Revelation 11 Study Notes


11:1-2 The mention of a measuring reed like a rod and the command to go and measure the temple of God and the altar calls to mind Ezk 40:3,5. The phrase count those who worship there appears to speak of God’s people, while the courtyard outside the temple was the court of the Gentiles (the nations). It is not necessary for the second temple to have still been standing in Jerusalem for John to see a vision of the temple and its court. The statement that the Gentiles will trample the holy city (Jerusalem) echoes Jesus’s statement about “the times of the Gentiles” (Lk 21:24) just before the second coming of Christ.

11:3-4 The 1,260 days, in which two unnamed witnesses . . . prophesy for the Lord, is in stark contrast to the “forty-two months” of v. 2 and 13:5. Since no one can harm the witnesses until “they finish their testimony” (11:7), and since they die in Jerusalem (see note at vv. 8-10)—apparently having ministered there—this period of 1,260 days cannot be the same three and one-half year period as the reign of the beast (13:5). The 1,260 days precede the beast’s reign, because part of his rise to worldwide prominence is based on killing the two witnesses (11:7). These witnesses are dressed in sackcloth, the garb of mourning and repentance (Jl 1:13; Jnh 3:5-6). The two olive trees and the two lampstands are imagery from Zch 4, where the two figures appear to be Zerubbabel the governor and Joshua the high priest, and the task at hand was the rebuilding of the temple. Perhaps John used this imagery to recall the crucial spiritual principle articulated in that chapter: “‘Not by strength or by might, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord of Armies” (Zch 4:6).


Greek pronunciation [foh NAY]
CSB translation voice
Uses in Revelation 55
Uses in the NT 139
Focus passage Revelation 10:3-4,7-8

In classical Gk, phonÄ“ normally refers to verbal sounds, including a battle cry, the noise of an animal, or a human language or dialect. Similarly, the related verb phoneo means to produce a sound or tone. In the NT, phoneo occurs forty-three times, forty-two in the Gospels and Acts, with the dominant meanings to call, call out, or summon, but it also refers to a rooster’s crowing (e.g., Mt 26:34,74-75). PhonÄ“ most commonly refers to the voice (Mt 2:18; Jn 1:23; Rv 10:3-4,7-8), but it also has other uses, such as the sound of the wind (Jn 3:8; Ac 2:6), the sound of musical instruments (1Co 14:7-8; Heb 12:19; Rv 8:13; 18:22), and human language (1Co 14:10-11). In Revelation, phonÄ“ sometimes refers to the rumblings and peals of thunder, signifying God’s presence and power (4:5; 8:5; 11:19; 14:2; 16:18; 19:6).

11:5-6 Besides being invulnerable to physical harm, the ministry of the two witnesses echoes the great miracles of the ministries of Elijah and Moses (who had appeared together on the Mount of Transfiguration, Mt 17:3). Fire that consumes their enemies looks back to Elijah’s ministry in 2 Kg 1:10-12. No rain during the days of their prophecy (which is three and one-half years long, v. 3) echoes the three-year drought that Elijah prophesied (1Kg 17:1; 18:1). Power over the waters to turn them into blood and to strike the earth with every plague recalls Moses’s ministry in Egypt (Ex 7-11).

11:7 The beast, the great antichrist figure prophesied elsewhere (Dn 7:20-21,25; 2Th 2:9-11; 1Jn 2:18) and the satanically inspired world ruler in Rv 13 and 17, now makes its initial appearance. Its origin is said to be the abyss, from which the demonic locusts came (9:1-10), and where Satan will be imprisoned (20:1-3). It is only because their three and one half-year period of ministry is completed that the beast is able to make war on the two witnesses and kill them. The irony of using the word conquer to speak of the death of the witnesses is that, while it may seem that the beast is victorious (vv. 7-10), these witnesses, as martyrs, come back to life (vv. 11-12).

11:8-10 The great city is the usual way of referring to Babylon the Great in Revelation (17:18; 18:10), as well as Sodom (infamous for its sexual immorality) and Egypt (where God’s people had been slaves). This depicts the wickedness of Jerusalem’s inhabitants at this time. The brutal death of the two witnesses, the sacrilege of not giving them a proper burial, and the glee of the non-elect “earth dwellers” (see notes at 13:8; 17:7-8) at their deaths demonstrate that wickedness. That the witnesses are also called prophets in the context of their death at the hands of the beast places them in the category of other prophets who had died for their faith and who are honored in Revelation (v. 18; 16:6; 18:20,24).

11:11-12 The phrase after three and a half days is intended to be compared with Jesus being resurrected on the third day (1Co 15:4). The breath of life probably echoes the spiritual resuscitation of Israel pictured in the “valley of dry bones” in Ezk 37:5,10 and sets the stage for the widespread conversion of Israel in Rv 11:13. Great fear can be a positive thing since “the fear of the Lord” is the beginning of wisdom (Pr 1:7). The phrase come up here (cp. 4:1) is understood by some interpreters to speak of the rapture of the church at the middle of the tribulation, though this passage refers to only two people.

11:13 Everything changes in one moment, from rejoicing at the death of the two witnesses (vv. 7-10) to shock at their resurrection, then hanging on for dear life in the devastation of a violent earthquake. In the midst of the widespread damage and death, fear turns into faith for many who saw the resurrection and ascension of the two witnesses. The proper response to the “eternal gospel” to be preached to everyone still alive on the earth in 14:6-7 is to “fear God and give him glory.” Since this takes place in Jerusalem, where most people present would be Jewish, this could be the fulfillment of Paul’s prophecy that “all Israel will be saved” (Rm 11:25-26). Others view this as nothing more than a “foxhole conversion,” in which there is a momentary acknowledgment of the Lord but no authentic faith.


Greek pronunciation [thay REE ahn]
CSB translation beast
Uses in Revelation 39
Uses in the NT 46
Focus passage Revelation 11:7

Thērion (beast, animal) was used to refer to any living creature excluding man, but usually wild, undomesticated animals. In mythological imagery, thērion could describe supernatural creatures such as the griffin, the hydra, or a huge dragon.

In the NT, thērion normally refers to undomesticated animals in general (Mk 1:13; Ac 11:6; Ti 1:12; Heb 12:20; Jms 3:7), including a snake (Ac 28:4-5) and particularly dangerous animals (Rv 6:8). However, Dn 7 and most of the occurrences of thērion in Revelation (6:8; 18:2 excepted) reflect the more metaphorical, mythological imagery. Thērion occurs ten times in the Greek OT of Dn 7, where four creatures arise from the sea, understood as four Gentile empires (7:17). Similarly, Revelation uses thērion as: (1) a vivid personification of an ungodly Gentile empire (17:3), (2) the antichrist (11:7; 13:1-4,17; 17:7-8; 19:19), or (3) the false prophet (13:11).

11:14 The second woe of the three predicted in 8:13 has now passed. Since the third woe is coming soon, it apparently is closely related to the seventh trumpet (vv. 15-19, see note there).

11:15-19 The sense of finality in the wording of the seventh . . . trumpet has caused some interpreters to think this is the point of the second coming of Christ and that the following chapters double back and retrace the same ground from a different perspective. In a full-blown “recapitulation” view, it is held that the seals, trumpets, and bowls all speak of the same judgments from different perspectives. Such an approach is not necessary, however, since the seventh trumpet overarches the seven bowls of wrath, with the seventh bowl telescoping all the way to the preparation for the second coming of Christ. This perspective is supported by the fact that the phenomena (lightning, rumblings, thunder, an earthquake, and severe hail) ready to be poured out on the earth related to the seventh trumpet (v. 19) are not actually poured out until the seventh bowl (16:18,21).

11:15 The phrase the kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ can be understood as follows. (1) The earthly reign of Christ (20:4-6) has already begun at this point, and chaps. 12-19 is a déjà vu of the first half of the book, until the narrative arrives at another description of the kingdom of our Lord over this world, in 20:4-6. (2) The past tense “has become” speaks of certainty so strong that the future is spoken of in the past tense (i.e., “will certainly become”). (3) What is already true in heaven will come true on earth (“Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” Mt 6:10-11a); or (4) the timeless perspective of heaven is different from that of this world (e.g., from the standpoint of heaven, “every creature” in the universe blesses God and the Lamb in Rv 5:13, long before “every knee will bow . . . and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” [Php 2:10-11] at the final judgment [Rv 20:11-15]). Any of the last three explanations is more likely than the first.

11:16-18 On the twenty-four elders, see note at 4:3-4. Lord God . . . who is and who was means the one who not only exists but has existed eternally. You . . . have begun to reign may mean that: (1) the kingdom of God already exists in this world in some sense (1:9), or (2) God’s power to reign in heaven is about to come to earth in the wake of his climactic wrath being displayed in the pouring out of the bowls of wrath (15:1-19:5), immediately after the prelude to that section (chaps. 12-14). The time . . . for the dead to be judged . . ., to give the reward to God’s people (2Co 5:10), and to destroy those who destroy the earth (probably the “earth dwellers”; see notes at 3:10; 6:9-11; 8:13) comes after Christ’s return (20:11-15).

11:19 The ark of the covenant had been in the “holy of holies” in the tabernacle (Ex 40:3) and the temple (1Kg 6:19), which was destroyed by the invading Babylonian army (2Ch 36:19). Now it is seen in the heavenly “holy of holies.”