Toward the end of the seven trumpet judgments there is a brief pause in the unleashing of justice on the unrepentant inhabitants of the earth. This pause lasts through chapters 10 and 11. In chapter 10, a great angel stood on the land and on the sea and eventually fed a scroll to the apostle John. Moving into chapter 11, John was then told to use a reed to measure the temple of God. Many have speculated that the temple here might represent the church with an outer court of those who profess to be Christians but are not truly obedient to the truths of Scripture. Others have said that it is an actual temple rebuilt and refashioned in the end times at the heart of Jerusalem. The literal understanding seems to leave us assuming this may refer to an actual rebuilt temple.
Whether this is an actual temple or a spiritual reference to the church, the same principle of prophetic hope still applies. For those who would receive this letter and were facing apostasy from within the church and persecution from without, the glimmers of a future rebuilt temple or even an acknowledgement of the church in a future era should have served as a reassurance that although things were at times troubling, God was still in control and eventually He would carry out His plans on earth. With such heavy demonic themes and the unleashing of the forces of terror, getting a glimpse of the temple must have served as a welcomed respite in the midst of a troubling vision.
As the vision continued, John heard a voice declare, “and I will give unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy.” Here in the last days while the seventh seal was being released, and between the sixth and seventh trumpet, God in His grace sent two messengers to preach for three years. With unrepentance at an all-time high, God dispatched two preachers to declare the truth and challenge the wayward lifestyle of the disobedient. Many have speculated that these two witnesses are Old Testament figures like Enoch and Elijah, but that detail is pure speculation and is not revealed in Scripture. What is revealed through the presence of these two witnesses is that God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.
Eventually, in his vision, John saw that after three years, a great beast emerged from the bottomless abyss and killed both of the witnesses, leaving their dead carcasses lying in the street for all the world to see. After their death, those who had refused to repent of their sin in the face of dreadful tribulation horrors then began to rejoice at the murder of these two witnesses. No longer would their convicting words and testimony shame and pain the conscience of mankind, instead, the world would revel in their death and the silence of their message. However, John saw that the celebration over the killing of God’s witnesses was cut short when God resurrected them three days later in the face of the whole world. Finally, the supernatural power of God was demonstrated miraculously in plain view of all who scorned and mocked the witnesses as God caused them to ascend up to heaven to be with Him.
God does not abandon His own. He always wins. He is merciful and gracious in His offer of reconciliation to His enemies, but when that offer of peace is neglected, His sure and swift justice is unleashed. This text should demonstrate above anything else that God is gracious, long-suffering, and just. It should engender faith and hope in believers knowing that God is always in control.
Reflect: How does the reaction of the world at the death of the two witnesses mirror the teaching of Jesus in John 15:18-19?