Can you explain Revelation 11? Who are the two witnesses?
Revelation 11:1-19 And there was given me a reed like unto a rod: and the angel stood, saying, Rise, and measure the temple of God, and the altar, and them that worship therein. 2 But the court which is without the temple leave out, and measure it not; for it is given unto the Gentiles: and the holy city shall they tread under foot forty and two months. 3 And I will give power unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days, clothed in sackcloth. 4 These are the two olive trees, and the two candlesticks standing before the God of the earth. 5 And if any man will hurt them, fire proceedeth out of their mouth, and devoureth their enemies: and if any man will hurt them, he must in this manner be killed. 6 These have power to shut heaven, that it rain not in the days of their prophecy: and have power over waters to turn them to blood, and to smite the earth with all plagues, as often as they will. 7 And when they shall have finished their testimony, the beast that ascendeth out of the bottomless pit shall make war against them, and shall overcome them, and kill them. 8 And their dead bodies shall lie in the street of the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified. 9 And they of the people and kindreds and tongues and nations shall see their dead bodies three days and an half, and shall not suffer their dead bodies to be put in graves. 10 And they that dwell upon the earth shall rejoice over them, and make merry, and shall send gifts one to another; because these two prophets tormented them that dwelt on the earth. 11 And after three days and an half the Spirit of life from God entered into them, and they stood upon their feet; and great fear fell upon them which saw them. 12 And they heard a great voice from heaven saying unto them, Come up hither. And they ascended up to heaven in a cloud; and their enemies beheld them. 13 And the same hour was there a great earthquake, and the tenth part of the city fell, and in the earthquake were slain of men seven thousand: and the remnant were affrighted, and gave glory to the God of heaven. 14 The second woe is past; and, behold, the third woe cometh quickly. 15 And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever. 16 And the four and twenty elders, which sat before God on their seats, fell upon their faces, and worshipped God, 17 Saying, We give thee thanks, O Lord God Almighty, which art, and wast, and art to come; because thou hast taken to thee thy great power, and hast reigned. 18 And the nations were angry, and thy wrath is come, and the time of the dead, that they should be judged, and that thou shouldest give reward unto thy servants the prophets, and to the saints, and them that fear thy name, small and great; and shouldest destroy them which destroy the earth. 19 And the temple of God was opened in heaven, and there was seen in his temple the ark of his testament: and there were lightnings, and voices, and thunderings, and an earthquake, and great hail.
I don’t think that I can give you a definitive answer to this because some of the prophecy has not yet been fulfilled. The time periods of 42 months and 1260 days both represent a period of 1260 years, but the start of this period is not defined.
We know from Jesus’ prophecy in that Jerusalem is to be trodden down of the gentiles until the time of the gentiles is fulfilled.
Luke 21:24 And they will fall by the edge of the sword, and be led away captive into all nations. And Jerusalem will be trampled by Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.
The two witnesses cannot be two individuals because the time period is too long.
Clothed in sackcloth indicates mourning.
I am inclined to the view that the two witnesses represent Israel - the two sticks of Ephraim and Judah as described in Ezekiel 37.
Israel are described as God’s witnesses:
Isaiah 43:10 You are My witnesses," says the LORD, "And My servant whom I have chosen, That you may know and believe Me, And understand that I am He. Before Me there was no God formed, Nor shall there be after Me. 11 I, even I, am the LORD, And besides Me there is no savior. 12 I have declared and saved, I have proclaimed, And there was no foreign god among you; Therefore you are My witnesses," Says the LORD, "that I am God.
Since they were scattered amongst the nations their history has been one of persecution and mourning. Since they returned to the land in 1948 the surrounding nations who have waged war against them have been soundly beaten. We know from Ezekiel 38 and 39 that following a period of peace Israel will be successfully invaded and decimated.
The beast which ascends out of the bottomless pit is the reappearance of a political power which existed in the past but doesn’t exist at the present.
The bottomless pit represents a state of non-existence.
I believe this to be the formation of a ‘United states of Europe’ which is a work in progress with the EU. It will be a restoration the ‘Holy Roman Empire’ of western Europe as established by Charlemagne in co-operation with the Roman Catholic Church, which lasted from AD 800 to AD 1806.
The city described almost certainly represents Jerusalem.
We know that there will be a remnant of Israel retained in Jerusalem.
Zechariah 14:2 For I will gather all the nations to battle against Jerusalem; The city shall be taken, The houses rifled, and the women ravished. Half of the city shall go into captivity, But the remnant of the people shall not be cut off from the city.
This could be represented by their dead bodies lying in the street of the city – a political death, rejoiced over by anti-Semites in the world.
3.1/2 days represents 3.1/2 years.
We know from Zechariah 14 that this precipitates the return of Christ to save the remnant and restore the kingdom of Israel as the kingdom of God.
Zechariah 14:3-5 Then the LORD will go forth And fight against those nations, As He fights in the day of battle. 4 And in that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, Which faces Jerusalem on the east. And the Mount of Olives shall be split in two, From east to west, Making a very large valley; Half of the mountain shall move toward the north And half of it toward the south. 5 Then you shall flee through My mountain valley, For the mountain valley shall reach to Azal. Yes, you shall flee As you fled from the earthquake In the days of Uzziah king of Judah. Thus the LORD my God will come, And all the saints with You.
The witnesses ascending to heaven represents Israel being restored as a nation in the political heavens. Jesus is to rule over the earth from Jerusalem.
From that point on, ‘The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever’.
I hope you find this helpful.