The Third Woe

THE THIRD WOE (11:14). The second woe (two hundred million mounted troops, the angel and the little scroll, the two witnesses, a severe earthquake in Jerusalem) has passed; the third woe is coming soon. The third woe extends to the end of the Tribulation Period. It covers the final three and one-half years.

THE SEVENTH TRUMPET: JUDGMENTS AND REWARDS (11:15-19). Undoubtedly, the sounding of the seventh trumpet looks forward to the end of the Tribulation Period when Christ establishes His kingdom. It would seem, therefore, the seven bowl judgments must be included in the seventh trumpet.

CHRIST’S KINGDOM COMES (11:15). The kingdom of the world up to this point belongs to the prince of this world, Satan (John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11). The world is now Christ’s kingdom—the petition of the Lord’s Prayer is answered: “Thy kingdom come.” This triumphant shout of victory comes from an unnamed chorus of loud voices.

THE SONG OF THE TWENTY-FOUR ELDERS (11:16-18). The response in Heaven by the twenty-four elders is a hymn of thanksgiving and anticipation. There are six statements made by the elders:

1. Thanks to God for using His power to reign
2. The nations are angry
3. The time of God’s wrath is come
4. The time to judge the dead saints
5. The time to give rewards to saints
6. The time to destroy earth’s destroyers

The first three statements are rooted in the Second Psalm. The next two statements deal with the Judgment Seat of Christ. And the final statement with the events leading up to and including Armageddon. Prophecy sometimes appears in reverse chronological order; this might be the case here.

GOD’S TEMPLE OPENED IN HEAVEN (11:19). An actual Temple exists in heaven (Revelation 14:15, 17; 15:5-6, 8; 16:1, 17; Isaiah 6:1-8; Hebrews 8:2, 5; 9:24) and it served as the pattern for the earthly Tabernacle and Temple (Exodus 25:8-9, 40; 1 Chronicles 28:11-12, 19). These worship centers represent God’s desire to dwell with His people. As eternity begins, the Temple will no longer be needed since God will dwell with His people (Revelation 21:3, 22).

There are seven great openings in the Apocalypse:

1. A door is opened in Heaven, 4:1
2. The seven seals of the scroll are opened, 6:1-8:1
3. The Abyss is opened, 9:2
4. The Temple of God in Heaven is opened, 11:19
5. The Tabernacle of the Testimony is opened, 15:5
6. Heaven is opened, 19:11
7. The Books of Judgment and Life are opened, 20:11

THE ARK OF THE COVENANT is also known as the Ark of God (1 Samuel 3:3), the Ark of Your Might (Psalm 132:8), the Sacred/Holy Ark (2 Chronicles 35:3), and the Ark of Testimony (Numbers 4:5). Historically, the Ark had four main functions:

First, the Ark served as a container for three objects that typified Christ (Hebrews 9:3-5):

1. The two stone tablets on which were written the Ten Commandments that Moses brought down from Mt. Sinai
2. The gold jar of manna that God provided during the desert wanderings
3. The staff that budded to confirm Aaron’s exclusive call to Israel’s priesthood

Second, the Ark’s COVER was the place where the sacrificial blood was sprinkled once a year on the Day of Atonement to make atonement “for all the sins of the Israelites” (Leviticus 16).

Third, the Ark was viewed as the site of God’s presence with His people. Years later, King Hezekiah did not dare to go into the Holy of Holies in the Temple where the Ark rested. Hezekiah prayed to the God of Israel who was “enthroned between the cherubim” (2 Kings 19:14-15).

Fourth, the Ark was carried into battles, signifying the presence of Yahweh with His people (Joshua 6).

THE ARK disappeared around the time Nebuchadnezzar destroyed the Temple in 586 B.C. Archaeologists have searched in Egypt and the Middle East looking for the Lost Ark, thinking that the priests moved it before the Temple was destroyed. In Ezekiel 8-11, the prophet is lifted up by the Spirit between earth and heaven and in visions of God, the Spirit takes Ezekiel to Jerusalem, where He sees the glory of the LORD depart from the Temple and go to the Mount of Olives to return to heaven. Ezekiel 12:22 probably describes the Ark being taken to heaven in 586 B.C. This foreshadows Jesus’ ascension to heaven in A.D. 33, from the Mount of Olives, after Israel rejected Him. Heaven is opened and the Ark of the Covenant seen, typifying Israel finally perceiving Christ for whom He is.

In those days, when your numbers have increased greatly in the land,” declares the LORD, “men will no longer say, ‘The ark of the covenant of the LORD.’ It will never enter their minds or be remembered; it will not be missed, nor will another one be made. At that time they will call Jerusalem The Throne of the LORD, and all nations will gather in Jerusalem to honor the name of the LORD. No longer will they follow the stubbornness of their evil hearts (Jeremiah 3:16-17).

However, one must not overlook the fact that the earthly sanctuary is a copy and shadow of what is heaven (Hebrews 8:3-5). It is possible that John saw the original of which the Ark on earth was only a copy and it is lost or destroyed! Alternatively, John saw Jesus Christ in heaven and described Him as THE ARK!

The Ark of the Covenant was an earthly sign that God would guard and protect His people from evil forces. It went with Israel into battle and it was where atonement was made for the nation. It is only fitting that John saw the Ark at this point since all Israel has been saved and the LORD is taking up the battle, as the forces of evil move against God’s covenant people. Verse 19 ensures the fulfillment of Jeremiah 30:7:

How awful that day will be! None will be like it. It will be a time of trouble for Jacob, but he will be saved out of it.

That the battle is Yahweh’s is signified by the “artillery of heaven”—flashes of lightning, rumblings, and peals of thunder, an earthquake and a great hailstorm. Psalm 99:1-3 declares:

The LORD reigns, let the nations tremble; he sits enthroned between the cherubim, let the earth shake.

Great is the LORD in Zion; he is exalted over all the nations. Let them praise your great and awesome name—he is holy.

The inhabitants of the earth have cause to tremble, but the Redeemer still waits to be gracious. Let all who hear, take warning, and seek His mercy. Repent and Believe!

The Two Witnesses

MY TWO WITNESSES (11:3-6). Do the two witnesses prophesy in the first or second half of the Tribulation Period? As in the days of Noah (Hebrews 11:7) and throughout history, God warns and condemns the objects of His impending wrath through these two witnesses. The Mighty Angel of chapter ten is still speaking and He describes them as “My two witnesses,” a powerful proof for identifying this angel is Christ. They are empowered to prophesy for 1,260 days, which is 42 months or three and one half years.

Who are the two witnesses? They are identified as the two olive trees and two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth. Lampstands signified those who are saved (Revelation 1:20) and olive trees stand for God’s covenant people, Israel (Romans 11:17-24). Hence, Christ’s two witnesses are saved Jews. Idealists hold the two represent the Church and Israel.

In Zechariah’s vision of the gold lampstand and the two olive trees (Zechariah 4:1-6, 10-14), the two olive trees represent Joshua., the priestly leader, and Zerubbabel, the civic leader. The golden lampstand signifies they are two Spirit-filled Jewish leaders. Both were instrumental in rebuilding the Temple after the Babylonian captivity. Zerubbabel laid the foundation and finished it (Zechariah 4:9) and Joshua would represent the people before Yahweh. Their Spirit-filled preaching of Haggai and Zechariah motivated the leaders and people to rebuild the Temple. Zechariah’s vision has both near and distant future fulfillments.

The two olive trees and two lampstands are lights before the powers of darkness. They are clothed in sackcloth a sign of mourning and penitence (Joel 1:13) and the distress of these days. Sackcloth is the prophet’s garment of lament for his people. The two witnesses stand before the Lord on the earth to open the eyes of Israel to Christ.

Two witness is required for a legal testimony (Numbers 35:30; Deuteronomy 19:15); that is why Christ sent out His disciples two by two.

Calling the Twelve to him, he sent them out two by two and gave them authority over evil {Greek unclean} spirits (Mark 6:7)

After this the Lord appointed seventy-two {some manuscripts seventy; also in verse 17} others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go (Luke 10:1).

There were two angelic witnesses at the tomb of Jesus (Luke 24:4-7) and at His ascension into heaven (Acts 1:9-11). However, these two cannot be angels since they are killed by the Antichrist. There were two witnesses at Christ’s transfiguration (Matthew 17:3; Mark 9:4): Moses, representing Christ fulfillment of the Law, and Elijah, His fulfillment of the Prophets.

The earlier writers identified the two witnesses as Moses and Elijah since they performed similar miracles to the two witnesses.

These men have power to shut up the sky so that it will not rain during the time they are prophesying; and they have power to turn the waters into blood and to strike the earth with every kind of plague as often as they want (Revelation 11:6; cf. Exodus 7:19; 1 Kings 17:1-7; 18:1; 2 Kings 1:8-12).

Moses was buried by God (Deuteronomy 34:5-6; Jude 9) and Elijah was translated into heaven (2 Kings 2:11). If Moses were one of the two, he would have to die a second time!

Modern writers identify the two witnesses as Enoch and Elijah. However, one cannot argue that the two witnesses are Enoch and Elijah since neither died and must fulfill what is written in Hebrews 9:27: “Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment.” Why? Because those alive in Christ, who are raptured will never die! Additionally, the two witnesses cannot be two of the 144,000 Israelite witnesses since none of this group will die either.

A stronger argument can be made for one of the witnesses being Elijah:

See, I will send you the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day of the LORD comes. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers; or else I will come and strike the land with a curse” (Malachi 4:5-6; cf. Matthew 11:14; Luke 1:17).

So who are the two witnesses? Wait and see! All we know about them is recorded here; they are persons, prophets, powerful, persecuted, preserved but finally killed, resurrected and raptured. The fire that proceeds from their mouths and devours most likely is literal fire. It at least represents divine protection so they cannot be harmed until their ministry is completed.

THE BEAST FROM THE ABYSS (11:7). Now when they have finished their testimony, the Beast that comes up from the Abyss will attack them, and overpower and kill them.

Historicists see the Beast as papal decrees of the Lateran Councils of A.D. 1179 and 1227 that denied Christian burial.

Preterists view the Beast as various historical enemies of the Church.

Idealists visualize the Beast to be powers that seek to silence the witness of the Church.

Futurists identify the Beast from the Abyss as the same as the Beast out of the sea (13:1), who attempts to be the world dictator, the Antichrist. The Beast out of the land is the false religious leader of the last days (13:11).

Christ’s two witnesses will be so effective on earth that everyone will know of them because of their supernatural powers, but many will refuse to repent (Revelation 9:21). It is clear from what Jesus said and Israel’s unbelief after His death and resurrection that miracles lead more to condemnation than to repentance.

A wicked and adulterous generation looks for a miraculous sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah (Mark 16:4).

DEATH, RESURRECTION, ASCENSION OF THE TWO WITNESSES (11:7-12). Notice that when they have finished their testimony, the beast that comes up from the Abyss will attack them, and overpower and kill them. The Antichrist could not harm them before God was finished with them on earth.

At the end of 1,260 days, the Beast occupies Jerusalem, the great city, which is figuratively called Sodom and Egypt, where also their Lord was crucified. Sodom and Egypt signifies that Jerusalem has filled its cup of iniquity for God’s wrath. Sodom’s sexual immorality was destroyed with fire and brimstone; Egypt’s idolatry was overpowered with Ten Plagues from Yahweh. Moral and religious decay go together!

Idealists identify the great city as the world in rebellion against God, not literal Jerusalem.

For three and a half days, men from every people, tribe, language and nation will gaze on their bodies and refuse them burial. Before satellites, television and internet, this prophecy seemed impossible. Obviously, the Beast is capitalizing on their deaths.

Jesus foretold that the end times would be like the days of Noah and their celebration manifests “how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time” (Genesis 6:5). Their celebration is an antitype of Christmas, but their joy turns to terror.

But after the three and a half days a breath of life from God entered them, and they stood on their feet, and terror struck those who saw them. Then they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, “Come up here.” And they went up to heaven in a cloud, while their enemies looked on (Revelation 11:12).

Those who hold to a Mid-Tribulation Rapture of the Church place it here, seeing the two witnesses’ resurrection and ascension as symbolic of the Church being caught up to heaven. If the two witnesses are Moses and Elijah, they might picture the bodily resurrection and ascension of the OT saints at this time; and possibly the martyred Tribulation saints as well. At this point, Amillennialists envision the Church meeting Christ in the air as He returns to destroy the present heavens and earth.

Historicists hold that Martin Luther nailed his Ninety-five Thesis to the Wittenberg church door on October 31, 1517, precisely three years and 180 days (one half of a 360-day year) from the Fifth Lateran Council on May 5, 1514, and thus, the Reformation church stood to its feet.

A SEVERE EARTHQUAKE AND REVIVAL (11:13). At that very hour, there was a severe earthquake and a tenth of the city collapsed. Seven thousand people were killed in the earthquake, and the survivors were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven. The earthquake could signify the opening graves of OT saints or martyred Tribulation saints (cf. Matthew 28:2).

The seven thousand might imply the full and complete destruction of the hardhearted in Jerusalem prior to the conversion of Israel. In 586 B.C., the opposite happened when God removed the righteous by death prior to His judgment (Isaiah 57:1-2). A reversal of the Rapture takes place at the end of the Tribulation (Matthew 24:40-41). Those left behind enter the Millennial Kingdom.

Historicists hold the severe earthquake symbolizes the political convulsion that rocked Europe after the Reformation.

Preterists associated the severe earthquake with the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70.

Idealists see the severe earthquake as the very eve of the final judgment, being the same as the great earthquake under the seventh bowl at the end of Daniel’s Seventy Seven (Revelation 16:17-21).

Futurists literally see a severe earthquake in Jerusalem that results in multitudes giving glory to the God of heaven. This glory is a realization that Christ is Lord, not the Antichrist. It is reasonable this verse pictures the conversion of all Israel at the middle of the Tribulation Period. This could be the final event before Israel’s eyes are opened to see Christ, whom they have pierced (Zechariah 12:10-13:9; Romans 11:25-27).

Now the promises of the New Covenant are fulfilled (Deuteronomy 30:6; Isaiah 59:20-21; Jeremiah 31:31-34; Ezekiel 36:24-27; 39:29; Joel 2:28-32) as God answers the prophet’s prayer on behalf of Israel: “In wrath remember mercy” (Habakkuk 3:2).

The Temple

millennial temple

THE TEMPLE OF GOD AND THE ALTAR (11:1). The prophet writes a lengthy description of measuring the future kingdom’s Temple in Ezekiel 40:3-48:35. The Temple has been rebuilt on its original site in Jerusalem and the Dome of the Rock is destroyed. The Antichrist most likely permitted this rebuilding in the terms of the seven-year covenant, which he breaks in the middle of this period. The altar indicates Israel has returned to the OT sacrificial system, which ended with the destruction of the Temple in A.D. 70. Israel is still spiritually blind.

The Temples of Scripture

1000 B.C.
Destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar in 586 B.C.

516 B.C.
Built After the Babylonian Captivity

Refurbished Zerubbabel’s Beginning in B.C. 19
Destroyed by Titus in A.D. 70

Built Before or at the Beginning of the Tribulation
Destroyed during the Seventh Seal

Built at the Beginning of the Millennial Kingdom
Destroyed at the New Creation

The Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are Its Temple

Spiritually, the Church and believer are the Temple of God (1 Corinthians 6:19; 2 Corinthians 2:16).

A REED LIKE A MEASURING ROD (11:1). John is told to measure three things: (1) the Temple; (2) the Altar; and (3) the worshipers. At first, it would seem that this measuring signifies God’s promise for the restoration and rebuilding of the Temple and Jerusalem, with greater emphasis on extension and enlargement.

The measuring line will stretch from there straight to the hill of Gareb and then turn to Goah (Jeremiah 31:39).

Therefore, this is what the LORD says: ‘I will return to Jerusalem with mercy, and there my house will be rebuilt. And the measuring line will be stretched out over Jerusalem,’ declares the LORD Almighty (Zechariah 1:16).

Yet, this measuring rod is bad news for Israel since John is told to “count the worshipers there. But exclude the outer court; do not measure it, because it has been given to the Gentiles. They will trample on the holy city for 42 months.” Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, Rome all oppressed Jerusalem in ancient times and the Revived Roman Empire will afflict the city in the last days.

The counting of the worshipers is a reversal of the Ten Plagues on Egypt, where Israelites were excluded and the Gentiles included. This marks the beginning of the second half of the Tribulation foretold in Christ’s Mount Olivet Discourse:

First half of 42 months: “Beginning of Birth Pains” (Matthew 24:8)
Second half of 42 months: “Great Distress” (Matthew 24:21)

The only other time 42 months is used is for the exact time of the reign of the Antichrist, who is the Beast out of the sea (Revelation 13:5-7). Hence, this time measurement marks off the last half of Daniel’s Seventy Seven:

He will confirm a covenant with many for one ‘seven.’ In the middle of the ‘seven’ he will put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on a wing of the temple he will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on him” (Daniel 9:27).

Three things the Antichrist does will open the eyes of Jews to God’s Word: (1) he will break a seven year covenant in the middle; (2) he will put an end to sacrifice and offering; and (3) he will set up the image of the beast on a wing of the Temple (Revelation 13:13-15; 2 Thessalonians 2).

A preview of this prophecy occurred in the spring of 168 B.C., when the armed forces of Antiochus Epiphanes stood as guards at the Temple and regular worship was discontinued. On the Sabbath day, the city was attacked, women and children were captured and multitudes were slain. His army occupied the citadel overlooking the Temple. Heathen idolatry was made mandatory, and the Hellenic culture was enforced on Jewish life. The climax of blasphemy was the erecting of the image of Zeus on the Temple’s altar of burnt offering (2 Maccabees 6). Antiochus Epiphanes did not fulfill Daniel 9:27 according to Jesus:

So when you see standing in the holy place ‘the abomination that causes desolation’, spoken of through the prophet Daniel—let the reader understand—then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains (Matthew 24:15-16).

From what Jesus told His disciples, three things are clear:

1. The Temple will be rebuilt
2. The abomination that causes desolation lies in the future
3. Terrible times will come upon Jerusalem

This will be the fourth time God puts an end to the sacrificial system through His instruments: (1) Nebuchadnezzar in 586 B.C.; (2) Antiochus Epiphanes in 168 B.C.; (3) Titus in A.D. 70; and (4) now the Antichrist at the middle of the Tribulation. Israel’s return to the sacrificial system shows they are still rejecting Jesus Christ, the once for all Sacrifice. Therefore, the Jews will be judged while the Gentiles are used as a source of their judgment as in the previous stoppages.

Jesus describes what will happen to the land and people of Israel during these 42 months:

When you see Jerusalem being surrounded by armies, you will know that its desolation is near. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those in the city get out, and let those in the country not enter the city. This is the time of punishment, fulfilling all that has been written. How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! There will be great distress in the land and wrath against this people. They will fall by the sword and will be taken as prisoners to all the nations. Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled (Luke 21:20-24).

Measuring is a symbolic action used in Scripture to divide between the holy and ungodly, and thus, to indicate divine protection or destruction (Ezekiel 40-43; Zechariah 2:1-5; Jeremiah 10:16; 51:19; Revelation 21:15-16). Measuring also signifies God’s ownership of the Temple.

The Second Half of the Tribulation

CHAPTER ELEVEN from 1-14 is the second interlude or parenthesis before the seventh trumpet is sounded in 15-19, which marks the beginning of the second half of the Tribulation Period. This chapter is one of the most difficult in the whole Apocalypse. There are two witnesses, who testify for 42 months or 1,260 days; based on the Hebrew month of 30 days that is three and one half years. Either their opposition to the Antichrist is placed by commentators in the first or second half of Daniel’s Seventy Seven.

This chapter opens with the Temple of God on Earth and closes with the Temple of God in Heaven. The Temple, altar, worshipers, and Holy City have to do with the Jews and their place in the plan of God. This chapter while literal in its events most likely portrays a symbolical opening of Israel’s eyes to the Gospel and hence the salvation of all Israel.

Historicists see the Temple representing the true remnant of the Church (1 Corinthians 3:16; 6:19; 2 Thessalonians 2:4) in the midst of the papal church at the time of the Reformation. The 1,260 days become 1,260 years, the duration of papal power. The two witnesses represent the Waldeneses, Albigeneses, and others who resisted the papacy before the Reformation.

Preterists see the 1,260 days as the period of the Jewish War, of Nero’s persecution, or both. The two witnesses are either historic prophetic witnesses against the Jews before the destruction of Jerusalem or civil and religious authority in Israel.

Idealists hold that the 1,260 days symbolizes the entire Church Age. The two witnesses are the Church.

Futurists hold to 1,260 days from the beginning to the end of the Tribulation, or two periods: first half (1,260 days) and second half (42 months). The two witnesses are individual prophets who will appear in either the first or the second half of the Tribulation. Millennialists envision the Temple of God being rebuilt in Jerusalem and playing a major part in the events of the last days.