Description
This chapter first reveals the ministry of the two witnesses, whose resurrection and ascension conclude the sixth trumpet, coinciding with a great earthquake. The establishment of Christ's earthly kingdom at he seventh trumpet is then described.
Commentary
Ministry of the Two Witnesses (v1-14)
Verses 1 to 14 of this chapter continue the 'backstage' or 'parenthetical section' begun in chapter 10, breaking from the chronology of the seven trumpets. The seventh trumpet is then revealed in verses 15 to 19.

In verse 1, John is given a measuring rod and told to measure the temple of God, the altar, and the ones who worship there. This reminds one of Ezekiel 40-48 in which an angel with a measuring rod reveals the details of the millennial temple. The millennial temple will be built by Jesus (Zechariah 6:12-13). Here in Revelation, it is third temple that is in view, which will be rebuilt by the Jews, and conquered by the Antichrist (Daniel 9:27, Matthew 24:15, 2 Thessalonians 2:4). John is told not to measure the outer courtyard because it will be trampled by the Gentiles for 42 months (v2). Trampling means that Jerusalem will be conquered and ruled by the Gentiles under Antichrist's leadership. During this same time period of 1,260 days, God will give authority to his two witnesses (v3). These are called the two olive trees and two lampstands that stand before God (v4). Olive trees represent their Holy Spirit anointing, and the lampstands means they will shine the light of God's truth in the midst of the spiritual darkness of Antichrist's rule.

It appears that for the duration of the Great Tribulation, these two witnesses minister from within Jerusalem under God's supernatural protection. They have supernatural powers to consume their enemies with fire and to close up the sky so that it does not rain (v5-6). Elijah called down fire from heaven that consumed his enemies (2 Kings 1:10-12). He also caused a drought and famine for the same time period of three and a half years (1 Kings 17-18, Luke 4:25). The two witnesses also have the power to turn waters to blood and to strike the earth with every kind of plague (v6). Moses demonstrated these same powers against the Egyptians (Exodus 7-12). Moses and Elijah appeared together with Jesus at his Transfiguration (Matthew 17:3). The Transfiguration is like a 'trailer' for the second coming, and it suggests the possibility that the two witnesses really are Moses and Elijah. Elijah never died but was caught up to heaven in his earthly body (2 Kings 2:11). Although Moses died (Deuteronomy 34:5), the Archangel Michael disputed with the devil over his body (Jude 9), suggesting it may have been preserved for future use. Elijah is prophesied to return before the great and terrible day of the Lord (Malachi 3:5). Although this was fulfilled figuratively through the ministry of John the Baptist (Matthew 17:12), it is possible it will be fulfilled literally during the Great Tribulation.

If these two witnesses are literally Moses and Elijah, then they return in their mortal bodies that have been preserved in heaven for this purpose. It is also possible that the two witnesses are modern-day individuals who fulfil the roles of Moses and Elijah but in a figurative capacity like that of John the Baptist. At the end of their three and a half year ministry, they are conquered and killed by the beast that comes up from the Abyss (v7). Revelation 13 describes two beasts, one that arises from the sea, and the false prophet who arises like a beast from the earth. The beast from the Abyss is described again in Revelation 17:8. It represents both the end-time empire and the Antichrist who rules it. The bodies of the two witnesses are left to lie in the street in Jerusalem (v8). For three and a half days, people from every tribe, nation and language look upon their bodies which are left to rot without burial (v9). This suggests the use of television, as these people would not all be present in Jerusalem itself to gaze upon their bodies. The people of the earth rejoice and exchange gifts in celebration of the deaths of the two witnesses for they had tormented those who live on earth (v10). So although they die in Jerusalem, the effects of their ministry are felt globally. After lying dead in the street for three and a half days, a voice from heaven calls them back to life (v11). They stand on their feet and ascend up to heaven in full view as Jesus did (Acts 1:9). This causes tremendous fear to seize those who are watching.

Verse 13 describes a major earthquake which destroys a tenth of the city of Jerusalem and kills seven thousand people. The rest are terrified and glorify God who has given vindication to his two witnesses. Great earthquakes occur at the sixth seal (Revelation 6:12), here at the sixth trumpet, and again at the seventh bowl (Revelation 16:18).

This chapter breaks from the chronology of the seven trumpets in order to reveal the three and a half year ministry of the two witnesses. However, verse 14 associates their death and resurrection, and the ensuing earthquake, with the completion of the second woe which is the sixth trumpet. This is very significant in terms of timing of the second coming. Because they minister for 1,260 days (v3), it implies that the seventh trumpet comes after day 1,260 of the Great Tribulation.


The Seventh Trumpet (v15-19)
John has already told us that the mystery of God as proclaimed by the prophets will be completed in the days when the seventh trumpet is about to be blown (10:7). In other words, the seventh trumpet marks the return of Jesus as Messiah, and the establishment of his kingdom on earth. This is explicitly confirmed by loud voices in heaven which proclaim, "The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign for ever and ever" (v15). This is a coronation proclamation, similar to 'Long live the King!' I believe this is the voice of the archangel and shout of command described at the rapture in 1 Thessalonians 4:16.

In verses 16 to 19, John again sees God's throne in heaven, surrounded by the twenty four elders. These elders prostrate themselves before Almighty God. In verse 17, they proclaim, "…you have taken your great power and begun to reign". This is similar to the coronation scene in Daniel 7:13-14, although it takes place around God's throne in his heavenly temple, whereas in Daniel 7 God's throne is positionned upon the clouds. Has Jesus not already been crowned? The point here is that at the seventh trumpet, Jesus begins to reign visibly on earth. He was already seated at God's right hand as king after his death and resurrection (Matthew 26:65, Ephesians 1:20-21). So he has been reigning as king from heaven for the last two thousand years. But he needs to be confirmed as king over the whole earth. In the Old Testament, David was first anointed as king over Judah (2 Samuel 2:4). Seven and a half years later, he was crowned as king of all Israel (2 Samuel 5:3-5). Similarly, there are two stages to Christ's coronation.

Verse 18 tells us the nations were enraged but God's wrath has come. This worldwide rage reaction is also described in Psalm 2. According to Psalm 110:2, the Lord will extend his dominion from Zion and rule in the midst of his enemies. So although he begins his earthly rule at the seventh trumpet, he still has to crush worldwide rebellion in order to firmly establish his earthly kingdom. According to verse 18, the seventh trumpet is time for:
-God's wrath to come (as per the bowl judgments of Revelation 15-16)
-the dead to be judged (that is the judgment of believers, see Revelation 20:4-6)
-the saints and prophets to be rewarded for revering God's name
-the destruction of those who destroy the earth (by their sinful actions).

My understanding is that the seventh trumpet is what Paul calls 'the last trumpet' (1 Corinthians 15:52). As such, it is also time for the resurrection and rapture of the saints (1 Thessalonians 4:13-17). Having received their glorious resurrection bodies, believers are caught up to meet Jesus on the clouds, as he is crowned and affirmed as king of the whole world (Daniel 7:13-14).

In verse 19, God's temple in heaven is opened and the ark of the covenant is revealed. This causes flashes of lightning, roaring, thunder, an earthquake and a great hailstorm to take place on earth.

The ark of the covenant was considered to be the footstool of God's throne in the Jerusalem temple (Isaiah 66:1, 1 Chronicles 28:2). It was made by Moses after the pattern he was shown on Mount Sinai (Exodus 25:40). On its lid were two gold cherubim, representative of the four living creatures that bear God's heavenly throne (Ezekiel 1, Revelation 4:6-9, 5:6-14). The ark of the covenant seems to have been removed from the temple before the fall of Jerusalem in 586 BC. The Ethiopian Orthodox Church claim that it ended up in Ethiopia and that they care for it at the Church of Our Lady Mary of Zion in Axum Ethiopia. Whether that is true or not, it seems strange that this earthly dimension of God's throne appears in his heavenly temple. It is possible that the ark should be understood figuratively, implying that it is time for Christ's enemies to be made his footstool (Psalm 110:1). Jeremiah 3:16, seems to deny that the ark will be literally restored to the temple at the end of the age, saying, "At that time…people will no longer talk about having the ark that contains the Lord’s covenant with us. They will not call it to mind, remember it, or miss it. No, that will not be done any more!"
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Tags: Two witnesses, Moses and Elijah, Abyss, Television, Great Tribulation, Great earthquake, Last trumpet, Second coming appearance, Coronation of Jesus, Rapture, Jesus establishes his kingdom, Ark of the Covenant, Heavenly temple
The Fate of the Two Witnesses
11 Then a measuring rod like a staff was given to me, and I was told, “Get up and measure the temple of God, and the altar, and the ones who worship there.
2 But do not measure the outer courtyard of the temple; leave it out, because it has been given to the Gentiles, and they will trample on the holy city for forty-two months.
3 And I will grant my two witnesses authority to prophesy for 1,260 days, dressed in sackcloth.”
4 (These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth.)
5 If anyone wants to harm them, fire comes out of their mouths and completely consumes their enemies. If anyone wants to harm them, they must be killed this way.
6 These two have the power to close up the sky so that it does not rain during the time they are prophesying. They have power to turn the waters to blood and to strike the earth with every kind of plague whenever they want.
7 When they have completed their testimony, the beast that comes up from the abyss will make war on them and conquer them and kill them.
8 Their corpses will lie in the street of the great city that is symbolically called Sodom and Egypt, where their Lord was also crucified.
9 For three and a half days those from every people, tribe, nation, and language will look at their corpses, because they will not permit them to be placed in a tomb.
10 And those who live on the earth will rejoice over them and celebrate, even sending gifts to each other, because these two prophets had tormented those who live on the earth.
11 But after three and a half days a breath of life from God entered them, and they stood on their feet, and tremendous fear seized those who were watching them.
12 Then they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them: “Come up here!” So the two prophets went up to heaven in a cloud while their enemies stared at them.
13 Just then a major earthquake took place and a tenth of the city collapsed; seven thousand people were killed in the earthquake, and the rest were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven.
14 The second woe has come and gone; the third is coming quickly.

The Seventh Trumpet

15 Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven saying: “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign for ever and ever.”
16 Then the twenty-four elders who are seated on their thrones before God threw themselves down with their faces to the ground and worshiped God
17 with these words: “We give you thanks, Lord God, the All-Powerful, the one who is and who was, because you have taken your great power and begun to reign.
18 The nations were enraged, but your wrath has come, and the time has come for the dead to be judged, and the time has come to give to your servants, the prophets, their reward, as well as to the saints and to those who revere your name, both small and great, and the time has come to destroy those who destroy the earth.”
19 Then the temple of God in heaven was opened and the ark of his covenant was visible within his temple. And there were flashes of lightning, roaring, crashes of thunder, an earthquake, and a great hailstorm.
(NET)