CHAPTER ELEVEN





THE "TWO WITNESSES"

To me, this is the pivotal chapter of the book of Revelation. Once I saw the meaning of the symbolism here, the rest of the book also began to fall into place. In fact, I would go so far as to say that comprehension of Rev. 11 opens the door to understanding Biblical prophecy---period. The information herein links together many of the mysterious passages relating to God's predictions of the Church Age. Don't be surprised if at some point you wonder, "Why didn't I see that?" or, "Why haven't others seen this?" However, what's really important is to realize NOW is the time God has elected to unveil some of these mysteries.

(By the way, you need to know I'm not saying that the mysteries of prophecy are so profound that few can comprehend them. Surely you have already noted that there is nothing complicated about the identifications presented thus far. If there's anything tough here, it's only accepting whether the identifications are correct or not. Again I use the analogy of a puzzle: the scattered pieces of a puzzle before assembly may be compared to the facts of history in disarray. The task is merely finding the parts which fit together. Once in place, one wonders how he could have missed it.)

For ease of continuity and because this is such a prime chapter, I'll go verse-by-verse throughout this chapter.

Verse 1.

"And there was given to me a reed like a measuring rod. And the angel stood, saying, 'Rise and measure the temple of God, the altar, and those who worship there."

When God begins to measure with a plumbline, action is imminent. (See Is. 28:17; Jer. 31: 38 & 39; and Zech. 2: 1 & 2). The Seventh Trumpet sounds at the end of this chapter and we know (as you'll see later on) that this is the last trumpet. So, the language here --- "measure the temple of God, the altar, and those that worship there" --- quite properly indicates that once human history reaches this point in time, everything is wrapping up and approaching the time of the end.

Verse 2.

2 "But leave out the court which is outside the temple, and do not measure it, for it has been given to the Gentiles. And they will tread the holy city under foot forty-two months."

The "holy city" here would obviously refer to Jerusalem. I believe there is another side of this too but for now, I'll limit my explanation to the literal city.

Note that the city was to be "tread under foot" for "forty-two months". Now forty-two months means 42, 30-day months. (All months were 30-days in duration by ancient Hebrew reckoning.) Therefore, 42 months, times a 30-day month, equals 1260 days. That's a very interesting number which we'll see pop up two more times in Revelation, chapters 12 and 13. In one place, the same time period is referred to as "a time, times and half a time". All these --- 1260 days, forty-two months, and a time, times and half a time --- are three different ways of saying the same thing. (Learning all the small facts may be boring right now, but later the knowledge will lend tremendous aid to understanding Bible prophecy, so keep them in mind. I confess that it was quite a while before I too gave more than only casual observance to these seemingly-insignificant details. But I discovered that these "nugget" finds are like dynamite --- packaged small, but, oh so powerful when used under properly controlled conditions.)

As we continue the study it will become progressively clear as to what is meant by prophetic days. But I'm convinced, based on Biblical precedents as well as how it all works out in actuality, that the "forty-two" months referred to above, really means 1260 prophetic-year "days".

But even if you accept how I spiritualized these numbers, the question remains: what's the significance? Just this: note that the "holy city" (Jerusalem) was to be "tread under foot" for the time span of 1260 years. Therefore, we need to know exactly what particular 1260 year period this refers to. I believe it's the years between 688 A.D. and 1948 A.D. Now let me show you why those particular years.

After many centuries of dispersion, Israel was re-established as a nation in 1948. Now, the next question is, what act, or incident, best describes the point at which this dispersion commenced? Some would say it was when Titus and his Roman army invaded Jerusalem, tore down the Temple, etc. It is true that Jewish rituals and sacrifices normally held in the Temple could no longer be performed there after that point, but Titus' invasion didn't disperse all the Jews from the land of Israel.

There is a series of events which better-describes what we are looking for. Now remember, we're searching for something which physically, symbolically and historically, would irrefutably represent something which would satisfy what the Scripture demands: namely, that the "holy city" (Jerusalem) was indeed "tread under foot" for 1260 years.

Now obviously 1948 is one very pertinent point in time which is easily established. No one can deny that that year spelled the beginning of a renewal of Jewish control of portions of the land of ancient Israel. The main documented event which laid the groundwork for the return of the Jews to their homeland was the Balfour Declaration of 1917 (put into effect by the British, by the way), and in 1948, the Jews declared their nationality. Today, most other countries recognize Israel as a sovereign nation and all agree that their re-birth date was 1948.

Therefore, by simply counting backwards 1260 years from 1948, automatically establishes 688 A.D. as a year we ought to look at to see if anything happened in the "holy city" that year which could be thought to represent when the "treading under foot" began. Rambling through history books at the U. C. Davis library one day I made a very interesting discovery. That year (688 A.D.) was the very year the Muslims began placing the "crown" on the Dome of the Rock. Now what's the prophetic implication here? To Muslims, the Dome of the Rock is one of Islam's most treasured holy places, only third in importance to the mosque of Mecca. Now let me explain the importance of all these facts.

Most modern-day Jews, Muslims and Christians presume that the Dome of the Rock was placed at the exact site of the former Jewish Temple. (Surely you have noticed that almost any photograph of Jerusalem presents the Dome as the most outstanding architectural building in the region.) Isn't it interesting that the Muslims would place their 'holy place' precisely where the holy Jewish temple had formerly been? But then, why not? If a group becomes convinced that they are now God's chosen people, then doesn't it make good sense (from their vantage point) to place their own religious edifice at the same temple site of those (historically their primary enemy) they just conquered?

To the Muslims, the Dome (the site from which Mohammad supposedly ascended) would stand forever, proudly-proclaiming to all future generations that Allah (their god) was proving His preference was for the Islamic religion. This would also send a message to Roman Catholicism (another enemy) who had set up their holy shrines in Israel --- the Holy Sepulchre and the Church of the Nativity.

THE "ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION"

Jesus once spoke specifically of something abominable that would someday "stand in the holy place". Could the Dome of the Rock have been His inference? Here are His exact words:

"Therefore when you see the 'abomination of desolation,' spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place" (whoever reads, let him understand), "then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains." (Matthew 24: 15 & 16)

Now the Futuristic School say this reference is to the final anti-Christ when he places himself in a re-built Jewish temple claiming to be god. I'm very familiar with this concept and I realize the view is held by practically all modern-day, evangelical, prophetic writers. But again, they have totally missed the historical picture. We must deal with first things, first.

I will cover the historical "abomination of desolation" more thoroughly later but the verse we are currently looking at (Rev. 11:2) demands our scrutiny right now. Recall that the Second Seal (the "red horse and its rider") was Mohammad.

Quoting again from Hart's commentary on Mohammad: "In 642" (note the date) "the inspired Arabs, though small then, embarked upon one of the most astonishing series of conquests in human history. They soon conquered all of Mesopotamia, Syria and Palestine."

Now carefully observe that Palestine (Israel) was conquered by Mohammad in 642 A.D. This is not the date we are looking for but this invasion set the stage. The building which would later be constructed (the Dome of the Rock) would become the symbolic representation of Mohammad's Islamic accomplishments in Israel. And as noted above, the most prominent part, the gold dome, continually reminds the world of the man with the sword (Mohammad) who put the 'finishing touches' on Israel's dispersion. He was responsible for beginning one of the world's largest false religions, most certainly opposed to Judaism and Christianity. (Make no mistake, Islam is determined to spread it's 'gospel' throughout the world. They took their ground in the beginning by force. I believe they will make another attempt in our day.)

In a recent (1988) issue of "Eternity" magazine was this quote: "Islam, with its one billion adherents worldwide, is the 'greatest threat to Western civilization that exists today,...". This "greatest threat" religion is based upon a total rejection of God's promise --- that His Messiah would come through Abraham's son, Isaac. Mohammad, a descendant of Ishmael, claimed Abraham was the father of their religion because Ishmael was Abraham's son through Hagar. Nothing could be further from the truth. This is one of Satan's great delusions, perhaps even believed by more people than there are true, born-again Christians!

Now with all these thoughts in mind, once again I want you to focus on the fact that there just happens to be 1,260 years (42 "months") between 688 (the year they began construction on the Dome of the Rock) and 1948, (when Israel was established as a nation.) Again recall what the Scripture calls for; "...and they will tread the holy city under foot forty-two months."

The Dome of the Rock clearly satisfies the Biblical criteria as being the Historical "abomination of desolation". One might properly ask what it is about the Moslem mosque that's "abominable" to God. After all, Jesus said that Herod's temple would be destroyed, clearly indicating that God's use of the old temple was now a thing of the past. (From then on, God would indwell human temples---born-again Christians.) Nevertheless, the location of the Islamic Dome of the Rock is a mockery of God's covenanted-commitment to ancient Israel. Mocking God is an abomination regardless of His change of program.

Next, the meaning of the word "desolation" simply refers to the fact that the Jews were driven from their homeland. The land became "desolate" of Jews, and remained so until 1948. It obviously was God's plan to allow His former people to be dispersed, but woe unto those who did it for their own selfish reasons.

ANOTHER "ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION"

I mentioned earlier that most prophetic writers identify the "abomination of desolation" as the final anti-Christ who will set up his kingdom in a Jewish temple which will supposedly be built near the end of the age. Futuristically speaking, this could be so but, historically speaking, the Dome of the Rock is clearly the intended meaning.

[Not to confuse you, but there is another way to consider this. We know that at the end of the age, Satan will have established his "throne" in the hearts and minds of many people, even several nations. Those people could be thought of as Satan's "temple"; his occupancy in them representing a spiritualized fulfillment of 2 Thes. 2:4, which says Satan "...sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God." More on this later.]





THE TWO WITNESSES

Verse 3.

"And I will give power to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy one thousand two hundred and sixty days, clothed in sackcloth."

Before giving my commentary on the Historical identity of the "two witnesses", let's first note what the Futurists say about them. They are usually believed to be Elijah and Moses --- some say Elijah and Enoch. This conclusion is reached because the characteristics of the "two witnesses" (see verses 4 - 6) are comparable to these ancient prophets.

Other explanations go something like this: Enoch and Elijah never saw physical death, God having taken them alive. Since that time they have apparently been kept 'in store' somewhere and will later return to earth during the tribulation period for their 1260-day witnessing ministry.

But those who believe Moses will be one of the "witnesses" say his characteristics also fit the Revelation description. They refer to the fact that Moses was not allowed to enter the promised land when he delivered the people of Israel to the edge of the river of Jordan. Thus, the contention is that Moses' ministry was never completed and therefore, he will get the opportunity to finish his work in the tribulation period. Other proponents of this view would give broader coverage than this brief scenario but these are the essentials for you to know.

A LITERAL MOSES, OR ELIJAH, OR ENOCH?

Let's take Moses' case first: According to Revelation 11:7, the "two witnesses" will be killed. But the Bible says, "So Moses the servant of the Lord died in the land of Moab, according to the word of the Lord." (Deut. 34:5) Then, in Hebrews 9:27, we are told, "And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment;..." So, if Moses is to be a "witness" in the tribulation, he will have to die twice! Now some will say, "What's wrong with that? Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead and he died again. Why can't Moses do the same thing?" Well, he could, using the idea that anything is possible with God. But, in Moses' case, it's not reasonable. Moses has already received and experienced a glorified-body resurrection. I say this because of two Scriptures:

"Yet Michael the archangel, in contending with the devil, when he disputed about the body of Moses, dared not bring against him a reviling accusation, but said, "The Lord rebuke you!" (Jude 9)

Now this fact seems to have slipped past the Futurists' thinking. God obviously had a purpose and need for the body of Moses. Michael, the archangel, demanded the body of Moses from Satan. Why did this happen? The answer is found in Mark 9:1:

"And he said to them, 'Assuredly, I say to you that there are some standing here who shall not taste death till they see the kingdom of God come with power.'" (This is speaking of Peter, James and John.)

Then in verse 4 we see, "And Elijah appeared to them with Moses, and they were talking with Jesus." (Mark 9:4) These verses refer to what is known as the Transfiguration. Three men --- Peter, James and John --- had the privilege of seeing Jesus transfigured along with Moses and Elijah. It isn't necessary here to go into all the ramifications of what this means. I wanted to draw your attention to the fact that Moses and Elijah were there many centuries after their former prophetic ministries. In Moses' case, wouldn't it be some kind of double jeapordy for him to die again in the tribulation? I have trouble with the Futuristic reasoning here.

But what about Enoch? We know very little about Enoch, but one thing is clear: he pleased God. "And Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him." (Gen. 5:24) Many Christians see Enoch's being taken by God as a pre-figurement of the rapture of the Church at the end of this present age. I accept that. But what I don't accept is Enoch being kept alive these past five thousand years or so, still living in a corruptible body!

Thirdly, what about Elijah? Well, he too was translated (i.e., taken away, or "raptured"), apparently without passing through normal death. "Then it happened, as they continued on and talked, that suddenly a chariot of fire appeared with horses of fire, and separated the two of them; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven." (2 Kings 2:11)

Therefore, because Enoch and Elijah were translated, Futurists conclude that Enoch and Elijah never died. Actually, close examination shows the passages don't exactly say this. Of Enoch, it says he "was not", and was "taken" --- whatever that means. In Hebrews 5 we are told Enoch didn't "see death". This doesn't necessarily mean he didn't experience it, just that he didn't "see" it. (I'll explain why in a minute.) Of Elijah, it says he was "separated" from Elisha and that he "went up". None of these statements come right out and say they didn't die! Why?

I believe that Enoch and Elijah died instantaneously and before they could even fall to the ground, were immediately transformed into a new creation before being "taken". This is why neither of them "saw" death. I have specific Scriptures on which to base this reasoning:

"Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I tell you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed - in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed." (1 Cor. 15: 50 - 52)

Now these verses serve several purposes here. First, it explains what really happened to Enoch and Elijah. They simply did not "sleep" --- i.e., did not die in the usual way. But, they were "changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye", meaning, their old bodies instantly became new, incorruptible ones! Also, these verses are believed by most Christians to represent what happens to believers who will be alive when Jesus comes for His Church. There will be some people who won't have to go through usual dying processes, at the "last trumpet". But this doesn't mean instantaneous-death won't come to the old body! For the verse also says the "corruptible" body cannot inherit the kingdom of God. There must be a new body for those who enter the kingdom of God. This is what I believe happened to Enoch and Elijah.

I believe this concept truly makes Enoch and Elijah forerunners of what is described in the above passage. Their early "translations" were pictures of what believers, perhaps in our day, can expect to happen to them. But, make no mistake, if you are saved when the Lord comes, you'll have to die to your old body. It will be quicker than you can blink your eye, but you will die! Our present bodies cannot inherit the kingdom of God. But believers won't see the death. I think it is only because of the suddenness of Enoch and Elijah's translation that the Scriptures don't come right out and say they died. Instead, God preferred to use the language "was not" for Enoch, and "was taken" in Elijah's case. Actually it makes good sense to de-emphasize the act of dying if one is taken through it with the suddenness of an eye-blink. I like God's choice of words. However, I don't like the understanding given these particular passages by most Futuristic writers. I think they have missed the point.

JOHN THE BAPTIST = ELIJAH?

There are other questions about Elijah which some readers will have, so I feel the need to address the issue before presenting my views on the identities of the "two witnesses". Malichi, the last prophet of the Old Testament, predicted the coming of Elijah:

"Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD. And he will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, And the hearts of the children to their fathers. Lest I come and strike the earth with a curse." (Mal. 4: 5 & 6)

The Futurists place a lot of emphasis on this verse because it seems to lend support to Elijah being one of the two witnesses of Revelation 11. But it's also a prediction of John the Baptist. Note:

"He" (i.e., John the Baptist) "will also go before Him" (i.e., Jesus) "in the spirit and power of Elijah, 'to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children,' and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord." (Luke 1: 17)

That was a word from an angel of the Lord to Zacharias, about his son, John the Baptist. The angel said John would turn the "hearts of the fathers to the children"; this is exactly what Malachi prophesied about Elijah! And if this isn't sufficient evidence, listen to what Jesus said of John the Baptist:

"For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John. And if you are willing to receive it, he is Elijah who is to come." (Matt. 11: 13 & 14)

This is all kind of confusing, isn't it? Well, Jesus' disciples were confused too. They expressed their lack of understanding with this question to Jesus:

"...'Why do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?' And He answered and told them, 'Elijah does come first, and restores all things. ...'But I say to you that Elijah also has come, and they have done to him whatever they wished, as it is written of him."

(Mark 9: 11 - 13)

What did Jesus mean here? (1), that Elijah had already come and they had done to him "whatever they wished" (namely, killed John by cutting off his head), and (2), that Elijah would yet come to "restore all things". Is this double-talk? No indeed. Jesus showed His expectation that this would be hard to hear when He said:

"He who has ears to hear, let him hear!" (Matt. 11:15)

Now let me summarize: Elijah was "raptured" (or taken), not dying in the usual manner. If Elijah was going to be returned to earth in his former body, wouldn't he have been allowed to do so at the time of John the Baptist? Now, I'm not emphatically saying it is impossible that the "real" Elijah can't, or won't, return just exactly as he was when he left in the "chariot of fire" several thousand years ago. But, I am saying there is another (I think better) way of interpreting the meaning of Jesus' prophesy that Elijah would return to "restore all things".

Since John the Baptist was a 'representative' of Elijah (i.e., he came in the spirit and power of Elijah, meaning he had Elijah-like characteristics and anointing), why not assume that's the same pattern which will be followed when "Elijah" appears again? In other words, when it's time for Elijah to return before the second coming of the Lord, doesn't it make more sense that another will come in the "spirit and power" of Elijah, just as did John the Baptist?