At the mid-point of the tribulation period, two men have been challenging the city of Jerusalem for 1260 days. Their testimony began on the day that the controversial covenant (Dan 9:27) was signed in this very city. This covenant had gained acceptance by the majority as bringing peace to Israel and the Middle East. Uncompromisingly, these two men had denounced it as “a covenant with death” (Isa 26:15). Their call to repentance had tormented (v10) their hearers so that these were hated, reviled, and persecuted. Divinely protected (v 5), they had continued their witness until the middle of the tribulation period. At this point, the man who had reached world dominion and now claims deity (2 Thess 2:3-4) brings about their murder. He is called in v7, “the Beast that ascendeth out of the bottomless pit.” This charismatic man in the previous three and a half years had reached imperial status, heading the greatest empire the world had ever seen. With the threat removed from his northern border by the destruction of the armies of the great northern power (Ezek 38-39), there is no nation able to challenge him militarily. He is ready to challenge heaven and arranges the death of these two witnesses. For a moment he can claim success; two bodies lie on the street in Jerusalem! Congratulations pour in from around the world and a holiday is proclaimed. Through the momentary triumph of the Beast, God will challenge earth. The fourth day arrives when it seems resurrection can be discounted. Then, dramatically, God acts. He raises these two witnesses from the dead and summons them to heaven. The city of Jerusalem, and with it the world, is stunned and silent. Jerusalem shudders under the earthquake and men die. God is challenging the earth dwellers (followers of the Beast) and at the same time bringing comfort to His persecuted saints.
Looking at the detail of the passage, questions may be asked:
WHY THIS PLACE?
While not named in the passage, the city where the temple of God (v1) is found and “where also our Lord was crucified” cannot be any other than Jerusalem. This is the city where the Beast has claimed deity as described in 1Thess 2:4. In this city the image of the Beast stands in the temple precincts (Matt 24:15). It is the religious capital of the Beast, and the murder of these two witnesses is his challenge to heaven.
WHY THIS POINT?
It is clear that the mid-point of the tribulation is the crisis point of the tribulation. Events have allowed the leader of the ten-powered kingdom from the West to reach a place of power never seen before in a world ruler. He has reached this point in three remarkable steps:
A POLITICAL STEP.
The Beast, as the “prince that shall come” and the leader of the ten-powered Western Kingdom on the pattern of an expanded Roman Empire had signed a treaty guaranteeing the peace of Israel for seven years (Dan 9:26-27). This is his entrance on the world stage and is called “his coming” (parousia 2Thess 2:9). It was a major diplomatic triumph for the Beast out of the sea (Rev 13:1-2). He has promoted the cult of the “superman” in the preceding three and a half years (Rev 6:1-2). A key result of this peace agreement has been that the temple has been rebuilt in Jerusalem and the sacrifices of Judaism have been reintroduced.
A MILITARY STEP.
The peace enjoyed by Israel has encouraged an invasion by disgruntled Arab powers (Persia, Ethiopia and Libya) supported by a great northern power (Ezek 38-39). The destruction of these confederate forces (by divine intervention) has left the western leader the dominant military power. No nation can challenge him as yet, though there are rumblings from the East (Rev 9:13-19).
A RELIGIOUS STEP.
A dramatic event now propels this man on the final step to absolute world dominion. The statement of Scripture is concise. John says “I saw one of his heads wounded to death” (Rev 13:3). By an assassins hand, possibly at some great gathering in Jerusalem, the world ruler is murdered. Stunned, men hold their breath as the news is beamed round the world. But, suddenly, shock gives way to jubilation. Scripture is still concise: “And his deadly wound was healed.” Suddenly, earth is presented with a man from the grave – a resurrected man! However, the words, “as it were,” in the text alert us to the fact that all is not as it appears. This is actually a satanically stage-managed deception. Now the world gives him that which belongs exclusively to God – worship! The next statement of Scripture makes this clear: “And the world wondered after the Beast. And they worshiped the dragon which gave power unto the Beast: and they worshiped the Beast” (Rev 13: 3-4). This is the moment when “the Beast out of the sea” (Rev 13:1) becomes “the Beast out of the abyss” (Rev 11:7; 17:8).
This mighty man who already dominates the world politically and militarily knows the moment is ripe for him to move into his final blasphemy. It is described in 2 Thess 2:3-4: “And the man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshiped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.” This act of blasphemy has the agreement of the Jewish leader. This is the one described as the beast “out of the earth”(Rev 13:11) and the false prophet (Rev 16:13). He is a Jew who has come to the nation of Israel “in his own name” (John 5:42) and thus, as the replacement Messiah, is rightly called “the Antichrist”(1 John 2:18). This is the man who suggests to the nation the making of the image of the Beast (Rev 13;14) that will stand in the temple precincts. This is the Abomination of Desolation of which the Lord Himself warned in Matt 24:15. These two witnesses of Christ oppose the two puppets of Satan.