Matthew Henry Complete

Commentary on The Revelation

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Chapter 11

In this chapter we have an account,

  1. Of the measuring—reed given to the apostle, to take the dimensions of the temple (v. 1, 2).
  2. Of the two witnesses of God (v. 3?13).
  3. Of the sounding of the seventh trumpet, and what followed upon it (v. 14, etc.).

Verses 1-2 This prophetical passage about measuring the temple is a plain reference to what we find in Ezekiel’s vision, Eze. 40:3, etc. But how to understand either the one or the other is not so easy. It should seem the design of measuring the temple in the former case was in order to the rebuilding of it, and that with advantage; the design of this measurement seems to be either,

I. How much was to be measured.

II. What was not to be measured (v. 2), and why it should be left out.

Verses 3-13 In this time of treading down, God has reserved to himself his faithful witnesses, who will not fail to attest the truth of his word and worship, and the excellency of his ways. Here observe,

I. The number of these witnesses: it is but a small number and yet it is sufficient.

II. The time of their prophesying, or bearing their testimony for Christ. A thousand two hundred and threescore days; that is (as many think), to the period of the reign of antichrist; and, if the beginning of that interval could be ascertained, this number of prophetic days, taking a day for a year, would give us a prospect when the end shall be.

III. Their habit, and posture: they prophesy in sackcloth, as those that are deeply affected with the low and distressed state of the churches and interest of Christ in the world.

IV. How they were supported and supplied during the discharge of their great and hard work: they stood before the God of the whole earth, and he gave them power to prophesy. He made them to be like Zerubbabel and Joshua, the two olive-trees and candlestick in the vision of Zechariah, ch. 4:2, etc. God gave them the oil of holy zeal, and courage, and strength, and comfort; he made them olive-trees, and their lamps of profession were kept burning by the oil of inward gracious principles, which they received from God. They had oil not only in their lamps, but in their vessels-habits of spiritual life, light, and zeal.

V. Their security and defence during the time of their prophesying: If any attempted to hurt them, fire proceeded out of their mouths, and devoured them, v. 5. Some think this alludes to Elias’s calling for the fire from heaven, to consume the captains and their companies that came to seize him, 2 Ki. 1:12. God promised the prophet Jeremiah (ch. 5:14), Behold, I will make my words in thy mouth fire, and this people shall be wood, and it shall devour them. By their praying and preaching, and courage in suffering, they shall gall and wound the very hearts and consciences of many of their persecutors, who shall go away self-condemned, and be even terrors to themselves; like Pashur, at the words of the prophet Jeremiah, ch. 20:4. They shall have that free access to God, and that interest in him, that, at their prayers, God will inflict plagues and judgments upon their enemies, as he did on Pharaoh, turning their rivers into blood, and restraining the dews of heaven, shutting heaven up, that no rain shall fall for many days, as he did at the prayers of Elias, 1 Ki. 17:1. God has ordained his arrows for the persecutors, and is often plaguing them while they are persecuting his people; they find it hard work to kick against the pricks.

VI. The slaying of the witnesses. To make their testimony more strong, they must seal it with their blood. Here observe,

VII. The resurrection of these witnesses, and the consequences thereof. Observe,

VIII. The ascension of the witnesses into heaven and the consequences thereof, v. 12, 13. Observe,

Verses 14-19 We have here the sounding of the seventh and last trumpet, which is ushered in by the usual warning and demand of attention: The second woe is past, and, behold, the third woe cometh quickly. Then the seventh angel sounded. This had been suspended for some time, till the apostle had been made acquainted with some intervening occurrences of very great moment, and worthy of his notice and observation. But what he before expected he now heard—the seventh angel sounding. Here observe the effects and consequences of this trumpet, thus sounded.

I. Here were loud and joyful acclamations of the saints and angels in heaven. Observe,

II. Here were angry resentments in the world at these just appearances and actings of the power of God (v. 18): The nations were angry; not only had been so, but were so still: their hearts rose up against God; they met his wrath with their own anger. It was a time when God was taking a just revenge upon the enemies of his people, recompensing tribulation to those who had troubled them. It was a time in which he was beginning to reward his people’s faithful services and sufferings; and their enemies could not bear it, they fretted against God, and so increased their guilt and hastened their destruction.

III. Another consequence was the opening of the temple of God in heaven. By this may be meant that here is now a more free communication between heaven and earth, prayer and praises more freely and frequently ascending and graces and blessings plentifully descending. But it rather seems to intend the church of God on earth, a heavenly temple. It is an allusion to the various circumstances of things in the time of the first temple. Under idolatrous and wicked princes, it was shut up and neglected; but, under religious and reforming princes, it was opened and frequented. So, during the power of antichrist, the temple of God seemed to be shut up, and was so in a great degree; but now it was opened again. At this opening of it observe,

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