Where the world comes to study the Bible

Revelation 10-11

 

PARAGRAPH DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

UBS4 NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
The Angel and the Little Scroll The Mighty Angel with the Scroll An Interlude The Angel and the Little Scroll The Imminence of the Last Punishment
10:1-7 10:1-7 10:1-7 10:1-4 10:1-7
  John Eats the Little Book   10:5-7 The Seer Eats the Small Scroll
10:8-11 10:8-11 10:8-10 10:8 10:8-11
      10:9  
      10:10-11  
    10:11    
The Two Witnesses The Two Witnesses The Measuring of the Temple and the Two Witnesses The Two Witnesses The Two Witnesses
11:1-13 11:1-6 11:1-3 11:1-3 11:1-10
  The Witnesses Killed 11:4-6 11:4-6  
  11:7-10 11:7-10 11:7-13  
  The Witnesses Resurrected      
  11:11-14 11:11-13   11:11-13
    The Seventh Trumpet    
11:14   11:14 11:14 11:14
The Seventh Trumpet Seventh Trumpet: the Kingdom Proclaimed   The Seventh Trumpet The Seventh Trumpet
11:15-19 11:15-19 11:15-19 11:15-18 11:15-18
      11:19 11:19

READING CYCLE THREE (from "A Guide to Good Bible Reading")

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT THE PARAGRAPH LEVEL

This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired but it is the key to following the original author's intent which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

 

CONTEXTUAL INSIGHTS

A. The first interlude (chapter 7) came between the sixth and seventh seals. This second interlude (10:1-11:14) comes between the sixth and seventh trumpets. There is no interlude between the sixth and seventh bowls (chapter 16), but there is another interlude before them (chapters 12-14).

 

B. This interlude, like chapter 7, uses OT terms (tabernacle, altar, Jerusalem). However, just as the Jewish allusions in chapter 7 refer to the NT people of God, the Church, so too, in this chapter. The allusions are drawn from Daniel 9 but they have been adapted to the Greco-Roman, first century setting.

Here is a brief quote from Alan Johnson's Commentary on Revelation, "The Jewish view suffers from its inability to relate this chapter to the context of chapter 10, to the parallelism with the seal interlude (ch. 7), to the ministry and significance of the two witnesses, and to the further chapters in Revelation (esp. chapters. 12-13). Therefore, it is better to understand chapter 11 as referring to the whole Christian community" (p. 104).

C. As Alan Johnson sees chapter 11 in its relationship to chaps. 7, 10, and 12-13, George Ladd sees it as an independent literary unit related to the preservation of the Jewish people and their final salvation (cf. Matt. 23:39; Luke 21:24; Rom. 11:26). See his Commentary on the Revelation of John, pp. 150-151.

It is difficult to decide between these two views. I certainly feel that because of God's promises to Israel, there will be an end-time revival among natural or proselyte Israel in which many will turn to faith in Christ (cf. Zech. 12:10); this is part of Paul's argument in Romans 11 (it is surely possible that the revival alluded to in Zech. 12:10 occurred in the Palestinian church of the first century). However, the context of Revelation 7,10, and 12-13 implies a universal scope both of protection to all of God's people and judgment against all unbelievers. In this context a believing Jewish emphasis or even a Jewish-versus-Gentile emphasis is out of place.

D. Will there be two end-time witnesses, or is this symbolic of an end-time witness? It is so hard to be confident in interpreting the symbols of this book. If John intended them to be literal, he would have chosen a different genre to reveal this to believers of all ages.

Did this reference to "two witnesses" have special meaning to the first century believers experiencing persecution (probably Emperor worship cults)? This cannot be answered with finality. John's choice of imagery is drawn from several sources: the Old Testament, apocalyptic literature, Greco-Roman culture and at times Near Eastern mythology (chapter 12). Did the first hearers completely and fully understand his sources and symbolism? Possibly not, not in a specific way, but they did understand the genre! They would not have forced a literal historical fulfillment for all the details.

My only fear in making this statement is how OT predictive prophecy was interpreted by the inspired NT authors! Often they saw literal fulfillment of OT details in the life of Christ. Some of these fulfillments were rabbinical word plays or type/antitype symbols. Under the Spirit's guidance (or Jesus' teaching, cf. Luke 24:13-35) the Apostles' current historical setting was viewed through OT prophetic texts. This same thing may occur for the last generation of persecuted believers. However, intervening interpreters are not able to predict which of these details through theology or hermeneutics! Modern interpreters must not (1) force their history into these apocalyptic texts nor (2) seek literal fulfillment on every detail of this highly symbolic genre. Time will tell!

 E. The literary patterns and imagery of the seals and the trumpets is almost identical. Both bring human history up to the very end (cf. 6:12-17 and 11:15-19).

 

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 10:1-7
 1I saw another strong angel coming down out of heaven, clothed with a cloud; and the rainbow was upon his head, and his face was like the sun, and his feet like pillars of fire; 2and he had in his hand a little book which was open. He placed his right foot on the sea and his left on the land; 3and he cried out with a loud voice, as when a lion roars; and when he had cried out, the seven peals of thunder uttered their voices. 4When the seven peals of thunder had spoken, I was about to write; and I heard a voice from heaven saying, "Seal up the things which the seven peals of thunder have spoken and do not write them." 5Then the angel whom I saw standing on the sea and on the land lifted up his right hand to heaven, 6and swore by Him who lives forever and ever, who created heaven and the things in it, and the earth and the things in it, and the sea and the things in it, that there will be delay no longer, 7but in the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he is about to sound, then the mystery of God is finished, as He preached to His servants the prophets.

10:1 "I saw another strong angel coming down out of heaven" Notice that John is back on earth after the vision of chapters 4-5 (if John's call to heaven in chap. 4 was the rapture of the church, is this the fall of the church?). This angel is described in terms which apply to YHWH in the OT and to Christ in Rev. 1:12-20. Because of this, many have asserted that this is Christ Himself. However, this is doubtful for the following reasons:

1. Christ is never called an angel in Revelation

2. there are other mighty angels listed in Revelation (cf. 5:2; 18:21)

3. this angel will swear by God in v. 6, which is inappropriate for Christ

4. there is an angel in Daniel 10 who is also described in similar terms.

This elaborate description may contrast this angel of light with the angel of the abyss in Revelation 9. As the angel in Revelation 9 was directed, this angel is self-directed. This may be an allusion to the powerful angel of Dan. 10:5-6 or to Michael, the archangel of Israel in Dan. 10:13 and 12:1.

▣ "clothed with a cloud" In the OT clouds were the unique transportation of deity (cf. Ps. 97:2; 104:3; Dan. 7:13; Acts 1:9).

"and the rainbow was upon his head" Many see this as an allusion to 4:3 and therefore another title of power and authority reminiscent of deity. The allusion may go back to Ezek. 1:28, where a rainbow is the portable throne/chariot of YHWH.

"his face was like the sun" This follows the description of Christ found in 1:16 (cf. Matt. 17:2).

"his feet like pillars of fire" This description is also similar to Christ in Rev. 1:15.

10:2 "he had in his hand a little book which was open" There has been much discussion about this little book. Some see it as the little book of 5:1, now opened, but two different Greek words are used (5:1, biblion; 10:2, biblaridion). Others see it as related to Ezekiel 2:8-3:14. Since this is an angel and not Christ, Ezekiel is the best allusion.

▣ "He placed his right foot on the sea and his left on the land" The size of the angel speaks of a universal message. The rabbis (in the Talmud) discussed an angel named Sandelfon, whose enormous height was the same as the distance of 500 miles taller than other angels (cf. Hagigah 13b).

10:3 "he cried out with a loud voice, as when a lion roars" This term "roars" (mukaomai) is usually used for the voice of oxen (a low bellow). However, it seems appropriate given that this is an allusion to the OT passages where God spoke as a lion (cf. Jer. 25:30; Hos. 11:10; Joel 3:16; Amos 3:8).

"the seven peals of thunders uttered their voices" The identity of these seven thunders is disputed. This could be:

1. an allusion to the seven "voices" of God in Ps. 29:3-9

2. parallel to the seven seals and seven trumpets, which were cycles of God's judgment on unbelievers (cf. 8:5; 11:19; 16:18) for the purpose of redemption

3. a sound coming from God's throne (cf. 4:5)

4. it may also relate to the seven spirits of God (cf. 1:4; 4:5; 5:6 from Isa. 11:22)

 

10:4 "Seal up" There are several places in the Bible where someone has received a revelation from God but could not reveal it. Two of these are (1) Daniel (cf. Dan. 8:26; 12:4,9) and (2) Paul (cf. II Cor. 12:4). However, this is a very surprising statement. John is told to write what he sees (cf. 1:11,19; 14:13; 19:9; 21:5). John is told in 22:10 that the words of this prophecy are not to be sealed up. It must refer to this message alone!

10:5 "lifted up his right hand to heaven" This is a gesture for oath-taking (cf. Gen. 14:22; Exod. 6:8; Num. 14:30; Deut. 32:40; Ezek. 20:15,28; Dan. 12:7). The form of this oath is very striking in its titles for God.

10:6 "Him who lives forever and ever" This characterization of God recalls His two most common OT names:

1. YHWH from the Hebrew verb "to be" (cf. Exod. 3:14). "I Am that I Am" was the covenant name for deity; it emphasized God as Savior and Redeemer (cf. Gen. 14:19; Exod. 20:11; Neh. 9:6; Ps. 146:6).

2. Elohim, which was used of God in Genesis 1 as creator, sustainer, and provider of everything on earth (cf. Gen. 14:19; Exod. 20:11; Neh. 9:6; Ps. 146:6).

This oath is a way of asserting the trustworthiness of the angel's message.

"there will be delay no longer" This may be a response to the question of the martyrs in 6:10. It is literally "that time (chronos) no longer shall be." The concept of time is very fluid in this book for several reasons.

1. There are two different Greek words that express time

a. chronos, the passing of time (cf. 10:6)

b. kairos, a special time, season, or event (cf. 1:3; 11:18;12:12,14).

2. There are several idioms used:

a. "the things which must shortly take place" (cf. 1:1; 22:6)

b. "the time is near" (cf. 1:3; 3:11; 22:10)

c. "I am coming quickly" (cf. 2:5,16; 22:7,12,20) 

d. "I will come like a thief" (cf. 3:3; 16:15)

All of these speak of immediacy (see Special Topic at 1:3). However, some passages speak of a delay (cf. 6:11; 10:6; 14:13). Another idiom is that the day of judgment and rewards has arrived, "it is done" (cf. 16:17; 21:6) or "the time has come" (cf. 11:18; 20:12).

This fluidity has been exploited by the differing interpretive systems to emphasize a certain aspect of time (first century, every age, or last generation). The solemn oath of the angel is that the end-time events must now begin. The prayers of the martyrs have been answered! Revelation must be interpreted in light of its first readers (see John Bray, Matthew 24 Fulfilled).

10:7

NASB"the mystery of God is finished"
NKJV"the mystery of God would be finished"
NRSV"the mystery of God would be fulfilled"
TEV"God will accomplish his secret plan"
NJB"the mystery of God will be fulfilled"

The term has several connotations.

1. Paul uses it often to refer to God's eternal plan of the redemption of Jews and Gentiles through faith in Christ (cf. Eph. 2:11-3:13, see Special Topic at 4:1).

2. Revelation often refers to a mystery about part of a vision (cf. 1:20; 17:5,7).

3. In 10:7 it refers to God's eternal plan of redemption, as Paul did in Rom. 16:25-26 and Eph. 2:11-3:13.

It is possible that John took this term from Daniel, particularly chapter 2 (cf. 2:18,19,27,28,29,30,47). If so, it refers to God's ability to reveal His actions. God is knowledgeable of and in control of all history.

SPECIAL TOPIC: MYSTERY IN THE GOSPELS

▣ "the prophets"

SPECIAL TOPIC: OLD TESTAMENT PROPHECY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 10:8-11
 8Then the voice which I heard from heaven, I heard again speaking with me, and saying, "Go, take the book which is open in the hand of the angel who stands on the sea and on the land." 9So I went to the angel, telling him to give me the little book. And he said to me, "Take it and eat it; it will make your stomach bitter, but in your mouth it will be sweet as honey." 10I took the little book out of the angel's hand and ate it, and in my mouth it was sweet as honey; and when I had eaten it, my stomach was made bitter. 11And they said to me, "You must prophesy again concerning many peoples and nations and tongues and kings."

10:8 "the voice which I heard from heaven, I heard again" There has been much speculation about the identification of the speaker. Some have asserted that it is God, or Christ, or the Holy Spirit, or one of the powerful angels.

In v. 11 the voice is plural, possibly referring to the Triune God. The plurals used of deity in the OT (the name Elohim and the "us" of Gen. 1:26; 3:22; 7:11; Isa. 6:8) have been explained in several ways.

1. a grammatical form called "the plural of majesty" whereby the plural intensifies the concept or term

2. YHWH speaking collectively of the angelic council (cf. I Kgs. 22:19; Job 1:6; 2:1; Jer. 23:18; Dan. 7:10)

3. an incipient form of the concept of a Triune God or Trinity (cf. Ps. 110:1; Zech. 2:8; 17:10)

See SPECIAL TOPIC: NAMES FOR DEITY at 1:8.

10:9 "'Take it and eat it'" This is an allusion to Ezek. 2:8-3:14 or Jer. 15:16-17. This symbolizes being commissioned to speak God's message. The little book symbolizes God's message which contains both assurance to believers (honey, cf. Ps. 19:10-11; 119:103) and judgment to unbelievers (bitter). This scroll is not the same as the one that Jesus opened in chapter 6. This refers to the message from the almighty angel (cf. vv. 7-11).

10:11 "they said to me" The powerful angel or the Triune God is affirming John as prophetic recorder and spokesman.

"many peoples and nations and tongues and kings" This terminology is used of both unbelievers (cf. 11:9; 13:7-8; 14:6; 17:15) and believers (i.e.,before Judgment Day cf. 7:9; 15:4 and after Judgment Day cf. 21:24,26; 22:2). This verse could refer to preaching the gospel (cf. 10:11; 14:6) to all nations (cf. Matt. 24:14; Mark 13:10) or the prediction of further temporal judgments of the wrath of God.

REVELATION 11

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 11:1-6
 1Then 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." 4These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth. 5And 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. 6These 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.

11:1 "a measuring rod like a staff" In the previous sections John watched as the angels performed tasks, but in the seventh trumpet John will be involved in the action.

The term "measuring rod" (kalamos, used in this sense only here) possibly reflects the OT usage of river reeds which were used as horizontal measuring instruments (see SPECIAL TOPIC: RIGHTEOUSNESS at 19:11). They were between eight and twenty feet long (cf. Ezek. 40:5-42:20).

▣ "Get up and measure" Measuring was a sign of (1) promised growth and protection (cf. Jer. 31:38-40; Rev. 21:15). This could be an allusion to Ezekiel's end-time temple (cf. 40-48) or Zechariah's new Jerusalem (cf. 1:16; 2:1-13); or (2) judgment (cf. II Sam. 8:2; II Kgs. 21:13; Isa. 28:17; Lam. 2:8). Here, like the sealing of chapter 7, it is a sign of God's protection of believers. If this interlude parallels chapter 7 then this temple is the whole people of God (believing Jews and believing Gentiles). This then would also parallel chapter 12.

▣ "the temple of God and the altar, and those who worship in it" The identity of this temple depends on one's interpretive presuppositions.

1. If we assume that John's imagery is drawn from Ezekiel 40-48, then this is a literal end-time temple in Jerusalem (cf. II Thess. 2:4).

2. If, however, we assume the allusion to be to Zechariah 2 then the imagery is the city of God, new Jerusalem.

3. If we assume the heavenly temple (cf. 7:15; 11:19; 15:58; Heb. 9:23) then the multitude of 7:9 (the Church, and the woman of chapter 12) may be the focus (cf. 21:15-16).

It is interesting to note that John is told to measure the people who worship there. This is unusual terminology. This image involves more than just a building. This is imagery that marks off the people of faith from the unbelievers about to experience the wrath of God. Therefore, it is parallel to God's mark on believers' foreheads (cf. 7:3-4).

11:2 "the court which is outside the temple" This concept of the outer court refers historically to the court of the Gentiles in Herod's Temple. There are several OT allusions to the idea of Jerusalem and the Temple being trodden down by Gentiles (cf. Ps. 79:1-7; Isa. 63:18; Dan. 8:13; Zech. 12:3 in the Septuagint). Jesus seems to make a direct allusion to Dan. 8:13 in Luke 21:24.

"the nations" See notes at 2:26 and 10:11.

▣ "forty-two months" See Special Topic below.

SPECIAL TOPIC: FORTY-TWO MONTHS

▣ "the holy city" This could refer to Jerusalem (cf. Isa. 52:1; Matt. 27:53). However, following the interpretation of the temple in Rev. 3:12 as referring to the NT believers, the same method must be followed with this phrase. In the later chapters of Revelation it refers to the NT people of God (cf. 20:9; 21:2,10; 22:19).

John is pulling metaphors from the OT but applying them to the NT people of God. The church is made up of believing Jews and Gentiles. There is no emphasis on racial Jews versus Gentiles in Revelation. There is no more Jew and Greek (cf. I Cor. 12:13; Gal. 3:28; Col. 3:11).

11:3 "I will grant authority to my two witnesses" This seems to imply God the Father speaking because Jesus is referred to in v. 8 (although there is a Greek manuscript problem with the pronoun, which is omitted in P47 and א).

▣ "two witnesses" There have been many theories about the identity of these two powerful preachers:

1. The allusion (cf. v. 4) is from Zech. 4:3,11,14. This originally referred to the returning Davidic seed, Zerubbabel, and the returning High Priestly seed, Joshua, who were the two Spirit-led leaders (two olive trees) who led the return from Babylonian captivity (i.e., the restored people of God).

2. The two lampstands (cf. 1:20) may imply the two faithful churches, Smyrna, 2:8-11 and Philadelphia, 3:7-13.

3. The two witnesses may imply testimony in court (cf. Num. 35:30; Deut. 17:6; 19:15).

4. The description of these two witnesses implies Elijah (shut up the sky from v. 6, cf. I Kgs. 17:1; 18:1; Luke 4:25; James 5:17 and called down fire, cf. I Kgs. 18:24,38; II Kgs. 1:10,12) and Moses (turn water to blood from v. 6, cf. Exod. 7:17-19). Both of these appeared to Jesus on the mount of Transfiguration (cf. Matt. 17:4).

5. The intertestamental apocalyptic book of I Enoch 90:31 and two early church fathers, Tertullian and Hippolitus, asserted that they were the two persons from the OT who did not die natural deaths, Enoch (cf. Gen. 5:21-24) and Elijah (cf. II Kgs. 2:11).

6. The NJB footnote asserts that it refers to Peter and Paul, both martyred in Rome in the reign of Nero (p. 435).

I personally see them as symbolic of the witness of the entire people of God because of the parallel structure of the seven seals and interlude and seven trumpets and interlude. Therefore, both the 144,000 (believing Jews) and the innumerable group (believing nations), as well as the two witnesses, refer to the church.

▣ "clothed in sackcloth" This can be either (1) a sign of mourning and repentance (cf. Gen. 37:34; II Sam. 3:31) or (2) simply the normal dress of a prophet (cf. II Kgs. 1:8; Isa. 20:2; Zech. 13:4).

▣ "they will prophesy for twelve hundred and sixty days" Forty-two months of thirty days each equals twelve hundred and sixty days. The gospel will be proclaimed during this period of persecution by the unbelieving nations (cf. Matt. 24:8-14, 21-22). This symbolic number comes from Dan. 7:25; 12:7 and is used often in Revelation (cf. 12:6; 13:5).

11:4 "the two olive trees" This is an allusion to Zerubbabel, the Davidic seed of the returning exiles and Joshua, the Aaronic seed of the returning exiles (cf. Zech. 4:3,11,14). This may imply that the gospel witness of the end-time will represent a royal Messianic and priestly Messianic emphasis (Jesus as King and Priest, cf. Psalm 110; Heb. 1:3). These two inspired preachers of repentance bring God's light (cf. Zechariah 4) to a rebellious world (the rebellious Israel is now a rebellious humanity, cf. Isa. 6:9-11; 43:8-13; Jer. 5:21-29; Ezek. 12:2).

11:5 "if anyone wants to harm them. . .if anyone wants to harm them" Both of these are first class conditional sentences which assume that there are those who want to hurt them, but they will be divinely protected until their mission is accomplished.

▣ "fire flows out of their mouth and devours their enemies" Notice that the power is in their mouth which implies the power of the message they proclaim. In Revelation the mouth is a weapon, the tongue a sword (cf. 9:17; 19:15; Heb. 4:12).

11:6 These OT actions remind one of Elijah (cf. I Kgs. 17:1) and Moses (cf. Exod. 7:17-19).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 11:7-10
 7When 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. 8And 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. 9Those 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. 10And 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.

11:7 "the beast that comes up out of the abyss" If this is an allusion to Daniel 7, then the beast is a composite figure of all the four beasts mentioned in Daniel 7, which stands for the ultimate Anti-Christ of the end-time (cf. II Thess. 2:3).

The "abyss" is the home of the demonic (cf. 9:1; 20:1). This concept of a beast is developed in chapters 13 and 17.

"will make war with them, and overcome them and kill them" This is an allusion to Dan. 7:21 which will be more fully explained in Revelation 13. Here, the phrasing may imply that the two witnesses are symbolic of a large number of people (cf. 13:7 i.e., the people of God). Notice that they are not spared persecution and death.

11:8 "their dead bodies will lie in the street" This humiliation of exposed dead bodies was a way to express contempt (cf. v. 9; Deut. 28:26; Ps. 79:2; Jer. 7:33; 8:2; 16:4; 19:7; 34:20). However, God used their visible bodies in a powerful resurrection manifestation of His power and confirmation of their message.

▣ "this great city" This seems to be a description of Jerusalem; however, the figurative language implies the spiritual struggle between the earthly kingdom and the heavenly kingdom. Here are my reasons.

1. The phrase "that great city" is used of Babylon or Rome (cf. 16:19; 17:18; 18:10,16,18,19,21).

2. Although Jerusalem is called Sodom in Ezek. 16:46-49 and Isa. 1:9-10, she is never called Egypt; Sodom and Egypt seem to be metaphors for sin and bondage.

3. "Where the Lord was crucified" seems to refer to Jerusalem, but it could be another way of talking about the anti-God kingdoms of this world.

4. "The peoples and tribes and tongues and nations" in v. 9 implies

a. a city where the entire world will be present, which fits Rome better than Jerusalem

b. "city" used as a metaphor of rebellious mankind (cf. Gen. 4:17; 10:8-10)

5. "Those who dwell on the earth will rejoice over them and celebrate" in v. 10 implies that the message of these two witnesses was not simply for the Jews, but for the entire world of unbelievers.

This describes the ongoing battle between the kingdoms of this earth and the Messianic kingdom (cf. 11:15), particularly as in Daniel 2 and Psalm 2.

11:9 "those from the peoples and tribes and tongues and nations" See note at 10:11.

▣ "for three days and a half" The time of v. 9 combined with v. 11 equals the number seven, used so often in Revelation. This event was God's perfect timing.

11:10 "celebrate; and they will send gifts to one another" Some see this as a perverted Feast of Purim (cf. Esther 9:19,22). It is more likely an allusion to John 16:20 ("the world will rejoice"). This rejoining of the unbelieving world reveals the power of the two witnesses' message, but the unbelievers would not repent (cf. 9:20-21; 16:9,11).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 11:11-13
 11But 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. 12And 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. 13And 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.

11:11 "the three and a half days" This is an allusion from Daniel and is a symbolic period of persecution. See full note at 11:9.

▣ "the breath of life from God came into them" This is an allusion to Ezekiel 37, the valley of dry bones. This is a play on the Hebrew word "ruach" which meant breath, wind, and spirit (as does the Greek word pneuma).

SPECIAL TOPIC: SPIRIT IN THE BIBLE

11:12 "And they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, 'Come up here'" As some see the secret rapture of the Church in 4:1 where John was summoned to heaven, others see here a mid-tribulation secret rapture of the Church as these two witnesses are called to heaven in this verse. Here again our presuppositions and theological grids drive the interpretation of symbolic, ambiguous texts!

▣ "Then they went up into heaven in the cloud" This is the divine transportation. The Messiah rode on the clouds of heaven in Dan. 7:13. Jesus ascended to heaven in the clouds (cf Acts 1:9). Jesus will return riding on the clouds of heaven (cf. Matt. 24:30; 26:64; Mark 13:26; I Thess. 4:17; Rev. 1:7; 14:14).

11:13 "in that hour there was a great earthquake, and a tenth of the city fell" There are seven references in Revelation to earthquakes (cf. 6:12; 8:5; 11:13,19; 16:18). This shows the ongoing, continuing, limited judgments of God on unbelievers. This may be an allusion to Ezek. 38:17-23.

"the rest were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven" There has been much discussion about the identity of term "the rest." It could refer to

1. the literal inhabitants of Jerusalem (cf. Zech. 12:10) or Rome

2. those who are saved during the tribulation period, i.e.,those who truly repent

3. believing Jews, from Romans 11

4. people, like Nebuchadnezzer and Cyrus, who were awed by God's acts, but not truly converted.

Because of 9:20-21; 14:7-8 and 16:10, #4 is the best option.

However, in 16:9, giving glory is related to repentance. It is surely possible that these (Jews or pagans) believed! This is the stated purpose of God's judgments (cf. 9:20-21; 16:9,11)

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 11:14
 14The second woe is past; behold, the third woe is coming quickly.

11:14 This is a transitional device (cf. 9:12; 12:12).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 11:15-16
 15Then 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." 16And the twenty-four elders, who sit on their thrones before God, fell on their faces and worshiped God, saying,

11:15 "The kingdom of the world" The KJV and NKJV have "the kingdoms of this world." The plural is not present in any of the ancient Greek manuscripts.

▣ "has become" This is an aorist middle (deponent) indicative. This is a description of the end of the reign of fallen human governments and the beginning of the reign of our God (cf. 12:10). The new age of the Spirit has fully come. This confirms the recapitulation theory that the Second Coming occurs at the end of each of the three cycles of judgment: the seals (cf. 6:12-17), the trumpets (cf. 11:15-18), and the bowls (cf. 19). Revelation is not in a chronological, sequential order, but a dramatic presentation in seven cycles, each viewing the same period, but the seals, trumpets, and bowls in successive and intensifying degrees of judgment (1/4, 1/3, full).

▣ "our Lord and of His Christ" Notice how closely the Father and Son are linked (cf. Psalm 2). Notice, also, that the emphasis of I Cor. 15:24-28 and Eph. 5:5 has now been fulfilled. Some see an allusion to Zech. 14:9 which is possible because John's favorite sources of apocalyptic images in Daniel, Ezekiel, and Zechariah.

"and He will reign forever and ever" This refers to the eternal reign of our God (cf. Exod. 15:18; Ps. 10:16; 29:10; Isa. 9:6-7; Dan. 2:44; 4:34; 7:14,27; Zech. 14:9; Luke 1:33; I Thess. 4:17; II Pet. 1:11), not a millennial reign (cf. Revelation 20) of Christ. This is really a fulfillment of Jesus' prayer in Matt. 6:10 that God's will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

The kingdom of God is a major theme in the Gospels and in the Revelation. There is a fluidity and tension between its current reality (post-millennial and amillennial) and its future consummation (historical premillennial and dispensational premillennial). This same fluidity is also between its earthly aspect (millennial) and its eternal aspect. Some commentators, schools, and denominations dwell on one aspect of the fluidity, but ignore or twist the others to fit their presuppositions and theological systems. It is so hard for western people to appreciate the fluidity, figurativeness, and tension of eastern literature, especially its apocalyptic genre. Our God and His Christ have reigned, are reigning and will reign; the details are insignificant! There may be an earthly messianic reign for some period (cf. I Cor. 15:23-28); national Israel may have some part (cf. Romans 11). However, the figures and symbols of Revelation address the Church universal, not Israel (cf. Dan. 2:34-35,44). I personally leave open the possibility of Israel having a part in end-time events because of God's OT promises to Abraham's descendants (cf. Isa. 9:6-7; Zech. 12:10) based on God's character (cf. Ezek. 36:22-38).

11:16 "the twenty-four elders" See Special Topic at 4:4.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 11:17-18
 17
"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."

11:17-18 This prayer of praise is written in poetic form in the NKJV, NRSV, and TEV and in prose form in NASB and NJB. These outbursts of prayer and praise are often the best interpreters of the preceding visions (along with the songs and angelic interpretations).

11:17 "O Lord God, the Almighty" This refers to the three major OT titles for God.

1. YHWH, the covenant God as Savior (cf. Exod. 3:14; Psalm 103)

2. Elohim, the Creator God as provider and sustainer (cf. Gen. 1:1; Psalm 104)

3. El Shaddai (cf. 1:8), the strong or compassionate God which was the Patriarchal name for deity (cf. Exod. 6:3)

See SPECIAL TOPIC: NAMES FOR DEITY at 1:8.

NASB"who art and who wast"
NKJV"The One who is and who was and who is to come"
NRSV"who are and who were"
TEV"the one who is and who was"
NJB"He who is, He who was"

Notice that the future aspect of this common description of God (except for some sixteenth century late minuscule Greek manuscripts) is left out because God has begun to reign. The last of these three chronological aspects will never be mentioned again in the book of the Revelation. The Kingdom has come (cf. 11:15-16)! This gives evidence that the recapitulation theory of the parallel relationship between the seals, trumpets, and bowls is true!

NASB"because Thou hast taken Thy great power and hast begun to reign"
NKJV"Because You have taken Your great power and reigned"
NRSV"for you have taken your great power and begun to reign"
TEV"that you have taken your great power and have begun to rule"
NJB"For assuming your great power and beginning your reign"

This is perfect active indicative followed by an aorist active indicative. The power has always been His, but His reign has now begun (ingressive aorist).

11:18 "the nations were enraged" This is an allusion to Ps. 2; 46:6; and Ezekiel 38-39 (and possibly the apocalyptic introduction to Esther in the Septuagint). This anger of the nations can be viewed in two ways.

1. the fallen world system hates God and His plans and His rule and His people

2. there will be an end-time rebellion against God characterized by a battle (Armageddon, cf. Revelation 20)

 

"Your wrath came" This may be an allusion to Ps. 2 or 110:5-6. This is the Greek term orgē. See full note at 7:14.

▣ "the time came" The Day of the Lord is a day of judgment for some and reward for others. These twin aspects can be seen in Matt. 25:31-46 and Rev. 20:11-15. All humans (the small and the great) will one day stand before God and give an account of their lives (cf. Gal. 6:7; II Cor. 5:10).

SPECIAL TOPIC: THAT DAY

▣ "the time came for the dead to be judged" The end-time judgment of God is discussed in Matthew 25 and Revelation 20. This phrase confirms the interpretation of Revelation in seven acts (scenes) where the end of time occurs after each unit (especially clear in the seals, trumpets and bowls).

▣ "your bond-servants the prophets" This exact phrase appears in 10:7. John identifies himself as a prophet and his book as a prophecy, therefore, this term is used often in the book of the Revelation. It can almost be said that this term takes the place of the title "apostle" (cf. 10:7; 11:10,18; 16:6; 18:20,24; 22:6,9). See Special Topic: NT Prophecy at 16:6.

▣ "saints" The term "saints" referred to the believers' position in Christ, not their sinlessness. It should also describe their progressive Christlikeness. The term was always plural except in Phil. 4:21. However, even in this context it was corporate. To be a Christian is to be part of a community, a family, a body. See SPECIAL TOPIC: SAINTS at 5:8. This designation surely represents the NT people of God, the church.

▣ "the small and the great" There seem to be only two groups mentioned in this verse, prophets and saints. This phrase "small and great" is found in 19:5. It was a favorite expression in John's Gospel (cf. 13:16; 19:5,18; 20:12; 19:5 is an allusion to Ps. 115:13, which included all of a given group).

▣ "to destroy those who destroy the earth" This characterization of fallen humanity reflects Genesis 3 and Rom. 8:18-22. Evil humans allow greed and self to use, abuse, and misuse God's physical creation.

This could be interpreted as evil mankind that forces God to bring judgment on the earth (the flood, Genesis 6-9; the plagues of Egypt, Exodus 7-12; the covenant curses, Deuteronomy 27-28; or the earth destroyed by fire, II Pet. 3:10). In Revelation, the seals destroy 1/4, the trumpets 1/3, and the bowls total physical destruction of the earth.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 11:19
 19And 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.

11:19 "the temple of God which is in heaven was opened" Remember that this vision began with a door being opened in heaven (cf. 4:1; 15:5). Now, the very inner sanctum of God's heavenly temple can be seen (cf. Heb. 8:5; 9:23-28).

When Jesus died the veil of the Temple was torn from top to bottom, indicating that access to God was now available to all through Christ (cf. Matt. 27:51; Mark 15:38; Luke 23:45; alluded to in Heb. 9:8; 10:20). This same symbolism is repeated here. God is available to all. Heaven's inner sanctum is now fully open and visible.

▣ "the ark of His covenant" The ark of the covenant was lost sometime during the Babylonian Exile (or to Pharaoh Shishak of Egypt, cf. I Kgs. 14:25). It symbolized the presence of God after Israel's crossing of the Jordan River into the Promised Land. It also symbolized God's covenant promises, which may refer to the mystery (cf. 10:7), God's plan of redemption for all mankind (cf. Rom. 16:25-26). In the OT only the High Priest could approach this article of holy furniture, once a year on the Day of Atonement (cf. Leviticus 16). Now, all of God's people can come into the very presence of God.

"flashes of lightning and sounds of peals of thunder and an earthquake and a great hailstorm" This is very similar to 8:5 and 16:18-21, which reflect Exod. 9:24 and 19:16-19.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought provoking, not definitive.

1. What is the purpose of this interlude?

2. Why do so many interpreters try to identify the angel in chapter 10 with Christ?

3. What is the mystery of God mentioned in 10:7?

4. What was the little book that John was commanded to eat?

5. Who are the two witnesses? What was their message?

6. Does 11:9 describe the city of Jerusalem or anti-God world kingdoms? Why?

7. List the Old Testament allusions found in this interlude.