Keys to Understanding the Book of Revelation
'TEKEL: You have been weighed in the balances, and found wanting.' ( Daniel 5:27 )
'Then he defeated Moab. Forcing them down to the ground, he measured them off with a line. With two lines he measured off those to be put to death, and with one full line those to be kept alive. So the Moabites became David’s servants, and brought tribute.' ( II Samuel 8:2 )
'Who has measured the waters[c] in the hollow of His hand, measured heaven with a span and calculated the dust of the earth in a measure? Weighed the mountains in scales and the hills in a balance? ' ( Isaiah 40:12 )
Then I was given a reed like a measuring rod. And the angel stood,[a] saying, “Rise and measure the temple of God, the altar, and those who worship there.
As we begin to study this eleventh chapter of the Revelation; we see John being commanded to reveal God's judgment, significantly, to His people, that was soon to come upon His Old Covenant 'children'. In this study; I have tried to show that the Revelation was given to John, not only to reveal Jesus as the Son of God ( Matthew 26:64 ), but also to serve as a warning to His covenant people of what was about to happen ( Matthew 24:34, Isaiah 56:1, Luke 21:35 ). God revealed His purpose to Daniel for the kingdom of Babylon, showing to Belshazzar that He had passed judgment on him, and was about to fulfill that judgment by taking the kingdom from him ( Matthew 21:43 ). When David, a type of Christ, had defeated Moab; he measured off, much as John did in the Revelation, those who would be destroyed, and those who would be left alive. As we have seen already in this study, and will continue to see as we study this book; John's instruction continues the central theme of the 'remnant' ( Isaiah 65:8 ) that, as you may have noticed, runs throughout all of Scripture. The prophet Isaiah revealed, in metaphor, that it was God Himself who had 'weighed' all things, according to His 'measure', His judgment, and that He had 'set' things according to His purpose and Plan.
But leave out the court which is outside the temple, and do not measure it, for it has been given to the Gentiles. And they will tread the holy city underfoot for forty-two months.
'And after the sixty-two weeks Messiah shall be cut off, but not for Himself; and the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end of it shall be with a flood, and till the end of the war desolations are determined.' ( Daniel 9:26 ( 8:13 )
'Then I raised my eyes and looked, and behold, a man with a measuring line in his hand. So I said, “Where are you going?”And he said to me, “To measure Jerusalem, to see what is its width and what is its length.'' ( Zechariah 2:1 & 2 )
John was specifically instructed not to include the 'court of the Gentiles' in his measurement, indicating, I believe, that this area, symbolic of those Old Covenant 'children' who had become no better, and in many cases, worse, than the nations around them, had been adversely judged and would be destroyed along with the 'nations' that did not know God. The 'man' that Zechariah 'witnessed' was going to stretch out, again symbolically, God's 'line' over those people that He had made covenant with, and which He ratified through the 'once for all' sacrifice of His Son, Jesus Christ.
And I will give power to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy one thousand two hundred and sixty days, clothed in sackcloth.
(It must be noted here, that although the reading that the New King James revisers have placed here, indicating that God gave these witnesses 'power', is fairly true to the intended meaning ( as they saw it ); the word 'power' is not found in the original Greek, but is simply an addition meant to clarify. )
'Now after six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, led them up on a high mountain by themselves; and He was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light. And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Him' . ( Matthew 17:1-3) ( see also Matthew 11:13, Luke 16:16 )
'Abraham said to him, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them'. ( Luke 16:29 ) ( see also Romans 9:4 )
'Then I answered and said to him, “What are these two olive trees—at the right of the lampstand and at its left?” And I further answered and said to him, “What are these two olive branches that drip into the receptacles[b] of the two gold pipes from which the golden oil drains?” Then he answered me and said, “Do you not know what these are?” And I said, “No, my lord.” So he said, “These are the two anointed ones, who stand beside the Lord of the whole earth' ( Zechariah 4:11-14 )
As we see throughout Scripture, and even in cultures all over the world; 'sackcloth' is a universal symbol of mourning. These two witnesses, I believe, representative of 'the Law & the Prophets'-Matthew 5:17 ), were sent out one last time, covered in sackcloth, to remind Old Covenant Israel ( after the flesh ) of the covenant which they had broken, and to indicate the surety and finality of the judgment that was soon to be visited upon them. When Moses and Elijah appeared with Christ on the 'Mount of Transfiguration', I believe that He was not only giving His disciples a preview of His glorious coming Kingdom, but also revealing the nearness of the judgment that was prophesied in the law Deuteronomy 28:15-68 ) and the prophets ( Zechariah 5:4 )! The 'parable' of 'The Rich Man & Lazarus', which, according to some is not a parable, is yet another reminder to God's Old Covenant 'children, I believe, of the covenant blessings that they had received and spurned, and also an indicator of what was about to come upon them ( Acts 24:15 & 25 ( Matthew 24:34, 16:28 ).
There are several different possibilities for the interpretation of the passage from Zechariah's prophecy: firstly, I believe, 'the anointed ones' could be symbolic, as are the 'two witnesses', of 'the law and the prophets', God's two means of revealing His will and purpose to His 'children': secondly, these two witnesses could be speaking of the 'branches' that Paul wrote of in Romans 11:16-24, His Old Covenant 'children, or Jews, and His New Covenant people, both Jew & Gentile.
John 'saw', or rather, heard that the Gentiles would 'tread the holy city underfoot' for a symbolic period of 'forty-two months', which is roughly 3 1/2 years, or exactly the number of days that God's 'two witnesses' were given to prophesy. Of these days, Daniel was told, 'And from the time that the daily sacrifice is taken away, and the abomination of desolation is set up, there shall be one thousand two hundred and ninety days.' ( Daniel 12:11 ) Although the amount of time that Daniel was told about was about a month more than John's figure; it is still roughly 3 1/2 years, or half of '7', the biblical symbol of perfection, or completeness. When Daniel had asked the Lord's messenger how long these things would last, he was told 'for a time, times, and half a time', traditionally '3 1/2' years, or 'when the power of the holy people has been completely shattered'. Who were these 'holy people' of whom the messenger spoke, but the 'children of the covenant, the people with whom God had especially covenanted by expressly sending them the Light?
These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands standing before the God[b] of the earth. And if anyone wants to harm them, fire proceeds from their mouth and devours their enemies. And if anyone wants to harm them, he must be killed in this manner. These have power to shut heaven, so that no rain falls in the days of their prophecy; and they have power over waters to turn them to blood, and to strike the earth with all plagues, as often as they desire.
'Therefore thus says the LORD God of hosts: “Because you speak this word, Behold, I will make My words in your mouth fire, and this people wood, and it shall devour them.“ ' ( Jeremiah 5:14 )
'Fire has come out from a rod of her branches and devoured her fruit, so that she has no strong branch— a scepter for ruling'. ( Ezekiel 19:14 )
'So Elijah answered and said to the captain of fifty, “If I am a man of God, then let fire come down from heaven and consume you and your fifty men.” And fire came down from heaven and consumed him and his fifty'. ( II Kings 1:10 )
The first chapter of the book of II Kings chronicles what happened when Ahaziah, one of the many wicked kings of Israel thought to command, probably in order to harm, even kill, one of God's servants, and accordingly as John recorded above, these enemies of God were consumed by 'fire from heaven'. The power granted these 'witnesses' to 'shut up heaven' should also remind us of Elijah,in the events leading up to the famous incident at Mount Carmel, as recorded in I Kings 17:1-7 ( I Kings 18:20-40 ) Moses, of course, who was both a prophet and the instrument through whom God gave the law ( ten words ) to His covenant 'children', is most well-known for the power ( of God ) he exercised over the waters of the land of Egypt, turning them to blood, and striking the land with many plagues.
When they finish their testimony, the beast that ascends out of the bottomless pit will make war against them, overcome them, and kill them. And their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our[c] Lord was crucified.
'Hear the word of the LORD, you rulers of Sodom; give ear to the law of our God, you people of Gomorrah'. ( Isaiah 1:10 ( Romans 9:29 )
As we read of the prophet Isaiah's first recorded vision, we see that the wickedness of Judah and Jerusalem had become so great that they were now no different, in God's eyes, then those degenerate inhabitants of the city of Sodom, from which we have 'gleaned' the term 'sodomite' ( I Corinthians 6:9 ). Jerusalem, is also termed spiritually 'Egypt', with much the same meaning, that she had become so corrupted ( I Corinthians 15:53 ), that she was now associated with Egypt, which, traditionally, is symbolic of sin and of the corrupt world system ( Romans 1:18-32, Deuteronomy 17:16 ( II Chronicles 9:25 ), Hosea 8:13 ( 9:3 ). In 'the beast that ascends out of the bottomless pit'; we can see John's reference, not only to the 'beast' or 'beasts' ( Revelation 9:2-11 ) that he has already mentioned, but, as we will see in further studies in this Revelation, he also refers, more directly to his later visions ( Revelation 12:3-9, 13:11-18,20:1-4 ). Many of my readers are probably aware of this, and I believe that I have alluded to this previously, but John's visions seem almost to repeat themselves, rehearsing a common theme.
Then those from the peoples, tribes, tongues, and nations will see their dead bodies three-and-a-half days, and not allowd]">[d] their dead bodies to be put into graves.
'The dead bodies of Your servants they have given as food for the birds of the heavens, the flesh of Your saints to the beasts of the earth.' ( Psalm 79:2 )
'I will give them into the hand of their enemies and into the hand of those who seek their life. Their dead bodies shall be for meat for the birds of the heaven and the beasts of the earth.' ( Jeremiah 34:20 )
'Assemble yourselves and come; gather together from all sides to My sacrificial meal which I am sacrificing for you, a great sacrificial meal on the mountains of Israel, that you may eat flesh and drink blood'. ( Ezekiel 39:17 )
'Nevertheless they were disobedient and rebelled against You, cast Your law behind their backs and killed Your prophets, who testified against them to turn them to Yourself; and they worked great provocations.' ( Nehemiah 9:26 )
'Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who foretold the coming of the Just One, of whom you now have become the betrayers and murderers'. ( Acts 7:52 )
'Therefore, indeed, I send you prophets, wise men, and scribes: some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from city to city, that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar'. ( Matthew 23:34 & 35 ( 21:33-45 )
I must remind my readers, again, that this is a vision, and significant, not only of things that would happen in the near future, but things that were happening in the present, and things that had happened in the past. We saw previously that these two witnesses had been killed and left in the streets of Jerusalem, symbolically, for the birds to pick their bones, and John is reminded, no doubt, of Jesus' words to the Pharisees in Matthew 23 and, you must imagine, of many Old Testament prophecies. One might also think of this passage in Isaiah; 'And they shall go forth and look upon the corpses of the men who have transgressed against Me. For their worm does not die, and their fire is not quenched. They shall be an abhorrence to all flesh'. ( Isaiah 66:24 ) Admittedly, Isaiah wrote of those transgressors of God's covenant law, but said covenant, represented by the law and the prophets was entrusted to ( and broken by ) His Old Covenant 'children' of Israel, the remnant of which have now grown ( and are growing ) to adulthood, having become 'the Israel of God'! Much of the reason for the 'nations' not allowing these 'witnesses' bodies to be buried was, as in the case of the crucifixion of Christ, and indeed of any crucifixion, to cause shame, and also as a warning to those who would likewise transgress. Their bodies lying in the streets of Jerusalem for three and a half days, I believe is symbolic in the sense of the many references which we have noted throughout the Old Testament prophets, and also refers to the three plus days that Christ's body lay in the grave.
And those who dwell on the earth will rejoice over them, make merry, and send gifts to one another, because these two prophets tormented those who dwell on the earth.
'Then it happened, when Ahab saw Elijah, that Ahab said to him, “Is that you, O troubler of Israel?” And he answered, “I have not troubled Israel, but you and your father’s house have, in that you have forsaken the commandments of the LORD and have followed the Baals.' ( I Kings 18:17 & 18 )
'Therefore the Jews of the villages who dwelt in the unwalled towns celebrated the fourteenth day of the month of Adar with gladness and feasting, as a holiday, and for sending presents to one another.' ( Esther 9:19 )
'But when the vinedressers saw the son, they said among themselves, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and seize his inheritance'. ( Matthew 21:38 )
In Jeremiah 20; we read how the spiritual leaders of Israel, namely Passhur the priest, persecuted the prophet for revealing God's true and righteous judgment. ( see also II Chronicles 18:7, 16-27 ) Jesus and His disciples, as He spoke of His death, in Matthew 21, revealed to His listeners that, as their fathers had always done to the prophets who prophesied contrary to them and their wicked deeds, so they themselves were about to do to Him, the Son of the parable! In the quote from the book of Esther; we see that the Jewish people, who Haman intended to destroy, 'turned the tables on' their adversaries, and rejoiced greatly over the deliverance that God had granted them from their 'tormentors'!
Now after the three-and-a-half days the breath of life from God entered them, and they stood on their feet, and great fear fell on those who saw them.
'Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill.' ( Matthew 5:17 )
'Jesus answered and said to them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up'. ( John 2:19 )
'Your dead shall live; together with my dead bodyb]">[b] they shall arise. Awake and sing, you who dwell in dust; for your dew is like the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast out the dead.' ( Isaiah 26:19 )
'Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones: “Surely I will cause breath to enter into you, and you shall live'. ( Ezekiel 37:5 ( Gen 2:7 ) Hosea 6:2 )
Resurrection, one of the great themes of Scripture, is prophesied of in the Hebrew Scriptures, mainly in a spiritual and allegorical way, and usually in the corporate sense, of God's people being awakened ( Ephesians 5:14 ), being comforted by the revelation of Jesus Christ, in places like Isaiah 60:1-3, Isaiah 9:1-7, and Isaiah 52:1 & 2. The 'resurrection' of these 'two witnesses' ( the Law & the Prophets ) was revealed to John and his readers to prove irrefutably that, as Jesus said above, 'I did not come to destroy but to fulfill', thus linking, I believe, His own resurrection with that spoken of in John's Revelation. I hinted at this earlier, but I believe it to be very significant that these witnesses lay dead for approximately the same amount of time that Christ did, and arose with much the same 'startling' effect. ( Luke 24:36-40, Mark 16:4-8 )
And theye]">[e] heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, “Come up here.” And they ascended to heaven in a cloud, and their enemies saw them.
'I was watching in the night visions, and behold, One like the Son of Man, coming with the clouds of heaven! He came to the Ancient of Days, and they brought Him near before Him.' ( Daniel 7:13 ( Acts 1:11 )
'Jesus said to him, “It is as you said. Nevertheless, I say to you, hereafter you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven.' ( Matthew 26:64 ( Revelation 1:7, Zechariah 12:10 )
'Then it happened, as they continued on and talked, that suddenly a chariot of fire appeared with horses of fire, and separated the two of them; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven. ' ( II Kings 2:11 )
'Then Moses went up into the mountain, and a cloud covered the mountain'. ( Exodus 24:15 )
Moses ascended into the 'mountain of the Lord', or into His presence ( the glory-cloud ) to receive His Law for the 'children' of Israel, a picture of Christ ascending to where He was previously, in the presence of the Father, to ratify and finalize His perfect Law, of love. I believe that when John penned the words above, he had these passages in mind, as well as many other happenings, such as what Manoah and his wife witnessed, in Judges 13:20. When the prophet Elijah's work was done; God called him up to heaven in quite a spectacular way! As Jesus ascended into the heavens in the clouds; I would imagine that His disciples standing there had much the same reaction as did Elisha, although maybe Jesus' ascension was not accompanied by quite the same 'fanfare' as Elijah's received. For the purpose of our study; it is interesting to note that the passage that I quoted from Daniel comes from the midst of judgment, which Scripture makes fairly clear, occurs at the same time as the return of Christ: our redemption!
In the same hour there was a great earthquake, and a tenth of the city fell. In the earthquake seven thousand people were killed, and the rest were afraid and gave glory to the God of heaven. The second woe is past. Behold, the third woe is coming quickly.
'For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be earthquakes in various places, and there will be famines and troubles.a]">[a] These are the beginnings of sorrows'. ( Mark 13:8 ( Matthew 24:7, Luke 21:11 )
'For in My jealousy and in the fire of My wrath I have spoken: ‘Surely in that day there shall be a great earthquake in the land of Israel'. ( Ezekiel 38:19 ( Numbers 16:28-34 ( Exodus 15:12 )
'Then, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth quaked, and the rocks were split'. ( Matthew 27:51 ( 28:2 )
'Then Samson said, “Let me die with the Philistines!” And he pushed with all his might, and the temple fell on the lords and all the people who were in it. So the dead that he killed at his death were more than he had killed in his life'. ( Judges 16:30 )
'But yet a tenth will be in it, and will return and be for consuming, as a terebinth tree or as an oak, whose stump remains when it is cut down. So the holy seed shall be its stump'. ( Isaiah 6:13 ( Daniel 4:10-17 )
As we have noted previously; the term 'thousand' is, more often than not, indicative of 'a great many', rather than a literal number, and the numeral 'seven' is often used for 'a perfect, or complete amount': therefore, when John reported that 'seven thousand people were killed': I believe that he was revealing that just the exact ( perfect, complete ) number that God had determined had died, or would die, in the coming conflagration. Earthquakes, although not ( necessarily ) a common occurrence in the middle east were not uncommon either, and were often viewed as signs of God's judgment ( Isaiah 29:6, Ezekiel 38:19, Zechariah 14:5 ( Amos 1:1 ), Matthew 24:7 ( Mark 13:8, Luke 21:11 ). I believe that from the phrase 'The second woe is past. Behold, the third woe is coming quickly', we can deduce that the original recipients of this letter were already in the midst of this woe, or tribulation ( Matthew 24:21, 29 ), and the Lordship of Christ was about to be fully and finally revealed!
Then the seventh angel sounded: And there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdomsf]">[f] of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!” And the twenty-four elders who sat before God on their thrones fell on their faces and worshiped God, saying: “ We give You thanks, O Lord God Almighty, the One who is and who was and who is to come,g]">[g] because You have taken Your great power and reigned. The nations were angry, and Your wrath has come, and the time of the dead, that they should be judged, and that You should reward Your servants the prophets and the saints, and those who fear Your name, small and great, and should destroy those who destroy the earth''.
'But it came to pass on the seventh day that they rose early, about the dawning of the day, and marched around the city seven times in the same manner. On that day only they marched around the city seven times. And the seventh time it happened, when the priests blew the trumpets, that Joshua said to the people: “Shout, for the LORD has given you the city!' ( Joshua 6:15 & 16 ( Daniel 7:18 & 22 )
'I will make the lame a remnant, and the outcast a strong nation; so the LORD will reign over them in Mount Zion from now on, even forever'. ( Micah 4:7 ( Isaiah 9:7, Daniel 2:44 )
'Why do the nations rage, and the people plot a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD and against His Anointed, saying, “Let us break Their bonds in pieces and cast away Their cords from us.” ( Psalm 2:1-3 ( Isaiah 43:9 )
' And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, some to shame and everlasting contempt'. ( Daniel 12:2 )
'The righteous shall rejoice when he sees the vengeance; he shall wash his feet in the blood of the wicked, so that men will say, “Surely there is a reward for the righteous; surely He is God who judges in the earth".' ( Psalm 58:10 & 11 )
It has been said before, that the Revelation is a worship service; here, once again, God's people ( symbolized by the 'twenty-four' elders ) break forth into a song of praise to God for His good judgment. After it is revealed that God's worldwide kingdom, which has long been prophesied ( Psalm 2:8 ( Daniel 7:13 ), Isaiah 65:13-16, Daniel 2:44 ), has at long last come to fruition, His people rejoice that the time has finally come that Daniel wrote of, saying 'Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom the one which shall not be destroyed' ( Daniel 7:14 ), and 'the Ancient of Days came, and a judgment was made in favor of the saints of the Most High, and the time came for the saints to possess the kingdom' ( Daniel 7:22 ). As is the case with most judgments; when somebody wins, somebody else loses!
Then the temple of God was opened in heaven, and the ark of His covenanth]">[h] was seen in His temple. And there were lightnings, noises, thunderings, an earthquake, and great hail.
'He gave them hail for rain, and flaming fire in their land.' ( Psalm 105:32 ( Exodus 9:24 & 25 )
'Then the earth shook and trembled; the foundations of heavenb]">[b] quaked and were shaken, because He was angry. Smoke went up from His nostrils, and devouring fire from His mouth; coals were kindled by it. He bowed the heavens also, and came down with darkness under His feet. He rode upon a cherub, and flew; and He was seenc]">[c] upon the wings of the wind. He made darkness canopies around Him, dark waters and thick clouds of the skies. From the brightness before Him coals of fire were kindled. The LORD thundered from heaven, and the Most High uttered His voice. He sent out arrows and scattered them; lightning bolts, and He vanquished them.' ( II Samuel 22:8-15 )
'The LORD is in His holy temple, the LORD’s throne is in heaven; His eyes behold, His eyelids test the sons of men'. ( Psalm 11:4 ( Acts 17:24 )
'Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?' ( I Corinthians 3:16 ( 6:19 )
In the prophetic Scriptures, in particular, 'lightning', whether physical, symbolic, or both, was often an indicator of God's presence, as we can see in passages like Exodus 20:18-21, Job 36:32, Psalm 18:14, Ezekiel 1:13 & 14 ( Matthew 24:27 ), Daniel 10:6 ( Revelation 1:12-16 ), Zechariah 9:14, Luke 17:24 ). As we have seen much so far in our study of the revelation of Jesus Christ, and as we have noted before; the conjunction of a judgment with this revelation, or the so-called 'second coming' of Jesus Christ has been plainly shown ( made obvious ) by God, through His prophets.
May God bless you with this study of the Revelation of Jesus the Christ, and it is my humble wish that this study would be instrumental, in some way, in bringing it's readers to a deeper, truer understanding of this book!
in God's grace,
and for His kingdom,