The second part of the interlude between the sixth and seventh trumpet is the two witnesses. They are like Moses and Elijah, performing miracles. They are like two olive trees and two lampstands, recalling Zechariah 4:1-14. They represent the Lord on earth standing against the beast.
Who are they?
1) Two prophets who were martyred before the fall of Jerusalem
2) Two prophets who will appear shortly before the second coming
3) They are symbolic – because they are two lampstands, they are symbolic representing the church, just as the seven lampstands of 1:12 and 20 represent the seven churches earlier in Revelation.
The trampling of the city for 42 months could be the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70 – but when the altar and temple were not preserved.
Chapter 11 is a general visionary representation of the witness of the church and God’s preservation and vindication of that witness. The temple represents the presence of God on earth through us as believers.
The 42 months – is 1260 days, or 3.5 years. As half of 7 years, it suggests a complete period of suffering cut short by half. This has multiple applications throughout church history – for the original readers it showed a persecution to come that would be of limited duration. The same is true throughout history, culminating in a violent time of intense conflict and persecution, just before the return of Christ (2 Thessalonians 2:1-12):
- The church bears prophetic witness, does miracles and proclaims the need for repentance.
- The beast represents demonised state power persecuting the church.
- Satan energises false worship and stirs up opposition trying to destroy Christians and their witness.
It’s an extreme picture for a reason – our obedience as saints is often inconsistent and flawed; non-Christians’ rebellion is often inconsistent too. They are not as bad as they could be and we are not as good as we could be. That can obscure the fact that there is the most fundamental conflict in the universe going on, between God and His enemies. Revelation shines a spotlight on good and evil making it black and white again. Look behind life for the spiritual battle.
The witness are killed and left unburied for three and half days. It symbolises a period of such intense persecution that the church looks snuffed out. For decades the established Church in our nation has been in decline, predicted to die within decades. But…, but God! We are on the move again, the tide has turned. Victory is coming!