We take a break from the Trumpet Judgments now to give the world its final warnings before the Great Tribulation begins. These are the Seven Thunders and the Two Witnesses that God will send to Israel to warn His people to “get right” with Him while there’s still time. Remember, after the end of the Battle of Ezekiel 38-39, God will have brought every living Jew to Israel, leaving none behind (Ezek. 39:28).
Even though many will have already been martyred during the Seal and Trumpet judgments, especially among those who’ve found the Messiah, there will still be a huge population of religious Jews in Israel with a fully functioning Temple (Daniel 9:27). The Abomination of Desolation will put an end to the sacrifice and offerings, but that won’t happen until the middle of the last 7 years, described in Rev. 13.
The Angel and the Little Scroll
Then I saw another mighty angel coming down from heaven. He was robed in a cloud, with a rainbow above his head; his face was like the sun, and his legs were like fiery pillars. He was holding a little scroll, which lay open in his hand. He planted his right foot on the sea and his left foot on the land, and he gave a loud shout like the roar of a lion. When he shouted, the voices of the seven thunders spoke. And when the seven thunders spoke, I was about to write; but I heard a voice from heaven say, “Seal up what the seven thunders have said and do not write it down.” (Rev 10:1-4)
Lots of things in this passage hint at the possible identity of this angel. He’s clothed in a cloud and his legs are like pillars of fire, which reminds us of the Angel of the Lord who protected the Israelites in the wilderness. The Rainbow over his head is symbolic of God’s mercy. His voice is like the roar of a lion. Could this be the Lord? The angel’s identity is not disclosed but the passage is certainly rich in symbolism.
The Seven Thunders most probably contain an undisclosed warning spoken by God between the 6th and 7th Trumpets. John was about to detail this for us when the Lord told him not to.
As a point of interest, in Psalm 29 the voice of the Lord is compared to the sound of thunder. His name is spoken four times in the two-verse introduction of the Psalm and four times more in the two-verse conclusion (four is the number of Creation). It appears ten times in verses 3 through 9 (ten is a number that denotes the completeness of Divine Order) and the phrase “Voice of the Lord” is repeated seven times (seven is the number of perfection). Psalm 29 is often called “the Seven Thunders of God” as well.
With the coming Seventh Trumpet, we’ll be told that the Kingdoms of the world have become the Kingdom of our Lord (Rev. 11:15) and for the first time the traditional translation of God’s name as “the One Who is and Who was and Who is to come” is changed to just “the One Who is and Who was” (Rev. 11:17) The omission of the phrase “Who is to come” indicates that His reign has begun. (Some translations put the “Who is to come” part back in but the Greek text doesn’t include it.)
This means that in the Heavenly view, the Great Tribulation will have begun. After Satan’s losing battle in Heaven and confinement to Earth in Rev. 12, the anti-Christ will make his official appearance on Earth as Satan’s host at the beginning of Rev. 13. (He will have first come on the scene in Rev. 6 as a mere man.) This will signal the start of the Great Tribulation on Earth. The seven Bowl judgments will begin soon thereafter.
Put all this together and you can make a circumstantial case that the Seven Thunders will announce that the Great Tribulation with its Bowl Judgments will complete the Divine Order, perfectly satisfying God’s righteous requirement that the people of Earth be judged for their sins, and leaving Earth in a condition of readiness to receive her King.
Then the angel I had seen standing on the sea and on the land raised his right hand to heaven. And he swore by him who lives for ever and ever, who created the heavens and all that is in them, the earth and all that is in it, and the sea and all that is in it, and said, “There will be no more delay! But in the days when the seventh angel is about to sound his trumpet, the mystery of God will be accomplished, just as he announced to his servants the prophets.”
Then the voice that I had heard from heaven spoke to me once more: “Go, take the scroll that lies open in the hand of the angel who is standing on the sea and on the land.”
So I went to the angel and asked him to give me the little scroll. He said to me, “Take it and eat it. It will turn your stomach sour, but in your mouth it will be as sweet as honey.” I took the little scroll from the angel’s hand and ate it. It tasted as sweet as honey in my mouth, but when I had eaten it, my stomach turned sour. Then I was told, “You must prophesy again about many peoples, nations, languages and kings.” (Rev. 10:5-11)
The Lord told John to take the scroll and eat it. At first taste, it seemed sweet as honey, but after he swallowed it, his stomach turned sour. This is to signify that as followers of the Lord, we anticipate the fulfillment of End Times prophecy with much excitement and joy. We know His judgment is righteous, and that He’s been long-suffering, and patient almost to a fault. But because our enemy is so intent upon succeeding in his rebellion against God, the horror and carnage of the warfare necessary to accomplish his defeat is enough to make you sick.
The Two Witnesses
I was given a reed like a measuring rod and was told, “Go and measure the temple of God and the altar, and count the worshipers there. (Rev. 11:1)
Here’s evidence along with Daniel 9:27 and 2 Thes. 2:4 that a Temple will exist before the beginning of the Great Tribulation. Having seen the miraculous way in which God delivered them from certain defeat in the battle of Ezekiel 38-39, Jews from all over the world will respond to His offer of reconciliation and make aliyah (return to Israel). Once their Old Covenant relationship is restored, they’ll need a Temple for worship, and early in the 70th Week of Daniel it will be built. Nearly 2000 years of diaspora (scattering) will finally end.
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. (Rev. 11:2)
This verse has been used to support the idea that the Temple will be built next door to the Dome of the Rock. Later, I’ll offer an alternative to this view. But first let’s meet the Two Witnesses.
And I will give power to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth.” These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth. 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. These men have power to shut up the sky 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. (Rev. 11:3-6)
The 3½ year ministry of the two witnesses is not congruent with either half of Daniel’s 70th week but overlaps them, beginning late in the first half of the 70th week and ending sometime before the 2nd Coming. Before discussing the identity of the two witneses we should note that they provide the ultimate fulfillment of Zechariah 4:11-14, the “Sons of Oil” prophecy partially fulfilled by Zerubbabel and Joshua in the time of the 2nd Temple’s construction.
Who Are Those Guys?
There are three primary candidates for their identity; Moses, Elijah and Enoch. Elijah and Enoch are popular choices because they’re the only two in the Old Testament who didn’t die, but were taken into heaven alive. And Moses and Elijah are liked because the powers of the two witnesses are identical to those exercised by Moses in the Plagues of Egypt and Elijah in his contention against idolatry in Israel. Remember, it climaxed in his spectacular defeat of the prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel with fire from heaven and the end of the 3½-year drought he had earlier proclaimed (1 Kings 17:1, 1 Kings 18:16-46). (You have to read James 5:17 for the duration of the drought.)
Also Moses and Elijah were on the Mt. Of Transfiguration with Jesus and the disciples (Matt.17:1-13) and according to early church tradition were the two men in white who appeared to the disciples following the Lord’s ascension (Acts 1:10-11). And finally, Moses and Elijah are two of the most highly revered figures in all of Israel’s past, more able than anyone else God could send to convey His message. Moses was the Law Giver and Elijah was the greatest of Israel’s Prophets. Their two names are all but synonymous with the Jewish name for their scriptures, the Law and the Prophets.
I believe Enoch’s disappearance before the Great Flood was a special event designed to pre-figure the disappearance of the Church before the Great Tribulation. As it was in the days of Noah, so will it be at the Coming of the Son of Man. (Matt 24:37) In the days of Noah the world perished in the Flood. They represent those who will perish in the End times judgments. Noah and his family were preserved through the Flood and represent Israel, preserved through the judgments. Enoch was taken alive into Heaven before the Flood, representing the Church who will be taken alive into heaven before the judgments begin. For all these reasons, I hold the Moses and Elijah view.
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 street of the great city, which is figuratively called Sodom and Egypt, where also their Lord was crucified. For three and a half days men from every people, tribe, language and nation will gaze on their bodies and refuse them burial. 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.
But after the three and a half days a breath of life from God entered them, and they stood on their feet, and terror struck those who saw them. 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.
At that very hour there was a severe earthquake and a tenth of the city collapsed. Seven thousand people were killed in the earthquake, and the survivors were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven.
The second woe has passed; the third woe is coming soon. (Rev. 11:7-14)
There’s no question that their bodies will be left where they fall in the streets of Jerusalem, because that’s the city where the Lord was crucified. And through the technology of satellite communications their dead bodies will be visible all over the world.
In Middle Eastern cultures the greatest insult one can convey is to deny burial to one’s enemy. Their deaths prompt the only expression of joy on earth in the entire book. But after 3½ days, symbolic of the length of the Great Tribulation, the two witnesses will hear the same command that John heard in Rev. 4:1, “Come up here!” and will ascend into Heaven in full view of the whole world. Just as the Lord’s command in chapter 4 was a model of the Rapture of the Church, the command here is a model of the resurrection of the Tribulation martyrs.
In the Psalms we read, O God, the nations have invaded your inheritance; they have defiled your holy temple, they have reduced Jerusalem to rubble. They have given the dead bodies of your servants as food to the birds of the air, the flesh of your saints to the beasts of the earth. They have poured out blood like water all around Jerusalem, and there is no one to bury the dead.(Psalm 79:1-3) It’s a clear prophecy of things to come, and it begins in Revelation 11.
By saying that the earthquake survivors gave glory to God, John didn’t mean that they worshiped Him or came to faith in Him. It means that they correctly attributed these miraculous events to Him, like the Egyptian priests did in explaining the cause of the plagues in Exodus 8:19.
Where’s The Temple?
This part of chapter 11 hints at some troubling inconsistencies with our understanding of the coming Temple’s location. It’s given as the Holy City in verse 2, but in verse 8 Jerusalem is called the Great City, figuratively Sodom and Egypt. Are they the same? The Holy City will be trampled on by the Gentiles for 42 months, but Jesus said that Jerusalem would be trampled on by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles were fulfilled, over 2000 years.
For generations a controversy has existed among Jews and Christians alike as to the exact location of Solomon’s and Herod’s Temples. The Jewish Sanhedrin, formed again a few years ago after 1600 years, is tackling the question as one of it’s first priorities. It’s a good start, but I don’t think they’re asking the right question. Sure it’s great to know the exact placement of these historical monuments to God, but the real question is, “Where will the next Temple be?”
Many Christians think the coming 3rd Temple will be desecrated by the Abomination of Desolation during the Great Tribulation and then destroyed. For that reason they call it the Tribulation Temple. Then another Temple, number four, will be built at the beginning of the Millennium. But the only model we have for what will happen is something that already has happened, the desecration of the 2nd Temple leading up to the Macabbean Revolt. And it’s something that Jesus took pains to point us toward in the Olivet Discourse (Matt. 24:15).
In the model, Syrian ruler Antiochus Epiphanes stormed the Temple and converted it into a pagan worship center in 167 BC. He slaughtered a pig on the altar and erected a statue of Zeus (Jupiter) in the holy place with his own face on it, proclaiming himself to be God (Epiphanes means god made manifest). Then he forced the Jews to worship him on pain of death. In 1 Macabbees, this act was called the Abomination of Desolation, the only event so named in history. It triggered the Macabbean revolt, a 3 ½ year battle to oust Antiochus from the Promised Land. Almost 200 years later Jesus told Israel to look for the same thing to happen again in the future as the sign that the Great Tribulation has begun (Matt. 24:21), thereby identifying the statue of Antiochus as a model of the End Times Abomination of Desolation. The Macabbean Revolt contains many remarkable similarities to the Great Tribulation.
Here’s the point. The Jews didn’t demolish the Temple after the Abomination of Desolation in 167 BC. When they recaptured it, they destroyed the statue and replaced the Altar. Then they subjected the Temple to the eight-day purification ceremony required by Law and began using it again. The purification is remembered to this day in the Feast of Hanukkah. If the model is complete, then the Temple built during Daniel’s 70th week won’t be destroyed either, but will become the Millennial Temple described in great detail in Ezekiel 40-44. (The Jews call Ezekiel’s Temple the 3rd Temple, which would make it the next one.) And that means it won’t be built in Jerusalem. Next time I’ll show you where it will be.