We are continuing to work through the Book of Revelation with a focus on four major views of the so-called Apocalypse of John. You may read the commentary to date by clicking here.
Whether you’re a preterist, who sees the events of Revelation as fulfilled in the first centuries of the Christian era, a historicist, who views the events of Revelation as unfolding throughout the course of history, a futurist, who sees most of Revelation as yet unfulfilled, or an idealist, who sees Revelation setting forth timeless truths concerning the battle between good and evil, there are important truths the Lord reveals to all of us in this book.
We would do well to approach Revelation with caution — and with great anticipation, knowing God will fulfill all His promises to us. We also should be comforted by the fact that Revelation is the only book in Scripture specifically promising a blessing to those who hear its prophecies and keep them.
With that in mind, and to make it easier to keep our notes together, we have captured the commentary into single Adobe files (pdfs) that you may download, print and share. Click on the links below to capture notes on chapter 11. If you missed the link to notes on chapters 1-3, 4-5, 6-7, 8-9, or 10, links are provided as well.
Rev. 11:13 – At that moment a violent earthquake took place, a tenth of the city fell, and 7,000 people were killed in the earthquake. The survivors were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven. 14The second woe has passed. Take note: the third woe is coming quickly! (HCSB)
The survivors gave glory to the God of heaven
John writes that the “survivors” of the earthquake are “terrified” and give “glory to the God of heaven” (v. 13). His use of the word “survivors” implies the death of some – perhaps people, human institutions or world systems. Those still alive see the hand of God in these events and are shaken to the bone with fear. Fear of the Lord can be a good thing, starting us on a journey of wisdom (Prov. 9:10). Or, it can move us further away from God, motivating us to hide from His presence (Rev. 6:15-17). Or, it can inspire awe, leading us to exclaim, “We have seen incredible things today” (Luke 5:26).
Commentators are divided as to whether the survivors’ fear in this passage drives them to repentance or merely elicits a response designed to appease an angry God. Elsewhere in Revelation, the wicked stubbornly refuse to turn to God despite the clear understanding that God is bringing His judgments to bear on the earth. After the sixth trumpet is sounded, “The rest of the people, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands to stop worshipping demons and idols of gold, silver, bronze, stone, and wood … And they did not repent of their murders, their sorceries, their sexual immorality, or their thefts” (Rev. 9:20-21). As the fourth bowl judgment is poured out, the wicked who are burned by fire “blasphemed the name of the God who had the power over these plagues, and they did not repent and give God the glory” (Rev. 16:9). And as the fifth bowl judgment follows, plunging people into darkness, they “gnawed their tongues from pain and blasphemed the God of heaven … yet they did not repent of their actions” (Rev. 16:11).
Rev. 11:13 — At that moment a violent earthquake took place, a tenth of the city fell, and 7,000 people were killed in the earthquake. The survivors were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven. (HCSB)
A violent earthquake took place
Some commentators urge us to take this passage literally, as a geological event that claims 7,000 lives and causes destruction to one-tenth of Jerusalem. Other interpreters ask us to see this earthquake symbolically. For example, we may see it as the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, where the Lord is taking His “tithe” of the great city and warning His people of further judgment to come in the last days. Or, we may see it as a reference to the political upheaval that shakes Europe after the Reformation; the one-tenth of the city means a fraction of Rome’s power has been lost, and the phrase “7,000 people” refers to seven provinces that break away from Rome. Or, we may view this as God’s righteous destruction of the impenitent (seven being the number of God and 1,000 implying a great number), or of the persecution of the saints. Or, we may understand it as a symbolic representation of alarming events that will occur on the eve of final judgment.
Rev. 11:11 — But after the three and a half days, the breath of life from God entered them, and they stood on their feet. So great fear fell on those who saw them. 12Then they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, “Come up here.” They went up to heaven in a cloud while their enemies watched them. (HCSB)
The breath of life from God entered them
John records that “after the three and a half days, the breath of life from God entered them, and they stood on their feet. So great fear fell on those who saw them” (v. 11). Various interpretations are offered. For some, this resurrection is the restoration of political and religious order following the anarchy of the Jewish War, or perhaps the ultimate political and spiritual revival of Israel (see Eze. 37:10-11). For others, it is the resurrection of Christ and the Spirit-infused testimony of the church constituting the two witnesses. Still others argue that after three and a half years of uncontested papal rule following the declaration of the Fifth Lateran Council in 1514, Martin Luther nails his 95 Theses to the door of the Wittenberg church, igniting the Reformation. Spiritualists contend that the events in Revelation 11 symbolize the many times in church history that the Body of Christ has been beaten down by the world, only to rise stronger and rightly vindicated.
Rev. 11:7 – When they finish their testimony, the beast that comes up out of the abyss will make war with them, conquer them, and kill them. 8Their dead bodies will lie in the public square of the great city, which is called, prophetically, Sodom and Egypt, where also their Lord was crucified. 9And representatives from the people, tribes, languages, and nations will view their bodies for three and a half days and not permit their bodies to be put into a tomb. 10Those who live on the earth will gloat over them and celebrate and send gifts to one another, because these two prophets tormented those who live on the earth. (HCSB)
The beast will conquer them and kill them
But the witnesses’ time is limited. John notes that when they finish their testimony, the beast that comes up out of the abyss will make war with them, conquer them, and kill them (v. 7). The two witnesses – these two lampstands and olive trees – do not speak the word of the Lord or perform miracles indefinitely. The Lord ordains a time for them to speak and a time to suffer.
It is always this way with God’s witnesses. They are sent for a time, and until that time is fulfilled, no one can shut their mouths or do them harm. Noah preaches for 120 years and God protects him from the wicked, who no doubt mock and threaten him. Elijah prophesies against Ahab and Jezebel, and they cannot silence him until they are dead and the Lord calls His prophet into heaven. Stephen preaches a profound message of judgment and hope, and not even the ambitious young Pharisee Saul can close his mouth until the last word is spoken.