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Adam Clarke Commentary

Revelation 11

Introduction

The command to measure the temple, Revelation 11:1 , Revelation 11:2 . The two witnesses which should prophesy twelve hundred and sixty days, Revelation 11:3 . The description, power, and influence of these witnesses, Revelation 11:4 -6. They shall be slain by the beast which shall arise out of the bottomless pit, and shall arise again after three days and a half, and ascend to heaven, Revelation 11:7 -12. After which shall be a great earthquake, Revelation 11:13 . The introduction to the third wo, Revelation 11:14 . The sounding of the seventh angel, and the four and twenty elders give glory to God, Revelation 11:15 -19.

Verse 1

And there was given me a reed - See Ezekiel 40:3 , etc.Measure the temple of God - This must refer to the temple of Jerusalem; and this is another presumptive evidence that it was yet standing.

Verse 1

The transactions of the Christian religion are next recorded, Revelation 11:1-14:5. The Christians are persecuted: - 1. By the Jews; but they were not only preserved, but they increase and prosper.

Verse 2

But the court - is given unto the Gentiles - The measuring of the temple probably refers to its approaching destruction, and the termination of the whole Levitical service; and this we find was to be done by the Gentiles, (Romans), who were to tread it down forty-two months; i.e., just three years and a half, or twelve hundred and sixty days. This must be a symbolical period.

Verse 3

My two witnesses - This is extremely obscure; the conjectures of interpreters are as unsatisfactory as they are endless on this point. Conjecturas conjecturis superstruunt, parum verosimiles, says Rosenmuller: quorum sententias enarrare, meum non est. I say the same. Those who wish to be amused or bewildered, may have recourse both to ancients and moderns on this subject.

Verse 4

These are the two olive trees - Mentioned Zechariah 4:14 , which there represent Zerubbabel and Joshua the high priest. The whole account seems taken from Zechariah 4:1 -14. Whether the prophet and the apostle mean the same things by these emblems, we know not.

Verse 5

Fire proceedeth out of their mouth - That is, they are commissioned to denounce the judgments of God against all who would attempt to prevent them from proceeding in their ministry.

Verse 6

These have power to shut heaven - As Elijah did, 1 Kings 17:1-18:46.To turn them to blood - As Moses did, Exodus 7:19 -25. They shall have power to afflict the land with plagues, similar to those which were inflicted on the Egyptians.

Verse 7

The beast that ascended out of the bottomless pit - This may be what is called antichrist; some power that is opposed to genuine Christianity. But what or whence, except from the bottomless pit, i.e., under the influence and appointment of the devil, we cannot tell; nor do we know by what name this power or being should be called. The conjectures concerning the two witnesses and the beast have been sufficiently multiplied. If the whole passage, as some think, refer to the persecution raised by the Jews against the Christians, then some Jewish power or person is the beast from the bottomless pit. If it refer to the early ages of Christianity, then the beast may be one of the persecuting heathen emperors. If it refer to a later age of Christianity, then the beast may be the papal power, and the Albigenses and Waldenses the two witnesses, which were nearly extinguished by the horrible persecutions raised up against them by the Church of Rome. Whatever may be here intended, the earth has not yet covered their blood.

Verse 8

The great city - Some say Rome, which may be spiritually called Sodom for its abominations, Egypt for its tyrannous cruelty, and the place where our Lord was crucified, because of its persecution of the members of Christ; but Jerusalem itself may be intended. All these things I must leave to others.

Verse 9

Shall not suffer their dead bodies to be put in graves - They shall be treated with the greatest barbarity. Refusal of burial to the dead was allowed to be the sum of brutality and cruelty. In popish lands they will not suffer a Protestant to have Christian burial, or to have a grave in a churchyard! Contemptible wretches!

Verse 10

Shall send gifts - This was a custom in days of public rejoicing. They sent gifts to each other, and gave portions to the poor. See Esther 9:19 , Esther 9:22 .

Verse 11

They stood upon their feet - Were restored to their primitive state.

Verse 12

They ascended up to heaven - Enjoyed a state of great peace and happiness.

Verse 13

A great earthquake - Violent commotions among the persecutors, and revolutions of states.Slain of men seven thousand - Many perished in these popular commotions.The remnant were affrighted - Seeing the hand of God's judgments so remarkably stretched out.Gave glory - Received the pure doctrines of the Gospel, and glorified God for his judgments and their conversion.

Verse 14

The seconds wo is past - That which took place under the sixth trumpet, and has been already described.The third wo cometh - Is about to be described under the seventh trumpet, which the angel is now prepared to sound.Of the three woes which were denounced, Revelation 8:13 , the first is described, Revelation 9:1 -12; the second, Revelation 9:13 -21. These woes are supposed by many learned men to refer to the destruction of Jerusalem. The first wo - the seditions among the Jews themselves. The second wo - the besieging of the city by the Romans. The third wo - the taking and sacking of the city, and burning the temple. This was the greatest of all the woes, as in it the city and temple were destroyed, and nearly a million of men lost their lives.

Verse 15

There were great voices in heaven - All the heavenly host - angels and redeemed human spirits, joined together to magnify God; that he had utterly discomfited his enemies and rendered his friends glorious. This will be truly the case when the kingdoms of this world become the kingdoms of God and of his Christ, But when shall this be? Some say, that is meant by these words has already taken place in the destruction of the Jewish state, and sending the Gospel throughout the Gentile world. Others say that it refers to the millennium, and to the consummation of all things.

Verse 16

The four and twenty elders - The representatives of the universal Church of Christ. See on Revelation 5:8 -10 (note).

Verse 17

O Lord God Almighty, which art - This gives a proper view of God in his eternity; all times are here comprehended, the present, the past, and the future. This is the infinitude of God.Hast taken to thee - Thou hast exercised that power which thou ever hast; and thou hast broken the power of thy enemies, and exalted thy Church.

Verse 18

The nations were angry - Were enraged against thy Gospel, and determined to destroy it.Thy wrath is come - The time to avenge thy servants and to destroy all thy enemies.The time of the dead, that they should be judged - The word κρινειν, to judge, is often used in the sense of to avenge. The dead, here, may mean those who were slain for the testimony of Jesus, and the judging is the avenging of their blood.Give reward unto thy servants - Who have been faithful unto death.The prophets - The faithful teachers in the Church, the saints - the Christians.And them that fear thy name - All thy sincere followers.Destroy them which destroy the earth - All the authors, fomenters, and encouragers of bloody wars.

Verse 19

The temple of God was opened in heaven - The true worship of God was established and performed in the Christian Church; this is the true temple, that at Jerusalem being destroyed.And there were lightnings, and voices, and thunderings, and an earthquake, and great hail - These great commotions were intended to introduce the following vision; for the 12th chapter is properly a continuation of the 11th, and should be read in strict connection with it.I Now come to a part of this book that is deemed of the greatest importance by the Protestant Church, but is peculiarly difficult and obscure. I have often acknowledged my own incapacity to illustrate these prophecies. I might have availed myself of the labors of others, but I know not who is right; or whether any of the writers on this book have hit the sense is more than I can assert, and more than I think. The illustration of the 12th, 13th, and 17th chapters, which I have referred to in the preface, drawn up and displayed with great industry and learning, I shall insert in its place, as by far the most probable I have yet seen; but I leave the learned author responsible for his own particular views of the subject.

Revelation 11


  1 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.

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