Mission Protection Plan
“[Michael and Margaretha Sattler] were husband and wife evangelical Anabaptists in the early sixteenth century. Devoted followers of and witnesses to Christ, their lives were cut short by martyrdom in their 20s. The record of their death has been providentially preserved as a testimony of their faithfulness:
The torture, a prelude to the execution, began at the market place where a piece was cut from Sattler’s tongue. Pieces of flesh were torn from his body twice with red-hot tongs. He was then forged to a cart. On the way to the scene of the execution the tongs were applied five times again. In the market place and at the site of the execution, still able to speak, the unshakable Sattler prayed for his persecutors. After being bound to a ladder with ropes and pushed into the fire, he admonished the people, the judges, and the mayor to repent and be converted. Then he prayed, ‘Almighty, eternal God, Thou are the way and the truth: because I have not been shown to be in error, I will with thy help to this day testify to the truth and seal it with my blood.’
As soon as the ropes on his wrists were burned, Sattler raised the two forefingers of his hands giving the promised signal to the brethren that a martyr’s death was bearable. Then the assembled crowd heard coming from his seared lips, ‘Father, I commend my spirit into Thy hands.’
Three others were executed. After every attempt to secure a recantation from Sattler’s faithful wife had failed, she was drowned eight days later in the Neckar. (Estep, The Anabaptist Story, 47)
Today there is a memorial plaque at the site of Michael Sattler’s execution. It reads,
The Baptist Michael Sattler was executed by burning after severe torture on 20 May 1527 here on the ‘Gallows Hill.’ He died as a true witness of Jesus Christ. His wife Margaretha and other members of the congregation were drowned and burned. They acted for the baptism of those who want to follow Christ, for an independent congregation of the faithful, for the peaceful message of the Sermon on the Mount.
The Baptist historian William Estep says, ‘Perhaps no other execution of an Anabaptist had such far-reaching influence’ (The Anabaptist Story, 47).”
[Akin, Christ-Centered Exposition, Exalting Jesus in Revelation, 198-99].
In two parts of this passage this morning (vv. 1-2, 7), we will see that God provided protection for His people and His two witnesses until they complete their part in His mission. John wants us to understand that...
BIG IDEA – We have God’s promise of protection to complete His mission.
GOD (Revelation 11:1-14)
Ministry of the witnesses (vv. 1-6) [Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, New Testament Volume 2, 598]
Measuring the temple (vv. 1-2)
They were like bamboo, but were a reed that grew in the Jordan River valley
They were long, straight, hollow, and rigid
They could be cut to certain lengths and then used as a template to measure the same length again and again
They could grow anywhere from 10 to 15 feet long
They were used only when other measuring tools were not available
Symbolism in Scripture
Prophets (Old and New Testament)
Isaiah 20:2-5, at that time the Lord spoke through Isaiah son of Amoz. He said to him, “Take off the sackcloth from your body and the sandals from your feet.” And he did so, going around stripped and barefoot. Then the Lord said, “Just as my servant Isaiah has gone stripped and barefoot for three years, as a sign and portent against Egypt and Cush, so the king of Assyria will lead away stripped and barefoot the Egyptian captives and Cushite exiles, young and old, with buttocks bared – to Egypt’s shame. Those who trusted in Cush and boasted in Egypt will be afraid and put to shame.
Read Ezekiel 12:1-7
Acts 21:10-11, After we had been there a number of days, a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. Coming over to us, he took Paul’s belt, tied his own hands and feet with it and said, “The Holy Spirit says, ‘In this way the Jews of Jerusalem will bind the owner of this belt and will hand him over to the Gentiles.’”
Background for the symbolism of measuring the temple
“In Ezek. 40-42 the measuring of the temple signifies God’s ownership and protection of his people. God is present with his people, and they belong to him.” [Osborne, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, Revelation, 409]
Zechariah 2:1-5, Then I looked up – and there before me was a man with a measuring line in his hand! I asked, “Where are you going?” He answered me, “To measure Jerusalem, to find out how wide and how long it is.” Then the angel who was speaking to me left, and another angel came to meet him and said to him: “Run, tell that young man, ‘Jerusalem will be a city without walls because of the great number of men and livestock in it. And I myself will be a wall of fire around it,’ declares the Lord, ‘and I will be its glory within.’
Measuring in Scripture could refer to judgment, but in this particular section of Scripture, as elsewhere in Scripture, John’s measuring is referring to God’s protection of those counted within the inner court of the temple
To measure something means to claim it as your own
“The Lord is saying through John, ‘I own this city and this temple, and I claim both for Myself!’” [Wiersbe, 598]
They were promised God’s protection until they completed their part of His mission
We have God’s promise of protection to complete His mission
Those who will be counted have an important role to play in God’s story, so He will protect them until their part is complete
We have an important role to play in God’s story also, so He will protect us until our part is complete
We’re going to come back to this principle later
There are some questions that need to be answered as we look as these first two verses
What is God’s temple?
Is John’s vision of a literal temple building or is it symbolic of something else
There is great division among scholars concerning this particular question, which tells me that we don’t really know and can’t say definitively
First, it symbolizes the church and all Christians
Those who hold to this belief use other scriptures to point to the fact that the church or Christians are referred to as God’s temple or the sanctuary of God
Jesus used the image of the temple to refer to Himself in John 2:19-22
The church is called the sanctuary/temple of God in 1 Cor. 3:16, 2 Cor. 6:16, and Eph. 2:21-22
Christians are a sanctuary of the Holy Spirit as seen in 1 Cor. 6:19-20 and a spiritual house in 1 Pet. 2:5
They also point to the fact that by the time of John’s writing, Jerusalem had been destroyed and there was no longer a Temple of the Lord there
All of that is very compelling
Second, it refers to a literal temple that will be built during the tribulation period
So, these scholars agree that it is not referring to a current Temple in Jerusalem during John’s time or ours
It is important to note that the Greek word used for temple (naos) only refers to the building itself and not the entire temple area (the courts)
Wiersbe wisely asks the question, “if the temple is the church, then who are the worshipers and what is the altar?”
Akin points to Jesus and Paul’s words to express his belief that a future temple will be built during the last days
Matthew 24:15-16, “So when you see standing in the holy place ‘the abomination that causes desolation,’ spoken of through the prophet Daniel – let the reader understand – then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.
2 Thessalonians 2:4, He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God.
There are plans already in the making to build a fourth temple in Jerusalem
Courson shares that 60% of all the instruments needed for temple worship have already been made according to Old Testament regulations [Courson, 1725]
There are two Jewish schools that are training Jews, with the last name Cohen (priest), to be able to offer sacrifices
The most religious of the Hasidim in Israel are aware of the intention to build another temple in Jerusalem [Patterson, The New American Commentary, Revelation, 240]
The work of Dr. Asher Kaufman has revealed some intriguing aspects of Jerusalem and the location of the original temple [Courson, 1726]
His work was highlighted in the March/April 1983 addition of Biblical Archaeological Review
He believes that the original location for the Holy of Holies is not under the Dome of the Rock, but rather 100 meters to the north in a gazebo-like structure that is the only other location in Jerusalem where the original bedrock of the temple is exposed – here the rock is flat instead of jagged, like it is under the Dome of the Rock [Courson, 1726]
The Mishna (the book of Jewish oral traditions) says that when the priest stood in the Holy of Holies on the Day of Atonement, he could look through the veil, through the door, and see the Eastern Gate directly before him [Courson, 1726]
The original Eastern Gate was found to be directly below the current Eastern Gate, which makes it visible from the location 100 meters north of the Dome of the Rock
Jews can build another Temple on that location and the Dome of the Rock would be in the outer court (the court of the Gentiles) [Courson, 1726]
This would coincide with what we just read about (Rev. 11:1-2) where John excludes the outer court, in his measuring, because it has been given to the Gentiles
While there are some key scriptural clues and historical clues to support either a literal or symbolic temple, the most important thing to remember is that God promises to protect His people from spiritual harm and He will keep His promise
Our second question is . . .
What is the holy city?
The Greek word used for “Gentiles” is translated in other parts of Revelation as “nations,” referring to the inhabitants of the earth (those in rebellion against God)
Only those measured in the temple (inner court) will be protected physically and spiritually during this time
Believers who are part of the outer court will be subject to the “trampling” of the nations
They will be persecuted and probably martyred
They will be protected spiritually in the sense that their martyrdom will result in being with Jesus
The holy city has been interpreted in two ways
Christians, the people of God
More likely, it is the actual city of Jerusalem
The final question in these first two verses is . . .
How do we understand 42 months?
It would be three and a half years
Some scholars believe it simply represents a short period of time
Either way, God is in control and He again limits how long the persecution and suffering of the believers will last
PRINCIPLE – Evil is only able to flourish under the sovereign will of God.
We see now the ministry of the two witnesses
The two witnesses (vv. 3-6)
Who are they?
This is a hotly debated topic, so again I believe we are not supposed to know specifically
Rather, we need to focus on what they are doing instead of who they
Here are three primary theories [Easley, Holman New Testament Commentary, Revelation, 190]
Easley does an excellent job of compiling what most scholars are saying
Two historical figures
Enoch and Elijah
Moses and Elijah
Peter and Paul
Zerubbabel and Joshua (Zechariah 4)
Two future individuals who have not yet been identified or revealed (therefore, their names are not given in Revelation)
Twin components of divine revelation
Law and Gospel
Law and prophets
Old Testament and New Testament
All or part of the church on earth in its prophetic role
We’ll develop this theory more when we look at v. 4 when they are identified as the two olive trees and two lampstands
This is perhaps the best theory of the three options, but still all three are questionable, nothing definitive
While who they are is greatly debated, we know what is given to them by God and what they are supposed to do
God gives them power (vv. 3a, 6)
The power they are given is explained in v. 6
They are given the power to stop rain from falling on the earth while they are prophesying (Elijah was given this power from God, 1 Kings 17:1)
They can turn the water to blood (Moses was given this power from God, Exodus 7:14-18)
They can call down any kind of plague on the earth as often as they want (Moses was also given this power from God, Exodus 8:12)
They are certainly given some incredible power from God
They will prophesy (v. 3b-4)
One other power that God gives them is simply stated in the first half of v. 3
They are also given power to prophesy to the nations
This would be boldness to share the Gospel in the temple courts where the Gentiles are trampling on believers
PRINCIPLE – God empowers His people to share the Gospel.
He has given us that same power through His Holy Spirit
We can share the Gospel with confidence knowing that God is with us and will give us the words to speak
Psalm 56:10-11, In God, whose word I praise, in the Lord, whose word I praise – in God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?
Psalm 118:6, The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?
They will prophesy for the same amount of time as the Gentiles are given to trample on the holy city
1,260 days is the same as 42 months, which equals 3.5 years
Whether this is a literal 3.5 years or simply a short period of time does not affect the bigger picture of this passage
Dressed in sackcloth
This was the coarse garment made of goats hair
It was used when an individual was showing others that they were grieving, mourning, or repenting
It is seen throughout Scripture, especially of those who were showing the Lord that they were repentant of their sins
So these two witnesses are sharing a message of repentance with the nations
Two olive trees and two lampstands
This is a reference to Zechariah’s vision found in Zechariah 4
In his vision there is only one lampstand with seven lamps on it
There are two olive trees on either side of the lampstand
“Already in chapter 1 the seven churches (symbolic of the church universal) have been symbolized by seven lampstands. They are the bearers of divine light (cf. Matt 5:15-16). These light bearers are also olive trees in that ‘the oil of the Spirit . . . keeps alive the light of the life.’” [Mounce, The New International Commentary on the New Testament, Revelation, 218]
So, if the lampstands have already been symbolic of the church universal, it is possible that the two witnesses represent the universal church also (it’s still not ironclad, it’s still debatable)
Why two witnesses?
Almost every commentator agrees that this points to the Biblical rules of evidence as outlined in Deut. 17:6; 19:15
Deuteronomy 17:6, On the testimony of two or three witnesses a man shall be put to death, but no one shall be put to death on the testimony of only one witness.
Deuteronomy 19:15, One witness is not enough to convict a man accused of any crime or offense he may have committed. A matter must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.
“Early Christian witnesses were sent in pairs whenever possible (Mark 6:7; Acts 13:2-4).” [Keener, The NIV Application Commentary, Revelation, 293]
We know that these two witnesses are to prophesy and while they are doing that they will be supernaturally protected from harm
Supernaturally protected (v. 5)
If anyone tries to harm them during the 3.5 years they are prophesying they will be killed by fire that comes out the two witnesses mouths
We see fire coming from heaven to protect Elijah in 2 Kings 1
King Ahaziah sent one of his captains with 50 men to bring Elijah back to him, but they were consumed by fire from heaven
The king sends a second company of 50 men and they too were consumed by fire
The third captain and his company are sent, but this captain falls on his knees before Elijah in humility
The angel of the Lord allows Elijah to return with him to King Ahaziah
We have God’s promise of protection to complete His mission
“The Baptist missionary to China, Lottie Moon, said, ‘I have a firm conviction that I am immortal ‘til my work is done’ (Akin, 10 Who Changed the World, 64).” [Akin, 203]
“The faithful missionary to the Auca Indians, Jim Elliott, had the same conviction as Lottie Moon. In a letter to his parents, he wrote, ‘Remember you are immortal until your work is done. But don’t let the sands of time get into the eyes of your vision to reach those who still sit in darkness. They simply must hear. (Akin, 10 Who Changed the World, 81).” [Akin, 203]
This should give us great confidence in sharing the Gospel with those around us
It goes back to what the Psalmist said that God is with us, so we don’t have to be afraid – what can man do to us
We don’t always feel that way, though
We are afraid of what man can and will do to us
We’re afraid of being alienated, marginalized, and labeled
Read Luke 9:57-62
Matthew 16:24-26, Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?
We can trust God to protect us while we are on mission for Him (Pursuing, Growing, and Multiplying Disciples)
This is a promise we can claim for ourselves as His children
My Next Step Today Is To: Claim God’s promise to protect me until I have completed His mission.
The two witnesses will complete their part in God’s mission after the 3.5 years
Martyrdom of the witnesses (vv. 7-10) [Wiersbe, 599]
The beast will overpower and kill them (v. 7)
Supernatural protection is gone
Once their part is complete, their supernatural protection will be removed
They will no longer have the ability to shoot fire from their mouths and destroy those who try to hurt them
This is the first mention of a beast in Revelation
He is most likely a demonic figure
There will be several other times that a beast is mentioned in this book
Patterson cites Thomas: “For the first time and somewhat by way of anticipation, thērion, the beast enters the description. Thērion is a word for a beast of prey, one with a ravenous appetite, a carnivore, like a lion or a panther, it connotes a cunning of unreasoning violence that acts according to its own cruel nature.” [Patterson, 246]
The beast comes up out of the Abyss
This is the same Abyss that was mentioned in Rev. 9:2 where the locusts with the scorpion tails came from
The Abyss has already been opened and this beast probably waits until he is called upon to accomplish his task with the two witnesses
He is literally making war with the two witnesses, which is the meaning behind the Greek word that is translated as “attack”
Some scholars see this as another indication that the two witnesses represent the whole church instead of just two individuals
We could debate that all day, but again we must focus on the bigger picture and not get caught up in the minor details
Without the protective power of God, the two witnesses will be overpowered by the beast and killed
While this is hard for us to comprehend, God is still in control – this is all part of His story, His plan
The witnesses will be mistreated even after death (vv. 8-9)
The great city
This is referring to Jerusalem, because that is where Jesus was crucified
John also identifies Jerusalem figuratively as Sodom and Egypt
The actual Greek word should be translated “spiritually” instead of “figuratively”
This fits well with the context here in Revelation
Sodom, as describes in Gen. 19:4-11, was morally filthy and focused on fulfilling sinful desires, which is why God called down fire and burning sulphur from heaven to destroy it and Gomorrah
Egypt was known by the Jews as a place of idolatry, oppression, slavery, and suffering
This describes how far Jerusalem will fall from being a place where God’s presence and glory resides
They are refused burial
The fourfold description of those who look at the bodies of the two witnesses simply means everyone (people, tribe, language, and nation)
None of the inhabitants of the earth, who are in rebellion against God, will offer to bury the two witnesses
Refusing to bury someone was the most shameful thing to do in the ancient world
This was reserved for those who were considered vile criminals
There is significance in the three and a half days they are left exposed in the street
It connects with the three and a half years that is mentioned in months (42) and days (1,260)
It is a reminder that decomposition begins to happen after three days
There was a belief in the ancient world that the soul of a person remained near the dead body for three days
After that it would continue its journey to the after life
Jesus remained where he was a couple more days after Lazarus passed away to ensure that those who witnessed Him bringing Lazarus back to life would recognize the power of God
Jesus’ own resurrection took place after three days
God’s plan includes making sure that the inhabitants of the earth recognize that the two witnesses are truly dead
They not only refuse to bury them, but they celebrate their death
The inhabitants of the earth will celebrate (v. 10)
The pagan people will gloat over the two witnesses
They will also celebrate a new, short-lived holiday, “Dead Witnesses Day” [Akin, 204]
They will send each other gifts celebrating the fact that the torment of the two witnesses has finally ended after three and a half years
Evil has a way of celebrating too soon
Have you ever seen that in a sporting event
There’s one video I’ve seen where the fans rush the football field before time is up and one player from the opposing team has the wherewithal to continue running down the field and score the winning touchdown
That’s how I see evil celebrating at Jesus’ death and the two witnesses death
“We’ve won! It’s over! No more torment. No more making me feel guilty about my immoral and idolatrous lifestyle.”
“Hold on! Wait a minute! Did you see one of those rotting corpses move?”
Resurrection of the witnesses (v. 11-14) [Wiersbe, 599]
God gives them the breath of life and they ascend to heaven (v. 11-12)
PRINCIPLE – God promises to raise His people from the dead, reversing their temporary defeat at the hands of evil powers!
Death is not the end for those who are in Christ
Death is actually the beginning of eternal life
1 Corinthians 6:14, By his power God raised the Lord from the dead, and he will raise us also.
Romans 8:11, And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.
My Next Step Today Is To: Claim God’s promise that He will raise me back to life when Jesus returns.
God does it again!
He brings His two witnesses back to life
He breaths the breath of life back into them
They stand up on their feet and God calls them home to heaven
They go to heaven the same way that Jesus did – in the clouds!
Now, those who witnessed this miracle are struck with terror
They have just experienced, firsthand, the power of God
They recognize what the two witnesses were saying about God was true
They need to get the gifts back from those they gave them to, so they can return them
Cancel “Dead Witnesses Day!”
God’s judgment through an earthquake (v. 13a)
An earthquake strikes the city and a tenth of it collapses
Seven thousand people will be killed (this would have been a tenth of the population of Jerusalem during John’s day)
This is again God’s attempt to get the rebellious people of the earth to repent and turn to Him
Some repent (v. 13b)
There is debate again about whether or not “giving glory to the God of heaven” represents true conversion or simply acknowledgment of God’s sovereign power
In other passages of scripture when the phrase “giving glory to God” is used it is referring to a conversion experience or refusing to convert
“John MacArthur points out that giving glory to the God of heaven is a mark of genuine worship in Revelation and elsewhere in Scripture (see 4:9; 14:7; 16:9; 19:7; see also Luke 17:18-19; Rom 4:20): ‘This passage then, described the reality of the salvation of Jews in Jerusalem, as God fulfills His pledge of blessings for Israel (Romans 11:4-5, 26)’ (MacArthur, Revelation 1-11, 305).” [Akin, 205]
It definitely does not mean that there is a universal conversion of the remaining inhabitants of the earth
We’ll see later that the inhabitants of the earth refuse to convert and instead worship the beast and the Antichrist
As MacArthur points out, it could be the conversion of a group of Jews still on earth – that is certainly a viable idea
More to come (v. 14)
The sixth trumpet is finished and the seventh trumpet is about to sound
John explains that the second of three woes has passed and the third is coming
It wasn’t just the prophesying and death of the two witnesses that brought terror and repentance, but rather the resurrection of the two witnesses.
Keener explains his experience as a new convert in his teenage years.
“But sometimes it takes more than our preaching to make people’s hearts receptive. Two of us new converts witnessed boldly in high school, but the turning point in many people’s receptivity was after a two-month period when six individuals who had rejected and mostly mocked our message died in various ways. What preaching and witness may not accomplish for our land, God’s judgment may yet accomplish for those who survive it. In this age his judgment is always an act of love; he normally leaves a remnant who can learn from the judgment.” [Keener, 303].