INDUCTIVE STUDIES ON REVELATION
Part Three: The Salvation of Israel
THE SCRIPTURES (11:1-13)
1 And there was given me a measuring rod like a staff; and someone said, "Rise and measure the temple of God and the altar, and those who worship in it. 2 "And 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 proceeds out of their mouth and devours their enemies; so if anyone wants to harm them, in this manner he must be killed. 6 These have the power to shut up the sky, in order that rain may not fall during the days of their prophesying; and they have power over the waters to turn them to blood, and to smite the earth with every plague, as often as they desire. 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 And 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 make merry; and they will send gifts to one another, because these two prophets tormented those who dwell on the earth. 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 beholding 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 beheld 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.
Although I do not agree with many parts of the view that claims that Christians are raptured BEFORE the tribulation, there is one part that I really do agree with: the part that says that Israel will once more play a vital role in God's plan before the return of Christ. That may not seem such a big deal to many; however, this claim about Israel flies in the face of what most NT scholars claim to be true. For most NT scholars when the Jews rejected Jesus, God turned His attention exclusively to the Gentile church. The church--not Israel--now becomes the people of God. In fact (and this is supported to some degree in the NT), the church has become the new Israel of God.
Whereas I do believe that the Gentile church has now become recipient of the promises God make to Abraham and to Israel, I do NOT believe that God has discarded the Jewish people. Yes, they turned from God, but according to Paul (who is just as much as an apostle as John the author of Revelation), after God has finished working on the Gentile church, He is going to work once more in a dramatic fashion upon the Jewish people. The Jewish hardening has been not only partial (many Jews actually have become Christians). it is also temporary. At the end of time God will move upon the Jewish people and draw so many of them to faith in Christ (Rom. 11:25-32).
I must say that if it were not for Rom. 11:25-32 I would say that God had rejected the Jews as His people and turned exclusively to the Gentile church. The only problem is that Rom. 11:25-32 is as much a part of Scripture as are the verses which claim that the Gentile church is the new Israel. The true view surely is the one which takes into account ALL the verses and not just some of them, or the ones we happen to like.
PROTECTION OF THE TEMPLE (11:1-2)
At this point an angelic messenger (most likely) hands John a measuring stick (yardstick) and instructs him to measure what?
Why would John be told to measure this building? In order to show us what is going to be absolutely safe from any harm. The Beast is going to run rampant throughout the final 3 1/2 years of the tribulation. This building which represents the Jewish people is going to be safe. The Jews may go through a period of great persecution; however, they will ultimately be safe because of what God is about to do for them in the next section.
We see another example of God having something measured in order to make sure it is safe in Zechariah 1:16. A measuring line is placed over Jerusalem in order to line out its measurements, an indication that the city will not be smaller nor larger than the measurements indicate.
Whereas the building is going to be safe from harm, what is NOT going to be safe according to v. 2?
This is the spot where the Gentiles would meet to worship God in the Jewish Temple. God's people will always be ultimately safe (v. 1); the same cannot be said of those who are not His people (v. 2).
How long will the holy city be trampled under foot by the nations (11:2)?
Many would could that this period of time starts right in the middle of the tribulation (caused by the abomination of desolation) and end upon the return of Christ at the end of the 7 years.
So what do the Temple and the Court of the Gentiles represent? Ray Summers claims that the Temple represents the entire people of God (followers of Jesus alive on earth during the tribulation) whom the angel "measures" to make sure that they are all spiritually protected and that they are physically protected from God's wrath during the tribulation. According to Summers, the Court of the Gentiles then would represent the place in the Temple where pagan Gentiles could actually enter. When John writes that their court is overrun during the tribulation, he means that unlike God's people the Gentiles who do not follow Jesus will NOT be protected either spiritually or physically from God's wrath. Summer's interpretation seems to explain these verses the best.
GOD'S WITNESS TO THE JEWISH PEOPLE (11:3-13)
The Two Witnesses (11:3-6)
God sends 2 witnesses to preach to the Jewish people. John describes them not only as the 2 lampstands but also as the 2 what (11:4)?
These images are probably based upon Zechariah 4. There, according to Zechariah, the 2 olive trees represent the 2 main leaders of Israel, the chief priest (Joshua) and the Jewish governor (Zerubbabel). From these 2 olive trees flows oil into a huge lampstand which represents the people of Israel. Right in the middle of this chapter is one of the most famous verses in the entire OT: "'Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit,' says the Lord" (Zech. 4:6). Just like it required nothing less than the Spirit of God to perform the miracle of Zech. 4, so it will require nothing less than a miracle from the Spirit of God for these 2 witnesses to carry out their mission of witnessing to the Jewish people.
How long will these 2 witnesses preach to the Jewish people (11:3)?
What do they wear whenever they are preaching to the Jewish people, a symbol of mourning and sorrow over the people's sin (11:3)?
What happens to anybody who tries to harm these 2 witnesses during these 1260 days (11:5)?
I'm not sure we should take this literally. But it DOES signify something real. It signifies that these 2 witnesses are off-limits during the 1260 days (42 months, 3 1/2 years). God will protect them during those 42 months.
During their 42 months of ministry, these 2 witnesses have the power to shut up the sky (to keep it from raining) and to turn water into blood (11:6). Which 2 OT figures do these acts remind you of?
Some claim that these 2 witnesses do not merely symbolize these 2 OT figures but that they are indeed these 2 OT figures. Revelation is so symbolical that you cannot say for sure one way or the other. At the end of the OT though, Malachi actually predicts that one of these 2 will come before the great and terrible day of the Lord. Which one does Malachi predict will come before the day of the Lord (Mal. 4:5)?
If these 2 figures are not literally Elijah and Moses, then they just might represent the strong Christian witness to the Jews during the Great Tribulation. It will appear during those days that Christianity is going to be wiped out, just like it appeared Christianity was going to be wiped out in China when the Communists took over. But just like Christianity thrived during communist persecution, so Christianity will triumph even during the Great Tribulation.
The Martyrdom of the Two Witnesses (11:8-10
After the 3 1/2 years are over, who emerges from the abyss (the realm of evil) and what does he do to the 2 witnesses (11:7)?
After killing the 2 witnesses, what does this evil figure do to the bodies of the 2 witnesses and in what city does he do this to their bodies (11:8)?
This evil figure will refuse to let the 2 witnesses be buried. How will non-Christians (those who dwell on the earth) respond to the death of the 2 witnesses (11:10)?
Vindication of the Two Witnesses (11:11-13)
At the end of the 3 1/2 days, what happens to the bodies of the 2 witnesses (11:11-12)?
This may be a literal event; however, it could also symbolize the ultimate triumph of the Christian mission to the Jews during the Great Tribulation.
What happens to the city of Jerusalem after this happens to the 2 witnesses (11:13)?
Although something tragic happens to 10th of the city's population, how does the other 90% respond to the resurrection of the witnesses and the great earthquake?
Throughout Revelation, this act always signifies that people are right with God, that is, they are saved. The fact that the Jews in Jerusalem do not do this until after what happens to the 2 witnesses seems to indicate that it is this event which leads to the salvation of the Jewish people during the tribulation before Christ returned. Their salvation was not because of the rapture of the church before the tribulation began; rather it occurred because of the miraculous testimony of the 2 witnesses.