A continuation of an article on Revelation 11.
In furtherance of this blasphemous claim to deity, the Beast acts immediately to deal with the opposition.
1. HE DESTROYS JUDAISM
The very fact of his intrusion into the temple and the erection of the image in its precincts have effectively brought the temple services to a stop. The record of Dan 9:27 is conclusive: “In the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and oblation to cease.” The whole system is brought to a stop. The immediate result of this is that every Jew who will not accept these blasphemous claims will have to flee for life. This will initiate the greatest genocide policy of all time against the Jew. The holocaust will fade into insignificance. This is depicted symbolically in the flight of the woman in Rev 12:6. This is the time of which the Lord spoke in Matt 24:15-22.
2. HE DESTROYS THE HARLOT
Up to this point he has supported the apostate Christianity symbolized in the harlot of Rev 17. This is the Roman Catholic Church as leading the ecumenical movement in a unification of Christianity. The practices and principles are derived from Babylon so that she is revealed to be, “Mystery, Babylon, and Great, the Mother of Harlots and the Abomination of the Earth.” For his own reasons as he rises politically, the Beast has supported this system. This is seen in the fact that the harlot sits on the Beast (Rev 17:3). Now she is no longer useful and, in fact, may oppose his claims, so he turns upon her and destroys her completely (Rev 17:16-17). The idolatry of apostate Christianity is replaced by new idolatry – worship of the Beast and his image.
3. HE SLAYS THE TWO WITNESSES
The Beast cannot allow the call to repentance to sound out any longer in his religious capital. If his claims to deity are to be credible he must silence these voices. Thus he turns upon the two witnesses and, violently and publicly, kills them in the street. He is, of course, unaware that their ministry is finished and God has withdrawn His protection. It appears as a mighty triumph for the Beast. Men see that he has been able to defy God Himself! Men welcome the great victory of the blasphemer and the cry is raised, “Who is like unto the Beast? Who is able to make war with him?” (Rev 13:4). Men can now believe that the Beast can challenge Heaven itself. The bodies in the street prove it!
NOTE THE MEN (vv3-5) These are simply two men raised up by God for a specific purpose. Numbers in the book of Revelation must be taken as they stand and the number “two” reflects the standard of legal witness in Scripture (Num 35:30; Deut 19:15). This shows the completeness of their testimony. Their clothing of “sackcloth” is the traditional garb of mourning (Joel 1:13; 1Kings 20:31); prophets (Dan 9:30) and penitents (Isaiah 37:1-2) wore it. These two witnesses were calling the nation of Israel to repentance. Their dress reflected their ministry. The references to the two olive trees and the two lampstands (v4) point back to Zech 4:1-13. The national testimony in Zechariahs day was in danger from the great nations around. It had to be supplied with divine resources – thus the lampstand was supplied directly from the olive trees. The trees represented Christ in his dual offices of Priest and King ministering through the supplied Holy Spirit. In Zechariah the picture was national; here the picture is personal. Not only divine provision but divine protection is emphasized in v 5; this protection is of the same character as that given to Elijah (2 Kings 1:10-12). This defines the character of their testimony.
NOTE THE MINISTRY (v6) Miracles attend their ministry. They have authority to shut heaven that it rain not. This is reminiscent of the ministry of Elijah as he called to repentance a rebellious nation under their evil king Ahab (1 Kings 17:1). They have authority over the waters to turn them to blood and to smite the earth with all plagues as often as they will. This is reminiscent of the ministry of Moses as he brought deliverance to his nation from the tyranny of Pharaoh (Ex 7:16-19). Now as a man rules Israel who is more evil that Ahab and as they are held in bondage by a greater tyrant that Pharaoh, it is fitting that similar miracles demonstrate the power of God. The miracles that these men do have led to speculation that they are Moses (representative of the law) and Elijah (representative of the Prophets) raised from the dead. A refinement in the theory replaces Moses with Enoch on the ground that Moses died once and could not die again. These speculations are just that and must remain so; Scriptural support is lacking. Two special men are raised up of God, one in the power of a Moses and the other in the power of an Elijah, to summon Israel to repentance. Similar ministry demands similar miracles even if on a far greater scale than previously seen.
NOTE THEIR MARTYRDOM (vv7-10) The Beast kills these two men. Their final witness to earth is to be borne through their death. Jerusalem is identified politically as “the great city,” spiritually as “Sodom” (the treatment of Gods messengers is to be recalled Gen 19:1-9); and historically as “where our Lord was crucified.” In defiance of every rule of decency the bodies are left to lie in the street. The publicity is essential to declare the power of the Beast. The television coverage ensures this.
NOTE THE MESSAGE (vv11-13) The triumph of the Beast seems to be complete. The bodies in the street and under constant television surveillance from around the world will ensure that no resurrection stories will circulate. As the third day passes the relief of earth is almost palpable! There can be no resurrection – the bodies will be decaying! Thus the stage is set for the most dramatic message from heaven for all of earth. After three and a half days, “The Spirit of Life from God entered into them and they stood upon their feet” (v11) and earth is terrified. Then the great voice from heaven summons, “Come up hither;” one can almost feel the eye drawn upward to that cloud. God has left a final message for men ere the final judgments fall.
To believers, the message is one to bring comfort. Death under the beast is an ever-present reality, but beyond that his power cannot go. God will have the last word in the resurrection for the saints. Death, for the believer is only a stepping-stone to glory.
To unbelievers, the message is one to bring consternation. In the very hour when the evidence of Gods power has been demonstrated, Jerusalem shudders under the earthquake. The tenth part of the city falls and seven thousand perish. The expression “seven thousand names of men” (JND translation and RV margin) is unusual and suggests that these are men whose names are found on a register or record. Perhaps these are the very names of the men used by the Beast in his murder campaign. It is no wonder the people left in Jerusalem are “affrighted.” The final statement is “and the remnant were affrighted and gave glory to the God of Heaven.”