Understanding Revelation 11

Chapter eleven in the book of Revelation is one of my favorites, as it deals with the two witnesses who herald the second advent of King Jesus.  Better yet, the phenomenal power of God that is put on display through these prophets is far superior to any Marvel movie, especially as they destroy every-and-anyone who tries to harm them. There’s more, but I won’t give it away. You’ll need to read it for yourself!

However, there is a common complaint—and one that I believe is incorrect. It is that this chapter is just too difficult to understand. Well, I’m not there. I don’t agree. In part, because the problem is not with the book of Revelation, but rather with what little Old Testament knowledge we bring to it.

Dr. Walvoord in his commentary on Revelation1 adds yet another reason as to why some might make this claim:

Many students of Revelation believe chapter 11 is one of the most difficult to interpret in the entire book. A comparison of many commentaries reveals a wide disagreement as to the meaning of this chapter. A primary reason for this difference is the issue we have encountered before: the interpretive question of whether prophecies of Revelation are to be interpreted literally, unless otherwise indicated, or symbolically.

20160412_150132Interpreters who take the symbolic view will indeed encounter difficulties. Warren Wiersbe even states flatly, “If we spiritualize this passage [referring to chapter 11] and apply any of it to the church, we will be in serious trouble.”

This exposition regards the terms in the prophecy of chapter 11 as real people, places, events, and numbers, not merely as symbolic of other realities. Thus, the great city of 11:8 is identified as the literal city of Jerusalem. The time periods are taken as literal time periods. The two witnesses are interpreted as two individuals…

These assumptions provide an intelligent understanding of this portion of prophecy even though the possibility of difference is acknowledged.

And so we must be careful in our labeling of this chapter as “difficult.” It’s simply untrue. The text is not too hard to understand. Otherwise this promised blessing that opens the Apocalypse would play out as a cruel curse in disguise. It reads, “Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of the prophecy, and heed the things which are written in it; for the time is near” (Rev 1:3).

1 Walvoord, John F. The John Walvoord Prophecy Commentaries: Revelation (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2011). 177.