Join us as we study through Revelation verse by verse. Our Bible study guides contain discussion questions, verse by verse commentary, and applications which can help you or your small group get the most out of this book as you grow in understanding and obedience.
Revelation 11 Bible Study With Discussion Questions – The Two Witnesses
I. The Two Witnesses (1-6)
II. The Two Witnesses Are Killed And Rise Again (7-14)
III. The Seventh Trumpet (15-19)
I. The Two Witnesses (1-6)
Why was John told to measure the temple and those who worship?
What does it mean to measure those who worship?
What would happen to the holy city?
What time markers can you see in this passage?
What are your observations about the two witnesses?
How could they survive such public preaching for three and a half years during the tyrannical rule of the antichrist?
What do olive trees and lampstands symbolize?
What can we learn from these two witnesses?
How can you be a lampstand in your society?
1 Corinthians 6:19-20 – Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.
Daniel 9:3 – Then I turned my face to the Lord God, seeking him by prayer and pleas for mercy with fasting and sackcloth and ashes.
Jeremiah 11:6 – The Lord once called you ‘a green olive tree, beautiful with good fruit.’ But with the roar of a great tempest he will set fire to it, and its branches will be consumed.
Zechariah 4:12-14 And a second time I answered and said to him, “What are these two branches of the olive trees, which are beside the two golden pipes from which the golden oil is poured out?” He said to me, “Do you not know what these are?” I said, “No, my lord.” Then he said, “These are the two anointed ones who stand by the Lord of the whole earth.”
Verse by Verse Commentary
1. John is told to measure the temple, altar, and worshipers – John is given a “measuring rod like a staff” and is commanded to measure the temple, altar, and worshipers. He does not record any of his measurements.
Reflect: Is this to a be a literal measurement or is it figurative?
It appears that God is looking deeper than just physical measurements for several reasons:
No measurements were recorded. John did not give any physical measurements for these things, probably because God is interested in the spiritual.
The worshipers were also to be measured. It would be odd to measure the height of the worshipers who are going to the temple. That number is not very meaningful or significant. Thus some other quality of the worshipers was to be measured. Perhaps their holiness, sincerity, or faithfulness. God is looking at the spiritual, not the physical. And if some spiritual quality of the worshipers is being measured, then it is logical that the temple and altar were being measured in the same way. You wouldn’t measure the physical dimensions of the temple and then spiritual dimensions of the people. It was one type of measuring rod, not two.
The context of this chapter focuses on Jerusalem, the holy city. The witnesses are prophesying and trying to reach people spiritually. Certain reactions from the populace (of this city and the world) to the witnesses are gauged. God is concerned with the spiritual condition of Jerusalem and its people. He is going deeper than the surface to look at the heart.
Reflect: No exact record is shown of what John found when he measured. Does the text give any clue as to what was revealed about the people of Jerusalem?
Later the two witnesses are called. Before that they call down many plagues because of people’s hard hearts. The city is called “Sodom” and “Egypt.” And God judges the city by causing one tenth to collapse in an earthquake and seven thousand people to die. Therefore it seems clear that the city did not pass the test. There will be Jews who seem to be worshiping God at this point in time at the temple. But they are still rejecting His Son. And as a group, they have not yet come to repentance.
Application: God is also going to measure us. Will we measure up? No one will be able to pass this test. Our hope is in Christ who fills up what is lacking in us replacing our sin with His righteousness. Yet we still have a responsibility. First, we must place our faith in Him. Second, we should live our lives in a worthy manner of the calling to which we have been called.
2. The holy city will be trampled for forty-two months – Forty-two months is a time marker we see several times in end times accounts in Scripture. It represents half of the seven year period of the tribulation. Thus it appears that these events occur at the halfway point of the tribulation.
Most likely the witnesses are active in Jerusalem for the first three and a half years of the tribulation. During that time they are untouchable because of God’s divine protection. But at the mid-point of the tribulation, the antichrist will rise up and break his peace treaty with Israel. He will enter the temple and set up the abomination of desolation (Matthew 24:15-16). The city will come under his direct control for the last half the tribulation (Revelation 11:2). And many Jews will flee the city (Revelation 12). At this point in time the two witnesses will be killed. That will give the antichrist his greatest victory, but it will be short-lived (just like when Jesus was killed and raised from the dead).
3. The two witnesses – There is some debate about whether these witnesses are literal or figurative. A good general rule of interpretation is to take the Word at face value unless it clearly is figurative. In this case, all the signs point to these two witnesses being literal men who are divinely appointed and anointed by God for this special mission.
He says that they are clothed in sackcloth. He also gives them divine authority to call down plagues upon the earth and destroy their enemies.
If for example, the witnesses represent the church, who in the church would have this power? Everyone? And the church itself is dressed in sackcloth?
The text is most easily understood taking it literally. Much speculation has been made about the identity of these two witnesses. One of them is very likely Elijah.
While John the Baptist fulfilled the role of Elijah prior to Jesus’ first coming, before His second coming prophesies indicate Elijah himself will return. The two witnesses ministry and miracles strongly resemble the historical Elijah’s. He also shut up the heavens so that it did not rain and called down fire from heaven (2 Kings 1:10, 1 Kings 18).
James 5:16-18 – The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit.
The identity of the second witness is less clear. It may be Enoch as he, like Elijah, never died. God may have taken them to heaven alive because their mission on earth was not yet complete and He planned to send them back again as the two witnesses in the end times.
However, more importantly than the identity of the witnesses is their ministry. They are going to stand in Jerusalem as God’s witnesses to the earth for three and a half years. Their public ministry will be extremely important because it will come at a time when it is difficult for believers around the world to publicly witness for Christ without death and persecution soon following.
4. Clothed in sackcloth – Sackcloth was worn by people who wanted to demonstrate their humility in repentance. And that is the ministry that these two witnesses will be focusing on. They will preach repentance. They will encourage the people of the earth to humble themselves before God, accept His Son as King, and give their loyalty to Him instead of to the beast.
Their primary goal is not to wage war against the antichrist through plagues and fire. These are only signs meant to verify the credibility of their message. The signs are for opening the eyes of their listeners so that they will listen to and believe their message.
Application: Miracles were never about being flashy. They are meant to point people to Christ. We should care more about humility, sincerity, and repentance than about flashy signs. It is easy to be drawn to flashy ministries and powerful sounding speakers. But we should evaluate what we listen to more critically. Search not for the flashy. Don’t focus on the number of likes or subscribers. Instead focus on the content. Follow speakers who encourage humility, holiness, and repentance.
5. Two olive trees and two lampstands – The two witnesses are symbolically referred to as olive trees and lampstands. An olive tree is meant to bear fruit. Its fruit provides nourishment and refreshment for those who pick it. That is what the witnesses were called to do. They were to be fruitful in ministry, providing nourishment to all of those who listened to and obeyed their message.
And the function of lampstands is simple, providing a platform for light to shine forth. That light directs, guides, and enlightens. These two witnesses were tasked with shining the light from God to the earth. That task will be immensely important. The world at that time will be a very dark and evil place.
Antichrist and his forces will seek to immediately silence any believer who shares about Christ. The level of censorship and persecution will be far higher than at any point in all of human history. It should encourage us that even during this time the light of Christ will not be extinguished.
Application: Every believer is to be light. The world we live in is also a dark place. Are you being a witness for the Lord? Are you shining the light from the lampstand or covering it up in fear?
6. God will not stop working – One of the major lessons we can learn from the two witnesses is that God will never stop working. Conditions will be harsh. Satan will unleash his hateful campaign against Jews and believers around the world. But God does not retreat back into heaven and just let the chips fall where they may. He will be active. His will make sure that every part of His plan is fulfilled.
Salvation will still be available. The choice to believe in Christ and be forgiven will still be there. All of the people living through that horrible period will still have an opportunity to be saved. And that is very important. Every person from every era has an opportunity to come to God. He is fair. He is gracious. He is kind.
It is true that He does not wish any to perish.
7. Divine protection – The witnesses will be right in the cross hairs of the antichrist. But they cannot be harmed. Those who try (and certainly there will be people who attempt it) will be incinerated with fire from their mouths. That will be sure to draw some attention!
In addition, God will give them the power to call down plagues upon the earth. Some of the plagues they will call down include drought and turning water to blood. That is a deadly combo since the drought will already cause a scarcity of water.
Reflect: What is the purpose of plagues in the Bible? Why would a merciful God use them?
In Egypt plagues were sent by God to judge His enemies. At the same time, He used these plagues to change their hearts and force them to let His people go. And these signs and wonders were also a testimony to all nations of His power. Forty years later Rahab professed faith in God largely because of knowledge of these plagues. So plagues are not only used for judgment. They are also meant to show forth God’s power, cause people to repent, and in doing so save people from a worse and final judgment.
II. The Two Witnesses Are Killed And Rise Again (7-14)
How is it determined that they “finished their testimony?”
When is anyone “finished” with their mission on earth?
What would happen after their time was up?
Why were they protected before that?
What lesson can we learn from this?
Who is the beast in verse 7?
Why is Jerusalem called Sodom and Egypt?
How would the people of earth react to their death?
What does this teach us about the state of the earth at that time?
What will happen after three and a half days?
What do we learn from their resurrection?
What do you learn about God’s voice in verse 12?
What is the second woe (verse 14)?
2 Corinthians 8:11 – So now finish doing it as well, so that your readiness in desiring it may be matched by your completing it out of what you have.
Acts 20:24 – But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.
John 11:43-44 – When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.” The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”
Verse by Verse Commentary
1. When they have finished their testimony –
There are two lessons we can learn from this.
A. You are protected until God’s time – The antichrist certainly did not welcome this three and a half years of public witnessing. Every day they stood in public and preached was an act of defiance against his rule. Their ministry will be a humiliation and a shame to him. Though he will certainly try through force to stop them, he will be completely powerless to do anything. The most powerful man in the world with the aid of legions of demons and all the armies of the world will be unable to even harm a single hair on their heads before God’s appointed time.
The same is true for us. It will be more obvious at that time because of the supernatural miracles used to protect them. But it is still equally true today. God has a plan for you. Your time on this earth is set. And the day of your ascension to Him is already appointed. No disease, accident, or enemy can thwart God’s plan and timing for your life.
Application: Let this truth give you boldness. Do not live your life in worry, stressing out about things you can’t control. Instead rest in Him. Trust in His protection and plan.
B. Finish the mission that God has given you – The two witnesses accomplished what God called them to do. If you would interview them at the end, you would find that they had no regrets. Mission accomplished.
Application: Are you doing the mission that God has called you to? Do you even know what He wants you to do for Him? And if you do know, are you making progress toward that? Live your life in such a way that you too will have no regrets.
2. The antichrist will make war on them – Only when God’s time is fulfilled, will the antichrist be able to overcome the two witnesses. Until then, he is powerless. All of his evil schemes lead him to be a key instrument in fulfilling God’s own prophecies. When he is finally able to kill the witnesses (because God’s protection will be removed), he will surely exult and proclaim a great victory.
3. Sodom and Egypt – Sodom and Egypt were two wicked countries, known for rebellion against God. Sodom was known especially for their abominable acts. Egypt was known especially for its paganism, worship of idols. In this passage, God calls Jerusalem by these names. The holy city was not holy at all. It was steeped in wickedness. If you were to walk through the streets then, you would surely see every type of abomination. And many people there will be worshipers of demons.
4. The celebration of the wicked – When the witnesses are killed most of the population will celebrate. It will be like a great festival. There will be gift exchanges and parties. The hatred toward God’s prophets is so strong that no burial will be allowed. The decaying bodies will lie in the streets. People will visit their bodies in order to mock them and celebrate their death.
People all over the earth will celebrate. That fact would seem hard to understand if it took place in the pre-media days. Now with the internet and TV, the news will be broadcast around the world. Before their invention it would be unlikely that people who lived far away would hear about what was going on within only three and a half days.
The celebration is a reminder of just how morally bankrupt the world will be at that time. It truly will be a battle between God and Satan and everyone will pick sides.
5. Their resurrection – After three and a half days God will resurrect them. Their dead and decaying bodies will have life breathed into them by God. They will stand up. All who see will be terrified at this latest sign of God’s power. In an instant their victory and celebration will be turned to dread.
God will command them to “Come up here” and at that moment they will ascend directly to heaven much like Jesus did at the ascension.
God’s voice is powerful. With it, He created the heavens and the earth. Jesus raised Lazarus with a command. And here the laws of nature will be suspended as the witnesses hear His voice and are obey.
6. Judgment on the city – At that point there will be another divine judgment. This one will target Jerusalem. The city and the people their are measured and found lacking. Instead of listening to the witnesses and supporting them, they celebrate their death. Therefore God unleashes a judgment upon it.
He does not wipe it out. As in Old Testament times, God faithfully preserves a remnant. Eventually the Jewish nation as a group would turn to Him. But that time had not yet arrived. And though God is just, He is still merciful. He will give them even more signs and more opportunities.
III. The Seventh Trumpet (15-19)
What does it mean that “the kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord?”
Does this represent some major change in the world’s situation?
What is the seventh trumpet?
How do the 24 elders react?
What is the content of their praise to God?
What do you learn about God’s character from this passage?
Why is their lightning, thunder, hail and earthquakes when His temple is opened?
Verse by Verse Commentary
1. The seventh trumpet is a transition – The seventh seal was a transition with the seven trumpet judgments contained within. The seventh trumpet is also a transition. Following soon after this trumpet will be the seven bowl judgments in Revelation 16. In the following chapters the focus is on a war in heaven (Revelation 12), the beast and false prophet (Revelation 13), the 144,000 and harvest of the earth (Revelation 14).
And these things will be quickly followed by Armageddon and Jesus’ second coming. Each trumpet is a warning to the residents of earth. Time is drawing near. God’s judgment is coming quickly.
2. The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever. –
The seventh trumpet is not only a warning to the earth. It also reminds the heavenly host that Jesus’ second coming is just around the corner. The mid-point of the tribulation is past and events are rapidly moving forward, which will culminate in Jesus’ Himself returning to the earth, judging His enemies, and setting up His kingdom, which will then never end (first in the millennium and then in the new heavens and new earth).
Though things at this time will be bleak, those who know Christ will look forward in expectation to His perfect reign. No matter how dark this world becomes, there will be light. All believers have a common hope. We know Jesus will come and set everything right.
Application: We should remember that this world is God’s. It belongs to Him. For a period of time, He allows a certain amount of autonomy. It doesn’t change the fact He is the Alpha and Omega. All is from Him and all will answer Him.
3. The 24 elders worshiped saying – The elders in heaven see things as they are. Firstly, they give Him thanks. And they anticipate His reign. His plan is in motion. Nothing can or will stop Him. No plan can thwart Him.
His final judgment is coming quickly.
At first glance, it looks like His earthly reign and judgment have already come. But we can also understand these events as inseparable, part of one larger plan. When the scroll’s seal is broken the book is opened. Chapter 14 being finished, means that the book will soon conclude. It is a foregone conclusion made certain by God Himself, who cannot be thwarted.
4. The temple is opened – There are more flashes of lightning, thunder, an earthquake, and hail. The amount of supernatural signs in Revelation is astounding. All point to the glory of God.
Revelation Bible Study Guide – If this study is helpful, you can