Revelation 11


Parley P. Pratt
Suffice it to say, the Jews gather home, and rebuild Jerusalem. The nations gather against them in battle. Their armies encompass the city, and have more or less power over it for three years and a half. A couple of Jewish Prophets... are slain, and the city is left in a great measure to the mercy of their enemies for three days and a half, the two Prophets rise from the dead and ascend into heaven. The Messiah comes, convulses the earth, overthrows the army of the Gentiles, delivers the Jews, cleanses Jerusalem, cuts off all wickedness from the earth, raises the Saints from the dead, brings them with Him and commences His reign of a thousand years. (David B. Galbraith, D. Kelly Ogden, and Andrew C. Skinner, Jerusalem: The Eternal City [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1996], 536)

Rev. 11:1 the angel stood, saying, Rise, and measure the temple of God

The command to measure the temple must have brought to John's mind the writings of Ezekiel. Ezekiel saw an angel with a measuring reed. In a grand display, Ezekiel was shown the Jerusalem temple to be built in the last days. For nine chapters, Ezekiel explains in vivid detail, the Temple, its dimensions, some of its ordinances, the temple workers, the feasts to be re-instated, and Jerusalem itself (Ezek. 40-48). John sees the same temple already built before the Second Coming.
Just who is going to build this temple is not clear. Certainly, the Jewish people would be the most interested, but one would think they would need help from the most experienced group of temple builders-the LDS church.
"A yeshiva (school) in Jerusalem called Ateret Cohanim concentrates on studies pertaining to Temple service and ritual to 'enable their students to step in the moment a Temple is erected.' The dean of the yeshiva, Matityahu Hacohen, maintained that 'we are ready to begin building the Temple the minute we get the go-ahead from the Chief Rabbinate and the Israeli government.' His enthusiasm was tempered by the former Chief Rabbi Shlomo Goren, one of the country's foremost experts on the Temple and its religious meaning to the Jews. Goren warned that 'one of the greatest Jews who ever lived, King David, lost the privilege of building the First Temple simply because he did not enjoy the proper guidance by a prophet.'
"...An organization called the Temple Institute has reconstructed thirty-eight ritual implements required for temple service. The Institute hopes to finish the remaining sixty-five items as funds become available. Small shops, such as Beged Ivri, create clothing; Harrari Harps make musical instruments. The Institute spokesman, Zev Golan, said, 'If we do not prepare and show God that we want a temple, then God won't give it to us.' Accordingly, the Institute is using a computer to draw up blueprints for rebuilding the Temple.
"The objective of those physically preparing for a future Temple is to be ready when the time comes. Without exception, those preoccupied with studying or actually preparing for the Temple concede that they do not know when it will come about, but they all share a common goal: to be ready when the time does come." (David B. Galbraith, D. Kelly Ogden, Andrew C. Skinner, Jerusalem: The Eternal City [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1996], 478-479)

Rev. 11:2 the holy city shall [the Gentiles] tread under foot forty and two months

For 3.5 years (42 months) prior to the Second Coming, Jerusalem will be under siege by her enemies. The siege is a case of history repeating itself. The same thing happened in AD 70 by the Roman armies. In that terrible siege, the inhabitants of Jerusalem suffered from famine and hunger. Those bold enough to venture outside the walls of the city for food were caught by Roman ambushes. "They were first whipped, and then tormented with all sorts of tortures before they died, and were then crucified before the wall of the city." (Josephus, Wars of the Jews, Book V Chap. XI, verse 1)
Starvation killed many before the Roman soldiers had a chance, "Then did the famine widen its progress, and devoured the people by whole houses and families; the upper rooms were full of women and children that were dying by famine; and the lanes of the city were full of the dead bodies of the aged; the children also and the young men wandered about the market-places like shadows, all swelled with famine, and fell down dead wheresoever their misery seized them." (Josephus, Wars of the Jews, Book V Chap. XII, verse 3)
Of these dark days, the Master said, "except those days should be shortened, there should none of their flesh be saved." (JS-Matt. 1:20) He declared that such a tribulation would occur yet again. "...after the tribulation of those days which shall come upon Jerusalem... again shall the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet be fulfilled." (JS-Matt. 1:21, 32) The second desolation of abomination occurs during the 3.5-year war against Jerusalem. The war and destruction of the prophets kill 2/3 of the population, "And it shall come to pass, that in all the land, saith the Lord, two parts therein shall be cut off and die; and the third shall be left therein." (Zech. 13:8)
Zechariah described what would come upon Jerusalem when the Gentiles tread the city under foot:
For I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle; and the city shall be taken, and the houses rifled, and the women ravished; and half of the city shall go forth into captivity, and the residue of the people shall not be cut off from the city. (Zech. 14:2)
The one great difference between these two destructions is not the beginning, but the end. For the latter, the Lord promises a happy ending:
I will make Jerusalem a cup of trembling unto all the people round about, when they shall be in the siege both against Judah and against Jerusalem...
all that burden themselves with it shall be cut in pieces, though all the people of the earth be gathered together against it.
...Then shall the Lord go forth, and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle. (Zech. 12:2-3; 14:3)

Rev. 11:3 my two witnesses... shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days

Amidst this violence and destruction upon Jerusalem from without, two prophets from within will spend the same 3.5 years (1,260 days) preaching to the Jews. Like Samuel the Lamanite, they will be preserved until their message is delivered.
Q. What is to be understood by the two witnesses, in the eleventh chapter of Revelation?
A. They are two prophets that are to be raised up to the Jewish nation in the last days, at the time of the restoration, and to prophesy to the Jews after they are gathered and have built the city of Jerusalem in the land of their fathers.
(D&C 77:15)
The Lord's answer to Joseph Smith, reveals that these two prophets were "raised up to the Jewish nation." Isaiah says they were sons of Jerusalem (Isa. 51:20), implying that they were Jewish natives and perhaps separate from the organizational structure of the church. However, Elder Bruce McConkie has commented that they will likely be apostles. For sure, they are prophets.
Bruce R. McConkie
These two shall be followers of that humble man, Joseph Smith, through whom the Lord of Heaven restored the fulness of his everlasting gospel in this final dispensation of grace. No doubt they will be members of the Council of the Twelve or of the First Presidency of the Church. (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3 vols. [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1965-1973], 3: 510.)

Rev. 11:4 These are the two olive trees, and the two candlesticks

The prophet Zechariah saw the same things described in the 11th chapter of Revelation. He speaks of these two prophets with similar prophetic imagery:
Then answered I, and said unto him, What are these two olive trees upon the right side of the candlestick and upon the left side thereof?
And I answered again, and said unto him, What be these two olive branches which through the two golden pipes empty the golden oil out of themselves?
And he answered me and said, Knowest thou not what these be? And I said, No, my lord.
Then said he, These are the two anointed ones, that stand by the Lord of the whole earth. (Zech. 4:11-14)

Rev. 11:4 the God of the earth

The God of the earth is the Lord. The god of the world is Satan. (2 Cor. 4:4)

Rev. 11:5-6 fire proceedeth out of their mouth, and devoureth their enemies

To these great prophets is given power over the elements. As Nephi of old, they were given "power over this people, [to] smite the earth with famine, and with pestilence, and destruction, according to the wickedness of this people." (Hel 10:6) In contrast to Nephi who used this power sparingly, reluctantly praying for a famine to come, these two Jewish prophets will use this power frequently and in great displays of the power of God.
Their ministry is specifically designed to be in contrast to the Lord's mortal ministry. Like Jesus, they come from Jewish lineage (2 Ne. 8:20); like Jesus, they minister for 3.5 years; like the Master, they minister in great power and might; like the Lamb, they are killed by the Jews; like the Redeemer, they are resurrected and ascend to heaven. The difference is that their power is not to bless and bring back to life; their power is to curse and destroy.
These two prophets, as Jesus' ministry before, are given to the Jewish nation as a witness of the great might and power of God. For millennia, the prophets of God have prophesied only to suffer persecution. For millennia, the prophets have been stoned, cast out, and killed. For millennia, prophets have left judgment in the hands of God. Rarely, if ever, were the prophets allowed to use the power of God to destroy their persecutors. That all changes with these two prophets! If someone so much as casts a stone at them, they will be stoned to death. If someone fires an arrow their direction, they can expect to die with several arrow-wounds. These prophets are so powerful and so great that in heaven their place is standing "by the Lord of the whole earth." (Zech. 4:14)

Rev. 11:7 the beast...shall make war against them, and shall overcome them, and kill them

Bruce R. McConkie
Satan shall slay them by the hands of his ministers, even as he slew their Lord by the hands of the Jews and the Romans who hearkened to his will. (The Millennial Messiah: The Second Coming of the Son of Man [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1982], 391.)

Rev. 11:8 the great city... spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt

Egypt under Moses, was smitten of the Lord. The name of Egypt is sometimes used as an idiom for Babylon or the kingdom of Satan. We have already emphasized the similarities between the destructions which Moses brought upon Pharaoh and the destructions of the Apocalypse (see commentary for Rev. 8-9). The pestilence upon ancient Egypt is a type for the plagues of the last days.
There is similar symbolism in the Lords dealings with Sodom. Sodom was destroyed with fire and brimstone (Gen. 19:24). Fire and brimstone will again be used to destroy the wicked in the end of the world:
I saw the horses in the vision, and them that sat on them, having breastplates of fire, and of jacinth, and brimstone: and the heads of the horses were as the heads of lions; and out of their mouths issued fire and smoke and brimstone.
By these three was the third part of men killed, by the fire, and by the smoke, and by the brimstone, which issued out of their mouths. (Rev. 9:17-18)

Rev. 11:8 their dead bodies shall lie in the street... and shall not... be put in graves

Under the Law of Moses, dead bodies were unclean. They were not to be touched. For these prophets' bodies to lie in the streets is a great pollution according to the Law. "Whosoever toucheth the dead body of any man that is dead, and purifieth not himself, defileth the tabernacle of the Lord; and that soul shall be cut off from Israel." (Num 19:13) As Christ was considered cursed under the law by being hung on a tree (Gal. 3:13), so these prophets are considered cursed under the law by being left in the streets without burial.

Rev. 11:10 they... shall rejoice... because these two prophets tormented them that dwelt on the earth

These prophets will be such a source of destruction to the unbelieving among the Jews that they will give the title of prophet a bad name-their death will be a source of great rejoicing. Again, it is Zechariah who is given prophetic insight into the mindset of the people who suffer at the hands of these two witnesses. Except these two prophets, none of the Jews will dare prophecy. Isaiah said, "There is none to guide her among all the sons whom she hath brought forth; neither is there any that taketh her by the hand of all the sons that she hath brought up." (Isa. 51:18) Why? These two prophets bring such a great destruction on the people, that parents would kill their own children should they pretend to be a prophet.
And it shall come to pass, that when any shall yet prophesy, then his father and his mother that begat him shall say unto him, Thou shalt not live; for thou speakest lies in the name of the LORD: and his father and his mother that begat him shall thrust him through when he prophesieth.
And it shall come to pass in that day, that the prophets shall be ashamed every one of his vision, when he hath prophesied; neither shall they wear a rough garment to deceive:
But he shall say, I am no prophet, I am an husbandman; for man taught me to keep cattle from my youth. (Zech. 13:3-6)

Rev. 11:9-12 they of the people and kindreds and tongues and nations shall see their dead bodies three days and a half

Remember after Christ was resurrected, how the chief priests bribed the soldiers to lie about why Christ's tomb was empty? Remember how they spread rumors among the people that his disciples had stolen away the body? (Matt. 28:11-15) The Lord has an answer for the wicked who would deny his power over life and death. He has an answer for those who would explain away the resurrection of the Christ. The resurrected Christ would appear only to the righteous, but these prophets will come to life in plain view of the people, both good and bad. For all to see, their dead bodies will lie in the open to be seen by many people-even many nations. No one can say their resurrection is a trick. There will be no bribes to spread lies and deceit. The evidence will be irrefutable. Instead of only the apostles seeing the resurrected Lord ascend into heaven, even the wicked will watch these prophets ascend up to heaven in a cloud.

Rev. 11:15 The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord

Ezra Taft Benson
The kingdom of God will not fail; it shall not be destroyed; it will not be left to other people; it will stand forever until "the kingdoms of this world [will] become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ." (Rev. 11:15.)
Hear the prophecy of the Prophet Joseph Smith:
"No unhallowed hand can stop the work from progressing; persecutions may rage, mobs may combine, armies may assemble, calumny may defame, but the truth of God will go forth boldly, nobly, and independent, till it has penetrated every continent, visited every clime, swept every country, and sounded in every ear, till the purposes of God shall be accomplished, and the Great Jehovah shall say the work is done." (HC, 4:540.)
Christian denominations the world over have prayed for centuries for the kingdom of God to come. We earnestly and publicly declare: that day is now here! ("May the Kingdom of God Go Forth," Ensign, May 1978, 33-34)
Bruce R. McConkie
The eventual triumph of the Lord's people is assured; there is to be a millennial day of glory and honor and peace; the fulness of the earth shall be theirs in that day, and all nations and kingdoms shall serve and obey them. But all the promised rewards need not be deferred until that day. Even now the saints can begin the process of inheriting the kingdom. They have power to begin to reap some of the millennial rewards. "I have decreed a decree which my people shall realize," the Lord said in the early days of this dispensation, "inasmuch as they hearken from this very hour unto the counsel which I, the Lord their God, shall give unto them. Behold they shall, for I have decreed it, begin to prevail against mine enemies from this very hour. And by hearkening to observe all the words which I, the Lord their God, shall speak unto them, they shall never cease to prevail until the kingdoms of the world are subdued under my feet, and the earth is given unto the saints, to possess it forever and ever." (D&C 103:5-7.)
LeGrand Richards
Can any man read these things and not want to prepare to come forth in the morning of the first resurrection, rather than have to remain in his grave for a thousand years while the Savior is completing and preparing his kingdom to be delivered up unto the Father, as a bride prepared for her bridegroom, during which time the righteous are to serve as priests and kings unto the Most High God to help him in the preparation of his kingdom? ("The Righteous Shall Come Forth," Ensign, Apr. 1981, 11)

Rev. 11:17-18 We give the thanks... that thou shouldest give reward unto thy servants the prophets

Speaking chronologically, we might imagine these 24 elders giving thanks just as the Savior is about to leave heaven to assume his prerogative as the King and as "Counsellor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace." (Isa. 9:6) At this time, the Savior is just about to make his Second Advent and the elders are thankful that the prophets' and saints' prayers are finally going to be answered. This returns to the theme of earlier chapters. The golden vials were "full of odours, which are the prayers of saints." "And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?" "And the smoke of the incense... with the prayers of the saints, ascended up before God out of the angel's hand." (Rev. 5:8; 6:10; 8:4)
All those righteous but persecuted souls, for all those centuries, pleading with the Lord and humbly declaring, "Judgment is thine." Finally, for them, judgment will come; their prayers will be answered. It will come at the hands of the Savior himself when his wrath is come "and the time of the dead, that they should be judged." His red apparel is not just symbolic of the blood spilt during the Atonement, but it also represents the blood of those killed by his righteous judgments:
I... have brought judgment upon all people...
And I have trampled them in mine fury, and I did tread upon them in mine anger, and their blood have I sprinkled upon my garments, and stained all my raiment; for this was the day of vengeance which was in my heart.
And now the year of my redeemed is come; and they shall mention the loving kindness of their Lord... forever and ever. (D&C 133:50-52)