Second Vision: Trumpets (Part 1): trumpets 1 - 6.
Here in part 2 of the Second Vision, we will cover the interlude describing the Two Witnesses and the 7th Trumpet.
FIRST VISION: SEALSThis same structure follows in the Second Vision of the trumpets:
The reader will recall the above diagram showing the structure of the First Vision, Seals: the first six seals are described, then follows an expository interlude describing the sealing of the 144,000 before the final judgement begins, then the 7th Seal is opened.
A) Symbols 1 through 6.
C) The 7th symbol.
It should be established at the outset that the position espoused here necessarily rejects all notions of these "two witnesses" being literal figures from the Old Testament who somehow return and preach in three different locales at once.
The thesis here, as will be established, maintains that the Two Witnesses are the Gospel and the Church.
Following the sounding of the 6th Trumpet, John sees another vision of a mighty angel and is given instructions:
Then the voice which I heard from heaven spoke to me again and said, "Go, take the little book which is open in the hand of the angel who stands on the sea and on the earth." So I went to the angel and said to him, "Give me the little book." And he said to me, "Take and eat it; and it will make your stomach bitter, but it will be as sweet as honey in your mouth." (Rev. 10:8-9)Here John is instructed to consume God's Word, or to become fully integrated with it, then he is told to prophesy:
And he said to me, "You must prophesy again about many peoples, nations, tongues, and kings."(v. 11)This integrating of God's Word into man, then being called to prophesy is the segue into the Two Witnesses of Chapter 11:
Then I was given a reed like a measuring rod. And the angel stood, saying, “Rise and measure the temple of God, the altar, and those who worship there. But leave out the court which is outside the temple, and do not measure it, for it has been given to the Gentiles. And they will tread the holy city underfoot for forty-two months.The rod and the measuring here are analogous to the sealing in Chapter 7. The Word is the standard by which we will be judged. And again, the 42 months here is symbolic of the entire time of the tribulation, ~2000 years.
The two witnesses will prophesy for the same time period: 1260 days.
And I will give power to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy one thousand two hundred and sixty days, clothed in sackcloth. These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands standing before the God of the earth. (11:3-4)These witnesses are the Gospel and the Church--as demonstrated by John consuming the Word. In Matthew 24, Jesus Christ tells us:
And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come. (v. 14)Two things of note here:
1) This process requires a very long period of time.
2) This process requires two things: the Gospel itself, and people to preach it.
Ergo, the "2" here is also symbolic, for this process requires millions of people. They are two lampstands because they are light:
Your word is a lamp to my feet, And a light to my path. (Psalm 119:105)They are olive tree because they bear [good] fruit:
Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them. (Matt. 7:17-20)And they are "2" because the disciples are sent out in twos:
And He called the twelve to Himself, and began to send them out two by two, and gave them power over unclean spirits. (Mark 6:7)The above verse leads into the next section of Revelation 11; we are told that the twelve are given power over unclean spirits. We have already read that the witnesses are given power in Verse 3, but then beginning in Verse 5 we are shown a list of miraculous feats:
And if anyone wants to harm them, fire proceeds from their mouth and devours their enemies. And if anyone wants to harm them, he must be killed in this manner. These have power to shut heaven, so that no rain falls in the days of their prophecy; and they have power over waters to turn them to blood, and to strike the earth with all plagues, as often as they desire. (11:3-6)What are being described here are not literal powers given to the Church, but rather God's protection of the process of "gospel of the kingdom [being] preached in all the world." We are told repeatedly that there will be trials and tribulations, so what is meant here is not that Christians will not be harmed, but that Satan's power to disrupt the truth has been limited--in a similar manner described in Job:
And the LORD said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your power; only do not lay a hand on his person.”(1:12)Satan was given the power to hurt Job, but not to kill him. It would seem to be the same concerning the Two Witnesses in Chapter 11. This limitation, which will be reiterated in Chapter 12, is but for a designated time; we soon learn:
When they finish their testimony, the beast that ascends out of the bottomless pit will make war against them, overcome them, and kill them. And their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified.After the 1260 days, Satan will be unbound, or the limitation will be removed. This will be restated in Chapter 20. But again, there is a specified time period allotted for this age as there was with the Israelites (Daniel 9).
Then those from the peoples, tribes, tongues, and nations will see their dead bodies three-and-a-half days, and not allow their dead bodies to be put into graves. (11:9)For reasons that we can only speculate on now, the Gospel and Church will somehow be rendered ineffective, or dead.
The 3 1/2 days--a short period mirroring the 3 1/2 years--seems to indicate a period wherein:
A) The Gospel/Church is either persecuted and banned.
B) No longer taken seriously or seen as relevant.
It is the position here that these 3 1/2 days are the equivalent of:
A) The time when the ten horns turn on the harlot. (Rev. 17)
B) The "short season" when Satan is unbound. (Rev. 20)
C) The final 30 days of Daniel's 1290 days. (Daniel 12)
And then the Two Witnesses are removed from the earth; this in conventional terms would be the rapture:
Now after the three-and-a-half days the breath of life from God entered them, and they stood on their feet, and great fear fell on those who saw them. And they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, “Come up here.” And they ascended to heaven in a cloud, and their enemies saw them. In the same hour there was a great earthquake, and a tenth of the city fell. In the earthquake seven thousand people were killed, and the rest were afraid and gave glory to the God of heaven.(vv. 11-13)After God removes his people, His wrath falls upon the Earth; the 7th Trumpet and the final woe:
“We give You thanks, O Lord God Almighty,So, in summary, the basic sequence of events elaborating Matthew 24 would be:
The One who is and who was and who is to come,
Because You have taken Your great power and reigned.
The nations were angry, and Your wrath has come,
And the time of the dead, that they should be judged,
And that You should reward Your servants the prophets and the saints,
And those who fear Your name, small and great,
And should destroy those who destroy the earth.”(vv.17-18)
1) The tribulation begins with the going forth of the Gospel for 1260 days. This begins the period of grace and judgement wherein mankind is called to repentance.
2) Satan is unbound and the hedge of protection is removed from the Church and/or truth. The Two Witnesses have finished their testimony.
3) There is a short period wherein the church is somehow rendered ineffective, obsolete, or dead. It is worth speculating here that this period coincides with the "strong delusion" mentioned by Paul:
[A]nd with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness. (2 Thess. 2:10-12)4) God's people are removed. 1 Corinthians 15:52:
[I]n a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed5) Wrath.