The Two Witnesses & The Seventh Trumpet

Chapter 11 is largely a puzzle for both interpreters and readers alike. It incorporates the measuring of the temple in Jerusalem with two witnesses that describe the end times and concluding with the blasting of the Seventh Trumpet. Exegesis is imperative here for breaking-down these dissimilar themes.

The Temple and the Two Witnesses, 11:1-14

Rev 11:1 Then I was given a long cane like a measuring rod, and I was told, ‘Get up and measure God’s sanctuary, and the altar, and the people who worship there;

Rev 11:2 but exclude the outer court and do not measure it, because it has been handed over to gentiles – they will trample on the holy city for forty-two months.

Rev 11:3 But I shall send my two witnesses to prophesy for twelve hundred and sixty days, wearing sackcloth.

Rev 11:4 These are the two olive trees and the two lamps in attendance on the Lord of the world.

Rev 11:5 Fire comes from their mouths and consumes their enemies if anyone tries to harm them; and anyone who tries to harm them will certainly be killed in this way.

Rev 11:6 They have the power to lock up the sky so that it does not rain as long as they are prophesying; they have the power to turn water into blood and strike the whole world with any plague as often as they like.

Rev 11:7 When they have completed their witnessing, the beast that comes out of the Abyss is going to make war on them and overcome them and kill them.

Rev 11:8 Their corpses lie in the main street of the great city known by the symbolic names Sodom and Egypt, in which their Lord was crucified.

Rev 11:9 People of every race, tribe, language and nation stare at their corpses, for three-and-a-half days, not letting them be buried,

Rev 11:10 and the people of the world are glad about it and celebrate the event by giving presents to each other, because these two prophets have been a plague to the people of the world.’

Rev 11:11 After the three-and-a-half days, God breathed life into them and they stood up on their feet, and everybody who saw it happen was terrified;

Rev 11:12 then I heard a loud voice from heaven say to them, ‘Come up here,’ and while their enemies were watching, they went up to heaven in a cloud.

Rev 11:13 Immediately, there was a violent earthquake, and a tenth of the city collapsed; seven thousand persons were killed in the earthquake, and the survivors, overcome with fear, could only praise the God of heaven.

Rev 11:14 That was the second of the disasters; the third is to come quickly after it.

James M. Pryse in his The Apocalypse Unsealed, being an interpretation of the Initiation of Joannes, commonly called the Revelation of St. John, gives an interesting interpretation of the inner-sanctuary of the temple; his psycho-physiological component is way out (yet perhaps no more so than our own interpretations that follow in the next chapter with the tathagata-garbha component) but is included here out of curiosity:

The naos, here translated adytum, was the inner temple, or sanctuary, where the God was enshrined, and to which none but the initiated had access; when employed for initiatory rites it was usually called the adyton. Symbolically, the adytum is the spiritual nature, and the altar the intellectual; astronomically, it is, as Josephus and other ancient writers said, the sky. But in the psycho-physiological rendering of the symbolism the adytum, the altar of sacrifice and the altar of incense are the three divisions of the brain, and the outer court is the body. The worshippers are the forty-nine forces, which are “measured” by being arranged in hierarchies, or groups.

The important point to keep in mind is that the temple that John is told to measure is the earthly temple in Jerusalem, not the heavenly temple that is mentioned elsewhere in Revelation (3:12; 7:15; 11:19; 14:15, 17; 15:5, 6, 8; 16:1, 17

The Jerusalem temple consisted of three inner courts—the court of the women, the court of the Israelites, and the court of the priests—and a large outer court, the court of the Gentiles. [The Temple Courts] The part of the temple that is measured (“the altar and those who worship there”) represents the inner part of the temple, specifically the court of the priests (where the altar stood) and possibly also the other two inner courts. The court that is not measured is the court of the Gentiles. The inner courts represent (for John) the church, the faithful people of God. They are guaranteed divine protection during the coming days of punishments and calamities. This protection is not protection from physical harm, but it is protection from spiritual harm. As we have seen already in Revelation, John expects that the church will have to pay a terrible price of suffering and persecution in the days ahead. Yet through all their difficult times, God will offer them strength and spiritual protection. The measuring of the temple, then, serves the same purpose as the sealing of the 144,000 in chapter 7. Both scenes are reassurance to God’s people that even though pain, suffering, and persecution may engulf them, God will not abandon them. God will preserve them through their worst ordeals. (Smyth Helwys Bible Commentary)

I shall send my two witnesses: symbolic of Moses and Elijah. Following Moses’ lead, they have the mystical power to turn water into blood and to initiate plagues (Exod 7:14–12:32).  Like Elijah, they are able to destroy with fire and to cause the cessation of rain (1 Kgs 17–18).

Fire comes from their mouths and consumes their enemies if anyone tries to harm them: this reminds me of the scene from Raiders of the Lost Ark when the Nazi agent’s face (today’s accompanying image at top) begins to be consumed by the awful fire of the angel of death.

When they have completed their witnessing, the beast that comes out of the Abyss is going to make war on them and overcome them and kill them: familiar scenario within Christianity as God’s witnesses eventually meet an awful martyr’s death. This is indeed a bitter pill to swallow. It’s been mentioned within these blogs that if you follow a guy with a Cross, you’re bound to encounter suffering. Suffering and death is the main avenue before the prize of heaven can be won. That’s why the Buddha’s Four Noble Truths (the nature of suffering, the cause of suffering, the remedy against suffering, and the Noble ten-fold [for we Lankavatarians] path for the transcendence of suffering) trump this scenario for the better. One becomes one’s own savior if the path is followed. By the Self you shall be set free. The beast will be mentioned further in the upcoming blog, but for the most part he represents Satan.

The unburied corpses: Allowing corpses to lie unburied and exposed was a common way of showing extreme contempt and ridicule, or even additional punishment, for the dead person. An unburied corpse would be vulnerable to wild animals and birds. (ibid)

After the three-and-a-half days, God breathed life into them and they stood up on their feet: reminiscent of Christ’s own death and resurrection. “If you die with Christ, you shall rise with Christ” (from the prayers for the dead).

The concluding images of rising in the cloud and the earthquakes are also figures of what transpired after Jesus’ death.

Also, the emphasis here on the Blood of the Martyrs represents the Cult of the Blood, even the drinking of the Blood of Christ in Communion.

The Seventh Trumpet, 11:15-19

Rev 11:15 Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and voices could be heard shouting in heaven, calling, ‘The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and his Christ, and he will reign for ever and ever.’

Rev 11:16 The twenty-four elders, enthroned in the presence of God, prostrated themselves and touched the ground with their foreheads worshipping God

Rev 11:17 with these words, ‘We give thanks to you, Almighty Lord God, He who is, He who was, for assuming your great power and beginning your reign.

Rev 11:18 The nations were in uproar and now the time has come for your retribution, and for the dead to be judged, and for your servants the prophets, for the saints and for those who fear your name, small and great alike, to be rewarded. The time has come to destroy those who are destroying the earth.’

Rev 11:19 Then the sanctuary of God in heaven opened, and the ark of the covenant could be seen inside it. Then came flashes of lightning, peals of thunder and an earthquake and violent hail.

After the lengthy interlude of 10:1–11:14, John returns to the series of seven trumpet blasts. Six trumpet blasts have sounded already; the seventh trumpet is waiting to be blown. The results of the blowing of the seventh trumpet are unlike the resultant events from the blowing of the first six trumpets. The first six trumpet blasts unleashed various judgments of God upon the earth; cataclysmic destruction, pain, and death followed in their wake. The blowing of the seventh trumpet, however, unleashes a heavenly chorus proclaiming the universal sovereignty of God. The mood shifts from fearfulness to celebration. A second difference between the first six trumpets and the last trumpet is the setting. The first six depict the situation on earth; the seventh trumpet reveals a scene in the heavenly throne room. (ibid)

James M. Pryse also interprets:

The seventh of the mystic “spiritual sounds” signals the awakening of the highest of the chakras, the centres through which radiates the Light of the Logos. The passion of the God is not his “wrath,” but is the creative energy of the Logos, the “great force” (dynamis) which produces the “birth from above”; and it is here placed in contrast with the passions that “are destroying the earth.”

As exoteric exponents of phallicism are fond of pointing out, the ark is a symbol of the womb, the place of birth—which is perfectly true if it is regarded as merely a concrete symbol. But esoterically it has no such phallic significance, but stands for the exact opposite, the place of spiritual rebirth, the emergence into immortality. All mysticism aside, it symbolizes the womb in the brain, the latter being an androgynous organ wherein is immaculately conceived the permanent spiritual vehicle, the solar body.

I concur somewhat with his analysis of the chakras, but differ with his womb analysis; he starts off most excellent as “the place of spiritual rebirth”, but then he switches to the androgynous organ of the brain, which in itself is nothing more than grey energy matter, and not the means for discovering the “permanent spiritual vehicle”, which for us always begins in the dantian, not the brain.

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