Setting

The sixth trumpet had sounded. Now we come to another interlude in which John saw a mighty angel who held a little book. John was commanded to receive the book from the angel and eat it, and he was to prophesy again about many peoples, nations, tongues, and kings. In the next scene, John was given a reed for measurement and revealed about the two powerful witnesses. This interlude sets the stage for the final woe (11:14) in which God’s mystery will be finished.

Key Verse

(10:7)

Did You Know...?

1. Reed (11:1): “A bamboo-like cane that often reached a height of 20 feet and grew in abundance in the waters along the banks of the Jordan. Straight and light, the reed was a convenient measuring rod (see Ezek 40:3; Zec 2:1-2).” [ref]
2. Court (11:2): “The court of the gentiles, approximately 26 acres.” [ref]
3. Two olive trees and two lampstands (11:4): “…an allusion to Joshua and Zerubbabel in Zechariah’s vision, who were also said “to serve the Lord of all the earth” (Zech 4:1-6a, 10b-14).” [ref]
4. Their dead bodies will lie in the street (11:8): “In the Near East the denial of burial was a flagrant violation of decency.” [ref]

Outline

  • Descending of the Mighty Angel
    (10:1-2)
  • Crying with Loud Voice and Voice of Seven Thunders
    (10:3-4)
  • Swearing of the Angel
    (10:5-7)
  • Eating the Little Book
    (10:8-11)
  • Measuring with A Reed
    (11:1-2)
  • Power of the Witnesses
    (11:3-6)
  • Death of the Witnesses
    (11:7-10)
  • Resurrection and Ascension of the Witnesses
    (11:11-14)

General Analysis

  • 1.

    What is unique about this vision in terms of John’s role?

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    In this vision, God gives John specific missions to accomplish. Thus John directly participates in the vision. As commanded, he takes the little book and eats it. He is also told to measure the temple, the altar, and the worshippers with a reed.

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Segment Analysis

  • 10:1-7

    1.

    Does the appearance of the angel resemble anything we have seen before in Revelation?

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    It resembles the appearance of Christ (1:15,16) and of the one who sat on the throne (4:3). The resemblance has led some to identify this angel as the Lord Jesus Christ.

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  • 2.

    What does the sealing of the words of the seven thunders tell us about our knowledge of divine plan? (cf. 2Cor 12:3-4)

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    We do not fully know God’s plan, but only as much as He chooses to reveal according to His sovereign will (1Cor 13:12; Rom 11:34).

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  • 3.

    Record the proclamation of the angel.

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    “…there should be delay no longer, but in the days of the sounding of the seventh angel, when he is about to sound, the mystery of God would be finished, as He declared to His servants the prophets.”

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  • 4.

    Why does he swear by the everlasting God?

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    An oath in God’s name confirms the statement being made and serves as a guarantee. (cf. Heb 6:16,17; 7:21,22). In this case, the angel’s swearing shows that God will certainly not delay in fulfilling His mystery.

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  • 5.

    Read the following references and write down the types of mysteries recorded in the Bible a. Eph 1:9-10; 3:4-6; Col 2:2,3; 1Tim 3:16 b. Mt 13:11; Lk 17:20-21 c. Eph 5:28-32; Rev 1:20; 19:7-8 d. Rom 11:25-36 e. 1Cor 15:51-53; 1Thess 4:16-17 f. Rev 17:5,7

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    a. Mystery of Christ: the salvation of Jesus Christ and that the Gentiles are fellow heirs with Israel through the gospel. This mystery was hidden for ages (Col 1:26-27; 1Cor 2:7; Rom 16:25-27).
    b. The mysteries of the kingdom of heaven.
    c. The mystery of Christ and the church.
    d. The mystery that all Israel will be saved when the fullness of the Gentiles has come in.
    e. The mystery of resurrection and change.
    f. The mystery of Babylon the Great.

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  • 6.

    What does it mean that the mystery of God would be finished?

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    All of God’s redemptive plan through the work of Jesus Christ will be accomplished (cf. 16:17).

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  • 10:8-11

    7.

    In view of verse 11, what does the little book represent?

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    The prophetic message about all peoples, nations, tongues, and kings. The little book is open (2,8), meaning that the message has been revealed and that John must proclaim it. The smallness of the book may suggest that there will not be much time left before the remaining portion of God’s plan is fulfilled.

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  • 8a.

    Ezekiel had also been commanded to eat a scroll. Read his experience in Ezek 3:1-3. Considering the situation and mission of both John and Ezekiel, what does the experience of sweetness and bitterness symbolize?

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    For those who love God, it is always sweet to receive God’s word (Ps 119:103). But if the messenger of God has to proclaim a message of woe, it becomes a very unpleasant experience (cf. Jer 9:1; 20:7-10). The scroll given to Ezekiel was full of lamentations, mourning, and woe. Likewise, the prophetic message John has to proclaim concerns God’s judgment and wrath. All these things are bitter and difficult to proclaim, especially when they have to be proclaimed to people who would be hostile to the message.

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  • 8b.

    What does it mean to eat God’s word? Why must we eat God’s word before we can preach it to others?

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    Before we can proclaim God’s message, we must first take God’s word into our hearts and fully surrender ourselves to God’s will and commission for us. Only with faith and conviction in God’s word can we preach it to others and be persistent in doing so (cf. 2Tim 4:2-5).

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  • 8c.

    How has God’s word been sweet in your mouth but bitter in your stomach?

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  • 8d.

    Have you ever been entrusted with a task that you would rather avoid? How did you overcome your reluctance and end your complaints?

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  • 11:1-2

    9a.

    What can we infer from verse 11:2 as to the purpose of measuring the temple, the altar, and those who worship there?

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    Since the portion that was not measured was given to be trampled, we may infer that the measuring was for the purpose of protection from harm.

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  • 9b.

    Compare the holy city with the great city of verse 8.

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    These two cities represent the two spiritual camps: God’s and Satan’s. We belong to either the holy city or the great city. We cannot be neutral about where we stand. If we choose to be a friend of the world, we become an enemy of God (Jas 4:4).

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  • 9c.

    What possible meanings are there to the trampling of the holy city by the Gentiles?

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    The trampling may refer to persecution or corruption or both. The church will face external persecutions from the unbelievers, who are maneuvered by Satan to be enemies of believers. These unbelievers will cause harm to the people of God, but the extent of such persecution is limited (only the outer court). The church may also face the threat of false believers from within. These false believers may corrupt the faith of some with their false teachings and ungodly conducts (cf. 2Tim 2:18). The activities of these false believers, however, will also be limited in their extent.
    Another view of the meaning of trampling suggests that only the false worshippers those who are believers in name only (the outer court) will be hurt by the works of Satan and fall away (cf Mt 24:10; 13:41). The true believers (in the sanctuary) are protected against the devil’s harm. According to this interpretation, the measuring would be the separation of the true believers from the false.

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  • 9d.

    If the act of measuring symbolizes divine separation of true and false worshippers, on what basis will the separation be made? In other words, who does God consider as true worshippers? Are you a true worshipper?

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    True worshippers are those who worship in spirit and truth rather than put up an outward form of godliness (Jn 4:21-24; 2Tim 3:5). By their sincere faith in God and obedient living, they show themselves to be true disciples of the Lord who have the life of God in them (cf 1Jn 2:6).
    The standard of measurement is based on whether they serve in the temple and by the altar (11:1). Spiritually speaking, serving in the temple means building our faith on the teachings of the apostles and prophets, with Christ as the chief cornerstone, and to become a holy temple of God (Eph 2:19-22; 1Cor 3:16; 6:19). In other words, we need to become a member of the true church, abide by the teachings of the scriptures, and live in holy conduct. Serving by the altar means offering our bodies as living sacrifices (1Pet 2:5; Rom 12:1,2). We must live for Christ by dedicating every moment of our lives to obeying and serving Him (2Cor 5:15; Gal 2:20).

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  • 9e.

    If the forty-two months parallel half of the period of tribulation in Dan 9:27 (half a week), which half would it be equivalent to?

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    According to Daniel’s prophecy (Dan 9:27), the ending of sacrifice and offering will occur in the middle of the week (one week is equivalent to 7 years, with one day being equal to one year). If this prophecy refers to the trampling of the holy city by the Gentiles in Rev 11:2, then the event will occur during the second half of the seven year tribulation period.

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  • 10.

    Why must the measuring take place here, in view of the progression of events in Revelation?

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    The measuring takes place before the final and most intense part of the great tribulation. Just as God had sealed His servants before the four angels harmed the earth and the sea (7:1-3), He now also protects believers from harm before sending the final woe to earth and setting Satan loose to cause great havoc and deception.

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  • 11:3-14

    11.

    Compare the measuring with the work of the two witnesses. Could these represent the two commissions of the church today? What are these commissions?

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    While the measuring has to do with God’s people, the work of the two witnesses is to testify to the world. Likewise, the church, through the preaching of the Word, helps believers measure their faith and witnesses to the world of God’s coming judgment (cf. Mt 28:19,20).

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  • 12.

    How long will the witnesses prophesy?

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    1,260 days, or three-and-a-half years.

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  • 13a.

    Why do you think the witnesses are clothed in sackcloth?

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    Wearing sackcloth is a gesture of repentance and humility (cf. 1Kgs 21:27; Jon 3:8). In this context, the sackcloth that the witnesses wear may represent their message of repentance being preached as well as their self-denial and patient endurance.

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  • 13b.

    What does this teach us about our attitude when we preach to the world?

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    As preachers who warn the world of God’s judgment, we are not to be bystanders who show no sympathy or concern. We should carry out our mission with sobriety and great humility rather than being complacent. We also need to mourn over the sins of this wicked world (cf. 2Pet 2:7).

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  • 14.

    Read Zech 4:1-14 about the two olive trees and lampstands (gold pipes). If the two witnesses represent the believers, what would be the significance of using the olive trees and lampstands to describe the church?

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    According to Zechariah, the two olive trees whose branches drip oil into the two gold pipes are the two anointed (Joshua and Zerubbabel) who stand beside the Lord of the whole earth. They are to accomplish God’s great work by His spirit. Likewise, the believers in the church are anointed to carry out God’s commission in the end time (cf. 1Pet 2:9). Like olive branches that drip oil and lampstands that give light, we also need to witness to the world in the power of the Holy Spirit.

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  • 15a.

    Which two OT prophets performed miracles similar to those in 6?

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    Moses and Elijah.

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  • 15b.

    Why do you think the witnesses were given such great power?

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    In the Bible, God often empowered the prophets to perform miracles so as to convict the people and bring them to repentance. Here, the power given to the witnesses also serves as an instrument of punishment on the wicked.

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  • 16a.

    Why does the beast make war with and kill the witnesses?

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    This beast, who comes from the bottomless pit (17:8), acts as an instrument of Satan. Satan constantly accuses and makes war with the saints and opposes God. As enemy of God, he now kills the witnesses who have trespassed his territory (the unbelieving world).

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  • 16b.

    When will the two witnesses be killed? What teaching can we learn from this?

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    When they finish their testimony. Satan cannot frustrate the plan of God. He is able to kill the witnesses only because God has permitted him. We learn from the two witnesses how to be faithful to our mission even to the point of death. We do not need to fear the devil since God is in control. Even if we suffer death, we will soon receive glory (cf 12).

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  • 16c.

    What do “Sodom,” “Egypt,” and “where our Lord was crucified” collectively represent?

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    Sodom was a city of immorality. Egypt was a nation that placed God’s people under bondage. These places, as well as “where our Lord was crucified,” represent the sinful world, which is filled with evil and enmity towards God and His servants.

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  • 17a.

    What can we know about the inhabitants of the earth from 9 and 10?

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    They must have resented the two witnesses because of the sufferings they inflicted on the world. Instead of repenting of their evil, they wished to do away with the preachers of righteousness.

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  • 17b.

    Have you ever resented someone who pointed out your mistake? What should you have done instead?

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  • 18a.

    How long were the two witnesses dead?

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    Three-and-a-half days.

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  • 18b.

    Compare the resurrection of the witnesses with 1Thess 4:16-17.

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    This event may point to the Lord’s descent, when believers will resurrect, change, and be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord.

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  • 19.

    Compare 11:14 with 10:6. What does it tell us about the timing of the final judgments?

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    They will come swiftly without any further delay.

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