Why Does Christmas Come Early for Those Who Hate God’s Prophets? — Revelation 11:1-14

by Reverend Anthony R. Locke
Sermon Series in Revelation # 21

Revelation 11:1-14
English Standard Version

1   Then I was given a measuring rod like a staff, and I was told, “Rise and measure the temple of God and the altar and those who worship there,

2   but do not measure the court outside the temple; leave that out, for it is given over to the nations, and they will trample the holy city for forty-two months.

3   And I will grant authority to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth.”

4   These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth.

5   And if anyone would harm them, fire pours from their mouth and consumes their foes. If anyone would harm them, this is how he is doomed to be killed.

6   They have the power to shut the sky, that no rain may fall during the days of their prophesying, and they have power over the waters to turn them into blood and to strike the earth with every kind of plague, as often as they desire.

7   And when they have finished their testimony, the beast that rises from the bottomless pit will make war on them and conquer them and kill them,

8   and their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city that symbolically is called Sodom and Egypt, where their Lord was crucified.

9   For three and a half days some from the peoples and tribes and languages and nations will gaze at their dead bodies and refuse to let them be placed in a tomb,

10 and those who dwell on the earth will rejoice over them and make merry and exchange presents, because these two prophets had been a torment to those who dwell on the earth.

11 But after the three and a half days a breath of life from God entered them, and they stood up on their feet, and great fear fell on those who saw them.

12 Then they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, “Come up here!” And they went up to heaven in a cloud, and their enemies watched them.

13 And at that hour there was a great earthquake, and a tenth of the city fell. Seven thousand people were killed in the earthquake, and the rest were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven.

14 The second woe has passed; behold, the third woe is soon to come.[1]


The book of the Revelation goes from good news to bad news. This morning is good news. God doesn’t want us to get discouraged, so every few chapters we are treated to something that make us smile.

Chapter 11 is written to make your heart smile. Verses 1-2 basically say that God knows those who are His.

The only legal document with measurements that most of us possess is the deed to our homes. Careful measurements were made to determine exact specifications. We identify that area as our possession. God did the same process to determine which peoples were His.

Let me offer a more common illustration. On Saturday mornings I make breakfast for my family. It is an open kitchen. Anything they ask I make. Nothing is off limits. Most Saturday mornings I make eggs and pancakes.  Yesterday I made eggs and blueberry pancakes.

Servings get measured and plates are served according to each child’s preferences. Every person is different.

It’s my omelet. Caleb gets lots of syrup on his pancake and bacon. Tyler’s plate has cheese eggs and a pancake with light syrup. Each child can glance at the plates and know which serving is theirs.

God looks at the world and sees His serving. His plate. His people. God knows what’s His.

When we look into the world we see many denominations, many groups who call themselves followers of God. We wear various religious labels. God doesn’t see the labels. God sees the people who are included in His portion. God isn’t confused who are wheat or tares, sheep or goats.

The Great Commission of the Church is to lead people into the holy place that they may become apart of God’s portion.

Who is a part of God’s portion? Those who are standing inside the temple courts, in the area where the sacrifices were made, where the blood was spilled and where the Spirit was burning. If you keep daily fellowship with God via worship and the sacrifices of the Messiah, then you are included.

The next difficult item in our passage is identifying the 42 months. There is probably a future fulfillment of this passage, but there was definitely a historical fulfillment.

The Temple of Jerusalem was trampled 42 months when Antiochus Epiphanes set up a false idol to Zeus in the temple courts and ordered the Jews to worship the Greek gods of Rome.

Here is an excerpt from Maccabees 5:11-14 which tells of the conquest.

Raging like a wild animal, Antiochus set out from Egypt and took Jerusalem by storm. He ordered his soldiers to cut down without mercy those whom they met and to slay those who took refuge in their houses. There was a massacre of young and old, a killing of women and children, a slaughter of virgins and infants. In the space of three days, eighty thousand were lost, forty thousand meeting a violent death, and the same number being sold into slavery.

He wanted the tithe money coming into the Treasury of the Temple for government and state purposes. By setting up a god of Rome inside the Temple he figured he could take the worship and tithe money for the public good.

The problem was that the Jews didn’t convert to Roman secularism. The desecration of the temple continued for 42 months until the Maccabean Revolt which once again purified the Temple.

God’s people have constant pressure on them to worship the gods of this world. False preachers set up whole ministries that peddle feel good religion, a prosperity gospel and a man centered worship.

The world wants religion to serve their needs. They want the glory to be given to man and not to God. We need to be careful not to be tempted by their deceptive message.

As long as the church is under siege by the world, God the Father has charged His witnesses to keep prophesying of God’s love and future judgment.

How should we appear to the world? We must have a ministry of reconciliation that is marked by our own weeping over the sins of our neighbors. The brokenness of our own hearts over the sins of others will guide the sinner to their own personal repentance and faith.

3 And I will grant authority to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth.

When we come to the world with a watered down Gospel infused with man oriented promises of wealth, health and happiness, then we have not given the world something serious to consider. The world will dismiss any church as just another social organization looking to get into their pockets if we do not assure that a sorrowful repentance is apart of our presentation.

Also, sackcloth is not comfortable. We must stop looking for comfortable ways to present the Gospel.

Next, who are the Two Witnesses? On Monday I listened to Sinclair Ferguson’s sermon on Revelation 11. Early in his sermon he promises to identify the two witnesses in our passage.

I was excited. Commentators have lots of candidates. The two witnesses could be the two Testaments. The Two people’s of God. Other suggest John Huss and Martin Luther. Others suggest Enoch and Elijah.

“The two witnesses”, Dr. Ferguson preached, “are the two lamp-stands which stand before the Lord.” He then pauses in his sermon and tells the listeners who are listening by tape that he “was smirking when he said he would name these two persons.”

I am going to cover myself with the same ambiguity.

What we know of these witnesses is that they are supplied by the anointing oil of the Spirit of God without interruption. The olive trees are grafted into these witnesses and they burn brightly with an uninterrupted Gospel witness.

Our daily connection to the Holy Spirit is the only enabling oil for effective ministry.

The experience of ministry by these two witnesses are similar to chapter 10. The word of God is sweet for the person who eats it, but upsetting as it is spoken to those who have not repented.

How long must we bear this witness? As long as this world is in opposition to the one true sovereign. For the full length of days.  For 42 months the temple lay in disarray and for 1,260 days we must witness to the truths of God’s open and unsealed book.

Why the difference in time determination? Because the suffering of a saint is done one day at a time. Each day has enough trouble. Focus on this day and let tomorrow take care of itself.

If we trust in His Spirit and not our own strength, we will never burn out. As long as we stay connected to the Spirit we will continue to stand as faithful witnesses in God’s presence.

Verse 5 is a reference to the fire of the scripture. The Bible is God’s fire in the mouth of His witnesses. We are either purified or burnt by it’s ministry and power.

Verse 6 is a summary of the great works of God’s prophets.

Elijah in 1 Kings 17 shuts the rain of heaven until he prays for the rain to return.

In Exodus 7 Moses turns the waters to blood and parts the Red Sea.

There are numerous occurrences of God’s witnesses or prophets calling down plagues.

Verse 7 gives the ebb and flow of the state of the church. The church swings like a pendulum from faithfulness to incompleteness regarding her public witness.

When the church is being most faithful is when the Devil mounts his most vicious attacks. The Devil leaves unfaithful churches alone.

Let me tell you about Ayman Nabil Labib. He is a 17 year old student in Egypt who wore a cross under his clothes as part of his public witness to his Christian faith. He was told by his Muslim public school teacher that he had to take the cross off as it was blaspheme to Mohammed.

As a citizen of Egypt he has the right to be a Christian, so he refused. The teacher began beating him in the class room. Students joined in and within three hours he was pronounced dead from his internal injuries.

There is no respect for the suffering of Christians. The world does not weep when they kill one of God’s prophets.

America’s leading political leader this last week said that “the future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam.”

Christian civil rights are not celebrated. Intolerance toward Christians is accepted as normal by the media.

When Christians are suppressed, a secular city rejoices. They act like it’s Christmas, they send each other gifts. The world is united in putting Christ out of culture.

This is the obscene hatred that is seething under the dark hearts of all people’s who have not submitted to the will of God. They wish to get rid of God. His holiness anger them. His glory terrifies them. His love offends them.

The faithful Church will suffer. But God is never done with the witness of His church. The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the new revivals that breaks forth like the Spring rains.

God himself welcomes the suffering saints into heaven. God gives personal invitations into glory. Then they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, “Come up here!” And they went up to heaven in a cloud, and their enemies watched them.

Verse 13, God reserves His judgments for the wicked. Those who hurt God’s people are not protected by God. They will meet their just end when they stand before His throne.

So what should we take away from this passage?

God wants you engaged in this conflict. You cannot sit on the sidelines of this epic struggle between the people of God and the enemies of God.  If you are sitting on the sidelines you are in danger of being measured outside of God’s portion.

How do you engage? Make sure you are digesting this book and it’s ramifications for you and your family. Make sure you are daily connected to the supply of grace that comes from the Spirit of God.  Open your mouth as a witness for the truths in this book.

May God give us the strength to stand, to be broken and to be faithful. Amen.


[1] The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.


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