The Two Witnesses.
SUMMARY.--The Temple Measured.
The Holy City Trodden Down by the Gentiles.
The Two Witnesses.
Prophesying in Sackcloth.
The Forty-Two Months.
The Witnesses Slain.
The Witnesses Exalted.
The Fall of the Wicked World.
The Seventh Trumpet Blown.
The Final Triumph.
1, 2. There was given me a reed like unto a rod. There are
several points that must be noticed: 1. Who measures? 2. The measure
used. 3. What is measured? (1) A reed is given to John to be used as a
measure. It is not an angel who measures, but an apostle, the sole
representative of the apostles then living. The apostle is a
representative of the apostolic body. It is the apostles who are to
measure. (2) The measure is not a human one. John did not make it, nor
did any other apostle, nor any man, or body of men. The reed was
given to him. It is a divine measure. Whatever is measured is to be
compared with a divine standard. There is a divine standard for
measurement which was given by our Lord to the apostles. This is the
New Testament of Jesus Christ. (3)
Measure the temple of God. This cannot mean the literal temple.
It was not in the part of the world where John was, if it had been
standing; nor was it then standing. What is meant is that of which the
temple was a symbol; viz., the Church. See notes on
1 Cor. 3:16.
And the altar. In the Jewish temple the altar was the place
where the worship centered. Without the altar worship was impossible,
and the altar is taken as a symbol of the worship. The sacrifices of
the altar were all typical of Christ's atonement. Hence, the
measurement has a relation to the death of Christ.
And them that worship therein. The measure shall be applied to
those who profess to be Christians. It will be seen whether they come
up to the standard.
2. And the court which is without the temple. This was the outer
court, the court of the Gentiles, the type of the world. This
measurement does not relate to the world so much as to the Church.
It is given unto the Gentiles. Not only it, but the
Holy City. By the Holy City Jerusalem is meant when the term
is named literally, but Jerusalem is used often by both Paul and John
as a symbol of the Church. See
Heb. 12:22; Isa. 2:2; Isa. 52:1; Rev. 21:2.
Hence, the prediction is to be fulfilled by a prostration or
desecration of the Church by worldly influences.
Forty and two months. This period is given several times in
prophecy in varied forms. These will all be considered at once below.
Here it will suffice to say that this is a period of 1260 days, and a
day being a symbol of a year, the period meant is 1260 years.
THE MEANING AND FULFILLMENT.
After this explanation of the meaning of terms, the significance
becomes plain. This prediction will be fulfilled if, under the sixth
trumpet, before the seventh is blown, a corrupted Church, corrupted
during long ages of apostasy shall be compared with some divine
standard. Or, in other words, after 1453 there ought to be an effort
to reform the Church, and to conform to the New Testament. Let us
ask, who shall
measure the Church? It has been measured for hundreds of years, not by
the Bible, but by the decrees of councils, and by the decisions of
Popes. There was during all this time a voice, almost suppressed,
asking that it be measured by the divine standard, but it was stifled.
This prophecy, however, implies a movement of commanding power which
shall seek to apply the divine reed to the measurement of the Church.
Who now, according to John, shall make the measurement; what shall be
the standard? Not Popes, not councils, not apostolic fathers, but the
reed is given to an apostle, the living representative of the
apostolic body. The twelve to whom were given twelve thrones, to judge
the twelve tribes of Israel, shall also measure the Church of Jesus
Christ in the day signified by the symbolism employed. How? The reed
was not their own creation but was given to them. There is but one
divine measure that has ever been given. The New Testament, written by
apostles, given to them by inspiration, is the divine standard with
which the Church, the worship and the worshippers, must be tested. Not
the traditions of men, not the decisions of councils, not the decrees
of synods, or conferences, not the creeds of any uninspired body that
ever met on the face of the earth, but the standard measure is the New
THE TRUE CHURCH.
This is not the only place where the reed is named as the
appointed instrument for the measurement of the Church. If the reader
will turn to the
he will find that the New Jerusalem, the Holy City, is measured by an
angel with a golden reed. In
Ezekiel, chapter 40,
the prophet sees an angel measure with a reed a temple such as never
been seen by mortal vision. The temple itself is just equal to the
measure, and it is composed of many chambers, all equal in size to the
reed, to each other, and to the temple itself, of which they are parts!
This strange symbolism, this representation of what is apparently
impossible, most beautifully represents the character of the true
Church, when it has reached the fullness of divine measure, and appears
as the New Jerusalem. The whole temple is just the size, neither larger
nor smaller than the reed. The true Church corresponds exactly with the
divine measure of the Word. It neither adds to itself things unknown to
the apostles, nor omits the things therein enjoined. As the temple of
Ezekiel was composed of chambers, each of which was the same size of
the temple, so the Church is composed of many congregations, each of
which should correspond exactly to the measure of the whole body. These
individual congregations, which make up the spiritual temple, should
not differ from each other in name, in creeds, in rites, in
observances, as do the sects of modern times. In the true Church, when
fully restored, there will be one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one
spirit, one hope, one name, one practice.
The symbolism recorded by the apostle evidently describes the
measurement of the Church, its worship, and of its worshipers by the
divine standard of the New Testament. Our next inquiry is whether
history records the fulfillment. Do we find aught in history,
subsequent to 1453, which can be regarded as fulfillment of the
prophecy? Earlier reformers, such as Waldo, Wiclif, and Huss, made an
attempt to reform the Church, but the whole world dates the beginning
of the Protestant Reformation with Luther. It was in 1517 that he
nailed to the doors of the church in Wittenberg his Theses, by which he
broke with Rome. It was held by the Papacy, which then lorded over
Christendom, that the writings of the Fathers, tradition, and the
decrees of councils were not only an additional measure, but might even
set aside the Word of God. The great Reformation planted itself upon
the principles maintained by Martin Luther, and the corner-stone of
Protestantism is that the Bible is the only rule of faith and practice
of the Christian Church. Protestantism has not always been true to its
principles, but it has always conceded that the final standard of
measurement is the Word of God.
THE TWO WITNESSES.
3, 4. I will give unto my two witnesses. These two witnesses are
witnesses for the Lord. They shall bear witness for 1260 days, the
forty-two months the Holy City is trodden down.
During this time they shall prophesy in
sackcloth, a symbol of sorrow and mourning. It implies that
these witnesses shall be in tribulation during the period named.
4. These are the two olive trees, and the two candlesticks. The
olive tree was the source of the oil used to provide for the
candlesticks. The candlesticks, burning the oil, gave forth light. The
symbols imply that during this period of 1260 days
God shall have two agencies, bearing divine witness, which shall give
forth light to men. These agencies shall be filled and sustained by
5, 6. Fire proceedeth out of their mouth. Whatever is signified
by these two witnesses, they have the power to destroy. In seeking for
the two witnesses we must find agencies which can save life and can
destroy it, can shut the heavens and open them, can prevent blessings
from descending upon the earth, can inflict curses and plagues on the
inhabitants of the earth. The witnesses have supernatural powers.
7-10. When they shall have finished their testimony. The thought
is, "When they shall have made their testimony complete."
The beast that ascendeth out of the bottomless pit. The coming
up of the beast out of the abyss is named here, in
13:1, and in 17:3.
The powers that come from the abyss are satanic. Compare
9:2 with 9:11.
The beast, therefore, represents some devilish power or influence. The
rendered "beast" here, in
13:1, and in 17:3,
denotes a savage wild beast of prey. The beast from the abyss should
be distinguished from "the beast coming up out of the sea"
and from "the beast coming up out of the earth"
They are all malign powers, but the power of evil manifested in
Shall . . . kill them. Whatever the beast represents,
that power shall assail the witnesses, and shall slay them for a time.
8. And their dead bodies shall lie in the street. They shall not
be buried, but remain in plain sight. I believe that this is what is
signified. Though the witnesses were slain, their enemies could not get
them out of sight. They could not bury them.
Of the great city. This term is used eight times in Revelation.
It is never used of Jerusalem. It is in contrast with the Holy City.
As the Holy City is a symbol of the church, a wicked City would
symbolize a false religion, or apostate church.
Spiritually is called Sodom, and Egypt. Symbolically so called.
Sodom, with its sins, was a type of this city; Egypt, the house of
bondage, is also a type. It is a sinful organization which has enslaved
the true Israel.
Where also our Lord was crucified. Many commentators have
insisted that this refers to literal Jerusalem, but we must remember
that the place is one in which our Lord was spiritually
crucified. This is done by apostasy. See
That the reference is to spiritual declension is plain.
9. Look upon their dead bodies three days and an half.
During a period of three and a half days their bodies shall be seen in
the street of the city slain, and all shall see them. They shall be
conspicuous. This would seem to point to a period of three and one-half
10. They that dwell on the earth. This expression, often used in
Revelation, always refers to
enemies of Christ.
These rejoice because the witnesses are slain. They make merry over
because these two prophets tormented them. These witnesses,
then, prophesied; that is, they spoke the will of God. Their warnings,
exhortations, and denunciations of sin tormented the dwellers of the
11-13. After three days and n half. After lying in a state
called dead three and a half years, they come to life again. God gave
them life. The effect of their appearance was to fill the people of the
wicked city with fear.
12. They heard a great voice from heaven. That voice called on
the witnesses to come up thither. To be exalted to heaven,
symbolically, always means to give power, prosperity and glory. This
means that the witnesses now receive power and influence over men.
Their exaltation implies that their prophesying is to be accepted as
authority over men.
13. In that hour there was a great earthquake. The symbol of
commotion, and of political or religious changes. The earthquake is
caused by the exaltation of the two witnesses. The result is that the
wicked city is shaken, and a part of it falls.
A tenth part. A large part.
Seven thousand persons.
Various explanations have been given for these numbers. In my judgment
seven is used because it is the perfect number. Seven thousands
would imply totality. The meaning is, therefore, a total overthrow.
And the remnant. So complete was the overthrow from the
earthquake, that the rest were filled with fear and glorified God. The
whole implies that when the witnesses were lifted up, a commotion shook
the false religion or apostate church, and that it was destroyed by the
commotion. A part of its inhabitants were slain (perhaps spiritually),
and the rest repented.
THE MEANING AND FULFILLMENT.
It has been remarked by several commentators that the passage
concerning the two witnesses is the most difficult to explain of any in
Revelation. Certainly there is a wide disagreement concerning its
meaning, but I believe that it can be clearly explained. Let all the
facts stated of the witnesses be taken in one glance. 1. There are
two witnesses, and only two. 2. These two are witnesses.
Their business is to testify to certain facts or truths. 3. The Lord
says they are "my" witnesses. They testify for the Lord. 4. The
Lord gives these witnesses power. "I will give power," etc. 5. They
shall testify in sackcloth. This implies that they shall testify in
sorrow, robed in mourning. 6. They shall do this in 1260 days or, since
a day in prophecy is the symbol for a year, for a period of 1260 years.
7. These witnesses are likened to two olive trees and two lampstands.
8. It is stated that they shall have power to destroy their enemies.
9. Also to intercept blessings. 10. At the end of three and half
years, or 1260 days, shall be slain. 11. Shall lie unburied, but after
three and half days shall rise again. 12. The witnesses are "prophets"
and they "prophesy;" that is, they speak by inspiration. 13. Shall have
great power and glory and be exalted to heaven. 14. The city of sin
shall be overthrown.
There are a number of facts recorded here which must be true of
witnesses, and the business of the interpreter is simply to ascertain
whether there is anything of which they are true and which would
correspond with these facts. (1) The first one of the fourteen facts I
have noted is that there were only two witnesses. I have lying
before me an open Bible. I find that the book of Revelation is in what
is called the New Testament. The whole Bible is divided into two
great divisions, which are called the Old and New
Testaments. There are, then two Testaments. Note further that
the term testament is a word that signifies to bear
witness. It is derived from a Latin word, testor, which
means "I testify." The two
testaments, then, imply two witnesses. We have, therefore, in
the Old Testament and New Testament, two witnesses, whether they are
those described by John or not. (2) These two witnesses of the Bible
each testify of the Lord. He said to the Jews concerning the Old
Testament Scriptures, "They testify of me."
The Apostle John says concerning his life of the Savior, "These things
were written that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son
One of these witnesses testifies of the Lord in type and prophecy; the
other testifies by its history of facts. (3) The two witnesses are the
Lord's. He gives them their power and they testify of Him. Thus
far the two witnesses of the Bible correspond exactly with the two
witnesses of the prophecy. (4) The two witnesses of the Word are fed
with the oil of inspiration and give forth light. (5) These two
witnesses speak by inspiration, or "prophesy." Passing over some marks
of minor importance, we come to (6) the statement that the two
witnesses have power to destroy. The Word of God can save and it can
destroy. It can justify and it can condemn. In the Judgment the fate of
men will be decided by the Word. If the reader will turn to
and read what is written of the conquests, triumphs, and destruction by
the Word of God, he will require nothing more upon this point. In fact
everything stated of the power of the two witnesses has been affirmed
of the Word of God. (7) It is said that for 1260 days the witness shall
prophesy in sackcloth. Every reader knows that for ages the Bible was
forbidden to the people and locked up in the dead languages. It was
even a crime, for which many suffered death, to have the Bible in the
tongue of the people. It is proper that we should consider here this
period of mourning in which, if I am correct, the witness of the Old
Testament and New Testament shall be given in sorrow.
TWELVE HUNDRED AND SIXTY DAYS.
This period of mourning, during which the witnesses shall prophesy
in sackcloth is 1260 days. The same period is named in several places
in this prophecy. In
it is stated that the youngest horn of the sea monster shall have
dominion for a time, times, and a half time. This is understood to be a
period of three and a half years, forty-two months, or 1260 days. The
outer court of the Holy City shall be trodden down by the Gentiles for
forty-two months, or 1260 days
The woman was fed of God in the wilderness for 1260 days
She was nourished a time, times, and a half time, or three and one-half
years, or 1260 days
In five different passages the same period of time is named, and
evidently covers in each case the same period of the history of the
Church. The day being used as a symbol for a year, we know that 1260
years, the horn spoken of by Daniel, which speaks great words against
the Most High, shall have dominion; that for the same period the
Gentiles, the enemies of the saints, shall be in power; the two
witnesses prophesy in sackcloth, and the woman, the type of the true
Church, flee into the wilderness. This remarkable period is that of the
power and glory of Papal Rome. It becomes us, once for all, to settle
when this period began and when it ends.
It is somewhat difficult to mark the exact point in this development
of the Romish power, which may be regarded as the beginning of the 1260
years. But I believe that the consummation of the usurpation can be
pointed out to the year.
In A. D. 527 Justinian ascended the throne of the Eastern Empire.
Before his reign the schism had begun between the Greek and the Roman
churches. He healed that schism by force in favor of Rome. If the
reader will open Gibbon, Vol. IV., p. 528, he will find an account of a
terrible persecution, inaugurated by this monarch, in order to make all
conform to the Papal rule. "His reign," says Gibbon, "was a uniform,
yet various scene of persecution . . . Churches with their
congregations were surrounded by Catholic soldiers, and the
houses were burned with the congregations in them." At this period,
then, the Church is drenched in blood in order to make the Romish power
universal. The witnesses certainly prophesy in mourning. What more? In
A. D. 531, Justinian, the ruler of the Eastern half of the old
Roman world, the ruler of the countries where the churches still
protested against the arrogant claims of Rome, decreed and enforced by
arms the subjugation of the whole Church to the Roman Pope, and in
A. D. 533, he bestowed upon him the title of Rector
Ecclesiæ" or Lord of the Church. (D'Aubigne's Reformation,
Vol. I., p. 42.) In A. D. 533 the "Man of Sin" was certainly
fully revealed. The Papacy was completely established. The universal
claims of the Pope were sanctioned by imperial power. Here, then, is
the beginning point.
During the long period extending from A. D. 533 to 1793, a
prophetic period of 1260 years, the two witnesses, the Old Testament
and New Testament, remained in sackcloth. Even where the light had
begun to spring up and the Protestant Reformation had taken the place
of Romish faith, there was still intoleration. Puritans were persecuted
in England, Baptists in Lutheran Germany, Calvin burnt Servetus in
Geneva, Quakers and Baptists were punished for their religion in the
"War was made upon them."
Near the close of the last century the most determined attack ever
known was made upon the Bible. Voltaire and Rousseau led in France;
Frederick the Great in Germany; Tom Paine, Hume, Gibbon and Bolingbroke
in England; Thomas Jefferson and Paine in America. At last the
culmination was reached in France. The nation rose in a crusade against
all religion. The Convention,
composed of the representatives of the mightiest nation then upon the
earth, by national law abolished not only the Bible but God. They
decreed that France would worship no gods but Reason and Liberty.
Atheism became the law of the State.
This is the only instance known to all history of a deliberate
enactment abolishing all religion. Most fitly might such an event be
styled the slaying of the witnesses who testify of the Lord. For 1260
years the testimony of the witnesses had been in part suppressed; in
1793 it was enacted that they should testify no more, or henceforth
should be silent as death. It was decreed that time should date no more
from the Christian era, and that the week itself should be abolished
because it was a Bible division of time. Let it be borne in mind: 1.
That the war was waged by the power from the bottomless pit; an infidel
power. 2. The witnesses were slain by the state which has done more
than all others to build up and uphold the temporal power of the Pope.
They lie in the street of the great city.
3. It is just 1260 years, the prophetic period, from the time when the
Pope was styled Lord of the Church by imperial authority, until
the state of the abolition of the Bible and of God by "the eldest son
of the Church," or from A. D. 533 to A. D. 1793.
THE TRIUMPH OF THE WITNESSES.
After three days and a half the witnesses came to life. This implies
that they regain their power and influence. The French "Convention,"
which inaugurated the Reign of Terror, guillotined all the royal family
and many thousand citizens, decreed the dethronement of God, and made
itself a terror to mankind, continued in existence for a little more
than three years, and in about three and a half years the French nation
began to recover from its madness. Its atheistic laws were repealed,
and Christianity was acknowledged as the religion of the State. This
was not all. The resurrected witnesses were in sackcloth no longer. The
age of religious toleration had come. With the beginning of the present
century a movement began to sweep over the civilized land in favor of
The exaltation of the witnesses has followed. With the
nineteenth century began a mighty movement to extend the circulation of
the Bible. It is now translated into every written tongue of the
earth, and the Bible societies have made it the cheapest book in the
world. To all who are not able to buy it is freely given. All are free
to study it for themselves. Ours is also the age of missions. At
the same time began a movement to preach the truths of the Bible to all
nations. The result of this exaltation is that in our age we feel the
heaving of a great moral earthquake. It is stated that a tenth
part of the city shall be shaken down. Already Rome has lost its hold
upon the governments of Italy and France. The trend of events is now
towards the falling of the wicked city, the overthrow of its confirmed
supporters, and the repentance of the others. These results are in the
future; their fulfillment may yet require generations. We cannot name
times and seasons, but the result will come.
THE SEVENTH TRUMPET.
14, 15. And the seventh angel sounded. This is the seventh
trumpet of the seventh seal. It should bring the end, the final
victory, the grand consummation. That is what the apostle now beholds
in the vision.
The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and
of his Christ. Here is the final triumph. It is the brightness of
Zion's glad morning, the long deferred day of victory, the ushering in
of the conquering reign of Christ. The Agency by which this conquest is
effected is the exaltation of the witnesses, or the diffusion of the
Word of God. This exaltation causes the earthquake, the fall of a part
of the Great City, the destruction of a part of its inhabitants, and
the repentance of the remnant. These events are followed by the seventh
trumpet and the proclamation of the universal reign of Christ. Then the
heavenly inhabitants join in pæans of victory and songs of praise
16-18. The four and twenty elders, which sat before God. These
heavenly princes, in some way identified with the work of redemption,
join in worship and praises. "The mystery of God has been
finished in the days of the voice of the seventh angel"
will sufficiently explain why this also should be called a woe trumpet.
It is the trumpet of judgment.
19. I believe this verse ought to belong to
and will there consider it. If it is connected in meaning with
it signifies that heaven is opened at the close of the seventh trumpet,
and that from thence come judgments as well as blessings.
closes the first great division of the Book. It brings one series of
visions which reaches from the time of John to the end of the world to
a close. It will aid those who have studied the preceding chapters to
study the results in a condensed analysis.
The first four chapters are not prophecy, except as the history of the
Seven Churches is outlined. The future history of the world and the
Church is symbolized by a sealed book. It has seven seals. These are
seven epochs that reach into the future until the end of time.
SEAL.--The White Horse. The Era of Triumph. The Glorious Period of
A. D. 96 to A. D. 180
THE FALL OF THE OLD ROMAN EMPIRE.
SEAL.--The Red Horse. The Era of Blood and of Civil
Beginning A. D. 193.
SEAL.--The Black Horse. The Seal of Calamity, and of
Beginning about A. D. 200.
SEAL.--The Pale Horse. The Era of Famine, Pestilence and
About A. D. 240 to A. D. 270.
SEAL.--The Era of Persecution. The last effort of Paganism
to blot out the Christian name;
A. D. 303.
SEAL.--The Seal of Revolution. The Era of the Overthrow of
Beginning about A. D. 310 and extending to A. D. 350.
WINDS.--A vision of destructive forces that shall destroy the Roman
Empire, but held back until it shall be Christianized. The Four Winds
represent Four Northern Invasions, also indicated by Four Trumpets;
Fulfilled from A. D. 340 to A. D. 395.
TRUMPET under the Seventh Seal.--The Gothic Invasion
fulfilled by the Invasion of Alaric;
A. D. 409.
THE FALL OF THE EASTERN OR NEW ROMAN EMPIRE.
TRUMPET.--The Vandal Invasion. The Conquest of the Seas;
A. D. 422
TRUMPET.--The Invasion of Attila the Hun. The Scourge of
A. D. 440.
TRUMPET.--The Final Overthrow of Rome by Odoacer. The End of Ancient
A. D. 476. These Four Trumpet Invasions are the Four Winds which
SOUNDED.--The Mohammedan Uprising. The Saracen Empire;
A. D. 632 to A. D. 782.
REVIVAL OF CHRISTIANITY.
TRUMPET.--The Euphratean Angels Loosed. The Rise of Turkish Power;
A. D. 1057 to A. D. 1453.
BOOK and the Seven Thunders.--Symbols of the Reformation
A. D. 1518.
EVENTS YET FUTURE.
SOUGHT.--The Church Measured;
From A. D. 1516 to the present time.
WITNESSES.--The Two Books of the Word of God. In Sackcloth
for twelve hundred and sixty years. Slain in 1793. Resurrected near
the beginning of this century;
SOUNDS.--Christ comes. The Judgment;
This ends the first part of Revelation and ends the world.