Notes on Revelation

Chapter 11

four interpretations, followed by my own suggested interpretation. - J. Smelser


  Ogden (early date) Swete (late date)
11:1 measure earthly Jerusalem was being measured for destruction The measuring of the Sanctuary provides for its preservation
the temple the temple in Jerusalem, the Holy Place and the Most Holy Place the church
the altar   the Altar of the Cross
them that worship therein wicked Jews [who] came into power in Jerusalem in the last half of the Roman-Jewish war, corrupted the priesthood, defiled the temple, the sacrifices and the worship the church
11:2 the court which is without the courts and the holy city Israel after the flesh
leave without, and measure it not   passed over and left to its fate
it hath been given unto the nations the destruction of Jerusalem to be profaned
the holy city Jerusalem, the Jewish state Jewish polity
shall they tread under foot the whole war against the Jews delivered to the heathen
forty and two months the actual length of the war from the time Vespasian and his army entered Palestine in the spring of 67 A.D. until Jerusalem was completely destroyed in late summer of 70 A.D. serves to synchronize 11:2 with 11:3, 12:6, 12:14, and to compare with Antiochus' desecration and persecution
11:3 my two witnesses The Law and the Prophets the Church in her function of witness bearing (Acts 1:8)
they shall prophesy The Law and the Prophets continued to testify by being taught and practiced until the practice ceased just before the temple was destroyed words and lives of all in whom Christ lives and speaks
a thousand two hundred and threescore days the 42 months of the war 1260 days of the triumph of heathendom
clothed in sackcloth   indicates that the attitude of the Church during the prevalence of paganism, if not to the end of the her course on earth ... must needs be penitential and not triumphant
11:5 fire proceedeth out of their mouth and devoureth their enemies; and if any man shall desire to hurt them, in this manner must he be killed. such was the end to which the nation of Israel came when they aligned themselves against the Law and the Prophets in the last days of their national existence the witnesses slay their enemies by the fire of the word which they utter
11:6 These have the power to shut the heaven, that it rain not during the days of their prophecy: and they have power over the waters to turn them into blood, and to smite the earth with every plague, as often as they shall desire. Moses and Elijah represented the Law and the Prophets (Matt. 17:1-5) The supplication of a righteous man availeth much in its working
11:7 And when they shall have finished their testimony accomplished, brought to a full end  
the beast that cometh up out of the abyss Roman Empire Roman Empire
shall make war with them, and overcome them, and kill them. When the daily sacrifice ceased in 70 A.D., the Law and the Prophets were dead troubles which began under Nero and Domitian will end in such conlfict as was actually brought about under Decius and in the last persecution under Diocletian.
11:8 And their dead bodies lie in the street the Law and the Prophets are represented as unburied  
of the great city Jerusalem Jerusalem [ultimately, though not yet, representing Rome]
11:9 look upon their dead bodies Roman Army made up of men from all over the empire observed it. Some bystanders also observed it  
three days and a half till the temple was completely destroyed as many days as the years of the witnesses' prophesying
and suffer not their dead bodies to be laid in a tomb.   the hatred entertained for the Christians by the pagan majority
11:10 And they that dwell on the earth rejoice over them, and make merry; and they shall send gifts one to another; because these two prophets tormented them that dwell on the earth. [The Israelites'] laws were a thorn in the flesh to the people of the Roman world. So, by seeking the death of the Law and the Prophets, the peoples of the world sought to end the religious practices that tormented the world. Once accomplished, they would celebrate the fact that their tormentors were dead.  
11:11 And after the three days and a half the breath of life from God entered into them, and they stood upon their feet; When the temple was destroyed a few days after the daily sacrifices ceased, the prophecies of the Law and the Prophets were verified as fulfilled. the church of the martyrs recovering herself from the effects of an age of persecution
11:12 And they heard a great voice from heaven saying unto them, Come up hither. And they went up into heaven in the cloud; and their enemies beheld them. God, who gave the Law and the Prophets... , is portrayed here bringing them back to His throne. fulfilment in the rapture .... But ... partly anticipated by ... basilicas ... canonization ... [etc.]
11:13 And in that hour there was a great earthquake   the breaking up of the old pagan life which would follow the foreseen victory of the faith
the tenth part of the city fell The temple area was about one tenth of the city of Jerusalem the disaster was to be partial and ordinary
and there were killed in the earthquake seven thousand persons many thousands died in the fall of the temple in Jerusalem out of a population of at least 100,000...the disaster was to be partial and ordinary
and the rest were affrighted, and gave glory to the God of heaven.   general movement towards Christianity





    Alford (late date) Lenski (late date)
11:1 measure taking account of, understanding the bearing and dimensions of, that which is to be measured determine who is in the church and who is outside of its bounds - the measuring fixes the boundary, the line of demarkation
the temple the church the church
the altar the altar of incense...taken symbolically  
them that worship therein elect servants of God...true Israelites and priests unto God the three terms [temple, altar, them that worship therein] are a unit and denote the church
11:2 the court which is without those who are outside this sacred enclosure...of these is formed the outward seeming church, mixed up with the world the court of the Gentiles, to symbolize all who are open to the world
leave without, and measure it not   reject it as profane
it hath been given unto the nations   to all those outside the church
the holy city   What "the court outside symbolizes" is now symbolized anew by "the city, the holy one," Jerusalem
shall they tread under foot   trampled down Jerusalem represents the false Christianity which the profane world has invaded
forty and two months   the times of the Gentiles
11:3 my two witnesses   two denotes competent legal testimony
they shall prophesy   a call...to all those who are outside to repent
a thousand two hundred and threescore days    
clothed in sackcloth   the symbol of repentance
11:5 fire proceedeth out of their mouth and devoureth their enemies; and if any man shall desire to hurt them, in this manner must he be killed.    
11:6 These have the power to shut the heaven, that it rain not during the days of their prophecy: and they have power over the waters to turn them into blood, and to smite the earth with every plague, as often as they shall desire.    
11:7 And when they shall have finished their testimony    
the beast that cometh up out of the abyss   the whole antichristian power in the world
shall make war with them, and overcome them, and kill them.    
11:8 And their dead bodies lie in the street    
of the great city   Jerusalem is to be taken ideally, as the headquarters of all anti-Christianity
11:9 look upon their dead bodies    
three days and a half    
and suffer not their dead bodies to be laid in a tomb.    
11:10 And they that dwell on the earth rejoice over them, and make merry; and they shall send gifts one to another; because these two prophets tormented them that dwell on the earth.    
11:11 And after the three days and a half the breath of life from God entered into them, and they stood upon their feet;    
11:12 And they heard a great voice from heaven saying unto them, Come up hither. And they went up into heaven in the cloud; and their enemies beheld them.    
11:13 And in that hour there was a great earthquake    
the tenth part of the city fell    
and there were killed in the earthquake seven thousand persons    
and the rest were affrighted, and gave glory to the God of heaven.    







    Suggested Interpretation (late date)
11:1 measure Delineate the boundaries, define for protection Cf. Ezekiel 43:10, Zech. 2:2, and Rev. 21:15-17. Also note this is just prior to the 7th trumpet, as there was a sealing just prior to the 7th seal, and a protection just prior to the 10th plague.
the temple The church The physical temple was destroyed, not preserved. The church is the House of the Lord (Eph. 2, 1 Pt. 2:5)
the altar Probably the altar of burnt offering, representing Jesus' sacrifice
them that worship therein The people of God Cf. 1 Pt. 2:5, where the saints are both the "living stones" of the temple and the "holy priesthood" which worships therein.
11:2 the court which is without Unbelievers (esp. Jews?) who profess to be God's people. Not all of what appears to be the temple is truly God's House. One may think of the court of the Gentiles, and suppose that the heathen from among the Gentiles are here excluded. But the true Israel of God are those in Christ (Gal 6:16, 3:29, Rom. 9:6), and unbelieving Jews are not of the true Israel, but are sons of Hagar and belong to Arabia (Gal. 4:25); they say they are Jews, but are not. (Rev. 2:9). So here, if the court which is without is only the court of the Gentiles, it can nonetheless by the same irony as we see in Gal. 4:25 represent unbelieving Jews. On the other hand, it may include also the court of Israel and the court of the women, in which case the rejected area represents not only unbelieving Israel, but also the unbelieving Gentiles.
leave without, and measure it not Do not include it in what is defined for protection
it hath been given unto the nations Fleshly Israel abandoned to its fate
the holy city Jerusalem, but here, representing fleshly Israel, not the church, for its being tread under foot of the nations is corollary to the "court without" not being measured and being given to the nations.
shall they tread under foot They shall oppress the Jews. Rome, representing "the nations," rules over the Jews and finally destroys Jerusalem,
forty and two months Jesus described the fall of Jerusalem as a time of tribulation, and 42 months = 3 years is a time period symbolic of suffering. See on vs. 3.
11:3 my two witnesses Apostles and prophets These are identified as the two olive trees, with reference to Zech. 4, that supplied the oil to provide the light from the candlesticks. The word of God revealed by the Holy Spirit is in view. In Zech, the two probably represent the two offices of King and Priest, personified by Zerubbabel and Joshua, and united in the Christ. In the New Testament, the church is built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets (Eph. 2:20), through whom the Holy Spirit reveals God's word (1 Cor. 2:10ff). Plurality of witnesses required (Dt. 19:15, Mt. 18:16, 2 Cor. 13:1, John 5:31ff).
they shall prophesy Act as God's mouthpieces
a thousand two hundred and threescore days Three and a half years, a time with symbolic meaning, viz. a time during which God's people are persecuted. Perhaps here, this time is specifically that period during which God's will was being revealed through the apostles and prophets, and God's people were being persecuted by "those who say they are Jews but are not."

In Daniel 7:25, the saints were to be given into the hand of the fourth beast for "times" (2 years), "time" (1 year), "and a half a time" ( year), a total of 3 years. Perhaps not coincidentally, this was the time of Antiochus' defilement of the temple and persecution of God's people in the 2nd century B.C.

clothed in sackcloth As Mordecai wore sackcloth when God's people were threatened (Est. 4:1ff), so also the two witnesses are pictured as wearing sackcloth as they prophecy while God's people are persecuted.
11:5 fire proceedeth out of their mouth and devoureth their enemies; and if any man shall desire to hurt them, in this manner must he be killed. An allusion to an earlier prophet of God, Jeremiah, in whose mouth God's words were as fire, consuming a disobedient people (Jer. 5:14)
11:6 These have the power to shut the heaven, that it rain not during the days of their prophecy: and they have power over the waters to turn them into blood, and to smite the earth with every plague, as often as they shall desire. First, an allusion to Elijah (1 Ki. 17:1, and then an allusion to Moses (Ex. 7:14ff). Jeremiah, Elijah, and Moses serve as prototypes for the two prophets here in view.
11:7 And when they shall have finished their testimony The completion of the revelation of God's word.
the beast that cometh up out of the abyss Imperial Rome
shall make war with them, and overcome them, and kill them. The martyrdom of the apostles and prophets. Remember the killing of Antipas mentioned in Rev. 2:13. Note that his death was mentioned in connection with Pergamum's identity as the location of Satan's throne due to its prominence as a center of pagan religion. It is Imperial Rome that is responsible for the deaths of the two witnesses.
11:8 And their dead bodies lie in the street A reference to the shameful way in which God's witnesses were treated
of the great city One time elsewhere in scripture, "great city" refers to Jerusalem (Jer. 22:8). But the expression is also used of Gibeon (Joshua 10:2) and especially of Nineveh (Jon. 1:2, 3:2f, 4:11 and perhaps also Gen. 10:12, see C. F. Keil). In Revelation16:19, 17:5, 17:18, 18:10, 18:16, 18:18f, 18:21, Babylon is the great city, but represents Rome, which itself stands for the world over which Satan is god (2 Cor. 4:3).

The great city is said to be "where also their Lord was crucified." This does not necessarily make literal Jerusalem the site. Rome, representing the world over which Satan is god, is not so much a physical city as a spiritual realm of wickedness, and in this realm, and by the same evil forces, Christ and his witness are killed.

11:9 look upon their dead bodies  
three days and a half Another period of suffering, during which the persecution of God's people is not yet avenged
and suffer not their dead bodies to be laid in a tomb.  
11:10 And they that dwell on the earth rejoice over them, and make merry; and they shall send gifts one to another; because these two prophets tormented them that dwell on the earth.  
11:11 And after the three days and a half the breath of life from God entered into them, and they stood upon their feet; Perhaps a reference to the fact that the word spoken by the apostles and prophets proved enduring. Though the men had been killed, the written word was circulated and soon came to be pervasive.
11:12 And they heard a great voice from heaven saying unto them, Come up hither. And they went up into heaven in the cloud; and their enemies beheld them. The enemies of God's people saw the endurance of His word.
11:13 And in that hour there was a great earthquake Judgment comes
the tenth part of the city fell But the Judgment is partial, thus showing it is not the final judgment
and there were killed in the earthquake seven thousand persons  
and the rest were affrighted, and gave glory to the God of heaven.