An Exegetical Commentary
Blaine Robison, M.A.
Published 31 May 2011; Revised 29 April 2019
Scripture Text: The Scripture text used in this commentary is prepared by Blaine Robison and based on the Nestle-Aland Greek New Testament. The essentially literal translation seeks to reflect the Jewish character of the author and writing. See my web article The Jewish New Testament. Scripture quotations may be taken from different versions. Click here for abbreviations of Bible versions.
Sources: Bibliographic data for works cited may be found at the end of the chapter commentary. Works without page numbers are cited ad loc. Important early sources include the following:
● Church Fathers: Works by early leaders of Christianity are at Christian Classics Ethereal Library.
● DSS: Citations marked as "DSS" are from the Dead Sea Scrolls, a collection of Jewish manuscripts of Scripture and sectarian documents found in the Qumran caves. Most of the Qumran MSS belong to the last two centuries B.C. and the first century A.D. Online. Click here for DSS abbreviations.
● LXX: The abbreviation "LXX" ("70") stands for the Septuagint, the Jewish translation of the Hebrew Bible into Greek, which was in use among Jews by the mid-2nd century B.C.
● Josephus: Citations for Josephus, the first century Jewish historian (Yosef ben Matityahu), are from The Works of Flavius Josephus (c. 75–99 A.D.) trans. William Whiston (1737). Online.
Syntax: Unless otherwise noted the definitions of Greek words is from F.W. Danker, The Concise Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (2009). See the Greek Guide for the meaning of grammar abbreviations. Definitions of Hebrew words are from The New Brown, Driver, Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon (1981). The numbering system of the Strong's Exhaustive Concordance is identified with "SH" (Strong's Hebrew number) and "SG" (Strong's Greek number). Strong's Online.
Vocabulary: To emphasize the Jewish nature of the apostolic canon and its central figure I use the terms ADONAI (for 'LORD' when quoting a Tanakh source), Yeshua (Jesus), Messiah (Christ), Tanakh (Old Testament), and Besekh (New Testament).
The Two Witnesses, 11:1-13
The Seventh Trumpet, 11:14-19
The Two Witnesses (11:1-13)
1― And a measuring rod like a staff was given to me; one saying, "Arise and measure the sanctuary of God and the altar, and those worshiping in it.
And: Grk. kai, conj. that marks a connection or addition. Kai has three basic uses: (1) continuative – and, also, even; (2) adversative – and yet, but, however; or (3) intensive – certainly, indeed, in fact, really, verily, yea (DM 250f). The first use applies here. Kai is used in the LXX to translate the vav (ו) character added to words for conjunctive effect. There are over 50 conjunctions in biblical Greek, but kai is by far the most common in the Besekh, occurring over 9,000 times (BibleHub). Beginning verses with a conjunction, as well as the excessive use of conjunctions, is evidence of either an original Hebrew text or Jewish Greek. In contrast to most Bible versions I translate all the instances of kai (and all the other conjunctions) as a reminder of John's Hebraic writing style.
was given: Grk. didōmi, aor. pass., to give, often with the focus on generosity. In the LXX didōmi generally renders Heb. natan, to give, used in one of three settings (1) by men one to another; (2) by men to God; and (3) by God to men (DNTT 2:41). to me: Grk. egō, sing. pronoun of the first person. one saying: Grk. legō, pres. part., to make a statement or utterance, whether oral or in written form; say, tell, declare. The Greek verb "say" functions as quotation marks for the text following since ancient writings did not contain punctuation. The phrase is indefinite in terms of who presented the rod to John and gave him instruction, but probably an angel.
Arise: Grk. egeirō, pres. imp., to rise from a recumbent or lower position, often used in reference to sleeping persons. The verbal command may seem unnecessary, but perhaps there was some time interval between the visions of Chapter Ten and this chapter and John had been asleep. Fully awake John is surprisingly told to perform a practical action. and measure: Grk. metreō, aor. imp., means to take the dimensions of something. In the ancient world measuring was accomplished for shorter lengths by the reed cane (Ezek 40:2ff.) or, for longer distances, with a rope line (1Kgs 7:23; Isa 44:13) (Johnson). The verb can also mean to judge someone according to any rule or standard (Matt 7:2; 2Cor 10:12) (Thayer).
the sanctuary: Grk. naos, a term that refers to the sanctuary proper where worship is conducted. In the Besekh naos refers generally to the holy place of the Jewish temple in Jerusalem, but it is also used figuratively for the human body (John 2:21; 1Cor 6:19), a congregation of disciples (1Cor 3:16-17) and the body of Messiah (Eph 2:21). For a description of the construction and characteristics of Herod's temple see my comment on Mark 11:11. Most versions translate the noun as "temple," but a few versions give the literal meaning of "sanctuary" (AMPC, HCSB, NJB, REV, YLT).
of God: Grk. theos, God or god, which must be determined from the context. In the LXX theos primarily renders the name of the Creator God Elohim (2568 times), but sometimes YHVH (300 times) (DNTT 2:67-70). Given the plural nature of Elohim the full triunity of God must be represented in theos. The only God in existence is the God who created the heavens and the earth out of nothing (Gen 1:1) and who chose Israel out of all the nations on the earth for a covenantal relationship (Ex 19:5). In the Besekh theos is used overwhelmingly for the God of Israel, the only God in existence.
Ezekiel and Zechariah reported detailed incidents of measuring, both by a heavenly visitor, simply identified as "a man" (Ezek 40:3f; Zech 2:2). Ezekiel describes the visit of a man who measured every part of the temple (Ezek 40–43), then the area allotted to the Lord, including the city of Jerusalem (Ezek 45; 48:30-35), then a great river that flowed from the temple (Ezek 47:1-12) and finally the territory divided into allotments for the twelve tribes (Ezek 47:13–48:29). Ezekiel did not recognize the temple as the one he had left when taken into captivity by the Babylonians (Ezek 40:2), and indeed it has never been built and will never be built until Yeshua returns.
God’s design for His future temple when it is built will conform to the detailed measurements provided to Ezekiel. Zechariah also met an angel that measured Jerusalem and predicted that "Jerusalem will be inhabited without walls because of the multitude of men and cattle within it" (Zech 2:1-4; cf. Ezek 38:11), which had not been fulfilled when Revelation was written. and: Grk. kai. the altar: Grk. thusiastērion refers to the place where offerings or sacrifices are presented (Rienecker). and: Grk. kai. those: pl. of Grk. ho, definite article, but used here as a relative pronoun. worshiping: Grk. proskuneō, pres. part., to bow down, to worship, do obeisance to, prostrate oneself before, do reverence to or welcome respectfully.
In the LXX proskuneō principally translates Heb. shachah (SH-7812), to bend down, to pay homage to another one by bowing low or getting on the knees with the face to the ground. It occurs without Heb. equivalent in the apocryphal books and occasionally in canonical writings (DNTT 2:876). in: Grk. en, prep. generally used to mark position with the root meaning of "within," and may be rendered "in, on, at, among, or within" as appropriate to the context (DM 105). it: Grk. autos, personal pronoun used to distinguish a person or thing from or contrast it with another, or to give him (it) emphatic prominence. The pronoun may mean (1) self, (2) he, she, it, or (3) the same. The second meaning applies here in reference to the naos.
If the Israelis constructed a temple, then the ones worshipping would be Jews, but considering the meaning of naos, "those worshiping" would be priests who approve and offer the sacrifices of the people. Taken literally the instruction to measure the sanctuary and altar presents a conundrum. There were three temples in Jerusalem's history, the first one being built under King Solomon (1Kgs 5-8). The second temple was built under Zerubbabel (Hag 1-2; Ezra 3:4-13), and the third was a rebuilt temple under King Herod which covered 35 acres (Matt 21:12; 24:1-2). The Tanakh also predicts a temple to be built as part of the inauguration of the age of the Messiah (Ezek 36:24-27; 40–44; Zech 6:12-13). The figurative uses of naos also have to be considered.
Scholars who take the spiritual approach consider the temple here to be Christianity and the "outer court" to be Judaism (Earle). However, there are no explanatory statements by the Lord or an angel to support that interpretation. Certainly there is spiritual meaning to John's narrative, but even when Yeshua used the figure of His body as a temple (Mark 14:58) the contrast was based on the literal temple built by Herod. Moreover, if the word "temple" is to be taken symbolically, then the rest of the words that denote substantive aspects of the vision (such as "rod," "court" and "altar") would likewise have to be symbols, thereby reducing the instruction to an allegory and all sense would be lost. (See Interpreting Revelation on the deficiency of the spiritual approach.)
According to the literal approach the temple mentioned in this verse seems to be located in Jerusalem, and the dating of Revelation would impact its identification. The preterist view is that John was told to measure Herod's temple, which would have had to occur before the temple’s destruction by the Romans in AD 70. On the other hand, if John was imprisoned during Domitian's reign, as the church fathers attest, then the decision has to be made whether to treat this temple as symbolic or as a literal future temple that will be built before Yeshua returns. Many futurists favor the latter view.
Indeed, Jews are preparing to build another temple in Jerusalem. David Brickner, Executive Director of Jews for Jesus, reported in 1999 that Jewish groups have set up yeshivas to educate and train priests for the day that the Temple is restored and that many Arab homes in the Old City of Jerusalem near the Temple Mount have been purchased in anticipation of an extensive building project. Another group, the Temple Mount Faithful, have cut a massive 4.5-ton limestone cornerstone to be ready to commence building at any moment (Brickner 62f). For the Israelis to construct a temple would instigate a major religious conflict in Jerusalem, and, if successful, would not necessarily be a good thing.
Not considered by Bible commentators is that the "sanctuary of God" could refer to the Islamic shrine situated on the historic site of the Jewish temple, itself an abomination on holy ground. It would be a fitting location for the image of the beast (2Th 2:3f; Rev 13:14). See my web article Will There be a Rebuilt Temple? Indeed, Joel Richardson, a Messianic Jewish scholar, presents cogent arguments that the anti-messiah will be a Muslim (The Islamic Antichrist, WND Books, 2015).
John may have been stunned by the directive. Taken literally the measuring of the worship site by one man with a stick seems highly impractical. Moreover God already knew the measurements, so why conduct measuring? Measuring a building or a city would no doubt be a symbolic act much like the symbolic acts carried out by various biblical prophets: Isaiah (Isa 20:2-5); Ezekiel (Ezek 12:1-7); and Agabus (Acts 21:10-11). In common usage a construction worker measures to prepare something to fit or to confirm that some aspect of work conforms to the plan. God is concerned about exacting conformity to His will (cf. Matt 5:48; Rom 8:29).
Stern suggests that measuring symbolizes reserving a city either for preservation (Zech 2:1-5) or for destruction (2Kgs 21:12-14; Isa 34:11; Lam 2:8). The preservation or destruction would then be the result of whether the object measured conforms to the divine design. Baron comments that the measuring is "to mark the space it is to occupy in its restored condition, and the plan on which it is to be arranged" (57). In other words, the measuring is for surveying purposes and represents the absolute certainty that the temple and city will be restored and enlarged on the site selected. While John was commanded to measure, he offers no narrative of having performed any measurement.
So much attention is paid to the temple issue that the figurative meaning of "measure" is often overlooked. In the apostolic narratives Yeshua frequently "measured" the priests, Levites, Pharisees, Sadducees and various other people and found their spiritual and moral character to fall short of divine expectations. And, Yeshua began the Revelation to John by "measuring" the congregations of Asia Minor with more negative than positive results. This is a sobering thought. What if the Lord came to modern congregations during their worship and measured those within. Would the measuring result in commendation or condemnation?
2― "And leave out the court outside the sanctuary and do not measure it, because it has been given to the nations; and they will trample the holy city for forty and two months.
And: Grk. kai, conj. leave: Grk. ballō, aor. imp., to throw out, to cast out. The word is used here in the sense of "to exclude," i.e., exclude it from the sanctuary though the other courts are included (Rienecker). out: Grk. exōthen, adv., from without, outside. the court: Grk. aulē refers to the uncovered yard outside the house. There were usually two, one between the door and the street, called the outer court, the other the inner court surrounded by the buildings. This court is the outer court as is evident from the phrase "outside the temple" (Robertson). outside: Grk. exōthen. the sanctuary: Grk. naos. See the previous verse.
and: Grk. kai. do not measure: Grk. metreō, aor. subj. See the previous verse. it: Grk. autos, personal pronoun. The instruction of this verse offers valuable detail that with the historical record argues against the preterist interpretation. John is told not to measure the court that is outside the temple. The structural design of Herod's temple, starting from the inside, included the Holy Place, then the Court of the Priests, then the Court of Israelites, and finally the Court of Women. The temple was surrounded by a high barrier with eight entrances upon which were warning notices forbidding entry by any uncircumcised person on pain of death. See an illustration of Herod's temple here and here.
Outside of the temple wall was the Court of the Gentiles paved with the finest variegated marble and according to Jewish tradition formed a square of 750 feet. The name of the court is derived from the fact that it was open to persons of all nations, provided they observed the prescribed rules of decorum and reverence. It was also in this area that the business of selling sacrificial animals had encroached (Edersheim 23). Yeshua twice drove out the merchants and money-changers from this area, in the first year of his ministry (John 2:14) and in the last year of his ministry (Matt 21:12). The reason Yeshua gave for such drastic action was because the court was supposed to have been a place of "prayer for all the peoples" (Isa 56:7).
because: Grk. hoti, conj. that serves as a link between two sets of data, whether (1) defining a demonstrative pronoun; that; (2) introducing a subordinate clause as complementary of a preceding verb; (3) introducing a direct quotation and functioning as quotation marks; or (4) indicating causality with an inferential aspect; for, because, inasmuch as. The fourth usage applies here. it has been given: Grk. didōmi, aor. pass. See the previous verse. to the nations: pl. of Grk. ethnos, humans belonging to a people group. In the LXX ethnos generally renders Heb. goy (SH-1471; pl. goyim), "nation, people" (DNTT 2:790).
The term ethnos is first used in Genesis 10 to describe the list of seventy nations, then of descendants of Abraham (Gen 12:2) and then even more specifically of Israel (Ex 19:6; Deut 4:6; Ps 106:5; Isa 9:1). In the Besekh ethnos in the singular may refer generally to any people distinguished by language and culture (Matt 24:7; Acts 10:35; Rev 5:9), including Israel (Luke 23:2; Acts 24:2, 10; 28:19; 1Cor 10:18; Php 3:5). The phrase implies that while the Jews control the area beginning at the inner court, the Gentiles will do as they please in the outer court.
Johnson argues that nowhere in Revelation does "nations" mean exclusively Gentiles, but includes Jews. The point of referring to the "nations" is to contrast with the separation of Jewish groups inside the temple. The phrase "it has been given" represents a prophetic fait accompli. This statement might argue for a rebuilt temple in the last days prior to the Second Coming. A rebuilt temple is not an impossibility, but obviously only an extraordinary series of events could bring it about.
While the idea of a rebuilt temple energizes Evangelical Christians anticipating a pre-tribulation rapture, the fact remains that there is no divine directive in Scripture for the Jews to rebuild the temple. The Israelis are not anticipating the return of Messiah Yeshua. Even if the Israelis could build a temple their unbelief in Messiah Yeshua and the lack of the Sh'khinah glory of God in the temple (cf. Ezek 43:1-5) would make it an abomination. Herod's temple was destroyed because Israel's leaders refused to recognize their Messiah (Luke 19:44).
According to the Talmud the Sh'khinah left the Temple forty years prior to its destruction in A.D. 70 (Yoma 39b), which coincides with the moment that Yeshua died on the cross and the veil into the Holy of Holies was torn in two (Mark 15:32). How should we expect God to react to a new temple built by unbelieving Israelis? John was informed that judgment would fall on it through the occupation of a foreign army (cf. Zech 14:2). The prophet Ezekiel explained that there would be no sanctuary with the glory of God until the Davidic prince was installed. In fact, God will provide the holy house (Ezek 37:24-38; Zech 6:12). See my web article Will There be a Rebuilt Temple?
and: Grk. kai. they will trample: Grk. pateō, fut., to advance by setting foot upon, here meaning to trample with contempt (Robertson). Some versions have "treat underfoot." the holy: Grk. hagios, adj., has two distinctive uses in Scripture: (1) as an adj. of things dedicated to God (e.g., the temple, Jerusalem), of persons consecrated to God (e.g., prophets), then of angels, of Messiah, and of God (Lev 19:2); (2) as a pure substantive used of the name of God (Luke 1:44), and then of what is set apart for God to be exclusively His, e.g., the temple, the holy land, Jerusalem, sacrifices, angels and human persons. In the LXX hagios translates Heb. qadosh (SH-6918), which means separate, sacred, holy.
city: Grk. polis, a population center whose size or number of inhabitants could range broadly. The designation of "holy city" is given to both the earthly Jerusalem (Neh 11:1; Isa 48:2; 52:1; Dan 9:24; Matt 4:5; 27:53) and the heavenly Jerusalem (Rev 21:2). Yeshua had prophesied that the Gentiles would trample Jerusalem "until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled" (Luke 21:24). However, the wicked cannot trample on the heavenly city. The "times of the Gentiles" at least began in 586 BC when Nebuchadnezzar destroyed Jerusalem and the temple (Sevener 3), not AD 70 Stern dates the beginning as the Assyrian conquest of Israel (140).
Yeshua had also prophesied that Jerusalem would be surrounded by armies and bring such desolation on the temple that not one stone would be left upon another (Luke 19:43f; 21:20). In AD 66 the Jews revolted against increasingly oppressive Roman rule, and they managed to hold on to Jerusalem in the face of siege until 70. In that year, Titus, son of the Roman emperor Vespasian, captured the city and destroyed the entire Temple complex, not just the outer court. According to Josephus the destruction of the city and temple was so complete, that it was difficult to believe it had ever been inhabited (Wars VII, 1:1).
The city suffered almost complete destruction during the Bar Kokhba rebellion led by Simon Ben Kosiba (AD 132-135), following which the Jews were banished from the city. Gentile rulers retained control over Jerusalem and the holy land until 1948 when the United Nations approved the establishment of Israel as an independent state. After the Six-Day War in 1967, the entire city of Jerusalem was finally back under Jewish control, which some consider the end of the "times of the Gentiles" (Stern 141). Some date the fulfillment from Israel's 1980 proclamation that Jerusalem is a united city under Israeli sovereignty, but others will not consider the prophecy fulfilled until the Muslim worship center is removed from the Temple Mount.
forty: Grk. tessarakonta, adj., the number forty. two: Grk. duo, adj., the number two. months: pl. of Grk. mēn, a month, based on the lunar calendar. The reference to 42 months, the first mention in Revelation of a 3½-year period (cf. 11:3, 12:14 and 13:5-7), points to a future time when Jerusalem will once again be subjected to the indignities of Gentile occupation. Based on the events associated with each of the ways the 3½-year period is expressed, the reign of the beast, the triumph of the Gentiles over the Jews, the prophetic ministry of the two witnesses and the woman’s sojourn in the wilderness are probably concurrent events, but if not they substantially overlap. Revelation provides only the most general calendar of these various events in relation to one another.
The specific use of "42 months" cannot be taken in any symbolic sense and does not allow the description of "trampling" to cover any period of biblical history or history since then. As Zechariah says, "For I will gather all the nations against Jerusalem to battle, and the city will be captured, the houses plundered, the women ravished and half of the city exiled" (Zech 14:2 NASB). With overwhelming military might, the Antichrist will force his way into Jerusalem and set up an idolatrous abomination in the temple in fulfillment of Yeshua’ prophecy (Matt 24:15; cf. Dan 9:27; 12:11), forcing the Jews to suspend worship at the site.
3― "And I will give authority to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy one thousand two hundred sixty days, clothed in sackcloth."
And: Grk. kai, conj. I will give authority: Grk. didōmi, fut. See verse 1 above. to my: Grk. egō, pronoun of the first person, referring to God or Yeshua. two: Grk. duo, the number two. witnesses: pl. of Grk. martus, one who attests the fact or truth of something, often in a legal context. Evidence is confirmed by the testimony of two or three witnesses (Deut 19:15; Matt 18:16). and: Grk. kai. they will prophesy: Grk. prophēteuō, fut., 3p-pl., may mean (1) to proclaim a divine revelation; (2) prophetically reveal what is hidden; or (3) foretell the future, prophesy (BAG). In the LXX prophēteuō generally translates Heb. nava, which means to show, present or express oneself, to speak as a prophet (DNTT 3:77). The Hebrew verb primarily means to speak prophetically, that is "forth-telling," with occasional predictions (foretelling).
The construction "I will grant…and they will prophesy" is a Hebrew idiom meaning "I will commission (or give permission to) my two witnesses to prophesy" (Rienecker). This is an important way to test whether a message is from God. Among futurists there is much difference of opinion on the identity of the two witnesses, some taking "witnesses" as symbolic of the [Gentile] Church and Israel or Law and Grace, but the narrative of the chapter speaks in very precise language of two individuals with a God-ordained mission lasting a specific number of days. Those who interpret "witnesses" as individuals are divided over the identification of candidates from biblical history who will return from heaven to fulfill this mission. No one seems to think the individuals will be simply ordinary believers living on earth at the time of the beast and called into service.
one thousand: pl. of Grk. chilioi, a thousand; the product of 10 x 10 x 10. two hundred: pl. of Grk. diakosioi, two hundred, a cardinal number from dis ("twice") and hekaton ("one hundred"). sixty: pl. of Grk. hexēkonta, sixty, cardinal number from hex ("six") and a modified form of deka ("ten"). days: pl. of Grk. hēmera may refer to (1) the daylight hours from sunrise to sunset, (2) the civil or legal day that included the night, (3) an appointed day for a special purpose or (4) a longer or imprecise period, such as a timeframe for accomplishing something or a time of life or activity (BAG). A combination of the second and third meaning is intended here.
A second reference to a 3½-year period is given, this time in reference to the duration of the ministry of the two witnesses. The precise nature of numbering the witnesses and the length of their ministry represents God’s sovereign planning in the most minute detail. The specific number may be significant since the Hebrew calendar allocated 360 days per year whereas the Gregorian calendar totals 365 days. While some interpreters assume that the 42 months of verse two precede the period of the witnesses in this verse (Sevener 77), the two time periods more likely overlap. The Dispensational belief in two separate three and a half year divisions is based on the seventieth week of Daniel 9:27, with the first half being called "the birth pangs" or "the beginnings of sorrows" (cf. Matt 24:8). However, Yeshua did not use the metaphor of "birth pangs" to refer to a definite time period.
The dating of the commencement of their ministry in relation to the beginning of the beast’s reign is not given, but the precise number of days and verse 7 below suggest that their ministry begins before the beast actually starts his reign of terror. Their prophecy apparently does not continue the full period of the one who causes the abomination of desolation, which lasts 1,290 to 1,335 days (Dan 12:11-12).
clothed: Grk. periballō, perf. part., to cover around, i.e., to throw an article of clothing around one's self; put on. The verb alludes to the robe-like design of ancient clothing. in sackcloth: Grk. sakkos, coarse cloth made of animal hair, often worn in Scripture as a sign of mourning. Mounce says it was made from the hair of a black goat. The two witnesses do not come in modern clothing, but suitable to their divine mission wear the sackcloth common to biblical prophets (2Kgs 1:8; Isa 20:2; Zech 13:4). Stern says that believers in Jerusalem have grown used to being presented with candidates claiming to be one of the two witnesses. They appear every few months, often dressed in sackcloth like the ancient prophets and claiming to be in the spirit and power of Elijah. In such circumstances, requiring self-appointed prophets to fulfill literally the signs of the Revelation witnesses is a reasonable test. None have yet produced the miraculous proofs expected of the genuine Elijah and his partner.
4― These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands who have been standing before the Lord of the earth.
These: pl. of Grk. houtos, demonstrative pronoun signifying a person or thing set forth in narrative that precedes its use or follows it; this, these. are: Grk. eimi, pres., to be, exist; a function word used primarily to declare a state of existence, whether in the past ('was, were'), present ('are, is') or future ('will be'), often to unite a subject and predicate (BAG). the two: Grk. duo, the number two. olive trees: pl. of Grk. elaia (for Heb. zayith), a tree that bears the olive fruit. The olive tree is a species of a small tree native to the coastal areas of the eastern Mediterranean coastal areas of southeastern Europe, western Asia and northern Africa as well as northern Iran at the south end of the Caspian Sea. Its fruit, also called the olive, is of major agricultural importance in the Mediterranean region as the source of olive oil.
Olive trees are very hardy, resistant to drought, disease and fire, and can live for a very long time. Its root system is very capable of regenerating the tree even if the above-ground structure is destroyed. However, the olive tree is used figuratively in several instances: (1) in a parable symbolizing a potential leader over Israel (Jdg 9:8-9); (2) in Psalm 52:8 inn which David likened himself to an olive tree in the house of God; (3) as a figure of judgment on wicked nations (Isa 17:6; 24:13; Amos 4:9); (4) a figure of the Kingdom of Judah (Jer 11:16) and (5) as symbolic of two anointed ones (Zech 4:3, 11-12), lit. "sons of oil" (Baron 135).
and: Grk. kai, conj. the two: Grk. duo. lampstands: pl. of Grk. luchnia refers to the stand upon which a luchnos, or lamp, was placed or hung. In the LXX luchnia translates menorah, first mentioned in the Tanakh in reference to the seven-branched golden lampstand used in the tabernacle and temple (Ex 26:35; 2Chr 28:20; Heb 9:2). "Lampstand" occurs over 40 times in the Tanakh, but the only figurative use is in a vision given to Zechariah of a single lampstand with seven lamps such as the one made for the temple holy place (Zech 4:2, 10). Since Israel is described as an olive tree (Jer 11:16) and lampstands symbolize congregations in Revelation 1:20, some think the image symbolizes the true Body of Messiah faithfully giving its light in the last days (Mounce).
Juster suggests that the two witnesses represent either the activity of apostolic and prophetic gifts exhibited by His people at the end of the age or two specific leaders with these gifts (34). However, the grammar is very precise and the phrase "these are the two" implies previous knowledge by John. He would naturally interpret the symbols in light of their use in the Tanakh, generally, and Zechariah's vision in particular. Since the symbols are only identified as men, John would not assume a totally new meaning that had never occurred before in Scripture.
In the context of Zechariah the two anointed ones are presumptively Joshua, the high priest, and Zerubbabel, the governor (Zech 3–4), but various Jewish midrashic traditions identified the two figures as Aaron and Moses, Aaron and David, Aaron and the Messiah, and Elijah and Moses, the latter pair being the most favored (Stern). Some Christian scholars also favor Elijah and Moses, since they appeared with Yeshua on the Mount of Transfiguration (Matt 17:1-8) and the powers the two witnesses jointly exhibit parallel the miraculous actions of Moses and Elijah during their respective ministries (cf. Ex 7:14-18; 1Kgs 17:1; 2Kgs 1:10ff). Any of these solutions, while possible, is problematic.
First, Zechariah's question about the identity of the olive trees and the menorah (Zech 4:11-14) is never answered with the names of the persons. Second, the only ones the Tanakh describes being anointed are priests (Ex 28:41), kings (1Sam 9:16), prophets (1Chr 16:22) and angels (Ezek 28:14). Third, Zechariah saw only one menorah, but John is specifically told there are two lampstands. Differences between how scholars identify the witnesses also hinge on how a general principle of Scripture is treated. John's narrative here reports that the two witnesses die (v. 7) and Scripture asserts, "it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment" (Heb 9:27). The case for Elijah is strongest of the candidates since he apparently did not die but was carried up into heaven by a whirlwind (2Kgs 2:11).
Moreover, God specifically promised "Behold, I am sending to you Elijah the prophet before the great and terrible day of ADONAI" (Mal 4:5 mine). While the ministry of Yochanan the Immerser was performed in the "spirit and power of Elijah" (Luke 1:17) and fulfilled the prophecy of the coming of Elijah (Matt 17:12), Yeshua asserted that the prophecy had a dual application and pertained to both comings of the Son of God. After Yochanan the Immerser had been beheaded Yeshua categorically prophesied, "Elijah is coming and will restore all things" (Matt 17:11). Yeshua obviously did not mean that another symbolic Elijah is coming. In receiving the Revelation John would have fully understood that Elijah must appear in the flesh before the Second Coming of the Messiah. This is a critical prophecy yet to be fulfilled that has been largely ignored by those making predictions of the Second Coming.
The identity of the second witness is less certain. In spite of the strong witness of Deuteronomy 34:5-8 that Moses died various Jewish Rabbinic traditions concluded Moses was the second witness (Stern). The appearance of Moses with Elijah on the Mount of Transfiguration (Mark 9:2ff) lends credence to the idea that together they have an important role in the final revelation of Yeshua, since they discussed the completion of His work on earth (Luke 9:31). Yet, there is another viable option. Hippolytus (170-236) was perhaps the first to suggest that the second witness would be Enoch (Treatise on Christ and Antichrist, 43), because like Elijah, Enoch did not die (Gen 5:24; Heb 11:5). Henry Morris concurs with this interpretation. In addition, Enoch was a prophet and gave substantially the same type of message to the antediluvian generation that is pertinent to the end of the age (Jude 1:14, 15).
who have been standing: Grk. histēmi, perf. part., to stand in an upright position or stand firm, be steadfast. before: Grk. enōpion, the nt. of enōpios ("facing"), with the basic idea of being 'in sight of' or 'in the presence of.' the Lord: Grk. kurios may mean either (1) one in control through possession, and therefore owner or master; or (2) one esteemed for authority or high status, thus lord or master. In the LXX kurios occurs over 9,000 times, and in the overwhelming majority of instances (over 6,000 times), it renders the sacred name YHVH. In addition, kurios translates the divine title Adonai ("Lord"). In contrast to its use for deity the LXX also uses kurios to render Heb. words used in reference to men in recognition of higher rank or authority (DNTT 2:511).
of the earth: Grk. gē, can mean soil (as in receiving seed), the ground, land as contrasted with the sea, and the earth in contrast to heaven. The last meaning is intended here. The LXX uses gē more than 2,000 times and translates the Heb. word erets (SH-776), first in Genesis 1:1 (DNTT 1:517). In the Tanakh erets designates either (a) the earth in a cosmological sense, or (b) "the land" in the sense of a specific territorial area, primarily the Land of Israel (BDB 75). All Bible versions translate gē here as "earth." The expression "Lord [Heb. Adonai] of all the earth" occurs four times in the Tanakh (Josh 3:11, 13; Mic 4:13 and Zech 6:5; cf. Ps 24:1). However, the phrase here does not contain "all" and the location reference may be of the Land of Israel, the locus of the ministry of the two witnesses.
The text also notes that the two witnesses stand before the Lord (also Zech 4:14), probably a reference to heaven. This phrase not only indicates their location at the time of the Revelation to John, but the fact that they are waiting patiently until the time designated for their service. Once they are sent to earth they will fulfill the prophecy of Malachi to "return the heart of the fathers to the sons of Israel and the heart of the sons of Israel to the fathers" (Mal 4:6 mine). In other words, Elijah will ignite a revival in the land of Israel currently dominated by atheism and secularism. Jews will be reconnected to their spiritual fathers, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and David, and in so doing be led to repentance and acceptance of Yeshua as Messiah.
Zechariah prophesied of the day when a fountain will be opened in Jerusalem for sin and for impurity (Zech 13:1). While it would be natural to connect this prophecy with the atonement of Yeshua, Zechariah goes on to say that false prophets who had been pretending to be Elijah will be forced to admit their deceit (Zech 13:4). As a result a third of the population will heed the message and call on the name of the Lord and hear by the witness of the Spirit, "they are My people" (Zech 13:8-9). This is a significant percentage given the fact that currently Messianic Jews comprise an extremely small minority in Israel.
5― And if anyone desires to harm them, fire goes forth from their mouth and devours their enemies; and if anyone should desire to harm them, it is necessary for him to be killed in this manner.
And: Grk. kai, conj. if: Grk. ei, conj., a contingency marker used here to introduce a circumstance assumed to be valid for the sake of argument. anyone: Grk. tis, indefinite pronoun, a certain one, someone, anyone, anything. desires: Grk. thelō, pres., to have a desire for something or have a purpose for something; want, will, wish, desire. to harm: Grk. adikeō, aor. inf., doing wrong or doing harm to others as defined by Torah. them: pl. of Grk. autos, personal pronoun. fire: Grk. pur, fire, as a physical state of burning. goes forth: Grk. ekporeuomai, pres. pass., move from one place to another, go out or come out. The present tense indicates a repetitive practice when needed.
from: Grk. ek, prep. with the root meaning of "out of, from within" (DM 102), denoting origin; from among. their: pl. of Grk. autos. mouth: Grk. stoma, the organ of speech and eating. and: Grk. kai. consumes: Grk. katesthiō, pres., to eat up or down, devour. HELPS gives the meaning of the verb as "utterly devour, leaving nothing; ferociously consume all the way down, i.e. with a rapacious, voracious appetite, leaving only ruination, without hope of recovery (or even remains)." their: pl. of Grk. autos, personal pronoun. enemies: pl. of Grk. echthros, adj., someone openly hostile inimical toward another, properly an enemy. The term implies irreconcilable hostility, proceeding out of a "personal" hatred bent on inflicting harm (HELPS). In normal usage the term may refer to opponents in military conflict or to personal enemies. The enemies of the two witnesses are enemies of God.
and: Grk. kai. if: Grk. ei. anyone: Grk. tis. should desire: Grk. thelō, aor. subj. to harm: Grk. adikeō, aor. inf. them: pl. of Grk. autos. it is necessary: Grk. dei, pres., impersonal verb from deō ('lack, stand in need of') and thus conveys the idea of something that's necessary, something that must or needs to happen; must, necessary, behooves. for him: Grk. autos. to be killed: Grk. apokteinō, aor. pass. inf., put an end by force to existence of someone; kill. In the LXX apokteinō translates Heb. harag (SH-2026; BDB 246), to kill or slay, first in Genesis 4:8. The two verbs are used in Scripture for accidental killing, manslaughter, killing in war or court-ordered execution. For the two witnesses to take the lives of enemies is self-defense, but from the divine perspective it is capital punishment decreed by the court of heaven.
in this manner: Grk. houtōs, adv. used to introduce the manner or way in which something has been done or to be done, in this manner, way or fashion, so. The power of the witnesses is reminiscent of Elijah and Moses. Elijah called fire out of heaven to consume soldiers that King Ahaziah had sent to arrest him (2Kgs 1:10-12). In contrast Yeshua rebuked His disciples for wanting to call down fire on a Samaritan village (Luke 9:54-56). It should be noted, however, that the action of the two witnesses is primarily defensive in nature. While the bombardier beetle can blow fire out of its mouth and some ancient dinosaurs could blow fire out of their mouths (Job 41:18-21), man is not physically equipped to copy this feat and this fire blowing is greater than a circus performer can reproduce.
Some take the passage metaphorically as meaning that the words of a prophet can be like fire (Jer 5:14) in that the prophesying does not evoke repentance but instead a hostility that condemns the hearers to the fires of Hell. Conversely, God could endow these prophets with such ability and so literally fulfill this passage. However, it is more likely that "out of their mouth" is a metaphor meaning that lightning strikes from the sky in response to their words, just as in the case of Elijah (Gundry 43). Reliance on miraculous fire means they do not possess the weapons of this world, but trust in the Lord’s deliverance.
6― These have the power to shut up the sky, so that no rain should fall in 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 if they might desire.
These: Grk. houtos, demonstrative pronoun; i.e., the two witnesses. have: Grk. echō, pres., 3p-pl., may mean (1) to have, hold or physically possess with a wide range of application; (2) to be situated, experience a condition or situation; or (3) to hold oneself fast (BAG). The first meaning applies here. the power: Grk. exousia, may mean (1) the right to speak or act in a situation without looking or waiting for approval; authority, right, jurisdiction; or (2) the ability to do something, capability, might, power, which proceeds from having authority (BAG). to shut up: Grk. kleiō, aor. inf., close to prevent entry; shut, shut up, lock or bar.
the sky: Grk. ouranos refers to the area above the surface of the earth. In the LXX ouranos translates the Heb. hashamayim (lit. "the heavens”) (DNTT 2:191). The Hebrew and Greek words for "heaven" are used in Scripture to refer to three different places: the atmosphere, interstellar space and the transcendent dwelling-place of God (Ps 148:1-4). In terms of direction from the ground level of the earth the first heaven is the atmosphere in which birds fly (Gen 1:20; Rev 19:17). The second heaven is interstellar space (Gen 1:1, 8; Matt 24:29) and the third heaven is the location of the throne of God (1Kgs 8:30; Matt 6:9). The expression "shut up the sky" also occurs in Luke 4:25, describing Elijah's declaration of a divinely imposed drought that lasted 3½ years (1Kgs 17:1; Jas 5:17).
so that: Grk. hina, conj. used to add an idea that completes an intention expressed, in order that, so that, that. no: Grk. mē, a particle of qualified negation, not. It differs from the other standard negative particle, oú, in that oú is objective, dealing only with facts, while mē is subjective, involving will and thought (DM 265). rain: Grk. huetos, rain, scientifically defined as water that is condensed from the aqueous vapor in the atmosphere and falls to earth in drops more than 1/50 inch (0.5 mm) in diameter. should fall: Grk. brechō, pres. subj., to cause to become wet, here of the atmospheric phenomenon of precipitation. The processes of weather on earth are under God's control, so that the power of the two witnesses represents divinely endowed ability.
in the days: pl. of Grk. hēmera. See verse 3 above. of their: pl. of Grk. autos, personal pronoun. prophesying: Grk. prophēteia may mean (1) the act of stating or disclosing divine will and purpose; (2) the gift for disclosure of divine will or purpose; or (3) a statement or disclosure made under divine authority or direction. The first meaning applies here. In the Tanakh prophesying was conducted by recognized prophets who were inspired by God by various means (Heb 1:1; 2Pet 1:21). Prophesying was primarily "forth-telling," with occasional predictions (foretelling). Forth-telling messages might consist of warning against sinning, announcing divine judgments, encouraging repentance and giving hope of restoration. Paul identifies the benefits of prophesying as edification, encouragement and consolation (1Cor 14:3).
and: Grk. kai. they have: Grk. echō, pres., 3p-pl. power: Grk. exousia. over: Grk. epi, prep., used primarily as a marker of position with the root meaning of "upon," and here emphasizes motion or direction; on, upon, over. the waters: pl. of Grk. hudōr (for Heb. mayim) water as a physical element. In Greek classical works hudōr was rarely used of sea-water (LSJ). Ordinarily, hudōr was potable water (suitable for drinking). The plural form of the noun would refer to flowing water, such as in rivers and streams. to turn: Grk. strephō, pres. inf., to redirect a position; turn. In the LXX strephō is used to translate shuv (SH-7725), turn back or return (DNTT 1:354). The verb is used of physical action and fig. of behavior.
them: pl. of Grk. autos. into: Grk. eis, prep., that focuses on entrance, frequently in relation to direction and limit. The preposition depicts the result of transformation from one state to another. blood: Grk. haima may refer to human or animal blood. One of the divine judgments imposed by Moses was turning waters of the Nile into blood (Ex 7:20). and: Grk. kai. to strike: Grk. patassō, aor. inf., to hit with a sharp blow, with the focus either on the act of hitting or on the result of deadly force. The former focus is in view here. the earth: Grk. gē. See verse 4 above. with: Grk. en, prep. every: Grk. pas, adj., comprehensive in scope, but without statistical emphasis; all, every.
plague: Grk. plēgē, physical damage inflicted by forceful application and is used for the blow of hitting someone, a wound from a blow or a major calamity. The translation of "plague" may be misleading to some readers because the English word is used primarily for an epidemic disease that causes high mortality; pestilence. In this context "plague" means a calamity viewed as a judgment of God. It should be noted that the target of the plague is the earth, not people directly, although people would certainly be adversely affected by the actions of the two witnesses. The "plague" could include the aforementioned withholding of rain and turning waters into blood, but also any sort of environmental or meteorological calamity.
as often as: Grk. hosakis, adv., as often as, as many times as. if: Grk. ean, conj. that serves as a conditional particle and produces an aspect of tentativeness by introducing a possible circumstance that determines the realization of some other circumstance. they might desire: Grk. thelō, aor. subj. See the previous verse. The last clause in this verse is meant to illustrate the latitude the two witnesses have in deciding where and when to impose plagues as punishment.
7― And when they have completed their testimony, the beast coming up out of the abyss will make war with them, and will overcome them and will kill them.
And: Grk. kai, conj. when: Grk. hotan, conj., a temporal marker indicating 'when' or 'whenever.' they have completed: Grk. teleō, aor. subj., 3p-pl., to bring to completion in a manner that leaves nothing undone, to achieve fully, fulfill, accomplish, complete. their: pl. of Grk. autos, personal pronoun; i.e., the two witnesses. testimony: Grk. marturia, attestation of a fact or truth; testimony, witness, especially in a legal context. The ministry of the witnesses has a particular purpose and a divinely determined period of time in which to be conducted. Their "testimony" would likely follow the example of the prophets who chastised Israel for disobedience and called for a thorough repentance. Modern Israel is not unlike ancient Israel, in which immorality and idolatry dominated. The witnesses will call all the descendants of Jacob back to the faith and values of their fathers and proclaim the true Messiah.
the beast: Grk. thērion refers to a wild animal. The "beast," one of the principal characters of Revelation and is introduced here for the first time. The "beast" from the abyss is never described in detail, as are the creatures from the Pit. The term's usage in Revelation is clearly intended as a metaphor, sometimes as a corporate identity (13:1; 17:12) and sometimes as an individual personality (13:4-8; 17:11; 19:20), namely the Antimessiah. The beast will be the most evil and despotic government in history and easily fulfills the description of Jude 1:10: "But these slander what things they have known not: moreover what things they understand naturally, like unreasoning animals, in these things they are destroyed." (mine)
The individual and government are called "beast" because the worship of the creature is elevated and promoted, specifically of the Antimessiah himself (cf. Rom 1:25; 2Th 2:4), and all manner of fleshly desire is tolerated (cf. 2Pet 2:12-14). The archetype for the beast may well be Nebuchadnezzar whose megalomania brought the judgment of God of being reduced to a beast of the field for seven years (Dan 4:28-33). In God’s mercy Nebuchadnezzar recovered from his madness (Dan 4:34-37), but for the coming Antichrist there will be no deliverance. Chapters Thirteen and Seventeen provide more information about the identity, character and activities of the beast, corporate and individual. See my web article The Coming Anti-Messiah.
coming up: Grk. anabainō, pres. mid. part., to go up or to ascend and refers to upward movement. out of: Grk. ek, prep. the abyss: Grk. abussos, means bottomless or unfathomably deep (Rienecker) and in 9:1 describes the Pit. The Pit lies deep in the interior of the earth at its center and could be deemed bottomless because every direction would be a ceiling (Morris). The early Jewish work Sibylline Oracles says, "For he [God] the earth established, placing it round about Tartarus" (Book I, 10). Tartarus was a synonym for the Pit or Hades (2Pet 2:4). The Pit is a place where demonic beings are imprisoned (cf. Rev 9:2-11; 17:8; 20:2-3; cf. Luke 8:31) and will be the place of Satan's imprisonment during the millennium (Rev 20:1, 3).
John mentions matter-of-factly that the beast comes up from the abyss. The beast does not merely "come" but "comes up," further emphasizing the location as corresponding to the bottomless pit at the center of the earth. The fact that the beast comes from the abyss, or the bottomless pit, indicates that he is a demonic spirit who will be released to possess the Antimessiah and operate under the power and authority of Satan (13:1-4). Paul received the same revelation concerning origin of the Man of Lawlessness, which is the point of 2Thessalonians 2:6-7. (See my analysis of this passage in The Rapture Debate.) Daniel, too, was told that the beast ascends from the earth (Dan 7:17). It is not likely that demonic spirits are kept imprisoned in Hades by the barrier of earth, but by the power of God.
will make: Grk. poieō, fut., a verb of physical action that may refer to (1) producing something material; make, construct, produce, create; or (2) to be active in bringing about a state of condition; do, act, perform, work. The second meaning applies here. war: Grk. polemos, to wage war. While the noun polemos in Greek literature may refer to strife, conflict or quarrels, in Scripture the term refers generally to armed conflict and hostilities between nations or kingdoms. When used of armed conflict, the term may indicate a single battle or a war of some duration consisting of many battles. In the LXX polemos commonly translates Heb. milchamah, war or battle (DNTT 3:959), first occurring in Genesis 14:2 of Abraham's war with five kings.
Wars and battles dominate the history of the Tanakh and indeed, it seems, God's chosen people have always been fighting for survival. with: Grk. meta, prep., may be used to (1) mark association or accompaniment; with, amid, among; or (2) mark sequence or position, after, behind. The first meaning applies here. them: pl. of Grk. autos. and: Grk. kai. will overcome: Grk. nikaō, fut., to win victory over; overcome, defeat. In Greek culture the verb meant to prevail, to conquer, to overcome or to vanquish, whether in a military battle, athletic contest, or a legal action (BAG). them: pl. of Grk. autos. and: Grk. kai. will kill: Grk. apokteinō, fut. See verse 5 above. them: pl. of Grk. autos.
With all the malevolence of Satan the beast will wage war against the two witnesses, but not until they have finished the work God called them to do. Robertson suggests that the phrase "make war" refers to a single combat. Making war would probably include all the efforts using available military and intelligence resources to track down the two men of God, as well as harassing or harming people that give aid and comfort to the two witnesses. David expressed a similar experience of being an individual target of war (Ps 27:3), both as a fugitive from Saul and from later opponents who organized rebellions to overthrow his rule. These two human witnesses are divinely endowed to represent Yeshua the Messiah and His kingdom, much like David was Israel’s champion, amid many enemies. However, the witnesses, like their Savior, know they must eventually die at the hands of ruthless men, just as millions of Yeshua followers will perish by the cruel edict of the beast (13:7).
8― and leave their corpses upon the street of the great city which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also their Lord was crucified.
and: Grk. kai, conj. leave their: pl. of Grk. autos, personal pronoun. corpses: Grk. ptōma, a fall, especially of bodies slain in battle, a corpse or carcass. The word here is singular, although in 9b it is plural (Robertson). upon: Grk. epi, prep. the street: Grk. plateia, main thoroughfare or wide street, from platus, which means "broad or wide." Plateia is also used in 21:21 and 22:2 to refer to an area in the New Jerusalem. The assumption by scholars is that the usage of plateia here refers to a wide street (Rienecker), although no city has just a single street. In the LXX plateia renders Heb. rechob, (SH-7339; BDB 932), a broad place or plaza in the city, first in Genesis 19:2. Every ancient city had a plaza for markets, town assemblies and other gatherings (cf. SS 3:2; Jer 5:1; Dan 9:25; Nah 2:4) (TWOT 2:841).
The agents of the beast are finally able to confront the two witnesses and carry out their hired murder. Even in the face of the beast’s army, the witnesses do not leave the "great city" knowing that with martyrdom their mission will be complete. So, they offer no resistance, no fire, no plagues; and in contempt the assassins leave their lifeless bodies where they are killed so that all may observe the beast's great triumph. Leaving dead bodies unburied has always been an act of outrage and indignity (1Kgs 21:24; Jer 8:1-2; 14:16). The minions of the beast are infected with his malice. the great: Grk. megas, adj., exceeding a standard and therefore impressive; great, large. city: Grk. polis. See verse 2 above.
The actual name of the "great city" is not revealed directly, but Jerusalem is called "this great city" in Jeremiah 22:8. In biblical times cities were considered great first because of being the seat of power in the region or empire, such as Jerusalem, Nineveh, Babylon, Athens, or Rome. These cities also may be considered great because of their wealth represented in building projects and market-places. The great cities also attracted commerce and the unemployed seeking opportunity and, thus, swelling the population over towns and villages. Some commentators take all eight references to "the great city" in Revelation (16:19; 17:18; 18:10, 16, 18, 19, 21) as a figurative reference to all the great cities and kingdoms opposed to God, but there is no textual basis for this assumption.
which: Grk. hostis, relative pronoun used here to give specific reference to the following verb; whosoever, whichsoever, whatsoever. spiritually: Grk. pneumatikōs, adv., from a spiritual perspective. The idea here is not allegorical, but how the Spirit of God interprets God’s Word for believers. The adverb occurs only twice in the apostolic writings and in 1 Corinthians 2:14 is used of the help of the Holy Spirit in interpreting God’s message (Robertson). The city is great by virtue of its prominence in the world, but its spiritual condition is severely lacking. is called: Grk. kaleō, pres. pass., to identify by name or give a term to; call.
Sodom: Grk. Sodoma, one of five "cities of the valley" (Gen 13:12; 19:29) of Abraham's time and a place of Lot's residence (Gen 13:10-12; 14:12; 19:1). Exact locations are unknown, but they were probably situated in the Valley of Siddim (Gen 14:3, 8, 10-11) near the Dead Sea. The city was known for the sexual perversion of its inhabitants (Gen 18:10) and because of which the city was consumed by a fiery divine judgment in spite of intercession by Abraham (Gen 18:22-32; 19:24). Not even ten righteous men could be found there.
and: Grk. kai. Egypt: Grk. Aiguptos (for Heb. Mitzraim), a land in northeastern Africa, home to one of the earliest civilizations, and an important cultural and political influence on ancient Israel. In contrast to the modern nation, ancient Egypt was confined to the Nile River valley, a long, narrow ribbon of fertile land (the "black land") surrounded by uninhabitable desert (the "red land"). Egypt proper, from the first cataract of the Nile to the Mediterranean, is some 750 miles long. After Israel's deliverance from Egypt they were admonished not to return to Egypt (Deut 17:16), whether for political expedience or religious accommodation. In the Tanakh the mention of Egypt is often associated with Israel's experience of slavery there (e.g., Ex 13:3; 20:2; Lev 26:13; Deut 5:6; Jdg 6:8; Neh 9:9; Mic 6:4).
The spiritual condition of Jerusalem during the time of the two witnesses in the last days is described as being like Sodom and Egypt. In prophetic literature unfaithful Judah and Jerusalem were likened to "Sodom" because of their sexual license (Isa 1:10; 3:9; Jer 23:14; Lam 4:6; Ezek 16:46). In addition, Jerusalem's leaders often "took the road to Egypt" to seek Egypt’s favor and protection (Isa 30:2f, 7; 31:1; 36:6, 9; Jer 2:18; 42:19), which God regarded as rejecting the security of His covenant. Moreover, Israel reverted to the idolatry and religious prostitution of Egypt (Jer 11:1-11; Ezek 23:1-21), for which God sent the nation into exile (Ezek 23:22-28).
In modern times Israel is a great nation with many positive characteristics. Messianic Jewish congregations are growing and the Spirit is moving through the Land. Yet, at the same time Israel recognizes and protects same-sex relationships. Immorality, prostitution and abortion are epidemic. As in the United States there have been cases where the "rights" of same-sex couples have been allowed to legally trump the convictions of religious Israeli businesses. In the first century Yeshua accused the unbelieving Jews of being an adulterous generation (Matt 12:39) and the same condition exists today. The two witnesses will no doubt rebuke Israelis for such flagrant transgressions against God's commandments and call them back to Torah values. But, such a message will be unwelcome.
where: Grk. hopou, adv. of place; where. also: Grk. kai. their: pl. of Grk. autos. Lord: Grk. kurios. See verse 4 above. The identification of "their Lord" refers to Yeshua the Messiah. was crucified: Grk. stauroō, aor. pass., cause to undergo physical crucifixion, to nail to a cross. In the LXX stauroō translates Heb. talah (hang, hang up) in Esther 7:9, which depicts the execution of Haman. The verb is also found in Josephus (Ant. II, 5:3-4; XVII, 10:10). Crucifixion was not a normal Jewish means of execution, and, in fact, the Torah pronounced a curse on anyone hanged on a tree (Deut 21:23). In the Torah the preferred means of execution was stoning (Ex 21:28; Lev 20:27; 24:14, 16, 23; Num 15:35; Deut 13:10; 17:5; 21:21; 22:21, 24).
God also prescribed shooting with arrows (Ex 19:13), burning (Lev 20:14) and hanging by rope from a tree (Deut 21:22). The Mishnah specified four modes of capital punishment: stoning, burning, slaying with the sword and strangulation (Sanh. 7:1). The cross was a vertical wooden stake with a crossbar, usually shaped more like a "T" than the Christian symbol. For a description of crucifixion see my note on Mark 15:13. Josephus, the Jewish historian, left this comment about Yeshua, almost a eulogy:
"Now there was about this time Yeshua, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man; for he was a doer of wonderful works, a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews and many of the Gentiles. He was [the] Christ. And when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him; for he appeared to them alive again the third day; as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him. And the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct at this day." (Ant. XVIII, 3:3)
Because of the mention of crucifixion the "great city" here must be Jerusalem, even though the other usages of this place-name in Revelation refer to the home of the harlot Babylon. While Yeshua was crucified near the city and outside the walls of Jerusalem (John 19:20; Heb 13:12), the particle "where" can have an indefinite meaning and would not exclude Golgotha from the political boundary of the city (cf. Luke 13:33; John 1:28). Moreover, the grammar does not warrant applying "spiritually" to the crucifixion, an event of stark reality to the apostles, and Yeshua was certainly not crucified in Rome or Babylon.
A confusing aspect of the city's identification is that it is called "the holy city" in verse two above and a wicked city here. "Holy" simply means set apart, so by calling Jerusalem "the holy city" does not connote its moral climate, only that it belongs to God. Jerusalem is the center of God's sovereign activity for the good of mankind as well as representative of God's covenantal faithfulness. We should note that Jerusalem did not exist at the time of John’s writing as a dwelling place for Jews, having been destroyed by the Romans. The verse points backwards and forwards. The present Jerusalem, like the ancient city, is both a holy city and a great city, yet a city and a people with serious spiritual shortcomings.
9― And those of the peoples and tribes and languages and nations will look at their corpses three and a half days, and will not allow their corpses to be put into a grave.
And: Grk. kai, conj. those of: Grk. ek, prep. the peoples: pl. of Grk. laos a group of humans, understood geographically or ethnically, and often in the Besekh of groups associated with the God of Israel. In the LXX laos renders Heb. am (SH-5971), folk, people, nation or inhabitants of a locality, first in Genesis 14:16. Laos often corresponds to the Heb. am-ha'arets, "people of the land," which contrasts with the ruling classes and religious elite. and: Grk. kai. tribes: pl. of Grk. phulē has two basic meanings: (1) a tribe of Israel and (2) a nation or people. Phulē can refer to either the tribes of Israel or the nations of the world.
and: Grk. kai. languages: pl. of Grk. glōssa, the tongue as the anatomical organ, and by extension a distinctive language system of a people group. In the LXX glōssa primarily translates Heb. lashōn (SH-3956), the organ of the tongue and human language, first occurring in Genesis 10:5 for the languages of different nations (DNTT 3:1078f). Glōssa also translates Heb. saphah (SH-8193), lip, speech or language, first occurring in Genesis 11:7 of the one language of the earth. and: Grk. kai. nations: pl. of Grk. ethnos, humans belonging to a people group; i.e., Egypt. In the LXX ethnos generally renders Heb. goy (SH-1471; pl. goyim), "nation, people" (DNTT 2:790). The term ethnos is first used in Genesis 10 to describe the list of seventy nations.
will look at: Grk. blepō, pres., may mean (1) possess the physical ability to see; (2) use one's eyes to take note of an object; (3) be looking in a certain direction; or (4) to have inward or mental sight. The second meaning has application here. their: pl. of Grk. autos, personal pronoun. corpses: Grk. ptōma. See the previous verse. John describes a very diverse group of people who observe the corpses of the two witnesses in the street. Those viewing the scene might be watching on television or in person. The onlookers could be members of the beast's army, a multi-national force. The military force may be the same one prophesied in Zechariah 14:2 (cf. Rev 16:13-16; 19:19).
three: Grk. treis, the number three. and: Grk. kai. a half: Grk. hēmisus, a half. days: pl. of Grk. hēmera. See verse 3 above. Morris suggests this period symbolizes the three and a half years of rejected testimony (DSB). The time factor may also be intended to parallel the experience of Yeshua, the faithful witness (1:5), since the length of time involved in Yeshua’ arrest, trial, death, burial and resurrection was three days (Mark 9:31). and: Grk. kai. will not: Grk. ou, particle of strong negation. allow: Grk. aphiēmi, pres., to release or let go with a range of meaning: (1) release from one's presence; (2) release from an obligation, cancel, forgive; (3) let remain behind; (4) leave standing or lying; and (5) permissive sense of let, let go, allow or tolerate. The fifth meaning applies here.
their: pl. of Grk. autos. corpses: Grk. ptōma. to be put: Grk. tithēmi, aor. pass. inf., to arrange for association with a site; place, put, set out, serve, lay down. into: Grk. eis, prep. a grave: Grk. mnēma, a place for depositing the remains of a deceased person held in memory; grave, tomb. The term was applied to a broad range of memorial devices and structures. The identification of the observers being military members is strengthened by the fact that they do not permit removal of the dead prophets for burial. When Stephen was martyred godly men came and buried him (Acts 8:2), but friends of the two witnesses would only be deterred in performing the kindness of a decent burial by the presence of an armed force.
10― And those dwelling upon the earth rejoice over them and celebrate; and they will send gifts to one another, because these two prophets tormented those dwelling upon the earth.
And: Grk. kai, conj. those: pl. of Grk. ho, definite article but used here as a demonstrative pronoun. dwelling: Grk. katoikeō, pres. part., to live or stay as a resident, to make a specific locale or area of residence, thus to dwell, reside or live in. upon: Grk. epi, prep. See verse 6 above. The genitive case of the noun following denoting place requires the translation of "upon" (Thayer). the earth: Grk. gē. See verse 4 above. Stern believes that the reference to "earth," used twice in the verse, should be translated as "land," meaning the Land of Israel, since the object of the ministry of the two witnesses is the people of Israel, the "great city" in this chapter is Jerusalem and Gentile reaction has been given already in the previous verse.
Stern believes that opposition of non-Messianic Israelis to the good news of Yeshua will be intensified by the appearance of these two prophets. For this reason they not only reject the good news but, instead of sitting shivah in honor of their deceased kinsmen (e.g., John 11:19–20), they celebrate and send each other gifts—like the Jews of Shushan after slaying Haman’s sons (Esth 9:22). The difference, of course, is that Haman and his sons were truly oppressors, whereas the Messiah's witnesses offer deliverance. Of course, we should note that there is no example of Israelites in biblical history rejoicing over the death of an anointed prophet.
However, I believe the context favors my translation. First, Jewish reaction would also be included in the previous verse with the mention of "tribes." Second, the expression "those dwelling on the earth," which occurs in ten verses in Revelation (3:10; 6:10; 8:13; 13:8, 14; 17:2, 8; cf. Isa 28:16), always refers to people of the unbelieving world who have no stake in heaven and in fact oppose God's people. See my comment on 3:10. Third, if the focus was on the land of Israel we should expect the preposition to be "in" not "on." Fourth, Jewish unbelief and opposition will no doubt be present as it had been frequently in biblical history and currently in Israel, but we should expect John to be more explicit if that were his focus.
rejoice: Grk. chairō, pres., has two usages: (1) to be in a state marked by good feeling about an event or circumstance; be happy, glad, delighted, rejoice; and (2) an expression of greeting that is normally tantamount to assuring the other of one's good will, a kind of introductory social ointment; greetings, hail. The first usage is intended here. over: Grk. epi. them: pl. of Grk. autos, personal pronoun. and: Grk. kai. celebrate: Grk. euphrainō, pres. mid., make glad or happy, even celebrate or hold a party. and: Grk. kai. they will send: Grk. pempō, fut., send, whether to dispatch persons as an agent or things, the latter being in view here. In the LXX pempō occurs only five times and translates Heb. shalach, (SH-7971), send, all of which are situations of a human sending a human (Gen 27:42; Ezra 4:14; 5:17; Neh 2:5; Esth 8:5). gifts: pl. of Grk. dōron, a gift or present of tangible value. to one another: pl. of Grk. allēlōn, reciprocal pronoun, each other, one another.
The world takes a perverse joy when a follower of Yeshua is harmed (cf. John 16:20). One can only imagine the immense sense of relief that will come over the beast and his kingdom when the voices and harmful activities of the two witnesses are brought to an end. The citizens will likely believe that their troubles are over and such a victory deserves a celebration. Gift exchanges seem strangely out of place in this context, unless it refers to rewards being paid for information and bonuses paid to the perpetrators of the killing.
because: Grk. hoti, conj. See verse 2 above. these: pl. of Grk. houtos, demonstrative pronoun. two: Grk. duo, the number two. prophets: pl. of Grk. prophētēs, one who is gifted with the ability for interpretation or revelation transcending normal insight or awareness, i.e., a prophet. In the LXX prophētēs renders Heb. nabi (SH-5030), spokesman, speaker or prophet, first in Genesis 20:7 (DNTT 3:76). In Scripture the term refers to one who spoke on God's behalf, whether in foretelling or forth-telling. The record of the Tanakh indicates considerable variance in the activity and ministry of Hebrew prophets. The Hebrew prophets were a diverse group with different personalities, vocations and manner of ministry, but they all spoke for God under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (2Pet 1:21).
The plural noun refers back to verse 3 where the two witnesses are given the commission to proclaim the Word of God. They stand in the long line of the historic biblical prophets who not only called the people of God to repentance, but also confronted pagan powers to humble themselves before God. tormented: Grk. basanizō, aor., subject to severe distress; afflict, torment, torture. The verb refers to the exercise of the powers they were given (verses 5 & 6) to defend themselves and to cause ecological harm, although no report is offered of how they tormented their enemies.
11― But after three and a half days, the spirit of life from God entered in them, and they stood upon their feet; and great fear fell upon those beholding them.
But: Grk. kai, conj. after: Grk. meta, prep., used here in reference to time. three: Grk. treis, the number three. and: Grk. kai. a half: Grk. hēmisus. See verse 9 above. days: Grk. hēmera. See verse 3 above. The time period probably begins on the day of death, the "half day." Thus, the third day afterward marks the miracle. In Jewish writings the "third day" represented resurrection as midrashim (commentaries) on various passages indicate (Gen 22:4-5; 42:16-19; Ex 19:14-16; Josh 2:16; Jon 1:15-17; Ezra 8:15-16; Hosea 6:1-2). the spirit: Grk. pneuma, wind, breath or spirit; here referring to the human spirit. of life: Grk. zōē, the state of being alive. from: Grk. ek, prep. God: Grk. theos. See verse 1 above.
entered: Grk. eiserchomai, aor., to go or enter into a geographical area, manufactured structure or other place defined in the context. in: Grk. en, prep., or "inside of" or "within." them: pl. of Grk. autos, personal pronoun. Suddenly the Creator God who breathed into Adam’s nostrils the "breath of life" (Gen 2:7) returns the same power to them. The Hebrew idiom "breath of life" (also Gen 6:17; 7:15; Isa 2:22; 42:5; Ezek 37:5) emphasizes that only life can produce life and the first life did not "evolve" from chemical transformation, but from the divine infusion of wind into the first formed animals and man. By the same power the wind of life is miraculously passed on to succeeding generations.
and: Grk. kai. they stood: Grk. histēmi, aor., 3p-pl. See verse 4 above. upon: Grk. epi, prep. their: pl. of Grk. autos. feet: pl. of Grk. pous, the body part that is used for walking or running; the foot. What a shock it will be to everyone looking on when the murdered prophets get up by the power of God. The wind of God that brought life to earth in the beginning is the same power that resurrected Israel from its "grave" of dispersion over the face of the earth (Ezek 37:7-14) and brought back Jews to their homeland. Not only has the life-giving power of God restored the nation of Israel but since then the Spirit has been causing the hearts of Jews to return to their Messiah at an ever increasing rate. Even Jews that grew up indoctrinated in atheism, that "have neither heard My fame nor seen My glory" (Isa 66:19), are now experiencing spiritual resurrection and declaring the glory of the Messiah. Then at the end of the age God will use these two witnesses to bring that the revival to its consummation (Ezek 36:36f).
and: Grk. kai. great: Grk. megas, adj. See verse 8 above. fear: Grk. phobos may mean (1) the feeling of need to escape from or avoid a threat; fear; (2) feeling of respect; reverence, awe; or (3) the process of causing in someone a feeling of need to escape from a situation; intimidation. The first meaning applies here. fell: Grk. epipiptō, aor., come upon with sudden movement; fall upon. upon: Grk. epi. those: pl. of Grk. ho, definite article but used here as a demonstrative pronoun. beholding: Grk. theōreō, pres. part., may mean (1) pay attention to; look at, observe, watch, behold; (2) conclude on the basis of personal experience; consider, infer, see; or (3) have awareness in depth; perceive, experience. The first meaning has primary application here. them: pl. of Grk. autos.
The "great fear" of the bystanders is similar to the experience of the soldiers in the garden of Gethsemane who were on guard to prevent the disciples from stealing the Lord’s body from the tomb. Similar precautions will probably be followed in this instance, but the watching guards are not prepared for divine intervention. The straightforward narrative argues against the assumption of some commentators that the two witnesses symbolically represent the Church or Israel or that John merely borrowed from Ezekiel’s account of the rejuvenation of dry bones (Ezek 37:5, 10-12) to offer a spiritual message. Assuming that symbolism exists where the context offers no support easily diminishes the authenticity and inspiration of John's narrative.
12― And they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, "Come up here;" and they went up into heaven in the cloud, and their enemies watched them.
And: Grk. kai, conj. they heard: Grk. akouō, aor., may mean (1) to hear, with the focus on willingness to listen or to heed the substance of what is said; (2) hear with comprehension, understand; or (3) receive information aurally, hear, hear about. Possibly all three meanings have relevance in this context. In the LXX akouō consistently stands for Heb. shama, which not only means to apprehend, but also to accept and to act upon what has been apprehended (DNTT 2:173). a loud: Grk. megas, adj. See verse 8 above. voice: Grk. phōnē can mean (1) an auditory impression, sound, noise defined in the context; (2) the faculty of producing speech, voice; or (3) a system of communication, language. The word often is used in the Besekh of articulated sound from a human mouth, but here the voice has a divine source.
from: Grk. ek, prep. heaven: Grk. ouranos. See verse 6 above. "Heaven" refers to the place of God's throne. saying: Grk. legō, pres. part. See verse 1 above. to them: pl. of Grk. autos, personal pronoun. This communication was personal and not intended for everyone else. Come up: Grk. anabainō, aor. imp. See verse 7 above. here: Grk. hōde, adv. of place, here or in this place. and: Grk. kai. they went up: Grk. anabainō, aor., 3p-pl. into: Grk. eis, prep. heaven: Grk. ouranos, probably referring to the atmosphere. in: Grk. en, prep. the cloud: Grk. nephelē, cloud, referring to the atmospheric phenomenon consisting of a suspended collection of water particles. Clouds occur in multiple layers and various altitudes, as high as 280,000 feet above ground level (85 km.).
The lowest clouds form about 6500 feet above ground level (2 km.). However, in Israel clouds only occur at the earliest hours of morning, just previous to and at the time of sunrise. There is a total absence of clouds at all other parts of the day (Neil 44). Thus, this cloud was a divinely produced miracle for this occasion. and: Grk. kai. their: pl. of Grk. autos. enemies: pl. of Grk. echthros. See verse 5 above. watched: Grk. theōreō, aor. See the previous verse. them: pl. of Grk. autos. There is no "secret rapture" for these witnesses. Just as they had been publicly humiliated, so now they are publicly vindicated, as will be every believer on that "great resurrection morning" (cf. Matt 24:27; 1Th 4:17).
While Yeshua ascended to heaven from the midst of His friends and disciples, the two witnesses may only have their enemies (no doubt in shock) at hand for their miraculous flight toward heaven. Yet, like Yeshua the witnesses ascend into the sky in a cloud (Acts 1:9), further evidence of their divine commission, as well as the presence of God’s power and glory in their lives. The singular "heaven" indicates that the witnesses were translated directly into the heaven of God’s abode and did not transit through outer space.
13― And in that hour a great shaking happened, and a tenth of the city fell; seven thousand names of men were killed in the earthquake, and the rest became terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven.
And: Grk. kai, conj. in: Grk. en, prep. that: Grk. ekeinos, demonstrative pronoun, typically used to refer to a noun (person or thing) immediately preceding or following in the Greek text; that, that one there. hour: Grk. hōra may mean (1) a short space of time, the twelfth part of a day; hour; (2) fig. for a period of time in the day; "the hour was already late;" or (3) fig. for a point of time as occasion for action or for an event; time. The third meaning applies here, but does not exclude the first meaning. "That hour" refers back to the resurrection of the two witnesses. a great: Grk. megas, adj. See verse 8 above. shaking: Grk. seimos, a violent disturbance connected with natural phenomena, here of an earthquake.
happened: Grk. ginomai, aor. mid., to transfer from one state or condition to another, which may be expressed in one of three ways: (1) come into being birth or natural process; be born or produced; (2) exist through application of will or effort by a person; be made, be performed; or (3) undergo a state of existence, change or development; come to be, become, take place, happen, occur, arise, be, appear, come, arrive. The third meaning applies here.
The temblor is described as "great," and the verse goes on to describe its lethality and destructiveness. Twice in biblical history Jerusalem experienced an earthquake. Amos mentions an earthquake that occurred in the days of King Uzziah (Amos 1:1), and it must have been so terrible that two centuries later the Lord compares it to the earthquake that will be brought about by the Messiah (Zech 14:4). When Yeshua died an earthquake opened many tombs and many "holy ones" were resurrected (Matt 27:52).
and: Grk. kai. a tenth: Grk. dekatos, adj., tenth. of the city: Grk. polis. See verse 2 above. fell: Grk. piptō, aor., to drop from a relatively high position to a lower position. Buildings fall in an earthquake because the ground falls. The specific mention that a tenth of the city fell probably means that a portion of the ground separated and dropped several feet resulting in destruction of all structures located in the area. Another possibility is that a part of the city is built on soft soil or sandy loam, as well as being near a water source, and the earthquake causes liquefaction of the area resulting in total destruction. Most deaths in an earthquake are caused by falling objects, but fires from damaged electrical or gas systems also pose a serious hazard.
seven: Grk. hepta, the cardinal number seven. thousand: pl. of Grk. chilias, the number one thousand. names: pl. of Grk. onoma is used in its central sense of identifying someone with a proper name. In Hebrew literature "name" also carries the extended sense of qualities, powers, attributes or reputation. Most modern versions do not translate the noun, but its presence must be significant. The use of "names" highlights the tragedy of their deaths. of men: pl. of Grk. anthrōpos, human being, man, or mankind. In the LXX anthrōpos renders three Hebrew words: (1) adam, SH-444, used for a human male or generically for man and woman and as a contrast to animals (e.g., Gen 1:26, 27; 2:5); (2) ish, SH-376, adult male or husband (Gen 2:23, 24) and (3) enosh, SH-582, man or mankind, often signifying the aspect of weakness and mortality (Ps 8:4-5) (DNTT 2:564). The "names of men" could refer to members of the beast's army, as well as Jewish residents, who were enemies of the two witnesses. Their deaths are akin to the judgment on Korah and his followers for opposing Moses, and who died when the ground opened up under them (Num 16:23-35).
were killed: Grk. apokteinō, aor. pass. See verse 5 above. in: Grk. en. the shaking: Grk. seismos. Seven thousand dead does not rank this earthquake among the deadliest in history, but since the year 2000 only eight earthquakes in the world (magnitude 7.0 and above on the Richter scale) have exceeded this number of fatalities. Also, in this period no noteworthy earthquakes have occurred in Israel, although significant quakes have occurred in Iran, Iraq, and Turkey.
It's possible that John's observation represents a fulfillment of the prophecy of Zechariah
"3 Then ADONAI will go forth and fight against those nations as He fights in a day of battle. 4 In that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives which lies to the east of Jerusalem, and the Mount of Olives will be split in two from east to west, forming a huge valley. Half of the mountain will move toward the north and half of it toward the south. 5 Then you will flee through My mountain valley because the mountain valley will reach to Azel. Yes, you will flee like you fled from the earthquake in the days of King Uzziah of Judah." (14:3-5 TLV)
An earthquake fault runs east to west through the Mount of Olives. Seismic energy can displace the ground by lifting and moving. According to seismologists the fault line in Jerusalem rivals that of the San Andreas Fault in the West Coast of the United States. The last earthquake on the Jerusalem fault line was in 1927 and caused the Allenby Bridge to collapse (Dr. Joseph Frager, Jerusalem's Natural Fault Lines). In the anthropomorphic imagery of Zechariah's vision it is the feet of ADONAI coming to rest on the Mount of Olives that causes the earthquake.
the rest: Grk. loipos, adj., remaining of what's left, other, rest of. became: Grk. ginomai, aor. mid. terrified: Grk. emphobos means to be afraid, startled or terrified. and: Grk. kai. gave: Grk. didōmi, aor. See verse 1 above. glory: Grk. doxa originally meant opinion, conjecture, praise or repute in secular Greek in regard to what one thought about a person or thing. In the LXX doxa renders Heb. kabod (pronounced "kah-vohd"), "abundance, honor, glory" (SH-3519; BDB 458). Kabod does include the meanings of dignity of position, reputation of character and the reverence due to or ascribed to someone, and is frequently used for the honor brought or given to God (e.g., Ps 29:1; Isa 42:12). In the Besekh doxa is a continuation of the underlying Hebrew concept (DNTT 2:45).
to the God: Grk. theos. See verse 1 above. of heaven: Grk. ouranos. See verse 6 above. Referring to the "God of heaven" emphasizes His power as Creator and supreme Ruler over the universe, as well as contrasting with the "god of the earth" worshipped by the followers of the beast. As an immediate consequence of the catastrophe many in the city were scared witless and "gave glory," which in Revelation is characteristic of the redeemed or the angels. Giving glory to God may acclaim the might of His creative power (Ps 19:1), laud His covenant faithfulness (Ps 115:1), or extol the greatness of His kingdom (Ps 145:11-12). In legal settings giving God glory meant to openly tell the truth before the Judge of the universe (cf. Josh 7:19; 1Sam 6:5).
Ladd suggests that this verse expresses the final "conversion" (sic) of the Jewish people. The term "conversion" among Christians usually has the meaning of changing religions. It would be better to say that this verse describes the redemption of Israel in which Jews will avail themselves of the atoning grace of Yeshua (Zech 3:8-9). The Jews would not cease being Jews by virtue of accepting their Messiah and Savior. In contrast the followers of the beast do not "give glory" by repenting of their sins and consequently suffer the judgment of God (cf. 16:9). The restoration efforts of Elijah and the other witness to turn the hearts of Jews back to their spiritual fathers and the Messiah will reap a great harvest (Zech 13:7ff; Mal 4:6) and the 144,000 Israelites (Rev 7:4; 14:1) may be the first fruits of their labors.
Another factor worth considering is that this earthquake may well presage the sign of the Son of Man (a double eclipse) described in Joel 2:30-32 and repeated in Revelation 6:12. The resurrection of the two witnesses and the devastating earthquake will open the spiritual eyes of the Jews and ignite the revival for which the apostle Paul so earnestly prayed (Rom 9:1ff). "And it will come about that whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be delivered; for on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there will be those who escape, as the LORD has said, even among the survivors whom the LORD calls" (Joel 2:32 NASB).
The Seventh Trumpet (11:14-19)
14― The second woe has passed; behold, the third woe comes quickly.
The interlude of the little book and the two witnesses is over and John is returned to the revelation of the "woes." The second: Grk. dueteros, whether second in a series or as a temporal reference, here the former. woe: Grk. ouai, which may be used as (1) an interj. expressing sense of profound grief, especially in the face of impending disaster; woe, alas; or (2) a noun with focus on the certainty of assured disaster; woe. The second meaning is intended here. The word conveys the overwhelming emotional impact of such a catastrophe. In the LXX ouai renders six different Hebrew words (hoy, oy, ho, i, and hovah), which may express grief, despair, lamentation, dissatisfaction, pain, or a threat (DNTT 3:1051).
The pronouncement of woe occurs especially in the Hebrew prophets in branding the consequences for sinful behavior in Israel and announcements of judgment on enemies of Israel. has passed: Grk. aperchomai, aor., to be in movement from a position with or without mention of a destination. The verb indicates that in the sequence of trumpets the previous woe of the sixth trumpet has concluded and now is the time for the next. behold: Grk. idou, aor. imp., demonstrative interjection (derived from eidon, "to see"), that arouses the attention of hearers or readers. The Greek verb, like its corresponding Heb. word hinneh (SH-2009, e.g., Gen 1:29), serves to enliven divine monologues and narratives, particularly as a call to closer consideration of something; (you) see, look, behold (BAG). The interjection is equivalent to "look at what's coming!"
the third: Grk. tritos, third, here relating to sequence. woe: Grk. ouai. The third woe refers to the seventh trumpet since its sounding is reported in the next verse. comes: Grk. erchomai, pres. mid., come or arrive, mostly with implication of a position from which action or movement takes place, but it also may focus on the goal for movement. The verb generally depicts physical movement, often in relation to traveling or a journey. The woe is coming from heaven. quickly: Grk. tachus, adv., exhibiting swiftness, with the focus on time. The adverb does not indicate how soon the third woe occurs after the second woe, only that once the trumpet is blown, the woe occurs in a swift manner.
15― And the seventh angel sounded his trumpet; and loud voices happened in heaven, saying, "The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah; and He will reign into the ages of the ages."
And: Grk. kai, conj. the seventh: Grk. hebdomos, adj., an ordinal number from hepta, seven. angel: Grk. angelos, "one sent," a messenger, whether human or heavenly (BAG). In the LXX angelos renders Heb. malak, which means messenger, representative, courier or angel (DNTT 1:101f). The decision to translate malak or angelos as a heavenly or human figure relies primarily on the context. The term in this context is clearly intended to mean a heavenly messenger. There are over a dozen appearances of an angel to humans mentioned in the Tanakh and even more in the Besekh. Angels figure prominently in Scripture as ministering spirits (Mark 1:13; Heb 1:14).
Angels in Scripture are far different from popular assumptions about angels. Angels are not glorified humans that earn status in heaven by doing good works on earth. In Scripture angels have masculine descriptions (Jdg 13:6; Dan 9:21; Mark 16:5; Luke 24:4), contrary to art and media, which sometimes depicts them as female. In addition, only a special group of heavenly beings are mentioned in Scripture as having wings (Ex 37:9; Isa 6:2; Ezek 10:5; Rev 4:8), and these beings may not be angels at all.
Josephus said that the Essenes in particular preserved the names of the angels (Wars, Book II, 8:7). Gabriel (Dan 8:16; 9:21; Luke 1:19, 26) and Michael (Dan 10:13, 21; Rev 12:7) are included in a list of seven archangels, called the "angels of the presence" in 1Enoch 9:1. The remaining five archangels are Uri'el, Rapha'el, Ragu'el, Saraka'el, and Remi'el. Each archangel is assigned a special function that either serves God or His people Israel (1Enoch 20:1-7; 40:1-9). This angel seen by John is one of seven first introduced in 8:2 that sound the seven trumpets of judgment and pour out the seven bowls of God's wrath (Rev 15:7). These seven angels may well be the seven archangels named by Enoch.
sounded his trumpet: Grk. salpizō, aor., blow a trumpet. In the LXX salpizō renders Heb. taqa (SH-8628), blow, blast, first in Numbers 10:3 of blowing the silver trumpets (Heb. chatsotsrah; Grk. salpigx) for assembly, but were also used in temple celebrations and rituals (1Chr 13:8; 15:24; 16:6; 2Chr 5:12; 13:12ff; 15:14). The verb is also used in the LXX for the blowing of the shofar (made from a ram's horn), first in Joshua 6:4 and frequently thereafter in the Tanakh. The CJB and OJB use the word shofar as the instrument of blowing in this verse. The all-important seventh and final trumpet pronounces the third woe on the beast's kingdom and brings to fruition all of God's plans for salvation and justice.
and: Grk. kai. loud: Grk. megas, adj., lit. "great." See verse 8 above. voices: pl. of Grk. phōnē. See verse 12 above. happened: Grk. ginomai, aor. mid., lit. "came to be." See verse 12 above. saying: Grk. legō, pres. part. See verse 1 above. The "loud voices," probably angels, make the all important declaration of God's kingdom. The kingdom: Grk. basileia may mean (1) as abstract 'act of ruling' and thus 'kingship, royal power, royal rule, or kingdom; (2) a territory ruled over by a king; kingdom; or (3) the royal reign of God or kingdom of God as a chiefly eschatological concept (BAG). In the LXX basileia renders Hebrew noun derivatives of the verb malak (SH-4427, become a king; reign) (DNTT 2:373).
The hope that God would establish his reign as King over all the earth, with all idolatry banished, is expressed frequently in Scripture (e.g., Ex 15:18; Ps 22:28; 29:10; 93-99; 103:19; 145:10-13; Isa 34:23; 52:7; Dan 2:44; 4:3; 7:27; Micah 4:7; and Zech 14:9). Ancient Jewish prayer liturgy, such as Aleinu and Kaddish, include the petition "may God establish His Kingdom speedily." It was even laid down by the Sages that no blessing would be effective without reference to the Kingdom (Berachot 12a).
of the world: Grk. kosmos has a variety of uses in the Besekh and other Jewish literature, including (1) the orderly universe; (2) the earth as the place of habitation; (3) the world as mankind, sometimes in reference to a segment of population; (4) the world as the scene of earthly joys, possessions, cares and sufferings; and (5) representative of people and values opposed to God (BAG). In the LXX kosmos occurs five times for Heb. tsaba, the "hosts of heaven and earth," i.e., the stars (Gen 2:1; Deut 4:19). The second and fifth meanings combined would apply here. has become: Grk. ginomai, aor. mid. See verse 13 above.
The verb "has become" points to the time when the kingdom of the world will be supplanted by the reign of the Messiah as foreshadowed in the promise to the Psalmist, "Ask of Me, and I will surely give the nations as Your inheritance, and the very ends of the earth as your possession" (Ps 2:8 NASB). The fulfillment of the petition "Your kingdom come" in the Lord’s Prayer (Matt 6:10) is such a certainty that the change to come is described here with the aorist tense, which describes the event as completed. Between these verses and Chapter Nineteen are the various judgments and other events associated with the overthrow of the wicked world system and the inauguration of the Messiah’s reign. This is why essentially the same cry is heard again in 19:6 (Stern).
the kingdom: Grk. ho, definite article. Basileia is not repeated, but the definite article stands in for the noun. of our: Grk. hēmeis, pl. pronoun of the first person. The plural pronoun refers to the seven archangels. Lord: Grk. kurios. See verse 4 above. and: Grk. kai. of His: Grk. autos, personal pronoun. The pronoun refers to God the Father, but possibly John. Messiah: Grk. Christos, the expected fulfiller of the hopes of Israel for an end-time deliverer, the Messiah. The English "Christ" transliterates the Greek title, but does not translate it.
In Greek culture christos comes from chriein, to rub lightly, and in its secular use had no religious connotation at all. Christos as an adjective described someone smeared with whitewash, cosmetics or paint, and was anything but an expression of honor. As a personal reference it even tended toward the disrespectful (DNTT 2:334). Jewish translators of the LXX chose Christos to render Heb. Mashiach (SH-4899), anointed, Anointed One, and in so doing infused new meaning into the Greek word. Mashiach is used in the Tanakh for the Messiah (Ps 2:2; Dan 9:25-26) and this usage defined the term among Jews in the first century.
and: Grk. kai. He will reign: Grk. basileuō, fut., to possess regal authority, to reign as king, i.e. exercise dominion (HELPS). John conveys the same thought as Paul in 1Corinthians 15:24-28 that Yeshua will subdue all His enemies and present the kingdom to His Father for Him to rule. God the Father holds no symbolic position such as a modern monarch, but is the undisputed Head of State. In the first century Caligula, Nero and Domitian all used the title "Lord," but Nero especially referred to himself as the "Lord of all the World" (DNTT, II, 511). In reality the kingdom of this world then and now is presided over by the god of this world (1Jn 5:19; cf. Matt 4:8f).
into: Grk. eis, prep. See verse 6 above. the ages: pl. of Grk. aiōn may mean (1) a long period of time and in reference to the future a period with no apparent end; eternity; or (2) a segment of extended time determined by qualifiers as present or future; age. In the LXX aiōn renders Heb. olam (SH-5769; BDB 761), "a long duration, antiquity or futurity," first in Genesis 3:22 (DNTT 3:827). In the Tanakh olam is used for ancient time (Gen 49:26), and indefinite futurity (Gen 9:12; Deut 15:17), but more often to the everlasting nature of God (Gen 21:33), His laws (Ps 119:89), His promises (Isa 40:8) and His covenant (Gen 9:16; 17:7; Ex 31:16; 2Sam 23:5). Lastly, olam encompasses existence after death and into eternity (Ps 90:2; Isa 45:17; Dan 12:2-3). The great majority of Bible versions render the plural noun as "forever."
Relevant to understanding this passage is that Yeshua and the apostles used aiōn to speak of two specific ages – the present age (Matt 12:32; 28:20; Mark 10:30; 1Cor 1:20; 2:6, 8; 3:18; 2Cor 4:4; Rom 12:2; Gal 1:4; Eph 1:21; 1Tim 6:17; 2Tim 4:10; Titus 2:12) and the age to come (Matt 12:32; Mark 10:30; Heb 6:5). In literal terms an "age" might be considered a thousand years (cf. Ps 90:4; 2Pet 3:8; Rev 20:2-7). The Talmud says, "The world will exist for six thousand years, then for one thousand years it will be desolate" (Sanhedrin 97a).
In the same source another Rabbi taught, "The world is to exist six thousand years. In the first two thousand there was desolation; two thousand years the Torah flourished; and the next two thousand years is the Messianic era." Biblical history can be divided into four "ages" of a thousand years: (1) Adam to Noah, (2) Noah to Abraham, (3) Abraham to Samuel, and (4) Samuel to Yeshua. Paul alluded to this biblical history when he said, "Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come" (1Cor 10:11 NASB). Paul also said that the mystery of Messiah was hidden for the ages of the past so that it might be finally be revealed to the apostles (Eph 3:8-10).
The prepositional phrase "into the ages" is a compound expression meaning the ages that follow the present age, beginning with the age to come (Heb. olam habah), the Messianic Age of the millennial reign. of the ages: pl. of Grk. aiōn. The expression "ages of the ages" occurs 14 times in Revelation (also 1:6, 18; 4:9, 10; 5:13; 7:12; 10:6; 14:11; 15:7; 19:3; 20:10; 22:5). Bible versions translate the phrase as "forever and ever" in order to convey that from the time Yeshua's kingdom is finally installed there will be no end. Paul also speaks of the ages to come:
"God raised us up with the Messiah Yeshua and seated us with him in heaven, 7 in order to exhibit in the ages to come how infinitely rich is his grace, how great is his kindness toward us who are united with the Messiah Yeshua." (Eph 2:6-7 CJB).
In Hebrews Paul uses the expression "into the ages" of the coming reign of Messiah Yeshua as a priest-king after the order of Melchizedek (Heb 5:6; 6:20; 7:17, 21, 24). In addition, Paul uses the same Greek phrase "into the ages of ages" two times:
"But to the Son He says, "Your throne, O God, is into the ages of the ages, and the rod of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom." (Heb 1:8 mine)
"The Lord shall rescue me from every evil deed, and shall preserve me into his heavenly kingdom; to whom be the glory into the ages of the ages. Amen." (2Tim 4:18 mine)
Unlike individual human governments whose longevity can be measured at most in the hundreds of years, the Messiah's kingdom will have no end. The fact that the millennial kingdom of the Messiah is not mentioned does not mean that it is not included (Johnson). After all, once begun the reign of the Messiah will never cease.
The seventh trumpet’s announcement that God's kingdom has come is the most foreboding from the standpoint of people in the world because it unleashes unimaginable terrors on those who have followed the beast. All world governments and institutional structures, whether education, science, commerce, military, media, health, etc., are part of that one world system. Of course, the Kingdom cannot begin without the gathering of God's people. Yeshua explained the simple plan: "And then He will send forth the angels, and will gather together His elect from the four winds, from the farthest end of the earth to the farthest end of heaven" (Mark 13:27 NASB). The gathering and resurrection of God's people (1Th 4:16) will be initiated with a "great" trumpet (Matt 24:31).
Yeshua was very clear that all of these highly dramatic events, which are the precursor to establishing His reign on the earth, occur after the great tribulation. Paul added an important detail by saying that the resurrection occurs at the "last trumpet" (1Cor 15:52), which can only mean that there is more than one trumpet connected with end-time events. Since Revelation is the only apostolic book that identifies more than one trumpet related to end of the age events, then special attention should be given to the last trumpet of Revelation, a trumpet that signals the beginning of the Lord's reign.
16― And the twenty-four elders, sitting upon their thrones before God, fell upon their faces and worshiped God,
And: Grk. kai, conj. the twenty: Grk. eikosi, the number twenty. four: Grk. tessares, the number four. elders: pl. of Grk. presbuteros may mean (1) ranked as superior in age, older, older one; or (2) ranked in terms of official responsibility, elder(s). The second meaning applies here, but the first meaning cannot be excluded. In the LXX presbuteros renders Heb. zaqen (SH-2205; BDB 278), old, aged; and in the plural "elders," first in Exodus 19:7 to identify the leaders of Israel. sitting: Grk. kathēmai, pres. mid. part., be at rest on the haunches, to sit down or to take a seat. upon: Grk. epi, prep. their: pl. of Grk. autos, personal pronoun. thrones: pl. of Grk. thronos refers to a throne or chair upon which a king sits.
Ancient thrones typically had a high back-rest and arm-rests and sometimes with a foot-stool. The throne was the official place from which the king exercised his power, authority and judgment. The term is often used figuratively in Scripture of sovereignty or dominion (DNTT 2:611-615). These angelic elders probably supervise the thousands of angels in heaven, which suggests there are 24 divisions of angels just as there were 24 divisions of priests serving the Jerusalem Temple (1Chr 23:6; 24:7–18). John first saw the twenty-four elders in 4:4. On that occasion the heavenly elders were wearing white clothes with golden crowns on their heads. As in John’s previous experience, the elders immediately fall down or prostrate themselves before the throne of God to express their praise.
The descriptions of the appearance and activities of the elders indicate they are celestial beings rather than humans. There is no need to attribute symbolic meaning to the elders In Scripture God is sometimes pictured surrounded by a council of heavenly beings, "A God greatly feared in the council of the holy ones, and awesome above all those who are around Him" (cf. 1Kgs 22:19; Isa 24:23). White garments are the clothing of all the residents of heaven, including angels (15:6; 19:14; cf. John 20:12; Acts 1:10). God's people are not seen in Revelation wearing crowns, even though a crown is promised (2:10). The crown for disciples appears to be awarded after the resurrection. Every time John sees the elders they fall down on their faces in adoration of and reverence for the Creator (4:10; 5:8, 14; 7:11; 11:16; 19:4). Those identified as disciples are always seen as standing (7:9; 14:1; 15:2; cf. 6:9).
before: Grk. enōpion, adv. See verse 4 above. God: Grk. theos. See verse 1 above. fell prostrate: Grk. piptō, aor. See verse 13 above. This was a change of positions from sitting to bowing low. upon: Grk. epi. their: pl. of Grk. autos. faces: pl. of Grk. prosōpon is used to mean (1) the face, by which someone is identified; (2) the countenance or visage projected by someone; and (3) a personal presence or the act of appearing before someone. The first meaning is intended here. and: Gr. kai. worshiped: Grk. proskuneō, aor., to bow down, to worship, do obeisance to, prostrate oneself before, do reverence to or welcome respectfully. In the LXX proskuneō translates several different Hebrew words, with the basic meaning to bend down, stoop or bow, but principally shachah (SH-7812), to bow down or prostrate oneself (DNTT 2:876f). God: Grk. theos. The two mentions of "God" probably allude to the One seated on the throne surrounded by a rainbow (Rev 4:3).
17― saying, "We give thanks to You, Lord, God Almighty, the One who is and the One who was, because You have taken Your great power and reigned.
saying: Grk. legō, pres. part. See verse 1 above. We give thanks: Grk. eucharisteō, pres., 1p-pl., to thank or to give thanks. God is explicitly the recipient of the thanksgiving. The verb occurs not at all in the LXX of the Tanakh, but is found six times in the Jewish Apocrypha (DNTT 3:818). The verb eucharisteō occurs 38 times in the Besekh in a variety of contexts in relation to something that has been received (cf. Ps 100:4; Php 4:6; 1Tim 2:1; Rev 7:12). to You: Grk. su, sing. pronoun of the second person. Lord: Grk. kurios, voc. case. See verse 4 above. God: Grk. theos. See verse 1 above. On one occasion Domitian began a letter, which his procurators were to circulate, with the words, "Our Lord God instructs you to do this!" and "Lord God" became his regular title both in writing and conversation (Suetonius 12:13). However, Domitian no doubt realized the truth too late after his death. Almighty: Grk. pantokratōr, mighty ruler of all. The term denotes unrestricted power exercising absolute dominion (HELPS). The word is not found in Greek literature before the LXX (DNTT 3:717).
In the LXX pantokratōr translates Heb. Tzva'ot (SH-6635), first in 2Sam 5:10 in the divine name Elohim Tzva'ot, and then primarily in the divine name YHVH-Tzva'ot, first in 2Sam 7:8. The name ho theos ho pantokratōr in this verse renders the Hebrew name Elohim Tzva'ot, God of Hosts (e.g., Ps 80:4, 7, 14, 19; Jer 3:19; 5:14; Hos 12:5; Amos 3:13). The divine name "LORD/God of Hosts" appears often in passages concerning divine judgment or deliverance. He is the mightiest warrior in the universe and commands an army without equal. The God of Hosts is the God of Israel (2Sam 7:27), and as such always acts on behalf of Israel and the house of David.
The Tanakh only provides hints as to the strength in numbers and combat power of the angels of heaven (Ps 68:17; 78:49; 91:11; 103:20; 148:2; Dan 7:10). The Besekh has more specific data. Yeshua said that he had more than twelve legions (72,000) of angels at his immediate disposal (Matt 26:53). John the apostle witnessed one hundred one million angels in heaven (Rev 5:11), although some scholars interpret the count as just hyperbole for an innumerable host. However, if they couldn't be counted as the great multitude in Rev 7:9, then John would have said so. The number of angels in heaven was revealed to John, although this may not be the total number of angels in existence. When Yeshua returns he will send his angels to gather all his followers from around the earth (Matt 24:31; Mark 13:27).
the One: Grk. ho, definite article, but used here as demonstrative pronoun. who is: Grk. eimi, pres. part. See verse 4 above. and: Grk. kai. the One: Grk. ho. who was: Grk. eimi, impf. In 1:4, 1:8 and 4:8 God is described as "who is, who was, and who is to come." Here the elders leave out the third part, because that which was to come has come. because: Grk. hoti, conj. See verse 2 above. You took: Grk. lambanō, perf., to actively lay hold of, to take or receive. The verb normally represents the transfer of something from one person to another, but there was no one from whom God would take. In this context the verb has the effective meaning of "exercised," or "put into action." The perfect tense denote action completed in the past with continuing results in the present. Most all versions translate the verb as "have taken," but the MSG has "took."
Your: Grk. su. great: Grk. megas, adj. See verse 8 above. power: Grk. dunamis, having ability to perform something; power, might. In the LXX dunamis was used to translate Hebrew words that referred to military forces or the power of a ruler (DNTT 2:602). God is someone who cannot be defeated. and: Grk. kai. reigned: Grk. basileuō, aor. See verse 15 above. Ladd believes that the verb could be an ingressive use of the aorist, which places the emphasis upon the origin of an action with little emphasis upon the time of the act. Thus many versions translate the verb as "have begun to reign." However, the entire description points far back in history. The elders are not saying "you have just now begun to reign." The God who "was" has reigned over His creation since the beginning, even though humans may doubt the reality because of present circumstances.
18― "And the nations were angered, and Your wrath came, and the time of the dead to be judged, and to give the reward to Your servants the prophets and to the holy ones and those fearing Your name, the small and the great, and to destroy those who are destroying the earth."
And: Grk. kai, conj. the nations: pl. of Grk. ethnos. See verse 2 above. The plural noun is used here in a pejorative sense of nations and their institutions diametrically opposed to the rule of God. were angered: Grk. orgizō, aor. pass., be provoked to anger, be angry. The verb reflects a settled disposition. After honoring the great God the elders offer the same revelation given to David.
"1 Why are the nations in an uproar, and the peoples mutter vanity? 2 The kings of earth set themselves up and rulers conspire together against ADONAI and against His Anointed One" (Ps 2:1-2 TLV)
Since creation Satan has incited the nations into rebellion and a continuing war against the God of Israel. and: Grk. kai. Your: Grk. su, pronoun of the first person, here of God. wrath: Grk. orgē means anger, indignation or wrath. In the Besekh orgē, occurring 36 times, is used of human anger (Eph 4:31; 1Tim 2:8; Jas 1:19-20), but primarily divine wrath at the end of the age (Matt 3:7; Rom 2:5; Eph 2:3; 1Th 1:10; Heb 3:11; Rev 6:16). In the LXX orgē is used to translate eight different Hebrew words for anger (DNTT 1:108). Most frequently orgē renders Heb. aph, nostril, nose, face, anger, first in Genesis 27:45 of Esau's anger at Jacob. came: Grk. erchomai, aor. See verse 14 above. The prophecy anticipates God's action and the aorist tense of the verb describes it from the point of view of completion.
and: Grk. kai. the time: Grk. kairos may refer to (1) an appropriate or set temporal segment of time; or (2) a period, definite or approximate, in which an event takes place; time, period. The first meaning applies here. In the LXX kairos translates five different Hebrew words, primarily Heb. eth (SH-6256), 'time,' of an event or an appointed time (first in Gen 18:10) (DNTT 3:835). The breadth of usage in the LXX indicates the versatility of the word. of the dead: Grk. nekros, adj., without life in the physical sense; dead. to be judged: Grk. krinō, aor. pass. inf., to subject to scrutiny and evaluation of behavior, to judge, whether in a personal, congregational or legal context. In the LXX krinō is used mainly to translate three different Heb. words: din, rib and shaphat, all associated with a legal context (DNTT 2:363).
and: Grk. kai. to give: Grk. didōmi, aor. inf. See verse 1 above. the reward: Grk. misthos, reciprocation for performance and may refer to (1) payment for labor according to agreement; pay, wages (John 4:36; Jas 5:4); or (2) reward bestowed for exemplary or sacrificial service; reward, recompense (Matt 5:12; 6:4). The second usage applies here. Retribution and reward are treated as concurrent actions, which are accomplished by Yeshua at his Second Coming (2Cor 5:10). Both actions are illustrated in the "gathering" parables of field, fish and flock where the good and bad are taken at the same time – the parable of the wheat and chaff winnowing (Matt 4:12), the parable of the wheat and tare harvest (Matt 13:24-30), the parable of the dragnet of fish (Matt 13:47-50), and the parable of the judgment of sheep and goats (Matt 25:31-46).
The beneficiaries of God's reward are described in five categories, which indicate that the redeemed, while differentiated, have the same qualities. to Your: Grk. su. servants: pl. of Grk. doulos can mean either slave or servant, and in Greek and Roman culture viewed as owned property totally and unquestioningly at the behest of the owner. In the LXX doulos translates the Heb. ebed, which did include the meaning of doulos but with a much broader application. In the Tanakh ebed is especially used of household servants, those who worked for the King, and those who served God, especially service in the temple (DNTT 3:593). In the Besekh the apostles and other faithful disciples are identified as servants of the Lord (Acts 4:29; Rom 1:1; 1Cor 3:5: 2Cor 4:5; Php 1:1; Col 1:7; 4:7; Jas 1:1; 2Pet 1:1; Jude 1:1; Rev 1:1).
the prophets: pl. of Grk. prophētēs. See verse 10 above. The plural noun may be a further description of "servants" or stand alone as a separate category. In this chapter the two witnesses are identified as prophets. The "prophets" could include the Hebrew prophets who authored the Tanakh (cf. Eph 2:20), followers of Yeshua endowed with the spiritual gift of prophesying (1Cor 14:1-3) and those called by God to offer significant prophecy for the edification of Yeshua's followers (Acts 13:1; 15:32; 21:10; 1Cor 12:10, 28).
and: Grk. kai. to the holy ones: pl. of Grk. hagios (for Heb. qedoshim). See verse 2 above. The plural noun is used as a substantive for those set apart for service to God. The term "holy ones" originated when God called Israel to be a people consecrated to worship and obey Him. The term succeeds in having a corporate meaning as well as an individual meaning. The term is used in the Tanakh and other Jewish writings for the people of God (Deut 7:6; 1Sam 2:9; Ps 16:3; 34:9; 97:10; 135:4; Isa 41:8-9; Dan 7:18, 21-22, 25, 27; 8:24; 1Enoch 58:1-3; 103:1; 1Macc 1:46; Tobit 12:15). The "holy ones" are those who are wholly His and who seek to live by Torah standards of righteousness (Rev 19:8). The holy ones are also devoted to prayer (5:8; 8:4) and manifest faithfulness (13:10).
and: Grk. kai. those: pl. of Grk. ho, definite article, but used here as a relative pronoun. fearing: Grk. phobeō, pres. mid. part., to fear. The verb has two basic meanings that are opposite: (1) to be in a state of apprehension, with emotions ranging from anxiety to terror; and (2) to have special respect or reverence for, i.e., deep respect. The second meaning applies here. Your: Grk. su. name: Grk. onoma. See verse 13 above. "Those fearing the Lord" understand the gravity of Yeshua's words, "Do not be afraid of those who kill the body…. …fear the one who after He has killed has authority to cast into hell" (Luke 12:4, 5 NASB).
Solomon says in Proverbs 8:13 that "the fear of the Lord is to hate evil," that is, the right fear of the Lord drives followers of Yeshua to have the same attitude toward evil that God has. But, how does hating evil express a fear of the Lord? It does so in two ways: first, considering God's hatred of sin the disciples don't want to offend His holiness and force Him to judge them with wrath, and, second, considering His love for lost and dying people, disciples would never want to disappoint and grieve God after He has done so much to provide salvation for them. The fear of the Lord keeps the disciple from treating God lightly or assuming that he can violate God's commandments with impunity.
the small: Grk. mikros, adj., relatively limited in extent, used (1) of persons as a measure of physical height, age and social position relative to importance, influence or power; (2) of things whether in size, number, significance or time; and (3) as a substantive to mean a short time, a little while (BAG). The first usage is intended here. In the LXX mikros (in its neuter form mikron) appears about 190 times to translate a variety of concepts of which Heb. qatan (SH-6996), small, young, unimportant (first in Gen 19:11) is frequent (DNTT 2:428).
and: Grk. kai. the great: Grk. megas, adj. See verse 8 above. The phrase "the small and the great" is a Hebrew idiomatic expression for the "young and old" (BAG 498; Ladd). Josephus uses the same expression in describing masters of slaves (Ant. XII, 4:8). The phrase also occurs at 13:16, 19:5, 18 and 20:12. and: Grk. kai. to destroy: Grk. diaphtheirō, aor. inf., cause destruction, and is used variously to mean ruin (Luke 12:33), wear out (2Cor 4:16), or wreck (Rev 8:9), and in an extended sense moral ruination (1Tim 6:5).
those: pl. of Grk. ho, definite article, but used here as a relative pronoun. destroying: Grk. diaphtheirō, pres. part. The verb is used here in the sense of "kill" (Thayer). The clause "destroy those destroying" constitutes a word play to describe the proportional punishment mandated in the Torah. God's standard for punishing crimes has always been an "eye for an eye," which means that the offender is to be punished to the same degree, but not more, than the offense. Man's so-called justice has tended to punish too little, too much or not at all.
the earth: Grk. gē. See verse 4 above. Morris believes that the judgment is in response to man’s failure to exercise the stewardship of dominion over the earth (Gen 1:28). Instead of caring for the earth, man, through wars and greed, has devastated forests, scorched lands, polluted waters and air, allowed overgrazing, marred the landscape with open pit mines and killed many animals merely for sport. The phrase "destroy the earth" should not be taken literalistically since man does not have the power to destroy the planet in any permanent sense as God who will obliterate the present earth to create the new earth (21:1). All of the harm done by man to the earth's resources amounts to only a fraction of the devastations wrought by natural calamities. Yet, the earth's physical processes cleanse and rejuvenate the planet. The population of the earth continues to flourish and life expectancy and the quality of life is far better than the first century.
A second interpretation would view the "destroying" activity of man in a moral sense, as expressed by Isaiah, "The earth is also polluted by its inhabitants, for they transgressed laws, violated statutes, broke the everlasting covenant" (Isa 24:5). Human society has been corrupt from the time of Adam's fall with the worst sins condemned by the Torah as "abominations" manifested in every nation (Rom 1:18-32). Because of this wickedness Isaiah 24 depicts cataclysmic destruction befalling the earth incredibly parallel to the plague of the seventh trumpet.
A third interpretation may be derived by translating "earth" as "land," meaning the Land of Israel. The Lord set aside Canaan from the beginning for Abraham and his descendants through Isaac and Jacob (Gen 17:8, 21:12; 26:3; 28:13-15; Ex 6:8), but over the centuries the land of Israel has been ravaged many times, its rightful owners dispossessed and its resources plundered and pillaged. Of course, the affliction of the Jewish people and their land has sometimes been the result of their own rebellion, but the Lord has punished every nation that ever made itself Israel's enemy (cf. Gen 12:3). And, in the last days God will fulfill the promise to Zechariah, "And in that day I will set about to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem" (Zech 12:9; cf. Isa 49:25f). It could be that all three interpretations are appropriate to the context of the seventh trumpet.
19― And the sanctuary of God in Heaven was opened; and the ark of His covenant was seen in His sanctuary, and there came flashes of lightning and voices and peals of thunder and a shaking and a great hailstorm.
And: Grk. kai, conj. the sanctuary: Grk. naos. See verse 1 above. of God: Grk. theos. See verse 1 above. in: Grk. en, prep., "within" or "inside." Heaven: Grk. ouranos. See verse 6 above. The location refers to site of God's throne and home of the angels. was opened: Grk. anoigō, aor. pass., to open, frequently used of doors. Incredible things happen in heaven at the sound of the seventh trumpet. The "sanctuary of God" mentioned here is identified as being in Heaven in contrast to the temple of God in verse 1 above. Some have taken the mention of this temple as symbolic, since the New Jerusalem contains no temple (21:22).
However, the Holy City, New Jerusalem, is distinguished in Revelation from Heaven as a location, and indeed the New Jerusalem is described as coming down out of Heaven (21:2). The Holy City in its entirety is a temple because of being the residence of the Lamb of God. The sanctuary in heaven is no doubt the pattern for the Holy Place and Holy of Holies constructed in the Tabernacle and then the Temple built by Solomon based on divinely provided architectural plans (cf. Ex 25:9; Num 8:4; 1Chr 28:11, 19). John would never have been allowed inside the Holy Place of the earthly temple, but he is invited to view the original design.
and: Grk. kai. the ark: Grk. kibōtos, a box, used here of a chest with religious significance. In the LXX kibōtos renders Heb. a'ron (SH-727), the chest or ark of the covenant, originally constructed for use in the Holy Place of the Tabernacle (Ex 25:10). The ark was made of acacia wood overlaid with gold. The cover of the ark, called "mercy seat" had the figures of two cherubim, representative of the living creatures who stand next to the throne (Isa 6:2; Rev 4:8). The ark contained three important and sacred objects (Heb 9:4): (1) the jar of manna preserved as a continual reminder of God's provision (Ex 16:33-34), (2) the two tablets of stone engraved by the finger of God (Ex 25:16), and (3) Aaron's rod that blossomed (Num 17:10).
of His: Grk. autos, personal pronoun. covenant: Grk. diathēkē, a set-agreement having complete terms determined by the initiating party, which also are fully affirmed by the one entering the agreement (HELPS). Thayer explains that the term is used to mean (1) the last disposal which one makes of earthly possessions after death, as in "last will and testament" (e.g., Gal 3:15; Heb 9:16-17); or (2) a compact initiated by God with ones He chose for a close relationship and which makes certain absolute promises to the human parties (Eph 2:12; Heb 7:22 and often). The second meaning applies here. In the LXX diathēkē translates Heb. b'rit (SH-1285), pact, compact, or covenant, first in Genesis 6:18 (DNTT 1:365).
God made a covenant with several different men (Adam, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Aaron and David), but the covenant mentioned here was with the nation of Israel. For a detailed discussion of all these covenants see my web article The Everlasting Covenants. It may seem strange that the Jewish translators of the LXX chose to use diathēkē, which in Greek culture normally meant a last will and testament and by definition requires the death of the author to make it effective. They might have chosen to use sunthēkē, which only means an agreement and in the case of the divine-human covenants God obviously cannot die. However, parallels can be noted between a divine covenant and a testament.
• Like a testament God made His covenant with Israel unilaterally and God alone set the terms. There was no negotiation to reach a mutually agreeable result. In this sense the divine covenant is one-sided.
• Like a testament God's covenant with Israel is the expression of His will concerning His property (His people). After all, the concept of being "holy to ADONAI" (Ex 19:6) means to be His property.
• Like a testament God's covenant provides an inheritance for His people and instructions for distribution of that inheritance. By God's covenant the land formerly known as Canaan belongs to the nation of Israel in its entirety.
• Like a testament which requires a judicial act to enforce its terms, God acts as judge to enforce the terms of His covenant.
was seen: Grk. horaō, aor. pass., to perceive physically with the eye, or in a fig. sense to experience something or to have extraordinary mental or inward perception. The verb denotes a personal experience. in: Grk. en. His: Grk. autos. sanctuary: Grk. naos. With the temple open John notices the ark, which has always represented God’s abiding holy presence and His "covenant" or loving relationship with Israel. When the Babylonians conquered Jerusalem they carried off everything in the temple (2Kgs 25:13-20; 2Chr 36:18). But, the ark was not on the list of things taken by the Babylonians or returned by Cyrus when the temple vessels were restored (Ezra 1:1-11). There is a Jewish tradition that Jeremiah secretly removed the ark when he was allowed to leave and then hid it in a cave (2Macc 2:4-8).
In the last several years there has been considerable controversy over the supposed "discovery" of the ark in Jerusalem and a number of websites have sprung up on the Internet discussing and debating the issue. The solution would seem to be in this verse. God revealed to John its current location and it is safely kept in heaven. It will no doubt be returned to the restored temple of the millennial reign of the Messiah. Another alternative would be that the ark in heaven is the original and not the copy produced by Moses and the copy was burned when the Babylonians destroyed the temple.
and: Grk. kai. there came: Grk. ginomai, aor. mid. See verse x above. flashes of lightning: pl. of Grk. astrapē, a stream of light or lightning, and in the Besekh generally means atmospheric lightning (Matt 24:27), but John also saw flashes of lightning come out of God's throne (Rev 4:5). and: Grk. kai. voices: pl. of Grk. phōnē. See verse 12 above. A few versions have "sounds." John offers no further information on the source or nature of the voices, whether human or angelic. and: Grk. kai. peals of thunder: pl. of Grk. brontē, thunder or a crash of thunder and refers to the thunder common to storms on earth. and: Grk. kai. a shaking: Grk. seismos. See verse 13 above.
and: Grk. kai. a great: Grk. megas, adj. See verse 8 above. Some versions render the noun as "heavy." hail: Grk. chalaza, hail. A number of modern versions have "hailstorm." The appearance of the ark of His covenant in heaven results in startling effects, presumptively on earth. When John first arrived in heaven he was greeted with lightning, sounds and thunder proceeding from the throne (cf. 4:5), but now earthquake and hailstorm would likely remind John of when an angel threw a censer of fire to the earth (cf. 8:5). These disturbances in the meteorological and tectonic systems often occur together with devastating results. The "voices" probably represent the lamentations of people on the earth experiencing these catastrophes.
BAG: Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. trans. W.F. Arndt & F.W. Gingrich. The University of Chicago Press, 1957.
BDB: The New Brown, Driver, Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon. Oxford University Press, 1907. Reprinted by Associated Publishers and Authors, Inc., 1981. Online.
Baron: David Baron, Zechariah: A Commentary on His Vision and Prophecies. Kregel Publications, 1918.
Brickner: David Brickner, Future Hope. Purple Pomegranate Productions, 1999.
Danker: Frederick William Danker, The Concise Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament. The University of Chicago Press, 2009.
DM: Dana and Mantey, A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament. The Macmillan Company, 1955.
DNTT: Dictionary of New Testament Theology, 3 Vols. Colin Brown, ed. Zondervan Publishing House, 1975.
DSB: Henry Morris, Defenders Study Bible. World Publishing Co., 1995.
Earle: Ralph Earle, The Book of The Revelation. Beacon Bible Commentary, Vol. X. Beacon Hill Press of Kansas City, 1967.
Edersheim: Alfred Edersheim, The Temple-Its Ministry and Services, Updated Edition. Hendrickson Publishers, 1994. Online.
Gundry: Bob Gundry, First the Antichrist. Baker Books, 1997.
HELPS: The Discovery Bible New Testament: HELPS Word Studies. eds. Gleason L. Archer and Gary Hill. Moody Press, 1987, 2011. (Online at BibleHub.com)
Johnson: Alan F. Johnson, Revelation. Expositor’s Bible Commentary. Zondervan Publishing House, 1983. (Zondervan CD-ROM Version 2.6, 1989-1998)
Juster: Daniel Juster, Revelation: The Passover Key. Destiny Image Publishers, 1991.
Ladd: George E. Ladd, A Commentary on the Revelation of John. William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1972.
Marshall: Alfred Marshall, NASB-NIV Parallel New Testament in Greek and English. Zondervan Pub. House, 1986.
Morris: Henry M. Morris, The Revelation Record. Tyndale House Publishers, 1987.
Mounce: Robert H. Mounce, The Book of Revelation. rev. ed. New International Commentary on the New Testament. William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1998.
Neil: James Neil, Palestine Explored. James Nisbet & Co., 1882.
Rienecker: Fritz Rienecker, A Linguistic Key to the Greek New Testament. 2 Vols. The Zondervan Corporation, 1980.
Robertson: Archibald Thomas Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament. 6 Vols. Nashville: Broadman Press, 1933. (Parsons CD-ROM Version 2.0, 1997) Online.
Sevener: Harold A. Sevener, God’s Man in Babylon. Chosen People Ministries, 1994.
Stern: David H. Stern, Jewish New Testament Commentary. 5th ed. Jewish New Testament Publications, Inc., 1996.
Thayer: Joseph Henry Thayer (1828-1901), Greek–English Lexicon of the New Testament. Harper Brothers, 1889.
TWOT: Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament. 2 Vols. ed. R. Laird Harris. Moody Bible Institute, 1980.
Wars: Flavius Josephus (c. 37–100 A.D.), Wars of the Jews (Latin De Bello Judaico). trans. William Whiston (1737). Online.
Copyright © 2011-2019 Blaine Robison. All rights reserved.