Revelation 11

Chapter 11

The Two Witnesses and the Fate of Jerusalem.[a] 1 I was next given a staff to use as a measuring rod, and I was told, “Go forth and measure the temple of God and the altar, and count the people who are worshiping there. 2 However, exclude the outer court of the temple from your measurements, because it has been handed over to the Gentiles and they will trample on the holy city for forty-two months.[b] 3 I will grant my two witnesses authority to prophesy for those twelve hundred and sixty days, wearing sackcloth.”

4 These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand in the presence of the Lord of the earth. 5 If anyone tries to harm them, fire pours forth from their mouths and consumes their enemies. Anyone who attempts to harm them will surely be killed in this manner. 6 They have the power to shut up the sky so that it does not rain during the time they are prophesying. They also have the power to turn water into blood and to afflict the earth with every type of plague as often as they desire.

7 When they have completed their testimony, the beast that comes up from the abyss will wage war against them and overpower and kill them. 8 Their corpses will lie in the street of the great city, known by the symbolic names of Sodom and Egypt, where their Lord was crucified.

9 People of every race, tribe, nation, and language will gaze at their corpses for three and a half days and refuse to allow them to be buried. 10 The inhabitants of the earth will gloat over them as they celebrate and exchange gifts, because these two prophets had been a source of torment to them.

11 However, after the three and a half days, the breath of life from God entered them, and when they rose to their feet, great terror filled those who saw them. 12 Then I heard a loud voice from heaven say to them, “Come up here,” and while their enemies were watching, they went up to heaven in a cloud.

13 At that very hour there was a violent earthquake, and a tenth of the city was destroyed. Seven thousand people were killed during the earthquake. Those who survived were overcome with fear and gave glory to the God of heaven.

14 The second woe has passed, but the third will come quickly.

15 The Seventh Trumpet: the Third Woe.[c] The seventh angel blew his trumpet, and voices in heaven were heard crying loudly:

“The kingdom of the world belongs
to our Lord and his Messiah,
and he will reign forever and ever.”

16 Then the twenty-four elders who sit on their thrones in the presence of God prostrated themselves and worshiped God, 17 saying:

“We give you thanks, Lord God Almighty,
who are and who were.
For you have taken your great power
and have begun to reign.
18 The nations rose in rage,
but now your wrath has come.
It is the time for judging the dead
and for rewarding your servants the Prophets,
as well as the saints who revere your name,
both small and great,
and for destroying those who destroy the earth.”

19 Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and the ark of his covenant[d] was seen within his temple. There followed flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, an earthquake, and a violent hailstorm.

Footnotes

  1. Revelation 11:1 The holy city is crushed under the blows of Titus, but in the Church, the new Israel, everything that the temple, the altar, and the worshipers represent will not cease; true worship will continue. In a hostile world, the witnesses of Christ will continue to spread the Word of God, despite persecutions, until the Second Coming.
    Let us try to see a bit more clearly into the details of the symbols used by the author to impart this certitude to believers subjected to torture. Measuring Jerusalem calls to mind—since Ezekiel (40:3) and Zechariah (2:5-6)—protection and reconstruction. But only the reserved part of the temple is spared, i.e., while the Church will be persecuted and even give forth martyrs, the saints will never be harmed. While the bodies of the holy ones (represented by the exterior of the temple) are crushed, their souls (represented by the interior of the temple) are safe in God’s hands.
    The two witnesses—perhaps Peter and Paul—combine the traits of several persons, especially Moses and Elijah (of whom Judaism of that time mentions the ascension: v. 11) and one of whom changed water into blood (Ex 7:17; 10:11), while the other predicted a drought (1 Kgs 17:1). The Gospel places both at the side of Christ during the Transfiguration (Mk 9:2-8). Next come two mysterious personalities who, according to Zechariah (4:3, 14) cited in v. 4 of our text, represent the priesthood and the Kingdom uniting their efforts to guide the people of God. These are also Christian figures, of Christ first and then of the apostles—tradition names Peter and Paul, the two champions of the early Church, who died at Rome under Nero in A.D. 64 or 67. Finally, these mysterious figures stand for the whole Church bearing witness to her faith and suffering for the sake of the Gospel even until martyrdom. It is not permitted to put their bones in the grave (v. 9), i.e., the testimony of the martyr Church cannot disappear into oblivion.
    Just as the dry bones of the people of the Old Testament came to life in the eyes of the Prophet Ezekiel (37:5, 10), so the Christian martyrs are destined for resurrection and glorification.
    The great city is symbolic of the high places of infidelity according to the Bible. In Rev 16:19; 17:18; 18:10, it is Rome; here, it is Rome or Jerusalem or any other city that makes itself omnipotent.
    The beast cited in v. 7 (see Dan 7:21) represents the imperial power, destructive power, that claimed to be divine. Speaking of survivors (v. 13), the author thinks, perhaps, as did Paul (Rom 11:13-27), of a conversion of the Jewish people preceding Christ’s Return.
  2. Revelation 11:2 Forty-two months . . . twelve hundred and sixty days . . . three and a half days . . . a year, two years, and a half year (12:14): symbolic durations, designating typical periods of persecution according to Dan 7:25.
  3. Revelation 11:15 The seventh trumpet sounds to announce the definitive restoration of the Kingdom of God and Christ. With the resurrection of the dead, Israel sees the completion of its promises of salvation: there will be reward for true worshipers and condemnation for rebels. The thanksgiving of the elders can rise before the throne of God.
    According to a Jewish tradition, allusions to which are found in the Second Book of Maccabees (2:5-8), the Ark of the Covenant, which was destroyed by the fire in the temple in 587 B.C., was to reappear in the last times; the hour for this has come.
    A new Sinai arises in heaven forever. The hour of judgment is, in the final analysis, the judgment of the definitive and perfect Covenant. Certainly, the earthly temple is destroyed, but the true and complete worship takes place in heaven.
  4. Revelation 11:19 Ark of his covenant: the ark of the Old Testament was a chest of acacia wood (see Deut 10:1f) that symbolized God’s throne and his presence among his people. It was probably destroyed during Neburazadan’s destruction of the temple in Jerusalem (see 2 Ki 25:8-10). The New Testament writers use it to symbolize God’s faithfulness to the Covenant made with his people.

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