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Jewish Temple

Introduction to Revelation 11

Chapter 10 brought us near the end of the Tribulation in the Revelation narrative, where the Lord commanded John to eat a little book that contains prophecies that cover additional events in the last half of the Tribulation in two interludes. Recall from the "Revelation Introduction," an interlude gives us more information or a different perspective to the narrative. In other words, an interlude is a background story to the narrative, with clear indications that each interlude reaches back or forward in time, and generally returns to where the primary narrative left off.

There are four interludes in Revelation that give us details about events not covered in the main storyline, as shown below:

Revelation Flow Chart

The two interludes covered in chapters 11-14 focus on events in the last half of the Tribulation, before we return to the narrative of the Tribulation judgments in Revelation 15, as shown below:

3 perspectives on the last half of the Tribulation

Revelation 11:1-2


Revelation 11:1 - 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."

Chapter 11 begins with the mighty angel commanding John to measure three things: the temple of God, the altar, and those who worship there. God shows Moses the measurements for the first temple and a man measures the temple built in the Kingdom by the Lord, who is the "Branch":

Zechariah 6:12-13 - Then speak to him, saying, 'Thus says the LORD of hosts, saying: "Behold, the Man whose name is the BRANCH! From His place He shall branch out, and He shall build the temple of the LORD; yes, He shall build the temple of the LORD. He shall bear the glory, and shall sit and rule on His throne; so He shall be a priest on His throne, and the counsel of peace shall be between them both."'
Ezekiel 40:3-5 - He took me there, and behold, there was a man whose appearance was like the appearance of bronze. He had a line of flax and a measuring rod in his hand, and he stood in the gateway. And the man said to me, "Son of man, look with your eyes and hear with your ears, and fix your mind on everything I show you; for you were brought here so that I might show them to you. Declare to the house of Israel everything you see." Now there was a wall all around the outside of the temple. In the man's hand was a measuring rod six cubits long, each being a cubit and a handbreadth; and he measured the width of the wall structure, one rod; and the height, one rod.

The reason the man measures the temple is so Israel will become ashamed of their iniquities when they consider the design of the temple and follow the ordinances and laws associated with the temple:

Ezekiel 43:10-11 - Son of man, describe the temple to the house of Israel, that they may be ashamed of their iniquities; and let them measure the pattern. And if they are ashamed of all that they have done, make known to them the design of the temple and its arrangement, its exits and its entrances, its entire design and all its ordinances, all its forms and all its laws. Write it down in their sight, so that they may keep its whole design and all its ordinances, and perform them.

The people who returned from the Babylonian exile wept over their iniquity when they heard the Law of Moses, which included the pattern of the temple:

Nehemiah 8:5, 8-9 - And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people, for he was standing above all the people; and when he opened it, all the people stood up.... So they read distinctly from the book, in the Law of God; and they gave the sense, and helped them to understand the reading. And Nehemiah, who was the governor, Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, "This day is holy to the LORD your God; do not mourn nor weep." For all the people wept, when they heard the words of the Law.

There is something about the temple design, besides the Law of Moses, that exposes Israel's sin. Even though Israel did not understand, God revealed to the Church that the pattern pointed to the Messiah:

Hebrews 8:1-5 - Now this is the main point of the things we are saying: We have such a High Priest, who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, a Minister of the sanctuary and of the true tabernacle which the Lord erected, and not man. For every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices. Therefore it is necessary that this One also have something to offer. For if He were on earth, He would not be a priest, since there are priests who offer the gifts according to the law; who serve the copy and shadow of the heavenly things, as Moses was divinely instructed when he was about to make the tabernacle. For He said, "See that you make all things according to the pattern shown you on the mountain."

After the Tribulation, Israel will understand the pattern of the temple and how it points to Christ. In the Tribulation, however, Israel as a nation will still reject Christ as their Messiah. Before Israel accepts their Messiah and Redeemer, they must first return to God (Isaiah 44:21-22). The following passages show the first step Israel takes to turn back to God is to look toward the temple:

Jonah 2:1, 4-7 - Then Jonah prayed to the LORD his God from the fish's belly.... Then I said, 'I have been cast out of Your sight; yet I will look again toward Your holy temple.' The waters surrounded me, even to my soul; the deep closed around me; weeds were wrapped around my head. I went down to the moorings of the mountains; the earth with its bars closed behind me forever; yet You have brought up my life from the pit, O LORD, my God. "When my soul fainted within me, I remembered the LORD; and my prayer went up to You, into Your holy temple."
2 Chronicles 6:18-21 - "But will God indeed dwell with men on the earth? Behold, heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain You. How much less this temple which I have built! Yet regard the prayer of Your servant and his supplication, O LORD my God, and listen to the cry and the prayer which Your servant is praying before You: that Your eyes may be open toward this temple day and night, toward the place where You said You would put Your name, that You may hear the prayer which Your servant makes toward this place. And may You hear the supplications of Your servant and of Your people Israel, when they pray toward this place. Hear from heaven Your dwelling place, and when You hear, forgive."
2 Chronicles 6:22-25 - "If anyone sins against his neighbor, and is forced to take an oath, and comes and takes an oath before Your altar in this temple, then hear from heaven, and act, and judge Your servants, bringing retribution on the wicked by bringing his way on his own head, and justifying the righteous by giving him according to his righteousness. "Or if Your people Israel are defeated before an enemy because they have sinned against You, and return and confess Your name, and pray and make supplication before You in this temple, then hear from heaven and forgive the sin of Your people Israel, and bring them back to the land which You gave to them and their fathers."
2 Chronicles 6:26-31 - "When the heavens are shut up and there is no rain because they have sinned against You, when they pray toward this place and confess Your name, and turn from their sin because You afflict them, then hear in heaven, and forgive the sin of Your servants, Your people Israel, that You may teach them the good way in which they should walk; and send rain on Your land which You have given to Your people as an inheritance. "When there is famine in the land, pestilence or blight or mildew, locusts or grasshoppers; when their enemies besiege them in the land of their cities; whatever plague or whatever sickness there is; whatever prayer, whatever supplication is made by anyone, or by all Your people Israel, when each one knows his own burden and his own grief, and spreads out his hands to this temple: then hear from heaven Your dwelling place, and forgive, and give to everyone according to all his ways, whose heart You know (for You alone know the hearts of the sons of men), that they may fear You, to walk in Your ways as long as they live in the land which You gave to our fathers."
2 Chronicles 6:32-35 - "Moreover, concerning a foreigner, who is not of Your people Israel, but has come from a far country for the sake of Your great name and Your mighty hand and Your outstretched arm, when they come and pray in this temple; then hear from heaven Your dwelling place, and do according to all for which the foreigner calls to You, that all peoples of the earth may know Your name and fear You, as do Your people Israel, and that they may know that this temple which I have built is called by Your name. "When Your people go out to battle against their enemies, wherever You send them, and when they pray to You toward this city which You have chosen and the temple which I have built for Your name, then hear from heaven their prayer and their supplication, and maintain their cause."
2 Chronicles 6:36-39 - "When they sin against You (for there is no one who does not sin), and You become angry with them and deliver them to the enemy, and they take them captive to a land far or near; yet when they come to themselves in the land where they were carried captive, and repent, and make supplication to You in the land of their captivity, saying, 'We have sinned, we have done wrong, and have committed wickedness'; and when they return to You with all their heart and with all their soul in the land of their captivity, where they have been carried captive, and pray toward their land which You gave to their fathers, the city which You have chosen, and toward the temple which I have built for Your name: then hear from heaven Your dwelling place their prayer and their supplications, and maintain their cause, and forgive Your people who have sinned against You."

From the passages above, it is clear that the Lord accepted Solomon's temple as the place for Israel to worship Him. We see in the passage below that the Lord also accepted Zerubbabel's temple (Zechariah 4:9) built after the Babylonian exile:

Ezra 6:15-16, 21-22 - Now the temple was finished on the third day of the month of Adar, which was in the sixth year of the reign of King Darius. Then the children of Israel, the priests and the Levites and the rest of the descendants of the captivity, celebrated the dedication of this house of God with joy... Then the children of Israel who had returned from the captivity ate together with all who had separated themselves from the filth of the nations of the land in order to seek the LORD God of Israel. And they kept the Feast of Unleavened Bread seven days with joy; for the LORD made them joyful, and turned the heart of the king of Assyria toward them, to strengthen their hands in the work of the house of God, the God of Israel.

The Lord even accepted the temple restored by the evil King Herod that stood during Jesus' ministry, calling it "My Father's house":

John 2:13-17 - Now the Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. And He found in the temple those who sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the money changers doing business. When He had made a whip of cords, He drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen, and poured out the changers' money and overturned the tables. And He said to those who sold doves, "Take these things away! Do not make My Father's house a house of merchandise!" Then His disciples remembered that it was written, "Zeal for Your house has eaten me up."

Many believe that the Lord will reject the temple built before the middle of the Tribulation because Jesus has done away with the sacrificial system of worship carried out in the temple that God required to atone for sins before the cross:

Hebrews 9:24-26 - For Christ has not entered the holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us; not that He should offer Himself often, as the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood of another - He then would have had to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now, once at the end of the ages, He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.
Hebrews 10:10-13 - By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. And every priest stands ministering daily and offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God, from that time waiting till His enemies are made His footstool.

While God certainly will not accept sacrifice as atonement for sin since Christ has finished that work, He still recognizes the Tribulation temple as the "temple of God" and considers it His:

Malachi 3:1-2 - "Behold, I send My messenger, and he will prepare the way before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple, even the Messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight. Behold, He is coming," Says the LORD of hosts. "But who can endure the day of His coming? And who can stand when He appears? For He is like a refiner's fire and like launderers' soap."
2 Thessalonians 2:3-4 - Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.

As mentioned earlier, the measurement and design of the temple will somehow spark a heart of repentance for Israel (Ezekiel 43:10-11). However, we will see in the next section that John is not to measure the court outside the temple because it is given to the Gentiles because God rejects it. This suggests that measuring the temple goes beyond bringing Israel to repentance; it identifies that which God apportions to Israel and therefore takes ownership. In the same fashion, God shows His sovereignty over the earth by measuring it:

Habakkuk 3:6 - He stood and measured the earth; He looked and startled the nations. And the everlasting mountains were scattered, the perpetual hills bowed. His ways are everlasting.

God also tells John to measure "the altar, and those who worship there," which shows God's recognition and ownership of both the altar of incense and the people who worship Him in the temple. Recall from Revelation 8:3, there are two altars. The altar of incense is in the holy place and the altar of burnt offerings is in the outer court outside the temple:

Earthly Tabernacle
Source: Wikipedia


God gives the outer court over to the Gentiles (Revelation 11:2), which includes the altar of burnt offerings. Therefore, the altar measured by John is the "altar of incense," which is in the holy place:

Exodus 30:1, 7-10 - "You shall make an altar to burn incense on; you shall make it of acacia wood.... Aaron shall burn on it sweet incense every morning; when he tends the lamps, he shall burn incense on it. And when Aaron lights the lamps at twilight, he shall burn incense on it, a perpetual incense before the LORD throughout your generations. You shall not offer strange incense on it, or a burnt offering, or a grain offering; nor shall you pour a drink offering on it. And Aaron shall make atonement upon its horns once a year with the blood of the sin offering of atonement; once a year he shall make atonement upon it throughout your generations. It is most holy to the LORD."

The "altar of incense" in the earthly temple stood not only for a means of intercession and atonement, but also for judgment:

Numbers 16:44-48 - And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, "Get away from among this congregation, that I may consume them in a moment." And they fell on their faces. So Moses said to Aaron, "Take a censer and put fire in it from the altar, put incense on it, and take it quickly to the congregation and make atonement for them; for wrath has gone out from the LORD. The plague has begun." Then Aaron took it as Moses commanded, and ran into the midst of the assembly; and already the plague had begun among the people. So he put in the incense and made atonement for the people. And he stood between the dead and the living; so the plague was stopped.
2 Chronicles 26:16-20 - But when he was strong his heart was lifted up, to his destruction, for he transgressed against the LORD his God by entering the temple of the LORD to burn incense on the altar of incense. So Azariah the priest went in after him, and with him were eighty priests of the LORD - valiant men. And they withstood King Uzziah, and said to him, "It is not for you, Uzziah, to burn incense to the LORD, but for the priests, the sons of Aaron, who are consecrated to burn incense. Get out of the sanctuary, for you have trespassed! You shall have no honor from the LORD God." Then Uzziah became furious; and he had a censer in his hand to burn incense. And while he was angry with the priests, leprosy broke out on his forehead, before the priests in the house of the LORD, beside the incense altar. And Azariah the chief priest and all the priests looked at him, and there, on his forehead, he was leprous; so they thrust him out of that place. Indeed he also hurried to get out, because the LORD had struck him.

Similar to the altar of incense in the earthly temple, the altar of incense in Heaven represents intercession and judgment:

Revelation 8:3-6 - Then another angel, having a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne. And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, ascended before God from the angel's hand. Then the angel took the censer, filled it with fire from the altar, and threw it to the earth. And there were noises, thunderings, lightnings, and an earthquake. So the seven angels who had the seven trumpets prepared themselves to sound.

Therefore, the "altar of incense" represents Christ, as He is both the Mediator who intercedes for the saints and the Judge of men:

Hebrews 9:11-15 - But Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation. Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? And for this reason He is the Mediator of the new covenant, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, that those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance.
Hebrews 7:24-27 - But He, because He continues forever, has an unchangeable priesthood. Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them. For such a High Priest was fitting for us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and has become higher than the heavens; who does not need daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the people's, for this He did once for all when He offered up Himself.
Hebrews 10:29-30 - Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know Him who said, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay," says the Lord. And again, "The Lord will judge His people."

The reed that John takes to measure the temple, the altar, and people is "like a measuring rod." The Greek word translated as rod is generally used to describe the scepter or staff of someone in authority. In Revelation, the "rod of iron" shows the nature of Christ's rule in the Kingdom Age:

Revelation 12:5 - She bore a male Child who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron. And her Child was caught up to God and His throne.
Revelation 19:15 - Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.
Revelation 2:27 - 'He shall rule them with a rod of iron; they shall be dashed to pieces like the potter's vessels' - as I also have received from My Father...

As discussed in Revelation 2:27, ruling with a rod of iron shows a just rule, where punishment is swift and harsh, with no compromise. The same Hebrew word translated "scepter" instead of "rod" in the following passages also points to Christ and His rule in the coming Kingdom:

Genesis 49:10 - The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh comes; and to Him shall be the obedience of the people.
Numbers 24:17 - "I see Him, but not now; I behold Him, but not near; a Star shall come out of Jacob; a Scepter shall rise out of Israel, and batter the brow of Moab, and destroy all the sons of tumult."
Psalms 45:6-7 - Your throne, O God, is forever and ever; a scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Your kingdom. You love righteousness and hate wickedness; therefore God, Your God, has anointed You with the oil of gladness more than Your companions.

A scepter or rod represents an authoritative rod of correction:

Psalms 23:1-4 - A Psalm of David. The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness For His name's sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
Psalms 89:30-33 - "If his sons forsake My law and do not walk in My judgments, if they break My statutes and do not keep My commandments, then I will punish their transgression with the rod, and their iniquity with stripes. Nevertheless My loving kindness I will not utterly take from him, nor allow My faithfulness to fail."
Proverbs 13:24 - He who spares his rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him promptly.
Isaiah 11:1-4 - There shall come forth a Rod from the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots. The Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon Him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD. His delight is in the fear of the LORD, and He shall not judge by the sight of His eyes, nor decide by the hearing of His ears; but with righteousness He shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; He shall strike the earth with the rod of His mouth, and with the breath of His lips He shall slay the wicked.

The following passage shows Israel under the rod of correction during the global re-gathering that began in the last century and will continue until the end of the Tribulation:

Ezekiel 20:34-38 - I will bring you out from the peoples and gather you out of the countries where you are scattered, with a mighty hand, with an outstretched arm, and with fury poured out. And I will bring you into the wilderness of the peoples, and there I will plead My case with you face to face. Just as I pleaded My case with your fathers in the wilderness of the land of Egypt, so I will plead My case with you," says the Lord GOD. "I will make you pass under the rod, and I will bring you into the bond of the covenant; I will purge the rebels from among you, and those who transgress against Me; I will bring them out of the country where they dwell, but they shall not enter the land of Israel. Then you will know that I am the LORD."

Note that God will purge the rebels who ignore correction. Zechariah also speaks of this purging during the Tribulation; the "measure" of Jews who turn back to God in the Tribulation period is one-third:

Zechariah 13:8-9 - And it shall come to pass in all the land," Says the LORD, "That two-thirds in it shall be cut off and die, but one-third shall be left in it: I will bring the one-third through the fire, will refine them as silver is refined, and test them as gold is tested. They will call on My name, and I will answer them. I will say, 'This is My people'; and each one will say, 'The LORD is my God.'"

In summary, the Jews will rebuild the temple in Jerusalem before the middle of the Tribulation. God will recognize the temple, the altar, and those who worship there by measuring them. However, the act of measuring these things with a rod shows that they are under judgment by Christ, who is the foundation stone that will rule in the coming Kingdom with justice:

Isaiah 28:16-17 - Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: "Behold, I lay in Zion a stone for a foundation, a tried stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation; whoever believes will not act hastily. Also I will make justice the measuring line, and righteousness the plummet; the hail will sweep away the refuge of lies, and the waters will overflow the hiding place.

Indeed, the antichrist will desecrate the temple in the "abomination of desolation," just as Antiochus Epiphanes desecrated the second temple with idol worship and an abominable sacrifice. Also, two-thirds of Israel, those who rebel against the corrective rod of the Lord, will perish (Zechariah 13:8-9) during the time of "Jacob's trouble" in the Tribulation:

Jeremiah 30:7-11 - Alas! For that day is great, so that none is like it; and it is the time of Jacob's trouble, but he shall be saved out of it. 'For it shall come to pass in that day,' says the LORD of hosts, 'That I will break his yoke from your neck, and will burst your bonds; foreigners shall no more enslave them. But they shall serve the LORD their God, and David their king, whom I will raise up for them. 'Therefore do not fear, O My servant Jacob,' says the LORD, 'Nor be dismayed, O Israel; for behold, I will save you from afar, and your seed from the land of their captivity. Jacob shall return, have rest and be quiet, and no one shall make him afraid. For I am with you,' says the LORD, 'to save you; though I make a full end of all nations where I have scattered you, yet I will not make a complete end of you. But I will correct you in justice, and will not let you go altogether unpunished.'

Nonetheless, God will accept the repentant hearts of His people who look to this temple (2 Chronicles 6, Jonah 2:4-7) because they seek to return to Him (Jeremiah 24:6-7), which is the central purpose of the Tribulation - "To make reconciliation for iniquity":

Daniel 9:24 - "Seventy weeks are determined for your people and for your holy city, to finish the transgression, to make an end of sins, to make reconciliation for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy, and to anoint the Most Holy.

Revelation 11:2 - But leave out the court which is outside the temple, and do not measure it, for it has been given to the Gentiles. And they will tread the holy city underfoot for forty-two months.

As discussed in the last section, measuring the temple shows that God will recognize the Tribulation temple, though the temple will be under judgment, shown by the "rod" with which John measured it. In contrast, God tells John not to measure the outer court because He has given it over to the Gentiles. The Greek words translated "leave out" literally means to cast out, throw out, or expel something or someone, as shown in the following passages that use the same Greek phrase:

Matthew 8:11-12, 16 - And I say to you that many will come from east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.... When evening had come, they brought to Him many who were demon-possessed. And He cast out the spirits with a word, and healed all who were sick...
Acts 7:5-7-59 - Then they cried out with a loud voice, stopped their ears, and ran at him with one accord; and they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul. And they stoned Stephen as he was calling on God and saying, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit."
Acts 27:38 - So when they had eaten enough, they lightened the ship and threw out the wheat into the sea.
Galatians 4:30 - Nevertheless what does the Scripture say? "Cast out the bondwoman and her son, for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman."
3 John 1:9-10 - I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to have the preeminence among them, does not receive us. Therefore, if I come, I will call to mind his deeds which he does, prating against us with malicious words. And not content with that, he himself does not receive the brethren, and forbids those who wish to, putting them out of the church.

So we see the act of "casting out" the outer court of the temple to the Gentiles shows that God has rejected it. Incidentally, the Jews called the outer court of the temple the "Court of the Gentiles":

    "The entire Temple compound was considered holy, but it became increasingly more holy as one entered farther in, from east to west. King Herod had enclosed the outer court with colonnades and it was referred to as the Court of the Gentiles because the "gentiles" (non-Jews) were permitted to enter the Temple area. They could walk within in it but they were forbidden to go any further than the outer court. They were excluded from entering into any of the inner courts, and warning signs in Greek and Latin were placed that gave warning that the penalty for such trespass was death. The Romans permitted the Jewish authorities to carry out the death penalty for this offence, even if the offender were a Roman citizen. It was for this alleged crime that Paul was attacked and nearly beaten to death by an angry crowd during his last visit to Jerusalem (Acts 21:27-32). It was into these outer courts that Jesus came and drove out the money-changers who had been accumulating wealth by using the Temple as a place of merchandise."

The wall that partitioned the inner and outer courts of the temple is what Paul alluded to in the following passage:

Ephesians 2:11-16 - Therefore remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh - who are called Uncircumcision by what is called the Circumcision made in the flesh by hands - that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity.

Christ broke down this "wall of separation" between Jews and Gentiles which, before the Cross, dictated that one had to become Jewish to gain access to God. Now that all become saved through Jesus instead of Judaism, there is no need for the outer court, since all who are saved are no longer foreigners seeking to find God through Israel, but have themselves become temples that house the Holy Spirit:

Ephesians 2:17-22 - And He came and preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near. For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father. Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.

Some speculate that God rejects the outer court of the Tribulation temple because the Muslim "Dome of the Rock" stands where the outer court of the temple was. This theory suggests that part of the covenant confirmed in Daniel 9:27 will allow for the Jewish temple to stand next to the Muslim shrine. While this is entirely possible, the "Great Middle East War" will reduce to nothing all gods of the world at the beginning of the Tribulation (Zephaniah 2:11), which means Islam will no longer exist by the time the temple is complete. However, according to the theory above, if the building is not destroyed, the new "Mystery Babylon" religion that rises out of the ashes of the abolished religions of the world could turn the Muslim dome into a shrine dedicated to "Mystery Babylon" and later to beast worship when the antichrist claims himself as God (Daniel 11:37). For schematic pictures of the "Dome of the Rock" next to the Jewish temple, click here.

In the Tribulation, God not only gives the outer court to the Gentiles showing His rejection of it, He gives the "holy city" over to the Gentiles as well. The Greek word translated "Gentiles" is the same word translated "nations" in the Lord's commission for John to prophesy again:

Revelation 10:11 - And he said to me, "You must prophesy again about many peoples, nations, tongues, and kings."

The holy city is Jerusalem (Isaiah 52:1, Nehemiah 11:1). The Gentiles will "tread the holy city for forty-two months." To tread or trample underfoot means to trample with scorn or disgrace, as shown in the following passages:

2 Kings 9:33 - Then he said, "Throw her down." So they threw her down, and some of her blood spattered on the wall and on the horses; and he trampled her underfoot.
Isaiah 14:19 - But you are cast out of your grave like an abominable branch, like the garment of those who are slain, thrust through with a sword, who go down to the stones of the pit, like a corpse trodden underfoot.
Jeremiah 12:10 - "Many rulers have destroyed My vineyard, they have trodden My portion underfoot; they have made My pleasant portion a desolate wilderness."
Lamentations 1:15 - "The Lord has trampled underfoot all my mighty men in my midst; He has called an assembly against me to crush my young men; the Lord trampled as in a winepress the virgin daughter of Judah."
Daniel 8:13 - Then I heard a holy one speaking; and another holy one said to that certain one who was speaking, "How long will the vision be, concerning the daily sacrifices and the transgression of desolation, the giving of both the sanctuary and the host to be trampled underfoot?"
Hebrews 10:29 - Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace?

The treading of Jerusalem began around 70 AD when the Romans destroyed the city:

Luke 21:20-24 - "But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation is near. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those who are in the midst of her depart, and let not those who are in the country enter her. For these are the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled. But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days! For there will be great distress in the land and wrath upon this people. And they will fall by the edge of the sword, and be led away captive into all nations. And Jerusalem will be trampled by Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled."

This verse shows that the trampling of Jerusalem will continue until the "times of the Gentiles" are complete. As shown in "The Olivet Discourse," the "times of the Gentiles" denotes a time of Gentile rule that will prevail over Israel from the time of the Babylonian exile until the Messiah returns to rule on Earth. This means the "times of the Gentiles" began about 600 years before the treading of Jerusalem in 70 AD when the Jews were exiled. While the Gentile trampling of Jerusalem has gone on for nearly two millennia, John zeros in on a forty-two month period where the city is tread underfoot that spans from the middle of the Tribulation until Jesus returns, when the Lord will replace the last Gentile kingdom with His messianic rule: ending the "times of the Gentiles":

Daniel 2:44 - And in the days of these kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people; it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever.
Revelation 19:11-15 - Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war. His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns. He had a name written that no one knew except Himself. He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses. Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron.

Since Luke 21:20-24 shows that foreigners will trample Jerusalem during the "times of the Gentiles," this may mean the forty-two months continues the treading of the city that started in 70 AD, or it may show that this forty-two month period follows a time of Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem which began in 1967 and continues to this day. Even under the recently established Israeli sovereignty, peace has been elusive. Only when Jesus returns, will Jerusalem be forever at peace and never be trampled on again:

Isaiah 62:6-7 - I have set watchmen on your walls, O Jerusalem; they shall never hold their peace day or night. You who make mention of the LORD, do not keep silent, and give Him no rest till He establishes and till He makes Jerusalem a praise in the earth.

Israel's current sovereignty over Jerusalem is also only temporary, as the antichrist will overthrow Israel in the middle of the Tribulation:

Daniel 11:41 - He shall also enter the Glorious Land, and many countries shall be overthrown; but these shall escape from his hand: Edom, Moab, and the prominent people of Ammon.

The forty-two months that Jerusalem is trampled by the Gentiles is the same length of time the antichrist, or the beast is given authority to continue his conquest of the world:

Revelation 13:4-5 - So they worshiped the dragon who gave authority to the beast; and they worshiped the beast, saying, "Who is like the beast? Who is able to make war with him?" And he was given a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies, and he was given authority to continue for forty-two months.

The following passages show that the antichrist desecrates the temple in the middle of the Tribulation, which shows antichrist's rule and the trampling of Jerusalem both occur during the last forty-two months, or last half of "Daniel's 70th Week":

Daniel 9:27 - Then he shall confirm a covenant with many for one week; but in the middle of the week he shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall be one who makes desolate, even until the consummation, which is determined, is poured out on the desolate."
Matthew 24:15-21 - "Therefore when you see the 'ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION,' spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place" (whoever reads, let him understand), "then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let him who is on the housetop not go down to take anything out of his house. And let him who is in the field not go back to get his clothes. But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days! And pray that your flight may not be in winter or on the Sabbath. For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be."
2 Thessalonians 2:3-4 - Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.

According to Daniel 9:27, the Tribulation temple is part of the covenant that officially begins "Daniel's 70th Week," or the 7-year Tribulation. The antichrist will negotiate the deal with Israel, but then break it half way into the Tribulation by desecrating the temple and exalting himself above God (Daniel 11:36-37). As discussed earlier in this section, during the last forty-two months of the Tribulation, the antichrist will rule over the world from Israel at the same time the Gentiles trample Jerusalem before Jesus returns to the temple. When Jesus returns, He will enter the temple from the Mount of Olives, which is directly across from the temple to the east:

Malachi 3:1-2 - "Behold, I send My messenger, and he will prepare the way before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple, even the Messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight. Behold, He is coming," Says the LORD of hosts. "But who can endure the day of His coming? And who can stand when He appears? For He is like a refiner's fire and like launderers' soap."
Zechariah 14:3-4 - Then the LORD will go forth and fight against those nations, as He fights in the day of battle. And in that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which faces Jerusalem on the east. And the Mount of Olives shall be split in two, from east to west, making a very large valley; half of the mountain shall move toward the north and half of it toward the south.

As a side note, the earthquake that splits the Mount of Olives will surely destroy the Tribulation temple and help prepare the landscape for the millennial temple that cannot fit on the current real estate in Jerusalem, based on the measurements in Scripture. This is the temple that a man in Ezekiel measures to spark a heart of repentance for Israel going into the Kingdom. Similarly, the Tribulation temple will play a role in turning the hearts of Israel back to God (Revelation 11:1). How much more will the magnificent millennial temple with the Lord ruling with a "rod of iron" and teaching them the patterns and ordinances that point to Him, help keep the hearts of Israel from turning from God ever again?

Ezekiel 43:6-11 - Then I heard Him speaking to me from the temple, while a man stood beside me. And He said to me, "Son of man, this is the place of My throne and the place of the soles of My feet, where I will dwell in the midst of the children of Israel forever. No more shall the house of Israel defile My holy name, they nor their kings, by their harlotry or with the carcasses of their kings on their high places. When they set their threshold by My threshold, and their doorpost by My doorpost, with a wall between them and Me, they defiled My holy name by the abominations which they committed; therefore I have consumed them in My anger. Now let them put their harlotry and the carcasses of their kings far away from Me, and I will dwell in their midst forever. Son of man, describe the temple to the house of Israel, that they may be ashamed of their iniquities; and let them measure the pattern. And if they are ashamed of all that they have done, make known to them the design of the temple and its arrangement, its exits and its entrances, its entire design and all its ordinances, all its forms and all its laws. Write it down in their sight, so that they may keep its whole design and all its ordinances, and perform them.
Jeremiah 32:38-40 - They shall be My people, and I will be their God; then I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear Me forever, for the good of them and their children after them. And I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from doing them good; but I will put My fear in their hearts so that they will not depart from Me.

Revelation 11:3-6


Revelation 11:3 - "And I will give power to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy one thousand two hundred and sixty days, clothed in sackcloth."

After John measures the temple, the mighty angel who continues his dialogue from Revelation 11:1 introduces two men as his witnesses. As discussed in Revelation 10:1, while there is some dispute over textual variants, the evidence is in favor of Jesus being the mighty angel. The fact that these two witnesses are clearly the Lord's witnesses supports the notion that the mighty angel is Jesus. The Lord gives power to His two witnesses to prophesy. To prophesy means to share something God reveals that cannot be understood by the natural mind. A lot of revelation is about future events and coming judgment, usually accompanied with a plea for repentance. Those who prophesy are generally called prophets, and the two witnesses are no exception:

Revelation 11:10 - And those who dwell on the earth will rejoice over them, make merry, and send gifts to one another, because these two prophets tormented those who dwell on the earth.

A witness does more than prophesy. A witness gives testimony, which is evidence or proof for something. As a point of interest, "witness" and "testimony" come from the same Greek word "martus," which is also where we derive our English word "martyr." In its original meaning, the word "martyr," meaning witness, is found in the secular sphere as well as in the New Testament of the Bible. The process of bearing witness was not intended to lead to the death of the witness, although it is known from ancient writers (e.g. Josephus) and from the New Testament that witnesses often died for their testimonies:

    "During the early Christian centuries, the term acquired the extended meaning of a believer who is called to witness for their religious belief, and on account of this witness, endures suffering and/or death. The term, in this later sense, entered the English language as a loanword. The death of a martyr or the value attributed to it is called martyrdom."

While the Greek word is not always used in the context of martyrdom, the following verses translate the word as "martyr" because the context shows that these witnesses died for their testimony:

Acts 22:20 - And when the blood of Your martyr Stephen was shed, I also was standing by consenting to his death, and guarding the clothes of those who were killing him.
Revelation 2:13 - "I know your works, and where you dwell, where Satan's throne is. And you hold fast to My name, and did not deny My faith even in the days in which Antipas was My faithful martyr, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells."
Revelation 17:6 - I saw the woman, drunk with the blood of the saints and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus. And when I saw her, I marveled with great amazement.

While the two witnesses also die a martyr's death, as did most of the prophets in Scripture, they are primarily witnesses because of their testimony, not their death. However, dying as a martyr strengthens the witnesses' testimony and its impact on others. As mentioned earlier, the Lord introduces these two witnesses as His, which shows that their testimony bears witness for the Lord. God chose Israel to witness for Him too:

Isaiah 43:1, 10-12 - But now, thus says the LORD, who created you, O Jacob, and He who formed you, O Israel: "Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; you are Mine.... you are My witnesses," says the LORD, "And My servant whom I have chosen, that you may know and believe Me, and understand that I am He. Before Me there was no God formed, nor shall there be after Me. I, even I, am the LORD, and besides Me there is no savior. I have declared and saved, I have proclaimed, and there was no foreign god among you; therefore you are My witnesses," says the LORD, "that I am God."

Though Israel failed, God had commissioned them to testify to the Gentiles that He was the only true God by sharing the "oracles," or the Word of God, and by living by those oracles in the covenant they made with God:

Romans 3:1-2 - What advantage then has the Jew, or what is the profit of circumcision? Much in every way! Chiefly because to them were committed the oracles of God.
Isaiah 42:6-9 - "I, the LORD, have called You in righteousness, and will hold Your hand; I will keep You and give You as a covenant to the people, as a light to the Gentiles, to open blind eyes, to bring out prisoners from the prison, those who sit in darkness from the prison house. I am the LORD, that is My name; and My glory I will not give to another, nor My praise to carved images. Behold, the former things have come to pass, and new things I declare; before they spring forth I tell you of them."

God says to establish a matter or someone's word on the testimony of two or three witnesses:

Deuteronomy 19:15 - "One witness shall not rise against a man concerning any iniquity or any sin that he commits; by the mouth of two or three witnesses the matter shall be established."
Deuteronomy 17:6 - Whoever is deserving of death shall be put to death on the testimony of two or three witnesses; he shall not be put to death on the testimony of one witness.
Matthew 18:16 - But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that 'by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.'
2 Corinthians 13:1 - This will be the third time I am coming to you. "By the mouth of two or three witnesses every word shall be established."
1 Timothy 5:19 - Do not receive an accusation against an elder except from two or three witnesses.
Hebrews 10:28 - Anyone who has rejected Moses' law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses.

These passages show that charging someone with a sin requires the testimony of two or three witnesses. Likewise, God has chosen His two witnesses to not only testify to the world that He is the one and only God, but to also accuse the world of their rebellion against God and His Word, which is evident when the world rejoices at their death:

Revelation 11:10 - And those who dwell on the earth will rejoice over them, make merry, and send gifts to one another, because these two prophets tormented those who dwell on the earth.

While these two witnesses are clearly human because they are later killed and resurrected (Revelation 11:7-12), Jesus shows that the Word of God itself acts as two witnesses: "the law and the prophets" which testify about God:

Luke 16:16-23 - "The law and the prophets were until John. Since that time the kingdom of God has been preached, and everyone is pressing into it. And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one tittle of the law to fail. "Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced from her husband commits adultery. "There was a certain rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and fared sumptuously every day. But there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, full of sores, who was laid at his gate, desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man's table. Moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. So it was that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels to Abraham's bosom. The rich man also died and was buried. And being in torments in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom."
Luke 16:24-31 - "Then he cried and said, 'Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.' But Abraham said, 'Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted and you are tormented. And besides all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, so that those who want to pass from here to you cannot, nor can those from there pass to us.' "Then he said, 'I beg you therefore, father, that you would send him to my father's house, for I have five brothers, that he may testify to them, lest they also come to this place of torment.' Abraham said to him, 'They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.' And he said, 'No, father Abraham; but if one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.' But he said to him, 'If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.'"

The "law and the prophets" is a phrase used to show the testimony of God in His Word. Jesus gave His disciples understanding of the Word so they could testify about what they were about to witness in His crucifixion and resurrection as prophesied in the "law and the prophets" (two witnesses) and the Psalms (a third witness):

Luke 24:44 - Then He said to them, "These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me." And He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures. Then He said to them, "Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And you are witnesses of these things."

In addition to the plan of salvation through the Lord's death and resurrection, God reveals through Paul that "the law and the prophets" also testify about God's righteousness which is available to all who believe through faith in Jesus Christ:

Romans 3:21-26 - But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

It is widely believed that Moses and Elijah in the transfiguration symbolize the "law and the prophets," since Moses received and gave the Law to Israel and Elijah is often singled out when talking about "the prophets" (Matthew 16:14, Mark 6:15, 8:28, Luke 9:8, 19):

Matthew 17:1-4 - Now after six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, led them up on a high mountain by themselves; and He was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light. And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Him. Then Peter answered and said to Jesus, "Lord, it is good for us to be here; if You wish, let us make here three tabernacles: one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah."

The two witnesses stand before the Lord like Moses and Elijah in the transfiguration (Revelation 11:4). Since many associate Moses and Elijah with the "law and the prophets," the picture of the transfiguration strengthens the belief that Moses and Elijah are the two witnesses themselves. There are other reasons to identify Moses and Elijah as the two witnesses, however, there is support for other candidates too, which we will discuss in Revelation 11:4.

Regardless of who the two witnesses are, God will send them on an important mission: To testify about God, offer the Gospel message, and preach against the earth dwellers who continue to reject Him in their rebellion. God gives the two witnesses power and supernatural protection to carry out their mission. There is another purpose to the two witnesses' ministry, and that is to go up against the beast, or the antichrist:

Revelation 11:7 - When they finish their testimony, the beast that ascends out of the bottomless pit will make war against them, overcome them, and kill them.

A casual read of this verse makes it appear that as soon as the beast ascends out of the bottomless pit he overcomes and kills the two witnesses. However, the phrase "that ascends" is a present active participle, which means it is a continuing action or a verb used as a noun. Since the beast doesn't continually rise out of the pit it makes more sense as a title and not a continuing action. Another example of a present active participle verb used as a noun is in the following passage:

John 6:33 - For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.

Jesus had already come down from Heaven, but He describes Himself as the "bread...who comes down." Likewise, John calls the beast the one "that ascends out of the bottomless pit," which describes who the beast is; it is not a verb that describes an action at a point-in-time. This is important to point out because many have mistakenly used this passage as proof-text to place the two witnesses' ministry in the first half of the Tribulation, based on these verses below:

Revelation 13:3-5 - And I saw one of his heads as if it had been mortally wounded, and his deadly wound was healed. And all the world marveled and followed the beast. So they worshiped the dragon who gave authority to the beast; and they worshiped the beast, saying, "Who is like the beast? Who is able to make war with him?" And he was given a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies, and he was given authority to continue for forty-two months.
Revelation 17:8, 12-13 - The beast that you saw was, and is not, and will ascend out of the bottomless pit and go to perdition.... "The ten horns which you saw are ten kings who have received no kingdom as yet, but they receive authority for one hour as kings with the beast. These are of one mind, and they will give their power and authority to the beast."

When the reader takes the phrase "the beast that ascends" as an action instead of a title like the Greek indicates, they assume that the beast kills the two witnesses in the middle of the Tribulation as soon as he ascends from the pit, which means the two witnesses' ministry must start at the beginning of the Tribulation, being 1260 days, which is 3 ½ years. However, there is much evidence presented below against the two witnesses' ministry starting at the beginning of the Tribulation, and many reasons to place the start of their ministry toward the middle of the Tribulation:

  • The two witnesses' ministry begins after the temple is rebuilt (Revelation 11:1-2) and ends before the seventh Trumpet judgment (Revelation 11:15). Since the two witnesses arrive on the scene after the temple is standing, their ministry cannot begin right at the beginning of the Tribulation unless the Jews build their temple before the Tribulation begins. Because the antichrist breaks the 7-year covenant in Daniel 9:27 by defiling the temple, this suggests the permission to build the temple is in the covenant itself, and thus construction would begin after the Tribulation starts.

  • During the first half of the Tribulation, the Jews will live in Israel under protection of the 7-year covenant (Daniel 9:27), that is, until the beast, or the antichrist breaks the covenant in the middle of the Tribulation by desecrating the temple. After the antichrist breaks the covenant with Israel he will receive power from Satan to succeed in his global conquest, including taking the land of Israel (Revelation 13:5, Daniel 11:40-45). Now consider the context of the two witnesses' ministry:

  • Revelation 11:1-3 - 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. And I will give power to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy one thousand two hundred and sixty days, clothed in sackcloth."
    Time, times, and half a time

    The forty-two months the Gentiles tread Jerusalem is clearly the same forty-two months that the beast rules after he breaks the covenant by desecrating the temple (Daniel 9:27) and conquers and rules from Israel (Daniel 11:41-45). The very next verse gives us a more precise time of 1,260 days, during which the two witnesses testify. This period-of-time is equal to forty-two months, or 3 ½ years. Therefore, the context suggests that these two times run concurrently, or mostly overlap.

    The following passages give equivalent time periods, all of which describe the last half of the Tribulation:

    Daniel 7:25 - He shall speak pompous words against the Most High, shall persecute the saints of the Most High, and shall intend to change times and law. Then the saints shall be given into his hand for a time and times and half a time.
    Daniel 12:7 - Then I heard the man clothed in linen, who was above the waters of the river, when he held up his right hand and his left hand to heaven, and swore by Him who lives forever, that it shall be for a time, times, and half a time; and when the power of the holy people has been completely shattered, all these things shall be finished.
    Revelation 11:2 - But leave out the court which is outside the temple, and do not measure it, for it has been given to the Gentiles. And they will tread the holy city underfoot for forty-two months.
    Revelation 12:6 - Then the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, that they should feed her there one thousand two hundred and sixty days.
    Revelation 12:14 - But the woman was given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness to her place, where she is nourished for a time and times and half a time, from the presence of the serpent.
    Revelation 13:5 - And he was given a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies, and he was given authority to continue for forty-two months.

    There are no passages that tell us exactly how long in days or months the first half of the Tribulation is. However, the Hebrew word "uchtzi" in Daniel 9:27, usually translated "midst" or "middle," literally means "half of," which shows that the two halves of the Tribulation are about the same in length. That said, rounding of numbers occurs frequently in Scripture, so the first half of the Tribulation might be a few days or weeks long or short of 1,260 days.

    Regardless if the first half of the Tribulation is precisely 1260 days, we cannot assume that the two witnesses' ministry has to fit into one half of the Tribulation or the other. There is nothing in Scripture that would prohibit their ministry overlapping the two halves of the Tribulation, though the context of Revelation 11:1-3 suggests the two witnesses' ministry occurs during the time that the Gentiles trample Jerusalem, which would place at least most of their ministry in the second half of the Tribulation, as mentioned earlier.

  • Another reason against placing the two witnesses' ministry in the first half of the Tribulation is that the Bowl judgments can only be poured out in the final days of the Tribulation. The second and third Bowl judgments turn all the bodies of water to blood. Mankind will have a matter of days, or perhaps weeks to survive after these two judgments alone; therefore, these judgments cannot be spread out over a 3 ½-year period, otherwise no one could survive to the end of the Tribulation.
  • If we place the Bowl judgments near the end of the Tribulation, which is the most logical solution, then there will be a large gap between the Trumpet and Bowl judgments if the two witnesses' ministry is in the first half of the Tribulation. We know the Trumpet judgments occur during the two witnesses' ministry because the seventh Trumpet occurs after the two witnesses ascend to Heaven (Revelation 11:12-15). But if the Trumpet judgments occur in the first half of the Tribulation, there would be no direct judgments from God for most of the second half of the Tribulation, which Jesus characterized as the worst tribulation ever on the earth (Matthew 24:21)

    If the Trumpet judgments occur in the first half of the 7-year Tribulation, the antichrist's dominion is the primary source of tribulation during the last 3 ½ years until the end, when God pours out the Bowl judgments. Surely the antichrist's rule is not greater than judgment from God. Why would Jesus characterize the last half of the Tribulation as "great" (Matthew 24:21) if God pours out two-thirds of His judgments in the first half and the last third near the end of the Tribulation, with no judgments for most of the last half?

    Another scenario places the Seal judgments at the beginning of the Tribulation with 3 ½ years between the Seals judgments and the Trumpet and Bowl judgments. The following graphic depicts this scenario and the one discussed above:

Judgment scenarios in Revelation

Note that in both scenarios, the Seal judgments occur at the beginning of the 7-Year Tribulation.

4 Broken Seals

As shown in Revelation 6, the interrelation between the Seal judgments shows that the Lord breaks the seals in rapid succession near the beginning of the 7-year Tribulation, with the consequences continuing and worsening through the rest of the Tribulation. Likewise, history shows that the consequences of conquest and war occur in rapid succession of each other in the region affected. For example, typically after conquest and war come economic turmoil and famine, followed by death from war, famine, and disease, which continues to worsen until a new government can restore order. As shown in the scroll to the right, the first four Seal judgments have the same consequences, but on a global scale.

Between the two scenarios, it makes more sense for the Trumpet and Bowl judgments to cover the last half of the Tribulation Jesus characterized as the worst tribulation ever on Earth (Matthew 24:21). This would continue the pattern of "birth pangs" increasing in frequency and intensity, where the worst and majority of the judgments come in the last 3 ½ years. This scenario also harmonizes with fact that the last Trumpet judgment includes all the Bowl judgments, and thus the Bowl judgments begin right after the angel blows the seventh trumpet (Revelation 10:7). However, this scenario still leaves the first half of the Tribulation with no judgments.

In addition to the two scenarios just discussed, a third scenario is possible where the Lord breaks the Seal judgments at the beginning of the Tribulation and pours the Bowl judgments out at the end of the Tribulation, with the Trumpet judgments spread out for nearly seven years. While this is certainly possible, it is not consistent with the "half hour of silence" in Revelation 8:1, during which there are no judgments from Heaven for half the hour of Tribulation, or 3 ½ years.

In summary, the period-of-time with no judgments in the first half of the Tribulation fits nicely with the view that the Lord breaks the seals at the beginning of the Tribulation, with about a "half hour of silence," or no judgment from Heaven for about 3 ½ years, followed by the Trumpet and Bowl judgments in the second half of the Tribulation, as shown below:

Half Hour of Silence

In "The Pre-Tribulation Rapture" study, I discuss possible fulfillment of the fall feasts. In that study I explain why I believe the seventh Trumpet judgment fulfills the Feast of Trumpets, the return of Christ fulfills the Feast of Atonement, and the "Marriage Supper of the Lamb" fulfills the Feast of Tabernacles. I cannot be dogmatic on the issue, but there is a scenario that fits both with the "half hour of silence" and fulfillment of the fall feasts: the Feast of Trumpets, Atonement, and Tabernacles.

Let's say the two witnesses arrive at the temple about two weeks before the antichrist defiles the temple and breaks the covenant (Daniel 9:27), which is about 1263-1264 days before the Feast of Trumpets the year Jesus returns. The two witnesses' ministry lasts 1260 days, which means the beast overcomes and kills them 3 ½ days before the Feast of Trumpets, or about two weeks before Jesus returns.

Right after the two witnesses rise from the dead and ascend to Heaven, the angel blows the seventh Trumpet, which announces Jesus' return followed by Heaven's "coronation of the King," fulfilling the Feast of Trumpets. Over the next ten days, known as the "days of awe" by the Jews, the angels pour out the Bowl judgments between the Feast of Trumpets and the Feast of Atonement. Jesus then returns after the Bowl judgments, fulfilling the Feast of Atonement. Zechariah 12 supports the 2nd Coming of Christ fulfilling the Feast of Atonement, when Israel mourns over their Messiah who saves them and gives them the "Spirit of grace and supplication." The "Marriage Supper of the Lamb" fulfills the last feast, which is Tabernacles, when Jesus begins to rule on earth in the flesh with His Bride, the Church, in the Kingdom Age. 75 days beyond the 1,260 days (Daniel 12:12) after the Feast of Atonement bring us to the Feast of Dedication, or Chanukah (or Hanukkah), when many believe Jesus will dedicate the Millennial temple. The following schematic shows this scenario:

Two Witness' Ministry and Fulfillment of the Feasts

In addition to the evidence presented above, which supports the two witnesses' ministry occurring in the second half of the Tribulation when the antichrist has dominion over the world, there is also typology to consider. The following are some notable antichrist and false prophet types in Scripture, and all of them have prophets or servants of God that opposed them:

This typology is consistent with the two witnesses' ministry covering the last half of the Tribulation during the antichrist's dominion. The antichrist has a sidekick called the false prophet, and both are "beasts" who stand against God (Revelation 13). So it makes sense that God sends two prophets to stand up against the two beasts. As we will see in the next few sections, the signs and wonders performed on both sides suggest there might be a competition between the two witnesses and the beasts, similar to the showdown between Moses and Aaron against Pharaoh and his magicians:

Revelation 11:5-6 - 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.
Revelation 13:11-14 - Then I saw another beast coming up out of the earth, and he had two horns like a lamb and spoke like a dragon. And he exercises all the authority of the first beast in his presence, and causes the earth and those who dwell in it to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed. He performs great signs, so that he even makes fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men. And he deceives those who dwell on the earth - by those signs which he was granted to do in the sight of the beast, telling those who dwell on the earth to make an image to the beast who was wounded by the sword and lived.

The two witnesses and the second beast both perform great signs. John does not give many specifics about the great signs the false prophet performs except making fire come down from Heaven. However, typology suggests that to continue deceiving the earth dwellers, the false prophet might try to counterfeit the miracles and plagues of the two witnesses to discredit them the way Pharaoh's magicians tried to discredit Moses.

The two witnesses wear sackcloth. Recall from Revelation 6:12, sackcloth was a dark coarse material made of hair from goats or camels used to make sacks, but became the attire associated with people in mourning and repentance, as demonstrated in the verses below:

Genesis 37:34 - Then Jacob tore his clothes, put sackcloth on his waist, and mourned for his son many days.
Nehemiah 9:1-2 - Now on the twenty-fourth day of this month the children of Israel were assembled with fasting, in sackcloth, and with dust on their heads. Then those of Israelite lineage separated themselves from all foreigners; and they stood and confessed their sins and the iniquities of their fathers.
Esther 4:1-4 - When Mordecai learned all that had happened, he tore his clothes and put on sackcloth and ashes, and went out into the midst of the city. He cried out with a loud and bitter cry. He went as far as the front of the king's gate, for no one might enter the king's gate clothed with sackcloth. And in every province where the king's command and decree arrived, there was great mourning among the Jews, with fasting, weeping, and wailing; and many lay in sackcloth and ashes. So Esther's maids and eunuchs came and told her, and the queen was deeply distressed. Then she sent garments to clothe Mordecai and take his sackcloth away from him, but he would not accept them.
Daniel 9:3 - Then I set my face toward the Lord God to make request by prayer and supplications, with fasting, sackcloth, and ashes.
Joel 1:13 - Gird yourselves and lament, you priests; wail, you who minister before the altar; come, lie all night in sackcloth, you who minister to my God; for the grain offering and the drink offering are withheld from the house of your God.
Jonah 3:4-8 - And Jonah began to enter the city on the first day's walk. Then he cried out and said, "Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!" So the people of Nineveh believed God, proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest to the least of them. Then word came to the king of Nineveh; and he arose from his throne and laid aside his robe, covered himself with sackcloth and sat in ashes. And he caused it to be proclaimed and published throughout Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles, saying, Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste anything; do not let them eat, or drink water. But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily to God; yes, let every one turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands.
Matthew 11:21 - "Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes."

Sackcloth made of coarse hair was also the attire of the prophets in the Old Testament; even the false prophets:

Zechariah 13:4 - "And it shall be in that day that every prophet will be ashamed of his vision when he prophesies; they will not wear a robe of coarse hair to deceive."

Like a wolf in sheep's clothing, the false prophets wore sackcloth to deceive because sackcloth was the customary attire of the prophets. But true prophets wore the sackcloth as an outward show of their inward contrite and humble spirit toward the Lord. Likewise, the two witnesses wear sackcloth as an outward show of their humbleness before the Lord and their sorrow over the world's sin and lack of repentance, as they testify for the Lord against the two beasts and the earth dwellers for 1,260 days.


Revelation 11:4 - These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands standing before the God of the earth.

John tells us that the two witnesses are the "two olive trees and two lampstands" who stand before God. Zechariah describes these two olive trees:

Zechariah 3:1-5 - Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the Angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to oppose him. And the LORD said to Satan, "The LORD rebuke you, Satan! The LORD who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is this not a brand plucked from the fire?" Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments, and was standing before the Angel. Then He answered and spoke to those who stood before Him, saying, "Take away the filthy garments from him." And to him He said, "See, I have removed your iniquity from you, and I will clothe you with rich robes." And I said, "Let them put a clean turban on his head." So they put a clean turban on his head, and they put the clothes on him. And the Angel of the LORD stood by.
Zechariah 3:6 - Then the Angel of the LORD admonished Joshua, saying, "Thus says the LORD of hosts: 'If you will walk in My ways, and if you will keep My command, then you shall also judge My house, and likewise have charge of My courts; I will give you places to walk among these who stand here. 'Hear, O Joshua, the high priest, You and your companions who sit before you, for they are a wondrous sign; for behold, I am bringing forth My Servant the BRANCH. For behold, the stone that I have laid before Joshua: Upon the stone are seven eyes. Behold, I will engrave its inscription,' says the LORD of hosts, 'And I will remove the iniquity of that land in one day. In that day,' says the LORD of hosts, 'Everyone will invite his neighbor under his vine and under his fig tree.'"
Zechariah 4:1-7 - Now the angel who talked with me came back and wakened me, as a man who is wakened out of his sleep. And he said to me, "What do you see?" So I said, "I am looking, and there is a lampstand of solid gold with a bowl on top of it, and on the stand seven lamps with seven pipes to the seven lamps. Two olive trees are by it, one at the right of the bowl and the other at its left." So I answered and spoke to the angel who talked with me, saying, "What are these, my lord?" Then the angel who talked with me answered and said to me, "Do you not know what these are?" And I said, "No, my lord." So he answered and said to me: "This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: 'Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,' Says the LORD of hosts. 'Who are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you shall become a plain! And he shall bring forth the capstone With shouts of "Grace, grace to it!"'"
Zechariah 4:8-14 - Moreover the word of the LORD came to me, saying: "The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this temple; his hands shall also finish it. Then you will know that the LORD of hosts has sent Me to you. For who has despised the day of small things? For these seven rejoice to see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel. They are the eyes of the LORD, which scan to and fro throughout the whole earth." Then I answered and said to him, "What are these two olive trees - at the right of the lampstand and at its left?" And I further answered and said to him, "What are these two olive branches that drip into the receptacles of the two gold pipes from which the golden oil drains?" Then he answered me and said, "Do you not know what these are?" And I said, "No, my lord." So he said, "These are the two anointed ones, who stand beside the Lord of the whole earth."

The two olive trees were Joshua and Zerubbabel. Joshua was the high priest during the days of Zechariah the prophet. Zerubbabel was of the seed of David chosen by King Darius of Persia to rule over Judah as governor. In short, these two chapters in Zechariah look forward to the coming Messiah, or the "Branch," who would be both a ruler of the seed of David and high priest. This prophecy found fulfillment in Jesus, but Zerubbabel and Joshua held those positions in their day, acting as types of the coming Messiah. Also, God anointed Zerubbabel and Joshua to lead the people in rebuilding the temple after the exile:

Haggai 1:1-2, 14 - In the second year of King Darius, in the sixth month, on the first day of the month, the word of the LORD came by Haggai the prophet to Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, saying, "Thus speaks the LORD of hosts, saying: 'This people says, "The time has not come, the time that the LORD's house should be built...."'" So the LORD stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and the spirit of Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and the spirit of all the remnant of the people; and they came and worked on the house of the LORD of hosts, their God....

The anointing of Zerubbabel and Joshua speaks to the purpose of their mission. The word translated "anointed" literally means "oil." So it makes sense that the two olive trees in Zechariah were also called the two anointed ones, since the oil typically used in Scripture comes from olives. The usage of the word shows that some who are "anointed" are chosen for a specific purpose. As a formality, oil was typically poured over the head of the anointed one. People anointed their kings with oil to symbolize that they chose the king to rule and reign over them:

2 Samuel 2:4 - Then the men of Judah came, and there they anointed David king over the house of Judah. And they told David, saying, "The men of Jabesh Gilead were the ones who buried Saul."
2 Samuel 19:10 - "But Absalom, whom we anointed over us, has died in battle. Now therefore, why do you say nothing about bringing back the king?"
2 Kings 23:30 - Then his servants moved his body in a chariot from Megiddo, brought him to Jerusalem, and buried him in his own tomb. And the people of the land took Jehoahaz the son of Josiah, anointed him, and made him king in his father's place.

God sent His prophets to anoint kings of His choosing - even evil kings!

1 Samuel 9:16-17, 10:1 - "Tomorrow about this time I will send you a man from the land of Benjamin, and you shall anoint him commander over My people Israel, that he may save My people from the hand of the Philistines; for I have looked upon My people, because their cry has come to Me." So when Samuel saw Saul, the LORD said to him, "There he is, the man of whom I spoke to you. This one shall reign over My people...." Then Samuel took a flask of oil and poured it on his head, and kissed him and said: "Is it not because the LORD has anointed you commander over His inheritance?
1 Samuel 16:13-14 - Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers; and the Spirit of the LORD came upon David from that day forward. So Samuel arose and went to Ramah. But the Spirit of the LORD departed from Saul, and a distressing spirit from the LORD troubled him.
1 Kings 1:34, 39 - There let Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet anoint him king over Israel; and blow the horn, and say, 'Long live King Solomon....' Then Zadok the priest took a horn of oil from the tabernacle and anointed Solomon. And they blew the horn, and all the people said, "Long live King Solomon!"
1 Kings 19:13-16 - So it was, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood in the entrance of the cave. Suddenly a voice came to him, and said, "What are you doing here, Elijah?" And he said, "I have been very zealous for the LORD God of hosts; because the children of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword. I alone am left; and they seek to take my life." Then the LORD said to him: "Go, return on your way to the Wilderness of Damascus; and when you arrive, anoint Hazael as king over Syria. Also you shall anoint Jehu the son of Nimshi as king over Israel....

The high priest was also anointed by oil:

Leviticus 21:10-12 - He who is the high priest among his brethren, on whose head the anointing oil was poured and who is consecrated to wear the garments, shall not uncover his head nor tear his clothes; nor shall he go near any dead body, nor defile himself for his father or his mother; nor shall he go out of the sanctuary, nor profane the sanctuary of his God; for the consecration of the anointing oil of his God is upon him: I am the LORD.

The prophet Elijah anointed another prophet to take his place:

1 Kings 19:16 - ...And Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel Meholah you shall anoint as prophet in your place.

These passages show that anointing with oil was an outward ritual to show that a person was chosen for a specific purpose. Incidentally, those whom God anointed weren't necessarily His servants. In fact, several of the kings were downright evil and not all the high priests in Israel's history had a heart for God. Nevertheless, they all accomplished the purpose for which God chose them through the power of the Holy Spirit that came on them. In this context, it makes sense that God wanted those He chose anointed with oil, as oil symbolizes the Holy Spirit throughout Scripture.

As an aside, today in the "dispensation of grace" the Holy Spirit doesn't merely come on people like in the Old Testament, but indwells all believers with no physical oil involved:

2 Corinthians 1:21-22 - Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and has anointed us is God, who also has sealed us and given us the Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.
1 John 2:20, 27 - But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you know all things.... But the anointing which you have received from Him abides in you, and you do not need that anyone teach you; but as the same anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you will abide in Him.

Jesus was also anointed by the Holy Spirit and not oil:

Acts 10:36-38 - The word which God sent to the children of Israel, preaching peace through Jesus Christ - He is Lord of all - that word you know, which was proclaimed throughout all Judea, and began from Galilee after the baptism which John preached: how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him.

Jesus is the long-awaited Messiah that Israel was looking for. Incidentally, the Hebrew word translated "messiah" is the same word translated as "anointed." The only time we find this Hebrew word translated as "messiah" is in the passage below, otherwise, Jesus is always referred to as God's anointed in the Old Testament:

Daniel 9:25-26 - "Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the command to restore and build Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince, there shall be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublesome times. "And after the sixty-two weeks Messiah shall be cut off, but not for Himself; and the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end of it shall be with a flood, and till the end of the war desolations are determined."
Zechariah 4 olive trees bowl golden lampstand

So we see that oil symbolized the Holy Spirit in the anointing ceremonies for those whom God chose for a purpose. Going back to Zerubbabel and Joshua, God not only called them His anointed, but described them as two olive trees. The two olive trees stand on either side of a lamp stand. As discussed in Revelation 5:8, the bowl is God the Father, the golden oil is the Holy Spirit, and the lamp stand is Christ:

Zechariah 4:11-14 - Then I answered and said to him, "What are these two olive trees - at the right of the lampstand and at its left?" And I further answered and said to him, "What are these two olive branches that drip into the receptacles of the two gold pipes from which the golden oil drains?" Then he answered me and said, "Do you not know what these are?" And I said, "No, my lord." So he said, "These are the two anointed ones, who stand beside the Lord of the whole earth."

God calls His two witnesses olive trees like in Zechariah, but He also calls them lamp stands:

Revelation 11:4 - These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands standing before the God of the earth.

Recall from Revelation 1:12, the Greek word translated "lampstands" can also be rendered candlesticks or lamps. A lamp stand bears light, but it is not the source of the light. As discussed in Revelation 1:4, the Holy Spirit is the source of the light for the lamps on the lamp stand. In other words, the works that we do through the Holy Spirit, given by God, shine as lights to the world:

Philippians 2:13-15 - For it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure. Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world.

Likewise, the two witnesses will bring a source of light to the world plunged in the darkness of the Tribulation:

Amos 5:18-20 - Woe to you who desire the day of the LORD! For what good is the day of the LORD to you? It will be darkness, and not light. It will be as though a man fled from a lion, and a bear met him! Or as though he went into the house, leaned his hand on the wall, and a serpent bit him! Is not the day of the LORD darkness, and not light? Is it not very dark, with no brightness in it?

The world rejected Jesus when He came into the world because He was the light that exposed the world's evil deeds:

John 3:16-21 - For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. "He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God."

The world will also reject the two witnesses whose plagues and testimony torment them because they reject the message of the Gospel. The world would rather stay in darkness and continue in rebellion, even in the midst of judgment:

Revelation 11:6-7, 10 - 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. 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 those who dwell on the earth will rejoice over them, make merry, and send gifts to one another, because these two prophets tormented those who dwell on the earth.
Revelation 9:20-21 - But the rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands, that they should not worship demons, and idols of gold, silver, brass, stone, and wood, which can neither see nor hear nor walk. And they did not repent of their murders or their sorceries or their sexual immorality or their thefts.
Revelation 16:9 - And men were scorched with great heat, and they blasphemed the name of God who has power over these plagues; and they did not repent and give Him glory.

As discussed in Revelation 7:3, trees represent people throughout Scripture. Olive trees are the source of the oil that represents the Holy Spirit. Therefore, Zerubbabel and Joshua represented as trees show that they were full of the Holy Spirit. Indeed, God said that the Holy Spirit would give them power to finish the temple:

Haggai 2:4-5 - Yet now be strong, Zerubbabel,' says the LORD; 'and be strong, Joshua, son of Jehozadak, the high priest; and be strong, all you people of the land,' says the LORD, 'and work; for I am with you,' says the LORD of hosts. 'According to the word that I covenanted with you when you came out of Egypt, so My Spirit remains among you; do not fear!'
Zechariah 4:6-9 - So he answered and said to me: "This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: 'Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,' says the LORD of hosts. 'Who are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you shall become a plain! And he shall bring forth the capstone with shouts of "Grace, grace to it!"' "Moreover the word of the LORD came to me, saying: "The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this temple; his hands shall also finish it. Then you will know that the LORD of hosts has sent Me to you."

So the two witnesses are full of the Holy Spirit, being both olive trees and lamps whose source of oil is the Holy Spirit. Since Zerubbabel and Joshua filled the roll of the two olive trees in Zechariah, will they return as the two witnesses in the Tribulation? Perhaps, but the context of the olive trees is that the Holy Spirit empowers them to fulfill a specific purpose. God anointed Zerubbabel and Joshua to build the second temple, but this is not the two witnesses' mission, as they arrive after the Tribulation temple is already standing:

Revelation 11:1-3 - 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. And I will give power to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy one thousand two hundred and sixty days, clothed in sackcloth."

We saw in this section that the two olive trees are two men full of the Holy Spirit whom God chose for a specific purpose. While Zerubbabel and Joshua fill the role of the two olive trees chosen to build the temple, they also symbolize the coming Messiah, being both of the royal bloodline and high priest. The two witnesses are also olive trees, but they are also lamp stands that share the light of the Word, or "the law and the prophets," with the world. Therefore, the two olive trees might represent more of a position held by different people at different times in history filled by people chosen by God for a specific purpose through the power of the Holy Spirit instead of two specific people. That said, Zerubbabel and Joshua cannot be ruled out returning as the two witnesses in the Tribulation. In fact, there are several good candidates that may fill this roll, including Moses and Elijah, as mentioned in the last section. To read a speculative discussion on who the two witnesses might be and why, click here.


Revelation 11:5 - And if anyone wants to harm them, fire proceeds from their mouth and devours their enemies. And if anyone wants to harm them, he must be killed in this manner.

God protects His two witnesses during their ministry and gives them power to kill their enemies with fire that comes out of their mouths. Moses and Elijah destroyed their enemies by calling down fire from Heaven, but it did not come out of their mouths like the two witnesses:

Exodus 9:23 - And Moses stretched out his rod toward heaven; and the LORD sent thunder and hail, and fire darted to the ground. And the LORD rained hail on the land of Egypt.
2 Kings 1:10 - So Elijah answered and said to the captain of fifty, "If I am a man of God, then let fire come down from heaven and consume you and your fifty men." And fire came down from heaven and consumed him and his fifty.
Luke 9:51-55 - Now it came to pass, when the time had come for Him to be received up, that He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem, and sent messengers before His face. And as they went, they entered a village of the Samaritans, to prepare for Him. But they did not receive Him, because His face was set for the journey to Jerusalem. And when His disciples James and John saw this, they said, "Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them, just as Elijah did?" But He turned and rebuked them, and said, "You do not know what manner of spirit you are of."

We do see that a third of the world's population dies in the sixth Trumpet judgment by fire, smoke, and brimstone that come out of the mouths of supernatural horses (Revelation 9:17). Also, God breaths fire out of His mouth in judgment:

Psalms 18:6-8 - In my distress I called upon the LORD, and cried out to my God; He heard my voice from His temple, and my cry came before Him, even to His ears. Then the earth shook and trembled; the foundations of the hills also quaked and were shaken, because He was angry. Smoke went up from His nostrils, and devouring fire from His mouth; coals were kindled by it.

Fire from God's mouth is His Word:

Jeremiah 23:29 - "Is not My word like a fire?" says the LORD, "And like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces?"

God's Word is also described as a two-edged sword (Hebrews 4:12, Ephesians 6:17), which can make a person "burn" with conviction, or literally slay the unrighteous as with a sword or fire:

Luke 24:32 - And they said to one another, "Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us on the road, and while He opened the Scriptures to us?"
Hosea 6:5 - Therefore I have hewn them by the prophets, I have slain them by the words of My mouth; and your judgments are like light that goes forth.
Isaiah 11:4 - But with righteousness He shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; He shall strike the earth with the rod of His mouth, and with the breath of His lips He shall slay the wicked.
Jeremiah 5:11-14 - For the house of Israel and the house of Judah have dealt very treacherously with Me," says the LORD. They have lied about the LORD, and said, "It is not He. Neither will evil come upon us, nor shall we see sword or famine. And the prophets become wind, for the word is not in them. Thus shall it be done to them." Therefore thus says the LORD God of hosts: "Because you speak this word, behold, I will make My words in your mouth fire, and this people wood, and it shall devour them.
2 Thessalonians 2:8 - And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming.
Revelation 19:15 - Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.

Jeremiah the prophet had no choice but to share God's Word because it was like a burning fire within him until He did:

Jeremiah 20:9 - Then I said, "I will not make mention of Him, nor speak anymore in His name." But His word was in my heart like a burning fire shut up in my bones; I was weary of holding it back, and I could not.

The two witnesses will surely complete their testimony just as Jeremiah did, and anyone that tries to interfere will become "toast"!


Revelation 11:6 - 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.

God gives the two witnesses power to stop the rain like Elijah did, and it will not rain during the time of their ministry. Interestingly, it did not rain during Elijah's ministry for the same duration of the two witnesses' ministry of 3 ½ years:

Luke 4:25 - But I tell you truly, many widows were in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, and there was a great famine throughout all the land....
James 5:17-18 - Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth produced its fruit.

It is not clear whether the two witnesses withhold the rain globally or only locally in Israel. Either way, the rain is certainly withheld in Israel, which is significant considering the symbolism in their rainy seasons. Israel has two periods of seasonal rain called the early rains and the latter rains:

Deuteronomy 11:13-15 - 'And it shall be that if you earnestly obey My commandments which I command you today, to love the LORD your God and serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul, then I will give you the rain for your land in its season, the early rain and the latter rain, that you may gather in your grain, your new wine, and your oil. And I will send grass in your fields for your livestock, that you may eat and be filled.'
Joel 2:23 - Be glad then, you children of Zion, and rejoice in the LORD your God; for He has given you the former rain faithfully, and He will cause the rain to come down for you - the former rain, and the latter rain in the first month.
Zechariah 10:1 - Ask the LORD for rain in the time of the latter rain. The LORD will make flashing clouds; He will give them showers of rain, grass in the field for everyone.
James 5:7 - Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rain.

The following commentary explains these two seasonal rainy periods in Israel:

    "The early rain commenced in autumn, that is, chiefly during the months of September and October, while the latter rain fell in the spring of the year, that is, during the months of March and April. It is true that occasional showers fell all the winter; but, at the autumnal and vernal seasons, they were more frequent, copious, and important; for the early rain was necessary, after a hot and protracted summer, to prepare the soil for receiving the seed; and the latter rain, which shortly preceded the harvest, was of the greatest use in invigorating the languishing powers of vegetation."

The Lord's coming correlates to these seasonal rains:

Hosea 6:3 - Let us know, let us pursue the knowledge of the LORD. His going forth is established as the morning; He will come to us like the rain, like the latter and former rain to the earth.

In fact, the Lord was likely born in the autumn at the time of the early rains and presented Himself as the sacrificial Lamb in the spring at the time of the latter rains when He fulfilled the spring feasts. When the Lord returns again, it will be in the fall because He will fulfill the fall feasts at the time of the early rains. So we see that the return of rain in the Kingdom is symbolic of the coming of the Lord, who will rain down righteousness on the earth and save Israel:

Hosea 10:12 - Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap in mercy; break up your fallow ground, for it is time to seek the LORD, till He comes and rains righteousness on you.
Isaiah 45:8, 17 - Rain down, you heavens, from above, and let the skies pour down righteousness; let the earth open, let them bring forth salvation, and let righteousness spring up together. I, the LORD, have created it.... But Israel shall be saved by the LORD with an everlasting salvation; you shall not be ashamed or disgraced forever and ever.

After the Lord returns to Earth to set up His Kingdom, He will also restore the rain to Israel:

Isaiah 4:2-6 - In that day the Branch of the LORD shall be beautiful and glorious; and the fruit of the earth shall be excellent and appealing for those of Israel who have escaped. And it shall come to pass that he who is left in Zion and remains in Jerusalem will be called holy - everyone who is recorded among the living in Jerusalem. When the Lord has washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion, and purged the blood of Jerusalem from her midst, by the spirit of judgment and by the spirit of burning, then the LORD will create above every dwelling place of Mount Zion, and above her assemblies, a cloud and smoke by day and the shining of a flaming fire by night. For over all the glory there will be a covering. And there will be a tabernacle for shade in the daytime from the heat, for a place of refuge, and for a shelter from storm and rain.
Isaiah 30:19, 23-26 - For the people shall dwell in Zion at Jerusalem; you shall weep no more. He will be very gracious to you at the sound of your cry; when He hears it, He will answer you.... Then He will give the rain for your seed with which you sow the ground, and bread of the increase of the earth; it will be fat and plentiful. In that day your cattle will feed in large pastures. Likewise the oxen and the young donkeys that work the ground will eat cured fodder, which has been winnowed with the shovel and fan. There will be on every high mountain and on every high hill rivers and streams of waters, in the day of the great slaughter, when the towers fall. Moreover the light of the moon will be as the light of the sun, and the light of the sun will be sevenfold, as the light of seven days, in the day that the LORD binds up the bruise of His people and heals the stroke of their wound.

Since the Lord restores the rains after He returns, this suggests that rain is withheld before that time. As discussed at length in Revelation 11:3, scriptural evidence supports the notion that the two witnesses' ministry covers most of the second half of the Tribulation, which means the drought during their ministry will last until near the end of the Tribulation. In fact, Heaven announces the imminent return of Jesus to conquer the kingdoms of the world and set up His Kingdom right after the two witnesses' ministry ends:

Revelation 11:15 - Then the seventh angel sounded: And there were loud voices in heaven, saying, "The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!"

After the angel sounds the seventh trumpet, God pours out the Bowl judgments before Jesus returns. These last Tribulation judgments can only last a few days to perhaps a few weeks due to their severity, or no one could survive. In other words, the time between the two witnesses' ministry and the Lord's return is relatively short, in the span of days to weeks, but not months or years. Incidentally, the last Bowl judgment before Jesus returns will certainly end the drought. Even if it doesn't rain in the final days of the Tribulation, the hail in the last Bowl judgment will flood the land when it melts, which may cause the river of blood that flows outside of Jerusalem because of the carnage from the hail:

Revelation 16:17-18, 21 - Then the seventh angel poured out his bowl into the air, and a loud voice came out of the temple of heaven, from the throne, saying, "It is done!" And there were noises and thunderings and lightnings; and there was a great earthquake, such a mighty and great earthquake as had not occurred since men were on the earth.... And great hail from heaven fell upon men, each hailstone about the weight of a talent. Men blasphemed God because of the plague of the hail, since that plague was exceedingly great.
Revelation 14:20 - And the winepress was trampled outside the city, and blood came out of the winepress, up to the horses' bridles, for one thousand six hundred furlongs.

As an interesting side note, Elijah told Ahab after the 3 ½-year drought (Luke 4:25, James 5:17-18) to look "seven times" for the rain that would end the drought. This might be a prophetic parallel alluding to the 7-year Tribulation and return of the Lord when He restores the rain to the land:

1 Kings 17:1 - And Elijah the Tishbite, of the inhabitants of Gilead, said to Ahab, "As the LORD God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, except at my word."
1 Kings 18:41-45 - Then Elijah said to Ahab, "Go up, eat and drink; for there is the sound of abundance of rain." So Ahab went up to eat and drink. And Elijah went up to the top of Carmel; then he bowed down on the ground, and put his face between his knees, and said to his servant, "Go up now, look toward the sea." So he went up and looked, and said, "There is nothing." And seven times he said, "Go again." Then it came to pass the seventh time, that he said, "There is a cloud, as small as a man's hand, rising out of the sea!" So he said, "Go up, say to Ahab, 'Prepare your chariot, and go down before the rain stops you.' " Now it happened in the meantime that the sky became black with clouds and wind, and there was a heavy rain. So Ahab rode away and went to Jezreel.

In addition to preventing rainfall, God will give the two witnesses power to turn water into blood and strike the earth with plagues. As discussed in Revelation 8:6, Moses and Aaron were two prophets that acted as witnesses before Pharaoh for the Lord. At the word of Moses and Aaron, God rained down judgment on Egypt in the form of plagues, including turning the Nile River to blood. Likewise, the two witnesses likely arrive shortly before the Trumpet judgments begin, they will witness against the beast and his kingdom, and strike the earth with plagues. In fact, the Trumpet judgments parallel most of the plagues in Egypt:


Plagues on Egypt Tribulation Judgment(s)
Nile turned to blood (Exodus 7:14-25) Sea, rivers, and streams turns to blood.
2nd Trumpet (Revelation 8:8-9) and
2nd & 3rd Bowls (Revelation 16:3-7)
Frogs (Exodus 8:1-15) Demonic frogs gather the kingdoms of
the world to battle Christ in Armageddon.
6th Bowl (Revelation 16:12-16)
Gnats (Exodus 8:16-19) -
Flies (Exodus 8:20-32) -
Death of Livestock (Exodus 9:1-7) -
Boils (Exodus 9:8-12) Sores on those who take the mark of the beast
and the inhabitants of his kingdoms.
1st & 5th Bowls (Revelation 16:2, 10-11)
Hail (Exodus 9:14-35) Hail on the earth and the nations.
1st & 7th Trumpet (Revelation 8:7, 11:19)
7th Bowl (Revelation 16:17-21)
Locusts (Exodus 10:1-20) Men tortured by demonic locusts.
5th Trumpet (Revelation 9:1-11)
Darkness (Exodus 10:21-29) Darkness on the beast's kingdom.
5th Bowl (Revelation 16:10-11)
Death of the firstborn (Exodus 11-12) -

The Trumpet judgments might be part of the plagues called down by the word of the two witnesses that signal the angels to sound their trumpets. As mentioned in Revelation 11:3, the false prophet will perform great signs for the benefit of the antichrist to deceive the world. It is possible that part of the deception is to discredit the two witnesses by performing some of the same signs in the form of fire and plagues like Pharaoh's magicians did to try to discredit Moses and Aaron. Indeed, the false prophet will deceive many:

Revelation 13:13 - He performs great signs, so that he even makes fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men. And he deceives those who dwell on the earth - by those signs which he was granted to do in the sight of the beast, telling those who dwell on the earth to make an image to the beast who was wounded by the sword and lived.

The reason Moses and the two witnesses perform miraculous signs is to glorify God and turn people toward Him. As shown in the passage below, God withheld the rain and brought plagues to Israel during the days of Amos to persuade them to come back when they turned away from Him:

Amos 4:7-12 - "I also withheld rain from you, when there were still three months to the harvest. I made it rain on one city, I withheld rain from another city. One part was rained upon, and where it did not rain the part withered. So two or three cities wandered to another city to drink water, but they were not satisfied; yet you have not returned to Me," says the LORD. "I blasted you with blight and mildew. When your gardens increased, your vineyards, your fig trees, and your olive trees, the locust devoured them; yet you have not returned to Me," says the LORD. "I sent among you a plague after the manner of Egypt; your young men I killed with a sword, along with your captive horses; I made the stench of your camps come up into your nostrils; yet you have not returned to Me," says the LORD. "I overthrew some of you, as God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah, and you were like a firebrand plucked from the burning; yet you have not returned to Me," says the LORD. "Therefore thus will I do to you, O Israel; because I will do this to you, prepare to meet your God, O Israel!"

Solomon prayed that his people would turn back toward God after times of drought and plague and look toward the temple as a first step in returning to God, which we discussed in Revelation 11:1:

2 Chronicles 6:26-31 - "When the heavens are shut up and there is no rain because they have sinned against You, when they pray toward this place and confess Your name, and turn from their sin because You afflict them, then hear in heaven, and forgive the sin of Your servants, Your people Israel, that You may teach them the good way in which they should walk; and send rain on Your land which You have given to Your people as an inheritance. "When there is famine in the land, pestilence or blight or mildew, locusts or grasshoppers; when their enemies besiege them in the land of their cities; whatever plague or whatever sickness there is; whatever prayer, whatever supplication is made by anyone, or by all Your people Israel, when each one knows his own burden and his own grief, and spreads out his hands to this temple: then hear from heaven Your dwelling place, and forgive, and give to everyone according to all his ways, whose heart You know (for You alone know the hearts of the sons of men), that they may fear You, to walk in Your ways as long as they live in the land which You gave to our fathers."

Looking forward to the Tribulation, one-third of the Jews will survive the judgments and plagues (Zechariah 13:9), but they will have to look solely to God and not His temple after the antichrist defiles the temple, which prompts the Jewish remnant to flee to the wilderness where God will protect them (Matthew 24:15-21, Revelation 12:6, 13-17). It is possible that the testimony of the two witnesses, who arrive on the scene at the temple shortly before the antichrist arrives, warns the Jewish remnant of the impending danger and why they must flee. The two witnesses' miraculous signs and plagues would help authenticate their message and help turn the Jews back to God and direct their path to safety.

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