We continue in our break or parenthesis between the sixth and seventh trumpet. Many Bible scholars agree that verses 1-14 are the most difficult of Revelation.
Let’s take time to consider the nation of Israel at this point in Revelation and the history and future to the temple.
I believe the church age is over and the church has been raptured. So, the church of the Church Age is not in the picture at this time.
We have seen the sealing of the 144,000 faithful of Israel. They are now protected from all the harm and judgment that has and is being poured out of earth. The unbelievers of Israel at large are in an entirely different position.
Israel, for the most part, are an ungodly people and are suffering the judgment of God. The first woe judgment was directed at them (See Chapter 9:1-12). They are following a leader(s) who have promised them great things, but that leader is corrupt and deceitful. They have returned to the Promised Land.
From a literal viewpoint, the Temple is rebuilt with the apparent goal of restoring Mosaic traditions and practices. This temple is often referred to as the Tribulation Temple and is not to be confused with the temple that will be constructed by the Lord Jesus Christ. That will happen later during the millennial. The Tribulation Temple is a false temple.
Let’s review the history of the temple. Exodus 25 & 26 gives us the construction of the tabernacle and its contents during the time of Moses. This served as a pattern for the much larger an ornate Temple with would be built by Solomon (1 Kings 7 & 8).
Solomon’s temple was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar in 586 B.C. The exile of the Jews to Babylon left them without a temple for more than 20 years. Near the end of the sixth century B.C. the temple was rebuilt by Zerubbabal with the aid of prophets like Haggai and Zechariah.
During the reign of Herod the temple was renovated only to be destroyed by the armies of Titus at the end of the Judean-Roman War of 66 – 70 A.D.
The nation of Israel is without a temple today. They do have places of worship they refer to as temples, but this is not to be confused with the Temple.
So as we begin Chapter 11, understand that the temple is the Tribulation Temple and not the final temple of the millennial reign.
“Then I was given a reed like a measuring rod. And the angel stood, saying, “Rise and measure the temple of God, the altar, and those who worship there.”
Many see this temple as solely symbolic and not a literal temple. Wordsworth, for example, compares the “reed” to the cannon of scripture and the “altar” to the Spirit speaking to the world. Henry’s commentary sees the “temple” as symbolic of the gospel in church; the measurement of the “altar” as an examination of the true worship within the church; and the measurement of worshipers as a test of worshipers’ practices glorifying God.
Another thought is that “measurement” carries the idea of preservation or protection. The altar is reflective of Christ work at Calvary.
From a symbolic viewpoint, it could be said that the call for measurement has two purposes.
1. It is a marking off of territory and people which belong to God. Understanding that there is a remnant of believers, this verse could be connected with the “seals on their foreheads”.
2. It is indeed an examination of or possibly a pronouncement of the worthiness of believers.
Literal temple or symbolic temple remains a difficult question. Some hold that it must be a literal place because it is the place from which the two witnesses will testify. But, as we will see in verse 3, Revelation does not name a location. Their location is assumed by some to be in or near the temple simply because verse 3 follows verse 1 and 2.
I agree that the two witnesses will be at or near the Tribulation Temple (See verse 8). As people come to the temple to worship the Man of Sin, the witnesses will warn them of his deceit. They will tell that Jesus is coming to destroy the Man of Sin and all who follow him. They will talk of the judgments that will come during the last days and the torment that the Man of Sin will pour out on believers. And they will hold out the promise of eternal glory for the overcomers who truly believe.
“2 But leave out the court which is outside the temple, and do not measure it, for it has been given to the Gentiles. And they will tread the holy city underfoot for forty-two months.”
Jerusalem’s greatest hour of agony will come when the Gentiles will overrun the city during the domination of the beast and the Antichrist (Chapter 13).
Some see a similarity to the court of the moneychangers where Jesus overturned the tables. Others note that this court was probably added during the renovation by Herod and was not part of the original design used by Solomon.
“3 And I will give power to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy one thousand two hundred and sixty days, clothed in sackcloth.”
During the darkest hour for Jerusalem, God will provide two witnesses. The sackcloth indicates the spiritual desolation around them. The 1260 days is the equivalent of the 42 months of verse 2.
The law required at least two witnesses for testimony to be considered true. Deuteronomy 17:6 says, “Whoever is deserving of death shall be put to death on the testimony of two or three witnesses; he shall not be put to death on the testimony of one witness.” Jesus reminded the Pharisees of this in John 8:17.
They have great power as we will see later. Once again God provides a powerful witness in dark times.
“4 These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands before God of the earth.”
This is the only clue we are given as to who these witnesses may be. The following are some of the viewpoints as to their identity;
1. They are Elijah and Enoch since they did not die. The idea is that they were spared death and taken into heaven so that they could return as witnesses and experience death during the Great Tribulation.
2. They are Moses and Elijah. Malachi 4:4-5 is often quoted, “Remember the Law of Moses, My servant, which I commanded him in Horeb for all Israel, with statues and judgments. Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.”
3. Some say they are not two men but represent a godly remnant of Israel.
4. Others note the similarity of the 4th Chapter of Zechariah which refers to two olive tress and two lampstands as Zerubbabel and Joshua, son of Jehozadak. Joshua, the high priest and Zerubbabel the governor representing both governmental and religious power.
We can not be dogmatic about who they are. All viewpoints have at least some merit. For example if we take a symbolic view of 4 above, it could be that the two witnesses are representative of two individuals or two groups that stand against the Man of Sin. One of these individuals or groups could be a governmental power and the other individual or group a religious power.
“5 And if anyone wants to harm them, fire proceeds from their mouth and devours their enemies. And if anyone wants to harm them, he must be killed in this manner.”
“6 These have the power to shut heaven, so that no rain falls in the days of their prophecy; and they have power over waters to turn them to blood, and to strike the earth with all plagues, as often as they desire.”
Whoever they may be, they are not without power! Their enemies can not harm them. If fact the tables are turned, the witnesses can and must destroy those who attempt to harm them.
The power to strike the earth with all plagues reminds us of Moses and Elijah. These miracles confirm their divine authority. We remember what Moses did to Egypt, and their power over fire and water reminds us of Elijah.
An apostate Israel will be in a state of slavery once again and will fall under the delusion of the false prophet. The 144,000 who have been sealed will be joined by the two witnesses and together they will proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ to the unbelievers of both Israel and the world.
“7 When they finish their testimony, the beast that ascends out of the bottomless pit will make war against them, overcome them, and kill them.”
This is the first mention of the beast in Revelation. We will see it again in 13:1.
It seems the “beast” has been making war against them but has been unsuccessful. The beast has not approached them because of their power to kill him. It would seem that the witnesses become silent; thereby, signaling and end to their mission. Only them can the beast harm them.
Here once again there is much debate as to the identity of a character from Revelation. Who is the beast? Some say the head of a new Roman Empire. Opinions vary. We will discuss this later in Chapter 13.
“8 And their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified.”
The debate about where the two witnesses will be is resolved here in verse 8. Jerusalem is clearly characterized by three statements; 1) the great city, 2) spiritually called Sodom and Egypt, and 3) where our Lord was crucified.
Jerusalem is called Sodom because of its sinful indulgence and Egypt because of its enslavement to sin and unrighteousness. God’s Chosen People have become oppressed and enslaved to the beast, choosing to follow the beast instead of heeding the warning of the 144,000 and the two witnesses. With Satanic cunning they have been deceived and drawn into sin by their own lust and greed. Israel is divided between followers of Christ and non-believers.
This satanic society rejoices by leaving the bodies of the two witnesses in the street for a literal three and one half days. They are rejoicing because the call to repentance has been silenced.
“9 Then those from the peoples, tribes, tongues, and nations will see their dead bodies three-and-a-half days, and not allow their dead bodies to be put in the graves.”
“10 And those who dwell on the earth will rejoice over them, make merry, and send gifts to one another, because these two prophets tormented those who dwell on the earth.”
What a terrible sinful place the earth has become! What a terrible time for the believers of the day! Notice we are no longing speaking of just the nation of Israel, but all people, tribes, tongues and nations see their bodies and do nothing. The News media of the day tells a story not of tragedy but of rejoicing.
People are not just glad they don’t have to listen anymore, they are declaring a holiday. Sending gifts to each other, making merry! The Christian influence is dying out or so they think.
“11 Now after the three-and-a-half days the breath of life from God entered them, and they stood on their feet, and great fear fell on those who saw them.”
“12 And they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, “Come up here.” And they ascended to heaven in a cloud, and their enemies saw them.”
The party is over; the celebration comes to a halt! In front of their very eyes the dead bodies stand and they hear a voice from heaven saying, “Come up here.” As the sinful world watches, the two witnesses ascend in a cloud. How is CNN going to explain that!
There will be no doubt about what has taken place, but will a sinful world repent?
“13 In the same hour there was a great earthquake, and a tenth of the city fell. In the earthquake seven thousand people were killed, and the rest were afraid and gave glory to the God in heaven.”
Their resurrection is accompanied by an earthquake that kills 7,000. Fear grabs the people and outwardly their call out to God. But as we will see later their cry is not sincere. How many times do people call out to God in times of distress only to forget all about Him later!
“14 The second woe is past. Behold the third woe is coming quickly.”
With this brief statement the parenthesis that began in 10:1 ends. Six trumpets judgments that include the first two woes are complete. God’s judgment on a sinful world continues.
Before we continue it is important that we understand the format of time used here in Revelation. This is the most difficult concept to grasp in all of our study.
In verses 15 – 18 that follow we will see a brief glimpse of the end of the Great Tribulation Period. But we are not given much detail. The details will be given to us beginning in Chapter 15 where we see the unveiling of the vial judgments.
Verse 19 through 14:20 is another parenthesis or break in the flow of time. During this section we will be given additional information about the chief participants of the Tribulation Period. All these combine to give us a detail picture of the visions of John.
“15 Then the seventh angel sounded; And there were loud voices I heaven, saying, “The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!”
The seventh trumpet is similar to the seven seal in that no new judgment is announced. As we have stated previously, the seventh trumpet includes the seven vital or bowel judgments we will see in Chapter 15 & 16.
Some scholars say that this is the pronouncement of the end of the Great Tribulation Period while others say that it is only an anticipation of the end. In either case we are given details in Chapters 19-20.
The kingdoms of the world now belong to our Lord and His Christ. Of course they always have, but now the world recognizes the reign of Christ. Remember when Jesus received the scroll we said that he was receiving His inheritance and assuming His role as judge. This is the culmination of Jesus receiving His inheritance --- title to earth.
“16 And the twenty-four elders who sat before God on their thrones fell on their faces and worshipped God.”
“17 saying, We give You thanks, O Lord God Almighty, The One who is and who was and who is to come. Because You have taken Your great power and reigned.”
“18 The nations were angry, and Your wrath has come. And the time of the dead that they should be judged, And that You should reward Your servants the prophets and the saints, And those who fear Your name, small and great, And should destroy those who destroy the earth.”
I see the twenty-four elders rising to their feet in absolute celebration and joy like an excited crowd at sporting event when the home team scores at the buzzer to win the game. It is over and we won and we now get to enjoy the fruits of victory in Jesus!
Then realizing the holiness of God, they fall on their faces in humble worship. “We give You thanks, O Lord God Almighty, The One who is and who was and who is to come”, is their prayer. They celebrate God’s authority and control. Final reward and punishment has come both to the earth and in heaven.
The arrogant nations have shaken their fist at God and fought to deign Him; they have rejected His sacrifice for their sins, and refused to bow before their Creator.
God’s righteous judgment now comes upon the world. But praise the Lord, the overcomer has a different future. For those who have been His servants, carried His word to His people, and finished the race as true believers comes eternal life with Him.
For me this is the blessing of studying Revelation. It give us the assurance that in the end we will not only win but will receive that which we most desire; eternity with our Lord. We labor not for crowns and robes but for fellowship with God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.
“19 Then the temple of God was opened in heaven, and the ark of His covenant was seen in His temple. And there were lightnings, noises, thunderings, an earthquake, and great hail.
Almost all Bible scholars agree that verse 19 really belongs to Chapter 12. It serves as an introduction to the next three chapters. We now enter into another parenthesis or break in the flow of events. But this time it is a little different.
In our other breaks, we were given additional information. And although that does happen here too, here John revisits the entire history from a different viewpoint. We will now be given detail information and descriptions of the “cast of characters”.
No other portion of Revelation brings the level of debate as does this section. Therefore, we must be extremely careful not to insert pre-conceived ideas as we examine what the Scriptures say about this cast of characters.
We see into the temple in heaven --- the true temple --- as God resumes His relationship with Israel. The ark residing in the Temple reminds us that all God has promised to Israel will come to pass.
Chapter 12 unfolds as a longer time frame than the other parts of Revelation. In 12:5 to 14:20 we move from the birth of Christ to Him pouring out wrath as Judge. This section contains important prophecy as well as giving us a better understanding of the players.
Remember the from 11:19 until 14:20 we are experiencing another parenthesis or break in the flow of events. This break provides us with additional detail and information of events we have already seen and background for events yet to come.
“Now a great sign appeared in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a garland of twelve stars.”
“2 Then being with child, she cried out in labor and in pain to give birth.”
Our first character is a woman and the debate begins. Who is she? There are three major viewpoints.
1. She is the Virgin Mary.
2. She is the church
3. She is Israel
Bible commentaries Gill, Clarke, Barnes, Wesley and Henry see her as the church. Darby, Believers and Liberty see her as Israel. The JFB commentary says she represents both Israel and the church.
The balance of Chapter 12 gives us some additional clues as to her identity, so let examine all the possibilities before we render a decision.
The “great sign” is express as “a great wonder”, “a great and wondrous sign”, and “an event of great significance” in other translations. They all come from the word “semeion” which is used to express an indication of ceremonial or supernatural miracle, sign, token, or wonder.
The semeion takes places in heaven but the woman is on earth. Heaven is drawing attention to the beauty and significance of the woman. She is clothed in the sun that outshines the moon that is at her feet.
The garland on her head is of twelve stars. Some say the stars represent the twelve tribes of Israel and others the apostles. If the stars are the tribes then she is Israel; if the stars are the apostles then she is the church.
Almost no one sees the woman as the Virgin Mary even though verse 2 speaks of giving birth.
Those that see her as Israel point out she can not be the church because the church did not give birth to Christ. The opposite is true; He gave birth to the church. They also point out that Christ was born from the line of Israel.
Those that see her as the church, see her pain as that of the church under persecution of the Roman Empire. And they see her cries as prayers of the saints.
“3 And another sign appeared in heaven; behold, a great fiery red dragon having seven heads and ten horns, and seven diadems on his heads.”
Our second character is the “great fiery red dragon”. There is general agreement that the dragon is Satan. There is debate as to the significance of the seven heads, ten horns and seven diadems.
He is called great because of the power his has, not because of his character. Red is general associated with blood, so he is a bloody creature that is eager to shed blood. The dragon is a winged serpent that moves quickly across the land to deceive and destroy.
Some, like J. A. Seiss, see the seven heads as great world powers of Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persia, Greece, Rome and a revived Roman Empire. Others have projected their own ideas as to who the world powers might be.
We could certainly make our own assumptions based on our current conflicts with non-Christian nations and peoples. But I choose not to do so. Certainly Satan is using these countries and peoples to further his attempts to weaken and destroy the Christians, but this is not new. Since the Garden of Eden he has been at work against the Seed, which is the Christ.
Symbolically, the head speaks of wisdom. Biblical seven speaks of fullness or completion. In many ways Satan possess much knowledge and has power.
Ten horns can be said to represent universal power and it is Satan’s goal to achieve just that. Many evil men throughout history have had visions of world domination. Satan uses them and will continue to do so until Jesus puts him in his place.
The seven diadems are often seen as crowns. That is Satan’s goal to be crowned as king of the world and an equal with God.
“4 His tail drew a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was ready to give birth, to devour her Child as soon as it was born.”
Most scholars see the stars as political powers and/or governments on earth that are sweep away by the delusions of Satan. They join with him as he infects the world against the Child. Some claim the tail represents the rear of some great army that possesses weapons of great power and that the army is holding these weapons is reserve waiting for just the right moment to deliver a death blow to the Child.
We do know for sure that Satan is the sworn enemy of Jesus. Satan’s goal is to turn Jesus’ most beloved possession, mankind, against Him.
The Child is Jesus Christ. There is no disagreement here.
“5 She bore a male Child who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron. And her Child was caught up to God and His throne.”
In one brief statement we flash through time from the birth of Jesus to His ascension. As Son of Man he has the right to rule all nations. The fiery red dragon and his followers are not successful in their attempts to kill the Child.
The church age, present day, is not mentioned or referred to in any way in verses 5 and 6.. Many scholars hold that the reason for this is that much of Revelation is center on God’s plan for Israel.
“6 Then the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, that they should feed her there one thousand two hundred and sixty days.”
Here we are given another clue to the question from verse 2, “Who is she?” She flees into the wilderness to be cared for during the Great Tribulation, 1,260 days. That period Daniel referred to as “final period of indignation”. Therefore, the answer to the question is; she is a portion of the nation of Israel. The woman of verse 1 is not the Israel of the past or present, but is the Israel as God intended her to be.
Where did she go to be protected from the dragon? Some believe it to be Petra, which lies about 60 miles north of the Gulf of Aqaba. It could well be that once again Israel will be taken by God into the wilderness where He will provide for them, prior to the faithful entering into the Promised Land, heaven. We will discuss this more completely in the verses that follow.
“7 And war broke out in heaven; Michael and his angels fought with the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought,”
“8 but they did not prevail, nor was a place found for them in heaven any longer.”
I should remind you that we are now looking back in time, prior to Chapter 11:18. Verses 7 – 12 occur before the flight of the woman into the wilderness (verse 6) and explain in part the reason for the flight.
I have often wondered if this war began during or shortly after Adam’s fall from grace in the Garden of Eden. We know that Lucifer was in God’s grace and considered to be the “Day Star” prior to being cursed in the Garden. Isaiah 14:12-17 tells us of his fall and future.
Ephesians 6:10-12 teaches us to put on the whole armor of God against “the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” and “against the rulers of the darkness of this age”. We are living in the church age and the battle between good and evil is real and ongoing at this time. The war is raging!
Verse 7 brings into play a new character, Michael the archangel. Michael’s name means “Who is like God”.
Jude 9 clearly identifies him as an archangel, “Yet Michael, the archangel, in contending with the devil, when he disputed about the body of Moses……”
The English term archangel is based on the Greek term “archangelos” which means “chief or first angel”. They are clearly God’s tools used to perform specific tasks between God and man. They are opposed by Satan and his fallen angels. They are often seen as interpreters or messengers. Gabriel is also referred to as an archangel.
In Daniel 12:1 refers to Michael as “the great prince who stands watch over the sons of your people”, the guardian of Israel.
Michael is given power to challenge Satan but is always careful to command or to instruct in God’s name, never his own. He clearly has angels at his command. Most agree it is Michael who will be present at the resurrection of the dead in Christ.
Verse 7 tells us that Michael and his angels fight with Satan and his angels, and that Satan fights back. Satan did not yield to God, but in the end is removed from heaven.
“9 So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.”
Plain and simple --- we are told who is that was cast out, and where he went, and who went with him. He is here with us today, and with him his fallen angels seeking who he may devour. Satan is real and his demons are REAL! They are not cartoon characters.
We are given three names for Satan to help more fully describe his character and purpose. “That serpent of old” clearly refers to his deceiving of Eve in the Garden of Eden. “Devil” in the Greek conveys the force of slanderer or false accuser. “Satan” means adversary or opposer. Satan’s great objective is to deceive the entire world.
“10 Then I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, “Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down.”
“11 And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death.”
“12 Therefore rejoice, O heavens, and you who dwell in them! Woe to the inhabitants of the earth and the sea! For the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, because he knows that he has a short time.”
Why does Israel flee to the wilderness? Satan is seeking to destroy them. Notice the contrast between heaven’s attitude and earth’s. Heaven is rejoicing while earth is in turmoil. Heaven is not rejoicing because of the sufferings on earth but because Satan’s time is short. His end time is near.
Satan target now becomes the 144,000 that were sealed by God and the godly gentiles. He fights to discourage new converts and as we will see in the verses that follow, attempts to destroy the faithful.
Notice too who it is that is rejoicing, overcomers. Overcomers, who by the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony, are in heaven rejoicing.
We now see the cry of “woe” for the judgments that we have seen and will see. Judgments, that have been and will be, poured out on the inhabitants of earth.
Satan knows his time is short so during the last half of Tribulation, he will act in the most server ways imaginable to destroy believers and to deceive non-believers.
“13 Now when the dragon saw that he had been cast to the earth, he persecuted the woman who gave birth to the male Child.”
“14 But the woman was given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness to her place, where she is nourished for a time and times and half time, from the presence of the serpent.”
Verse 13 actually follows the though-line of verse 6. Verses 7-12 explain to us why the woman had to flee and why Satan is set on destroying earth and its inhabitants. The one thousand two hundred and sixty days of verse 6 is the same time as the “time and times and half time of verse 14. The second half of the Tribulation Period we know as the Great Tribulation.
Satan could not prevent the birth of the Child nor corrupt the Child so now he attacks Israel and godly gentiles.
Exodus 19:4, “You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to Myself.”
The strength of eagle’s wings will carry a portion Israel from a Satan controlled Jerusalem to a place (wilderness) He has prepared for them, a place where they will be cared for and nourished. Some see this as possibly a friendly nation that protects Israel. As we have discussed earlier, others see it as Petra or some other physical location that God protects supernaturally.
“15 So the serpent spewed water out of his mouth like a flood after the woman, that he might cause her to be carried away by the flood.”
“16 But the earth helped the woman, and the earth swallowed up the flood which the dragon had spewed out of his mouth.”
Once again we must consider literal verses symbolic views. In my view there is little chance this is a literal flood. We have seen in the judgments that it is God who is pouring out judgments against the physical earth. Satan does not have control of nature; therefore, I see this flood as symbolic.
Whatever the “flood” might be, its intent is to destroy believers of Israel. It could be that the flood is nations that have join against Israel and Satan’s followers are attempting to wipe Israel from the face of the earth.
But the earth, other nations or supporters of Israel, come to her aid and for a time Israel leaves Jerusalem for the protective custody of another nation or nations.
Those that believe we are now living in the time of Tribulation, reminds us that Israel for a time did not exist and only recently became a nation again. It has been under constant attack since it was reconstituted as a nation. Without the protection and support of other nations like the USA, Israel would not exist today.
While all that is true, I believe that the worst is yet to come for Israel, as we have discussed from time to time in our study so far.
A key point here is that once again Satan is defeated in his efforts. Once again the believing Jews are protected.
“17 And the dragon was enraged with the woman, and he went to make war with the rest of her offspring, who keep the commandments of Jesus Christ.”
A portion of Israel has successfully fled to the protected place, and Satan now seeks to destroy the remnant of her seed that remains in Jerusalem. This is clearly not inclusive of all Jews, but is a clear reference to Christian Jews, “who keep the commandments of Jesus Christ”.
This is part of that time during the last half of Tribulation, the Great Tribulation, when we see Satan and his forces being revealed. Open conflict now rages. The gloves are off. Satan is frustrated and is realizing his time is short, his opportunities are fleeting. Like the cornered serpent he is, he will throw himself and all his followers into this last effort to show himself an equal with God.