The Two Witnesses and Destruction of Jerusalem - Page 2 of 3 (series: Lessons on Revelations)
by John Lowe
“But the court which is without the temple leave out, and measure it not; for it is given unto the Gentiles: and the holy city shall they tread under foot forty and two months”(v. 2).
The worshippers must be measured; whether they make God’s Glory their end, and his word their rule, in all their acts of worship. It is my personal opinion that measuring the people was nothing more than “counting” them; but as for why God would need someone to count and what He will do with the information, is beyond me.
The “mighty angel” went on to say “The court which is without the temple leave out” (v. 2). Those in the outer court, worship in a false manner, or with insincere hearts, and will be found among His enemies. God will have a temple and an altar in the world, till the end of time. He looks strictly to His temple. The holy city, the visible church is trodden under foot, is filled with idolaters, infidels, and hypocrites. But the desolations of the church are limited, and she shall be delivered out of all her troubles.
The outer court, it is explicitly stated, is to be excluded. In the Temples in Israel in the past this was the court of the Gentiles. Now it is indicated that the Gentiles will not only command this area as their own, but for “forty and two months” (i.e., the three and a half years of the Great Tribulation—the last half) they will overrun Jerusalem as well. During the domination of the beast and the Antichrist (see chapter 13) Jerusalem will not enjoy autonomy. The rejected court speaks of the mass of the nations being in apostasy and rejection as well as their being the prey of the other nations. It is Jerusalem’s greatest hour of agony.
The “old” temple had a “court” in the open air, for the heathens who worshipped the God of Israel. It appears from John’s vision that the court was not holy, as was the temple; so a voice commanded John to not measure it: “leave it out.” This includes all that does not belong to the temple proper. The alter of burnt offering (and also the brazen laver) would be outside the temple. Since this altar was a picture of the cross of Christ, it would seem that the implication is that the gospel of the cross of Christ will still be available to all mankind during the intensity of this brief crisis. It is not to be measured, and it will still be available.
“For it is given unto the Gentiles” declares that although this period still belongs to the Gentiles, their dominion is limited to forty-two months. As we have said, this confirms the words of the Lord Jesus in Luke 21:24: “And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.”
The next time the voice speaks, it has a warning for the inhabitants of Jerusalem; that the Gentile nations will overrun Jerusalem “and the holy city shall they tread under foot forty and two months” (v. 2). We are dealing here with that period that the Lord Jesus spoke of in Luke 21:24, “. . . and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.” But this had been going on before John wrote about his experiences. Jerusalem had been “tread under foot” by four armies—the Romans, Persians, Saracens, and Turks. But that severe kind of treading which is spoken of here, will not occur until sometime after the seventh angel sounds his trumpet, and toward the end of the tribulation times. God has scheduled this to continue for forty-two months or 1260 days
3 And I will give power unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days, clothed in sackcloth.
4 These are the two olive trees, and the two candlesticks standing before the God of the earth.
“I will give power unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days, clothed in sackcloth” (v. 3). But God never allows Himself to be without a witness. The very period of the trampling down of Jerusalem will be the time of their testimony, i.e., 1260 days. Their clothing of
sackcloth shows their afflicted condition regarding the spiritual desolation about them. Notice that they preached with power.
“These are the two olive trees, and the two candlesticks standing before the God of the earth” (v. 4). Since they were identified only by the description in verse 4, which is general indeed, various identifications have been suggested by interpreters. Some claim the “two witnesses” are Elijah and Enoch, who did not experience death in order to “see death here.” Others say they are Moses and Elijah. This has much to commend it in the light of Malachi 4:4-5 and the nature of the works that they perform (see verse six of this chapter). A good number prefer to think of them as a godly remnant in Israel and not two men, since two are required to ensure competent witnesses (Deuteronomy 17:6; John 8:17). Some are uncertain in identifying the witnesses, but the opinion of the majority is that the witnessing ministry and miracles are like those of Moses and Elijah. There is also the possibility that they are two unknown witnesses—that is, they have had no previous existence, and they have not yet appeared on the scene. Scripture has always required two witnesses to bear testimony to anything before it was to be heard. Therefore, we can definitely say that these witnesses are human beings and that there are two of them. These are the two things we know for sure.
It seems to me to be almost certain that Elijah is one of them, since it was predicted that he would return: “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord” (Malachi 4:5).
Their function is stated in verse 4 as being similar to “the two olive trees, and the two candlesticks” before the Lord in Zechariah 4:14—“Then said he, These are the two “anointed ones, that stand by the Lord of the whole earth.” In that passage the reference was to two specific men, Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, the governor; one representing governmental power and the other religious. Through them the light and message of God were mediated to the people of Israel in those post-captivity days. The two witnesses of the Great Tribulation were in a royal and priestly capacity, witnessing to the soon coming of the King of the earth.
5 And if any man will hurt them, fire proceedeth out of their mouth, and devoureth their enemies: and if any man will hurt them, he must in this manner be killed.
6 These have power to shut heaven, that it rain not in the days of their prophecy: and have power over waters to turn them to blood, and to smite the earth with all plagues, as often as they will.
These two witnesses are lights before the powers of darkness. They have power to accredit and authenticate their mission to unbelieving Israel. These men are accorded miraculous power to bring fire down from heaven, and have unlimited authority—they are filled with the Holy Spirit. They control rainfall on the earth, and they are able to turn water into blood. These two witnesses are immortal and immune to all attacks until their mission is complete. My friend, it is encouraging to know that all of God’s men are immortal until he has accomplished his purpose through them. And when he is through with you, He will remove you from the earth. Again, the suggestion is strongly in favor of Elijah (see 1 Kings 18:38; 2 Kings 1:10). Also, John made an announcement about One baptizing with fire (see Matthew 3:11).
Miracles like those of Moses and Elijah will confirm their divine empowering. Israel will be in a state of slavery, as in Egypt (now under the domination of the first beast); and she will also be in a condition of apostasy, as in Elijah’s day (now under the delusion of the false prophet, the second beast, see 13:1-18). Because they testify for God, they will be hated by the ungodly. But they will be invincible and immortal until their ministry is completed. Notice the range of their authority in verse 6; “to smite the earth with all plagues, as often as they will.” They are given the same power Christ will have when he returns (see Revelation 19:15). “As often as they will” reveals the confidence God places in these faithful servants.