In the last chapter we saw the revelation deal with the open book, which symbolised the Bible that God thrust upon the nations in their own native languages after the Reformation. The Roman Catholic Church was opposed to its circulation, and many persons were burned for the only crime of possessing a Bible. With that book John the Apostle was commanded to preach the true gospel. That was representative of the missions to spread the gospel to the world. Events continue on from there. Chapter 11 events occur under the sixth trumpet up to verse 15 when the seventh angel sounds his trumpet and the Lord returns to claim His kingdom.
This chapter opens with the Apostle John being given a reed to measure with (v.1). It is a divine measure, not by man’s standards but by God’s. There is a divine standard for measurement, given to the Apostles by Christ, and that is the New Testament of Jesus Christ.
The revelations always apply to peoples and nations not buildings and things. In verse 1 “…measure the temple of God, and the altar and them that worship therein” symbolises the true Church, the true faithful believers. They are measured against the Word of God, but the false church measures itself by its false pagan traditions, decisions of the Popes and decrees of councils.
Thus “the court … outside the temple” which is “given to the Gentiles” (v.2) symbolises the false church, the false institutionalised Latin Roman church, of religionists, which persecutes “tread under foot” the true Church for “forty and two months” or 1260 days. The period of time many have suggested is calculated by a day symbolising a year. Isaac Newton wrote that these ‘days’ are actually prophetic years. Therefore the Roman church persecutes the true believers for 1260 years, though I believe that this could be symbolic of a longer period of time than that.
The “two witnesses” (v.3) symbolise the two testaments (Old and New) of the Bible, which the true Church recovered from being once lost in dead languages. Those two testaments are “clothed in sackcloth” which indicates that those ‘clothed’ are people under persecution, because sackcloth is symbolic of mourning. The two testaments “shall prophesy” 1260 years to the world through the actions of the true Church, which is under persecution.
In the verse 4 “the two olive trees” and “the two candlesticks” symbolise the true believing Church. Verse 4 describes them as “standing before God on earth”. They prophesy for the same period of 1260 years, quite obviously for the same period as their persecution by the false Roman church lasts.
Eventually, God in His wisdom shields the believers, who exposed the false Roman church during the Reformation. Verses 5,6 are symbolic of God’s protection for those of the true Church, who spoke out against the lies of the false church, particularly from the Reformation onwards.
At the Reformation nations militarily fought against the Romish church and the nation states she controlled. The period of the 30 years war (ending by 1648) was when the power of the Papacy was really beginning to be broken.
At the height of the persecution of the true believers by the Papacy, the Inquisition operated to eliminate the ‘heretics,’ so called. The means were devilish and can be described as straight out of the ‘bottomless pit’ of Hell. This seems to be what is symbolised in verse 7. The same “beast that ascends out of the bottomless pit” is also described in Revelation 13:1 and 17:3. Its power is satanic, cf: Revelation 9:2,3.
The Inquisition started in the 12th century and by the 16th century was expanded to counter the Reformation. First the Inquisition operated in Rome and then later in the 14th and 15th century the Spanish Inquisition had many thousands of believers put to death. This was though the AntiChrist ‘beast,’ who derived his power from Hell.
This led to “their dead bodies lying in the streets,” (v.8) symbolising the victory or apparent victory of the AntiChrist over the true believers and the Reformers. This occurred in “the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt,” which fits Rome very well. Sodom and Egypt symbolise the pagan world which Roman Church had become. This “great city” is not Jerusalem where Christ was crucified but Rome where they ‘crucify’ Him in their pagan Mass, which they believe, through their false doctrine of transubstantiation, is a literal crucifixion of Christ bodily. The false believers rejoice over the death of the true believers and the Reformers, symbolised by the ‘two prophets’ (v.10).
Another possible interpretation could be that the “two witnesses” are particularly symbolic of the Word and the true Church. In this picture (right) Ignatius Loyola, who started the Jesuit order to fight against the Reformation, is shown treading on a protestant holding a Bible! They were both “witnesses”. Either way the true Church were instrumental in giving both Old and New Testaments to the world after the Reformation began.
The “three days and a half” in verses 9 and 11 symbolises the relatively short period of victory of the false church and/or those who persecuted those with the true testaments of the Bible. When did the 3½ years occur as represented by those 3½ days?
“War was made upon them.” (v.7) Near the close of the [18th] century the most determined attack ever known was made upon the Bible. Voltaire and Rousseau led in France; Frederick the Great in Germany; Tom Paine, Hume, Gibbon and Bolingbroke in England; Thomas Jefferson and Paine in America. At last the culmination was reached in France. The nation rose in a crusade against all religion. The Convention, composed of the representatives of the mightiest nation then upon the earth, by national law abolished not only the Bible but God. They decreed that France would worship no gods but Reason and Liberty. Atheism became the law of the State.
This is the only instance known to all history of a deliberate enactment abolishing all religion. Most fitly might such an event be styled the slaying of the witnesses who testify of the Lord. For 1260 years the testimony of the witnesses had been in part suppressed; in 1793 it was enacted that they should testify no more, or henceforth should be silent as death. It was decreed that time should date no more from the Christian era, and that the week itself should be abolished because it was a Bible division of time. Let it be borne in mind: 1. That the war was waged by the power from the bottomless pit; an infidel power. 2. The witnesses were slain by the state which has done more than all others to build up and uphold the temporal power of the Pope. They lie in the street of the great city. 3. It is just 1260 years, the prophetic period, from the time when the Pope was styled Lord of the Church by imperial authority, until the state of the abolition of the Bible and of God by “the eldest son of the Church,” or from A. D. 533 to A. D. 1793. (emphases added) (Excerpted from Bible Study Tools)
But God gets the victory (as we know from history) as the Reformation was spread throughout the world through the translations of the ‘little book’ and the protestant Church revived and spread the Biblical message throughout the world (v.11).
After three days and a half the witnesses came to life. This implies that they regain their power and influence. The French “Convention,” which inaugurated the Reign of Terror, guillotined all the royal family and many thousand citizens, decreed the dethronement of God, and made itself a terror to mankind, continued in existence for a little more than three years, and in about three and a half years the French nation began to recover from its madness. Its atheistic laws were repealed, and Christianity was acknowledged as the religion of the State. This was not all. The resurrected witnesses were in sackcloth no longer. The age of religious toleration had come. With the beginning of the present [19th] century a movement began to sweep over the civilized land in favor of religious liberty.
The exaltation of the witnesses has followed. With the nineteenth century began a mighty movement to extend the circulation of the Bible. It is now translated into every written tongue of the earth, and the Bible societies have made it the cheapest book in the world. To all who are not able to buy it is freely given. All are free to study it for themselves. Ours is also the age of missions. At the same time began a movement to preach the truths of the Bible to all nations. The result of this exaltation is that in our age we feel the heaving of a great moral earthquake. It is stated that a tenth part of the city shall be shaken down. Already Rome has lost its hold upon the governments of Italy and France. The trend of events is now towards the falling of the wicked city, the overthrow of its confirmed supporters, and the repentance of the others. These results are in the future; their fulfillment may yet require generations. We cannot name times and seasons, but the result will come. (Excerpted from Bible Study Tools)
The Inquisition was forcibly suppressed by Napoleon when he entered Madrid in 1808. When the Spanish Parliament in 1831 declared it incompatible with the Constitution, the Vatican protested. King Ferdinand VII restored it again in 1814. The Inquisition was finally suppressed by the Liberals in July, 1833. However, the Holy Office has never ceased to function. It is still alive and well and disguised under the specious name (sacred congregation for the doctrine of the faith) in the Vatican today!
Persecutions continue for the true believers, God calling many up to heaven (v.12). Tribulation, wrath of God upon Earth is handed (v.13). Many are killed by God in judgment but there remains a remnant who, though terrified, continue to glorify God.
Seventh trumpet (v.15) is sounded by the seventh angel and that heralds Christ’s Return, His Second Advent. The scene is in God’s throne room where the 24 elder worship God (cf. Revelation 4:4,10). Christ shall reign from that time on (v.17). What follows is the judgement of God upon the dead, with rewards handed out to the true believers (v.18). Compare that with the Great White Throne Judgement (Revelation 20:11).
Possible outline summary of events described in Revelation chapters 8 through 11
THE FALL OF THE OLD ROMAN EMPIRE.
THE FIRST TRUMPET under the Seventh Seal.–The Gothic Invasion fulfilled by the Invasion of Alaric; 8:7 . A. D. 409.
THE SECOND TRUMPET.–The Vandal Invasion. The Conquest of the Seas; Revelation 8:8 Revelation 8:9 . A. D. 422
THE THIRD TRUMPET.–The Invasion of Attila the Hun. The Scourge of the Rivers; Revelation 8:10 Revelation 8:11 . A. D. 440.
THE FOURTH TRUMPET.–The Final Overthrow of Rome by Odoacer. The End of Ancient History; 8:12 . A. D. 476. These Four Trumpet Invasions are the Four Winds which were withheld.
THE FALL OF THE EASTERN OR NEW ROMAN EMPIRE.
THE FIFTH TRUMPET SOUNDED.–The Mohammedan Uprising. The Saracen Empire; 9:1-12 . A. D. 632 to A. D. 782.
THE SIXTH TRUMPET.–The Euphratean Angels Loosed. The Rise of Turkish Power; 9:13-21 . A. D. 1057 to A. D. 1453.
REVIVAL OF CHRISTIANITY.
THE LITTLE BOOK and the Seven Thunders.–Symbols of the Reformation of Luther; 10:1-11 . A. D. 1518.
THE OLD PATHS SOUGHT.–The Church Measured; Revelation 11:1 Revelation 11:2 . From A. D. 1516 to the present time.
THE TWO WITNESSES.–The Two Books of the Word of God. In Sackcloth for twelve hundred and sixty years. Slain in 1793. Resurrected near the beginning of this century; 11:3-12 .
EVENTS YET FUTURE.
BABYLON FALLS.– 11:13 . Yet Future
THE SEVENTH ANGEL SOUNDS.–Christ comes. The Judgment; 11:14-18 . This ends the first part of Revelation and ends the world.