New Defender's Study Bible Notes
11:1 measure. This measurement of the temple and its worshipers is obviously a spiritual evaluation. John, entering upon his inheritance, as it were, will first of all be assigned to judge his own people, Israel. The earlier temples (built by Solomon, Zerubabel and Herod) had all been destroyed by Gentiles as part of God’s judgment on their apostasy, and this will happen yet one more time. God had not given them any instruction to rebuild their temple and reinstitute their ancient worship, for Christ had “offered one sacrifice for sins for ever” (Hebrews 10:12), and they were still rejecting Him. However, the Jews—especially the ultra-orthodox Jews—have long desired to do just that and have vigorously promoted this idea ever since the reestablishment of their nation in 1948, especially after retaking most of Jerusalem in 1967. Up until the tribulation period, they will have been prevented from doing this by the existence of the Islamic Dome of the Rock on their traditional temple site, as well as the intense opposition of all the Islamic nations, the United Nations Organization, and their own factions.
At this point, however, essentially at the midpoint of the seven-year period of tribulation, the temple apparently will have been built and their sacrificial worship reestablished. John is called on by the Lord to judge it, since it is clearly found wanting. The indication is that they will have made a seven-year treaty with “the prince that shall come,” the great world leader soon to be recognized as the Beast, permitting them to raze the Muslim structures on the temple site and to build their own temple there once again (see notes on Daniel 9:25-27). This development, however, would presuppose that the Islamic powers would have first been rendered impotent. The most likely explanation would be that the invading forces of God and Magog, with all their Islamic allies will first have been decimated (see notes on Ezekiel 38, 39; Psalm 83). The disintegration of the Russian and Islamic threats will leave a power vacuum, which will probably be filled by the other European and American nations and their emerging world leader.
11:3 two witnesses. The identity of these “two witnesses,” with their unique ministry and miraculous powers, has been controversial. Nevertheless, one of them almost certainly is Elijah, who was translated into heaven without dying (II Kings 2:11), and whom God promised at the very end of the Old Testament to send back to earth “before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord” (Malachi 4:5). Though he came “in the spirit and power of Elias,” John the Baptist did not fulfill this promise (Luke 1:17), for after John had been executed, Jesus renewed the promise that “Elias truly shall first come, and restore all things” (Matthew 17:11).
The other witness is probably the ancient prophet Enoch, who—like Elijah—was taken into heaven without dying, in the very midst of his prophetic ministry. As Elijah was the great prophet to Israel, ministering essentially at the midpoint of the time from Abraham’s call to the coming of Christ, so Enoch prophesied at about the midpoint of the time between Adam and Abraham, ministering as it were to the Gentile nations. When they return to earth, they will complete their ministry to both Jews and Gentiles, finally dying for the first time in their long lives, as Christ’s special witnesses—“my” witnesses (or “martyrs”) He called them. Though it is claimed by some, Moses could hardly have been one of the two witnesses, for he already had died and will have already been resurrected and glorified, either at the time of Christ’s resurrection or at the time of the rapture. He could not die again in a glorified body. Three of the disciples had seen Moses and Elijah with Jesus on the mount of transfiguration, but this was a vision only—not Moses and Elijah in the flesh (Matthew 17:9).
11:4 two olive trees. The “two olive trees” are in reference to Zechariah’s vision of the trees providing oil for the lampstand (Zechariah 4). The angel told Zechariah that “these are the two anointed ones, that stand by the Lord of the whole earth” (Zechariah 4:14). That necessarily means that His two witnesses were both standing by Him in heaven during all the times between their translation and their return to earth. Both Enoch and Elijah had been accustomed to walking closely with the Lord and standing by Him during their earthly lives (note Genesis 5:24; I Kings 17:1), and they have continued close by Him in heaven ever since. It is even intriguingly possible that they were at His tomb, where it was noted that “two men stood by them in shining garments” (Luke 24:4). Also, as the disciples watched Jesus ascend into heaven, “two men stood by them in white apparel” (Acts 1:10): These two faithful witnesses have stood by their Lord for thousands of years, and He will be standing by them as they witness for Him once again in this age to come.
11:6 all plagues. The plagues being sent on the earth from heaven, as the Lamb opens the seals and the archangels blow their trumpets, are associated on the earth with the invocations of the two witnesses (Revelation 11:3). As they proclaim that these are God’s judgments, many will “learn righteousness” (Isaiah 26:9) and believe on Christ for salvation, even though it may mean almost certain martyrdom for them. Those who refuse to believe will soon come to blame the two witnesses for all their problems, probably as encouraged by television commentators and other news media, and many will seek to kill them, but will be totally unsuccessful (Revelation 11:5), until the end of the days of their prophetic witness.
11:8 Sodom and Egypt. The two witnesses will have returned to Jerusalem as they finish their assigned ministry, where they, like their Lord, will be slain by His enemies. It is sad to note that, even with their enemies defeated and their temple worship restored, so many Israelis will have so quickly departed again from God that their “holy city” has become like Sodom and Egypt.
11:12 Come up hither. Here was the same voice and message which John, representing all believers of the church age, had heard as he ascended up to heaven (Revelation 4:1). This supports the previous understanding that the first call, like this one, is a call of resurrection and rapture, as per I Thessalonians 4:16-17.
11:18 destroy the earth. The first commandment given to men was to “have dominion over the earth” and to “subdue” the earth (Genesis 1:26-28), acting as God’s steward for the good of mankind and the glory of God, but instead men have all but destroyed the earth with wars and greed. This dominion mandate is still in effect, and God’s judgment awaits the earth-destroyers.
11:19 ark of his testament. This is the ark of the covenant, the most important object in Solomon’s temple. Nebuchadnezzar had carried all the other vessels of the temple to Babylon (II Chronicles 36:18-19), but he could not get at God’s holy ark. Here John learns that God’s angels had actually carried it, like Enoch and Elijah, to the heavenly city.