6 The Two Witnesses

We move on now to another challenging subject closely connected with that of the beast — the prophecy concerning the two witnesses. The chapter concerning the witnesses is Revelation 11, where there is a great deal of detail waiting to be interpreted.

But first let us get our bearings in the book of Revelation as a whole. The 'seal' prophecies of Revelation are for the most part in chapter 6. One of the great features of the next chapter — chapter 7— is the sealing of the 144,000. Then, in chapter 8, the trumpet series begins.1 Chapter 8 deals with the first four trumpets, and the last three are accounted for in chapters 9 to 11. The prophecy concerning the two witnesses is found in what could be described as the period of the consequences of the sounding of the sixth trumpet. It is after the vindication of the witnesses that the seventh trumpet sounds.

Any reader who is not thoroughly conversant with the text of the 'trumpet' section of Revelation would be well advised to put this book down now and read Revelation chapters 8, 9, 10 and 11.

No summary of the events relating to the two witnesses could pack so much detail into so little space as the account supplied in the book of Revelation, itself:

"And I [the 'rainbow' angel of chapter 10] will give power unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days, clothed in sackcloth. These are the two olive trees, and the two candlesticks standing before the God of the earth. And if any man will hurt them, fire proceed-eth out of their mouth, and devoureth their enemies: and if any man will hurt them, he must in this manner be killed. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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" (Revelation 11:3-12).

Concerning the word "witness"

A comment here about the way the word witness is used in the book of Revelation generally. It is a key word, though unfortunately this fact has been somewhat obscured by translation. In the King James' Version, words like "bear record", "testify", "witness", "martyr", "testimony" are all translations of the same little family of Greek words that can be recognised by the letters martu-. The table below will demonstrate the importance of witnessing in Revelation more effectively than a multitude of words.


Greek word

Translated in the KJV

Occurrences in Revelation





2:13; 17:6



1:2;1:9;6:9;11:7; 12:11;12:17;19:10




bear record



22:16; 22:20

These passages are all concerned with witnessing; the people involved are all witnesses. And — coming to the point — in nearly every case those who do the witnessing are saints, or believers. The reader might like to check this for himself by turning up all the passages listed.

The identity of the two witnesses

The question that has now to be resolved is this: are the two witnesses of Revelation 11 also saints? The fact that nearly all the other witnesses in Revelation are saints makes it seem likely, but this does not amount to absolute proof. However, by taking into account the information provided in the chapter and elsewhere in Revelation, we can quickly assure ourselves that these witnesses must also be saints.

First consider the words: "I will give power [or authority] unto my two witnesses" (11:3). These words are spoken by the angel of verse 1 — the same mighty angel as we read about in chapter 10 (see verses 1—3), who by the most evident tokens represents the Lord Jesus Christ.2 The Lord's witnesses — who can they be but saints? Remember how the Lord appointed the apostles and their fellow-believers as witnesses in the Acts?

Human weakness is equipped with divine strength for a great witnessing operation. The witnesses, clothed in sackcloth, are empowered to do mighty works. They are called "the two olive trees and the two candlesticks". This symbolism comes straight from Zechariah, where the essential message for the enquiring prophet was: "Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the Lord of hosts" (Zechariah 4:6). This is another intimation that the witnesses are saints, not wizard wonder-workers or unregenerate warriors. We recall too that Revelation itself explains the meaning of candlesticks: "The seven candlesticks . . . are the seven churches" (1:20).

Observe now how the witnesses re-enact in their day the experiences of their Lord. Like Jesus they prophesy for three and a half years; like him they suffer death; their bodies lie in the place "where also their [RV] Lord was crucified"; like him they are resurrected; like him they ascend to heaven.

The question as to whether or not these details are to be taken literally is not the immediate issue. However these things are to be understood, the link with the Lord's own experiences is unmistakable. And this would be altogether inappropriate unless the witnesses were people who had identified themselves with the Lord Jesus — in other words, saints.


There is an important link between the prophecy of the two witnesses and the fifth seal of chapter 6. It may be recalled that chapter 6:9 speaks of people who are "slain for the word of God and for the testimony which they held". That word "testimony" is marturia in Greek; and this tells us that these people are witnesses, martyrs. They are also saints who have suffered and died for witnessing faithfully. In response to the cry "How long?" comes the answer that they must wait "until their fellowservants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled" (6:11). So the saints, the witnesses, who have been killed must wait for "fellowservants", "brethren", to be killed as they were. More saints therefore are to be killed before God will intervene to avenge their blood. The waiting period comes to an end after the death of the later witnesses, spoken of in chapter 11. The seventh trumpet announces the intervention of God and the vindication of His people.

The point should not be missed that the witnesses of chapter 11 are the fellowservants and brethren of the earlier witnesses. Saints and more saints.

Further evidence is based on a parallel between Revelation 13: 7,8 and a section of the chapter under consideration — chapter 11:7-9. (Incidentally, it is not difficult to see that there is a break in the book of Revelation at the end of chapter 11, and a new section, concerning signs and wonders, begins with chapter 12. Much can be learned by studying the parallels between these two sections.3)

Revelation 11:7-9

Revelation 13:7,8

"And when they [the 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 of the great city . . . 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 it was given unto him [the beast whose deadly wound is healed] to make war with the saints, and to overcome them: and power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations. And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him ..."

Comparing these two passages, it will be seen that both speak of the same latter-day power. In chapter 11 this power is called "the beast that ascendeth out of the bottomless pit" — a name explained in chapter 17 — whereas in chapter 13 it is referred to as the beast whose deadly wound is healed. Both passages state that the beast makes war against, and overcomes, certain people; then both refer to "kindreds and tongues and nations", one of them stating and the other implying subjection to the beast; and finally, reference is made in both passages to them "that dwell upon the earth", and it is evident that these people are on the beast's side. There is, however, one significant difference between the two passages. Whereas Revelation 11 states that the beast makes war against, and overcomes, the witnesses, Revelation 13 says that the beast makes war against, and overcomes, the saints. Can one reasonably resist the conclusion that this is an equation and that the witnesses are saints?

This does not necessarily mean that all the saints are involved in the high-powered witnessing of Revelation 11. Indeed this would seem most unlikely. But almost inevitably many of those not engaged in this distinctive witnessing operation would play a supporting role.

Some expositors have tried to distinguish between one and the other of the two witnesses. They have asserted that they represent two different classes of people. All the evidence is against this. No distinction is made, and everything the witnesses do, they do as a team. If there should be any doubts in the reader's mind concerning this point, it might be worth his reading the relevant verses again.

There are certainly pointers to the conclusion that the witnesses will be required to speak to two classes of people — Jews and Gentiles; and they could themselves be drawn from the two great sections of humanity (Jew and Gentile again): but these possibilities do not contradict the fact that the witnesses are united in their work, and that they work as a team.

Bible students will not need to be told that two is a number associated in Scripture with witnessing. The Lord sent his disciples out in twos. Moreover there are several pairs of witnesses who played important roles in God's purpose. Moses and Aaron, Moses and Elijah, Haggai and Zechariah — these are examples that come readily to mind. It may be helpful to keep these names in mind and to compare their experiences with the information given concerning the two witnesses of Revelation 11. Indeed, further reference will be made to some of these characters later.

The time of witnessing

When do these saints perform the witnessing work described in chapter 11?

It has been remarked that their work is done in the period between the sounding of the sixth and seventh trumpets. To be more precise: just before the sounding of the seventh trumpet — for many things happen after the sounding of the sixth trumpet, but only the great earthquake comes between the vindication of the witnesses and the seventh trumpet's blast.

Although there are good reasons for not regarding all the events of Revelation as in chronological sequence, there is not the slightest doubt about the fact that the last three trumpets come after the first four, and that they follow each other in strict sequence.

This point was briefly discussed in chapter 3 (THE GREAT THEME), but it is important enough to examine again in a little more detail.

After the first four trumpets (sometimes called the "wind" trumpets) have been sounded, a loud announcement is made: "Woe, woe, woe, to the inhabiters of the earth by reason of the other voices of the trumpet of the three angels, which are yet to sound" (8:13). Thus the fifth trumpet introduces the first woe, the sixth trumpet, the second woe, and the seventh trumpet, the third woe. The woes are to be thought of as tribulations that follow the trumpet blasts. Now notice how a strict chronological sequence is marked by further announcements. After the fifth trumpet — the first woe — it is announced: "One woe is past; and, behold, there come two woes more hereafter" (9:12). Then the sixth angel sounds, and there follows a relatively long account of its consequences —the second woe. And then, after the account of the events relating to the 'rainbow' angel of chapter 10 and the witnessing activities of chapter 11 and the great earthquake, all of which take place in the period of the second woe, the announcement is made: "The second woe is past; and, behold, the third woe cometh quickly" (11:14). Then immediately afterwards it is stated: "And the seventh angel sounded ..."

So the witnesses do their work just before the sounding of the seventh trumpet. What do we know about the seventh trumpet? Let the scriptures speak:

"And the angel. . . sware by him that liveth for ever and ever . . . that there should be time no longer: but in the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he shall begin to sound, the mystery of God should be finished, as he hath declared to his servants the prophets" (10:5-7).

These words are spoken by the mighty angel of chapter 10, who has a rainbow upon his head. From Genesis 9 we learn that rainbows are associated with covenants, and this is the occasion of a covenant. When the solemn assurance concerning the seventh trumpet is given, the angel lifts his hand to heaven and swears by him that liveth for ever and ever. There is a remarkable similarity between these words and those of Daniel 12:7. Here also an angel lifts up his hands to heaven and swears by him that liveth for ever and ever. But the assurance given to Daniel is that "it shall be for a time, times, and an half; and when he shall have accomplished to scatter the power of the holy people, all these things shall be finished". These words, recorded in Daniel, are in reply to the question: "How long?"; and this must be the question that calls forth the assurance of Revelation 10. The waiting saints cry, "How long?", and a solemn promise, an oath, assures all who wait that their time of waiting will end when the seventh trumpet sounds.

A similar oath is made by the Almighty Himself in Deuteronomy 32. He will judge His people, avenge the blood of His servants, render vengeance to His enemies. The assurance is given against a background of wickedness and oppression, and is intended to give comfort to God's suffering servants. The similarity of language is an invitation to regard the promise of Revelation 10 as another such message of comfort to people who are longing for deliverance from oppression. Just wait for the seventh trumpet — when it shall begin to sound! No longer!

Abundant confirmation of this is provided by the words from Revelation 11 that follow the announcement that "the seventh angel sounded":

"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 . . . 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" (verses 15-18).

The seventh trumpet is therefore the trumpet of the Gospels and the Epistles. It is the "last trump" that is associated with resurrection and the gathering together of the saints.4

Now consider! If our conclusion is correct and the witnesses fulfil their mission immediately before the kingdom, it is reasonable to conclude that they operate at the same time as the beast, for it will be recalled that the beast prevails immediately before the Lord sets up his kingdom, at the end of the times of the Gentiles.

At the same time as the beast! Our conclusion is correct because it is stated explicitly that the two witnesses work at the same time as the beast. We have already taken account of the fact that the enemy of the witnesses who makes war against them is none other than "the beast that ascendeth out of the bottomless pit". This is stated categorically in Revelation 11:7, and should settle once and for all the question of when the witnesses operate. The evidence has been adduced that the beast is a power of the last days: and the witnesses play their part in the affairs of nations at the same time.

Here then are two important conclusions:

1. The witnesses are saints, or believers.

2. They witness at the end of the times of the Gentiles. The fact that the beast is the mortal enemy of the witnesses is the measure of the importance of their mission.

The beast and the witnesses

The power of the beast is immense. He thinks he is god, and expects everybody else to think the same. That is why he destroys the great whore (Revelation 17), and that is why he persecutes and tries to destroy the witnesses. That which tests the true destroys the counterfeit.

The beast pays the witnesses a compliment by persecuting them so vigorously. Evidently they are a power to be reckoned with. Their witness is effective; their words make an impact. Their importance is also implied by the fact that earth dwellers rejoice when they are slain (11:10).

It is when the witnesses have finished their testimony that the beast is permitted to overcome them. Everything is in God's hands. Just as God permitted Herod to behead John the Baptist when he had completed his ministry, and just as John's decline was a signal for great things to happen, so also with the witnesses. But the beast-worshippers and all worldlings are blind to God's purpose. The witnesses are their enemies because they have stood between them and their wicked desires; and there is rejoicing when these witnessing enemies are put out of action .To what extent the details are to be taken literally is an interesting question, but according to the narrative the dead bodies of the witnesses are on show, and this gives savage satisfaction to those whose evil purposes have hitherto been frustrated.

It seems clear that more than two saints are involved. The parallel with chapter 13 points to the conclusion that the witnesses represent a larger number of saints. Moreover the two witnesses are called candlesticks, and it is explained in Revelation chapter 1 (verse 20) that candlesticks represent churches. However, it is possible that, although a community is involved in witnessing and suffering, two individuals play a dominant role.

Scriptural principles

Powerful witnessing comes before great divine judgments. Thus it was before the flood; so too before the destruction of the ten-tribe kingdom of Israel; also before the captivity of the two-tribe kingdom of Judah; and again before the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D.70. It is reassuring to find that this interpretation of Revelation 11 accords with general scriptural principles. There will be witnessing on a massive scale before the destruction of civilisation and the setting up of the kingdom of God.

The more vigorous the witnessing, the more ruthless the persecution. This is an obvious truth and it is abundantly illustrated in Scripture. This is also in line with Revelation.

And — to mention another principle — the travail is most intense when deliverance is near.

Power from on high

"Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the Lord of hosts" (Zechariah 4:6).

This was the lesson of the candlesticks and olive trees of Zecha-riah's vision, and this is the lesson of the candlesticks and olive trees of Revelation 11. The witnesses are equipped by God to do their work. Their witnessing is called prophesying, and their powerful words are matched by powerful works:

"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. 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" (Revelation 11:5,6). The finger of God is there!

Most studious readers of Scripture seem to be agreed that there is to be a second fulfilment of Joel's prophecy concerning the outpouring of the Spirit.5 Could this be it? The sequence of the first two chapters of Joel is interesting: first, locusts; second, horsemen; third, an out-pouring of the Spirit; fourth, irrevocable divine judgment. Is it pure coincidence that the same sequence is followed in Revelation, chapters 9-11?

The one fact that is beyond dispute is that the witnesses are specially equipped by God to fulfil their ministry.


"And if any man will hurt them, fire proceedeth out of their mouth .. . These have power to shut heaven, that it rain not ..." (11:5,6).

Surely these words are intended to make us think of the prophet Elijah who commanded fire for the destruction of those servants of king Ahaziah who came to arrest him;6 and who had also called for three and a half years' drought in the days of Ahab.7

On the occasion of the Lord's first coming, John the Baptist fulfilled what could be described as an 'Elijah' mission. Both Isaiah and Malachi foretold the coming of one who would prepare the way of the Lord,8 and Malachi actually calls this messenger Elijah; and we have it on the authority of the Lord himself that these prophecies were fulfilled by John the Baptist — "this is Elias, which was for to come".9

If John could fulfil an 'Elijah' mission with regard to the Lord's first coming, could not the witnesses of Revelation 11 do so in connection with the second coming? And if these witnesses are to fulfil a mission comparable to that of Elijah, it seems likely that their work is, in some special way, related to Israel. This thought must be kept in mind.

Echoes of the Exodus

One fascinating feature of the time of the beast and the witnesses is the way it parallels the events of the Exodus.

"These . . . have power over waters to turn them to blood, and to smite the earth with all plagues, as often as they will" (11:6). These words, which apply to the witnesses, are bound to take our minds back to God's great witnesses in Egypt, Moses and Aaron.

In Egypt, the magicians presented a challenge to Moses and Aaron, and tried to discredit these servants of God by imitating the miracles which they performed.10 There is a comparable situation in the time of the latter-day witnesses. Acting as a publicity agent for the beast, the organisation called the false prophet (or the two-horned beast of the earth) imitates the signs performed by the witnesses:

"And he doeth great wonders, so that he maketh fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men, and deceiveth them that dwell on the earth by the means of those miracles which he had power to do in the sight of the beast" (13:13,14).

These words should be compared with those of Revelation 11:6 concerning the witnesses.

Still pursuing parallels with the Exodus: Pharaoh is the prototype of the beast. That is why those who have gotten the victory over the beast sing the song of Moses (15:2,3).

As there were plagues in Egypt, so plagues will be inflicted on the kingdom of the beast. It is not always appreciated that the vials, the seven last plagues, are poured out on a beast-worshipping world. There are decisive pointers to this conclusion in Revelation 15 and 16, to which reference will be made later in this chapter.

Indeed, some of the vial-plagues are reminiscent of those that destroyed ancient Egypt — a grievous sore, water into blood, darkness, frogs, hail.11 As in Egypt, so in the beast-worshipping world, hearts are hardened, and resistance to the power of God turns to madness. Pharaoh and his host pursued a course of self-destruction and came to their end in the Red Sea. The beast, the false prophet and their armies will be destroyed in the lake of fire (chapter 19). The lake of fire is also called the second death and is a symbol of irrevocable destruction.

The scope of the witnesses' work

From the fact that the witnesses fulfil an 'Elijah' mission, it was inferred that their prophecies were directed towards Israel. There is further evidence that they work in an Israelitish context.

This may be the place to say that the role of Israel is sadly overlooked in most expositions of the Revelation. Yet there are good reasons for believing that a large part of this book of prophecy concerns the destiny of the people of the Bible.12 So to Revelation 11:2:

"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." Prompt as an echo, our minds go to the Lord's words in Luke 21: 24: "And Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled." Here then, in Revelation 11, we see the dramatic final phase of Jerusalem's down treading — the very end of the times of the Gentiles. It is at this time that the witnesses prophesy.

So the spotlight of interest is on Jerusalem. When Jerusalem is grievously oppressed, the witnesses speak. But to whom do they speak?

Both Joel and Zechariah seem to hint at a change of heart and repentance amongst some in Israel when the pressure on them is very heavy.13 The two witnesses could well be God's instruments calling the people of Israel to repentance. Like Elijah of old, they could provide an opportunity for a remnant to be saved.

Psalm 79

Psalm 79 has several features in common with Revelation 11. The first three verses read as follows:

"O God, the heathen are come into thine inheritance; thy holy temple have they defiled; they have laid Jerusalem on heaps. The dead bodies of thy servants have they given to be meat unto the fowls of the heaven, the flesh of thy saints unto the beasts of the earth. Their blood have they shed like water round about Jerusalem; and there was none to bury them." The down-treading of Jerusalem by the heathen; the slaying of God's servants; the refusal to permit their burial — these are also features of Revelation 11. The question is asked in verse 5 of the Psalm: "How long, Lord?" And the entreaty of verse 6 is expressed in the language of the vials: "Pour out thy wrath upon the heathen." Verse 10 is a plea for the blood of God's servants to be avenged. If there is a valid connection between Psalm 79 and Revelation 11 (and a number of people have been impressed by the similarity of language, including the compilers of the marginal references of the AV), it reinforces three conclusions: that the setting of the prophecy of Revelation 11 is Jerusalem; that Jerusalem is to be down-trodden once again by the Gentiles; and that the witnesses suffer brutal treatment.

Men of sign

The Old Testament prophets were men of sign. Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel all acted out in their lives the things that were happening, or would happen to the nation of Israel. The two witnesses, who are actually called prophets in Revelation 11:10 are likewise men of sign. Just as the eyes of the people were on Ezekiel — note the recurring expression "in their sight" (Ezekiel 12:3-7) — so people will be watching the remarkable things that happen to the witnesses. This is the intention, for the things that they do and suffer are acted prophecies.

One of the witnesses' signs is specially important. After the death of the witnesses "the Spirit of life from God entered into them, and they stood upon their feet" (Revelation 11:11). The words "stood upon their feet" are also found in Ezekiel 37:10, and they also follow the statement that spirit or breath came into certain people. Concerning that vast company of Israelites who experience a national regathering in the valley of dry bones, it is written: "So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood upon their feet, an exceeding great army." Here then, in the experiences of the witnesses of Revelation 11, is an Ezekiel-type, dramatised prophecy of the ultimate favour that Israel will receive from God. This is an assurance, at a time when an assurance is very much needed, that there will be a restoration of God's kingdom to Israel. And despite appearances, it happens quickly. After the resurrection and vindication of the witnesses comes the great earthquake; then the seventh trumpet; then the fulfilment of the acted prophecy. The kingdom of God comes to Israel.

One point is frequently missed. The breathing of the breath of God into the bones, referred to in Ezekiel 37, is a separate process from their uniting "bone to his bone". Indeed there is a space of time between the two processes as a careful reading of Ezekiel 37 will reveal. By comparing Ezekiel 37 with Ezekiel 36 (verses 25-28), it can be seen that there are two distinct phases in the restoration of Israel. First, an impure nation, a fleshly-minded people devoid of spiritual life is restored to its land; then the spirit (or breath) of God is breathed upon this company and they find favour in His sight.

The revival of the witnesses is an an acted prophecy of the second phase whereby a restored Israel, or at least that section of them that has responded to the ministry of the witnesses, receives the blessing of God.

World witness

The witnessing of Revelation 11 is not restricted to Israel. The previous chapter describes a symbolic operation: John is bidden to eat a little book. On behalf of God's servants, whom he represents, John ingests a prophetic message: "Thou must prophesy again before many people, and nations, and tongues, and kings." This surely is fulfilled by the work of the witnesses that follows almost immediately in the narrative. If not, then to what does this prophesying refer?

Moreover the fact that "they of the people and kindreds and tongues and nations" together with them "that dwell upon the earth" show such hostility to the witnesses also implies that the message of the witnesses is heard by vast numbers of people all over the world — and they resent it.

The testing time to come

It is not only those saints who are involved in witnessing who will suffer persecution. Inevitably those who abhor the witnesses will also abhor their brethren. Those who share the faith of the witnesses will also share their suffering.

It should be appreciated that the proposition that the saints will be persecuted does not stand or fall according to one's interpretation of the prophecy of the two witnesses. It will be recalled that the little horn of Daniel 7 "made war with the saints, and prevailed against them; until the Ancient of days came" (verses 21,22); and that it is written of the beast in Revelation 13: "And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them . . ." (verse 7).

Of course this raises the question of the extent of the beast's territory. Revelation 13 states that the beast controls "all kindreds, and tongues, and nations" and is worshipped by "all that dwell upon the earth", except those whose names are written in the book of life (verses 7,8). Certainly these expressions convey the impression of vast territories that could be big enough to include the country where we live.

Reference was made earlier to the fact that there will be a system of registration in the kingdom of the beast that is designed to make life impossible for those who are not loyal supporters of that government. The relevant quotation is:

"And he [the beast's publicity agent] causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads: and that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name" (Revelation 13:16,17).

The image of the beast

But look now at verse 14. Of the beast's propaganda agency it is written:

"[He] deceiveth them that dwell on the earth by the means of those miracles which he had power to do in the sight of the beast; saying to them that dwell on the earth, that they should make an image to the beast, which had the wound by a sword, and did live. And he had power to give life unto the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak, and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed" (13:14,15).

These words remind one of the great image that Nebuchadnezzar set up on the plains of Dura.14 Death is the penalty for refusing to worship the image of the beast.

It would be naive to imagine a grotesque piece of sculpture of the kind men worshipped in the ancient world. In some way the image of the beast has life; it functions; absolute authority is claimed for it; it is cunningly devised to eliminate ruthlessly those who do not yield to its authority. Could it be a sophisticated piece of electronic equipment — a computer to end all computers, into which is fed all the wisdom of the top brains of the beast organisation? One gets the impression that, even now, much of the work of governments is done by computers. This could be the logical conclusion of modern trends — a computer programmed to give instant, unemotional, 'infallible' answers to all questions that would be deemed relevant in a beast-conditioned society. It would be the ultimate in the rejection of God. In the eyes of beast-worshippers this human invention — this god created in man's image — would provide 'decisive proof that the God of the Bible was outdated; a hangover from an age of ignorance and superstition.

Admittedly this is speculative. The image of the beast may be something entirely different. But three facts remain: first, that however this feature of the prophecy is to be interpreted, it concerns monstrous developments in the near future; second, that there are already movements in the world in the direction envisaged in the previous paragraph; third, that life will be hard for the saints in the kingdom of the beast.

It is human to reject what one does not like. If all this should sound too grim, just reflect on the fact that now — yes, now — thousands of people are suffering in prisons and in labour camps, and many have been put to death because of their love for the Scriptures. Persecution is almost inevitable under humanistic, totalitarian governments.

The trial of faith

The tyrannical reign of the beast will provide an effective test of faith. At one and the same time Christ and the beast will be competing, as it were, for the obedience of men. And in the immediate sense life will be much easier for those who surrender to the authority of the beast. Hence the stern warning and the warm encouragement of these words:

"If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand, the same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb: and the smoke of their torment ascend-eth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name. Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus. And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them" (14:9-13).

The seven last plagues

To repeat a statement made earlier: the vials are God's judgments on a beast-worshipping world. The tribulation of the saints will be over before the vials of God's wrath are poured out. As with the last seven of the ten plagues of Egypt, so with the seven last plagues of the Apocalypse, God makes a distinction between His people and His enemies.

The first vial causes "a grievous sore upon the men which had the mark of the beast, and upon them which worshipped his image" (16:2). The third vial (when rivers and fountains of water become blood) must involve the avenging of the blood of saints, because the words are spoken: "Thou art righteous, O Lord . .. because thou hast judged thus. For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets, and thou hast given them blood to drink; for they are worthy" (16:5,6). There is a progression, and whereas the first vial punishes beast-worshippers, the fifth is poured out on the seat, or centre of government of the beast: "... and his kingdom was full of darkness; and they gnawed their tongues for pain" (verse 10). This does not mean the destruction of the beast, for after the pouring out of the next (sixth) vial there is a massive conspiracy in which the beast, and the false prophet are involved. Their destruction is recorded in chapter 19, verses 19-21:

"And I saw the beast, and the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against him that sat on the horse, and against his army. And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him, with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshipped his image. These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone. And the remnant were slain with the sword of him that sat upon the horse, which sword proceeded out of his mouth: and all the fowls were filled with their flesh."

References and Notes

1. See Part 2, chapter 13.

2. An objection to this conclusion is based on the erroneous assumption that the Lord Jesus is never called an angel. The Hebrew word for angel is malak, and it is sometimes translated "messenger"; twice it is thus translated in Malachi 3:1. The first messenger of Malachi 3:1 is John the Baptist ("he shall prepare the way before me"); and the second messenger ("the messenger of the covenant") must be the Lord Jesus. The covenant bow about the head of the messenger of Revelation 10 is perhaps there to identify him as the messenger of the covenant.

3. See Part 2, chapter 12, page 147 — The great division.

4. Matthew 24:31; 1 Corinthians 15:52; 1 Thessalonians 4:16

5. Joel 2:28-32

6. 2 Kings 1

7. 1 Kings 17:1

8. Isaiah 40:3-8; Malachi 3:1; 4:5,6

9. Matthew 11:14

10. Exodus 7:11 etc.

11. Exodus 7-10

12. The involvement of Israel in the 'seal' and 'trumpet' prophecies is discussed in Part 2, chapter 13.

13. Joel 2:12-20; Zechariah 12:10-14

14. Daniel 3:1

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