The Two Witnesses
Issue No. 258
In our series on the book of Revelation over the past few years, I skipped the eleventh chapter, which deals with the Two Witnesses. It is time now to fill in the blanks and to deal with this chapter. It begins this way:
1 And there was given me a measuring rod like a staff [kalamos, “reed”]; and someone said, “Rise and measure the temple of God, and the altar, and those who worship in it. 2 And leave out the court, which is outside the temple, and do not measure it, for it has been given to the nations; and they will tread under foot the holy city for forty-two months.”
A reed, or rod, was an ancient measuring unit that was equal to 42 handbreadths.
A reed was also equal to seven regular cubits, since each cubit was six handbreadths.
However, the Bible also speaks of a longer cubit that was used in the measurement of the temple in Ezekiel 40:5. Here we read,
5 And behold there was a wall on the outside of the temple all around, and in the man’s hand was a measuring rod of six cubits, each of which was a cubit and a handbreadth.
This so-called “sacred cubit” was one handbreadth longer than a regular cubit. So the sacred cubit measured seven handbreadths, and this means that the measuring rod used in Ezekiel (i.e., the “reed”) was only six sacred cubits of seven handbreadths each. The sacred cubit is the primary measurement of the temple in Ezekiel’s prophecy, and so this is the primary yardstick of Rev. 11 as well.
Measuring Time with a Reed
It is obvious that the reason a “reed” of 42 handbreadths is used to measure the temple is because it is a measure of time—specifically, 42 months, which in verse 3 is also defined as 1,260 days (42 x 30 days = 1,260 days).
In this little gem we are given the key to biblical time measurements and how they relate to a reed, or rod, that measures distance. A “reed” of time is 42 prophetic months. This means that each handbreadth in prophecy is equal to a month of 30 days.
Likewise, a sacred cubit, being seven handbreadths, is equal to seven months—the time it takes to complete the original feast days of Israel from Passover to Tabernacles.
1 Reed = 42 months or 1,260 days
1 Cubit = 7 months, or 210 days
1 Handbreadth. = 1 month, or 30 days
Obviously, each of these time measurements can be re-applied as a day for a year in long-term prophecy.
What is Being Measured?
Rev. 11:1 tells us that John was given this reed by which to measure the temple, the altar, and those who worship in the temple.
The first question is this: Which Temple? Is it a temple in the old Jerusalem, or the true Temple in the New? The answer is given at the end of verse 2—it is the Temple in “the holy city.”
The problem is that both the old and New Jerusalems are called “the holy city.” The Old Testament calls the old Jerusalem “the holy city” in Neh. 11:1, 18; Isaiah 48:2; Isaiah 52:1; and Daniel 9:24. Even so, one may question these references, simply because “Jerusalem” is plural in the Hebrew, and may refer to either the old or the new city. In fact, in Rev. 21 John quotes Old Testament prophecies about “Jerusalem” to describe the New Jerusalem. So just because Isaiah or Zechariah prophesy about “Jerusalem” does not necessarily mean that the prophecies refer to the old city that goes by that name.
John makes it clear, however, that when he speaks of the “holy city,” he refers to a spiritual city. Rev. 21:2 says,
2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband.
This is not the old city made over. It is not Hagar with lipstick. Paul makes it clear in Gal. 4:25-31 that the old Jerusalem is Hagar, and that the New Jerusalem is the only woman (Bride) that can bring forth the promise. Only believers in Christ qualify as the Isaac company, for they are the children of “Sarah,” the New Jerusalem.
And so, when Rev. 11:2 speaks of measuring the Temple and says that the nations will tread it under foot for 42 months, it is not speaking of foreigners occupying the old city of Jerusalem. It speaks instead of a heart attitude by which the New Jerusalem is trampled under foot by those who despise the holy city.
This can and has been done in many different ways. When the temple priests in the old city became ritualistic and destroyed the law by their traditions (Matt. 15:6), they trampled upon the holy city and the true temple of God. When Islam took over the old city, they did the same, not because they were irreverent toward the city and temple mount, but because they trampled upon the blood of Jesus Christ, the Mediator of the New Covenant, who is also the Melchizedek Order High Priest of the True Temple.
The Jewish leaders today are making plans to build a new temple in Jerusalem and to re-establish the Levitical priesthood to offer up animal sacrifices once again. They have induced well-intentioned Christians to finance this project. In so doing, they once again trample upon Jesus Christ and His blood, as Paul tells us in Hebrews 10:29.
This is how we should view Revelation 11:2 when we read that the “nations” will trample down the holy city. It is done when Judaism, Christianity, and Islam all despise the true Lamb of God and reject His sacrifice for sin. All three have competed for control of the old Jerusalem and value it as their “mother.” In doing so, they identify their religions as being of “Hagar” and disqualify themselves as inheritors of the promise given to Isaac, son of “Sarah.”
The Measure of 42 Months or 1,260 Days
Forty-two months is based upon the prophetic measure of a thirty-day month. So 42 x 30 = 1,260 days. We also understand that this is a long-term prophecy of 1,260 years, a year for a day (Ez. 4:6). It is the last half of the longer period of 2,520 years, featured more prominently in the prophecies of Daniel. While Daniel foresees a 2,520 year period for the Babylonian succession of empires, John focuses primarily on the last half of that time frame. Hence, he speaks of 42 months and 1,260 days, or 3½ years, which is half of the full 7 years (2,520 days/years).
John speaks more fully of this time period in Rev. 13, where, as I have shown elsewhere, is an enlargement upon Daniel’s revelation of the “little horn” in Daniel 7. Daniel speaks only of this “little horn” as coming out of the beast with iron teeth (7:7). That beast is identified as Rome, the fourth empire in the succession of empires.
The “little horn” is religious Rome that arose after the collapse of the Western Roman Empire in 476 A.D. The Emperor Justinian abolished the entire Roman law system and replaced it with Orthodox Christian Law in 529 A.D. This marked the most major beginning point for the 1,260 year reign of the “little horn,” ending with the French Revolution in 1789.
The French Revolution overthrew France, known as “the firstborn son of the Church.” In 1798 Napoleon took Rome and took the pope prisoner. The Church was dealt a “fatal wound” (Rev. 13:3) and yet it recovered, as John had prophesied.
John then saw the rise of the beast from the earth (Rev. 13:11-18), a financial beast having paper money (“mark of the beast”), without which no one can buy or sell. This monetary beast desires men to worship money, because “the love of money is the root of all evil” (1 Tim. 6:10).
Daniel has little or no revelation about this second beast, but John shows that the “little horn” manifests in two phases. The first is the religious beast, and the second is the financial beast, during which time the religious beast is given an extension of life.
At the risk of adding too many details that may serve to confuse some of you, I think it necessary to point out that in most prophetic time cycles, there is more than one starting point, which means that there are also multiple end points. God does this to provide more than one witness to a given prophecy. This makes prophecy more complex, but God seems to have little problem keeping it all straight. We are the ones with the problem of trying to understand the complex mind of God.
In this case, the 1,260-year prophecy of religious Rome has a later starting point in 750 or 751 A.D. when the dynasty of Frankish kings known as the Merovingians were finally overthrown and replaced by the Carolingians. This was done after they appealed to the pope for a verdict on how to handle the situation. In essence, the popes became the recognized kingmakers.
The Catholic Encyclopedia tells the story in the section on “Franks.”
“It can be understood, therefore, that in 751, Pepin and the Frankish nobles might well discuss the question as to whether he should assume the kingly crown. The question had a moral side, namely, whether it was lawful to assume a title which seemed to belong to another. It was decided to appeal for a solution to the sovereign pontiff, recognized by all as the custodian and interpreter of the moral law. A Frankish embassy left for Rome and submitted the question to Pope Zachary.”
The pope ruled in favor of Pepin, who already exercised power in every way except being king. Hence, the pope ruled against the last Merovingian king, who was king in name only.
“Reassured by this decision, Pepin hesitated no longer and had himself proclaimed king as Soissons in 751. Childeric III was sent to end his days in a cloister.”
The Merovingians have resented that Papal decision ever since that time, since they claimed descent from Jesus through Mary Magdalene. This was their way of claiming a messianic bloodline and the divine right to rule the earth. In recent years those of the Merovingian lineage have begun once again to reassert themselves through books like Laurence Gardner’s Bloodline of the Holy Grail and films such as The DaVinci Code.
The point for us to see now is that the Roman Church was given legal power in 529 with the Law Codex of Justinian, and it was given political power in 750-751 with the Frankish kingdom’s appeal to Pope Zachary to decide who had the moral right to be king.
1,260 years after 529 comes to the French Revolution.
1,260 years after Pope Zachary becomes the kingmaker comes to 2010-2011.
Perhaps the Merovingians today think that they will be reinstated as kings of Europe 1,260 years after they were deposed.
At any rate, it appears likely that the interim time period (1789-2010) could be very important, especially as we correlate this with other studies of the importance of the year 2010. Recall that 2010 is 7 x 390 years after the fall of Samaria in 721 B.C., and that the seventh 390-year period extends from 1620-2010.
The number 390 is about “No King in Israel,” based upon Hosea’s prophecy that Israel would abide without a king for many days (Hos. 3:4). It was also 390 years from Israel’s first judge (Othniel) to the year that Solomon laid the foundation for the temple. That foundation is Jesus Christ, the King.
So perhaps the Merovingians are aware of this time cycle and are asserting their claim to the throne based upon their delusions that they are direct physical descendants of Jesus and Mary Magdalene. Their belief presumes that Jesus did not really die on the cross, was never in need of resurrection, but lived and later married Mary Magdalene, producing a few children.
It is just another attack on the very foundation of Christianity itself, for without His death on the cross, we would all yet be dead in our trespasses and sins. Without His resurrection, “we are of all men most miserable,” as Paul says in 1 Cor. 15:19.
All of this is said to explain the background of the 1,260 “days” of the Two Witnesses’ ministry. They are two companies of people, who, like Moses and Elijah, represent the law and the prophets. They have ministered in the 1,260 years of the “little horn,” even as the Church has trampled upon the “holy city” (New Jerusalem) by its teachings and practices.
Who are the Two Witnesses?
I do not believe that the Two Witnesses are individual people. There have been Old Testament types of the Two Witnesses, of course, but the anti-type speaks of bodies of people, rather than of individuals.
In Revelation 11, John draws heavily from Zechariah 4, where the prophet identifies Joshua and Zerubbabel as the Two Witnesses of their day. Joshua was the high priest in Zechariah 3, and Zerubbabel was the governor, or civil ruler that was called to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem.
Zechariah asked the angel to identify the two olive trees in 4:11. The angel answered his question in 4:14,
14 Then he said, These are the two anointed ones [literally, “sons of oil”] who are standing by the Lord of the whole earth.
John repeats this in Rev. 11:4 with an added detail:
4 These are the two olive trees and the two lamp stands that stand before the Lord of the earth.
The Two Witnesses are pictured as olive trees, the source of olive oil that is used to light the lamp stand, or Candlestick in the Temple.
Perhaps Zechariah should have asked the angel who the two lamp stands were. But he did not ask, and so the angel did not reveal the answer to him. Perhaps this was because he only saw one lamp stand. At any rate, the answer came over 500 years later to John as he wrote the book of Revelation. The Two Witnesses are not only the olive trees but also the TWO lamp stands.
Earlier, in Revelation 1:12, John saw 7 lamp stands:
12 And I turned to see the voice that was speaking with me. And having turned, I saw seven golden lamp stands.
Their identity is given in verse 20,
20 As for the mystery of the seven stars which you saw in My right hand, and the seven golden lamp stands; the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lamp stands are the seven churches.
We see here that the lamp stands represent churches, or groups of people, rather than as single individuals. Hence, when we come to Revelation 11, where the Two Witnesses are called “lamp stands,” it does not speak of individual people but of groups of people.
The seven lamp stands refer to the Seven Churches, each of which prophesies of a different church age. I gave a complete study on this in my book, The Seven Churches. In each time frame, the situation was different, and so each Church had a different problem to overcome within the overall context of the 40 Jubilees of the Pentecostal Age.
But Revelation 11 focuses more upon the overcomers within those church ages, to whom was given specific promises of blessing in Rev. 2 and 3. The Two Witnesses are those overcomers of Revelation 2 and 3 who bear witness to the Word of God in the law and the prophets.
Because the lamp stand stood in the temple of the Holy Place (which speaks prophetically of Pentecost), it is plain that the Overcomers minister on earth during the Age of Pentecost. This is why they are associated with 1,260 “days” (i.e., years) of ministry. Essentially, they are called to be God’s witnesses even while the rest of the church fails to “overcome” (as implied in Rev. 2, 3).
What is their Ministry?
John describes their ministry in terms of Moses and Elijah, though he does not mention them by name. Vs. 5,
5 And if anyone desires to harm them, fire proceeds out of their mouth and devours their enemies. . .
This is a reference to Elijah in 2 Kings 1:10, where “fire came down from heaven and consumed him and his fifty.” That, of course, was an Old Testament story, where we read of types and shadows of greater fulfillments to come afterward. When Jesus’ disciples asked Him if they should call down fire from heaven upon the Samaritan city that had rejected Jesus, He rebuked them (Luke 9:55), and He reminded them that He was not sent to destroy but to save men’s lives. John the Baptist had prophesied that the Messiah was to come with the baptism of fire, which was the Holy Spirit baptism (Matt. 3:11) depicting the life-giving nature of God Himself. The fire of Elijah was only a carnal type of the fire of the Holy Spirit, with entirely different results.
John also gives another example of the Elijah ministry in Rev. 11:6, saying,
6 These have the power to shut up the sky, in order that rain may not fall during the days of their prophesying.
Elijah’s ministry is introduced in 1 Kings 17:1 when the prophet came to King Ahab and told him that there would be “neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word.” This turned out to be a 3½ year period (James 5:17). It correlates with the 42 months (1,260 days/years) of the Two Witnesses.
Hence, during the Age of Pentecost, there has been a great drought and a famine of hearing the Word, as Amos prophesied in 8:11,
11 Behold, days are coming, declares the Lord God, when I will send a famine on the land, not a famine for bread or a thirst for water, but rather for hearing the words of the Lord.
When Elijah prophesied drought to King Ahab, he went into hiding and spent most of those years outside the land of Israel with the widow woman. This pictured a famine of hearing the word of the Lord. So also is it with the time of the Two Witnesses during the Pentecostal Age. Having rejected the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word, the Church took up arms to convert men by force and threats. They pretended that this was done by the power of the Holy Spirit, given at Pentecost, when in fact, their physical sword was a poor substitute for the Sword of the Spirit.
John also gives us an example of the ministry of Moses, saying in Rev. 11:6, “and they have power over the waters to turn them into blood.” This is what occurred physically by the hand of Moses in Exodus 7:20.
What was a plague in the Old Testament is a blessing in the New. The Jews said, “His blood be on us and our children” (Matt. 27:25). This self-curse did indeed become a plague to them as long they remain in unbelief, but in the end they were prophesying that the blood of Jesus Christ would cover them as well. (To be continued.)