Bible Revelation

The Two Witnesses (Rev 11:1-14)


A. Past Blog Posts

B. Text of Rev 11:1-14

1He gave me something like a measuring rod saying: “Get up and measure the temple of God, altar, and the ones worshipping there. 2But, regarding the courtyard outside of the temple he said to leave it out and don’t measure it because it has been given to the Gentiles. They will trample the holy city for forty-two months. 3I will give my two witnesses power and they will prophesy for 1,260 days while dressed in sackcloth.” 4(These two witnesses are the two olive trees and two lampstands which have been standing before the Lord of the earth.) 5If anyone wants to injure my two witnesses fire will come from their mouths and devour their enemies. If anyone wants to injure them, then it is necessary for that person to die. 6They will have power to shut the heavens so that it will not rain during the time of their prophesy. They will have power over water to turn it into blood and to strike the earth with every plague as often as they want. 7When they finish their testimony the beast which comes up out of the abyss will make war against them, conquer them, and kill them. 8So their dead bodies will lie on the street of the great city which is spiritually called “Sodom” and “Egypt.” It is where our Lord was crucified. 9And people from every people, nation, language, and group will see the dead bodies for three and a half days. Their bodies will lay there because no one will be allowed to put the two witnesses in a tomb. 10As a result, everyone who lives on earth will rejoice over the two witnesses, celebrate, and send gifts to each other because these two witnesses harassed the ones who live on the earth. 11Yet, after three and a half days the breath of life from God went into them. They stood up on their feet and great fear fell on the people who saw the two witnesses. 12Then they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them: “Come up here.” So they ascended through the clouds into heaven while their enemies watched. 13It was at this time that there was a great earthquake which brought down one-tenth of the city. In the earthquake seven thousand people died. Then the rest of the people were afraid and gave praise to the God of heaven. 14The second woe has passed. Look! The third woe is coming soon. (Rev 11:1-14)[ref]Unless otherwise noted, all translations are my own. I used the NA28 Greek text[/ref]

The Two Witnesses of Rev 11.1 to 11.14

Photo Credit: Phillip Medhurst

C. General Remarks about Rev 11:1-14

“During the Great Tribulation Satan will use two men—the Antichrist and the false prophet—to carry out his evil agenda. At the same time, God will raise up two brigh tlights to shine for Him in the darkness. These two men, called the two witnesses, and Revelation 11:3-14 describes their ministry. God will anoint these two special witnesses who will minister on His behalf amid the darkness and devastation. Just as John the Baptist was the forerunner for the Messiah, these two witness will pave the way for His return.” (Hitchcock, The End, 345)

“chapter 11 has been generally acknowledged to be one of the most perplexing sections of the entire book” (Bruce Metzger, Breaking the Code, 68).

“chapter 11 is one of the most difficult to interpret in the entire book” (Walvoord, Revelation, 177).

“People find many books puzzling, but he Bible is often the most puzzling of all. People find many parts of the Bible puzzling, but Revelation is often seen as the most puzzling book of all. And people find Revelation puzzling, but the first half of chapter 11 – the passage now before us – is, for many, the most puzzling part of all.” (Wright, Revelation for Everyone, 97)

“The many interpretations of the two witnesses make this one of the most debated passages in the book and indicate its importance” (Osborne, Revelation, 417).

Before we start to study Rev 11:1-14 I want to start by telling you that I see this as real people, actual places, true events, and literal numbers.


A. Measure the Temple; Count the Worshipers (v. 1)

Καὶ ἐδόθη μοι κάλαμος ὅμοιος ῥάβδῳ, λέγων· ἔγειρε καὶ μέτρησον τὸν ναὸν τοῦ θεοῦ καὶ τὸ θυσιαστήριον καὶ τοὺς προσκυνοῦντας ἐν αὐτῷ.

He gave me something like a measuring rod saying: “Get up and measuring the temple of God, altar, and the ones worshiping there.” (Rev 11:1)

1. The Measuring Rod

The literal phrase here is, “And something like a measure rod was given to me, saying.”

This measuring rod is a bamboo like item that grew on the banks of the Jordan river. It could be anywhere between ten feet (Osborne, Revelation, 409) and twenty feet in length (Walter Kaiser and Duane Garrett, eds., “Revelation,” The Archaeological Study Bible [Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2005], 2059 quoted in Walvoord, Revelation, 178).

2. Temple