Study Notes

Revelation 11:3-13


We continue to be in the parenthesis between the sixth and seventh trumpet judgments. Last week, we saw that John was told to measure the temple - the temple that will be present on Temple Mount in Jerusalem during the Tribulation period. Now we read...

11:3 My Two Witnesses

We saw earlier in Revelation that there would be 144,000 Jewish men preaching the gospel to all the world. But in addition to them, God will have two special witnesses. Guys with authority, who will be known world-wide.

Why are there two of them? The law stated,

Deut. 17:6 On the evidence of two witnesses or three witnesses, he who is to die shall be put to death; he shall not be put to death on the evidence of one witness.

Deut. 19:15 A single witness shall not rise up against a man on account of any iniquity or any sin which he has committed; on the evidence of two or three witnesses a matter shall be confirmed.

Remember back in Genesis 19 that the Lord sent two angels into Sodom to see if their sin was as bad as the outcry against them was. The Lord would not put them to death on the testimony of only one.

In Matthew 18, the Lord dictated the terms of church discipline in the case of one who is in unrepentant sin. He said,

Matt. 18:16 "But if he does not listen {to you,} take one or two more with you, so that BY THE MOUTH OF TWO OR THREE WITNESSES EVERY FACT MAY BE CONFIRMED.

And Paul told Timothy,

1Tim. 5:19 Do not receive an accusation against an elder except on the basis of two or three witnesses.

So there is a Law at work in the universe that punishment should not be meted out without the witness of at least two.

1,260 Days

The two witnesses will prophesy for 1,260 days. In the Bible, you will find that prophecies are based on the 360-day year of the Babylonian calendar. So 1,260 days is exactly three and a half 360-day years. Whether the ministry of the two witnesses lasts for the first half or the second half of the 7-year period that the book of Revelation covers is up for scholarly debate. There are good reasons to believe either conjecture.

Clothed In Sackcloth

We read many times in Scripture about people being clothed in sackcloth. Sackcloth is a dark, coarse material - like a rough canvas - made out of goats' or camels' hair. Not the ideal material to make a shirt or shorts out of - it is extremely uncomfortable to wear. Thus, it became the material to wear when mourning the loss of a loved one, or to demonstrate humility, repentance, or sorrow.

Although I haven't ever done this, it seems to be a physical manifestation of where your heart is. You're in mental, emotional, or spiritual agony, and you make yourself to be in physical agony as well. When someone put on sackcloth next to their skin, you knew they were genuinely feeling that sorrow.

The two witnesses are evidently greatly grieved by the evil and unrepentance in the world around them.

11:4 Two Olive Trees And Lampstands

In Zechariah 4 we read of an angel who woke Zechariah up and showed him a vision. The vision was of a lampstand. Now remember that the lampstand held oil lamps which had to continually be filled by the priest, or else they would go out. But in this vision, Zechariah saw two olive trees producing oil directly for the lamps, with no human intervention. When Zechariah asked what this meant, the angel said,

Zech. 4:6 ..."'Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,' says the LORD of hosts."

Then Zechariah asked the angel,

Zech. 4:11-14 ..."What are these two olive trees on the right of the lampstand and on its left?" And I answered the second time and said to him, "What are the two olive branches which are beside the two golden pipes, which empty the golden {oil} from themselves?" So he answered me saying, "Do you not know what these are?" And I said, "No, my lord." Then he said, "These are the two anointed ones, who are standing by the Lord of the whole earth."

That's the same thing that the two witnesses in Revelation are described as:

Rev. 11:4 ...the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth.

So they are not prophesying in their own power, but by the power of the Holy Spirit. The light that they are shining is fed by the Spirit, so no human attempt to extinguish their flame can succeed until the Lord allows it.

11:5 Fire Out Of Their Mouth

People will not like what they are preaching, and try to physically harm the witnesses. But when anyone goes after them, fire proceeds out of their mouth and devours them.

There is a possibility this means that with their mouths they are able to call down fire from heaven. It certainly has happened in the Bible before.

In 2Kings 1, Akh-az-YAW, the king of Samaria, sent a captain and 50 men to bring in Elijah. The captain said, "Hey man of God, come down from that hill!"

2Kgs. 1:10 And Elijah answered and said to the captain of fifty, "If I am a man of God, let fire come down from heaven and consume you and your fifty." Then fire came down from heaven and consumed him and his fifty.

So the king sent another group - same thing happened. The third captain with his 50 were sent, but

2Kgs. 1:13-15 ...he came and bowed down on his knees before Elijah, and begged him and said to him, "O man of God, please let my life and the lives of these fifty servants of yours be precious in your sight. Behold fire came down from heaven, and consumed the first two captains of fifty with their fifties; but now let my life be precious in your sight." And the angel of the LORD said to Elijah, "Go down with him; do not be afraid of him." So he arose and went down with him to the king.

James and John must have liked this story a lot, for when the Samaritans refused to receive Jesus, the brothers asked,

Luke 9:54 ..."Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?"

But I don't like to be accused of making the Bible say what it doesn't say. t is entirely possible that the fire literally comes out of the two witnesses mouths.

11:6 Their Power

God will give these witnesses power: no rain will fall for 3 1/2 years. They can turn the waters to blood, and smite the earth with every plague, as often as they desire. It is understandable why the people of the earth will hate them!

Their Identities

Who are these two witnesses? Based on their power and on prophecy, most scholars believe that they will be Elijah and Moses.


The very last thing that God said in the Old Testament was,

Mal. 4:5 "Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the LORD..."

Although John the Baptist came in the spirit and power of Elijah, Jesus said of him,

Matt. 11:14 "...if you care to accept {it,} he himself is Elijah, who was to come.

Matt. 17:11 ..."Elijah is coming and will restore all things; but I say to you, that Elijah already came, and they did not recognize him..."

So John would have counted if they had received him, but they did not.

Elijah was the guy who had not only called down fire from heaven, but he also caused a 3 1/2 year drought:

James 5:17-18 Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain; and it did not rain on the earth for three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the sky poured rain, and the earth produced its fruit.


Moses was in charge when the waters of Egypt were turned to blood, along with every other plague. There is also some interesting circumstances regarding the end of Moses' ministry and his death.

God buried Moses Himself, and Satan disputed with Michael the archangel over his body. Could God have had a future use for it? After all, Moses had said,

Deut. 18:15-18 "The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your countrymen, you shall listen to him. This is according to all that you asked of the LORD your God in Horeb on the day of the assembly, saying, 'Let me not hear again the voice of the LORD my God, let me not see this great fire anymore, lest I die.' And the LORD said to me, 'They have spoken well. I will raise up a prophet from among their countrymen like you, and I will put My words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him."

So the Jews have been expecting Moses or a prophet like Moses to appear.


When John the Baptist came baptizing in the wilderness, who did the Pharisees ask who he was? Three people: Are you the Christ? Are you Elijah? Are you that prophet? That's who they were expecting: the Christ, Elijah, and a prophet like unto Moses. We also see on the Mount of Transfiguration Moses and Elijah appear with Christ in glory.

But you should know that there is some contention about their identities, some believing the Enoch, John the Baptist, or Zerubbabel might be included among the two. Why do people feel the need to identify them? I honestly don't know. I don't think it really matters much. If we really had to know, then the Lord would've told us, wouldn't He?

11:7-12 Their Death And Resurrection

They have a powerful ministry, but when their testimony is finished, the beast kills them. Who is the beast? He is the antichrist. We'll be learning more about him soon enough.

The antichrist makes war with the two witnesses, overcomes them, and kills them. Not being very popular guys, their bodies are left to rot in the street of Jerusalem. This will be a time of rejoicing in the world (the only happiness mentioned on earth during the Tribulation). In the eyes of the world, these two were the bad guys. They preached against the world's behaviors, they prophesied gloom and doom. They caused plagues and killed people with fire. So when they're dead, there's going to be a party.

But then the unthinkable happens - God resurrects them in front of everybody! After being dead for three and a half days, they come back to life, stand up, and ascend into heaven!

11:13 A Great Earthquake

A tenth of Jerusalem is destroyed, and 7,000 people die. But the strange thing to me is this:

Rev. 11:13 ...the rest were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven.

There is a pattern that I have seen both in Scripture and in life. In times of distress, people turn to God and acknowledge him. But very few remain with Him when the distress is over.

It happened to the Israelites. When the Philistines would attack, they would turn to God. But when the threat was over and done, they went back to their wicked ways. When Desert Storm began, many churches filled up. But when the shock and fear subsided, so did many people's church attendance. When earthquakes and tornadoes strike, disasters happen, devastations take place, people seek God. But for many, it is only temporary.

Many of us have or have had friends that are nowhere to be found until something goes wrong in their life. Friends like that are a drain - you feel like you don't have a relationship with them, because they only show up when they need something from you.

God is looking for full-time friends. He is looking for people that will turn to Him in good times as well as bad. He is looking for your relationship to be based not on because the situations around you are terrifying, but because the sin in you needs forgiving.

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