war against her (Revelation 12:17), followed by the antichrist-beast’s arise and war with the saints (Revelation 13:1-7). This also indicates that the Church’s three and a half year wilderness experience immediately precedes the maniacal three and a half year reign of antichrist. (Revelation clearly states that the reign of antichrist is for three and a half years, Revelation 13:5, not seven years, as taught by most prophecy teachers.)
Probably also significant, is that the three and a half years of intimate preparation for their mission by God’s people, followed by their three and a half year mission itself described in Revelation chapter eleven, equals that highly significant, prominent and perfect biblical number of “seven”.
The question is, “when will God’s people finally stop compromising with sin, eliminate all of the unnecessary distractions in their lives, separate themselves from the things of this world, fully surrender 100% of their lives to the Lordship of Jesus Christ, and truly “wait upon the Lord” in order to enter into their solitary, intimate, powerful, totally Christ-centered “eraymos” wilderness experience with God?
I believe that the Church’s wilderness experience propels God’s people into their powerful ministry presented in John’s new vision in Revelation 11. I mentioned earlier that Revelation 11 describes the final three and a half year mission of God’s people. We will now examine this chapter regarding its primary subject matter, the “two witnesses”, and I will explain why I believe that they do indeed represent the “true church’s” final mission. Revelation 11:1-14 will now be our focus.
In Revelation 11:1 John is told to “measure” the temple and its worshippers. Is it the Jewish temple? That is highly unlikely for a few reasons. The book of Revelation was written after the Jewish temple had already been destroyed by Roman armies. Furthermore, there is no Jewish temple today, and the place where Jews want to build it, if they ever do, is already occupied by the “Dome of the Rock”, which is one of the most holy Islamic sites in the world. A billion and a half Muslims will never allow several million Jews to displace the Dome of the Rock with a new Jewish temple. Prophecy teachers who suggest that this will happen are not operating in reality. Muslims worldwide would descend upon Jerusalem and destroy it, before they would allow their sacred site to be displaced. Furthermore, the New Testament is clear that the Jewish nation is no longer God’s chosen nation or people; this position of honor was forfeited after their rejection and crucifixion of their Messiah, Jesus Christ (Matthew 21:43). As Paul states in Romans 2:25-29, and as I thoroughly document with numerous other scriptures in my article titled, “Israel”, being a “true Jew” in the New Testament era has nothing whatsoever to do with being a bloodline descendant of Abraham; being a “true Jew” and a member of the true “Israel of God” is constituted by having your heart circumcised without hands by the circumcision of Christ (Colossians 2:11; Romans 2:25-29; Galatians 6:15-16). As proven beyond the shadow of a doubt in my article, “Israel”, the true Israel in the New Testament era is a “spiritual Israel”, the Christian Church.
God’s temple in the New Testament is “Christian persons”, individually, (1st Corinthians 6:18-19), and the “Christian Church”, collectively or corporately (1st Corinthians 3:16-17). When the Apostle Paul wrote the Corinthian Church, they were separating into competing factions and, in the process, defiling and destroying the church; however, Paul referred it as destroying the “temple of God”. He basically told them to “stop it”, and warned them that God would destroy them if they persisted in destroying His temple, which is clearly His Christian Church in this passage (1st Corinthians 3:16-17). So, we know that the Christian Church is called God’s temple in the New Testament. This may also indicate that, when 2nd Thessalonians 2:4 refers to the antichrist sitting in the “temple of God” and declaring himself to be God, it may be referring to him sitting and ruling in the now “apostate” Christian Church.
If the “temple of God” refers to the Church in Revelation 11:1, then God is telling John to do some type of “measurement” of His Church; moreover, not just the Church collectively or corporately, but also a measurement of each individual Christian, because John was told to also measure the “worshippers” themselves. What kind of a measurement is John doing?
The Bible does refer to different types of “spiritual measurements”, such as a measure of faith in Romans 12:3, a measure of guilt in Matthew 23:32, and coming to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ in Ephesians 4:13. So, apparently God is taking “spiritual measurements” of the Christian Church and individual Christians in the last days to see who is “for real” and who is not; to see who measures up in faith and Christ-likeness of character; to see who God can and will use as part of His final “missionary movement” on earth.
In Revelation 11:2 John was told to leave out the court “outside the temple”, because it was given to the “gentiles” to tread the “holy city” underfoot for 42 months. If the temple was referring to the Christian Church, then those outside of the temple would be non-Christians. There would be no need to spiritually measure those who did not even profess to be Christians in the first place.
Who or what is represented by the “gentiles” who tread the “holy city” underfoot in this passage? The Greek word that is translated as gentiles in this text is “ethnos”, which can also be translated as nations, people or heathen, as well as the “gentiles” (non-Jews) translation used here. Therefore, Revelation 11:2 is probably stating that the nations, heathen or non-Christians will tread the “holy city” underfoot.
What does the holy city represent? Is it the literal, physical city of Jerusalem in Israel? That is highly unlikely for a few reasons. In the New Testament era Jerusalem is not pictured as a “holy city”. Jerusalem is called Sodom and Egypt in Revelation 11:8. It is called “Hagar”, who is the mother of the Arab world, and is said to be in bondage in Galatians 4:25-26. These are not complimentary terms. On the contrary, they are descriptive of an evil, rebellious place; the complete opposite of a “holy city”. Furthermore, the New Testament book of Hebrews states that we have “no city” here on this earth, but that we seek the “one to come” (Hebrews 13:14); this city being identified as the “heavenly Jerusalem” where true believers’ citizenship or membership is registered (Hebrews 12:22-23). For all of these reasons, Jerusalem in Israel is probably not the holy city referred to in Revelation 11:2. What “holy city”, then, is going to be tread underfoot by the nations, heathen or non-Christians? Jesus stated that His disciples (Christians) are a “city” set on a hill, in Matthew 5:14. And, Hebrews 12:22-23 reveals that believers have become members of the “heavenly Jerusalem”, which is the “true” holy city. Therefore, God may be telling John that His holy city, the one “set on a hill”, genuine Christians who are members of God’s heavenly Jerusalem, the “true” holy city; these faithful ones will be trampled underfoot by the nations and people in league with antichrist for a period of 42 months, as stated in Revelation 11:2, which time period is the same as that stated in Revelation 13:5-7 regarding the antichrist’s reign and his persecution of the “saints”, thus giving more credence to my explanation of Revelation 11:2.
Revelation 11:3 speaks of “two witnesses” who will prophecy in sackcloth for 1260 days. Being that 1260 days also equals 42 months, and that the wearing of sackcloth in Scripture is representative of sorrow and “hard times”; it seems likely that this is the same time period as the 42 months of antichrist’s reign of intense persecution mentioned in Revelation 13:5-7. Those who do public ministry in the face of civil penalties, fines, imprisonment, and an eventual death decree towards the end of this three and a half year period; their depiction wearing sackcloth is certainly appropriate during these “hard times”.
Who are the two witnesses of Revelation 11? Revelation 11:4 states that they are two “olive trees” and two “lampstands”. It is noteworthy that Jesus said His disciples are the “light” of the world, and He encourages them to shine their light (Matthew 5:14-16). Also significant, is that David said that he was a green “olive tree” in the house of God (Psalm 52:8). And, the Lord also called His Old Testament people a green “olive tree” (Jeremiah 11:16). In Zechariah’s vision of a lampstand with two olive trees by it, we’re told that the olive trees represent the two “anointed ones” who stand by the Lord (Zechariah 4:2,3,11-14). And, remember that Jesus said that He is with us always (Matthew 28:20). So, as Christians, we know that we are always with or by the Lord. And, God gave His Old Testament people of Israel the same assurance, by also telling them that He was with them and would not leave them (Deuteronomy 31:6). Therefore, both Old Testament Jews and New Testament Christians are portrayed as being with or by the Lord. Keeping this in mind, and remembering the previous texts that depict God’s people as being “lights” and “olive trees”, we will now look at one more scripture that provides additional evidence pointing to the near certain conclusion that the two witnesses in Revelation 11 represent God’s people, converted Jews and gentiles, working side by side in the final days of earth’s history.
Romans 11:17-24 portrays God’s New Testament Church as an “olive tree” with two types of branches. There are the natural branches representing converted “physical Jews”, and there are the wild or unnatural branches representing converted gentiles/“spiritual Jews”. These are, in fact, the two witnesses that God has used in Old and New Testament times. Before Christ came, He used the physical nation of Israel (physical Jews). Down through the centuries since Christ came, He has primarily used converted gentiles (spiritual Jews). However, in recent times there have been many Jews responding to the gospel, which has resulted in hundreds of thousands of “Messianic Jews” worshipping Jesus throughout the world. Remember that Romans 11:23-24 does state that the natural branches (physical Jews) can be grafted back into God’s olive tree if they come out of disbelief, thus placing them right alongside the wild or unnatural, gentile branches. Revelation 11 is the fulfillment of this scenario, with converted gentile Christians and Messianic Jews working together in the final days of earth’s history as God’s “two witnesses”. Also, the description of the identical fate of the two witnesses in Revelation 11:7, and the saints in Revelation 13:7, both of which having the antichrist-beast making war against them and overcoming them, certainly is additional evidence that my explanation is correct; that is, that the two witnesses of Revelation 11, and the saints of Revelation 13, are one and the same.
Revelation 11:5 states that if anyone wants to harm the two witnesses, fire proceeds from their mouths and devours their enemies. It adds that they must be killed in “this manner”. What does this mean? It is noteworthy that the fire comes out of their “mouths”. Mouths, of course, speak words. The Bible states that God puts His words in His servant’s mouth (Jeremiah 1:9). And, Jeremiah said that God’s word inside of him was like a “burning fire” that he could not hold back (Jeremiah 20:9). Furthermore, God said that He had made the words that He put in Jeremiah’s mouth to become “fire”; moreover, that He also made the people to become “wood”, and that they would be devoured by the “fire” of Jeremiah’s words (Jeremiah 5:14). However, there is no biblical or historical record of people literally being physically “burned up” when Jeremiah spoke. Obviously the word, “fire”, had a symbolic meaning in these passages in Jeremiah. Therefore, this identical imagery used for the two witnesses in Revelation 11 probably has the same symbolic meaning of that in Jeremiah. God’s words spoken through His servants in both cases destroy all of the phony excuses, arguments and charges presented by the wicked, even as fire destroys wood. And, the wicked will be held accountable for having heard and rejected the “words” of testimony spoken by God’s witnesses (John 15:22; James 4:17: Luke 12:47-49), thus resulting in their destruction by the “fires” of hell.
Revelation 11:6 reveals that the two witnesses will have miraculous powers manifest during their mission. It says that they can strike the earth with “plagues”, turn waters to blood, and will shut the heavens so that it does not rain during the days of their prophetic ministry, which is a time period of three and a half years; moreover, it is the same length of time that God shut the heavens through the prophet Elijah (James 5:17).
Revelation 11:7 states that the antichrist-beast will make war with them, overcome them and kill them, as in Revelation 13:7. This is a picture of extreme persecution and eventual martyrdom via the “death decree” of Revelation 13:15. However, God does not allow this to happen until after they finish their testimony, according to Revelation 11:7. Their worldwide mission will be accomplished (Matthew 24:14).
Revelation 11:8 says that their dead bodies will be left to lie in the street of the “great city” that is spiritually called Sodom and Egypt, where our Lord was crucified. Is this referring to the literal city of Jerusalem, or could it be spiritually symbolic of something else, such as the whole rebellious world? I ask you to consider the following important points. If the measuring of the temple and its worshippers in verse one is spiritually symbolic language; if the two olive trees and two lampstands in verse four are spiritually symbolic language; if the fire coming from the mouths of the two witnesses in verse five is spiritually symbolic language; if the two witnesses themselves are spiritually symbolic of converted Jews and gentiles conducting God’s final mission on earth; then, it is also certainly possible, if not probable, that the “great city” where our Lord was crucified mentioned in verse eight, is also spiritually symbolic; perhaps, as previously stated, symbolic of this entire rebellious world.
Why do I keep suggesting that the great city represents the entire world? Revelation 11:9 says that “peoples, tribes, tongues/languages and nations”, in other words, people throughout the world, will see their bodies and not allow them to be buried. If the two witnesses’ bodies were only laying in Jerusalem, other tribes and people groups in Africa, South America etc., would have no control over their two bodies in Jerusalem. Also, verse eight already implies a spiritual or symbolic application by saying that the city is “spiritually” called Sodom and Egypt. And, we must remember that Jesus was not only crucified in Jerusalem, but was also crucified in “this world”. Furthermore, Revelation 11:10 states that those who dwell on the “earth”, which would be the whole world, are glad when the two witnesses are killed. It says that this is because they had tormented those who dwell on earth, which would be people throughout the world. To have tormented people throughout the world by their message, the two witnesses obviously had to be preaching to people throughout the world, not just in Jerusalem. This also indicates a thorough worldwide ministry requiring far more than two persons. These two witnesses are symbolic of all faithful believers, Jews and gentiles, fulfilling Jesus’ prophecy of the gospel being preached as a witness to all the nations before the end comes (Matthew 24:14). If that’s true, their dead bodies would be scattered throughout the world, not just in Jerusalem.
Revelation 11:9 states that the dead bodies of God’s people are left to lie on the ground in open view for three and a half days. Why? Perhaps as a reminder to others that this is what will happen to you also if you don’t obey the antichrist; moreover, perhaps as a type of “trophy” for the antichrist. Devilish and primitive cultures have done this kind of thing in the past, practicing “head-shrinking” and scalping, and publicly mounting their gruesome prizes. We must remember that the devil and his demons have taken complete control over those who have rejected the gospel at this point.
Revelation 11:10 states that the two witnesses had “tormented” those who dwell on the earth. How? The “truth” does indeed torment and enrage those who are opposed to it. Read Acts 7:54-60, and note the rage against Stephen as he spoke the truth. It tormented those who opposed him to such an extent that they covered their ears and screamed so as not to hear him anymore before they stoned him. Also, keep in mind that the two witnesses have caused severe drought, thirst and famine by stopping the rain and turning the waters to blood; furthermore, they have caused plagues to come upon the wicked (Revelation 11:6). These things have certainly caused torment.
Revelation 11:11-12 states that after three and a half days, the two witnesses (God’s people) are resurrected and ascend to heaven. This is a fulfillment of 1st Thessalonians 4:16-17 and 1st Corinthians 15:51-54. At the same time this is happening, Revelation 11:13 says that there is a great earthquake destroying one-tenth of the city. It states that 7000 people are killed, which may either be a literal or symbolic number, probably symbolic. And, note that this earthquake is followed by another earthquake that is accompanied with “great hail”, which would seem to indicate that this second earthquake is during the seventh plague (Revelation 11:19; Revelation 16:17-21).