Your Bible question was:
Re. Rev. 11:1-13 - What does this mean?

I am sending you some material on this passage from David Riggs (URL: which does a good job of examining this passage of scripture.  (Link no longer works)


Joe Price


Rev. 11:1-2 - Measuring the Temple

In the interlude, we are introduced first to the strong angel with the little book in his hand. Next, we witness the measuring of the temple. John is given a reed like a measuring rod and is told to measure the temple, altar, and worshipers. Remember, these are visions which John saw. It was not the literal temple that he was to measure, and it was not the literal city of Jerusalem that was to be trodden underfoot for a literal forty-two months.

There are only two visions mentioned in the Old Testament wherein something was measured. There was a complete measuring of the temple with all its holy ordinances in Ezek. 40:1-42:20 which was designed to cause the Israelites to make a separation between the holy and the common (see Ezek. 42:20; 43:10-11; 22:26). There was a measuring of Jerusalem in Zech. 2:1-5 (after the captivity, Zech. 1:1) and was designed to show that God would preserve and protect His suffering people. Thus, the measuring of the temple in Rev. 11:1-2 was to separate and protect His people, and is parallel to the sealing of the 144,000 in chapter 7. They were sealed and measured for the same purpose. The temple (sanctuary) represents the spiritual temple, God's dwelling place or habitation among men (1 Cor. 3:16-17; 2 Cor. 6:16; Eph. 2:21; 1 Tim. 3:15). The temple was to be measured but the outside court was to be left out. The temple (Christians or the church) would receive divine recognition and protection, while the outer court (the wicked or the world) would not.

John added that "the holy city," later called, "the beloved city" in Rev. 20:9 (again, the church, Heb. 12:22; Gal. 4:26) would be trodden under foot by those outside the court. In other words, the Christians or the church would be trodden under foot or persecuted by the world, but not touched in their relation to God.


Revelation 11:2 - 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 under foot for forty-two months.
Revelation 20:9 - They went up on the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city. And fire came down from God out of heaven and devoured them.

This period of persecution would last forty-two months--the same length of time for the event of 11:3; 12:6, 14, and 13:5. This is the same amount of time Daniel said the fourth kingdom (the Roman) would persecute the saints (Dan. 7:21-27). The literal city of Jerusalem would be "trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled" (Luke 21:24) which meant that it would have its "end" (Luke 21:9; Matt. 24:6,14). John's "holy city," however, would be trampled under foot only for a limited time. The following shows that the events of 11:2,3; 12:6; 13:5,7 and Dan. 7:13-15 all referring to the same time period:

  1. 42 months - The holy city trodden - Rev. 11:2
  2. 1,260 days - The two witnesses prophesy - Rev. 11:3
  3. 1,260 days - The woman is fed in wilderness - Rev. 12:6
  4. Time and times and half a time - 3 and 1/2 years - The beast would continue...was granted to make war with the saints and overcome them - Rev. 13:5,7
  5. Time and times and half a time - 3 and 1/2 years - The fourth beast shall be a fourth kingdom...the saints would be given into his hand - Dan. 7:23,25

Rev. 11:3-13 - The Two Witnesses

The third part of the interlude involves the two witnesses. "Two" symbolizes strength (Eccl. 4:9-12). The early missionary journeys were accompanied two by two. We see in these verses the symbol of the strength of the early apostles and prophets bearing witness of the gospel. This same testimony continued in the Word held and proclaimed by the saints. They gave a powerful witness for 1,260 days (again, the same time as in 11:2, 12:6, 14; Dan 7:21-26) clothed in sackcloth (a coarse sack fabric which was worn by ancient people in time of mourning); thus, they were prophesying through a time of affliction or persecution.

Verse 4 says, "These are the two olive trees, and the two candlesticks standing before the God of the earth." This explanation of the two witnesses seems to be drawn from the vision in Zechariah 4. The angel that talked with Zechariah asked him saying, "Do you not know what these (the two olive trees) are? (Zech. 4:13) The angel said, "These are the two anointed ones, who stand beside the Lord of the whole earth." In the context of chapters 3 and 4 of Zechariah, Joshua the high priest and Zerubbabel the governor were God's anointed ones. It was through those offices that He was blessing Israel at that time. The "two witnesses" of Rev. 11 perhaps is referring to the apostles and prophets. The terms "they will prophesy" (vs. 3) and "their testimony" (vs. 7) no doubt refers to the testimony that was borne during the time of persecution (Rev. 6:9; 12:11,17; 19:10; 20:4). Here again is a chart which shows that many of the terms in the book tie all the scenes together. It will become more evident as we proceed, that this fact is important in helping to obtain the correct interpretation of the book.


Revelation 1:2 - Who bore witness to the word of God, and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, and to all things that he saw.
Revelation 1:9 - I, John, both your brother and companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was on the island that is called Patmos for the word of God and for the testimony of Jesus Christ.
Revelation 6:9 - When He opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the testimony which they held.
Revelation 11:7 - Now when they finish their testimony, the beast that ascends out of the bottomless pit will make war against them, overcome them, and kill them.
Revelation 12:11 - And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death.
Revelation 12:17 - And the dragon was enraged with the woman, and he went to make war with the rest of her offspring, who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.
Revelation 19:10 - And I fell at his feet to worship him. But he said to me, "See that you do not do that! I am your fellow servant, and of your brethren who have the testimony of Jesus. Worship God! For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy."
Revelation 20:4 - And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was committed to them. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands. And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.

Through their testimony, the two witnesses had great power and strength (vss. 3, 5, and 6). They had power to devour their enemies and to prevent rain (as did Elijah) and power to turn water into blood and afflict the earth with every plague (as did Moses). All of this showed that the restraining force of the civil authorities were not able to destroy the early work of witnessing and preaching the gospel.

However, the testimony must meet its opposing strength. The beast that ascends out of the bottomless pit (the beast, the instrument that Satan used to overcome the saints, is not here identified; it will be identified in ch. 13 as the Roman Empire; see also 17:8) shall make war against them, and shall overcome and kill them (see 13:7). Their dead bodies shall lie in the street of the great city (called "Babylon" and "the great whore" and will later be identified as the city of Rome, 14:8; 16:19; 17:5-6,18; 18:2,10,16,18,19,21,24; 19:2). Sodom (ungodliness) and Egypt (bondage to sin) are the things that put the Savior to death. These opposing characteristics, the same ones that put Jesus to death, seem to overcome. (Note: If one makes the expression, "where also our Lord was crucified" literal, why doesn't he also make the "beast," "bottomless pit," "their dead bodies," and "they ascended to heaven" literal?)

In applying the scene to the Christians of that day, it seemed to them that Imperial Rome would be able to destroy Christianity. Indeed, the influence and spread of Christianity was stopped by the great persecution. Its believers had been slaughtered; its voice was silenced. Their dead bodies were a gazing-stock as the wicked rejoiced over them. However, Rome had not thought of the power of God. After three days and a half (meaning a short time) the breath of life from God entered into them. The cause of Christianity will always eventually triumph. The church is restored to its power and influence. Great fear fell on the earth dwellers as the two witnesses came alive and went up to heaven. In that hour there was a great earthquake (symbolizes a judgment from God) and a tenth part of the city fell and seven thousand people died. Those who remained in the city were terrified and gave glory to God.

The witnessing or the preaching of the gospel had great force at first, but there soon arose a terrible persecution and many of the Christians were killed. The witnessing seemed to be stopped. However, the strong witness of God will eventually triumph, though bitterly opposed. The two witnesses being raised and taken into heaven indicates the revival of the gospel cause. John's vision compares with Isaiah's vision of the figurative resurrection of Israel from Babylonian exile (Isa. 26:13-19), and with Ezekiel's vision of the valley of dry bones (Ezek. 37:1-14) in which the prophet described the resurrection of Israel from the grave of their captivity. Ezekiel's and John's visions contain several similar expressions, but Ezekiel's referred to the return of Israel from exile, and John's to the victory over the heathen persecutors. Also, remember that the kingdom was never to be destroyed, but was to be proven that it is an everlasting kingdom (Dan 7:21-27; Rev. 11:15). The purpose of John's words was to give comfort and encouragement to the suffering saints of his time as well as to suffering saints of any age.

Rev. 11:14-19 - The Seventh Trumpet

Remember that when the seventh angel sounded, the mystery of God which was declared to the prophets would be finished (10:7). When the seventh angel sounded, there were great voices in heaven saying, "The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdom of our Lord, and his Christ." (Vs. 15). This is precisely as Daniel the prophet declared (Dan. 2:44-45; 7:21-27). Thus, the seventh trumpet or the third woe represents the last judgment against Rome which will finish the words spoken by the prophets, will bring victory for the saints, and will demonstrate that the kingdom is an everlasting kingdom.

The song of thanksgiving is sung by the twenty-four elders (probably the redeemed of both Testaments; see comments under 4:4). They gave thanks to God because (1) "Thou hast taken to thee thy great power, and hast reigned." He has demonstrated His reigning strength, indicating that Christians have nothing to fear. (2) "Thy wrath is come" (see Rev. 16:19 for an example of His wrath against the great city). (3) "And the time of the dead, that they should be judged" (probably God's judgment against the spiritually dead rather than the final judgment--as in Dan. 7:26-27). (4) "Thou shouldest give reward" (probably here the reward of deliverance from persecution and avenging the blood of the righteous dead). (5) "And shouldest destroy them which destroy the earth" (the wicked at that time who were killing Christians). It is possible that the above is referring to the final judgment; however, it seems far better to give the book a consistent interpretation rather than repeatedly changing from John's day to the end of time. Each set of seals, trumpets, and bowls of wrath cover the same period of time. Each set concerns God's judgment against the wicked from beginning to end, and each set is more severe than the preceding one.

The opening of heaven to show the ark of the covenant shows that God keeps His covenant with His people. Although the church is in a tremendous conflict with the world, and it appears that the church will lose, God will keep His covenant--the church will be victorious. Also, at the same time (as vs. 19b shows) God's judgment of impending doom and disaster is reserved for the wicked (see also Isa. 29:6). By way of summary, we have studied regarding the seven churches (chs. 1-3), the seven seals (chs. 4-7) the seven trumpets (chs. 8-11), and now, the seven figures (chs. 12-14).


1. John was given a rod and told to do what?

2. How long was the holy city to be trodden under foot?

3. How would the witnesses' resurrection serve as encouragement to the persecuted saints?

4. What is involved in the statement, "The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ"?

5. Was thanksgiving made after the seventh trumpet? If so, who was doing it and for what purpose?

Joe R Price

Bible Answers

Mt. Baker church of Christ