Two Witnesses

Title: Two Witnesses

Bible Book: Revelation 11 : 1-14

Author: Johnny L. Sanders

Subject: Revelation; Witnesses; Tribulation, The Great



On a number of occasions I have promised that I would not answer all your questions about the Book of Revelation. In the first place, I cannot answer all my questions, and in the second place, my purpose is not to simply interpret the mysterious imagery of the final book of the Bible. We have looked at the various approaches to the study of end-time events, we have looked at the letters to the seven churches, we have seen the throne room of God, the great scroll with seven seals, and we have seen the opening of six of the seven trumpets. From 10:1 through 11:14 we have a dramatic and powerful interlude between the sixth and seventh trumpets. That is where we are at this time in this series of messages from Revelation.

You will not need your calendar or your day-planner as we move through this great prophetic Book. There is something you will need, and I will come back to that. First, let me remind you of the excitement generated by the LEFT BEHIND series of novels authored by LeHaye and Jenkins. You bought them, read them, exchanged them, discussed them, and then went to see the movie version. The LEFT BEHIND series generated a lot of interest, some negative, but much of it positive. The good news is that it motivated some people to open their Bibles, go to Church, and seek more information from pastors or others who had studied the Bible. The bad news is that many people are too lazy to seriously study the Bible, so they let someone else do their thinking for them. A number of years ago I heard a Sunday School specialist insist that is all right to have mixed Bible classes for young adults, but if you continue them beyond that husbands will stop studying and leave the Bible study to their wives. If the wife fails, the family suffers the consequences.

By the way, the LEFT BEHIND series was a stroke of marketing genius. It sold millions of copies of the books, made a name for the authors, and had people waiting for their next project. It occurred to me that I might write my own series and call it THE MILLENNIUM. My idea is to publish one book each year for a thousand years! Of course, I have had other ideas that were almost as good.

If you want to understand the message of Revelation, pray, read books, and seek help from those who have studied the Word. Above all, read the Book of Revelation. There is nothing wrong with reading a book review, but why settle for that when you can read the book yourself? I read a lot about Mel Gibson’s THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST, I talked with those who went to see it, and I watched a documentary. Then, I saw the movie. The publicity motivated me to see it, but neither the publicity nor the testimonies meant as much to me as the movie.

Today, we are going to look at the Two Witnesses of Revelation 11. The two witnesses were dramatically and powerfully portrayed in the LEFT BEHIND books and the movie. However, as we begin, let us consider some serious questions.

Question: Will I ever see these two witness?

Answer: Not if you do not go through the Great Tribulation. The Lord will return to rapture His church before the Great Tribulation, so whether you die and go home to be with the Lord, or you are caught up to meet Him in the air at the time of the Rapture, you will not be here.

Question: Why bother reading this if I will not go through it?

Answer: I am glad you asked. I just said that! You read it because it is God’s Word and He expects you to read it. You read it because God loves you and wants you to be blessed through this prophecy.

Question: How am I blessed by reading this?

Answer: Again, I am really glad you asked. God promised you a blessing in 1:3 and God always honors His promise. I cannot fully explain how you will be blessed. In the first place, each believer may be blessed in a manner unique to him or her - or unique to God’s purpose for him or her. Here is what we should all glean from this. God is in control. He has never lost control and He never will. Furthermore, God is never surprised by anything - not by what you and I do, and not by what evil people do. He knows what is going to happen and He is absolutely confident of victory. His victory is your victory. You have been adopted by a King, and you are joint-heirs with Jesus, you will reign with Him. This brings to mind the words of that great hymn, A CHILD OF THE KING:
“I’m a child of the king, a child of the King,
With Jesus my Savior, I’m a child of the King.”

With that assurance, we go to the Book of Revelation, not in fear and doubt, but with the confidence of a child of the King. A small child looks to his earthly father for protection, never understanding the limitations of any earthly father. As children of the King, we look to a Father who can do anything He proposes, anything He promises. With absolute assurance that He is totally in control of our future and that there is victory in Jesus, let us look at the two witnesses in chapter 11.


1) John was given a reed and told to measure the temple, 11:1.

“Then I was given a measuring reed like a rod, with these words: ‘Go and measure God’s sanctuary and the altar, and count those who worship there” (HCSB).

The reed was a hollow, rigid reed which grew in the Jordan Valley. Because of its light weight and rigidity it was often used as a measuring rod, obviously after it was calibrated. When I was a student at Mississippi College I worked summers for the Quitman County, Mississippi Agricultural, Stabilization, and Conservation Department (USDA). We measured fields and plotted them on ariel photographs so that the office crew could run a planimeter around the lines on the map to determine the acreage. Accuracy was the highest priority and demand, so you can imagine the challenge for the lady who stood at the counter trying to help the farmer who had received a noticed that he had over-planted and would have to plow up a five-tenths of an acre of cotton. “But,” the farmer protested, “Last year my field was 68 fishing poles long and this year it is only 74 fishing poles long - and you allotment me one acre more this year than last year.”

I am not sure the man ever understood that we used a 66 foot tape (one chain equals 66 feet) to measure the cotton. One chain times ten chains is equal to one acre. We are not given any information here about the unite of measurement used here, but some unit was calibrated on the reed.

John measured the temple. This would be the Holy Place and the Most Holy Place, not the entire temple complex. To what temple does this refer? There is no temple in Jerusalem today. According to this prophecy there will be a new temple built during the Great Tribulation (this is supported by Daniel 9:27; 12:11; Matt. 24:15; 2 Thes. 2:4). John was also told to measure the altar. This must mean the bronze altar in the courtyard because John was told to count those who worship there, and only the priests could go into the Holy Place.

2) He was told to leave out the courtyard outside the temple, 11:2.

“But exclude the courtyard outside the sanctuary. Don’t measure it, because it is given to the nations, and they will trample the holy city for 42 months.”

a. That courtyard has been given over to the Gentiles.

In Herod’s Temple, the court of the Gentiles was separated from the inner court used by Jewish worshipers by a low wall. The Gentiles could not go beyond that wall of separation - of middle wall of separation. There was a sign on that wall that warned Gentiles if they went beyond they would be stoned to death. Jesus breaks down the middle wall of separation, but there is a division in the rebuilt temple courtyard.

b. The Gentiles will trample the holy city under foot for forty-two months.

The word “trample” carries the idea a little better than the word “tread,’ because to tread can mean to walk. The idea here is one of abuse - excessive abuse. Jerusalem was trampled and oppressed in ancient times by Assyria, Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome. In the Tribulation period it will be trampled by the forces of the Antichrist.

This period in mentioned in Dan 7:25; Dan 12:7.

“It occurs in three forms in the Apocalypse (forty-two months, here and Rev 13:5; 1260 days, Rev 11:3; Rev 12:6; time, times and half a time or 3 1/2 years, Rev 12:14 and so in Daniel). This period, however its length may be construed, covers the duration of the triumph of the Gentiles, of the prophesying of the two witnesses, of the sojourn of the woman in the wilderness” [ATR, Word Pictures in the N T].

What we need to remember is that this denotes the second half of the Tribulation and that is coincides with the evil reign of the Antichrist (12:6; 13:5). During this time Jews will be sheltered in the wilderness by the Lord (12:6, 14)..

3) The two witnesses will prophesy 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth, 11:3

“I will empower my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, dressed in sackcloth.”

a. Two witness will witness with supernatural power during this time.

b. They will come in the power and authority of the Lord.

c. They will deliver a message of judgment and salvation to Israel.

d. They will witness during the second half of the Tribulation (1,260 days)..

4) The two witnesses proclaim the Word and protect the saints, 11:4-6.

“These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth. If anyone wants to harm them, fire comes from their mouths and consumes their enemies; if anyone wants to harm them, he must be killed in this way. These men have the power to close the sky so that it does not rain during the days of their prophecy. They also have power over the waters to turn them into blood, and to strike the earth with any plague whenever they want.”

The imagery here is based on Zechariah 3 and 4, which had an immediate fulfillment and a distant fulfillment. Joshua, the high priest and Zerubbabel, the governor led in the rebuilding of the temple following their return from Babylonian Captivity in 536 B. C. It was dedicated in 516 B.C. This prophecy points to a future temple and to the restoration of Israel in the Millennium.

These two witnesses came in the power and authority of the Lord. Their power is both awesome and extensive. They will not be ignored! “They also have strike the earth with any plague whenever they want.” Their enemies will be destroyed by fire from their mouths (vs. 5).


There are always people who will want to speculate as to the identity of the two witnesses. If it were essential for us to know their identity, the Lord would surely have identified them for us. Some people suggest that they may have been Moses and Elijah, both of whom appeared with the Lord on the Mount of Transfiguration. Both were empowered by the Lord. both were surrounded by the supernatural, and both had a dramatic influence. Moses represented the Law, and Elijah the prophets. We are not told that we should try to identify them.

1) They finished their testimony before harm came to them, 11:7a.

There will be no power on earth that can possibly prevent these two witnesses from accomplishing their assigned task. The Lord will protect them by anointing them with awesome power.

2) The beast out of the bottomless pit made war against them and killed them, 11:7b.

“When they finish their testimony, the beast that comes up out of the abyss will make war with them, conquer them, and kill them” (11:7, HCSB)

This is the first of thirty-six references to this beast in Revelation. He is none other than the Antichrist. Ascending from the bottomless pit is more than an implication that his power is satanic.

3) Their dead bodies will be left unattended in the street, 11:8.

“Their dead bodies will lie in the public square of the great city, which is called, prophetically, Sodom and Egypt, where also their Lord was crucified.”

The two witnesses will be killed and their dead bodies will lie for public view “in the public square of the great city.” Israel is never called Sodom or Egypt in the Old Testament, but at this time it is possible that the evil of Sodom and the oppression of Egypt may make either a fitting metaphor.

4) No one was allowed to bury the two witnesses, 11:9.

“And representatives from the peoples, tribes, languages, and nations will view their bodies for three and a half days and not permit their bodies to be put into a tomb.”

For three-and-a-half days the entire world will be watching, most certainly as the entire word is watching ever major event that happens in the Middle East today through all sorts of satellite hook-ups.

5) The peoples of the world celebrated their deaths, 11:10.

“Those who live on the earth will gloat over them and celebrate and send gifts to one another, because these two prophets tormented those who live on the earth.”

This does not take much imagination. All it takes is a few minutes in front of the television any time anything significant happens in Iraq, Iran, or among the Palestinians. Have you ever wondered how these people live? Where do they work? Any news sends thousands into the streets, marching, shouting, threatening, gesturing intensely, screaming threats against all “infidels.” You may have seen the celebration in the streets of the Palestinian section of the Holy Land and other places when the terrorists attacked America on nine-eleven.


1) After three and a half days God breathed life into their bodies, 11:11.

“But after the three and a half days, the breath of life from God entered them, and they stood on their feet. So great fear fell on those who saw them.”

For three days and a half the forces of evil celebrated the death of the two witnesses, but then God breathed new life into them and they stood of their feet. What happened was so dramatic that “great fear fell on those who saw them.”

The word “fear” appears in the NASB 313 times; in the New Testament, 77 times. Psychologists counsel with people in order to try to eliminate fear but God created us that we have a capacity for fear. Fear can immobilize, fear can cripple, fear can enslave, but fear can preserve, protect, and prevent disaster in one’s life. In other words, fear can be good, or it can be bad. We need to know what to fear and what not to fear.

Repeatedly, in the Bible when there is an encounter with the Lord, or His messenger, the individual, individuals were filled with fear. Fear gripped Zacharias. Fear came upon all who heard the news about Zacharias. Fear gripped them all when Jesus raised the widow’s son at Nain. At the open tomb the guards shook for fear. The women left the tomb with fear and great joy. Often when one knows he is in the presence of the Lord he is admonished, “fear not.”

We live in a day when certain popular preachers seemingly know no fear in the presence of God. They stand in God’s sacred pulpit, in God’s sacred house, on God’s sacred day and entertain His holy people with stories that may well take the name of God in vain (in the sense that His name is used in a casual manner). I watched only a few minutes of one program in which, from what I could gather, the evangelist was telling a large crowd about his visit to heaven. He pranced around in an entertainment mode, making jokes about what he saw and what he heard, and what he thought. The people were laughing. I could not help but think of Isaiah’s vision (Is.6). You remember the story - Isaiah was delivering one-liners while all the people laughed, right? Wrong! Isaiah exclaimed, “Woe is me, for I am undone.”

We live in a day when popular preaching has eliminated sin, the blood of Christ, the Cross, repentance, and hell from the sermon. One lady confidently assured my son, “I really like Brother so and so because he doesn’t preach the Bible. He just tells us how to live.” She was talking about the pastor of a budding mega-church, a man who was highly respected throughout his state. People are perfectly happy listening to someone tell them they should look around see a single parent family and invite them to Thanksgiving dinner. There is nothing wrong with that. But let me lay it on the line: To fail to preach on sin and its consequence, the agony of the Cross, power in the blood, repentance, and eternal punishment in a literal hell, not only for evil people, but also for those who like church but not the Gospel is to fail to preach the Gospel.

My dear lost friend, if you can read the New Testament and never know fear, you are in trouble. My dear saved friend, if you can read the New Testament and not know a healthy, reverential fear of the Lord, you had better repent!

2) Their work finished, they ascended to heaven in a cloud, 11:12.

“Then they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, ““Come up here.”” They went up to heaven in a cloud, while their enemies watched them.”

The Lord breathed new life into the two witnesses, revealed them to the people, and then took them up to heaven in a cloud in the presence of the people.

3) A catastrophic earthquake hit the city, 11:13a.

“At that moment a violent earthquake took place.”

We have already seen God’s use of earthquakes: “I looked when He broke the sixth seal, and there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth made of hair, and the whole moon became like blood” (Rev. 6:12, NASB). There is an even greater earthquake coming:

“And there were flashes of lightning and sounds and peals of thunder; and there was a great earthquake, such as there had not been since man came to be upon the earth, so great an earthquake was it, and so mighty. The great city was split into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell. Babylon the great was remembered before God, to give her the cup of the wine of His fierce wrath. And every island fled away, and the mountains were not found. And huge hailstones, about one hundred pounds each, came down from heaven upon men; and men blasphemed God because of the plague of the hail, because its plague was^ extremely severe” (emphasis added, Rev, 16:18-21, NASB).

4) Many gave glory to the God of heaven, 11:13b.

“(A) tenth of the city fell, and 7,000 people were killed in the earthquake. The survivors were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven.”

The earthquake, only a hint of the great one to come, killed 7,000 people and the survivors were terrified. That is quite a change from all the celebrating they were doing when the two witnesses were killed. For two thousand years now, those who mocked and cheered the crucifixion of Jesus Christ have lived in a terror from which they will never escape.

5) The second woe is past and the third is coming quickly, 11:14.

“The second woe has passed. Take note: the third woe is coming quickly!”


1) Look First at the Two Witnesses.

a) They will come during the Great Tribulation.

b) They will come in the power of God to bear witness for Him.

c) The world will hate them.

d) Satan will kill them.

e) Some glorify God because of their witness and because God raised them from the dead.

f) We will not be on earth when the two witnesses are here.

g) We can face the future with confidence in our Lord.

2) Now Let Us Make an Application for the Here and Now.

a) God has His witnesses in the world today.

b) Jesus was a witness to Father.

c) John the Baptist was a witness to Jesus.

d) Jesus words were a witness to His Messiahship.

e) His works were a witness to His power.

f) His death was a witness to the Father’s love for us.

g) The resurrection was a witness to his victory over death, hell, and the grave.

f) The Ascension was a witness to His sovereignty.

g) Revelation is a witness to His return.

h) Jesus left us here to be His witnesses (Matt. 28:19-20; Acts 1:8).


What should our response be? Fear God! Jesus said, “Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matt10:28, NASB). Paul was inspired to record the shocking cause of that catalog of sins that characterized the Gentile world of his day - and sadly, much of the world of our day: “THERE IS NO FEAR OF GOD BEFORE THEIR EYES" (Rom 3:18).

What should we do? Trust God. We read in Hebrews 2:13, “I WILL PUT MY TRUST IN HIM.”

What should we do? Glorify Him. “Now may the God who gives perseverance and encouragement grant you to be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus, so that with one accord you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 155-6).

What should we do? Witness for Him. “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth” (Acts 1:8).

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