Revelation 11:1-13 Exploring the Passage

Below are some preliminary questions to assist in the study of this passage. For a comprehensive study of the passage, download the Study Guide (PDF download).

1. What is John given and what is he instructed to do (see verse 1 printed below?) How would you explain the significance of this act John is called to perform? Hint: In Scripture, the act of measuring means setting something or someone aside for preservation. The Lord “measures,” or marks off, what belongs to Him.

I was given a reed like a measuring rod and was told, “Get up and measure the temple of God and the altar and those who worship there.” (Revelation 11:1)

The apostle John is given “a reed like a measuring rod” and is instructed to measure the temple of God. In Scripture, the act of measuring means setting something or someone aside for preservation; the Lord measures, or marks off, what belongs to Him (cp. Zechariah 2:1-5). John is commanded to measure “the temple (literally, “the sanctuary”) of God;” John is to measure the temple proper, excluding the outer court. John is also instructed to measure “those who worship there.” To measure the worshipers would mean to number them; as in Revelation 7:1-8, all the redeemed of the Lord are accounted for and preserved, not one is lost.

2. What is John told about the outer court of the temple (note verse 2 printed below?)

But exclude the outer court and do not measure it, because it has been handed over to the Gentiles, and they shall trample the holy city underfoot for forty-two months. (Revelation 11:2)

John’s attention is now directed towards “the outer court.” Hhe is told to exclude this court; literally, he is to “cast it out” and he is forbidden to measure it. This court will not be preserved; it is not afforded divine protection from the onslaught of the Gentiles. John is forbidden to measure this outer court because “it has been handed over to the Gentiles.” Note: In this context, the term “Gentiles” means the men of this world, those who are hostile to Christ and to the kingdom of God. The heavenly voice now informs John that the Gentiles “will trample the holy city underfoot (including the outer court) for forty-two months.” The various time designations (“forty two months,” “1260 days,” and “a time, times, and half a time”) are all equivalent to each other; they all represent the period of opposition and tribulation that the people of God encounter from the world.

3. When you consider verses one and two together, what would you say is the message being conveyed to the church of Christ by means of this imagery?

What is the message of Revelation 11:1-2? The picture presented here is that of an attack upon “the city of God” and the very “temple of God” by the world that is hostile to Christ. Foretold here is an attack that shall even go so far as to trample under foot “the outer court of the temple.” The imagery depicts the severity of the attack made by the world against the Lord and all that belongs to Him. But all those who have truly put their faith in Christ and belong to Him shall be preserved (cp. John 6:39-40).

4. In verse 3 (printed below) John is introduced to the Lord’s “two witnesses.” Note: In the light of John 15:26-27 (printed below) the “two witnesses” represent the Holy Spirit and the church. According to verses 7-8 (printed below), what will happen to these “two witnesses?”

“I will send my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy for one thousand two hundred and sixty days, clothed in sackcloth.” (Revelation 11:3)

But when the Comforter has come, whom I will send to you from the Father—the Spirit of truth, the one who comes from the Father—he shall testify about me. (27) And you also shall testify, because you have been with me from the beginning. (John 15:26-27)

When they have finished their testimony, the beast that comes up out of the abyss shall wage war against them, and overcome them, and kill them. (8) Their dead bodies shall lie in the street of the great city, which symbolically is called Sodom and Egypt, the place where their Lord was crucified. (Revelation 11:7-8)

Verses 7-8 reveal the fate of the Lord’s two witnesses. We are told, “the beast that comes up out of the abyss” shall make war against them, overcome them, and kill them. “The beast” represents the Satanically-inspired anti-Christ kingdom that in its ultimate appearance at the end of history will be headed by the anti-Christ himself. Referring to the “witnesses,” John reports, “their dead bodies,” literally, the “dead corpse” of the two witnesses, shall lie in the street of the great city. Even as our Lord’s own dead body hung upon the cross, so shall “the corpse” of His church “lie in the street.” This represents the uttermost humiliation and scorn experienced by Christ’s church at the hand of the world. The message is that the church, as the spiritual body of Christ, shall share in Christ’s humiliation and suffering in this present world.

5. What eventually happens to Christ’s “two witnesses” after the “three and a half day” period has expired? See Revelation 11:11-12 (printed below)

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

Verse 11 informs us that at the conclusion of the “three and a half day” period, “the breath of life from God entered into the two witnesses, and they stood on their feet.” As previously indicated, the time designations (forty-two months, 1260 days, three and one-half times, and now three and one-half days) are all synonymous and represent the present New Testament age. Therefore, the events described in verses 11-13, taking place at the end of “the three and one-half day” period, are events that will take place at the very end of this present age. By the power of the Holy Spirit the church of Christ is “resurrected” and raised to honor. Just as we share in our Lord’s sufferings, so shall we also share in His resurrection glory (note Romans 8:17). As a result of the church’s “resurrection,” “those who saw them were terror struck.” In verse 12 we learn that the two witnesses “heard a loud voice from heaven say to them, ‘Come up here.’” Just as God the Father honored His Son for His faithfulness, so He will honor those who are united to His Son and are faithful to Him (cp. 2 Timothy 2:11-12a).