Revelation 8 – 11
We now embark upon the third vision. In chapter eight we are informed that the opening of the seventh seal involves the judgment described here as the blowing of seven trumpets. Among other Old Testament typological and prophetic passages, apostate Jerusalem’s fall is following the pattern of the seven trumpets blown by Israel in which Jericho fell at her feet Joshua 6.
Many commentators such as Kistemaker miss the significance of the “silence” for the length of a half an hour in Revelation 8:1. I would concur with others that this is corresponding to the work of the priest in the temple. G.K. Beale following Sweet, Chilton, and Edersheim writes,
“Silence in relation to the temple liturgy. The Mishnah’s explanation of the background of the liturgy of the daily sacrifice in the temple makes even more cogent the association of prayer with the silence in Rev. 8:1 (cf. m. Tamid). The order of the service roughly resembled the order of some of the significant images in the Apocalypse: (1) trimming of the seven lamps (Revelation 1-3), (2) slaying of the sacrificial lamb (Rev. 5:6), (3) pouring of the sacrificial blood at the base of the altar (Rev. 6:9), (4) offering of incense, during a time of silence and prayer (so Luke 1:10; cf. Rev. 8:1, 4-5), (5) the burnt offering and drink offering (Rev. 16:1) together with the sounding of the trumpets (Rev. 8:6), and (6) singing of psalms (19:1-8).”
Chilton following Milton Terry, suggests it took the priest roughly a half an hour to perform these duties and then return to the praying congregation.
The final trumpet blast in chapter 11, marks the time of the judgment of “the dead” and the rewarding of the righteous. The righteous are no longer under the altar 6:10-11 but now enter and inherit the Most Holy Place. This is depicted through the imagery of the ark being revealed in verses 18-19. In Hebrews 9-11, when Jesus as the High Priest appeared out of the heavenly temple a “second time,” at the end of the old-covenant age in an “at hand” and in a “very little while,” time frame, is when all of the new covenant “better” and “true” promises were realized – including the “better resurrection.” Throughout Revelation, when old-covenant Jerusalem–the great harlot city falls, this marks the time for the judgment and resurrection of the dead to take place.
In chapter eight we have the scene of the prayers of the saints for vindication upon their enemies earlier depicted in 6:10-11 beginning to be answered in the “in a little while” time frame. Their imprecatory prayers result in God sending an angel to take fire from the altar in which he hurls it from heaven to burn a third the land. Kistemaker connects this fiery judgment with Luke 12:49 and I would add to that the message of John’s baptism of fire and the burning of the elements to the mix of this fiery judgment Matthew 3:2-12; 2 Peter 3. But obviously this de-creation burning is not affecting the entire globe but only a “third” of the land. Gentry takes a literal interpretation quoting Josephus in reference to the storms, burning of the land, and the blood and dead bodies in the waters surrounding Palestine during the Jewish/Roman war. Chilton also understood some of this language to be a literal description of war but also left open the possibility of the grass and trees representing some of God’s elect. However one understands the tribulation and judgment of the third of the land of Israel here, this de-creation language is to be parallel with that of Matthew 24:29 and Revelation 6 and is describing the falling of the religious and civil powers of Jerusalem by A.D. 70.
The mountain burning with fire of which is thrown into the sea in 8:8 was addressed by Jesus in His cursing apostate Israel in the form of the withering of the fig tree. Jesus then gets the disciples involved in teaching them how to pray in removing and cursing Israel using the figure of removing a mountain through the use of imprecatory prayers in Matthew 21:18-22. Through old-covenant Jerusalem’s apostasy, they had become a destroying mountain persecuting the elect among the new covenant Israel. Like Babylon and Egypt whom had persecuted old-covenant Israel in the Old Testament, their fall and punishments for persecuting the new Israel of God, would now be wielded out upon them as their enemies had been dealt with before (Ex. 7; Isa. 19; Jer. 51; Isa. 14:3-12). Again, the darkness of the sun, moon and stars is referring to the civil and religious rulers of old-covenant Jerusalem whom rejected their Messiah and the prophets He had sent to her and now their lights (authorities) are turned out and cast to the ground.
Many such as Kistemaker do not make these simple connections to these texts and although a third of the land is being destroyed, they continue to claim this chapter is describing “a coming cosmic catastrophe that will affect the whole surface of the earth.” All of Jesus’ parables surrounding this section (Matthew 21-25) have to do with the judgment and fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. It is at this time the kingdom was taken away from apostate Israel and completely given over and transferred to the Church in redemptive history (Mt. 21:33-45).
Chapter nine continues the blowing of the fifth trumpet which describes the same judgment, but now introducing the Abyss motif. In Matthew 12 Jesus delivers a man from demon possession and is then accused by the religious rulers that He is done this through the power of Beelzebub. Jesus informs these children of the devil, that He in fact is plundering the strong man (and by extension their “fathers”) “house” (Mt. 12:22-30) through this process. In verse 43-45 Jesus uses this on an individual level with corporate overtones involving an exhortation of their “this generation” to repent or God will send seven more spirits to torment the man’s “house.” Gentry quoting F.F. Bruce notes that within 40 years of their generation, “Titus began the siege of Jerusalem in April, 70. The defenders held out desperately for five months, but by the end of August the temple area was occupied and the holy house burned down” (cf. Wars 5).” However, commentators have pointed out that the common lifespan of the locust is five months–from May to September. Josephus in Wars 5 describes how the wicked Jews refused to repent during this time period and desired death in the midst of famine and starvation.
Gentry sees verse 14-16 describing the angels participating in the judgment who were seen in the sky riding upon chariots during the siege citing Josephus, a Jewish historian and Tacitus, a Roman historian. He also sees the description found in verse 17 as the four Roman legions of soldiers that had been sent to the west side of Jerusalem,
“Here we discover the implements of the fiery destruction that Jerusalem will undergo from the Roman’s armored horsemen, iron-plated towers, battering rams, and catapults, producing their fire and smoke (a description of the Roman armament appears in Wars 3.5.2, 5-6; 6.2).”
Despite John’s focus on the third of the land being the subject and Revelation following the tribulation and wrath that would come upon that generation through the Roman armies, sensationalist “prophecy experts” such as Hal Lindsey and Chuck Smith claim Revelation 9:16-19 is describing a global catastrophe involving the alleged future invasion of China’s boasted 2 million strong military force. This section is also an alleged description of modern day warfare John is attempting to describe using first century language. John is alleged to be describing attack Cobra helicopters, missiles, and modern day warfare technology. Then of course there is the “out of this world” “interpretation” of Charles Ryrie whom claimed John is trying to describe a U.F.O. war machine!
Of the alleged reference here to China’s 2 million army invasion Chuck Smith sensationally knows this is the army in view and writes,
“We are speaking here of a huge army of two hundred million. Do you realize how impossible this was until recent times? How cold any nation or combination of nations in the world field an army of two hundred million people? It was only in 1860 that the earth reached a population of one billion Even if every available man alive at the time of John’s writing had been mustered, they couldn’t have fielded an army of two hundred million.
Today China boasts that she’s able to put an army of two hundred million on the field. Isn’t that an interesting figure? Why didn’t China say 150 million or 175 million or 201 million? Time magazine reported that China declares that she can now field an army of two hundred million. And John sees this great army.
As usual Smith looks to contemporary newspaper headlines and Time Magazine to interpret the Olivet discourse and the Book of Revelation for him instead of allowing the Bible to interpret itself! A more Biblical approach would be to understand the doubling of the myriads of myriads to be referring to an innumerable or “too many to count” reference as in 5:11 and 7:9. This is the majority opinion among the commentators from a wide rage of eschatological views, and one we would agree with,
The symbol is, no doubt, chosen to signify power, of which horsemen or cavalry are an emblem. Were two hundred thousand thousand; or, twice myriads of myriads (of. Jude 14–16, which is a quotation from Enoch; also Dan. 7:10). The number is, of course, not to be taken literally, but as signifying an exceeding great multitude. 
G.K. Beale notes that the number “twice ten thousand” does not occur in Biblical literature elsewhere but writes without exception,
“…(“ten thousand”) designates an incalculable immensity wherever it is used without any numerical adjective. In the LXX the plural also has a figurative connotation of an innumerable, indefinite host (Gen. 24:60; Lev. 26:8; Num. 10:35; Deut. 23:30; 33:2, 17; 1 Kgs. 18:7-8; 21:12; Ps. 3:7; Cant. 5:10; Sir. 47:6; Mic. 6:7; Dan. 7:10; in Ps. 90:7 the singular is used figuratively). Noteworthy is 1 En. 40:1, where a figurative meaning is explicitly stated as a development of Dan. 7:10 (“ten thousands of ten thousands,” to which Rev. 5:11 also alludes): “I saw thousands of thousands and ten thousand times ten thousand, I saw a multitude beyond number and reckoning” (cf. 1 En. 60:1;…” “…The same is true in other early Jewish and Christian writings (Philo, De Agricltura 35, 113; Josephus, Ant. 7.318; 1 En. 1:9; 14:22; Sib. Or.4.139; Luke 12:1; Acts 21:20; Heb. 12:22; Jude 14; 1 Clemet 34:6.” “…Therefore, a figurative meaning is demanded by a literal translation of the number, since its plural forms leave it too indefinitely stated to be calculated precisely…”
We prefer to stick to a grammatical historical hermeneutic that allows the Bible to interpret itself in these matters rather than Time Magazine! What we have here is a description of a multitude of demonic forces influencing the Roman armies to attack Jerusalem. Chilton gives a concise summary of this chapter,
“Thus, to sum up the idea: An innumerable army is advancing upon Jerusalem from the Euphrates, the origin of Israel’s traditional enemies; it is a fierce, hostile, demonic force sent by God in answer to His people’s prayers for vengeance. In short, this army is the fulfillment of all the warnings in the law and the prophets of an avenging horde sent to punish the Covenant-breakers. The horrors described in Deuteronomy 28 were to be visited upon this evil generation (see especially verses 49—68). Moses had declared: You shall be driven mad by the sight of what you see (Deut. 28:34).
Indeed the fulfillment of all that the Old Testament prophets had predicted as far as salvation for the elect and judgment upon Jerusalem would no longer be delayed as we learn in the following chapter.
As there was a brief intermission or parenthesis between the opening of the sixth and seventh seals in describing the judgment scene upon old-covenant Jerusalem, so there is a parenthesis here between the sixth and seventh trumpets which involves the angel with the little scroll and the two witnesses which take up sections 10:1-11:13. In chapter ten we are introduced to an angel standing on the land and the sea preaching the gospel. We are told this involves the fulfillment or “accomplishment” of the “mystery of God” as revealed and predicted by the “prophets” in verses 1-7. The sounding the trumpet carries with it the concept of warning and the need to repent. In Biblical imagery, the land represents Israel and the sea the Gentiles. This corresponds to the “mystery” as far as the gospel is the union of both Jew and Gentile “in Christ” (Rms. 11:25; 16:25; 1Cor. 2:7; 15:51; Ephs. 1-3; 5-6; Col. 1:26-27; 2:2; 4:3; 1Tim. 3:9, 16). Here we are having a flash back to the period of the great commissions fulfillment described for us in (Mt.24:14; 28:18-20/Mrk. 16:15-18; Acts 1:7-8; 2:5 à Cols. 1:5-6, 23-24; Rms. 10:18; 16:25-26). This is now taking place just before the end of the old-covenant age right before the judgment of Jerusalem in A.D. 66-70.
Gentry in his writings gives very little attention to Relation 10 but does write, “Revelation promises there will no longer be “delay” (10:6). The ad hoc nature of the book demands a preterist approach.” Mathison states, “With the destruction of the temple, the mystery will be finished (Eph. 3:4-6). What Gentry and Mathison do not want to address here is that Revelation 10:7 and Jesus in Luke 21:22, are clearly teaching that ALL prophecy (of the Old Testament prophets [which foretold the judgment & resurrection] and New Testament prophets) would be fulfilled in Jesus’ “this generation” and would not be delayed! Mathison quotes (Eph. 3:4-6) in connection with the fulfillment of the “mystery” here in Revelation 10, but our text is concerned with the consummative and maturing fulfillment of this mystery. The point is that the “heirs” were about to receive the “glory” the prophets foretold and the reception of the resurrection and new creation (Rms. 8:17-23 YLT; Rev. 20-22) is the context here.
Chilton even before converting to the preterist view understood to some degree that this chapter introduces us to the first great “climax of the prophecy” as “…declared to be completed with the sounding of the Seventh Trumpet…” “…it is a day of creating heaven and earth and consummating a temple of God…” “The sounding of the seventh angel will be the irrefutable sign that the promised New Creation, the New Covenant, is an accomplished fact. The great mystery of God—the completion and filling of His new and final Temple – will have been revealed to the world (11:15-19).” And again connecting 10:6-7 with 11:15 Chilton writes, “in conformity with the Biblical pattern uniting the ideas of Sabbath and consummation, the Trumpet of the seventh angel announces that “the mystery of God has been fulfilled and accomplished (cf. 10:6-7).” The consummation of prophecy through the prophets is what is in view here and partial preterists such as Mathison and Gentry need to stop “adding” to the prophecy of Revelation. There is no “inaugurating” another great commission, end of another age, which allegedly climaxes in the passing of another “first creation” at another second coming to end time per their views. Revelation knows of no such modern creedally imposed concepts.
This chapter has been admitted by all eschatological views to be one of the more difficult chapters of Revelation to interpret. After becoming a Preterist, David Chilton admitted to me that while working on his commentary on Revelation it was a relatively easy project until he reached chapter 11. This is because we enter into the subject of the judgment of “the dead” and through symbolism and apocalyptic hyperbole and metaphor the corporate body is described by the two witnesses. The other difficulty for creedal and partial preterist view is that the resurrection is involved because it is the blowing of the seventh final trumpet in connection with the judgment of “the dead” which the majority of commentators are correct to parallel with the blowing the trumpet in Matthew 24, 1 Corinthians 15 and 1 Thessalonians 4. For the Reformed partial preterist, it becomes even more difficult when trying to reconcile an A.D. 70 fulfillment coming of the Lord with the recapitulation and parallel structure of the book as it clearly is only dealing with one judgment and resurrection of the dead being inseparably linked to Christ’s imminent coming to vindicate these first century martyrs.
a) The measuring of the temple.
For some dispenstational “prophecy experts,” such as my former Pastor Chuck Smith, the measuring of the temple is supposed to be proof of a supposed re-built temple coming in our generation that starts up Israel’s last days prophetic time clock again. This again is supposed to mark the nearness of the churches “rapture,”
“The Jews will rebuild their temple in Jerusalem. This could happen during the first half of the great Tribulation period. When the church is taken out and God again deals with Israel during this last seven-year period, the Antichrist will make a covenant with the nation of Israel, but in the midst of the seven year period he’ll break that covenant (Daniel 9:27). I believe that in this covenant the Antichrist will permit Israel to move ahead and rebuild their temple.
At the present time the Jews are making excavations under what is commonly called the Mosque of Omar.”
John MacArthur agrees that this is dealing with another rebuilt temple in our future, “A rebuilt temple will exist during the time of the Tribulation (Dan. 9:27; 12:11; Matt. 24:15; 2 Thess. 2:4).
1) The great commission needs to be fulfilled first before the judgment takes place (Mt. 24:14/Rev. 10:5-7/14:6-20/20:2-3).
2) The destruction of Jerusalem/Babylon are the focus of the judgment of which all the prophets predicted (Lk. 21:20-22/Rev. 10:7/11:8).
3) The judgment involves the Gentile nations treading down Jerusalem and the temple (Lk. 21:6-7; 20-24/Rev. 11:2).
4) Jerusalem/Babylon is responsible for persecuting the saints and will be judged for their blood guilt (Mt. 23-24/Rev.6; 11; 18).
5) Jesus identifies Daniel’s prophecy of the tribulation and abomination of desolation which bring an end to all the eschatological prophecies of Daniel. Therefore the time of the end which included the 3 ½ year period to be fulfilled will be fulfilled in His generation (Mt. 24:15/Lk. 21:20-22/Dan. 12:7/Rev. 11:2).
6) The time frame of fulfillment is the same “this generation” “shortly,” “soon,” “at hand,” and “near” (Mt. 23:30-36, 38; 24:34/Rev. 1:1, 3; 22:6-7, 10-12, 20).
Kistemaker representing futurism, and David Chilton representing preterism, both understand that the temple in view here is symbolic of the heavenly Church on earth. Preterists such as Chilton don’t have a problem understanding the 3 ½ period symbolically and not necessarily referring to a literal time frame. However, what Kistemaker is missing, is that Paul and the writer to the Hebrews use both a symbolic and literal application to both temples, cities, and covenants with the understanding that both are co-existing together (cf. Gals. 4; Heb. 8:13; 9:6-10). Biblical prophets often connect the two temples/cities together in the saving of the spiritual and faithful remnant and the destruction of the literal, apostate, and old (Dan. 9:24, 27; Zech. 9-14). Commentators connect this measuring of the temple with the Old Testament background of (Ezek. 40-43; Zech. 2:1-2). The measuring of the temple in Ezekiel has to do with separating the righteous remnant from the “common” or profane (Ezek. 42:20). During the time of the temples destruction till a rebuilt one could be made, God’s presence among the faithful remnant and exiles would serve as the temple (Ezek. 11). God destroyed and shook the “heavens and earth” of Babylon through the means of the Medes and Persians so that the faithful remnant could be raised from the dead and return to rebuild the walls and temple of Jerusalem (Jer. 51; Isa. 13; Ezek. 37; Ezra, Nehemiah). In the New Testament, and under the establishing and maturing of the new covenant temple, there would be another measuring and separating taking place through the preaching of the Gospel except Babylon is apostate old-covenant Jerusalem and the believing remnant is the church or the true temple and Israel of God (Ezek. 37:27/2Cor. 6;16). God was now going to “shake” Jerusalem/Babylon one last time in order for the completion of the new covenant temple/kingdom to stand complete (Hag. 2/Heb. 12). During the time of Hebrews, this new covenant “better resurrection,” city and temple was being received and “about to” be fully realized and consummated (Heb. 9-13:14YLT). So a spiritual hermeneutic for the Church as a heavenly city and temple along with a literal referent to Jerusalem from below (the once “holy city” but now apostate Babylon) and her temple, can co-exist and are not exclusive of each other. The destruction of the outer courtyard by the Gentiles represents the apostate and unclean nation and the destruction of Jerusalem and her temple in A.D. 70; while the inner sanctuary is set apart and represents God’s heavenly and spiritual temple – the Church on earth preserved and protected as discussed earlier (Rev. 7:2-3). The final separation of the coexisting old-covenant and new-covenant temple structures, would be fulfilled “shortly” when Christ returned in A.D.70 and the New Jerusalem functions as the Most Holy Place (a perfect cube) and everyone else is considered unclean and outside the Cities gates (Rev. 21-22).
As Matthew Henry points out, the outer court of the gentiles was never even something God had ordained to be apart of the temple and was instituted by Herod,
“Some say that Herod, in the additions made to the temple, built an outer court, and called it the court of the Gentiles. Some tell us that Adrian built the city and an outer court, and called it Aelia, and gave it to the Gentiles. 2. Why was not the outer court measured? This was no part of the temple, according to the model either of Solomon or Zerubbabel, and therefore God would have no regard to it. He would not mark it out for preservation; but as it was designed for the Gentiles, to bring pagan ceremonies and customs and to annex them to the gospel churches, so Christ abandoned it to them, to be used as they pleased; and both that and the city were trodden under foot for a certain time.”
Since apostate Jerusalem is constantly described as idolatrous and God’s enemy in the form of Gentile powers such as Egypt, Sodom, Babylon, etc., this idolatrous outer court of the gentiles is a fitting place to describe the apostasy of old-covenant Jerusalem and their being trodden down by Rome for 3 ½ years.
I would agree with Jay Adams who while admitting there may be some difficulties in interpreting the passage, it has a clear link to the Olivet discourse and the time of fulfillment is “without reasonable doubt” to be applied to A.D. 70,
“The climax of the first prophecy is found in chapter 12, where the destruction of Jerusalem is predicted in detail. The passage shows that the temple was still standing at the time of writing. This is unmistakable proof that Revelation was written before 70 A.D. It is measured. This symbol is used both of preservation (cf. Zech. 2:1) and destruction (cf. II Sam. 8:2, Amos 7:7, 8; Hab. 3:6). Since in the only other use of the symbol in Revelation (21:15) it is used in a preservative sense, it may be best to take it so here (n.21 – ‘This seems correct because that which is not measured is trodden under foot Rev. 11:2). It is possible that verses 1 and 2 may be correctly interpreted as predicting that everything pertaining to the physical temple is to be destroyed except the naos (the word used here for “temple”) which refers more exactly to the “holy of holies” where the Shekinah glory of God dwelt. This may signify (if correct) that there is no longer need for more than naos worship, where every believer may come boldly to the throne of grace, entering into the most holy place through the name of Christ. At any rate, on thing is definite, verse 2 strikes the same note as that found in Luke 21:24. The temple will be trodden down of the Gentiles. This speaks, without reasonable doubt, of the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D., though all aspects of the imagery may not be clear.”
This destruction of the temple as described by Jesus as the “times of the Gentiles,” is referring to the prophecies of Daniel 2, 7, 9, and 12. When Christ’s second coming occurred in A.D. 70, the kingdom got transformed and raised into an eternal and spiritual kingdom wherein it could not be “shaken” or “destroyed” as the old-covenant kingdom and temple had been throughout its history (Mt. 21:33-45; Jn. 4:21-24; Heb. 12). This is when the new Israel of God was completely transformed and raised to life, causing the Gentiles to bud forth and the nations to explode into full bloom (Rms. 11:15-27/Lk. 21:20-31, 32). As there is a physical and spiritual parallel taking place between the destruction of the literal old-covenant temple and city along with the preserving and glorifying of the spiritual new; there is also a parallel taking place concerning the times of the Gentiles. While God has sent the Gentiles to destroy the old-covenant kingdom, it is this very means by which the flood gates of Gentile salvation explodes within redemptive history in a way it never had before.
Both Mathison and Gentry agree with us that the measuring of the temple here and the treading down of the out court for 3 ½ years represents Jerusalem’s destruction in A.D. 70. Gentry even agrees with us that there is a fulfillment and mixture of the physical and spiritual in regards to the two parts of the temple being measured here and cites most of the same text I have to support this (Heb. 8:5; 9:24; Gals. 4:22-26; & Heb. 12). “In Revelation 11 God removes the shadow or copy so that the essential remains, which John here portrays as the worshipers in the heart of the temple.” 
b) The two witnesses & the “great city” where the Lord was slain is judged.
There of course has been many different views as to who these two witnesses are: 1) Enoch and Elijah, 2) Moses and Elijah, 3) Jeremiah and Elijah, 4) Joshua and Caleb, 5) Peter and Paul, 6) John the Baptist and Jesus, 7) John and his brother James, 8) Stephen and James of Zebedee and 9) Peter and James and 10) representative of the Jewish and Gentile church. Commentators are divided on if this is referring to two individuals or the two witnesses are symbolic of the churches testimony. For example Kistemaker offers the following symbolic interpretation.
“However, I suggest a symbolic interpretation, namely, that the two witnesses represent the church of Christ that by proclaiming the gospel calls the world to repentance. First, the witnesses must address all the inhabitants of the world: peoples, tribes, languages, and nations (v. 9), which can hardly be done by only two witnesses. Second, the pairing of the witnesses is reminiscent of Jesus’ sending out his disciples two by two (Mark 6:7; Luke 10:1). The apostles also go out two by two (Acts 3:1; 8:14). Third, in Israel a verdict was confirmed on the testimony of two or three witnesses (Deut. 17:6; 19:15), and the church exerts discipline on that same basis (Matt. 18:16). Indeed, the witness of one man can be disregarded, but on the testimony of two men truth is validated (John 8:17).
Last, John relies on an Old Testament prophecy, for he describes the two witnesses as two olive trees and two lampstands (v. 4). The prophet Zechariah mentions two olive trees and a solid gold lampstand (Zech. 4:2–3); olive oil placed in the lampstand functions to spread the light and dispel the darkness. And symbolically, a lampstand is the church (1:20) made up of believers who live by the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. Thus, Zechariah identifies the two olive trees as anointed servants who serve the Lord of all the earth (Zech. 4:3, 11, 14). They seem to be Joshua the high priest and Zerubbabel the governor (Zech. 4:14), who represented the Jewish community of returnees. Similarly, I interpret the two witnesses in the Apocalypse to be representative of the entire church.”
Mathison, following Milton S. Terry’s lead, thinks these are two men but does not offer any specific names of these individuals. David Chilton I believe came pretty close,
“A preliminary conclusion about the two witnesses, therefore, is that they represent the line of the prophets, culminating in John the Baptizer, who bore witness against Jerusalem during the history of Israel.”
Kistemaker claims two literal individuals cannot be the fulfillment here because two men such as Peter and Paul could not have accomplished a global great commission. He of course assumes what he needs to prove in that the New Testament and Revelation is predicting a global great commission instead of performing a “short work” in evangelizing the land of Israel (Mt. 10:22-23; Rom. 9:28) and Roman world as they knew it (Rms.10:18; 16:25-26; Cols. 1:5-6, 23-24). Of course Peter who headed up the gospel mission to the Jews within Jerusalem and thus the tribes of Israel, and Paul being the Apostle to the Gentiles concerning the “mystery,” were two individuals that could definitely symbolically represent the great commission being fulfilled before “the end” came. I think Chilton’s view that the witnesses represent the Old Testament prophets and the judgment and curses of the old-covenant being declared upon Jerusalem also has merit.
However, my position is a mixture between Kistemaker’s and Chilton’s. I agree with Kistemaker that the witnesses symbolically represent the fulfillment of the great commission by the church before the end comes. Chapter 10 just finished discussing this and said there would be no more “delay” and thus its fulfillment was “near” during the time John was writing. I also don’t think there are two specific individuals that are meant here because there are too many old-covenant characters being described – 1) Moses & Elijah = the testimony and fulfillment of the law and the prophets and 2) Joshuah & Zerubbabel = Christ and the church coming together as the new priesthood and king/kingdom. The correct view here is that both the old-covenant prophets and the message of the new-covenant believers through the gospel come together as a testimony against the old-covenant apostate City for rejecting her message. Just as the twenty-four elders previously represent the old-covenant 12 tribes and the new-covenant 12 apostles upon which the church is built represents the fulfillment of the message of the mystery; so we have here in the form of the two witnesses the coming together bearing testimony of these two covenants against Jerusalem. Jesus said that the Old Testament Scriptures and Moses himself, were sufficient to condemn them in John. 5:45. However, there need not be such a large gap or dichotomy between the Old Testament prophets and the new which is what I believe Chilton was doing. Remember, Jesus and Paul taught no other things except that which were written in the law and the prophets. So it is the Church as the new-covenant Israel of God of which the old-covenant bore testimony of condemning the old-covenant Jerusalem through the message of the gospel.
In spite of this common sense approach to these two witnesses the “prophecy experts” claim these men are definitely literally Elijah and the other witness is probably Moses, Enoch or Zerubbabel who will allegedly come in our future to bear witness against Israel in the great tribulation period. Chuck Smith for example decides he wants to ignore the fact that Jesus said John the Baptist was the fulfillment of the coming of Elijah before the great and dreadful day of the Lord and says,
“Although John the Baptist was a type of Elijah, he was not the complete fulfillment of this prophecy.”
But where does Jesus ever say John was only a “type” of the coming of Elijah? If anything Elijah’s ministry in the Old Testament was the “type” and John the Baptist the antitype of his ministry!
In verses 7-8, we are introduced to the beast and this beast kills the two witnesses in the “great city” being described here “figuratively” as “Sodom” and “Egypt” where also the Lord had been crucified. “Beasts” in the Old and New testaments represent Satan and Gentile nations outside of the covenant seeking to deceive and kill those within the covenant community of God. Jerusalem having rejected the testimony of Christ and the church has now become apostate and thus identified with the unclean beastly creatures she abhorred throughout her redemptive history. Obviously, Jesus was crucified in Jerusalem so there is no big secret here as to the identity of this “great city” throughout the Book of Revelation. Even G.K. Beale admits the “great city” was descriptive of Jerusalem but fails to listen to even his own research,
“The title “the great city”… is used elsewhere of literal Jerusalem (Jer. 22:8; Sib. Or. 5.154, 226, 413; cf. Josephus, Ap. 1.197, 209.”
Most Reformed futurists want to flee this obvious connection making the “great city” and “Babylon” to be spiritually the “ungodly world” and not old-covenant apostate Jerusalem where the Lord was crucified. The “great city” is Babylon. Modern day sensationalistic prophecy gurus would have us believe that the great city of Babylon throughout the Book of Revelation is referring to such places and identities as: Iraq, Rome, the Roman Catholic Church, Russia, Korea, or wherever the newspapers and prophetic pundits are arbitrarily placing this city or the location of the antichrist these days. But Christ was not crucified in Iraq, Rome, or within the Roman Catholic Church system or the “ungodly world” system, but rather in a real historic city – Jerusalem! The blood guilt of all the prophets and martyrs of which these two witnesses represent would be required upon the “this generation” of Jesus and first century old-covenant Jerusalem (Mt. 23:30-36)!
These two witnesses are being described with hyperbole to represent the church in the first century as the martyrs of God and they were first described for us in chapter 6. This same group will be consistently depicted throughout the book – even into chapter 20. Probably the best commentary on this section especially in light of the immediate context of chapter 10’s themes of the great commission, the mystery, and the message of the prophets, can be found in Colossians 1:23-29. The Apostle Paul was filling up in his flesh what was still lacking in regards to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of the Church. And Paul and the Church were dieing daily to the old-covenant age/law in hopes of further attaining the resurrection (Rms. 5-8; Phil. 3). G.K. Beale notes that the use of “body” and “bodies” still represent the church as a corporate body,
“…(the body)” could be a collective singular.” “…But we must ask why singular forms of (“the body”) in vv 8a and 9a are followed by the plural (“the bodies”) in v 9b.” “…The likely reason for the change in number is to connote the corporate nature of the witnesses.”
The time frame of 3 ½ days in which they laid in the streets of the city dead in shame and without burial, tells us this is a recapitulation of the death and resurrection of Christ and has some connection with symbolic 3 ½ year period. Commentators agree,
“The three-and-half-day period during which the bodies are observed evokes the period Christ was in the tomb (though that was only three days). The further figuratively identifies the witnesses with Christ, “the fateful witness (1:5). Therefore, just as the three and a half year duration of Jesus’ ministry is identified with the course of the witnesses’ ministry (11:2-3), so also the time of his apparent defeat at the end of his ministry is associated with the conclusion of their period of testimony.
Of course men like Chuck Smith would once again have us believe that only in our modern day generation where the invention of television is a reality could this prophecy be fulfilled,
“At the time John wrote, it was impossible for all the world to see the bodies,…”
“…But within our generation this has become a very practical reality. Through television, people sitting in their homes will see the bodies of these two witnesses lying in he steet and the people in Jerusalem spitting on them and seeking to mutilate them. It will be televised throughout the world. This prophecy could not have been fulfilled until recent times.”
Because Smith and others like him presuppose that the Book of Revelation is to be literally fulfilled (at least the sections he arbitrarily says is!) and is referring to global events and not prophetic events depicting the devastation of a third of the “land” of Palestine, it must be fulfilled in “our generation.” Why? According to Smith and Lindsey and their alleged Holy Spirit led interpretations, one is to believe the Book of Revelation could not be fulfilled until our generation awaiting the inventions of the T.V. and attack Cobra helicopters! The phrase, “every people, tribe, language and nation” who were gazing upon the bodies is referring to Jews who had been gathered for the Jewish ceremonies as well as Gentile proselytes making a journey to the city just prior to them being trapped within the City and deceived by the false prophets to stay. Similarly in Acts we are told, “And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven.” (Acts 2:5).
Of course it is true that apostate Jews and even the Roman Empire physically witnessed the Christians being martyred. And indeed the Jews and false prophets and teachers witnessed the Christians fleeing the City as warned by Jesus in Matthew 24. But the “seeing” of the two witnesses here being raised and ascending has more to do with a perceiving and understanding that Christ had vindicated His church and now the judgment of those whom had crucified Christ and rejected the message of the church depicted by the two witnesses is now just and fitting retribution.
And what of the loud voice calling the two witnesses to “come up here” and their ascent into heaven in verse 12? Is this a proof text for the literal rapture or a defense for a literal biological resurrection of corpses at the end of history when Christ allegedly comes again? David Chilton connected this passage to the Church’s witness being given authority when it began the process of being raised from the dead and seated with Christ in the heavenly realm citing (Eph. 1-2; Heb. 12:22-24).
A flash back is one possibility since the success of the great commission is a theme of the book and the immediate context of the end of chapter 10. However, this a description of the vindication and resurrection of the church at the end of the Churches witness just prior to the coming of Christ to destroy Jerusalem that is in view here. Jesus taught that the church would be “gathered” and Paul, “changed” and “caught up” in the clouds of God’s presence (Mt. 24:30-31; 1 Thess. 4:15-17; 1Cor. 15). Kistemaker makes the connection that this passage is referring to the second coming and the literal resurrection of the church at the end of time citing (1 Thess. 4:17; Rev. 1:7). Partial preterists such as Gentry, Mathison, and Sproul ignore any connection to these other parallel New Testament texts and claim the judgment of “the dead” in 11:18 is not referring to the general resurrection. As usual it takes the preterist view to bridge the gap and make sense of the futurist dilemma. I would agree with making these New Testament parallels because it is the time of the seventh and final trumpet 11:15 which are also parallel themes of 1 Thessalonians 4 and 1 Corinthians 15 that portray the end and consummation. The blowing of the trumpet had a lot of salvific and covenantal imagery connected with it. It was the blowing of the trumpet at which God gathered Israel at Mount Sinai. The anti-type being God now consummately gathering the new covenant Israel up to Mount Zion. The trumpet sounded at the Harvest time. The anti-type being this was the time of the consummative harvest and resurrection of Israel to take place at the end of the old covenant age. The trumpet would sound when the groom came for the bride. The anti-type being this was the consummation in which Christ was coming to gather His Bride the New Jerusalem. The trumpet would sound as a battle cry to bring down God’s enemies as the last and seventh trumpet brought down the walls of Jericho. The anti-type here being old covenant Jerusalem is now the enemy God being destroyed for not heeding the churches message.
The appearance of Moses and Elijah in the transfiguration
Before leaving the subject of the two witnesses described as Moses and Elijah (with their O.T. ministries being somewhat recapitulated here), it may be a good idea to briefly cover the appearance of Moses and Elijah in another vision and see if this will help reinforce what I have said of them here.
In Luke’s account of the transfiguration the initial theological connection is made clearer. There it says Moses and Elijah came to talk with Jesus about His “exodus” (Luke 9:31NLT & WUESTNT). This is a better translation than Jesus’ “departure” because it is communicating that Jesus is the one the law and the prophets foretold would bring about Israel’s new covenant “new exodus” redemption and salvation. This will be stressed later in the gospels when Jesus takes His disciples to the upper room on the Passover, clearly teaching them that in Him is the new exodus is realized because He is the Passover Lamb of God. When Peter wants Moses and Elijah to remain and abide with the other disciples and Jesus, God causes the glory of Moses and Elijah to disappear and a rebuke from the Father ensues. The theology and point of the vision was the disappearing and fulfillment of the old covenant promises pictured in the glory of Moses and Elijah (the law and the prophets), with the emphasis now being upon the eternal abiding glory of the new covenant words of Christ – “here Him” (Mt. 17:5-8; Mt. 24:35). To seek the abiding nature of the old covenant (Moses and Elijah) along with the new covenant (Christ) was the error of the Judiazers and thus the disciples are rebuked by the Father.
Outside of the gospels, there are only two other places in the New Testament where the Greek word metamorphoo “transfigured” or “transformed” is used and the one I would like to bring your attention to is found in 2 Corinthians 3:18. Like the vision of the transfiguration, this passage is a clear covenantal contrast section within Paul’s writings. The Church was in the process of “being transformed” into the likeness of Christ which was connected with the old-covenant veil being lifted from the eyes of their minds or hearts. This was not a biological transformation process but a covenantal one! The old-covenant glory was in the process of “passing away” (2 Cor. 3:7-11, cf. Heb. 8:13) just as the glory of Moses and Elijah had disappeared in the vision.
Now the 1 Peter 1:16-19 text in connection with the transfiguration event becomes easy to understand. Years later, Peter is now under attack by the Judaizers whom are claiming that he and the other disciples have been teaching Christians “cleverly devised stories” about the Second Coming (2 Peter 1:16a). Peter’s apologetic against this charge is that he has two other Apostolic witnesses that will bear witness that they got their teaching about Jesus’ return through the process of direct revelation from the Father and the Son on the Mount of Transfiguration (vss.16b-18). Peter now goes on to discuss that they also have the teachings of the Prophets concerning these matters “made more certain” than what their Judaizer opponents were teaching because of the testimony of the vision, the testimony of the Prophets in the Scriptures themselves, and no doubt the testimony and teachings of Jesus—verse 19a. Although Peter does not use the Greek word metamorphoo, he describes the Church going through a similar process if they pay attention to what he, Jesus, and the Prophets are teaching. In paying heed to this instruction, it is “…a light shining in a dark place, until the Day dawns and the Morning Star rises in your hearts.” (vs.19b). The “day” singular is none other than the “in that day” or the “last day” of John’s gospel (John 4-6). Since Peter is saying that he is bring to “remembrance” the things he had written to them in his previous letter concerning their coming salvation and entrance (inheritance) into the eternal kingdom at Christ’s return foretold by all the prophets (vss.3-12/1Pet.1:4-12), we know without a shadow of doubt that this “day” when Christ would rise in their hearts was “at hand” and concerned the judgment and resurrection of the “living and the dead” (1Peter 4:5, 7).
Many commentators understand the transfiguration event to be a foreshadowing or prefiguring of the parousia. In other words the transfiguration is descriptive of the parousia in some way. I agree! But notice how the transfiguration doesn’t have anything to do with: 1) The passing and burning of the planet earth, 2) Christ floating down on a literal cloud someday and 3) Corpses flying out of their caskets at the end of time to be united with their spirits. The essence of the transfiguration is the passing and thus the fulfilling of the Law and the Prophets and the abiding everlasting words of the new covenant found in Jesus – “here Him.” The vision of the parousia in the transfiguration event gives us a theological picture/description of what the parousia was going to be all about – the passing and fulfilling of the old covenant glory and the brining in of the new by A.D. 70. When Reformed theologians pay closer attention to some of their best theologians such as John Owen and John Lightfoot in their teaching that it was the “elements” of the old-covenant law that was dissolved at the coming of the Lord in A.D. 70 that is the topic in 2 Peter 3 and not the planet earth, this further harmonizes the time frame and function of what the Second Coming would be all about as taught in (Mt.16:27-17:10).
The corporate testimony and resurrection of the two witnesses symbolically represent the resurrection and transformation of the new Israel of God – the church from the glory of the old-covenant economy to the new. This was brought about with Christ’s imminent return by A.D. 70.
c). The Kingdom’s arrival and the judgment of “the dead.”
Partial preterists such as Gentry and Mathison understand Revelation 11 being fulfilled by A.D. 70 as an inauguration of the kingdom and not the consummation of fulfillment. Their partial preterist hermeneutic does well in identifying Jerusalem as the city where the Lord was crucified and the measuring of the temple as pointing to a pre-A.D. 70 date for Revelation and time frame of fulfillment. However, as we previously noted, their view falls apart in not identifying the last trumpet with the trumpet call and consummation of fulfillment described in Matthew 24:30-31, 1 Thessalonians 4 and 1 Corinthians 15. Likewise, there are numerous indicators in this chapter alone that point to a consummative fulfillment reached at the Second and final coming of the Lord not just some minor coming of the Lord. Beale correctly parallels the judgment of “the dead” with that of the judgment of the dead at the end of the millennium in 20:12-13 and the kingdom’s arrival with that of 1 Corinthians 15,
“Our overall analysis of 11:15-19 argues that the hymn speaks of the consummated form of the kingdom. The striking parallel noted below between 11:18a and 20:12-13 suggests strongly that this is the case. The consummate nature of the kingdom is also indicated by the greater emphasis on God’s reign rather than Christ’s. This suggests a parallel with 1 Cor. 15:25-28, where God’s rule is emphasized over Christ’s because the consummation of Christ’s…”
Beale is critical of Chilton’s partial preterism where Chilton identifies the judgment of the dead here as a vindication of the righteous dead martyrs and not an inclusion of the judgment of the wicked dead which would clearly identify this passage as the consummative judgment and resurrection event. Beale correctly points out that the word for “judge” here (Gk. krino) as used elsewhere in Revelation, refers to the consummate judgment of the wicked (6:10; 16:5; 18:8, 20; 19:2, 11; 20:12-13). In Revelation 20:12-13 where again the judgment of the dead is the topic, the phrase to describe those partaking is the “small and great” which is used here in 11:19. These are death blows to the partial preterist view. But that this chapter is identifying the judgment of Babylon or the “Great City” as old-covenant Jerusalem in A.D. 70 as the time of the kingdom’s arrival and the judgment of “the dead” is a death blow to the futurist paradigm of Beale and others. Our position consistently maintains the clear and common sense and exegetical approaches of each view.
d). God’s temple in heaven was opened and the ark seen.
Here again is another clear indicator of the consummation being reached at Christ’s Second Coming not just “a” coming of Jesus in A.D. 70. Beale correctly makes the typological connections between the first exodus and the second with the sounding of the trumpet brining God’s people into the rest of the new creation,
“The seventh trumpet may be built around a segment from the Son of Moses in Exod. 15:13-18. There God is praised for redeeming his people by “calling them into your holy resting place” (v 13); when “the nations heard” about this deliverance “they became enraged” (…in Exod. 15:14 LXX, as in Rev. 11:18); in spite of the nations’ rage, God brought his people into his “habitation” and “sanctuary (Exod. 15:17). So then, it is declared, “the Lord reigns forever and ever” (v 18, see the verbatim parallel in Rev. 11:15). These allusions are an appropriate way to conclude the series of trumpets, since the first six have been modeled on the exodus plagues, which have led up to Exodus 15. Furthermore, the appearance of the ark in Rev. 11:19…” “…calls to mind the fall of Jericho, which marked the successful conclusion of Israel’s entry into the Promised Land after the exodus and wilderness wanderings.”
“…In that episode the ark followed the trumpet blowers. This suggests further that 11:15-19 forms the content of the seventh trumpet. There are no more half-weeks (cf. 11:2-3, 10-11); the full week of consummation has been reached.”
Beale also cites many Jewish writings in which they understood that when the ark would be revealed to Israel–again that this would be the time of judgment and the resurrection of the dead. The appearance of the ark is symbolic of God’s presence and the time of inheriting the new creation,
“This presence of God without a literal reappearance of the ark is the idea of Rev. 11:19, which is expanded in 21:3, 22, where the establishment of the end-time temple is interpreted as God’s presence in the midst of his people.” “Therefore, the ark in 11:19 is a suitable symbol for both the judgment and the reward of the last day. Therefore, the full answer to the saints’ petition for vindication in 6:9-11 is revealed in 11:15-19.”
Obviously we have a major contradiction taking place within Reformed eschatology! Partial preterists such as Gentry, Mathison and Sproul would tell us that the vindication of the martyrs in 6:9-11 literally took place in a “little while” referring to Christ returning in A.D. 70, which is accurate. But Beale and others being faithful to the recapitulation structure of Revelation sees these texts identified with the consummation judgment and rewarding of the saints at the final return of Christ and the inheritance of the new creation. Both are right and both are wrong. It is only the preterist that can truly come and solve this dilemma by building a paradigm using the correct propositions of each side.
The woman clothed with the sun and crowned with 12 stars having the moon underneath her feet is the church described as the faithful or New Israel. She is giving birth to a “male child” who is not Christ, but rather other members of the collective body of the church. In the Old Testament unbelieving Israel would be in labor groaning but could only give birth to “wind” and could not bear forth a child – or give birth and bring salvation to the peoples of the earth (Isa. 26:17-18). However, faithful Israel is able to bring forth the male child and salvation for the world in one day:
“The sound of noise from the city! A voice from the temple! The voice of the LORD, Who fully repays His enemies! “Before she was in labor, she gave birth; Before her pain came, She delivered a male child. Who has heard such a thing? Who has seen such things? Shall the earth be made to give birth in one day? Or shall a nation be born at once? For as soon as Zion was in labor, She gave birth to her children. Shall I bring to the time of birth, and not cause delivery?” says the LORD. “Shall I who cause delivery shut up the womb?” says your God. “Rejoice with Jerusalem, And be glad with her, all you who love her; Rejoice for joy with her, all you who mourn for her; That you may feed and be satisfied With the consolation of her bosom, That you may drink deeply and be delighted With the abundance of her glory.” For thus says the LORD: “Behold, I will extend peace to her like a river, And the glory of the Gentiles like a flowing stream. Then you shall feed; On her sides shall you be carried, And be dandled on her knees. As one whom his mother comforts, So I will comfort you; And you shall be comforted in Jerusalem.” When you see this, your heart shall rejoice, And your bones shall flourish like grass; The hand of the LORD shall be known to His servants, And His indignation to His enemies” (Isa. 66:6-14).
This is a reference to the time of the birth pains Jesus discussed in Matthew 24:8 and the groanings of child birth in Romans 8:18-23 which also depicted the resurrection. Israel after the flesh would groan in pain wanting what the church had and was about to give birth to, but because of their rejection of Christ, their womb was cursed only to give birth to wind. The sufferings and groanings of the Church were momentary and would bring forth salvation to the world. Here in Isaiah “a male child” also represents “her children” plural. So we have Israel becoming born again and transformed through the metaphor of child birth. This is not referring to Mary giving birth to Jesus. That this male child is given a rod to rule the nations is the fulfillment of the promise given to the church in Revelation 2:27.
The child being snatched up to heaven in verse 5 is but yet another description of what we saw of the two witnesses being raised up and called up to heaven in chapter 11. Resurrection and new birth are parallel concepts describing the transformation of church as God’s new Israel and kingdom.
The mother fleeing and being given wings to flee to the desert for 1,260 days or 3 ½ years represents the church fleeing for safety to Pella as Christ exhorted her to do once she saw the Roman armies surrounding Jerusalem in Luke 21:20-23. The dragon represents Satan moving within his servants of the synagogue of Satan who persecuted the Christians and then sought to deceive them into staying within Jerusalem to fight the Romans.
In verse 10ff. we reach the consummation once again. Satan and the apostate heavenly civil and religious rulers of Israel are cast to the earth (cf. Mt. 24:29). These were the accusers of the brethren – a scene played out for us in the book of Acts of which the church finally receives “relief” from at Christ’s parousia (2 Thess. 2:14-16). This is also the time of vindication in which they will rule over their enemies through the means of Christ coming to render upon their enemies “tribulation” and “wrath” (1 Thess. 2:14-16; 2 Thess. 1:5-10).