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Bible Commentaries

Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible

Revelation 11

 

 

Other Authors
Verse 1

REV:11

The first section of this chapter (Revelation 11:1-13) concludes the sixth trumpet with its vision of the fortunes of the church right up to the end and through the final judgment itself. The seventh trumpet (Revelation 11:14-19) describes the eternal state but gives no details concerning events in it. Several references to the actual judgment itself are retrospective, referring to an event which is past already. This seventh trumpet resembles the seventh seal in its silence regarding actual events after the judgment.

This chapter is a vision, and practically nothing in it is to be taken literally; the great realities discussed are presented under a number of symbols, some of which may not be crucial to the meaning, but are inert, like some of the details in the parables of Jesus. Morris called this chapter "extraordinarily difficult to interpret,"[1] and none could disagree with that. As Alford cautioned, "Much of this mysterious book is as yet unfathomed."[2] Despite this, however, we offer the following interpretation as a sincere understanding of what the text says. Here are some of the symbols and the meanings which we believe to be conveyed by them:

<MONO>

The reed like unto a rod = The Word of God

The measuring = The sealing of the saints

The temple, altar, etc. = The church of God

The forty and two months = This whole dispensation

The two witnesses = The Word of God and the Word-indwelt Church

The beast out of the abyss = Satan

The slaying of the witnesses = The world's rejection of their testimony

Resurrection of witnesses = Resurgence of truth

The unburied bodies = "Operations" of dead churches

The calling of the witnesses = The resurrection and final to heaven judgmentSIZE>MONO>

Other symbols will be interpreted as they appear in the chapter. The comments of others will also be presented in connection with the meanings which we have ascribed to these symbols.

Regarding the various systems of interpretation, as applied to this chapter, a glance at some of these will show how diverse are the views of it that appear in current writings.

The literalists take if for just what it says; and, of course, all of us should try to do that. The trouble is that figurative language cannot be understood literally; and no one familiar with the Bible can deny that a great deal of it is written in figurative language, every known figure of speech being freely employed.

Dusterdieck and others think this chapter refers literally to the Jewish temple and the earthly Jerusalem; but, if so, the Apocalypse stands self-condemned as a prediction falsified (by the contradiction of events) within a year or so of its having been written.[3]

The futurists get rid of all such difficulties by referring the whole prophecy to the remote future, supposing that by then Jerusalem and the temple shall have been completely rebuild as of old, and then, at that far-off future time, the events of this chapter will literally occur. They identify the beast as Antichrist.

The historicists, among whom is the noted Albert Barnes, identify the witnesses as "persecuted sects of the Middle Ages, and the beast as the Papacy."[4] There is an element of truth in this, because the apostasy foretold in Revelation, and the persecutions that were to accompany it, did have a fulfillment in such events, but not the fulfillment.

The preterists think that practically everything in Revelation had its fulfillment in the first generation or so after it was written, and that nothing in it reaches any further than "the first two or three centuries after it was written."[5] Some of this group of interpreters find in the "two witnesses" who were slain the martyrdoms of Peter and Paul, supposing that they will yet rise from the dead and preach, as in the vision!

The preterists are correct in seeing a genuine relevance in this prophecy for the first generation that received it; but they are totally wrong in restricting its relevance to the apostolic and sub-apostolic ages.

The futurists in their interpretation lose all relevance whatever in this prophecy to any age except that of a brief period before the final coming of Christ. Thus, these lose all relevance of Revelation for any age except the very last; and the preterists lose all relevance to any age except the very first. Both views are wrong, because God's word is relevant to all times, periods and conditions. The many prophecies in Revelation are being fulfilled continually. For example, the evil enemies of the New Testament have been "killing it" all of this writer's lifetime; and they are still "killing it! .... But the word of the Lord endureth for ever." The apostasy was not one final act of the Medieval Church; it is also Jim Jones' bizarre sect in Guyana in 1978, and a thousand other things. None of this is intended to deny that some fulfillments are so much more extensive and prolonged that they indeed stand typically for all fulfillments.

There has never been a time when this prophecy was not relevant; nor will there ever be. No other understanding of it, it appears to us, could be harmonized with the significant beatitude of Revelation 1:3, "Blessed are they that read ... hear ... and keep the things that are written therein."

And there was given me a reed like unto a rod; and one said, Rise, and measure the temple of God, and the altar, and them that worship therein. (Revelation 11:1)

A reed like unto a rod ... Is this a literal cane some ten or fifteen feet long? How could the worshippers of God be measured by any such stick as this? What does it symbolize? Lenski can hardly be wrong in his comment that:

The reed must then symbolize the word or Gospel in its function of determining who is in the church and who is outside of its bounds.[6]

When one speaks of the Canon of the New Testament, he is speaking of this "reed like unto a rod." The very word "Canon means rule, or standard,"[7] in the sense of our ordinary word ruler as the name of a small measuring device. Once the meaning of this "rod" is seen, other meanings in the passage fall into place.

Measure the temple of God, and the altar, and them that worship ... "Temple of God" in this passage is impossible to accept as a reference to the literal Jewish temple in Jerusalem, called by the Son of God himself a "den of thieves and robbers." That an angel of God should have been concerned with having John measure that desolation (Matthew 23:38) is inconceivable. "It scarcely seems possible to doubt that temple here is used figuratively for the faithful portion of the Church of Christ."[8] In fact, the word here rendered temple is actually sanctuary (ASV margin), "The Greek word [@nous] means the." holy house, where God dwells ... The use of [@nous] here for the thing to be measured makes a literal interpretation of temple impossible."[9] "For John, the temple is the Christian Church, the people of God."[10] "This sanctuary symbolizes the true church."[11]

If any distinction is to be made between the temple and the altar, which is doubtful, it would appear to be that the altar refers to the worship itself, the doctrine and practice of the faithful portion of the church; and the temple refers to the whole body of the church.

The measuring of the "worshippers" would naturally mean the evaluation of their lifestyle, character, and behaviour by the principles taught in the word of God. Thus the corporate body of the church, its doctrine, worship, and teaching, as well as the individual character and conduct of its members would all be included in the measuring. Significantly, there have been pronounced departures from the word of God in all of these categories by the historical church.

What is the purpose of the measuring? In the Old Testament, things were "measured" either for destruction or for preservation; but the identity of what is measured here suggests that "the measuring is a symbolical way of declaring its preservation, not from physical sufferings, but from spiritual danger."[12] Hendriksen likewise concurred in the judgment that the measuring here means "the setting apart from that which is profane."[13]

This measuring by the word of God has the same purpose and effect as the sealing of the 144,000 in Revelation 7. The sealing there is done by the Holy Spirit; and the measuring here is by the word, those who are indwelt by the word (Colossians 3:16). The indwelling, whether by the Spirit, or by the word, being exactly the same either way. There is no difference. See my Commentary on Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians, pp. 97-99. It is good to note that many scholars have seen this correspondence with the sealing. "This corresponds to the sealing in Revelation 7:1-8."[14] An important deduction from this is that:

The vision therefore declares that whatever corruptions invade the church, the kernel of the church will never be destroyed; but out of it there will arise those who will be true to the Master's commission.[15]

This promise of protection for God's church, indicated in this vision by the "measuring," was made by the Lord himself in Matthew 28:18-20.

[1] Leon Morris, Tyndale Commentaries, Vol. 20, The Revelation of St. John (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1969), p. 144.

[2] Henry Alford as quoted by Albertus Pieters, Studies in the Revelation of St. John (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1954), p. 137.

[3] A. Plummer, The Pulpit Commentary, Vol. 22, Revelation (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1950), p. 288.

[4] Ralph Earle, Beacon Bible Commentary, Vol. 10 (Kansas City: Beacon Hill Press, 1967), p. 565.

[5] Albertus Pieters, op. cit., p. 38.

[6] R. C. H. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. John's Revelation (Minneapolis. Minnesota: Augsburg Publishing House, 1943), p. 327.

[7] Vergilius Ferm, An Encyclopedia of Religion (New York: Philosophical Library, 1943), p. 116.

[8] A. Plummer, op. cit., p. 288.

[9] Charles H. Roberson, Studies in Revelation (Tyler, Texas: P. D. Wilmeth, P.O. Box 3305,1957), p. 69.

[10] William Barclay, The Revelation of John (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1976), p. 68.

[11] William Hendriksen, More than Conquerors (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1956), p. 153.

[12] Robert H. Mounce, Commentary on the New Testament Revelation (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1977), p. 219.

[13] William Hendriksen, op. cit., p. 152.

[14] Robert H. Mounce, op. cit., p. 219.

[15] W. Boyd Carpenter, Ellicott's Bible Commentary, Vol. VIII (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1959), p. 584.


Verse 2

And the court which is without the temple leave without, and measure it not; for it hath been given unto the nations: and the holy city shall they tread under foot forty and two months.

Measure not ... the court which is without ... Although associated with the temple, this court was not part of the sanctuary; and, symbolically, the leaving out of this means that there are people who are nominally "Christian," associated in every way with Christianity, but who actually are no part of it. "This represents the unfaithful portion of the church."[16]

Leave without ... "This means that John was commanded to, "Throw it out; reject it as profane, and to draw no boundary to mark any part of it as sacred."[17]

For it hath been given unto the nations ... Lenski thought that this should be rendered "unto the heathen";[18] but we believe John's use of the same language here that Jesus used in the prophecy of Luke 21:24 is the true key to understanding what is meant by the forty and two months. Jesus said:

And Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles (nations), until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled (Luke 21:24).

It could hardly be an accident that so much of the terminology of Jesus' prophecy appears in John's words in this verse. We are therefore justified in viewing the "times of the Gentiles" there with the "forty and two months" here, both expressions having the meaning of this entire dispensation.

And the holy city they shall tread under foot ... Just as the Gentile world would tread the literal Jerusalem under foot until "the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled," in like manner would a great host of (so-called) Gentile Christians desecrate the true church by their perversion of Christianity. This would be accomplished by their wholesale invasion of it, "in the form of a false Christianity."[19] The use of "holy city" here should not mislead us. "In A.D. 30, the once holy city of Jerusalem had already joined Sodom and Egypt as a typical example of all great wicked cities."[20] Despite this, there is, however, still a holy city, which is the holy church of Jesus Christ.

For forty and two months ... This passage makes the meaning of this expression transparent. It is the same as "the times of the Gentiles" mentioned by Jesus; that is, "the entire period of the Christian dispensation."[21] The mention of this specific time period reveals that, "There is a limit of the extent to which the Gentiles can do their treading under foot."[22] The historicists (Barnes) find this to mean that, "On the year-day principle, there is a reference to 1,260 years of Papal supremacy, ending in 1517 A.D."[23] We do not doubt that the apostasy of the Medieval Church, continuing until the present time, is indeed a significant part of what is here prophesied; but the "modernist" churches of Protestantism are equally also a part of it. Many of them have also rejected the word of the Lord and despised the true head of the church.

There may be another thing symbolized by the time period here, which is the same as 3 1/2 years, the half of the perfect seven. Roberson interpreted this as, "the true expression of the church's state as half of the required perfection."[24]

We shall meet with this forty and two months, or its equivalent, in Revelation again and again; but in every case, the same is meant, "The Gospel Age."[25]

[16] Frank L. Cox, Revelation in 26 Lessons (Nashville: Gospel Advocate Company, 1956), p. 73.

[17] R. C. H. Lenski, op. cit., p. 330.

[18] Ibid.

[19] Ibid., p. 331.

[20] G. B. Caird, The Revelation of St. John the Divine (New York: Harper and Row, 1966), p. 132.

[21] Frank L. Cox, op. cit., p. 73.

[22] Leon Morris. op. cit., p. 147.

[23] Ralph Earle, op. cit., p. 563.

[24] Charles H. Roberson, op. cit., p. 70.

[25] William Hendriksen, op. cit.. p. 154.


Verse 3

And I will give unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days, clothed in sackcloth.

My two witnesses ... The identity of these two witnesses appears to this writer to be definitely and undeniably, God's word, and God's church, those two witnesses indeed being the only two witnesses of God throughout the whole Christian age, since the ascension of Jesus Christ our Lord. One of these was featured in the preceding chapter under the imagery of the "little book open" in the hand of the Rainbow Angel; and the introduction of the two witnesses here without any preliminary suggests that they have both already appeared. Indeed, John, after eating the little book is the symbol of both the Word and the Church. Many other "explanations" of these two witnesses are fanciful but unconvincing.

Many scholars have recognized the positive connection between these two witnesses and "the people of Christ,"[26] "the church bearing testimony through its ministers, etc.,"[27] "the elect church of God,"[28] etc.; but such identifications fall short of explaining how there are "two" of these witnesses. In order to come up with two, such pairs as the following have been proposed:

The Old and the New Testaments[29]

Moses and Elijah.[30]

Elijah and Elisha.[31]

Elijah and Enoch[32]

Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians.[33]

The blameless churches, Smyrna and Philadelphia.[34]

Missionaries sent out "two by two."[35]

Preach the gospel to Jews and Gentiles[36]

The apostles Paul and Peter.

Zerubbabel and Joshua.[37]SIZE>

The extreme importance of identifying these two witnesses as God's Word and God's Church, here personified, will be apparent later in this chapter.

They shall prophesy, clothed in sackcloth ... This symbolizes the general rejection of these witnesses by the world and the apostate church. Their true testimony is given in mourning throughout the whole Christian dispensation. The true church is persecuted, and the Word is denied, contradicted, blasphemed, perverted, mistranslated, and opposed by every class of evil men continually.

And they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days ... Note the duration of the witnessing. It lasts throughout the entire period of the gospel from the First to the Second Advent of Christ. Particularly, let it be noted that neither Moses, Elijah, nor any other of the alleged "witnesses" tabulated above has either been seen or heard of during this whole time! But the Word and the Church have never ceased to bear their testimony.

[26] J. R. Dummelow, Commentary on the Holy Bible (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1937), p. 1081.

[27] William Hendriksen, op. cit., p. 155.

[28] A. Plummer, op. cit., p. 289.

[29] Ibid.

[30] Leon Morris, op. cit., p. 147.

[31] Ibid.

[32] Ibid.

[33] Vernard Eller, The Most Revealing Book in the Bible (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1974), p. 116.

[34] G. B. Caird, op. cit., p. 134.

[35] Frank L. Cox, op. cit., p. 74.

[36] Albertus Pieters, op. cit., p. 148.

[37] James D. Strauss, The Seer, the Saviour, and the Saved (Joplin, Missouri: College Press, 1972), p. 154.


Verse 4

These are the two olive trees and the two candlesticks, standing before the Lord of the earth.

These are the two olive trees and the two candlesticks ... This pinpoints the vision of Zechariah 4:2-6, which contains a vision of the same seven candlesticks, representing the Lord's churches, with which this prophecy began (Revelation 1:12f); but John needed a "two" here instead of a "seven"; so he fastened upon "the two olive trees" of the same vision. These were also said by the angel of Zechariah's vision to be the "Word of the Lord" (Zechariah 4:6), thus making these two olive trees a fitting designation of the Word, as well as being a symbol of the church. For a fuller treatment of this, see in my Commentary on Hebrews, pp. 181-183. Now the two olive trees alone would best be understood as the Old Testament and the New Testament, but John did not use the olive trees alone as the two witnesses; he threw in the "candlesticks," already presented in Revelation as a symbol of the whole church; but, in order to conform the symbol to the requirements of presenting just two witnesses, he mentioned just two, instead of the seven. There is also something else in this. The seven candlesticks of chapter 1 represented the wicked and faithless churches, as well as the true ones, of which there were just two; and, since the two witnesses presented in this chapter are "faithful," the two candlesticks would represent "the faithful portion of the church," as distinguished from all of it, as being one of the faithful witnesses of this chapter. Therefore, the two olive trees represent the word of God (the Old Testament and the New Testament), and the two candlesticks represent the true church (the Smyrna and Philadelphia congregations as contrasted with the remainder of the seven). A reference to the tabulated pairs above will show how close some of the commentators came to this interpretation without ever seeing it. Thus this verse emphatically confirms the identification of these two witnesses as the personified Word of God and the Church of God.

Plummer identified these two witnesses as the Old Testament and the New Testament on the basis of that being their meaning in Zechariah 4:2-6; and that is surely correct as far as it goes. It is the injection of the candlesticks that indicates the Church as one of the witnesses. Of course, the Old Testament and the New Testament are the Word of God. Thus our interpretation is, in a sense, but a refinement of Plummer's.

Leon Morris' comment on this should also be noted: "Since there are seven lampstands, and only two are mentioned here, it is only part of the church which is meant."[38] This is true; only two of the seven churches symbolized by the seven candlesticks of Revelation 1 were true, Smyrna and Philadelphia. This justifies the conclusion, therefore, that the "part" mentioned by Morris is actually the "whole" of the true church. Some, of course, make those two congregations the "two witnesses" of this chapter, but have they prophesied throughout the whole Christian dispensation in sackcloth? No!

Standing before the Lord of the earth ... The stability and faithfulness of the two witnesses is manifest in such a statement as this. God's two faithful witnesses, the Word and the Church, are indestructible. The Word endureth forever, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against the Church.

ENDNOTE:

[38] Leon Morris, op. cit., p. 148.


Verse 5

And if any man desireth to hurt them, fire proceedeth out of their mouth and devoureth their enemies; and if any man shall desire to hurt them, in this manner must he be killed.

This verse never pertained to any mere individual in the history of the world. How then does it symbolize the truth regarding the Word and the Church? "One should not think of the witnesses being able to perform such miracles literally."[39] Cox explained it as the witnesses' consumption of their enemies "by the fire of truth which they proclaim";[40] and there is surely an element of profound truth in this as indicated by Heb. 11:17,2 Corinthians 2:16; but we believe that something else is indicated, namely, the providential protection of both the Word and the Church by Almighty God through Christ. God will, in the last analysis, permit no man to destroy either! Look at what happened to Herod Agrippa I (Acts 12th chapter); and there have been many other historical examples of the interposition of the heavenly will against the purposes of wicked men who would have destroyed either the Bible or the Church of God. We do not believe that it is possible for any wicked authority, no matter how powerful, to "hurt" in any meaningful sense, either of God's faithful witnesses, both of whom are commissioned to testify throughout the entire Christian dispensation, and who will most certainly be protected in the discharge of that commission until it is accomplished. This verse is therefore the apocalyptic presentation of the divine promises recurring throughout the New Testament to the effect that God's word endures forever, and that the Lord will be "with" his church even to the end of the world.

If any man desire to hurt them, in this manner must he be killed ... God still rules over his creation; and wicked men who actually desire to thwart God's will are scheduled to receive swift and terrible punishment now, in this present time. Read Luke 18:6-8. "Shall not God avenge his elect? I say unto you that he will avenge them speedily." Dummelow's comment on this passage in Luke is thus: "Jesus' words here were literally fulfilled in the calamities which overtook the Jews and the chief heathen persecutors of the Christians."[41] Lactantius has twenty pages regarding this phenomenon.[42] See my Commentary on Luke, pp. 387,388 for further comment on this. Roberson agreed with Cox that, "The witnesses slay their enemies by the fire of the word which they utter."[43] We noted above the great element of truth in such views; but it appears to be some power which is above the witnesses themselves which thus destroys their enemies. Note that the witnesses here are not actually depicted as doing the slaying. The use of the passive voice emphasizes this.

[39] J. W. Roberts, The Revelation of John (Austin, Texas: R. B. Sweet Company, 1974), p. 90.

[40] Frank L. Cox, op. cit., p. 74.

[41] J. R. Dummelow, op. cit., p. 763.

[42] Lactantius, Of the Manner in Which the Persecutors Died, from The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1951), Vol. VIII, pp. 301-322.

[43] Charles H. Roberson, op. cit., p. 71.


Verse 6

These have the power to shut the heaven, that it rain not during the days of their prophecy: and they have power over the waters to turn them into blood, and to smite the earth with every plague, as often as they shall desire.

The power here attributed to the witnesses is actually a reference, not to their power in themselves, but to that of their great Guardian, Benefactor, and King, the Lord himself.

Powers to shut the heaven ... This verse sends the commentators rushing to Elijah for what they think is the meaning. "He had the power to withhold rain," they say; but did he? "Was it not God's Word, not the prophet, who did this? Therefore, all of the worthies of the Old Testament, either singly or collectively, if they should come back to this earth (which none of them will ever do), would never be able to do what is mentioned here.

Powers over the waters to turn them to blood ... It is clear that what John is doing here is merely citing some of the great historical examples of wonders performed by the word of God upon behalf of his people, with the inherent deduction that the same power is still operative upon their behalf.

What is indicated here is not a capricious exercise of awesome power, but a statement that there is awesome power still available to protect and accompany the two witnesses in their proclamation of the truth. This power is not at all exercised by people, but by God himself in his providential protection of both his word and his people; and it is never exercised capriciously, but only when necessary, and always in complete harmony with God's will. The word here is not that God shall continuously exhibit such wonders, but that the power is there. "They have power" is the repeated clause here. That this great power is here said to belong to the two witnesses must not obscure the truth that the power is God's, and that it belongs to the witnesses merely in the sense of their being the true agents of God in this dispensation.


Verse 7

And when they shall have finished their testimony, the beast that cometh up out of the abyss shall make war with them" and overcome them, and kill them.

And when they shall have finished their testimony ... This may be construed as meaning (1) at the end of the gospel age when all proclamations of the truth has been completed or (2) repeatedly, whenever and wherever the message is faithfully delivered. We are certain that the latter of these two interpretations is correct and shall therefore construe it as reference to a repeated phenomenon.

As a repeated phenomenon. Upon any occasion in history when the word of God is fully and adequately proclaimed, what happens? The devil immediately goes to war against the truth and never stops until he kills it and overcomes it. This is symbolical, of course, for neither the word of the Lord nor the holy church can be overcome or killed literally. The word of the Lord endureth for ever; and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against the church. Despite this, the damage inflicted by the evil one is sufficient to justify the hyperbolic metaphor describing it. Has not Satan been "killing the Bible" for ages? And yet it still lives.

As a final, post-dispensational event. Many interpreters adopt this view, bring in the Antichrist, get the church out of the way with a "rapture," and then construct all kinds of theories based upon twenty different interpretations of various details mentioned in this and accompanying verses. We reject this view because the "beast that cometh up out of the abyss" has already arrived ages ago, as evident in the very next clause.

The beast that cometh up out of the abyss ... This can be none other than Satan; and his "coming up" here is not an event deferred until near the final judgment. This beast is introduced here without explanation, because none is needed. He has been around since the Garden of Eden; and it is no new thing that "he makes war" against all truth and righteousness. He "killed" the word of God for Eve, and he has been "killing it" ever since, and in exactly the same manner, by scoffing at it, by denying it, by contradicting, etc. Today, Satan has succeeded in "killing" most churches, as far as their effective proclamation of convicting, saving truth is concerned. The church of our times is at ease in Zion and is free from persecution merely because Satan has no cause whatever for worry regarding their witness of the whole word of God. Some refer to the beast in this verse as a "monster,"[44] but it is the spiritual enemy of mankind who is symbolized; and his appearance to man is frequently in a very attractive form. Therefore, the conception of a "monster" literalizes the passage, which is incorrect. Others make this beast "the Roman Empire or the Antichrist,"[45] or as Lenski said, "the whole anti-Christian power in the world";[46] but that latter designation is only another name for Satan. We agree with Plummer that, "The Beast is Satan,"[47] a conclusion also reached by Cox.[48]

[44] G. B. Caird, op. cit., p. 137.

[45] Albertus Pieters, op. cit., p. 147.

[46] R. C. H. Lenski, op. cit., p. 342.

[47] A. Plummer, op. cit., p. 291.

[48] Frank L. Cox, op. cit., p. 74.


Verse 8

And their dead bodies lie in the street of the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also their Lord was crucified.

And their dead bodies lie in the street ... This describes no literal event. "They that dwell on the earth" (Revelation 11:10), meaning "all men" shall see this; and to think of just two individual men remaining unburied in some specific city is ridiculous. Something of far greater import than this is depicted. "The word for street here signifies a broad street, such as the principal street of a city would be."[49] Thus, we may say that the unburied bodies of the dead, decorate Broadway!

Of the great city ... "This phrase never refers to Jerusalem."[50] What does it mean? "It is man in organized community and opposed to God."[51] "It is civilization utterly alien to the will of God."[52] "It is every city, and not city";[53] and therefore, it means all the cities of mankind. This is exceedingly important to the understanding of Revelation 11:13. Its allegorical names (note the plural) are Sodom, Egypt, and Jerusalem (where the Lord was crucified). There is just as much authority for restricting the meaning here to Sodom as there is for referring it exclusively to Jerusalem, and neither could be correct; and yet countless scholars have fallen into the error of reading this as a reference to literal, earthly Jerusalem. This type of literalism has destroyed the perception of many. For example, Beckwith declared that, "The details make clear that primarily the literal Jerusalem is meant."[54] Jerusalem is not even a "great city" in any sense. Lenski said, "I rode completely around its outer walls in just an hour on an ass, in 1925!"[55] Also, Eller said:

By the triple allegorical name, John has freed the city here of any physical or geographical limitations. It can be located anywhere at any time, just as Picasso's Guernica is at one and the same time, both Guernica, Spain, 1937, and also any and every other place where war has wreaked its destruction.[56]

The spiritual character of the world's great cities this very day lives up to the triple names assigned to them in this marvelous prophecy. Like Jerusalem, they are the headquarters of God's apostate peoples: "Like Sodom, they are corrupt; like Egypt, they are tyrannical."[57] This proper identification of "the great city" here will make the exegesis of Revelation 11:13 understandable.

The dead bodies left in the streets ... Returning to this aspect of the vision again, the bodily presence of dead churches on the principal avenues and "Broadways" of earth's cities all over the world is attested by their impressive buildings which are the principal adornment of many such streets; and their physical attractiveness explains why the dead are thus permitted to remain "unburied" for all people to see. This thought will be further elaborated under the following verse.

[49] Charles H. Roberson, op. cit., p. 73.

[50] James D. Strauss, op. cit., p. 156.

[51] Leon Morris, op. cit., p. 143.

[52] Robert H. Mounce, op. cit., p. 218.

[53] Leon Morris, op. cit., p. 143.

[54] Isbon T. Beckwith, The Apocalypse of John (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1919), p. 586.

[55] R. C. H. Lenski, op. cit., p. 75.

[56] Vernard Eller, op. cit., p. 113.

[57] Frank L. Cox, op. cit., p. 75.


Verse 9

And from among the peoples and tribes and tongues and nations do men look upon their dead bodies three days and a half, and suffer not their dead bodies to be laid in a tomb.

Peoples ... tribes ... tongues ... nations ... This is no isolated event in one particular city, but a worldwide phenomenon. It is seen in Houston, New York, Moscow, Paris, Tokyo, Havana, etc., everywhere. It is simply impossible to refer the scene here to some Passover crowd in the literal Jerusalem, or to any other isolated and specific location and occasion. "Look upon their dead bodies three days and a half ..." Why do they do such a thing? Because unspiritual and apostate Christians take pleasure in the contemplation of the dead relics of what once was true and living faith. Long after churches have literally chiseled the name of the Son of God off the cornerstones of their houses of worship, and after they have denied his holy religion by the rejection of its great essential doctrine, and after they have made "their church" as worldly, unbelieving, and apostate as possible, do they "bury it"? No indeed! It becomes a favorite rendezvous of scoffing unbelievers. This example should not be misunderstood as a fabrication by this writer. Only compassion forbids our naming the mighty "church" near where this writer lived for seventeen years in Gotham, which actually did all that we have suggested. "The citizens of the great city are happy indeed to feast their eyes upon the dead witnesses. They are delighted now to see that the testimony of the Word to the nations will never be heard again."[58] And, as far as a given generation that rejects the word of God is concerned, this is exactly the way it is. However, in reality, neither the Word nor the Church, God's true witnesses, is ever actually destroyed, as indicated by Revelation 11:11.

And suffer not their dead bodies to be laid in the tomb ... Moffatt observed that the climax of pagan malice was "the refusal to let the bodies of the martyrs be buried by their friends."[59] Like many others, Moffatt here made the mistake of limiting the term "witnesses" to only one of its inherent meanings. These particular witnesses are indeed "martyrs," the Incarnate Word himself having died for all people, and the Church herself being entitled to the designation because of her countless sons who were actually martyrs; but here the far more appropriate meaning of "witnesses" is "those who testify to God's truth." We have already noted that a great many expositors seem to have "hung up" on this term as if it could only mean a certain class who gave up their lives for the faith. Moffatt also missed another point here, perhaps the biggest one in the passage, that being not the mere fact of the burial refused, but of the place where the dead were allowed to lie in the middle of the principal street! This absolutely forbids any literal understanding of this passage.

For three days and a half ... This does not mean merely half a week, but symbolizes a much longer period, but still far short of the thousand two hundred and three score days of the whole dispensation. Human nature being what it is, there is no way to imagine that actual dead corpses would be allowed to lie unburied on a literal city's principal street even for a literal three days and a half; not even the corpse of an animal would be allowed to remain in such a place for such a time. What is indicated is the attractiveness and acceptability of the witness of the "dead" churches.

Here is pictured the church accommodating herself to the ways of the world, proclaiming no unpleasant doctrine, demanding no painful sacrifices, and with the world hailing with satisfaction the prospect of an easy yoke and the cheap purchase of both time and eternity.[60]

Only this kind of a dead corpse would be allowed indefinitely a favored location on Broadway. Preachers and commentators indicating by every word they write or speak that they do not believe the Bible to be God's word at all have indeed "killed it" of any significance for those who are deceived by them; but do they "bury it" or even allow it to be buried? Certainly not. They continue to devote their lives to writing and talking about it.

How great is the delusion of the church, when her silver is turned to dross, her wine to water, and when her voice no longer torments them that dwell upon the earth.[61]

Many excellent examples of this phenomenon are visible in those scholarly enemies of the New Testament who deny, absolutely, that it is an inspired, divine revelation from God, but who nevertheless devote their whole lives to writing and lecturing about it. This writer's library is full of books which prove this. On these very verses describing the "great city" and its reaction to God's witnesses, one of those scholars commented that, "Like the monster (Satan), the great city is a myth!"[62] If that is the truth, why should he have favored mankind with a commentary on a myth? The very attention which he gives to the New Testament indicates that he knows that no part of it is a myth.

Inherent in this vision of the unburied dead is the amazing truth that:

Those who spurn the word, never get rid of it. The wicked cannot let it alone. The world cannot dismiss it. Their rejoicing over its silence keeps them busy.[63]

[58] R. C. H. Lenski, op. cit., p. 345.

[59] James Moffatt, Expositor's Greek New Testament, Vol. V (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1967), p. 418.

[60] Charles H. Roberson, op. cit., p. 74.

[61] Ibid., p. 75.

[62] G. B. Caird, op. cit., p. 138.

[63] R. C. H. Lenski, op. cit., p. 346.


Verse 10

And they that dwell on the earth rejoice over them, and make merry; and they shall send gifts one to another; because these two prophets tormented them that dwell on the earth.

What a mistake it is to refer this to the rejoicing of the whole world over the two fallen witnesses to some remote event following the alleged triumph of some Antichrist. There could hardly be an age of which these words are a better description than of our own. How is it that Christian people are able to live such comfortable and cozy lives in a society festering in gross sensuality, violence, irreligion, atheism, corruption, drunkenness, and debauchery? Morris answered that question thus:

"Surely it is because we are not true to the word of God."[64] The preaching of God's word with reference to the sins of mankind can never be anything but torment to them that hear it; and there is an urgent need for the tormentors to fulfill their mission in the world today.

How have the witnesses failed? In a spiritual sense, they are "dead," embalmed in socially contented churches that have eliminated from their "gospel" any such things as the wrath of God, the ravages of Satan, the lake of fire and brimstone, and the condemnation of popular sins such as sodomy, adultery, drunkenness, fraud, deception, falsehood, and violence.

The church of our day, in the larger reference, has perverted, changed, or forsaken the great doctrinal foundations upon which her life is constructed. These are listed in Hebrews 6 as: repentance, faith, baptism, laying on hands, the resurrection of the dead, and the eternal judgment. What are the odds, really, that one could hear even one sermon on any one of these fundamentals on a given Sunday morning in any great city in America? Oh to be sure "faith" would be preached, but not in the great New Testament sense of "the obedience of faith."

In such comments, we do not assume any role of a Jeremiah. The prophecy which reveals this regards a time when the witnesses are "dead"; and to the extent that the witnesses are now "alive," our words do not apply; but it is frightening how much of the description seems to speak of current conditions. Are the witnesses truly "dead" today? In some limited context, they are not "dead"; and our prayer is that they may be much more "alive" than might seem to be indicated by the limited information of any single observer.

They that dwell on the earth ... This means everyone except the true and faithful church; that is, it means mankind in general. "This supports the view of the great city as the whole earth."[65]

Rejoice ... make merry . .. send gifts ... "A worldwide rejoicing and celebration occurs wherever the witnesses are silenced."[66] Amazing examples of this are often found in history. There were the celebrations in Paris when the Bible was condemned to death, tied to the tail of an ass ridden by a notorious prostitute, and dragged to the city dump; and again, when Robespierre was inaugurated as the High Priest of the God of Nature, all dressed up in a chartreuse jacket and robin egg blue trousers, in the vaunted Festival of the Supreme Being![67] Another example was that of the Nazis, in our own generation, who burned the Bibles at Nuremberg, launching the celebrations that culminated in the horrors of World War II. The glee felt by wicked men who feel that they have gotten rid of the church and of the word of God is indicated by this verse. Carpenter gave another example of it which took place with the "enthronement of a harlot in the sanctuary of Notre Dame in Paris."[68]

Because these two prophets tormented them ... Inherent in these words is the mission of all true witnesses of the truth of God to sinful people; it is that of being their tormentor, not in a vindictive or gloating sense, of course. The torment should not derive from the attitude of the tormentors, but from the content of their message faithfully delivered. Elijah was called a troubler of Israel (1 Kings 18:17); but the wicked king opposed to him was actually the one who was doing the troubling of God's people.

[64] Leon Morris, op. cit., p. 64.

[65] Robert H. Mounce, op. cit., p. 227.

[66] R. C. H. Lenski, op. cit., p. 347.

[67] Stanley Loomis, Paris in the Terror (Philadelphia and New York: J. B. Lippincott Company, 1964), pp. 372,373.

[68] W. Boyd Carpenter, op. cit., p. 588.


Verse 11

And after three days and a half the breath of life from God entered into them, and they stood upon their feet; and great fear fell upon them that beheld them.

After three days and a half ... This period equals the half of the perfect seven so frequently mentioned in this prophecy. It means that the triumph of evil is never complete, never a true and final victory. Hitler may burn the Bibles, but the fire did not go out until it had consumed into ashes all of the great cities of his blasphemous domain. Paris may drag the Bible to the city dump and enthrone a harlot in Notre Dame, but her government has fallen fifty times since that occurred; and the heel of the invader has for years at a time been planted brutally upon her throat. Satan cannot actually get rid of the witnesses. Sure, he "kills them" again and again; but they rise again!

The breath of life from God entered them ... The resurgence of the Word following every "killing" of it is the most consistently recurring phenomenon of human history, as is also the constantly appearing rebirth of the church after every period of decline and apostasy. This, interpretation does not deny the companion truth of a literal resurrection of the church at the last day, a truth seen proleptically in the following verse.

And they stood upon their feet ... However frequently it may seem that the Church and the Word are "killed," it is not long until they again, "stand upon their feet." The "killing" in these verses should be placed in quotation marks, for it never actually occurs.

When this interpretation of this chapter is compared with "the notion of two individual persons appearing in the Mid-East city of Jerusalem, being mobbed by the citizens, left unburied for half a week, and then coming alive again, it will be seen that such an event could not have the smallest fraction of the impact evident in the view adopted here. Inherent in the error of literalizing this passage is the false theological conception that God could accomplish something in this age of our present world through the instrumentality of Moses, Elijah, Elisha, Enoch, Joshua, Peter, Paul, or others, brought back to earth either in a reincarnation or a resurrection, or in a recall from a state of having been translated (as in the case of Enoch), that could not be accomplished by the faithful people of any other age. Such a view does an injustice to God and is contrary to all reason. The power that was effective in all those worthies mentioned (no agreement at all, of course, on which ones), was not theirs, but it was in the Word which they delivered. Once this is understood, the alleged reappearance of any such ancient heroes becomes ridiculous and preposterous.


Verse 12

And they heard a great voice from heaven saying unto them, Come up hither. And they went up into heaven in the cloud; and their enemies beheld them.

This view is a glimpse of the final judgment. Only then will God's saints ascend to heaven (2 Timothy 4:8f). Coming here, as it does, just before the sounding of the seventh trumpet, it occupies a place in the sixth trumpet, just as did the judgment connected with the sixth seal in Revelation 6:14-17.

Is not the resurrection of the witnesses of God and their exaltation the beginning of the last judgment? Paul said, "Each in his own order; Christ the firstfruits, then they that are Christ's at his coming. Then cometh the end" (1 Corinthians 15:13). This "end" is immediately referred to here.[69]

And they went up into heaven ... and their enemies beheld them ... All of these judgment scenes show that the wicked shall not be destroyed in the lake of fire until after they have witnessed the salvation of the righteous. There is only one time revealed in the Scriptures when people will go to heaven, and that is at the Second Coming of Christ and the final judgment day. Significantly, this final event is represented here as occurring at a time of near-universal rejection of the two witnesses, and simultaneously with the mockery and glee of an unbelieving world. This was not preceded by any so-called triumph of an Antichrist, nor by any secret "rapture" of the church, nor by any glorious millennium of universal peace and happiness on earth.

And their enemies beheld them ... "The church ascends to heaven in a cloud of glory; and their enemies beheld them. No secret rapture."[70] But John's vision of the judgment at this point retrogresses a bit to show how that event affects the wicked. "The next verse shows what takes place just before this final day."[71]

[69] A. Plummer, op. cit., p. 292.

[70] William Hendriksen, op. cit., p. 158.

[71] Ibid.


Verse 13

And in that hour there was a great earthquake, and the tenth part of the city fell; and there were killed in the earthquake seven thousand persons: and the rest were affrighted, and gave glory to the God of heaven.

And in that hour there was a great earthquake ... "Here we have the same picture as in Revelation 6:12f."[72] The whole verse deals with the disastrous events associated with the onset of the final judgment.

And the tenth part of the city fell ... Many have marveled that only a tenth of it fell. This remarkable statement makes it impossible to refer this to the literal Jerusalem, no matter when the book of Revelation was written. If it was written before 70 A.D., which is our conviction, then this prophecy of the fall of a tenth of Jerusalem (literally) and the death of a mere 7,000 people, was totally disproved by events within a year or so that saw all of the city totally destroyed and the death of 1,100,000 people! In such an event, the church would never have received this book as canonical. On the other hand, if it was written near the end of the first century, John could hardly have applied this to a literal city whose destruction had been so extensively beyond what is indicated here. Therefore, we conclude that there can be no intelligent way of applying this prophecy to a literal Jerusalem.

Furthermore, when accurately understood, what is described here is a devastating worldwide judgment of the most extensive dimensions. "The first complete stone (one-tenth) falls out of the arch, so that the complete arch (ten-tenths) shall cave in."[73] What is actually meant here is that a tenth of all the great cities on earth shall totally collapse. Remember who the great city is! When wickedness shall at last so predominate in the earth that the organized cities of the earth begin to collapse, one by one, everywhere, the judgment is near. The collapse of a tenth (God's tithe) of all the great earthly cities (think of such a disaster) shall be attended by enormous casualties, as indicated in the next clause.

Seven thousand persons were killed ... This is not a literal number at all, but a symbolical depiction of an infinitely greater number. Caird, Plummer, Roberson, Mounce, and others can attach "no special significance"[74] to this number; and yet it obviously stands for the slain resulting from the urban collapse of human civilization in the world! As Cox observed, "Of those who deserved divine judgment, none escaped."[75]

The rest were affrighted and gave glory to God ... Some hail this as a prophecy of the repentance of nine-tenths of the earth! When people are either watching, or have just witnessed the resurrection of the dead, it will be too late to repent. There cannot be here, "A hint of God's uncovenanted mercies,"[76] nor any suggestion whatever that, "The rest of the people were aroused to repentance."[77] These people's giving "glory to God" was in the same category as that of the wicked in Revelation 6:16f. Repentance is not even mentioned here. No. What we have is a glimpse of the universal terror of the wicked when they behold the Son of Man coming in the glory of his Second Advent, exactly the same as in Revelation 6:12ff. Many, of course, have discerned this:

This cannot mean that now at last those not slain repented. Repentance without the Word is impossible.[78]

There is no sign that they repented, nor did John expect that they would.[79]

There is no repentance; there is terror; there is a tribute of awe to the God of heaven who has vindicated his cause; but there is nothing more.[80]SIZE>

And in that hour ... Although first in this verse, this is reviewed here to emphasize the truth that all the events foretold here are connected in time with the final judgment visible in Revelation 11:12. All of the judgment scene in this whole chapter belongs to the Second Woe, despite some past-tense references to it, as in Revelation 11:18. The judgment scene was accomplished in the Second Woe, not merely introduced.

[72] Ibid.

[73] R. C. H. Lenski, op. cit., p. 350.

[74] A. Plummer, op. cit., p. 292.

[75] Frank L. Cox, op. cit., p. 75.

[76] A. Plummer, op. cit., p. 293.

[77] Isbon T. Beckwith, op. cit., p. 603.

[78] R. C. H. Lenski, op. cit., p. 351.

[79] Martin Rist, The Interpreter's Bible, Vol. XII (New York and Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1957), p. 448.

[80] Charles H. Roberson, op. cit., p. 75.


Verse 14

The second Woe is past: behold, the third Woe cometh quickly.

Most commentators hold to the view expressed by Eller that, "The vision has brought us through the fortunes of the church to the end-time, and up to the end itself ... No. 7 is the end."[81] Our view does not correspond with this. We have already gone through the end in the Second Woe; and exactly like the seventh seal, this seventh trumpet does not depict any earthly development whatever. Why then should it be called a Woe at all? Because it dramatizes the eternal consequences and the irrevocable finality of the rejection of God on the part of rebellious people; and that is indeed "Woe" enough. "The significance of the judgment day (already past) with respect to God and Christ, and both believers and unbelievers is pointed out."[82] Plummer supported this view thus:

This verse brings us to the end of the world, just as the sixth seal led to the same termination; and both are followed by the seventh which gives a reference to the eternal peace of heaven.[83]

[81] Vernard Eller, op. cit., p. 121.

[82] William Hendriksen, op. cit., p. 159.

[83] A. Plummer, op. cit., p. 293.


Verse 15

And the seventh angel sounded; and there followed great voices in heaven, and they said, The kingdom of the world is become the kingdom of our Lord, and of his Christ: and he shall reign for ever and ever.

This does not signal the approaching end of the world; that event has already occurred. Only then, or after then, shall it be true that the kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of the Lord and of his Christ. As we were told in Revelation 10:7, "In the days of the seventh angel, when he is about to sound, then is finished (not shall be finished) the mystery of God. When the seventh angel sounds, it is already finished. On the cross, Jesus bowed his head and said, "It is finished," and this seventh trumpet is the echo of the glorious achievement there. What is finished? It is finished with evil, with Satan, with wicked men, with sin, and with death. "This announcement tells us that the battle of the ages is ended."[84] "Evil has finally and forever been put down; and good is finally and forever triumphant."[85] Caird was wrong in seeing here, "a jubilant fanfare proclaiming the enthronement of the King of Kings."[86] That event occurred at the ascension of Christ (Matthew 28:18-20).

And there followed great voices in heaven ... These are the voices of the redeemed of all ages, and including all of the heavenly host. Lenski's beautiful summary of this is:

Whose great voices are here referred to? They certainly are the voices of all the saints and all the angels in heaven after the day of judgment has brought the world and time to an end. This entire vision is wonderful in majesty and in beauty and is beyond all human and earthly conceptions. Our stammering comment must not dim any of the glory. The great chorus declares the fact in two beautiful poetical lines: The kingship of the world became our Lord's and his Christ's; And he shall reign for the eons of the eons.[87]

The kingdom of the world is become ... Lenski translated the verb here "became" because it refers to an event already past in the vision. It happened in Revelation 11:1-13.

Those are undoubtedly right who perceive that these three series (seals, trumpets and bowls) are not consecutive, are not twenty-one successive chapters of world history, or of church history, but that each group of seven takes us over the same ground and shows us three groups of parallel scenes.[88]

The kingdom of our Lord, and of his Christ ... The use of the singular "kingdom" should be noted. It is not the "kingdoms" but the "kingdom" of the world that now belongs to the Lord. The time here is evidently that foretold in 1 Corinthians 15:24, when Christ shall have delivered up the kingdom to the Father; but this took nothing from Christ, who is still on the throne with the Father. Thus, the great heavenly chorus is not here celebrating the beginning of the reign of Christ, but in a sense, the end of it! The glorious and eternal extension of it in the everlasting state fuses it into God's eternal kingdom.

And he shall reign for ever and ever ... The "He" here is the Father and the Son; they are one, and that unity appears here.

Such observations as these, however, must not obscure the truth that this eternal reign of Christ is now going on in that glorious kingdom of Christ which began on Pentecost. "The reign of God began with the Incarnation (and related events) ... It is the reign of God through his anointed, the Messiah."[89] McDowell also viewed the subsequent vision of the birth of Christ (Revelation 12) as a proof of this.

[84] Frank L. Cox, op. cit., p. 76.

[85] Charles H. Roberson, op. cit., p. 77.

[86] G. B. Caird, op. cit., p. 141.

[87] R. C. H. Lenski, op. cit., p. 353.

[88] Ibid.

[89] Edward A. McDowell, The Meaning and Message of the Book of Revelation (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1951), p. 122.


Verse 16

And the four and twenty elders who sit before God on their thrones, fell upon their faces and worshipped God,

These represent the church. They were those made "a kingdom" (Revelation 1:6). They therefore fitly take up the burden of praise to him who has now established his universal and everlasting kingdom.[90]

Who sit before God on their thrones ... These thrones suggest the truth that the redeemed have already been reigning with Christ throughout the whole dispensation.

ENDNOTE:

[90] A. Plummer. op. cit., p. 294.


Verse 17

saying, We give thee thanks, O Lord God, the Almighty, who art and who wast; because thou hast taken thy great power, and didst reign.

Who are and who wast ... Many have commented on the omission here of "and who is to come," as in Revelation 1:8. Why? "He has come!"[91]

And didst reign ... Note the past tense. The reign began long ago and continued throughout all the time between the two Advents of the Son of God. Indeed, the reign of God has never, for an instant, ceased since the beginning of time. Satan and evil men were used of God in the working out of his wise designs; but the sovereignty of the Father in heaven has never been even temporarily compromised by anything that ever occurred in the whole universe.

ENDNOTE:

[91] William Hendriksen, op. cit., p. 160.


Verse 18

And the nations were wroth, and thy wrath came, and the time of the dead to be judged, and the time to give their reward to thy servants the prophets, and to the saints, and to them that fear thy name, the small and the great; and to destroy them that destroy the earth.

These terse references are to what has already taken place, as clearly indicated by the consistent use of the past tense, the great fact of the execution of those events being here the theme of perpetual thanksgiving and praise in the presence of God. Angry nations, sin, Satan, and death no longer exist.

And the nations were wroth ... The universal anger of the unrepentant and rebellious world as their vaunted civilization, rotten to its foundations with the corruption of sin, disintegrates and falls to pieces, is here extolled in the song of the redeemed. The answer to man's wrath was the coming of God's wrath upon the world.

And thy wrath came ... Is this a fitting subject for the rejoicing of the saved in glory? Indeed it is. The great error of unregenerated people is that they cannot be angry with evil. Why? Because the natural, unregenerated man, is himself evil. We may therefore set aside the opinions of those who reject this song as not being in any sense a Christian conception.

Let there be no false pity for the unrepentant. The fond hope that God might give them one more chance after death is contrary both to Scripture and to reason .... How much do we really care that right should triumph and evil be defeated? Much of the sanctimonious reaction of our age to just retribution is only blindness, a lack of hatred for Satan and his works, and a lack of concern for the glory of God.[92]

"There is an appropriateness in God's tailoring the punishment to fit the crime."[93] Judgment and recompense are not contradictory to love, but a necessary aspect of it."[94] The current misunderstanding and misrepresentation of God's love make it to be an attitude that is not even worthy of a good citizen, much less, of the God of all creation.

And the time of the dead to be judged ... This is a reference to the judgment which concluded the sixth trumpet; and this statement particularly makes it mandatory to view the end of the sixth trumpet as the final Advent of Christ and the eternal judgment of the last day.

And the time to give their reward ... All of these clauses are in the past tense, due to "thy wrath came" at the head of the verse. Some have tried to establish this as the prophetic tense, in order to construe these events as future; but there is no evidence at all that such is the case. The necessity of seeing this as a reference to the final judgment is derived from passages like 2 Timothy 4:8ff.

To thy servants the prophets ... the saints ... them that fear thy name ... small ... great ... Notice that all of God's people are included in this. The supposition of Vitringa and others "who understand this as a reference to the dead martyrs who at this time are vindicated,"[95] is refuted by this comprehensive enumeration of all classes of people, the small, the great, etc., who all receive their reward simultaneously at the "last day."

And to destroy them that destroy the earth ... The wicked also shall receive their reward simultaneously with the reward of the righteous, but apparently, somewhat afterwards. Their reward, however, is destruction. "On the same day, all those who fear the Lord receive their reward, while the destroyers are destroyed."[96] This corresponds exactly with our Saviour's own descriptive revelation of the final judgment in Matthew 25:31ff.

[92] Michael Wilcock, I Saw Heaven Opened (Downers Grove, Illinois: Inter-Varsity Press, 1975), pp. 107,108.

[93] Robert H. Mounce, op. cit., p. 231.

[94] Vernard Eller, op. cit.. p. 122.

[95] A. Plummer, op. cit., p. 294.

[96] William Hendriksen, op. cit., p. 160.


Verse 19

And there was opened the temple of God that is in heaven; and there was seen in his temple the ark of his covenant; and there followed lightnings, and voices, and thunders, and an earthquake, and great hail.

And there was opened the temple of God that is in heaven ... "Temple" here is a figure of speech; there is going to be no actual temple in heaven. It is used here as a symbol of the presence of God. See Revelation 21:22. "Only a glimpse of heaven is afforded here; the chief description is reserved for the final two chapters."[97]

And there was seen in his temple the ark of the covenant ... The symbolism teaches that what was once concealed will be opened in heaven. The ark of the covenant in the ancient tabernacle was located in the Holy of Holies; and only the high priest could ever see it, and even he could view it only one day in the year; but all will be made plain and open in heaven. Roberson thought that, "It is a fitting close (of this trumpet series) that the innermost sanctuary of God should be opened."[98]

Thunders ... earthquake ... and great hail ... These fittingly mark the close of the seventh trumpet vision, serving also to set off what follows as a separate vision. Certainly they do not denote any kind of judgment upon people. The time for that expired with Revelation 11:13.

In these verses (Revelation 11:15-19), we have the entire seventh trumpet. Here is revealed the glory and the blessedness that shall prevail after time has ceased, and after the final judgment.[99]

We are now (in Revelation 12) carried back to the beginning of the story of salvation. A new series of visions, or tableaux, portrays significant figures and episodes from the course of events outlined in Revelation 5-11.[100]SIZE>

We shall conclude this study of Revelation 11 with Hendriksen's summary of its final Revelation 11:19:

Nothing remains hidden or concealed. The ark of the covenant so long hidden from view is now seen. That ark is the symbol of the superlatively real, intimate, and perfect fellowship with God and his people, a fellowship based on the atonement through the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ.[101]

[97] A. Plummer, op. cit., p. 294.

[98] Charles H. Roberson, op. cit., p. 79.

[99] R. C. H. Lenski, op. cit., p. 360.

[100] F. F. Bruce, A New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1969), p. 650.

[101] William Hendriksen, op. cit., p. 161.

 


Copyright Statement
James Burton Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.

Bibliography Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Revelation 11:4". "Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/bcc/revelation-11.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

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