Revelation 11: The Temple and Two Witnesses

Last Updated: 10/28/2023 14:44    | Print This Page | |


I’ve excerpted Revelation 11 below without verses as it was originally. If you would like to read it with verse numbers and inline Hebrew definitions, read it at Blue Letter Bible.

Revelation 11
And there was given me a reed like unto a rod: and the angel stood, saying, Rise, and measure the temple of God, and the altar, and them that worship therein. But the court which is without the temple leave out, and measure it not; for it is given unto the Gentiles: and the holy city shall they tread under foot forty [and] two months. And I will give [power] unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred [and] threescore days, clothed in sackcloth. These are the two olive trees, and the two candlesticks standing before the God of the earth. And if any man will hurt them, fire proceedeth out of their mouth, and devoureth their enemies: and if any man will hurt them, he must in this manner be killed. These have power to shut heaven, that it rain not in the days of their prophecy: and have power over waters to turn them to blood, and to smite the earth with all plagues, as often as they will. And when they shall have finished their testimony, the beast that ascendeth out of the bottomless pit shall make war against them, and shall overcome them, and kill them. And their dead bodies [shall lie] in the street of the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified. And they of the people and kindreds and tongues and nations shall see their dead bodies three days and an half, and shall not suffer their dead bodies to be put in graves. And they that dwell upon the earth shall rejoice over them, and make merry, and shall send gifts one to another; because these two prophets tormented them that dwelt on the earth. And after three days and an half the Spirit of life from God entered into them, and they stood upon their feet; and great fear fell upon them which saw them. And they heard a great voice from heaven saying unto them, Come up hither. And they ascended up to heaven in a cloud; and their enemies beheld them. And the same hour was there a great earthquake, and the tenth part of the city fell, and in the earthquake were slain of men seven thousand: and the remnant were affrighted, and gave glory to the God of heaven. The second woe is past; [and], behold, the third woe cometh quickly. And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become [the kingdoms] of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever. And the four and twenty elders, which sat before God on their seats, fell upon their faces, and worshipped God, Saying, We give thee thanks, O Lord God Almighty, which art, and wast, and art to come; because thou hast taken to thee thy great power, and hast reigned. And the nations were angry, and thy wrath is come, and the time of the dead, that they should be judged, and that thou shouldest give reward unto thy servants the prophets, and to the saints, and them that fear thy name, small and great; and shouldest destroy them which destroy the earth. And the temple of God was opened in heaven, and there was seen in his temple the ark of his testament: and there were lightnings, and voices, and thunderings, and an earthquake, and great hail.

In the sequence of chapters in Revelation, this falls in the middle and in the content this falls in between the depiction of the sixth trumpet, which is the second woe, and the seventh trumpet, which is the third woe. Revelation 8:13

The Temple

The first thing we realize is that there will be a physical, measurable, temporal temple which will not have an outer court. We know this because John is told to measure the temple, the altar, and those who worship within and only physical spacial things can be measured. The outer court should not be measured because it's given to the Gentiles. In the second temple, this was the larger courtyard surrounding the inner court and the temple where Gentiles could go but no further into the inner court on pain of death, only Jews were allowed into the inner court.

One view is that this statement is meant to explain that this particular temple has no outer court like the previous did and the Gentiles control the property where it would have stood. This has led to speculation of some kind of deal over the Temple Mount to build the third temple while leaving the Dome of the Rock in place as-is. This is how I had read it previous, but my thoughts on this have changed.

Another view of this being left out from the measuring is because it has nothing to do with the Jews worshipping at the temple. We don't know what the measurement was to be used for, but the fact that it's explitily stated that the outer court should not be part of the measurement of the temple of God, the altar, and the worshippers would seem to be clarifying the focus of this vision on the Jews and not on the Gentiles. That John is told not to measure the outer court “which is without the temple” would seem to imply it is there, yet should not be measured.

Jerusalem Tread Under Foot

We are then told that the holy city will be tread under foot for 42 months. This treading under foot of Jerusalem is also described in Luke 21:20-24, which speaks of the siege of Jerusalem in 70 AD. Luke's account, unlike Matthew and Mark's accounts, diverges in the Olivet Discourse to provide the same warning to flee Jerusalem that is given to those who see the abomination of desolation in the midst of the 70th week of Daniel.

Given the man of sin after the abomination of desolation is going to be given power for 42 months (Revelation 13:5), the saints will be given over to the beast for 3½ years (Daniel 7:25), and the power of the holy people will be scattered for 3½ years (Daniel 12:5-11), I think it's safe to say that the time the holy city is considered to be tread under foot by the Gentiles will be for the 42 month reign of the antichrist from the temple and Jerusalem.

In Romans 11, Israel and Gentiles are both symbolically branches of olive trees, it's just that the Israel are natural branches from the root that is Yeshua, the chosen people through which salvation would be born. The Gentiles are the wild branches from roots all around. It is possible for natural branches to be broken off the root in unbelief, and for wild branches to be grafted onto the root in faith. Since the root is the source of the nourishment of the tree, it follows that being broken off means they are no longer part of the tree and eventually death. Since Gentiles is a definition created from not being a Jew, or part of Israel, it would follow then that those broken off in unbelief are then considered to be Gentile. Using another analogy, it's as if a person standing in a room with a source of light were to suddenly have that light turned off, they would be standing in darkness. That state of darkness is due to a lack of light, darkness is defined by light just as Gentile is defined by lack of Israeli heritage.

The exception to this comes from the understanding that the just are defined by their faith and are of Abraham's seed, whether physically or not, if they have faith in God. Galatians 3:26-29 And so we see that being grafted onto the root, which is Christ, is a matter of faith and membership of His people, spiritual Israel, is a matter of being grafted onto that root in faith. And therefore removal from that root is removal from spiritual Israel and becoming a Gentile. Those who reject Christ and worship the beast during his 42 month reign will trample the holy city for that same time with the beast.

The Two Witnesses

God's two witnesses are said to prophesy for 1,260 days. In a 360-day year this is the same time frame as 42 months and 3½ years, however I don't believe these two times are connected. The main reasoning behind this is what comes later in the chapter when they are killed, which will be covered below.

These two are symbolized below, but they are physical people who will exist within space and time. We know they are given power to prophesy for 1,260 days, defining a temporal connection to their presense, but as we will see later, they are also spacially present in that people attempt to hurt them and are subsequently destroyed for trying. Therefore attempting to symbolize them in any other light other than that presented in scripture as physical men in time is fruitless in my opinion. There are symbols that better define them, but they are still 2 physically present men.

Revelation 11:4
These are the two olive trees, and the two candlesticks standing before the God of the earth.

Two Olive Trees


Two Candlesticks

Zechariah 4
And the angel that talked with me came again, and waked me, as a man that is wakened out of his sleep. And said unto me, What seest thou? And I said, I have looked, and behold a candlestick all of gold, with a bowl upon the top of it, and his seven lamps thereon, and seven pipes to the seven lamps, which are upon the top thereof: And two olive trees by it, one upon the right side of the bowl, and the other upon the left side thereof. So I answered and spake to the angel that talked with me, saying, What are these, my lord? Then the angel that talked with me answered and said unto me, Knowest thou not what these be? And I said, No, my lord. Then he answered and spake unto me, saying, This is the word of the LORD unto Zerubbabel, saying, Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the LORD of hosts. Who art thou, O great mountain? before Zerubbabel thou shalt become a plain: and he shall bring forth the headstone thereof with shoutings, crying, Grace, grace unto it. Moreover the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house; his hands shall also finish it; and thou shalt know that the LORD of hosts hath sent me unto you. For who hath despised the day of small things? for they shall rejoice, and shall see the plummet in the hand of Zerubbabel with those seven; they are the eyes of the LORD, which run to and fro through the whole earth. Then answered I, and said unto him, What are these two olive trees upon the right side of the candlestick and upon the left side thereof? And I answered again, and said unto him, What be these two olive branches which through the two golden pipes empty the golden oil out of themselves? And he answered me and said, Knowest thou not what these be? And I said, No, my lord. Then said he, These are the two anointed ones, that stand by the LORD of the whole earth.

7 lamps and 7 pipes

When speaking of Zerubbabel with his plumb who build the foundations and finishes his work, they will rejoice when they see him with those seven. The only mention previously of the seven is related to the golden candlestick with a bowl on it, seven lamps connected by seven pipes. These seven are described as “the eyes of the LORD, which run to and fro through the whole earth.”

2 Chronicles 16:9
For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew himself strong in the behalf of [them] whose heart [is] perfect toward him. Herein thou hast done foolishly: therefore from henceforth thou shalt have wars.

So what are these candlesticks and these seven pipes connected to seven bowls with lamps on them? The same word candlestick from Revelation 11:4 is used when defining the Old Covenant foreshadowing the New Covenant.

Hebrews 9:1-2
Then verily the first [covenant] had also ordinances of divine service, and a worldly sanctuary. For there was a tabernacle made; the first, wherein [was] the candlestick, and the table, and the shewbread; which is called the sanctuary.

These candlesticks in the tabernacle were the menorah.

Exodus 25:31-40
MenorahAnd thou shalt make a candlestick [of] pure gold: [of] beaten work shall the candlestick be made: his shaft, and his branches, his bowls, his knops, and his flowers, shall be of the same. And six branches shall come out of the sides of it; three branches of the candlestick out of the one side, and three branches of the candlestick out of the other side: Three bowls made like unto almonds, [with] a knop and a flower in one branch; and three bowls made like almonds in the other branch, [with] a knop and a flower: so in the six branches that come out of the candlestick. And in the candlestick [shall be] four bowls made like unto almonds, [with] their knops and their flowers. And [there shall be] a knop under two branches of the same, and a knop under two branches of the same, and a knop under two branches of the same, according to the six branches that proceed out of the candlestick. Their knops and their branches shall be of the same: all it [shall be] one beaten work [of] pure gold. And thou shalt make the seven lamps thereof: and they shall light the lamps thereof, that they may give light over against it. And the tongs thereof, and the snuffdishes thereof, [shall be of] pure gold. [Of] a talent of pure gold shall he make it, with all these vessels. 40 And look that thou make [them] after their pattern, which was shewed thee in the mount.

In Revelation 1:20, the mystery of the seven candlesticks are revealed to be the seven churches. However, in Revelation there are two of these menorah being feed the oil from the olive trees to the pipes for the lamps. We are the light of the earth with Christ in us. So I believe these two witnesses being identified with the olive tree (clearly not wild, so of Israel) and the candlesticks (instruments of God’s light) connect them with God and Israel in these end times. They will be sent to Jerusalem to speak the Truth and judge and be hated for it.

Just as in the parable of the ten virgins in Matthew 25:1-13 where the oil is the fuel for the lamps and those without oil are shut out of the marriage, I believe this whole association of the olive trees providing the oil for which the lamps burn is all in agreement. Christ is the root of the fruitful olive tree and those who live by faith are the branches. The Holy Spirit is the oil produced from the tree that flows through and feeds all who are part of the tree. That oil is the source of the oil for the lamps that produce the light of God.

Acts 2:1-4
And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.

So too should those filled with the Holy Spirit not hide their light under a bushel, but rather live by the Spirit in Truth peacably with one another and shine as an example of the peace that passes all understanding that we have in resting in God, for His yoke is easy and His burden is light. Selflessly love God and selflessly love your neighbor as yourself.

And so these two olive trees and candlesticks are God's annointed that will be sent to speak the Truth during the time of great deception, given power by the Holy Spirit to be a light representing God in the darkening world.