What we see today is still part of the sixth trumpet’s announcement. It is the conclusion of the “second woe.”
I’m uncertain if what John shares is going on prior to the sixth trumpet sounding or starts at that moment and concludes when the witnesses are brought to Heaven. It is possible for some of this to be happening concurrently with what John has already disclosed. John talks about the tasks and the visions he is given in a chronological format; this, then this, then that. But that does not limit God’s plan to our timeline format.
We see two distinct events taking place in our reading today. The first is John measuring the temple, and the second is the two witnesses who prophesy in Jerusalem for 3 ½ years.
John is told to measure the temple on the INSIDE only. This area, for the time being, is still separate and set apart to God. The thing is, at this time in our history, there is no temple. It was torn down completely in the year 70 AD. Though there was one more attempt to rebuild it in 636 AD the last attempted temple was also destroyed. So does this mean that John is measuring a physical temple? Did the peace treaties, ushered in by the antichrist in the end days allow the temple to be rebuilt? Maybe the antichrist allows the Jews to rebuild their temple. Whether it was a spiritual church or a physical one, John was only to measure the Jewish portion of it. The outer courts were for the Gentiles. God was going to allow the Gentiles access to this area. But the inner courtyard and the temple belonged to HIM.
The second item addressed in our reading today is the two witnesses who stand and proclaim the gospel for 3 ½ years. I just noticed that this is the same length of time that Jesus was active in ministry while He walked with us. I don’t know if Jesus’ ministry was EXACTLY 42 months, like theirs is prophesied to be though. We also are not told if they stand in one place during the whole time or if they move about as Jesus did. At the very least I expect them to be prophesying in the outer courtyard a good portion of the time. This is the best place for them to come into contact with all the nations as God says “they will trample the holy city for forty-two months” (verse 2b).
The two witnesses are fully protected against harm during this time period. There is nothing Satan can do to them UNTIL God’s appointed time. This is another parallel to Jesus’ ministry. MANY times Satan tried to stop Him, from infancy right on through His ministry. But Jesus didn’t die at Satan’s hands or even by man’s design; He died according to GOD’S plan and on HIS time.
The miracles the two witnesses do during their time look nothing like the ones Jesus did while He walked the earth. Jesus’ miracles were healing and spoke of God’s love. The two witnesses speak of God’s judgement. They are mourning the state of man and calling ANY who would listen to repentance. They are given power to protect themselves through fire, given power over the sky in regards to rainfall, power over the water to turn it to blood, and power to inflict plagues on the earth. Their power is reminiscent of the power Moses and Aaron used in the time of the exodus.
The language here, when describing their power, caused me to pause. “As often as they desire” is the phrase that got me. I don’t believe they come with malicious hearts or that they are told exactly when and how long to inflict suffering on the people around them. I believe that when they do act it will be in response to a refusal to listen. Just as the plagues of Egypt were prompted by Pharaoh’s refusal to respond rightly to Moses’ commands from God, I think precipitating events will spark new plagues from the two witnesses. I’m SURE the fire from their mouths will be released as a defensive weapon instead of an offensive one. This will be how they protect themselves.
When they are finally killed, it will be no surprise to them, nor will it be seen as a defeat by those who know the truth. By those who refuse to accept the truth though they will count it as a GREAT victory. Just as the Jewish leaders counted Jesus’ death as a victory for themselves. BOTH were/will be wrong! The witnesses will take a little longer to rise than Jesus did, but rise they will. And they won’t need to stick around afterwards with more work to do. Their job will be finished.
Another difference between them and Jesus is that they will be denied burial. When Jesus was buried He was placed in a tomb. These men will lay where they were slain, in plain view for the entire time. I wonder if this is to combat the rumors that they weren’t really dead or that they didn’t really rise. The Jews tried to discredit Jesus’ resurrection by saying His disciples stole Him out of His tomb. They won’t have that excuse to fall back on next time. The WORLD will see the truth of the men rising from the dead because their bodies will be left on display with their heads clearly removed from their shoulders. NO “faking” that wound. We know Jesus’ wasn’t faked either, no matter what the Jewish leaders tried to tell the people.
The final event of the witnesses departure will be another earthquake. Jesus’ death was accompanied by and earthquake, while the witnesses resurrection will be synchronized with one. This one will actually get the people to give glory to God. It won’t make them give Him their hearts but they will recognize who was in charge of the whole process.
Father God, thank You for the two witnesses. Are they Enoch and Elisha? These two men never faced death on this earth. I wish everyone would listen to them but I know that is a pipe dream. For all those who do, thank You in advance for providing another opportunity for them to get to know You.
Thank You holy Spirit for opening my eyes to a few new things today. I don’t know how they impact the world on the whole, but just knowing You are giving me little bits of insight is enough for me. Thank You for walking me through this difficult letter. I KNOW I won’t understand it all but You letting me see little aspects is enough for me. IF I need more, I trust You will show it to me in the hour I need it.