Then there was given me a measuring rod like a staff; and someone said, “Get up and measure the temple of God and the altar, and those who worship in it. 2 Leave out the court which is outside the temple and do not measure it, for it has been given to the nations; and they will tread under foot the holy city for forty-two months. 3 And I will grant authority to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for twelve hundred and sixty days, clothed in sackcloth.” 4 These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth. 5 And if anyone wants to harm them, fire flows out of their mouth and devours their enemies; so if anyone wants to harm them, he must be killed in this way. 6 These have the power to shut up the sky, so that rain will not fall during the days of their prophesying; and they have power over the waters to turn them into blood, and to strike the earth with every plague, as often as they desire.
John was given a measuring rod like a staff to go and measure the temple of God and the altar and those who worshipped in it. He was to leave out the court outside of the temple and not measure it, for it was given to the nations to trample under foot for forty-two months. This second three and a half year period of the final seven year tribulation period is exactly what Daniel had foretold in the Old Testament (Daniel 7:25, 12:7). The antichrist will make a peace treaty with Israel at the beginning of the seven year period (it is his major accomplishment as he is revealed on the world scene). Then, after three and a half years, he will break it. As Daniel 9:27 says, “And he will make a firm covenant with the many for one week, but in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering; and on the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate, even until a complete destruction, one that is decreed, is poured out on the one who makes desolate.” God will allow the temple to be trampled underfoot by the antichrist for three and a half years (Revelation 13:5, Hosea 3:4), after which time swift judgment from God Himself will ensue. Daniel 12:11-12 speaks of an additional thirty days and then another forty-five days before the final series of glorious events take place, probably including the first resurrection and the launch of the millennial kingdom. During the time of the great tribulation on the earth, the second three and a half year period, God will appoint two witnesses to prophesy and speak the word of truth to the nations. These two olive trees, God’s open hand of reconciliation if only man would repent, were sent as lampstands of His presence to testify to His mercy and to the gospel. If anyone wanted to harm them, fire would flow out of their mouths and devour them. Thus, any who wanted to harm them would be killed in this way. Nothing would stand in the way of God presenting His gospel truth through these two witnesses in a powerful manner and display. In a time of great wrath, the greatest tribulation that Israel will ever face (Jeremiah 30:5-7, Daniel 12:1) and the greatest suffering the people on earth will ever encounter (Matthew 24:21-22), God’s mercy was equally great if only people would listen. The two witnesses also had the power to shut up the sky so that it wouldn’t rain while they prophesied, and they had the power to turn the waters into blood and strike the earth with plagues whenever they desired. These powers were necessary because they had to take drastic measures in order to get the attention of the people who kept worshipping demons instead of God (Revelation 9:20-21). The people of the earth needed to see the connection between the God Who sends the plagues and the consequences of their own sin. The people would have gladly killed the messengers of the gospel (v. 10), but God wanted His message to go forth for the full 1,260 days. Thus, He gave them the power to protect themselves and to demonstrate His divine power backing their ministry.
7 When they have finished their testimony, the beast that comes up out of the abyss will make war with them, and overcome them and kill them. 8 And their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city which mystically is called Sodom and Egypt, where also their Lord was crucified. 9 Those from the peoples and tribes and tongues and nations will look at their dead bodies for three and a half days, and will not permit their dead bodies to be laid in a tomb. 10 And those who dwell on the earth will rejoice over them and celebrate; and they will send gifts to one another, because these two prophets tormented those who dwell on the earth.
At the end of the 1,260 days, the testimony of the witnesses will be complete. An angel from heaven will declare the gospel throughout the world one last time in Revelation 14:6, and then the end will quickly come (Matthew 24:14). The beast that comes out of the abyss (Luke 8:31, Revelation 20:1, 3), the antichrist himself, will be allowed to kill the two witnesses after they complete their testifying. These prophets who had preached against sin for three and a half years to the chagrin of the nations will finally be done away with, likely making many happy and enthralled with the beast (v. 10). Their dead bodies will be allowed to lie in the street of what is in all likelihood Jerusalem given the temple descriptions to start this passage in v. 1 and the fact that Jesus is said to have been crucified there (v. 8). However, the place, Jerusalem, will be better known at that time as a place akin to Egypt or Sodom because of how it will have become overrun by sin and sinners, including the antichrist. People from every tribe, tongue, and nation will see their bodies lying dead for three and a half days. They will not allow them to be laid in a tomb, holding them in contempt rather than giving them the respect of a proper burial (see also Acts 14:19). Those on the earth will rejoice and celebrate, even giving gifts to each other, because they will not have to listen to God’s Word being preached any longer from these two prophets of God. Hearing God’s Word throughout the world in the last days will be a torment for sinners just as it often is now (2 Corinthians 2:16).
11 But after the three and a half days, the breath of life from God came into them, and they stood on their feet; and great fear fell upon those who were watching them. 12 And they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, “Come up here.” Then they went up into heaven in the cloud, and their enemies watched them. 13 And in that hour there was a great earthquake, and a tenth of the city fell; seven thousand people were killed in the earthquake, and the rest were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven.
After three and a half days of their bodies lying in the streets, God brought them back to life. They stood up and caused great fear to fall upon those watching. A voice came from heaven summoning them to come up to heaven, and they ascended into heaven in a cloud as their enemies watched. In that same hour, there was a great earthquake which caused a tenth of the city to fall and killed seven thousand people. The rest were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven. Finally, some people glorified God, but it took literally resurrecting two prophets of God, pulling them up to heaven, and sending a killer earthquake to do it. God’s Word doesn’t go forth void, but it accomplishes what it sets out to do (Isaiah 55:11). Those who had ears to hear finally heard. Likely some Jews finally believed also, adding to those who had already been sealed (Revelation 7:4-8). This was further fulfillment of the prophecy concerning Israel finally turning to God with a heart for Him in the last days (Zechariah 12:10, 13:1). Unfortunately, they still had the remainder of the tribulation period to deal with before they could enjoy paradise in heaven.
14 The second woe is past; behold, the third woe is coming quickly. 15 Then the seventh angel sounded; and there were loud voices in heaven, saying,
“The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ; and He will reign forever and ever.”
All part of the seventh seal, the three woes were the three final trumpet judgments. The first woe was the locusts with the scorpion stings, the second was the angelic army of two million sent to kill a third of mankind, and the third woe was what followed with the sounding of the seventh trumpet by the seventh angel. Seven bowl judgments will come shortly to conclude the woes and trumpets (Revelation 15-16), but John is first given a glimpse into the joy in heaven over the fact that the day of justice and righting wrongs is about to arrive. After the trumpet sounded, there were loud voices in heaven declaring the fulfillment of the Lord’s Prayer that God’s will would be done on earth as it is in heaven (Matthew 6:10). The eternal kingdom of God, beginning with His thousand year reign on earth, was just around the corner (Revelation 20:4-6). The kingdom of the world which God allowed to be run by the prince of the power of the air (Ephesians 2:2) for a time was going to be reclaimed by the King of Kings (Revelation 20:7-10). His reign will be eternal.
16 And the twenty-four elders, who sit on their thrones before God, fell on their faces and worshiped God, 17 saying, “We give You thanks, O Lord God, the Almighty, who are and who were, because You have taken Your great power and have begun to reign. 18 And the nations were enraged, and Your wrath came, and the time came for the dead to be judged, and the time to reward Your bond-servants the prophets and the saints and those who fear Your name, the small and the great, and to destroy those who destroy the earth.” 19 And the temple of God which is in heaven was opened; and the ark of His covenant appeared in His temple, and there were flashes of lightning and sounds and peals of thunder and an earthquake and a great hailstorm.
The twenty-four elders (see notes on Revelation 4:9-10, 5:8-10) fell on their faces before God to worship Him, and they thanked Him, their eternal God and Mighty King. They recognized that it was time for Him to take His eternal power that was always His and to now set up His eternal reign once and for all. The nations were enraged at God and at war with one another and against God’s people, and His wrath came in the great tribulation. Thus, once the judgments are complete on the earth and the three and a half years are finished, marked by Christ’s personal return, the millennial kingdom and the eternal age will be ushered in. The dead will be judged with the wicked going to hell, and those wicked who sought to destroy will be destroyed (Revelation 21:8). The righteous, on the other hand, will enjoy eternal life to reign with Christ (Revelation 19, 20). God’s servants, His saints who love and fear His name and who have suffered accordingly, both small and great (for earthly status has no bearing on salvation), will be rewarded accordingly. Believers will have the chance to rejoice in God’s justice, in Him finally taking back rule over the earth, and in the fact that they will be rewarded eternally for their faithfulness (1 Corinthians 3:10-15, 2 Corinthians 5:10, Hebrews 11:6, Colossians 3:24). 2 John 1:8 says, “Watch yourselves, that you do not lose what we have accomplished, but that you may receive a full reward.” Believers cannot lose their salvation because Christ will see to it that they overcome by faith. Even when they are faithless, He is still faithful (2 Timothy 2:13). Of course, they are still responsible for exercising their will and making God-honoring decisions by faith (Philippians 2:12-13), and, to the extent that they do so in their lives on earth, they will be rewarded in heaven. That which was done selfishly or by the flesh and not by the Spirit or by faith will be burned up and worth nothing in heaven (1 Corinthians 3:10-15). But that which is done faithfully and as a stewardship before Jesus of the gifts, talents, and opportunities that He gives (Ephesians 2:10, Matthew 25:14-30) will be rewarded. The objective for believers is to get a “full reward” and to bear much fruit (John 15:8). John then caught a glimpse of the temple of God in heaven, and the ark of the covenant appeared in the temple. God never breaks His covenant with His people, and He will preserve a remnant of faithful Jews and establish an eternal kingdom with all who have been blessed through them, including those who were blessed by faith in Christ (Romans 11:25). The ark of the covenant represented God’s presence, and the presence of God in heaven will be everywhere and near. Lightning, thunder, an earthquake, and a hailstorm accompanied this vision, all pointing to divine power, authority, dominion, and imminent judgment for the wicked.