{12}   Visions of Prophesy (Rev 10:111:19)


Part 5. The 7 trumpets (8:1—11:19)

5.6.      INTERLUDE 2: visions of the prophetic role (10:1—11:14)

            5.6.1.   The mighty angel and the little scroll (10:1-11)

            5.6.2.   The 2 witnesses (11:1-14)

5.7.      7th trumpet: announcement of the end (11:15-19)

        Here is the second interlude between the 6th and the 7th trumpets. There are two visions: the angel with the little book and the two witnesses. These visions instruct the church concerning its role and destiny during the final period of world history.

        PICTURE: John is now back to the earth. He saw a gigantic angel holding a small scroll. The angel declares to the whole world that there will be no more delay in fulfilling God’s plan. Afterwards, John sees in his vision two witnesses killed by demonic forces.


10:1     From ch.4 to ch.9, John has watched the visions unfold from his position in heaven. Now he is back on earth, for the angel comes “down from heaven” and the voice is from heaven (vv.4,8).

The robe of cloud and the legs like fiery pillars recall the pillar of fire and cloud that gave both protection and guidance to Israel in their wilderness journey. The rainbow recalls God’s promise through Noah.

10:2     The angel is of colossal size as he plants his right foot on the sea and his left foot on the land. It symbolizes his authority over the earth in its entirety.

10:3     The angel’s voice is loud, in proportion to his gigantic size. The voice calls forth a response from the seven thunders. The thunder is usually associated with divine retribution. The voice of the 7 thunders is not just ineligible sounds but articulate speech that can be recorded.

10:4     The voice from heaven commands John not to write down what the 7 thunders speak. The reason is not clear. It is possible that what the 7 thunders say may disclose facts that should not be known by the church.

10:6     The oath (lifting of the hand) is an answer to the question by the martyrs in 6:10: “How long?” There will be no more delay. From now on, God will not intervene to give man further opportunity to repent. Restraint is to be removed, and the antichrist is to be revealed (2Th 2:3).

10:7     In the NT, the divine purpose in history is a mystery not because it is an unknown, but because it never would have been known if God had not revealed it. The angel declares that with the sounding of the 7th trumpet, God’s whole plan will be brought to its fulfilment. The plan is the realization of the kingdom of God as clearly seen in Rev 11:15.

10:9     The eating of the little scroll symbolizes the assimilation of the content of the scroll by John before communicating to the others. It possibly deals with the destination of God’s people during the final days prior to the end.

10:10   The scroll is sweet because there will be no delay before the 7th angel blows his trumpet but turns the stomach sour because of the persecution that God’s people must still experience.

11:1     This passage (11:1-14) is uniformly recognized as the most difficult part of the whole book to interpret. The main problem is whether to interpret this passage literally (the two witnesses as real persons) or symbolically (symbolizing the witnessing church).

The temple probably is not a literal building but the Christian community. The measuring of the temple is a symbolic way of declaring that the temple will be preserved, and that God will give spiritual sanctuary to the faithful believers against the demonic assault of the antichrist.

11:2     The outer can mean: [1] those professed Christians who are not true believers, [2] the physical dimension but not the spiritual dimension (inner court), meaning that the witnessing church may be physically persecuted but the real source of life is protected.

11:3     John heard the period of 1,260 days declared by the voice. His vision probably started with the events just before their death. The witnesses are clearly modelled after Moses and Elijah. They may be two real persons or a symbol of the witnessing church. Even if there are two real persons, the work they do represent what the witnessing church will do. The treatment they receive may represent how God’s people as a whole are treated by the world.

11:4     The witnesses are the bearers of divine light and the olive trees that provide the oil for the light.

11:7     The beast of the Abyss is commonly identified as the antichrist which will be described in detail in ch.13 and ch.17.

11:8     In Eastern custom, to be deprived of burial was an act of great indignity against the dead. “Great city” is interpreted as Jerusalem. Sodom refers to the depths of moral degradation (Gen 19:4-11) while Egypt is the symbol of oppression and slavery.

11:9     The witnesses become the scorn of the whole world (again the fourfold divisions).

11:10   When the followers of the beast realize that those who have tormented their conscience are dead, they are overjoyed. Again, the “inhabitants of the earth” designate the pagan world.

11:12   The witnesses are summoned by a loud voice from heaven and ascend in full view of their enemies. They go up “into” (Gr. eis) heaven. It is the final triumph of the witnesses.

11:13   Some think that the terrified survivors in the city, perhaps mostly Jews, truly repented.

11:15   A great heavenly host declares the final triumph of the kingdom of God and the establishment of His eternal reign. The voices are those of the angels but not the church because the praise is for “our” Lord (God) and “His” (God’s) Christ. For the church, the praise should be “our Lord and our Christ.” Now, the dominion and rule of this world is completely in the hand of God and His Christ who shall reign forever and ever.

11:18   It is a time for judgment, reward, and destruction. The judgment anticipated by the elders is carried out in the great white throne scene of 20:11-15. The reward of the faithful is carried out with the coming of the New Jerusalem with the presence of God (21:9-22:5). The destruction is carried in the events in the next few chapters.

11:19   There are two responses to the hymn of praise in vv.17-18: [1] the appearance of the ark of the covenant representing the rewarding of the faithful, and [2] the cosmic disturbances representing the outpouring of God’s wrath.


        Like the two witnesses, the role of the church is to witness and to proclaim the Gospel until the end. The witnesses even sacifice their lives. Today, many Christians in the world sacificed their lives for the Gospel. We have to ask ourselves two questions: [1] Will we be strong enough to hold on to our faith in the face of death? [2] Compared to those Christians under daily persecutions, why don’t we have the same urgency in proclaiming the Gospel even when we don’t need to encounter the same danger?