Revelation 11:1-11 are a continuation of the parenthetical section begun in 10:1. There are numerous interpretations of this difficult section. Some see the temple that is measured as figurative and others think of it as literal. The part of the temple measured is the sanctuary which included the holy place and the holy of holies where the high priest could only go once a year. Some commentators believe that the measurement is a symbolic action claiming it for the Lord who owns the city of Jerusalem and the temple. We see previous incidents of this in Ezekiel 40-41 and Zechariah 2:1-3. Also, we will see the New Jerusalem measured in Revelation 21:15-17.
God was "staking His claim" because, at this point in Revelation, the Gentiles had taken over Jerusalem. The Antichrist had broken his agreement with Israel (Daniel 9:27) and was going to use it for evil purposes (2 Thessalonians 2:3-4; Luke 21:24). They will trample Jerusalem for 42 months. The "time of the Gentiles" will last until Jesus Christ returns to deliver Jerusalem and redeem Israel (Zechariah 14).
The two witnesses prophecy for 1260 days (42 months. This is 3 1/2 years if going by the 360 day prophetic calendar year). Looking at the Bible Book Club post for Zechariah 4 gives us some insight into the "olive trees":
The Fifth Vision - The Lampstand and Two Olive Trees
This lampstand was supernaturally supplied with golden oil flowing from two olive trees to the bowl and on to seven channels to each of the seven lights on the lampstand. The two olive trees symbolized Joshua and Zerubbabel in their priestly and kingly roles for the people of God (4:14). This vision symbolized that, despite the opposition, God would give them success to complete the task of rebuilding the temple and shining His light because of His Spirit and not because of their might and power.
Many commentators believe this is Moses and Elijah because they performed similar tasks in the Old Testament (Exodus 7:14-18; 1 Kings 17:1ff; 2 Kings 1:1-12). Malachi 4:5-6 suggests that Elijah will come before the "great and terrible day of the Lord," but Jesus said this was John the Baptist (Matthew 17:10-13), but John the Baptist denied he was Elijah (John 1:21, 25; Luke 1:16-17). Another argument for it being Moses and Elijah is that they are in the transfiguration of Matthew 17:1-9. Others cite that Elijah did not die but was "taken up" (2 Kings 2) and there was dispute over Moses' bones (Jude 9). All that said, we do not know for sure!
The two witnesses will "torment" the people (11:10) by sending a message of repentance and judgment. After the witnesses have finished their testimony, the Beast (Antichrist, 13:1; 14:9, 11; 15:2; 16:2; 17:3, 13; 19:20; 20:10) is allowed to kill them, and they will lay unburied for three and a half days while the rebellious world gloats over them. Then, they will be resurrected to heaven followed by an earthquake that kills 7,000. Notice that the survivors were terrified and "gave glory to the God of heaven"! This is the end of the second woe (11:14).
The seventh trumpet sounds to usher in and include the seven bowl judgments which will be the last. These will not be revealed until Revelation 16. In the meantime there is fall-on-your-face worship, and these are the verses you hear in the middle of the Hallelujah Chorus of Handel's Messiah!
(I would love for you to stick around with me until December when we will have "Messiah Meditations" that review our journey through the Bible Book Club! Here is a downloadable Word document of it: Messiah Meditations.)
I love the significance of what happens in heaven during this time:
The divine response to the elders' song is the sudden opening of God's temple in heaven (v. 19), protected by John's prophetic act of measuring at the beginning of the chapter (11:1). Within God's temple the ark of His covenant appeared (v. 19 NASB), followed shortly by two more "appearances" (all with the same Greek word for "appeared," horao: first, "a great and wondrous sign appeared in heaven" (12:1) and then "another sign appeared in heaven" (12:3). The appearance of the ark of the covenant is God's acknowledgment of the thanksgiving just offered by the twenty-four elders. John's glimpse of the ark is the nearest he comes in all his visions to a glimpse of God. The repetition of the words "appear" and "in heaven" accent the continuity between God's self-disclosure in the temple and the disclosure of conflict and victory in the next four or five chapters (compare also 15:5). In this sense the seventh trumpet is open-ended, encompassing all the rest of the book of Revelation and announcing in advance the end of the story. (Revelation: IVP New Testament Commentary)While it is not stated, this is probably the beginning of the last of the three woes (8:13; 9:12; 11:15).
This was a tough chapter, but I love how it ends!!!! I am in tears as I listen to this wonderful rendition of the Hallelujah Chorus. Many do not realize it is from the book of Revelation. It is all about WORSHIP of our great and wonderful God! I hope this leads you into fall-on-your-face worship!
The kingdom of the world has become
the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ;
and He will reign forever and ever.
Background to Handel's Messiah that I cannot keep from sharing and will give a prelude into what we will do in December:
Wearily, he tossed the pages aside and crawled into bed. But he could not sleep. The words he had read returned to him:
Comfort ye, comfort ye, my people, saith your God ... The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light ... For unto us a Child is born ... Glory to God in the highest ... Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
Too stirred to sleep, he got up and went to his piano. The music flowed from his heart-rich, majestic, triumphant. He began to write. Night and day for three weeks, he wrote feverishly. He forgot sleep, food, rest. He refused to see anyone. At last, on the day the work was finished, one friend managed to gain entrance.
The composer was at his piano, sheets of music strewn around him, tears streaming down his face. "I do believe I have seen all of Heaven before me, and the great God Himself," he exclaimed.
Millions of people have been able to believe that. The first audience to hear the composition -- in Dublin in 1742 -- gave it the greatest ovation in the city's history. Weeks later, London heard it for the first time, and again it was a triumph. The King was so impressed during the Hallelujah Chorus that he rose to his feet -- a custom that still prevails.
This Christmas, in churches and concert halls around the world, millions of people will once again find hope and faith in the message what has become the most beloved composition of all times -- George Frederic Handel's Messiah.