Witnesses attacked by a beast
We have been studying how
the witnesses testified in sackcloth during the time when religious freedom
was denied. The Roman church that dominated Europe during the 1260 years
kept the Scriptures locked up in the monasteries translated only into Latin
(Where Luther found and read them). The Waldensees characterize many groups
who kept the flame of the Scriptures alive. They fled to the mountains
in Northern Italy. From there they sent missionaries to the people with
portions of Scripture. They worked as peddlers selling door-to-door. When
they found interests, they would cautiously provide portions of the Scriptures.
This was pictured in prophecy as witnessing in sackcloth
Now we continue reading in chapter 11. Things seem to be going from bad to worse.
"And when they [the two witnesses]
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. And their dead bodies shall lie in the
street. . . ." (Rev. 11:7, 8).
See the literal translation in the side-by-side text and comments page 1107.
When did this war against the witnesses occur?
In the early years of Christianity, pagan Rome had persecuted the Christians 0210. Many were taken into the arenas where wild beasts were released to kill them in front of cheering spectators. After Emperor Constantine formally adopted the Christian God (AD 324 or 325), the tables turned. Christianity became the popular (and politically expedient) religion, and those bearing the name of Christ gradually became oppressors of any, including other Christians, whose belief differed from the government endorsed one. This time of persecution, we have identified as a 1260 year period ending at the time of the French Revolution 1102b. Then the churches, both Catholic and Protestant, and the Scriptures were objects of satanic hatred. Atheism (which developed into deism) was championed in France and adopted by many people in the western world. The time? During the 1790s. r11f.
Symbolic prophecy is tied together, points drawing meaning from other points. It seems like we have to understand it all before we begin. Actually, we can understand some ideas immediately, providing keys for other prophecies. Daniel 2 is perhaps the most fundamental opening key to apocalyptic prophecy (although only remotely helpful here). As we continue to study God's Word, we can come back to our earlier interpretations finding more complete meaning and sometimes modifying our ideas. Thus we see the larger picture of increasing clarity. This process is like a light that gets brighter. "We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts." (2 Peter 1:19; also see Prov. 4:18).
Rather than going to the "great" scholars to learn their incomplete knowledge, we can go directly to the Scriptures. Of course we do learn from other people including scholars, but we must insist that any ideas be clearly rooted in the word. Anyone can make up plausible explanations of isolated verses, but the options begin to vanish as the context and other passages on the topic are considered. For example, some say that the two witnesses are Moses and Elijah 1104. We looked at that idea but got into trouble as we tried to fit more details into that picture. Then the interpretation fell apart when we found the clear reference to Jeremiah which would have given us three "witnesses" 1103a.
For those of you with theological education, I have been describing part of my personal hermeneutic (method of interpreting Scripture). I'm not a theologian in the sense of seminary training, although I respect scholars committed to the Lord and to the sacred Word.
What beast is described in our verse?
As we just noted, wild beasts were released to kill and devour early Christians. It was entertainment! In describing later oppression, the "beasts" pictured are religious powers. This oppression came when the apostasy Paul warned of 0204 was fully developed. We see the beasts in chapters 12 and 13, but the first one, the dragon in chapter 12, appears in an earlier chapter under a different symbol. To understand the beast that came up out of the pit, we compare similar descriptions in other passages.
the fifth angel sounded, and I saw a star fall from heaven unto the earth:
and to him was given the key of the bottomless pit." (Rev. 9:1). Then,
in chapter 20:
"And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years." (Rev. 20:1, 2)
The beast in our chapter 11
is the dragon (Rev. 12:9), and the bottomless pit (or "abyss") is the "deep"
of the darkness of the earth as it appeared at the beginning of the first
day of creation, "without form and void" (Gen. 1:1). Satan is in the process
of undoing the peaceful home God gave to humanity, returning it again to
chaos. To keep this simple, I'll wait until we get to Rev. 20 to bring
more support for this idea 2003c.
We see, in 9:1, that the fallen star (Satan, is1412, lu1018) holds the key 0901a. When his "short time" ends re1209, the angel from heaven takes the key and locks him in his own prison.
In our current context, the witnesses (old and new testaments of the Bible) prophesied (communicated divine truth) in sackcloth during the 1260 prophetic days Rev. 11:3. During that period of time, the dragon had worked behind the scenes Rev. 13:5 — hidden in the pit — having given his power and authority to the beast from the sea (Rev. 13:1, 2). Here in Rev. 11 he emerges into the open as the spirit of atheism to kill the witnesses.
What a marvelous treasure is our Bible!
Why kill witnesses?
This is certainly a crime of obstruction of justice.
"And I will give power unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days, clothed in sackcloth. . . . 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. And their dead bodies shall lie in the street. . . ." (Rev. 11:3, 7, 8).
When they "shall
The witnesses (Bible Testaments which had prophesied in sack cloth for 1260 years 1102b. What was happening in history at the end of this period of religious domination? Earlier we explained how this end point was 1798 when the Pope was taken prisoner by a French army 1305a. We have identified the beast from the bottomless pit as Satan above. This leads us to expect Satan to be doing something without hiding behind another organization. In killing the witnesses, we expect his actions to be somehow an attack on the Scriptures.
Near the end of the 1700s, the western world, including the American colonies, were in turmoil. The struggle was for more individual freedom. For centuries, the church had operated in connection with European governments which enforced her dogmas and provided her with money. This meant no freedom to follow conscience. By the late 1700s, the Roman church had already been greatly discredited by the Protestant Reformation. The movement toward democratic forms of government further weakened it.
The French National Assembly of 1779 to 1781 confiscated all church property in an attempt to resolve the country's financial problem, and it reorganized the church, making it answerable to the government. State control was dramatically different for the institution which had for so long been controlling the state. But more was to come. The French First Republic, established in 1792, began a bloody campaign of coercion. In massive executions they purged rulers, clergy, and anyone suspected to be in opposition to the changes. In January of 1793 the king was taken to the guillotine where his head was cut off, and in October the queen followed.
The revolution, motivated by a desire for freedom from religious restraint, was leading to national atheism. On November 10, shortly after the execution of the queen, the legislature decreed to abolish all worship of God. They symbolized their new freedom by unveiling a woman before the national assembly as the "goddess of reason." For them, human minds had replaced the God of heaven as the basis of authority. Many books were burned including Bibles.
God knew what would happen. Seventeen centuries earlier He showed it, in symbols, to the apostle John. As the witnesses finished their covert work of testimony during the dark ages, things got worse. They were attacked and killed by atheism. In 1798, at the climax of the French Revolution, The French army went to Rome and took the pope captive. See on 1107.
Why kill the witnesses?
They interfered with the new ideas of the revolution. As I have explained before, my showing how the prophecies describe historical events is not intended as unkindness toward the Catholic church. Many who hold that faith are loving Christians. No doubt many of its leaders, too, are serving the Lord to the best of their knowledge. The church that fell into apostasy (Acts 20:29, 30; 2 Thess. 2:3) is so prominent in the prophecies, that we dare not ignore it. At the same time we must avoid an attitude of self-righteousness. Realizing our own weakness and our dependence on the Lord Jesus, we know that any goodness any of us has is His.
How did they die?
[From Le Journal de Paris (1793, No. CCXVIII), quoted in Histoire Parlémentaire de la Révolution Française, Paris, 1834] Translation: "Members of the popular Society of the Museum entered the council meeting crying out, 'May [human] reasoning live on!.' They carried a stick holding the smoking remains of a book and announced that the books of scripture portions, the missals, the schedules of holy activities, and the Old and New Testaments, expiated (paid the penalty) in a large fire in the plaza of the Temple of Reason, all their foolish insults which they had committed against the human species." See more of this text including the original French.
Let's look again at our passage: "And when they ... [finish] their testimony, the beast that ascendeth out of the bottomless pit shall make war against them, and shall overcome them, and kill them. And their dead bodies shall lie in the street of the great city. . . ." I find it interesting that the account here at the peak of this spiritual rebellion, mentions Old and New Testaments, not just "the bible." Also the testaments were killed and in the plaza or "street." Interpreting a Bible text from one incident may be questioned. The story we have quoted, however, is indicative of the larger attitude and it describes a key event in the French Revolution.
Dead in the street
"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. 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." (Rev. 11:7, 8)
Where were they
The "great city" means Babylon. The term is drawn from the proud words of king Nebuchadnezzar da0430. France at the time of this revolution was all these cities in our passage. The massive end-time religious movement is seen, in chapter 17, as Babylon, a merger of wicked elements re1705a. Babylon's composite character in the time of the dead witnesses is apparently a little different.
Also notice that Isaiah reveals that truth will fall in the street is5914.
|"The king [Nebuchadnezzar] spake, and said, Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for the house of the kingdom by the might of my power, and for the honour of my majesty?" (Dan. 4:30) 1408gr-c Although the French leaders professed atheism, they drifted quickly into deism, a pagan idea that God is in everything. Babylon, at the time of this verse, could well represent the same two ideologies.|
|Sodom||Known for immorality and luxury. Gen. 19:4-8; Ezek 16:49, 50, 56-58.|
|Egypt||Known for atheism. Ex. 5:2.|
|Jerusalem||Where our Lord was crucified. The watchword of the atheists of the French Revolution was, "Crush the Wretch" meaning Christ. John 19:15, 16.|
Seen for 3½ days but not buried
"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." (Rev. 11:9)
Those "of the people and...." are the ones (or their spiritual children) who would soon heed the call of the first of three angels 1406g. The word "of" indicates that they are a portion of those who would hear the message — a remnant. The bodies of the witnesses were kept in view. Although officially rejected, the Scriptures were not forgotten.
Dead for 3½
In considering how the 3½ days might be seen as a period of time during the French Revolution, remember first that this is symbolic language. We found that a day in prophecy represents a year and we expect that the principle holds here 0610-hw-lng.
Before being killed, the witnesses had testified in sackcloth for 1260 symbolic days 1102b. During this time a dominant church had dictated how to worship and her wishes were enforced by the arm of the state. The 3½ symbolic days of oppression during the French Revolution equals 1260 literal days (at 30 days per month). Thus the we see the violent reaction as a response to the church-state dominance which had been in control for over twelve centuries 1305a.
So can we find a period during this time when the Bible was officially banned and, 3½ years later, permitted?
See a page of notes and source documents relating to the topics r11f.
Rejoicing in freedom from the witnesses
"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. 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."
As you can see from
the reports of the revolutionary festivals, there was rejoicing in France
over freedom from principles expressed in the Word of God. A verse on giving
gifts and the word of truth comes to mind:
"But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death. Do not err, my beloved brethren. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures." (James 1:14-18). Also jn0544. On "make merry," see lu1219f.
The illustration shows the religious direction of the time. Click it so see a larger one with a description.
The revolutionary leaders
felt that the good things in life came from other people and from nature,
ignoring the God of nature and losing the precious relationship He offers.
They stood on their feet
"And I will give power unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days, clothed in sackcloth. . . . 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. And their dead bodies shall lie in the street. . . . 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. 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." (Rev. 11:11)
Stand in your
Listen to the conversation between Daniel and the man in linen — Christ: "And I heard, but I understood not: then said I, O my Lord, what shall be the end of these things? And he said, Go thy way, Daniel: for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end. . . . Blessed is he that waiteth, and cometh to the thousand three hundred and five and thirty days. But go thou thy way till the end be: for thou shalt rest, and stand in thy lot at the end of the days." (Dan. 12:7-9, 12, 13)
The French Revolution in the late 1700s was like a shock wave to the established church. Bible societies arose and people, with their new access to the Scriptures became interested in prophecy, particularly predictions of the end of the world. Daniel was promised that, although he would be laid to rest, he would stand in his lot (as prophet) at the end of the days. He would "speak" through the prophecies of his book. After the revolution people were thinking and studying. Many became interested in the prophecies of Daniel. To understand them requires information from history as well as from Revelation and the rest of the Bible. The American Bible Society began to produce and distribute Bibles in 1816.
The two witnesses stood on their feet as Daniel would stand in his lot. This is explained in comments on the book of Daniel da1213. In Daniel they found the 2300-day prophecy. The book of Revelation was also a focus of the advent preaching. 14:7 announces the hour of God's judgment 1407d. So if Daniel in the Old Testament was a witness, then John in the New was also a witness at this time. Of course they misunderstood about what would happen in 1844. The judgment was not cleansing the earth by fire but was the judgment of the cleansing of the sanctuary in heaven 0610.
Through his book, Daniel was bringing light to end-time events.
"How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace. . . . So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. (Rom. 10:15, 17, NKJV).
The renewed exaltation of the Scriptures was especially marked by the establishment of the British and Foreign Bible Society in 1804 and the American Bible Society in 1816.
Those promoting the strong atheist and deist views backed off quickly as religious freedom began to be realized.
Witnesses go to heaven
"And they heard a great
[loud] voice from heaven saying unto them, Come up hither. And they ascended
up to heaven in a cloud; and their enemies beheld them.
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."
(Rev. 11:12, 13)
The call of a loud voice
"And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people, Saying with a loud voice, Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come: and worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters." (Rev. 14:6, 7)
This verse, along with Dan. 8:14 about cleansing the sanctuary, was prominent in the advent preaching that developed with interest in the prophecies after the French Revolution (and 1798 when the pope was taken prisoner). Let's read more to see if the voice of this angel might be the loud voice in our present chapter.
Ascended in a
Another prominent passage of the advent preaching was in Daniel 7 Dan. 7:13. There Christ went up to the Father to participate in the preadvent judgment. He did not come down to earth as they had supposed. This new understanding helped make sense out of the terrible disappointment of 1844.
In the imagery of Revelation 11, the witnesses (the Bible) were seen to reveal the truth about the sanctuary in heaven. (Also see Heb. 8). They had ascended with Christ in the cloud of angels.
The disappointed ones looked (in their Bibles) to heaven where Christ was ministering for them. The witnesses testify not only to the fact that Christ's ministry for us is in the temple in heaven but also to the permanence of God's covenant expressed on the tables of stone. We'll get to that at the very end of the chapter 1119. This concept of the covenant is also suggested in the one-tenth fall of the city in the next verse.
"And they heard a great [loud] voice from heaven saying unto them, Come up hither. And they ascended up to heaven in a cloud; and their enemies beheld them. 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." (Rev. 11:12, 13)
This draws our attention back to the message of the first angel. The text in chapter 14 refers to the hour of God's judgment. Of course the word is used other times in the Bible. It wouldn't be a good clue by itself. It is the same hour — the time the witnesses were seen in heaven.
The great disappointment of 1844 was an earthquake in the sense that the great majority of those who had been waiting for Jesus to return stopped the close walk with God that they had had. The weren't interested in knowing what was right and wrong about the message. And when the new light was presented, they rejected it. The question for me and you is, would we deny our Lord in face of persecution or the opinions of our friends?
Tenth of the city
What city? Not the great city which was Sodom and Egypt. It had already fallen. Reference is to the holy city in verse 2. "and the holy city shall they [the Gentles] tread under foot forty and two months." It was the people of God who endured oppression during the papal domination.
Why was it a tenth? The fall was partial. Compare the announcement of the second angel in Rev. 14 who did not speak "with a loud voice" with the final call by the angel of chapter 18 1801. At the time of the disappointment the fall was partial and not all of the planet knew about it. In chapter 18, the angel who comes down fills the earth with light.
Some have seen this fall as one kingdom out of the ten which appeared at the breakup of the Roman Empire. I place the fall later than the 1790s. One of the ten commandments stood in the way of many who had come out of the disappointment — the fourth. (Might Isa. 6:13 apply?)
". . . and in the earthquake were slain of men seven thousand: and the remnant were affrighted, and gave glory to the God of heaven" (Rev. 11:13)
Who are these people? When I got to this statement in my study of the chapter I checked in my concordance. The only story involving seven thousand people is the following:
"Yet I have left me seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed unto Baal, and every mouth which hath not kissed him." (1 Kings 19:18)
If you recall, Elijah had a magnificent victory on Mt. Carmel when fire consumed his offering. He had slain the prophets of Baal at the Lord's direction. Then, because of a threat from Jezebel, he ran for his life. God assured him that seven thousand had not bowed to the pagan image. I was concerned when I saw this. Could my other ideas about our present text have been in error? Then I got the picture. These are those of the city who had been the remnant coming out of the long years of church-state oppression. In spite of torture and death in a paganized Christianity, they had refused to bow to Baal. They were the Protestants 0301. Even before the end of the 1260 years, they had lost their zeal for finding and living by new truth. Now, when the challenge of better understandings of Scripture were available, they chose to keep their old ways.
Of the 7,000 (obviously not a literal number), come a new remnant. Those who ". . . keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ." (Rev. 12:17). The new remnant are the remnant of the remnant — the remainder of the woman's seed r12w. And indeed the rest of our verse confirms this.
Fear God and give
"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." (Rev. 11:12, 13)
The angel had commanded, "Fear God and give glory to Him." and the remnant had obeyed.
Instead of "men," the Greek reads "names of men." How could the names be killed? "He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels." (Rev. 3:5, NKJV for convenience).
On the day of atonement in the yearly cycle of the sanctuary, the high priest stood before the ark in the most holy place. It was a day of judgment. "For any person who is not afflicted of soul on that same day, he shall be cut off from his people. And any person who does any work on that same day, that person I will destroy from among his people." (Lev. 23:29, 30, NKJV).
The names of those represented as the 7000 faithful who had come out of the reformation had been written in the book of life 0304. Now those who inherited their role as Protestants rejected truth. The seven thousand names were erased from the book of life. Remember that we are discussing symbolic language. Obviously those who died faithful in spite of the overwhelming coercion of the beast power won't lose eternal life.
Let's pray that God would keep our names in His book.
side by side