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The Two Witnesses - Part 2

Tom Pennington • Revelation 11:1-13

  • 2022-05-22 PM
  • Revelation
  • Sermons

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Well, I invite you this evening to take your Bibles and turn with me to Revelation 11. Revelation 11. We're looking at the first part of this chapter and the ministry of the two witnesses. Let's read it together as we begin. We looked at this - began to look at this - our last time together, but I want us to complete it tonight, so let's get a running start again. Revelation 11 - I'll begin reading in verse 1.

"Then there was given me a measuring rod like a staff; and someone said, 'Get up and measure the temple of God and the altar, and those who worship in it. Leave out the court which is outside the temple and do not measure it, for it has been given to the nations; and they will tread under foot the holy city for forty-two months. And I will grant authority to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for twelve hundred and sixty days, clothed in sackcloth.' These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth. And if anyone wants to harm them, fire flows out of their mouth and devours their enemies; so if anyone wants to harm them, he must be killed in this way. These have the power to shut up the sky, so that rain will not fall during the days of their prophesying; and they have power over the waters to turn them into blood, and to strike the earth with every plague, as often as they desire. When they have finished their testimony, the beast that comes up out of the abyss will make war with them, and overcome them and kill them. And their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city which mystically [spiritually] is called Sodom and Egypt, where also their Lord was crucified. Those from the peoples and tribes and tongues and nations will look at their dead bodies for three and a half days, and will not permit their dead bodies to be laid in a tomb. And those who dwell on the earth will rejoice over them and celebrate; and they will send gifts to one another, because these two prophets tormented those who dwell on the earth. But after the three and a half days, the breath of life from God came into them, and they stood on their feet; and great fear fell upon those who were watching them. And they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, 'Come up here.' Then they went up into heaven in the cloud, and their enemies watched them. And in that hour there was a great earthquake, and a tenth of the city fell; seven thousand people were killed in the earthquake, and the rest were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven."

This passage tells us that during the last 3 1/2 years of the Tribulation, the coming seven years in which God will pour out His wrath on this planet, during the last half of that, the last 3 1/2 years, God will send two witnesses to preach the gospel, specifically to the Jewish people. And because of their ministry, Israel will be saved.

What does this passage teach us about these mysterious prophets? We're looking at it together and they're really three basic details about these two future witnesses. We started last time to look at the first detail, and that has to do with the prophetic ministry of these two witnesses in verses 1-6.

Last time, we learned that their primary emphasis is the Jewish people. In verses 1 and 2, we learned that for 42 months, that is 3 1/2 years that constitute the second half of the Tribulation, the 42 months before Christ returns in power at the second coming - for that length of time, the Gentiles will dominate the city of Jerusalem in the outer courts of the temple there. But God is not done with His temple, His city, or His people, Israel, and that's why John is told to measure. He's told to measure the temple and its worshippers. Christ is, in essence, marking them out, promising to preserve and to restore them. And that's what we read about in the rest of this chapter. So, verses 1 and 2 really tell us that their primary emphasis, that is, these two witnesses, will be the Jewish people. It has to do with all things Jewish.

Now, God is going to bring His preservation and restoration of Israel to pass in a unique way, and He's going to do so through two remarkable men. But the point of the first two verses is simply to establish the emphasis of the ministry of these two witnesses, who were about to be introduced. And we looked at that in detail last time. I'm just briefly recapping. If you missed that, you can go back and catch up.

Secondly, we discovered their assigned mission. Verse 3 says, "And", and this joins it to the measuring in verses 1 and 2 - "And I will grant authority to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy..." In spite of the Gentiles, in spite of the oppression of Antichrist and the Gentile nations, God is still going to get His message out.

Whom do these witnesses witness for? You'll notice in verse 3: they are "my" witnesses. And down in verse 8 it speaks of the city "where their Lord was crucified". There are two of them, of course, because the Old Testament law required two witnesses to validate the truth. And their mission is twofold. They are witnesses, that is, they will bear testimony to the person and work of Jesus Christ as Israel's Messiah. And they are prophets, that is, they will preach the need for repentance in light of God's judgments, that have already come, and those still to come in the seventh trumpet and the seven bowl judgments, and they will accompany their preaching with plagues like that Moses performed in Egypt. That is their assigned.

Thirdly, last time, we looked at their assigned time. It is for 3 1/2 years. Verse 3 goes on to say, "...and they will prophesy for twelve hundred and sixty days..." Christ will appoint them to proclaim the message of judgement and salvation during the final 3 1/2 years that lead up to the second coming of Jesus Christ.

Then, we notice their ministry attitude. It's mourning. Verse 3 ends by saying, "... [they were] clothed in sackcloth." They're dawning that ancient form of recognition of one in mourning. They will mourn because they know that all of those who refuse to repent at their preaching, will soon be destroyed in the second coming and sent to the Lake of Fire. And they also mourn because the God that they love and worship and serve is being blasphemed and their Messiah is being rejected. And so, they mourn.

This is the prophetic ministry of God's two witnesses and that's where we left off last time. Tonight, we begin as we still see their ministry unfold, with their vivid description. They are described here, in verse 4, as "olive trees" and "lampstands". Look at verse 4: "These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth." Now, what is this and where does this come from? This is an Old Testament illusion. This description is like that of two Old Testament characters in the book of Zechariah who were, at the time, working to rebuild the temple.

Let's go back to the book of Zechariah, the prophet Zechariah, just before the last book of the Old Testament. Zechariah 4. But back up and look at Zechariah 3. In Zechariah 3, we learn about the high priest in that day. He was a man named Joshua. And the vision, there in chapter 3, describes God as bringing spiritual renewal to Israel in that day, but also bringing spiritual renewal in the future through the Messiah (chapter 3:8-10), specifically, through "My servant the Branch" verse 8 describes. That's the Messiah. So, not only is God going to bring spiritual renewal in the time of Joshua the high priest, in the time of Zechariah the prophet, but He will bring ultimate spiritual renewal in the future through the Messiah.

Now, in chapter 4, we meet a second key character during that former time and his name is Zerubbabel. Let's look at it. Chapter 4:1: "Then the angel who was speaking with me returned and roused me, as a man who is awakened from his sleep. He said to me, 'What do you see?' And I said, 'I see, and behold, a lampstand all of gold with its bowl on the top of it, and its seven lamps on it with seven spouts belonging to each of the lamps which are on the top of it; [so, there is this seven-spouted lampstand and] also (verse 3) two olive trees by it, one on the right side of the bowl and the other on its left side." Go down to verse 9: "The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house [the temple. So, now, we're talking about historically. Zerubbabel was involved in helping rebuild the temple], and his hands will finish it. Then you will know that the Lord of hosts has sent me to you." Go down to verse 11: "Then I said to him, '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.'"

Now, as I read that, you can see that the language that John uses in our text in Revelation 11 comes from this text. So, what's going on here? Let me give you the big picture. In this vision of Zechariah, he sees these olive trees and the olive oil from those two olive trees are providing fuel for the lampstand. And that makes sense, right? I mean, that's how they - that's what they burned in most of their lamps in the ancient world. So, the two olive trees are providing fuel for the lampstand, and that's casting light. And what's being pictured here, in this lampstand with its light, is a graphic picture of the spiritual light that these two men, Joshua and Zerubbabel, brought to the nation of Israel during their time. They were, through their efforts - God used them to provide light to the nation - renewal. Through these two human representatives, God restored Jerusalem as a light to the world. That's the picture here in their time.

Now, come back to Revelation 11. When John borrows this image under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, when he borrows the metaphor of these olive trees and lampstands from the book of Zechariah, the Lord was telling John through this that, listen carefully, the mission of these two future witnesses in Revelation will be just like the mission of Zerubbabel and Joshua in their day. Their mission then, during the time of Joshua and Zerubbabel, was to see the Jewish people restored spiritually and worshipping and they're restored physically to their land. That was the mission then for Joshua and Zerubbabel. They were the Spirit-empowered messengers for God, during a time of crisis, for the nation of Israel and for the world. And John's point here, and ultimately the Lord's point in telling John this, is that the mission of these two future witnesses will be exactly the same during the future Tribulation.

Don't misunderstand. He's not saying here that the two witnesses in Revelation 11 will be exactly the same two men, Joshua and Zerubbabel in Zechariah 3 and 4. Instead, he is saying that the mission of these two men will be exactly the same.

Now, I know what you're thinking. And that is, is he going to name names? I am. As one member said, "I'm going to name names and then leave town." Alright? So, here we go. What is the key question? Who are these two witnesses? Although Revelation 11 doesn't explicitly answer that question, it does provide some clues to help us get there.

So, let's look at their likely identity - Moses and Elijah. Now, the early church fathers - men like Irenaeus, Tertullian, Hippolytus - consistently identified these two men as Enoch and Elijah. And the reason that they did that, their primary argument, was that both Enoch and Elijah didn't die but were translated to heaven (Genesis 5:24, 2 Kings 2:11). And they argued this way. I mean, doesn't Hebrews 9:27 say, "...it is appointed for men to die once...? Well, if all men must die and these two didn't die, then they have to eventually return to the earth in order to die. That was the argument. In addition, they argued that there are some apocryphal writings that say that Enoch and Elijah would come together in the future to have this kind of ministry.

But the truth is, this argument is easily refuted - the idea that all men must die and therefore these two must die. Think about it this way. The Christians who are alive at the Rapture will never die physically. In addition, those who become believers during the Tribulation and survive until the second coming, will enter the Millennial kingdom without dying. So, while it's generally true that it's appointed to all men to die, not every single person has to die. So, that argument sort of goes away.

The more likely identity of these two witnesses is Moses and Elijah. And let me give you several arguments. First of all, the miracles that Moses and Elijah performed during their ministries, corresponds with the miracles that these two witnesses will perform in the future. Moses turned water into blood and brought various plagues on Egypt. It's recorded in the book of Exodus. Elijah called down fire from heaven and kept rain from falling on the land for 3 1/2 years just as we're told these two witnesses will do.

A second argument is that Malachi, the book of Malachi at the end of the Old Testament, chapter 4:5, prophesies that Elijah will return before the coming of the great and terrible day of Yahweh. Now, some say, "Well, this must just be John the Baptist" because Jesus said if you would accept that this, you know, John the Baptist is Elijah who would come. But He does say there that he was like Elijah. He doesn't say that he was. And so, it's very possible that John the Baptist actually didn't fully fulfill that prophecy, and that it's yet to be fulfilled, and Elijah will return before the coming of the great and terrible day of Yahweh.

A third argument is, at the Transfiguration of our Lord, Moses and Elijah were the two who appeared with Christ in a kind of preview of the second coming. Again, a sort of intimation that it may very well be these two men who return as Christ's witnesses.

And another argument that's interesting is the end of both of these men's lives were unusual and mysterious. Elijah was taken directly to heaven according to 2 Kings 2:11. And Moses' death was shrouded in mystery as well. You remember, he was taken from the people of Israel and we're told that he died and God buried him. So, there was a mystery to his death also.

So, when you look at the evidence, we can't be absolutely sure, but the evidence points toward these two witnesses being the Old Testament characters, Moses and Elijah.

So, let's go back then to think more about their prophetic ministry. We've seen their likely identity - Moses and Elijah. Let's consider, in verse 5, their divine protection. Their divine protection. Verse 5 says, "And if anyone wants to harm them, fire flows out of their mouth and devours their enemies..." Think about it this way. Because of their message, a message of judgment and a message of salvation and repentance and the plagues that they bring on the world, these two men will be greatly hated. They're going to do that for 3 1/2 years! Just imagine how tired you get of hearing some people on the news. Imagine what it will be like to hear, if you're an unbeliever, hearing those guys for 3 1/2 years and suffering under the plagues that they bring on this planet. They will be horrifically hated, and many will seek to harm them. But we're told, during that 3 1/2-year period, God will protect them.

Now, you'll notice verse 6 mentions plagues and it's clear they're literal plagues, like the ones that have come on the earth before. That points out to us that the reference in verse 5 must be actual fire. God gives these two witnesses the power to destroy their enemies with literal fire. Now, scholars are divided over exactly how that happens. Some argue that fire will actually come out of their mouths - dragon like. And that's certainly possible. We can't tell. But I think more likely is that these two men, Moses and Elijah I think, will have the power to call down the fire of God upon their enemies. Think Luke 9:54: "When His disciples James and John saw this, they said, 'Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?'" I think that's the idea of what these two witnesses will do. When they are confronted, when individuals or groups of people, even armies come against them, they will by the word of their mouth command fire from God out of heaven and destroy their enemies.

Now, understand that when that happens, it won't be an act of personal vengeance. Instead, it will be necessary to ensure the continuation of their ministry, their message of salvation on God's behalf. Notice verse 5 goes on to say, "And if anyone wants to harm them ... he must..." Literally, the Greek text says "it is necessary" for him to be killed in this way. This is not a whim. This isn't capricious. This isn't somebody who has power, playing with it to harm others. This is instead what is necessary for them to complete the mission that Christ has assigned them. So, understand this, according to verse 5, for 3 1/2 years these two men will be unstoppable and untouchable. Nothing - no weapon of man, no ambush, no scheming - nothing will be able to touch them.

Can I just remind us here that God protects us from all of the harm and danger that He has not sovereignly decided to allow in our lives? As one Christian of the past used to put it, "You are as safe on the battlefield as at home in bed." Do you believe that? It's what the Scriptures teach. That's what Psalm 91 teaches: "A thousand may fall at your side and ten thousand at your right hand, but [if it's not God's time for you] it shall not approach you [you will survive]." And it's true for these men.

By the way, that doesn't mean that we should presume on God's care. We're not to throw ourselves off the highest building, presuming the angels will catch us. Jesus' temptation taught us that, right? But it does mean this. Let me just emphasize this. The fact that God protects His people and only allows harm at His decision, means that we can live our daily lives without fear. We are under the protection of our Father as we learned this morning. That also means that we can take, listen carefully, we can take reasonable risks for the sake of the gospel and for fulfilling the responsibilities which God has called us to. It means we can go, and we can send those we love to difficult places to serve Jesus Christ. It means, as God's people, we can gather and worship in the midst of a pandemic. We can take reasonable risks for the sake of the gospel, for the sake of what God has commanded us to do. This was their divine protection.

Let's look next at their divine authentication. They're divine authentication. And it's through miracles. Verse 6: "These have the power to shut up the sky, so that rain will not fall during the days of their prophesying..." Of course, that parallels the miracle Elijah worked when, for 3 1/2 years, it didn't rain in Israel (in 1 Kings 17). The reason for the drought in Elijah's day was the sin of the people. The same will be true in the future. They will shut up the sky for 3 1/2 years. Now, think about that for a moment. Remember what we've learned. In the third trumpet judgment, 1/3 of the earth's fresh water was poisoned. And now, there's a 3 1/2 year worldwide drought. It's impossible to fully grasp the worldwide devastation to the food supply, the loss of human and animal life, and no wonder they are hated.

Verse 6 says, "...and they have power over the waters to turn them into blood... Again, God gave Moses power to do this in Egypt. Verse 6 goes on to say, "...and to strike the earth with every plague, as often as they desire." You see, these future two prophets will not only have the power to bring plagues upon the earth, like Moses did, but unlike Moses in Egypt, they will have the power and authority to do it whenever and however often they think it is necessary to accomplish their mission.

Why? Why did God give them this power? Well, it's the same reason God always gives His prophets miracle-working power. It is to confirm their credentials as God's prophets. Go back to Exodus 4. Exodus 4. Here's where the first prophet and miracle working begins and it's explained for us here in Exodus 4: "Then Moses said [to God - I believe to our Lord Jesus Christ, to the second person of the Trinity, there at the burning bush], 'What if they will not believe me [the children of Israel] or listen to what I say? For they may say, 'The Lord [Yahweh] has not appeared to you.'' [That's a reasonable thing to expect, right?]. The Lord [Yahweh] said to him, 'What is that in your hand?' And he said, 'A staff.' Then He said, 'Throw it on the ground.' So he threw it on the ground, and it became a serpent; and Moses fled from it. But the Lord said to Moses, 'Stretch out your hand and grasp it by its tail'—so he stretched out his hand and caught it, and it became a staff in his hand— [now watch verse 5] that they may believe that the Lord [Yahweh], the God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has appeared to you [that's why I am giving you miracle-working powers. It is to confirm that you are My prophet and that your message is My truth].'"

Look at Exodus 4:30: "and Aaron spoke all the words which the Lord [Yahweh] had spoken to Moses. He then performed the signs in the sight of the people. So the people believed; and when they heard that the Lord was concerned about the sons of Israel and that He had seen their affliction, then they bowed low and worshiped." They believed that Moses and Aaron were God's prophets and they believed that their message to them was accurate and true. And that was the purpose of their miracles.

The same thing will be true of these two witnesses. They will have miracle-working power, given to them by God, to confirm that they are God's prophets and that the message they speak is God's truth. So, there is the prophetic ministry of God's two witnesses.

Now, that brings us to a second detail that we learn in this text, and that is, the public murder of God's two witnesses. The public murder of God's two witnesses. This section, beginning in verse 7, explains their unexpected death. Verse 7 says, "When they have finished their testimony..." We've already learned that God has sovereignly determined the length of their ministry. It's for the second half of the Tribulation. But "when they have finished their testimony" - the idea is they finished the work God assigned them. They've reached the goal that He gave them.

At that point, near the end of the Tribulation, something truly dramatic occurs. Verse 7 says, "...the beast that comes up out of the abyss..." Now, this is the first time we have met this character in Revelation. This is the first of 36 times that he appears. He's described in great detail in chapter 13, which we will study together, and again he's described in chapter 17. But in chapter 13 we learn - let me just give you an overview. We'll get there. But let me just give you the big picture. We learn in chapter 13 that the beast is actually a human. He is a world ruler who behaves like a savage beast. The Greek word refers to a beast of prey. So, this beast-like person will be like a carnivore with a ravenous appetite. He'll be like a wild animal. He'll be characterized by cunning and savage brutality. He will kill and he will maim, and he will destroy.

And, notice, he's described as coming up out of the abyss. The abyss, as we saw in the previous chapter, is the place of demons. So, this tells us not that he is a demon - that becomes clear in chapter 13 - but, rather, that he is a human ruler, satanically empowered and controlled. He is a human ruler under the direction and enablement of Satan and, as such, this future world ruler, this man, will present himself as the Messiah and as a legitimate object of worship according to chapter 13:8. As we will discover, this is the Antichrist. This is the archenemy of God's people during the Tribulation, a future human being empowered by Satan who will be the last great world ruler and the great antagonist of God and of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Now, verse 7 says, "... [this man] will make war with them [these two witnesses], and overcome them and kill them." Now, this happens as part of the beast's, or the Antichrist's, larger crusade during those 3 1/2 years against the people of God. Chapter 13:7 says this: "It was also given to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them..." So, during the second half of the Tribulation, he will initiate worldwide horrific persecution against all believers. His crusade against believers will be very successful. We're told in chapter 13, "he will overcome them". But because of God's special protection, Antichrist's efforts to kill these two witnesses will be, for 3 1/2 years, entirely unsuccessful. In fact, all whom he has sent and whom others have sent to this point to try to harm them, have been incinerated as they've called down fire out of heaven. But after 3 1/2 years, Antichrist will have had enough of these two men. And, apparently, he will bring all of his military resources, everything that's available to him, against these men. Undoubtedly, he'll intend their killing to serve as a brutal, public example of what happens to all who cross him. And this time, in God's sovereign purpose, He will allow the beast to be victorious and to kill them. After 3 1/2 years of trying and being prevented by God, Antichrist will finally bring about their very public murder.

That will be followed by their undeserved desecration. It'll start where they die - in the city of Jerusalem by the Jews. Verse 8 says, "And their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city..." Deuteronomy 21:22-23 demands that bodies be buried in Israel. Antichrist, apparently with the full support of the Jewish people of that time, will leave the bodies of these two witnesses unburied in the streets of the great city. Now, when the words "in the street" (singular) appear as they do here, it often describes not a street per se but rather a large plaza, or even the city square. It's even possible this could refer to the temple courtyard in Jerusalem. But, regardless, it's in a terribly public place. There is this gruesome public display of the bodies of his victims. We don't know if they will lay where they were struck down or if their bodies will somehow be displayed after he has killed them.

John adds two qualifiers that make it clear what city this is unfolding in. Notice verse 8 says, "which mystically". Literally, the Greek word is spiritually. I have no idea why they use the word mystically. "...which spiritually" - in other words, its spiritual character (this city) is like Sodom and Egypt. Sodom was marked by moral depravity, as you know, and Egypt was marked by idolatry. The point is Jerusalem, in that future day, will be marked by both.

Verse 8 adds "where also their Lord was crucified". That leaves no doubt that we're talking about the city of Jerusalem. So, these two prophets, then, will die in the same city that their Lord did. But they, unlike their Lord, will not be immediately buried. Antichrist will leave their corpses in the public square to rot, for the birds to pick their flesh. And the Jewish people will be happy to go along with him in desecrating the two corpses of these hated men.

But the desecration is far more widespread than the Jewish people. It's actually perpetrated by the entire world. Look at verse 9: "Those from the peoples and tribes and tongues and nations will look at their dead bodies for three and a half days..." For 3 1/2 days, a microcosm of their 3 1/2-year ministry, people from every nation, race, and language will gawk at the dead bodies of these men. Previous generations used to wonder how in the world that could happen. Even today, there are several ways we know of that could happen, and who knows what the future will bring?

Verse 9 goes on to say, "and will not permit their dead bodies to be laid in a tomb." This verse is probably talking about the complicity of the world's leaders with Antichrist. It probably implies that government leaders across this planet will not permit anyone to bury their dead bodies.

Verse 10: "And those who dwell on the earth..." We've encountered that expression before. That's Revelation's shorthand for "all unbelievers". "And those who dwell on the earth [unbelievers everywhere, from every background across this planet] will rejoice over them and celebrate; and they will send gifts to one another..." Fanning writes, "The whole world will view their dead bodies, apparently without concern or revulsion at the horror of this public spectacle. Instead, the murder execution of these two men will prompt worldwide celebration." It will be Dead Prophets' Day. It'll be a hellish Christmas. It'll be like the worldwide celebrations after World War II.

Why? Verse 10 says, "because these two prophets tormented those who dwell on the earth." Because of their constant, relentless messages of judgment, because of their continuing calls to repentance, because of the use of their special miraculous powers and the plagues that they have brought on this world in an unrelenting fashion for 3 1/2 years, when they're killed and their corpses lie in the public square of Jerusalem, the entire world will be filled with joy, and they'll exchange gifts. This shows not only the world's utter hatred for believers, but also its total depravity. John MacArthur writes, "The unrepentant, sin-hardened masses will want to gloat along with their leader, the Antichrist, and glorify him for his victory over the two irritating preachers who brought the drought and proclaimed the hated gospel." That's the public murder of God's two witnesses.

But, finally, let's consider the powerful impact of God's two witnesses. The worldwide party - it ends dramatically with their resurrection. Verse 11: "But after the three and a half days, the breath of life from God came into them, and they stood on their feet..." For 3 1/2 days, people all over this planet had tuned in to the live video feed of the dead bodies of these men lying in some public place in the city of Jerusalem. Can you imagine, for a moment, the shock around this globe when suddenly God raises them from the dead and they stand up? It's like a two-man rapture. Can you imagine how many views that will get on social media? That moment will literally go around the world.

Verse 11 says, "...and great fear fell upon those who were watching them." As a result of the physical resurrection of these two, worldwide celebration will become worldwide terror. Their resurrection will be God's affirmation of them and their ministry just as it was for His Son when He raised Him from the dead. They will be raised.

You know what I love about what happens here? Don't forget that we too, all of us who love Christ, will one day be resurrected just like these two men. 1 Corinthians 15:51: "Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed." 1 Thessalonians 4:16 says, "For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first." This is our future just as it's theirs. So, there's their resurrection.

Second part of their impact is their ascension. I'm sure, once they're raised from the dead and people begin to get over the shock of the moment that these two men they hated and gloated over being killed, are now alive again. I'm sure once the moment passes, the first inclination is to think, "Oh, I know what's going to happen. They're going to go back to that ministry. They're going to go back to preaching. They're going to go back to haranguing us with all of those messages of judgement and repentance."

But that's not what happens. Verse 12: "And they [that is, the two witnesses] heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, 'Come up here.'" The voice speaking here is likely Christ Himself, commanding them to come to heaven. Their job is done. They're faithful servants. Verse 12 says, "Then they went up into heaven in the cloud..." Like Elijah, taken in a whirlwind to heaven in 2 Kings 2:11, like Christ at His ascension in Acts 1:9, they ascend into heaven in the cloud.

Verse 12 says, "...and their enemies watched them." It's interesting, isn't it? When Jesus ascended, only His friends were there to see. But God wants to make a point about these two men. And so, they will ascend into heaven while the whole world watches.

Their resurrection, their ascension, thirdly, notice their vindication. Verse 13. It comes in something that happens in the very same hour that they ascended into heaven. Verse 13 says, "And in that hour there was a great earthquake, and a tenth of the city fell..." In the same hour as the ascension of the two witnesses, there will be a great earthquake in Jerusalem. As a result of the earthquake, a tenth of the city's buildings will be destroyed.

And the cost in human life is also great. Verse 13 says, "...seven thousand people were killed in the earthquake..." Now, the Greek text is really specific. Literally, the Greek text says this: "And died in the earthquake, the names of men, seven thousand." The way John expresses it here points to a precise number of people. Why? What's the point? Well, the point is, in even this disaster we again see the mercy of God. This disaster will only destroy a part of the city and only kill seven thousand, not the entire city's population. And the reason for that is that God's primary purpose here is not to destroy the Jewish people living at that time, but rather to save them.

That brings us to the most powerful impact of these two witnesses, and that is, the Jews' salvation. The Jews' salvation. Verse 13 ends, "...and the rest [that is, those who survive this great earthquake in Jerusalem] were terrified [and notice, they will also] and gave glory to the God of heaven." Now, there are those who say that that expression "give God glory" means not that they're going to come to repentance and give God glory, but rather that they will do so under compulsion. And if it weren't for the way this expression occurs in the rest of Revelation, maybe they could make a case. But the truth is, in Revelation, giving glory to God is not something forced, but it is rather the genuine expression of the heart. Look at chapter 4:9. Chapter 4:9: "And when the living creatures [surrounding the throne of God] give glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne, to Him who lives forever and ever..." The giving of glory is the overflow of a heart of worship. Look at chapter 16, Revelation 16:9. As the six bowls of wrath are poured out, verse 9 says, "Men were scorched with fierce heat; and they blasphemed the name of God who has the power over these plagues, [and notice this] and they did not repent so as to give Him glory." What comes in Revelation before giving God glory? Repentance. Repentance. Look at chapter 19. Chapter 19:7: "Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready." My point is, when you look in Revelation, giving glory to God is in the expression of a heart of genuine worship and it's always preceded, according to chapter 16, by repentance. And so, what you have then in our text - go back to chapter 11:13. When it says that "the rest [those who survived the earthquake] were terrified and [they] gave glory to the God of heaven", we're talking about salvation. Because of the ministry of the two witnesses, because of their faithful preaching of God's judgment, of repentance and salvation, and because of their resurrection and ascension, the Jewish people who survive to that day, at the end of the seven-year Tribulation, will acknowledge the God of heaven and they will turn to the true God in repentance. And as Paul tells us, they will turn to their Messiah in faith.

When will this happen? The answer is near the end of the Tribulation, after the 3 1/2-year ministry of these two witnesses. Now, just to remind you, we're in chapter 11. But chapter 11 is an interlude. This passage is an interlude that's presented between the sixth and seventh trumpet. But we know that what's described here doesn't actually happen between the sixth and the seventh trumpets. How do we know that? Because the witness of these men last how long? 3 1/2 years - the entire second half of the Tribulation. So, John tells us about this event just before he describes the seventh trumpet and the seven bowls. But the event itself comes just before or at the second coming of Jesus Christ. It's at the end of the second 3 1/2 years.

Since the citizens of Jerusalem are Jewish, this passage, I think, is very likely describing the fulfillment of Zechariah's prophecy. Look back at Zechariah again. Zechariah 12. I want you to see this. Verse 10: "I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplication, so that they will look on Me whom they have pierced; and they will mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only son, and they will weep bitterly over Him like the bitter weeping over a firstborn." Go down to chapter 13:1: "In that day a fountain will be opened for the house of David and for the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin and for impurity." Now, look at verse 8: "'It will come about in all the land,' declares the Lord, 'that two parts in it will be cut off and perish; but the third will be left in it.'" In other words, there's going to be a lot of Jewish people who die. Many of them, as we saw last time, when Antichrist sets up that image of himself in the temple, at the midpoint of the Tribulation, many of them will flee for the desert and would be protected there. Many will die. But a third will survive, verse 8 says. "And I will bring the third part through the fire, refine them as silver is refined, and test them as gold is tested. They will call on My name, and I will answer them; I will say, 'They are My people,' And they will say, 'The Lord [Yahweh] is my God.'" What's described in chapter 11 of Revelation, verse 13, when they give glory to God, is the fulfillment of Paul's prophecy in Romans 11 that in that day all Israel will be saved. What an amazing ministry God gave these two - will give these two men.

Now, there are several lessons in this passage for us. This text teaches us so much about the character of our God. I mean, think about it. In fact, turn to Romans 11. Let me just show you how Paul, in talking about this very time period and what will happen just before the second coming, look at how he points to God's character in these events.

First of all, we notice that God is patient. Romans 11:2: "God has not rejected His people whom He foreknew." Has He? The answer is, absolutely not. God is still at work. God is still patient. We learn that He is, from this event, that He's a Savior. Look down at chapter 11 of Romans, verse 32: "For God has shut up all [Jews and Gentiles] in disobedience so that He may show mercy to all [to both Jews and Gentiles, so that He can save, because that is God's nature. He is a Savior]." And you see that at the very end of the Tribulation when He redeems, through the ministry of these two witnesses, His people Israel.

He's immutable. He's unchanging. Look at chapter 11 of Romans and verse 28: "From the standpoint of the gospel they [that is, the Jewish people] are enemies for your sake [the Gentiles], but from the standpoint of God's choice they are beloved for the sake of the fathers; [and notice verse 29] for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable." God said, "I set My love on this people and that will never change." And aren't you glad? Because that means, when He says He set His love on us, that will never change either.

We also learn, from what happens with these two witnesses, that He's faithful to His covenant promises. Look at Romans 11:25. This is Paul's prophecy of what will happen: "For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery—so that you will not be wise in your own estimation—that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in; and so [when that happens] all Israel will be saved; just as it is written, 'The Deliverer will come from Zion, He will remove ungodliness from Jacob.' 'This is My covenant with them, when I take away their sins.'" So, what we study in Revelation 11 is the fulfillment of God's longstanding covenant promises to redeem His people and the prophecy that Paul made in Romans 11. God has not rejected His people whom He foreknew. He will, in fact, preserve them, a portion of them, until that future day when a believing remnant will be saved, and they will be saved through the ministry of these two remarkable witnesses - likely, Moses and Elijah. When you look at those attributes, recognize that those are not only true toward the Jews, they are eternally true toward us who are His people in the church as well.

One last lesson, and that is, this text reminds us of God's plan of the ages. God has a plan. He's working that plan out. For the Jewish people, it's their eventual salvation, as we just saw. For unrepentant sinners, tragically, it is their physical and eternal death. We'll see this as the rest of Revelation unfolds.

And let me just say, if you're here tonight and you think that you can live in rebellion against God your Creator and He doesn't notice and He'll never call you to account, you are dead wrong. We see it unfold in the book of Revelation. "And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment", Hebrews says. You individually, personally, will stand before and give an account to the God who created you, who gives you every good thing you have, who gives you life itself. And if you live this life in rebellion against Him, if you refuse to accept the offer of His Son, then you will face God's judgment. I plead with you not to put yourself there, but to call on His mercy even tonight. Jesus Christ, His eternal Son, came into the world, lived a perfect life, and then He died to pay the debt for the sins of all who would believe in Him. God raised Him from the dead as a testimony that He had accepted His sacrifice. And everyone who repents of their sin and believes in Him is reconciled to God, their Creator. That can be true of you even tonight.

God has a plan for His own and that plan is for our resurrection, our vindication, in our eternal presence with Him. All those realities are pictured by what happens to these two future prophets and witnesses. That's our story too - no, not the miracles, not the amazing ministry they're given in the last 3 1/2 years. But the end of their story is our story. Resurrection. Ascension into the Lord's presence. Forever with the Lord.

God also has a plan for human history, and this is where we'll get next time. But look at verse - back in Romans, I'm sorry, back in Revelation 11. And look at verse 15: "Then the seventh angel sounded..." This is - now we're right at the end. All that's left are a few bowl judgments. "Then the seventh angel sounded; and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, 'The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ [Messiah]; and He will reign forever and ever.' And the twenty-four elders, who sit on their thrones before God, fell on their faces and worshiped God, saying, 'We give You thanks, O Lord God, the Almighty, who are and who were, because You have taken Your great power and have begun to reign.'" That's the end of the story. And it's already written. And we can be assured of it because our God sits on the throne. As we sang together this morning, "Our God is the Ancient of Days, and nothing moves His throne, and nothing changes His purpose. It is written, and so it will be done."

Revelation