Welcome to a Revelation of Jesus, and the end of our series on the Seven Trumpets.
We have seen in Revelation chapters 10 and 11 that in the midst of the catastrophic Satan-inspired trumpet war at the end of time, God’s faithful representatives, symbolized by two witnesses, will take God’s final message to the world. The rich symbolism in these two chapters that we explored in video 39 tells us a lot about the two witnesses and their message.
They measure the temple, the altar, and the worshippers, showing that the foundation of their ministry is a revelation of the Character of God, the sacrifice of Christ, and the transformed life that God empowers us to live. They do not measure the outer court, showing that they reject the tradition of corruption, apathy, and false doctrine that has characterized historical Christendom.
Scriptural links to the ministries of Zerubbabel, Elijah, and Moses show that their ministry is steeped in the miracle-working power and authority of the Holy Spirit.
The emphasis on the power of God working in and through the two witnesses makes it seem at first that they will have uninterrupted victory and success in their mission. But remember that the Seven Trumpets are Satan’s last-ditch effort to hold onto the multitudes of people who have been his slaves and pawns, and he will do everything he can to oppose anyone who attempts to deprive him of what he considers to be his lawful property.
In particular, his wrath will fall on the two witnesses. “When [the two witnesses] finish their testimony, the beast that ascends out of the bottomless pit will make war against them, and kill them. And their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified” (Revelation 11:7,8). There is a lot in these two verses, so try to keep the whole passage in mind as we unpack the elements.
In video 39 we looked at the evidence that the two witnesses are not two specific individuals; they are all of God’s final messengers, known in Revelation chapters 7 and 14 as the 144,000.
They will be scattered everywhere in the world to represent Jesus during the time of the end. Likewise, the great city is not a particular city; indeed, the great city is identified repeatedly in Revelation as end-time Babylon, an international confederacy which in Revelation 17 is symbolized by the scarlet beast, the great harlot, and the ten kings.
Babylon is compared with other Biblical cities to show her characteristics. Like Sodom, she is ready to exploit and abuse people in order to get what she wants. Like Egypt, she neither knows nor submits to the true God. And like Jerusalem “where our Lord was crucified,” in the name of God she persecutes Jesus in the person of His representatives.
“The beast that ascends out of the bottomless pit will make war against [the two witnesses]” (Revelation 11:7). You may want to review video 32 which discusses the identity of the beast from the bottomless pit.
He first appears during the fifth trumpet as the angel of the bottomless pit, king over the locust army. Here in chapter 11, he leads the persecution that seeks to destroy God’s final witnesses. In chapter 16 he sends out evil spirits to gather the kings of the earth together to fight the Battle of Armageddon. In chapter 17 he allies himself with 10 kings to “make war with the Lamb” (Revelation 17:14).
In chapter 19 he and the kings of the earth are defeated at the Second Coming of Christ and cast into the lake of fire. He is “the man of sin” in 2 Thessalonians 2, and “sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God”.
This is the final antichrist, Satan himself fully possessing a human being and pretending to be Jesus. But he will be “destroyed by the brightness of [Jesus’] coming (2 Thessalonians 2:4,8).
I have to admit that it is disturbing to realize that this antichrist beast is going to be making war against the two witnesses. In this and the previous video we have talked about the two witnesses being God’s final representatives, with the idea that we should do all that we can to prepare to be among them. Does that mean we are signing up to go to war against the antichrist?
The short answer is that we won’t be able to avoid being affected by this final war.
It will be hard for everyone, but those on the side of the beast are going to suffer the most. For example, in video 30 we saw that the terrible locusts who are ruled by this same beast will torment those “who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads” (Revelation 9:4). But the 144,000 who are “sealed on their foreheads” are protected from the locusts. (Revelation 7:3). “The four angels bound at the river Euphrates,” who are also under the rulership of the beast, will be “released to kill a third of mankind” (Revelation 9:15). But Psalm 91 assures us that although we may see 10,000 falling beside us, the Lord will give His angels charge over us to keep us in all of our ways.
It is not hyperbole when both Daniel and Jesus say that the time of trouble will be worse than anything that has ever happened on earth. But as always, the place to be when there is trouble is in the center of God’s will for us, connected to Jesus and following His leading.
There may be martyrs. “[John] heard a voice from heaven saying, ‘blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on… that they may rest from their labors” (Revelation 14:13).
But to keep this in perspective, let’s remember that Revelation chapter 11, including the statement that the beast from the bottomless pit will make war against the two witnesses and kill them, is highly symbolic.
In video 29 we saw that the seven trumpets are divided into two sections. In Revelation chapters 8 and 9 John used a simile to compare the vicious weapons used in a terrible war at the time of the end with literal things that he knew about.
In contrast, John uses highly symbolic language in chapters 10 and 11 to describe how God will work through his faithful followers to win over a great multitude during the Great Tribulation.
John didn’t literally eat a book or measure a temple. The two witnesses are not literal olive trees. These are symbols and metaphors that we have analyzed in the last several videos.
The point is that when Revelation 11:7 says that “the beast that ascends out of the bottomless pit will make war against [the two witnesses], overcome them, and kill them” (Revelation 11:7), it doesn’t mean that God’s faithful followers will be mauled to death by a fierce monster.
Although some may die a martyr’s death, this verse is primarily symbolic of the crushing opposition that Jesus’ followers will face. Jesus summarized the experience we will have during the Great Tribulation: “You will be hated by all for My sake. But he who endures to the end shall be saved” (Mark 13:13).
We can learn more about the symbolic death and resurrection of the two witnesses from Daniel chapter 12, which uses identical language and symbols as Revelation 10 and 11. In video 38 we looked at the mighty angel standing over the sea and the land with a little book open in his hand, who appeared to John in Revelation 10. We saw that this is the same angel that appeared in Daniel 12. In both Revelation and Daniel, the angel raised his hands to heaven and swore by him who lives forever.
In Revelation, the angel swore that in the days when the seventh trumpet is about to sound the mystery of God would be finished. We saw that the time when the seventh trumpet is about to sound coincides with the death and resurrection of the two witnesses, and “the mystery of God will be finished” with the conversion of the Great multitude.
In Daniel 12 the angel swore that “when the power of the holy people has been completely shattered, all these things shall be finished” (Daniel 12:7).
Comparing these passages we see that the people called the two witnesses in Revelation 11 are called “the holy people” in Daniel 12. We also see that for the mystery of God to be finished, the two witnesses will have to endure an experience that will shatter their power.
This doesn’t sound very inviting, so let’s look at it in detail.
What is the significance of God’s last-day messengers being called “the holy people?” What is their power? And is it part of God’s plan for their power to be “completely shattered,” or is this just collateral damage from being alive during the Great Tribulation?
Notice first that in Isaiah 62 the holy people prepare the way for the Coming of Christ by removing obstacles and setting up a banner to show the way. “Prepare the way for the people; build up the highway! Take out the stones, lift up a banner for the peoples!… Surely your salvation is coming; behold, His reward is with Him. And they shall call them The Holy People” (Isaiah 62:10,11).
This confirms that the Holy People have the same mission as the Two Witnesses. Like John the Baptist they prepare the way for the coming of Christ.
Also notice that in several texts in Deuteronomy the holy people are those who keep God’s commandments. “The Lord has proclaimed you to be His special people… that you should keep all His commandments… that you may be a holy people to the Lord your God” (Deuteronomy 26:18,19, 7:6, 14:2, 28:9).
This is particularly relevant because the beast coalition will demand that everyone must break God’s commandments or be killed. “The beast coming out of the earth… causes the earth and those who dwell in it to worship the first beast… and cause as many as would not worship the image of the beast to be killed” (Revelation 13:11-15). This mandate is in blatant violation of the first, second, and sixth commandments.
In defiance of the beast, “the saints… keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus” (Revelation 14:12). This will focus the wrath of the beast coalition on God’s followers, and especially the two witnesses, who refuse to accept the mark of the beast.
This scenario may seem incredible, and unbelievable. How could anyone be so fanatical that they threaten the lives of those who don’t want to worship their way? But remember that this happens within the context of the six-trumpet war, which brings about the worst disasters that have ever taken place on planet earth.
The whole world, which is now apathetic about God, will become religious fanatics overnight as they try to find the right formula to get God to turn off the plagues and disasters. But instead of repenting of their sins, they will fix their attention on those who are supposedly making God angry by not going along with the counterfeit worship and false commandments of the antichrist beast.
We will have a lot more to say about this when we get to chapter 13, but the point is that for the two witnesses to be the holy people, they will put themselves in the crosshairs of the beast coalition, which will be very dangerous and stressful.
“When the power of the holy people has been completely shattered, all these things shall be finished” (Daniel 12:7).
We have already seen what the power of the two witnesses will be like, in the Old Testament links to the ministries of Zerubbabel, Elijah, and Moses. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, they performed miracles and persuaded and led multitudes out of slavery and idolatry. But they each experienced a period of doubt and discouragement.
Zerubbabel and the former captives got bogged down and quit working on the temple when they faced vicious opposition (Ezra 4:1-5).
Elijah “ran for his life” and “prayed that he might die” when wicked queen Jezebel threatened him (1 Kings 19).
Moses was ready to give up when the people persisted with their complaints and unbelief.
Apparently, the two witnesses will also have an experience like this.
Even after risking their lives to share the word of God, the people, “Did not repent of the works of their hands that they should not worship demons… and they did not repent of their murders or their sorceries or their sexual immorality or their thefts” (Revelation 9:20,21).
The threats associated with the mark of the beast put not only the two witnesses’ lives at risk, but also their families, friends, and those who accept their message. Then to see that the majority of the people still reject the plea to repent and follow Jesus will “shatter the power of the holy people”.
In this moment of weakness “the beast that ascends out of the bottomless pit will make war against them, overcome them, and [symbolically] kill them” (Revelation 11:7,8).
“Their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city… then those from the peoples, tribes, tongues, and nations will see their dead bodies for three-and-a-half days, and not allow their dead bodies to be put into graves. And the inhabitants of the earth will gloat over them and celebrate and exchange presents because these two prophets had been a torment to the inhabitants of the earth” (Revelation 11:8-10).
There is a lot of symbolism in this passage. The phrases “the great city” and “three-and-a-half days” are significant links to the Old Testament book of Jonah, and this helps us to unpack the meaning.
The phrase “the great city” is found four times in the book of Jonah and nowhere else in the Old Testament, referring to the city of Nineveh. Jonah had been a faithful prophet in the Northern kingdom of Israel (2 Kings 14:25). But he balked when God commanded him to prophesy to Nineveh, which Nahum identifies as the epitome of violence and wickedness.
Jonah booked passage on a ship to get as far away from Nineveh as possible. But after “Jonah was in the belly of a fish 3 days and 3 nights” (Jonah 1:17) he had a change of heart and “prayed to the Lord”, promising to “fulfill all [his] vows”. “Then the LORD ordered the fish to spit Jonah out onto the beach (Jonah 2:1-10).
“The word of the Lord came to Jonah the second time, saying, ‘Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and preach to it the message that I tell you” (Jonah 3:1). Jonah obeyed, “and the people of Nineveh believed God… from the greatest to the least of them” (Jonah 3:5). It was Jonah’s experience “in the heart of the sea” that transformed his life and enabled him to reach the hardened, violent people of Nineveh.
Let me tell you how I think the book of Jonah applies to the two witnesses.
As they prepare for their ministry they will “eat the little book,” in other words, they will study and understand the prophecies about the last days. They will measure the temple, the altar, and the worshipers, in other words, they will gain a deep understanding of God’s character, Christ’s sacrifice, and what it means to be a follower of Jesus.
All of this will be “sweet in their mouth” and they will enthusiastically go out to share it with the people around them.
But when they see that “the rest of mankind, who were not killed by the plagues [of the first six trumpets] did not repent of their murders or their sorceries or their sexual immorality or their thefts” (Revelation 6:20) “their stomach [will become] bitter” and their “power will be shattered” (Revelation 10:10, Daniel 12:7).
For three symbolic days and nights, their witness will be dead in the face of discouragement and persecution. “Those who dwell on the earth“ who had been “tormented” by the powerful “prophesy” of the two witnesses “will gloat over them and celebrate and exchange presents, because these two prophets had been a torment to them” (Revelation 11:10).
The followers of the beast who have stubbornly resisted God’s final appeal through the two witnesses will feel the smug satisfaction that they have finally defeated the ones that they believe have provoked God’s wrath.
“After the three-and-a-half days the breath of life from God [will] enter them and they [will] stand on their feet” (Revelation 11:11). The two witnesses, like Jonah, will be transformed by their “near death” experience and will “pray to the Lord” and “renew their vows” to do whatever the Lord asks of them. Filled with the Holy Spirit, they will hear a “voice from heaven saying to them, ‘Come up here” and by faith, they will “ascend to heaven in a cloud.” (Revelation 11:12).
In video 24 we saw that during the Great tribulation the two witnesses will have an experience in which they will by faith be on the sea of glass before the throne of God even while the chaos of the great tribulation is swirling all around them. They will be like Stephen who, when he was about to be stoned, “being full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God; he said, ‘Look! I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!” (Acts 7:55,56)
The two witnesses will complete their mission, not by what they have done but by what they have become. Their symbolic resurrection and ascension to heaven means that through faith they have become like Jesus.
Psalm 40 summarizes their ministry. “I have proclaimed the good news of righteousness in the great assembly; Indeed, I have not restrained my lips, O Lord, as You Yourself well know. I have not hidden Your righteousness within my heart; I have declared Your faithfulness and Your salvation; I have not concealed Your lovingkindness and Your truth from the great assembly” (Psalm 40:9,10).
The symbolic death and resurrection of the two witnesses will have a profound effect on the people all around them. “Great fear fell on those who saw them… and they rose to heaven in a cloud as their enemies watched. In the same hour, there was a great earthquake, and a tenth of the city fell. In the earthquake, seven thousand people were killed, and the rest were afraid and gave glory to the God of heaven” (Revelation 11:13) Again this is a symbolic earthquake; there have been many earthquakes in history that have killed hundreds of thousands of people, so the 7,000 who are killed in this earthquake probably symbolize all of the “enemies” who reject God’s invitation to eternal life. But “the remnant were afraid and gave glory to the God of heaven” (Revelation 11:13).
They have responded to God’s final invitation, “Fear God and give glory to Him, for the hour of His judgment has come”.
This response is the massive change of allegiance that brings about the end of the Seven Trumpets.
“Then the seventh angel sounded: and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, ‘The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever” (Revelation 11:14,15).
But all is not well yet. John reminds us that although “the second woe is [now] past, the third woe is coming quickly” (Revelation 11:14).
This is the Seven Last Plagues that God will use to protect His faithful servants from those who would destroy them. But before presenting the plagues Revelation takes a three-chapter detour to put the whole book into perspective and to focus on the climax of the final crisis.
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And to find out in advance where this is all going, you can order the book A Revelation of Jesus by David Lackey, available from online bookstores.