The preaching of God’s word is completed when those who hear it respond as they ought. So complete the preaching today. Finish this sermon today with your own repentance. It may be that for you it is time to…
One of the great names in preaching history is Charles Simeon. While in college preparing for the ministry Simeon’s pastor friend had to be away for a summer and offered the pulpit to the aspiring preacher. It wasn’t long before the church became packed with attentive listeners, something unusual for this church. So many people came that there was literally no room to sit. Even the church clerk lost his seat – and was not too happy about it. When the pastor finally returned the clerk blurted, “I’m so glad you have come back! Now we will have some room!”
Many men have gripped the attention of the masses from their pulpits. But, perhap at no other time in history will two people command the attention of the entire world as powerfully as two future men. During the Tribulation God will raise up a two-man team on the public stage whose job it will be to preach.
From the streets of Jerusalem this Dynamic Duo, the Two Witnesses of God (a.k.a. The two lampstands and the two olive trees) will stand back to back, shoulder to shoulder, preaching, rebuking, and prophesying to a furious world. Every word will be repulsed and severely agitate those who insist on going along in their evil.
To help us make sense of this portion of Revelation we must keep in mind the broader picture. This seven year Tribulation period is the most rebellious period in human history, exceeding that of the days of Noah. Mankind, under the Satanically inspired Antichrist, is in total, unrelenting revolt against the Creator. And the Creator, is discharging His holy judgments against this rebellious earth.
These judgments are decreed in a scroll, which we saw in chapter 5 was given to Jesus. Only He has divine authority to execute these judgments. The scroll had 7 seals on it, and as each seal was broken we saw a new judgment was issued. Then the 7th seal was broken, and rather than the judgments ending a new series of 7 trumpet judgments began. We are currently in between the 6th and 7th Trumpet here in chapter 11. We read earlier that the last 3 Trumpets, that is the 4th, 5th and 6th Trumpets are called the Three Woes (8:13) for they are especially devastating. These 2 Witnesses are part of the 2nd Woe, the 6th Trumpet (11:14).
#1: The Temple Metrics (1-2)
First we must see “The Temple Metrics” in verses 1-2. I must admit, I was having difficulty understanding why John would be told to measure the temple, the altar, and the worshippers. The question in my head was: “What does this have to do with the two witnesses coming up next?” Measuring the temple, the Gentiles trampling the holy city, all seemed so disconnected with the ministry of the Two Witnesses. What was the relationship?
During my study I learned that there are other times in Scripture where God has someone measure off specific objects. In Zechariah 2 a man is sent to measure the city of Jerusalem and the text indicates God’s promise of the future glory of His city. In Ezekiel 40 the prophet is shown the dimensions of the temple that will exist in the future Millennial Kingdom. Then in Revelation 21 the New Jerusalem is measured.
The point seems to be that God is measuring His possessions: the city of Jerusalem, the temple in Jerusalem, and, the New Jerusalem. Now what In Revelation 11:1 do we see that belongs to God? The answer: the things that pertain to the worship of Him. God has John measure the Jewish temple, the altar, and even count the worshippers themselves. Those who worship Him belong to Him!
Remember back when we started chapter 4 we said that chapter 4 and 5 are the prologue, the heavenly situation right before the 7 year Tribulation was to begin – which would start in chapter 6. What we saw in chapters 4 and 5 was God being worshipped and glorified in heaven. This was a contrast to what was going on below on earth: rejection of the God. In chapter 4 and 5 we see worship and no judgment, but after chapter 5, starting in chapter 6 onward, God unleashes His judgments on a world that categorically rejects Him during a 7 year time called the Tribulation. There are two kinds of people in history: those who worship God and belong to Him and those that don’t.
God is distinguishing those who worship Him from those who don’t. In verse 1 we have people who are worshipping God and in verse 2 we have people who are trampling all over God’s city. In verse 1 we have those whom God is accounting for, carefully paying attention to people and things related to worshipping Him. But in verse 2 we have people who are not counted, who don’t count, who are essentially written off. Outside are those who are counted for judgment. Inside are those counted worthy. Inside and outside. Are we inside or outside? Turn to Revelation 22:14-15.
Application: are you in or are you out? Are you really a worshipper of God? Or, do you openly refuse to worship Him? Or, do you pretend to worship Him but its not real? Maybe you’re religious, and you’ve got the forms and expressions down, but, its not real in your heart. You’re a “Comb-over Christian”. You cover up what isn’t really there. You give the appearance that a reality exists underneath, but, a little wind and the truth is shown. You have all the outward expressions and forms down pat but you have a heart that has never been touched by the Holy Spirit. Are you in or are you out?
Application, God sees our worship. God knows those who worship Him. Elijah wasn’t alone in Israel, God knew the other 7,000 who faithfully worshipped Him and rejected idols. And here I believe is an implication that those faithful worshippers in the temple are not unnoticed by God, even though they are surrounded outside by the Gentiles who follow the antichrist. God counts them among the company surrounding Him in heaven, praising His name, declaring His greatness, worshipping Him and Him alone as the Lord God Almighty, Creator of Heaven and Earth. When you worship God He sees you.
So here’s how this scene where John takes measurements relates to the witnesses: those Gentiles who trample all over God’s city do so because they reject God and follow the beast – the antichrist. Their judgment is coming. God’s wrath is now descending. They need to hear that their ways are evil and they need to repent. Who will tell them? Who will preach to them? Who will warn them like Noah warned the people of his day? Who will be their Isaiah, their Ezekiel, their Jeremiah, their Amos and Hosea? Who will be their Apostles? Who will be the voice of righteousness to the generation of wickedness during the Tribulation? Answer: The Dynamic Duo, the two lampstands, the two olive trees, the two witnesses.
These are going to be two men who will rock the world with their fiery preaching and their tremendous power to do miracles.
#2: The Time of Their Task (v3)
Second, we see the “Time of Their Task”. Notice verse 3, “…”
These Two Witnesses of God will preach. For 1260 days, or, 3 ½ years, or, 42 months, these two men will preach. This amount of time is significant because it means that they will preach for exactly half of the 7 year Tribulation. Half of 7 years is 1260 days, or 42 months, or 3 ½ years. The question is this: Will they preach during the first half, or, the 2nd half of the Tribulation?
Lots of really good commentators differ here, and its not stated in the text so we can only offer best guesses, but, I’m going to put in for the first half. Here’s why. Since the antichrist will kill these two men at the end of their ministry, his killer aggression seems to fit best at the point when he betrays the Jews at the midpoint of the 7 years and tries to exterminate all of them. Its only at the halfway point, the 3 ½ years, that his true ambition to be worshiped is seen and his murderous rage is unleashed. Up until then, for 3 ½ years he would only be tolerating them.
Why would he take special delight in killing the two witnesses? Because they preach against all the evil in the world but the antichrist is the incarnation of all evil. They tell people to worship God in heaven but the antichrist wants everyone to worship him. And frankly, killing them would boost his political capital tremendously: everyone in the world will love him because everyone in the world hates these two men – later we will see how the world erupted in celebration over their deaths.
And I’ll offer this thought too as to why I think they will only minister during the first half of the Tribulation. When God takes them back to heaven we might be able to understand that as His way of giving the world over totally to its wickedness. “You didn’t listen to my two witnesses, you killed them, but I raised them up from the dead in front of your eyes and then you saw me raise them up to heaven.” Its like God is “pulling out” of the world and leaving it to its own devices. So when verse 2 says the Gentiles will trample on the Holy City for 42 months that is a reference to the last half of the Tribulation when they will utterly defile God’s holy city. Its almost like Naoh being taken out of the flood by the ark, or, Lot being led out of Sodom before it burned.
This is the same amount of time that the Gentiles will “trample on the holy city” according to verse 2. This trampling refers to the fact that God is not worshipped in His holy city; His holy city is governed by people not His chosen people – the Gentiles – and those foreigners to His holy city defile it, trample on it, and do not acknowledge the God of that land. The epitome, the apogee of that rebellion will be seen in the person of the Antichrist and the control he has over Jerusalem, especially when he demands to be worshipped as God beginning at the midpoint of the Tribulation.
It is best to understand that this “trampling” refers to the last 3 ½ years of the Tribulation. This trampling will be the climax of a period of time called the times of the Gentiles Jesus referred to in Luke 21:24. The Time of the Gentiles refers to the Gentile control over the land of Israel that started when Israel went into captivity in 600BC and will continue until Jesus returns at the end of the Tribulation. I think it makes the most sense that after Antichrist breaks the covenant with Israel at the midway point of the Tribulation and tries to exterminate them he is going to kill the two witnesses.
Next week we will explore their power, their deaths and their resurrection. But let me close with this thought for you. Their purpose is the same as all of God’s men throughout time: to preach to the world the word of God. Preaching is supposed to lead to repentance by those who hear. So you are here today, and you are hearing the word of God. Do you hear it? Jesus said if you have ears to hear then listen. Do you hear the word?
The preaching of God’s word is completed when those who hear it respond as they ought. So complete the preaching today. Finish this sermon today with your own repentance. It may be that for you it is time to receive Jesus Christ as your Savior. It may be time to stop pretending with God and get real. It may be that for you it is time to return from your wayward ways and live for God again. It may be for you some sin in your heart or life that it is time to deal with. But do not listen and be unaffected by the word of God. Let it effect in you the will of God.