SERMON                                 God’s Two Witnesses                                Rev 11:1-14.


Who are the two witnesses of Revelation chapter 11? We have seen, as we have been going through
this book, that there is a wide range and variety of interpretations of just about everything in it. But
even taking that into consideration, this chapter stands out as one where there seems to be no
consensus whatsoever. There are quite a few who insist that the two witnesses are Elijah and Enoch.
Others prefer Elijah and Moses. Others say that they are two unknown individuals who are to come
in the future. Others suggest they are two angels. Others again say they represent the Bible and the
Holy Spirit, or the Old Testament and the New Testament, or the Law and the Prophets, or the law
and the gospel, or Judah and Israel, or Jewish and Gentile believers, or Israel and the church.

We might be inclined, with all these possibilities, to throw up our hands and give up trying to find
the real meaning. But that would be a great mistake, for two reasons. The first is that the chapter is
not actually as difficult to understand as all that, provided we are careful to consider it in its context,
and to interpret Scripture with Scripture. And the second reason why it is very important for us to
grapple with and understand this chapter, is because there is actually a wealth of teaching here that
is very important and very relevant to us today, right here, right now. Because what we will see as
we go through this chapter is that it is actually all about the church of Christ, in this present age
between the first and second comings of Christ. It is about us!

So let us turn our attention to this portion of Scripture. I would like to look at it under the following

1.     The temple of God: Christ’s church defined.
2.     The two witnesses: Christ’s church at work.

1.     The temple of God: Christ’s church defined.

We read in verse 1: “Then I was given a reed like a measuring rod. And the angel stood, saying,
‘Rise and measure the temple of God, the altar, and those who worship there.’” What is this temple
of God? There are those who say that it must be a literal temple, which is to be rebuilt in Jerusalem
at some future time. But that is an idea which simply does not square with the rest of the New
Testament. If there is to be a literal temple, then there must also be a literal altar, and literal
sacrifices upon that altar, and literal priests to officiate. In other words, a literal temple implies a
return to the Old Testament form of sacrificial worship. But the New Testament is crystal clear that
Christ put an end to all that, when He died on the cross as the once-for-all sacrifice for sin. Of the
many, many passages that could be quoted to show this, just have a look at Hebrews 8:1-2: “Now
this is the main point of the things we are saying: We have such a High Priest” – talking about
Christ – “who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, a Minister of
the sanctuary and of the true tabernacle which the Lord erected, and not man.” Christ is the true
High Priest, and He does not minister in an earthly structure made with man’s hands. And whole of
chapters 8 and 9, and the first half of chapter 10 of Hebrews, are all devoted to this same main
point, this same overarching theme – that the old ceremonial worship, bound to an earthly temple,
has been replaced by something infinitely better. They were only the shadow, whereas in Christ we
have the substance, the reality which they could only point to. And so, to say that Revelation 11
points to a return of an earthly temple, with earthly sacrifices on an earthly altar, is to say that at
some point in the future, God is going to say to His people, “Let go of the substance, let go of the
reality, let go of Christ, and return to the shadows and types and pictures.” In the light of the rest of
Scripture, such an idea is ridiculous.

So this temple in Rev 11 is not a real, literal temple. What is it, then? Turn with me to 1 Cor 3:16-
17: “Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If
anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple
you are.” Paul is writing here to the church at Corinth, and he says that they are the temple of God.
And this is just one of many New Testament passages that refer to the church in that way. The
temple of God, therefore, is the church!

With that principle firmly in mind, let us now see what John has to say about the church. We see
that he is given a measuring rod, and told: “Rise and measure the temple of God, the altar, and
those who worship there. 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.” There are three areas mentioned here – the temple, or sanctuary, the court outside the
temple, and the holy city. The last two are to be excluded from measurement – only the sanctuary is
to be measured.

What we have here is a picture that shows us what the true church of God is like. There are a great
number of people who consider themselves to be Christians, but it is a matter of name only. They
are “Christians” because they were born into a Christian country, or a Christian family, or because
they were christened or baptised when they were children. But that is as far as it goes. They do not
darken the door of the church. They couldn’t care less about worshipping God. They are completely
indifferent to the message of the gospel. But because of some accident of birth, they consider
themselves to fall into the category of Christian. These are the ones who tread the holy city
underfoot. They are like the many Israelites of Christ’s day who prided themselves on being the
children of Abraham, but who couldn’t care less about the law of God. At heart, they are as heathen
as the nations around them.

Even today this idea of “Christendom” is still very common. It’s becoming less popular here in
Australia, but in America, for instance, the idea that somehow the United States ought to be
considered a Christian country is still upheld by many. People insist that their Constitution and their
Declaration of Independence were framed with Christian values and ideals in mind. But the fact is
that America, like Australia, is by and large a godless nation, a heathen nation, a nation that does
not care at all for Christ!

Then there are those who are in the outer court. In Herod’s temple, which stood in the time of Christ
and the apostles, but which had already been destroyed by the time John wrote Revelation, there
was the temple proper, the inner sanctuary, and then there was the inner court, which Jews were
permitted to enter, and then outside that there was the outer court. There was a low wall between the
inner and outer courts, and there was a notice on that wall, forbidding Gentiles to enter the inner
court on pain of death. (One of these actual notices has been preserved – I believe it is in a museum
in Istanbul.)

These are not to be measured either. They approach closer to the temple than those who simply
trample the holy city, but they are still to be excluded from counting. And the application here is
that these are the ones who go to church, who show themselves to be religious, but who are not
really converted. They put on a good show, but that is all it is.

Our nation and the other nations round about us are filled with churches like that. There are any
number of churches which are by and large filled with people who put on a reasonable show, but
that is all it is. When it comes right down to it, the bulk of the people in them are not Christians, and
they are not promoting Christ’s agenda.


What is Christ’s agenda? Have a look at the ones who are measured. They are the ones who are
worshipping in the sanctuary, where the altar is. The mention of the altar is important, because that
reminds us that we have sin that needs to be paid for, and for that there needs to be a sacrifice. And
this is exactly what those in the outer court and those trampling the holy city – that is to say, the
many so-called Christians who really are Christians in name only – do not want to see. They do not
want to know about the altar! They do not want to know about sin, and about Christ, the only
sacrifice for sin! They would like to get closer to God, perhaps, if it doesn’t require too much effort
– but not like that!

But the ones John is to measure are the ones that do come and worship in the very sanctuary. The
true church of God on earth, the only ones who really deserve the name of Christian, are those who
seek to come into the very presence of God, and who do so on the basis of the only true sacrifice for
sin. They are those who have repented and believed. They are those who are trusting in Christ’s
atoning sacrifice. They are those whose hope of life is based on Christ’s death on the cross on their

And so, before we go on, I would like to ask you this question: How close have you approached to
the temple of God? If you consider yourself to be a Christian, on what basis do you do that? Is it
because you wander about in the holy city, viewing the temple from afar – that is to say, you
consider yourself to be a part of Christendom, having a Christian heritage, and that is as far as it
goes? Or maybe you are among the many who approach a little closer, as far as the outer court. You
go to church, and you are interested in religion, and you think that Jesus taught a great many good
things. You might enjoy the singing, and the ritual. You nod your head comfortably when the
preacher speaks against bad things like lying and stealing and adultery, and feel somewhat superior
about your good moral principles compared to so many around you. But you do not see the need for
the altar of sacrifice! That is, you have never seen the need to come before God, and to beg
forgiveness for your sins on the basis of Christ’s sacrifice, which you believe in your heart He made
for you! You don’t need that! You are good enough. No sacrifice is necessary on your behalf! If
that is you, you are only in the outer court, and John is told here to leave out the outer court. It is
excluded from measurement. It is not a part of the true temple of God.

But perhaps you have approached to the very sanctuary. You have found yourself to be a sinner,
guilty in God’s sight. You have realised that you can never do enough to make that right. But then
you have heard of Christ, who has said that He will make it right for you. You have heard of the
sacrifice He made on the cross for sin, and you have believed that it was for your sin. And so you
have come into the presence of God, and pleaded for forgiveness on the basis of that sacrifice, and
you know that you have received it. And now, even though you continue to falter and stumble many
times, even though at times you despair of your own foolish continuing in sin, yet at the bottom of
your heart you know that Christ is yours, and you are Christ’s, and nothing can take that away. That
is real Christianity. These are the ones who John was to count!

This is the real definition of the Christian church – the true temple of God, the ones who have been
brought to the knowledge of Christ. But now let us come to consider:

2.     The two witnesses: Christ’s church at work.

As I said at the beginning, there is a lot of controversy about exactly who these two witnesses are.
But I said also that it is not actually as difficult to interpret as all that, provided we consider the
context, and provided also we interpret Scripture with Scripture. And when we do that, it seems
clear that Hendriksen is right when he says: “The true church is now represented under the
symbolism of two witnesses. These witnesses symbolise the church militant bearing testimony
through its ministers and missionaries throughout the present dispensation.” The two witnesses


represent the true church of God, witnessing to Christ throughout this present age between the first
and second comings of Christ. The context agrees well with this, for as we have just seen, the
previous verses are to do with this same topic of the true church. The idea agrees well with the rest
of the New Testament, where we see that the function of the church is to “be witnesses to Me in
Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”, as it says in Acts 1:8. And
when we compare Scripture with Scripture, we find that the reference in verse 4 to the two olive
trees and the two lampstands also agrees with this, because that is a clear reference to Zechariah
chapter 4; and though we don’t have the time to go into that rather difficult chapter in detail, most
commentators would agree that the reference there is to Zerubbabel and Joshua, the ruler and the
priest of Israel, who thus represented the chosen people of God. The two witnesses are the church of
God, who will witness to Christ from the time the church was first established in the New
Testament, right up till the end of the world.

So, with that interpretation in mind, what can we learn about the church from this account of the
two witnesses?

The first thing we see here is that the church is to prophesy to the world. As we have already seen in
Acts 1:8, the function of the church is to witness to Christ. We are to prophesy! Prophesy what? The
fact that they are clothed in sackcloth, which symbolises mourning, shows that the church is to
prophesy of judgement. The church is to warn people. The church is to call people to repent before
it is too late! That is what the church is to be about! That is what Peter, and Paul, and John, and
James, and all the other apostles and teachers of the New Testament were all about – warning
people that they should flee from the wrath of God which is to come!

Verse 6 supports this very well. We read there that “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.” This immediately brings to mind the
prophet Elijah, whose prayer caused the rain to cease in Israel for 3 ½ years, and Moses, to whom
God gave the power to bring plagues on the Egyptians. But why? In each case, these things were
done in order that those who were opposed to God should be warned of the terrible judgement that
is to come! These things were done in order to call the wicked to repent of their sins, and flee from
the punishment that God would otherwise bring upon them!

This whole idea of God judging people is so unpopular today. No-one wants to hear it. They like the
idea of a God of love, but they do not like the idea of God as their King and Judge. They think that
somehow these are incompatible. But think about this: Would you respect and honour an earthly
judge who let a vicious murderer go free, out of compassion for that murderer? Of course not! That
would be unjust! That would be wrong! Justice demands that evil should be punished! Justice
demands that the punishment should fit the crime. Now, that’s a problem, of course. Everyone has a
different idea on what an appropriate punishment is for a particular crime. But God knows
everything. He knows what the appropriate punishment for every sin is. And He tells us that the
wages of sin is – death! He tells us that the appropriate punishment for offending an infinitely pure
God is – death! But because He is also a God of love, He has given His own Son to die in the place
of all those who will put their trust in Him. That is love! That is the Judge and His Son agreeing
between themselves that the Son should offer to serve my sentence for me. There is no way that I
deserve such mercy, but a loving, kind God has offered it anyway! And so, out of mercy, out of
loving-kindness, God sends the church, His two witnesses, to warn of the judgement that is to come,
in order that men and women might repent and so escape that judgement! The church is to

Secondly, we see that the church has power. Verse 5 speaks of fire proceeding from the mouths of
the two witnesses and devouring their enemies. This does not mean that the church goes about


killing people who are opposed to it. But it does mean that the gospel we preach is powerful both to
save and to condemn. Those who oppose the church will be condemned by the very gospel they

We should never think of ourselves as weak and helpless. As the witnesses of God, we have great
power. We have the power of His word, which is “living and powerful and sharper than any two-
edged sword”, as it says in Hebrews 4:12. Our response to opposition must always be to boldly
proclaim God’s word. That is enough! That is enough to devour all the enemies of the gospel with

Thirdly, we see that the church will never be silenced. There will always be a witness for Christ in
this world. Verses 7-12 speak of the two witnesses being killed, and of the world rejoicing over
their dead bodies for 3 ½ days. And sometimes in history that is the way it has appeared. It has
sometimes seemed that the church is dead, never to rise again. Think about the time prior to the
Reformation. It seemed that the light had gone completely out! The Roman Catholic church had a
stranglehold on the world, and it was teaching a false gospel of salvation by works. But then, all of
a sudden God raised up Martin Luther, and suddenly the gospel was being powerfully proclaimed.
And in a comparatively short time the true church had grown to enormous strength, and their
witness went throughout all Europe. God will not permit His witnesses to be silenced! Men may
think that they have defeated the church, but in only 3 ½ days, a short time, His witness will once
again be heard!

And lastly, we see that the church will be rewarded. We won’t spend much time on this now,
because it will come up again next time, when we look at the seventh trumpet. But how glorious it
is to think that after all the trials of this world, God will call to us from heaven “Come up here!”
Surely at that time all our troubles in this world will seem to have been for but a moment. And how
glorious to think also that the church will, in the end, be victorious over all its enemies.

Let us therefore be challenged to be the witnesses of Christ that we are meant to be. Those two
witnesses are not someone else. They are not Enoch or Moses or Elijah. They are not some future
spiritual superstars. No, those two witnesses are you and me. It has been given into our hand to
proclaim Christ at all costs, no matter what opposition may come. Let us do so!



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