The Two Witnesses: Revelation 11

This chapter gets us back into a part of Revelation where people have very different ideas about how the details of the chapter should be interpreted. Some people want to take the subject matter and say it refers to literal times, places, and individuals. Others are more comfortable making the subject matter symbolic of the church throughout the period of time between Christ’s ascension and second coming.

This is where we have to be focused on keeping the point of Revelation as the point of our study, because it would be very easy to focus on debates about details that don’t actually have any bearing on the point of the chapter.

In interpreting this passage, it is helpful to remember that Revelation is a book to the church about our role in the establishment of Christ’s kingdom. God’s plan for the world is not the re-establishment of an old order. His plan for this world is a new covenant with a new people who serve Jesus as king. Everything the church does in the world is to bear witness to the glory of God.

In interpreting Revelation, we must take care to recognize that this is a unique word through John to the church. It is therefore not entirely dependent on what was revealed to Israel through the Old Testament prophets. At the same time, when the imagery employed in Revelation 11 so closely echoes the imagery of Zechariah, we should make a note, even if the meaning of Revelation 11 differs from the meaning of Zechariah. The measuring of the temple has an echo of the man measuring the temple in Zechariah 2. The two witnesses echo the imagery in Zechariah 4. The powers possessed by the witnesses are reminiscent of the powers possessed by Moses and Elijah. Many commentators connect the reference of forty-two months and 1260 days to be one half of the seventieth week in Daniel.

I will be the first to admit that putting all of this together with everything recorded in the Old Testament is far above my paygrade. While there is nothing wrong with engaging in divine speculation, we need to first focus on the truths for the church that are made obvious in this passage.

God has miraculously preserved the church as his witness in every corner of the world. The Spirit of God is the secret to the church’s perseverance through the most difficult suffering and assault on its faith. Even at times when persecution would seem to kill the church, it continually rises up as a faithful witness to Christ.

When Jesus said “the gates of hell cannot prevail” against the church he really meant it! There will come a time when the church seems to be dead. Rest assured that the death of the church is but an illusion.

Discussion Questions

  • What clues in Revelation 11:1-14 and other passages would lead you to identify the temple and the two witnesses with the church?
  • Why is the church known for its witness?
  • Where do the witnesses get their authority?
  • Why do you think that God protects his witnesses through part of the time and not through other the other times?
  • Why does the world hate the witnesses?
  • Can the church ever be defeated? Why or why not?
  • What aspects of the kingdom of God is the seventh trumpet pointing us toward?
  • Is it comforting to you that God’s wrath will fall on His enemies?

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