Two Powerful Preachers

Revelation 11

Alan Lewis
Elon, North Carolina
February 2023

Who is the greatest preacher that you have ever heard?  Who is the greatest preacher in history? Who was the greatest preacher of all time?

Was it D. L. Moody?  Was it Charles Wesley?  Was it Jonathon Edwards or Charles Haden Spurgeon?  Was it Billy Graham or Billy Sunday?

Today, we are going to be looking at two powerful preachers.  The church has never seen anything like these preachers.  The world has not either.

They will come on the scene in the future during the Tribulation Period.  These will be end-time preachers.  They will be Spirit-filled preachers.  They will be fire-breathing preachers.

There are plenty of preachers like that today.  They get all worked up.  They scream and yell, but they do it from the flesh.

Many screaming preachers have very little biblical content.  They just like to scream at the top of their lungs.  They are angry preachers.  These will be Spirit-filled preachers.

They will be miracle-working preachers.  Most preachers today are not miracle workers, except for charismatic pastors.  These witnesses will breathe fire and shut heaven.  They can stop it from raining.  They will have the power to turn water into blood.

They will have supernatural powers.  Their message will be authenticated with stupendous miracles.

They will be miracle working, Spirit-filled preachers.  They will not just be preachers; they will be prophets, real prophets, like the prophets we see in the OT who spoke with authority.

They will not be prophets like in some Christian churches today.  We have all kinds of people claiming to be have a word from God for people but they cannot distinguish their words from God’s Words

They say that God told them all kinds of things that he didn’t say.  They make all kinds of predictions that never take place.  These will be real prophets. These will be fire-breathing prophets.

God says, “I will grant authority to my two witnesses” (Revelation 11:3 ESV).  They will be given special authority that we do not have today

Revelation 11 deals with three main topics: the MEASURING of the temple, the MINISTRY of God’s two witnesses and the MUSIC of the seventh trumpet.

There are TWO WTINESSES in this chapter and there are TWO TEMPLES in this chapter.  There is on at the beginning and one at the end of the chapter (one in heaven and one on earth).

It is a Jewish chapter.  It describes a Jewish temple in Jerusalem, the city where Jesus died.  It describes the ministry and murder of these two prophets, as well as their glorification.

A Controversial Chapter

There are two completely different ways to read this chapter.  What you hear from one preacher may be completely different from what you hear from another preacher.  If you hear two sermons by different pastors on Revelation 11, they may sound very differently.

What is the big controversy?  Some take the chapter almost all literally and some take it all symbolically.  Both interpretations are wrong, although one is closer to the truth, as we will see.  Let’s look at the two main interpretations.

Symbolic Interpretation

One view that is very popular in many churches is that this chapter is symbolic.  Just about everything is symbolic.  The numbers are symbolic.  Forty-two months is symbolic.  It doesn’t mean forty-two months.

Temple doesn’t mean temple.  It means the church.  The church is described as God’s temple.  Our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit (I Corinthians 6:19).  We are a spiritual temple.

The two witnesses are not two men.  They are symbolic. They are symbolic of the church.  The church is described as a lampstand.  They represent believers in every age, according to this view.

F.F. Bruce, a respectable scholar, says that the two witnesses represent the church “in its royal and priestly functions.”[1]  There are some similarities to the church.

The church is to be God’s witnesses on earth, like these two were.  That is to be the mission of the church.

The church is hated by the world, like these two witnesses were.  Jesus said that the world would hate us (John 15:18-19).

Many Christians are martyred all over the world, like these two were but these two do NOT represent the church.  They CANNOT represent the church.

If anyone tries to harm them, fire comes from their mouths and devours their enemies. This is how anyone who wants to harm them must die (Revelation 11:5 NIV)

Does that describe the church today?  Does God kill anyone who wants to harm Christians?  No.  In fact, instead of fire killing the persecutors of Christians, many Christians have been burned at the stake.

The church is to love their enemies (Matthew 5:44) and to turn the other cheek (Matthew 5:39).  They are not to return evil for evil (Romans 12:17).  They are to return good for evil (I Peter 3:9).

They have power to shut up the heavens so that it will not rain during the time they are prophesying; and they have power to turn the waters into blood and to strike the earth with every kind of plague as often as they want. (Revelation 11:6 NIV)

Does that describe the church today?  Does the church today control the weather?  Does it stop the rain, turn waters into blood and strike the earth with plagues and do it as often as they want to do it?  No

Some Christians perform miracles.  They heal the sick and cast out demons but do not strike people with plagues.  They do not turn water into blood. That is not a description of the church today or of the church throughout history.

It is not even a description of even the charismatic branch of the church.  You really have to stretch the text and completely spiritualize it to come up with that interpretation.

Literal Interpretation

The other view takes this chapter literally.  People mean people.  Places mean places. Numbers mean numbers.  Temple means temple.  Forty-two months means forty-two months and the two witnesses are two literal men who will have a ministry in Jerusalem during the Tribulation Period.

They do not stand for two churches or two groups of people but are two men who will have a ministry in Jerusalem during the Tribulation Period.  Here we see the power of two.

The Bible says, “two are better than one” (Ecclesiastes 4:9).  God will not send just one witness.  He will send two witnesses.  He sent the Apostles out two by two.

Many today don’t believe in the literal interpretation, but that is exactly the way the earliest Christians read this passage.  The very first person to write a commentary on Revelation held this view.

His name was Victorinus.  Victorinus believed these were two literal prophets who will be killed by the Antichrist in the future.[2]  He lived in the third century.

Hippolytus lived in the second century to the beginning of the third century.  Hippolytus also believed these were two literal men who will live during the time of the future Antichrist.[3]

No one takes everything in the chapter literally.  The city of Jerusalem is not literally Sodom, and it is not literally Egypt.  It is symbolically Sodom and Egypt.  We are told that in Revelation 11:8.

The two witnesses are not literal lampstands, and they are not literal olive trees, even though they are called this in Revelation 11:4.  These are metaphors.

These men are lampstands.  They shine the light in a dark place or hold up the light.  They are olive trees.  They represent the Holy Spirit.  It comes right out of Zechariah 4.

That is the famous passage that says, “Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit” (Zechariah 4:6).

Who are the Two Witnesses?

We don’t know who they are for sure.  The Bible doesn’t say, but a strong case can be made that they will be Moses and Elijah, the two greatest prophets of the OT.  They were the same two that appeared at the Transfiguration with Jesus.

The two witnesses perform the same miracles that Moses and Elijah did.  Moses turned water into blood.  Moses smote the earth with all kinds of plagues (a plague of boils, gnats, frogs, flies, etc.).

Elijah was known for drought and fire.  He stopped the rain (1 Kgs 17:1; 18:1) for three and a half (Luke 4:25; James 5:17).  He called fire down from heaven (II Kings 1).

In addition, it is a common Jewish belief to this day that before the Messiah returns, Elijah will come.[4]

See, I will send the prophet Elijah to you before that great and dreadful day of the Lord comes. 6 He will turn the hearts of the parents to their children, and the hearts of the children to their parents; or else I will come and strike the land with total destruction.” (Malachi 4:6 NIV)

Before Jesus came the first time, John the Baptist came to prepare the way “in the spirit of Elijah” (Luke 1:17).  Before Jesus comes a second time, another Elijah will help prepare the way.

Seven Prophecies of Revelation 11

Today, we want to look at the end times, according to Revelation 11.  We want to look at seven prophecies found in this chapter.

1) God’s temple will be rebuilt

John was given a measuring rod in this chapter and was told to measure the temple of God and the altar, with its worshipers (Revelation 11:1).  This temple had an outer court and an inner court.  What was he measuring?  You can’t measure something that is not there.

He was measuring a temple but what temple?  He was not measuring a temple in his day because there wasn’t one.  It had been destroyed.  When John wrote Revelation, there was no temple in Jerusalem.

Most scholars believe Revelation was written around 95 AD.  The Romans destroyed Herod’s Temple in 70 AD.  They destroyed it twenty-five years earlier.

The Tribulation will be a time of rebuilding.  In John’s day, there was no temple.  In our day, there is no temple in Jerusalem but in the Tribulation apparently there will be one.

Many Christians believe that the temple will be rebuilt.  Many Christians do not believe it.  The Jews have not had a temple in over two thousand years.  There is a Muslim shrine on the Temple Mount now.

The church is described as a temple.  Paul said that our bodies are a temple of the Holy Spirit (I Corinthians 6:19).  Christ our lamb has been sacrificed for us.  He is our Passover Lamb.  The sacrifices of the temple were fulfilled in Him.

There are several reasons why I believe there will be a Jewish temple rebuilt during the Tribulation Period.

One, Daniel said that there would be a Tribulation Temple

He will confirm a covenant with many for one ‘seven.’ In the middle of the ‘seven’ he will put an end to sacrifice and offering. And at the TEMPLE he will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on him.” (Daniel 9:27 NIV)

Two, Jesus said that there would be a Tribulation Temple

 “So when you see standing in the HOLY PLACE ‘the abomination that causes desolation,’ spoken of through the prophet Daniel—let the reader understand— 16 then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. (Matthew 24:15-16 NIV)

Three, Paul said that there will be a Tribulation Temple

Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction. 4 He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in GOD’S TEMPLE, proclaiming himself to be God. (II Thessalonians 2:3-4 NIV)

Four, John said that there will be a Tribulation Temple

I was given a reed like a measuring rod and was told, “Go and measure the TEMPLE OF GOD and the altar, with its worshipers. (Revelation 11:1 NIV)

Five, the early church believed there will be a Tribulation Temple

“But when this Antichrist shall have devastated all things in this world, he will reign for three years and six months, and sit in the temple at Jerusalem; and then the Lord will come from heaven in the clouds.” (Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book 5, Chapter 30, Sec 4)

Irenaeus lived in the second century.  He was from Smyrna.  According to tradition, he was a disciple of Polycarp who was a disciple of the Apostle John.

2) God’s city will be trampled

The Tribulation will be a time of antisemitism.  Antisemitism is demonic and yet hatred of the Jewish people has existed in the past.  It exists in the present.

There are Muslim nations that hate Israel and want to wipe them off the map.  Antisemitism existed not only in the past and present but will exist in the future.

I was given a reed like a measuring rod and was told, “Go and measure the temple of God and the altar, with its worshipers. 2 But exclude the outer court; do not measure it, because it has been given to the Gentiles. They will trample on the holy city for 42 months (Revelation 11:1-2 NIV)

God’s temple stands but God’s city is trampled.  That is why part of the temple is to be measured but not the other part because the temple represents the city.

Jerusalem will be divided.  It is divided today.  In the Tribulation, part of it will belong to the Jews and part of it will belong to the Gentiles and they will trample their part of the city for forty-two months (Revelation 11:2). We will see even more antisemitism, as we look at Revelation 12.

3) God’s message will be proclaimed

The Tribulation Period will be a time of anointed preaching.  It will be a time of powerful preaching.  These two witnesses will preach.  They will have a testimony to give (Revelation 11:7).

These will be old time preachers.  They will look strange and have a strange message.  They will prophesy (Revelation 11:3) which does not just mean that they will predict the future.  They will have a word directly from God, and they will proclaim it boldly and unapologetically.

They will not look like preachers today.  These preachers will not wear fancy clothes, like the TV evangelists.  They will not wear designer clothes.  They will wear sackcloth.

They will not sound like preachers today.  They wont say what people want to hear, like the prosperity preachers.  “God wants you to have a million dollars.”

They will not be all positive like Joel Osteen.  They will have a message of repentance and judgment.  They will preach against sin.  They will be direct.  They will be confrontational.

They will be biblical.  They will be uncompromising.  They will be fearless.  They won’t care what people think of them.

They will not be seeker sensitive.  They won’t be politically correct.  They won’t be woke.  They won’t be popular.

These prophets will speak truth boldly.  They won’t apologize for it.  They will not worry about offending anyone.

That is why people will hate them.  These prophets will torment people with their message.  We are told these two prophets “tormented those who live on the earth” (Revelation 11:10 NIV).

They will have a ministry in Jerusalem to Jews.  They will call Israel to their Messiah.  Many will come to faith through their preaching.

Their preaching will result in a revival.  Good preaching often results in revival.  These two witnesses will help bring about the salvation of Israel.

Seven thousand people were killed in the earthquake, and the survivors were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven. (Revelation 11:13 NIV).

4) God’s power will be demonstrated

The Tribulation Period will be a time of incredible miracles.  These witnesses will not just say some things. They won’t just preach. They will perform miracles.

They are not really miracles as we think of them.  They are really supernatural acts of judgment.  They will have four miraculous powers but not the signs and wonders associated with the charismatic movement.

5 If anyone tries to harm them, fire comes from their mouths and devours their enemies. This is how anyone who wants to harm them must die. 6 They have power to shut up the heavens so that it will not rain during the time they are prophesying; and they have power to turn the waters into blood and to strike the earth with every kind of plague as often as they want. (Revelation 11:5-6 NIV)

They are mentioned in two verses.  They are all negative.  These two witnesses will have power over four things.  They will have power over WEATHER. They can stop the rain. They will have power over NATURE. They can turn water into blood.

They will have power over their ENEMIES. No one will be able to hurt them, and they will have power over HEALTH. They can actually cause plagues to come on people and not just plagues but every kind of plague. That is strange.  They will be able to make people sick.  That does not sound like your ordinary charismatic preacher.

They will have miracles performed when they are alive, and miracles performed after they died.  They will rise from the dead and ascend into heaven.

We need supernatural power today but not that kind of power.  We want the power to help people, not hurt people, although you might want to have that kind of power with some people just occasionally.

5) God’s people will be supernaturally protected

If anyone tries to harm them, fire comes from their mouths and devours their enemies. This is how anyone who wants to harm them must die (Revelation 11:5 NIV)

The Tribulation will be a time of divine protection.  These two witnesses will be invincible.  They will be immortal.  They will be hated but no one can hurt them, and no one can kill them.  No one can arrest them.  For a time, they will be completely untouchable.

They will have supernatural protection and they will need it in the Tribulation Period.  They will have not only supernatural power but supernatural protection.  We need to pray for God’s protection today.  We need supernatural protection today.

6) God’s people will experience persecution

The Tribulation Period will be a time of persecution.  It will be a time of intense persecution, satanic persecution.  We saw that earlier in Revelation.

When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained. 10 They called out in a loud voice, “How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?” (Revelation 6:9-10 NIV)

Now when they have finished their testimony, the beast that comes up from the Abyss will attack them, and overpower and kill them.  Their bodies will lie in the public square of the great city—which is figuratively called Sodom and Egypt—where also their Lord was crucified. 9 For three and a half days some from every people, tribe, language and nation will gaze on their bodies and refuse them burial. 10 The inhabitants of the earth will gloat over them and will celebrate by sending each other gifts, because these two prophets had tormented those who live on the earth. (Revelation 11:8-10 NIV)

Not only will these two witnesses be killed, people will hate them so much that they will just leave their bodies unburied and they will celebrate their death.  They celebrate the death of Christians.  They rejoice when God’s people are killed.

7) God’s people will be divinely honored

But after the three and a half days the breath of life from God entered them, and they stood on their feet, and terror struck those who saw them. 12 Then they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, “Come up here.” And they went up to heaven in a cloud, while their enemies looked on. (Revelation 11:11-12 NIV)

Notice how the section ends.  Everyone is celebrating and partying that God’s men are killed and suddenly they come alive right before their eyes and stood up and everyone was terrified.  Then they ascend to heaven right before their eyes.  Those that the world hated and despised, God honored and rewarded.

The chapter ends with the sounding of the Seven Trumpet.  When the trumpet is blown, three things happen: angels in heaven worship, the saints in heaven worship and God’s temple is opened.  They are worshipping because judgment is finally coming, and Jesus will reign forever and ever.

[1] F.F. Bruce, “Revelation” in New international Bible Commentary (Zondervan, 1979), 1612.


[3] Hippolytus, On Christ and Antichrist, 43ff.



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