Revelation 11 Bible Commentary

John Wesley’s Explanatory Notes

(Read all of Revelation 11)

Verse 2

[2] But the court which is without the temple leave out, and measure it not; for it is given unto the Gentiles: and the holy city shall they tread under foot forty and two months.

But the court which is without the temple — The old temple had a court in the open air, for the heathens who worshipped the God of Israel.

Cast out — Of thy account.

And measure it not — As not being holy In so high a degree.

And they shall tread — Inhabit.

The holy city — Jerusalem, Matthew 4:5. So they began to do, before St. John wrote. And it has been trodden almost ever since by the Romans, Persians, Saracens, and Turks. But that severe kind of treading which is here peculiarly spoken of, will not be till under the trumpet of the seventh angel, and toward the end of the troublous times. This will continue but forty-two common months, or twelve hundred and sixty common days; being but a small part of the non-chronos.

Verse 3

[3] And I will give power unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days, clothed in sackcloth.

And I — Christ.

Will give to my two witnesses — These seem to be two prophets; two select, eminent instruments. Some have supposed (though without foundation) that they are Moses and Elijah, whom they resemble in several respects.

To prophesy twelve hundred and sixty days — Common days, that is, an hundred and eighty weeks. So long will they prophesy, (even while that last and sharp treading of the holy city continues,) both by word and deed, witnessing that Jesus is the Son of God, the heir of all things, and exhorting all men to repent, and fear, and glorify God.

Clothed in sackcloth — The habit of the deepest mourners, out of sorrow and concern for the people.

Verse 4

[4] These are the two olive trees, and the two candlesticks standing before the God of the earth.

These are the two olive trees — That is, as Zerubbabel and Joshua, the two olive trees spoken of by Zechariah, 4:10, were then the two chosen instruments in God's hand, even so shall these. be in their season. Being themselves full of the unction of the Holy One, they shall continually transmit the same to others also.

And the two candlesticks — Burning and shining lights.

Standing before the Lord of the earth — Always waiting on God, without the help of man, and asserting his right over the earth and all things therein.

Verse 5

[5] And if any man will hurt them, fire proceedeth out of their mouth, and devoureth their enemies: and if any man will hurt them, he must in this manner be killed.

If any would kill them — As the Israelites would have done Moses and Aaron, Numbers 16:41.

He must be killed thus — By that devouring fire.

Verse 6

[6] These have power to shut heaven, that it rain not in the days of their prophecy: and have power over waters to turn them to blood, and to smite the earth with all plagues, as often as they will.

These have power — And they use that power. See verse 10. Revelation 11:10 To shut heaven, that it rain not in the days of their prophesying - During those "twelve hundred and sixty days." And have power over the waters - In and near Jerusalem.

To turn them into blood — As Moses did those in Egypt.

And to smite the earth with all plagues, as often as they will — This is not said of Moses or Elijah, or any mere man besides. And how is it possible to understand this otherwise than of two individual persons?

Verse 7

[7] And when they shall have finished their testimony, the beast that ascendeth out of the bottomless pit shall make war against them, and shall overcome them, and kill them.

And when they shall have finished their testimony — Till then they are invincible.

The wild beast — Hereafter to be described.

That ascendeth — First out of the sea, Revelation 17:8.

Shall make war with them — It is at his last ascent, not out of the sea, but the bottomless pit, that the beast makes war upon the two witnesses. And even hereby is fixed the time of "treading the holy city," and of the "two witnesses." That time ends after the ascent of the beast out of the abyss, and yet before the fulfilling of the mystery.

And shall conquer them — The fire no longer proceeding out of their mouth when they have finished their work.

And kill them — These will be among the last martyrs, though not the last of all.

Verse 8

[8] And their dead bodies shall lie in the street of the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified.

And their bodies shall be — Perhaps hanging on a cross.

In the street of the great city — Of Jerusalem, a far greater city, than any other in those parts. This is described both spiritually and historically: spiritually, as it is called Sodom Isaiah 1:9 etc. and Egypt; on account of the same abominations abounding there, at the time of the witnesses, as did once in Egypt and Sodom. Historically: Where also their Lord was crucified - This possibly refers to the very ground where his cross stood. Constantine the Great inclosed this within the walls of the city. Perhaps on that very spot will their bodies be exposed.

Verse 9

[9] And they of the people and kindreds and tongues and nations shall see their dead bodies three days and an half, and shall not suffer their dead bodies to be put in graves.

Three days and a half — So exactly are the times set down in this prophecy. If we suppose this time began in the evening, and ended in the morning, and included (which is no way impossible) Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, the weekly festival of the Turkish people, the Jewish tribes, and the Christian tongues; then all these together, with the heathen nations, would have full leisure to gaze upon and rejoice over them.

Verse 10

[10] And they that dwell upon the earth shall rejoice over them, and make merry, and shall send gifts one to another; because these two prophets tormented them that dwelt on the earth.

And they that dwell upon the earth — Perhaps this expression may peculiarly denote earthly-minded men.

Shall make merry — As did the Philistines over Samson.

And send gifts to one another — Both Turks, and Jews, and heathens, and false Christians.

Verse 11

[11] And after three days and an half the Spirit of life from God entered into them, and they stood upon their feet; and great fear fell upon them which saw them.

And great fear fell upon them that saw them — And now knew that God was on their side.

Verse 12

[12] And they heard a great voice from heaven saying unto them, Come up hither. And they ascended up to heaven in a cloud; and their enemies beheld them.

And I heard a great voice — Designed for all to hear.

And they went up to heaven, and their enemies beheld them — who had not taken notice of their rising again; by which some had been convinced before.

Verse 13

[13] And the same hour was there a great earthquake, and the tenth part of the city fell, and in the earthquake were slain of men seven thousand: and the remnant were affrighted, and gave glory to the God of heaven.

And there was a great earthquake and the tenth part of the city fell — We have here an unanswerable proof that this city is not Babylon or Rome, but Jerusalem. For Babylon shall be wholly burned before the fulfilling of the mystery of God. But this city is not burned at all; on the contrary, at the fulfilling of that mystery, a tenth part of it is destroyed by an earthquake, and the other nine parts converted.

And there were slain in the earthquake seven thousand men — Being a tenth part of the inhabitants, who therefore were seventy thousand in all.

And the rest — The remaining sixty-three thousand were converted: a grand step toward the fulfilling of the mystery of God. Such a conversion we no where else read of. So there shall be a larger as well as holier church at Jerusalem than ever was yet.

Were terrified — Blessed terror! And gave glory - The character of true conversion, Jeremiah 13:16.

To the God of heaven — He is styled, "The Lord of the earth," verse 4, Revelation 11:4 when he declares his right over the earth by the two witnesses; but the God of heaven, when he not only gives rain from heaven after the most afflicting drought, but also declares his majesty from heaven, by taking his witnesses up into it. When the whole multitude gives glory to the God of heaven, then that "treading of the holy city" ceases. This is the point so long aimed at, the desired "fulfilling of the mystery of God," when the divine promises are so richly fulfilled on those who have gone through so great afflictions. All this is here related together, that whereas the first and second woe went forth in the east, the rest of the eastern affairs being added at once, the description of the western might afterwards remain unbroken. It may be useful here to see how the things here spoken of, and those hereafter described, follow each other in their order. 1. The angel swears; the non-chronos begins; John eats the book; the many kings arise. 2. The non-chronos and the "many kings" being on the decline, that treading" begins, and the "two witnesses" appear. 3. The beast, after he has with the ten kings destroyed Babylon, wars with them and kills them. After three days and an half they revive and ascend to heaven. There is a great earthquake in the holy city: seven thousand perish, and the rest are converted. The "treading" of the city by the gentiles ends. 4. The beast, and the kings of the earth, and their armies are assembled to fight against the Great King. 5. Multitudes of his enemies are killed, and the beast and the false prophet cast alive into the lake of fire. 6. while John measures the temple of God and the altar with the worshippers, the true worship of God is set up. The nations who had trodden the holy city are converted. Hereby the mystery of God is fulfilled. 7. Satan is imprisoned. Being released for a time, he, with Gog and Magog, makes his last assault upon Jerusalem.

Verse 14

[14] The second woe is past; and, behold, the third woe cometh quickly.

The second woe is past — The butchery made by the Saracens ceased about the year 847, when their power was so broken by Charles the Great that they never recovered it.

Behold, the third woe cometh quickly — Its prelude came while the Roman see took all opportunities of laying claim to its beloved universality, and enlarging its power and grandeur. And in the year 755 the bishop of Rome became a secular prince, by king Pepin's giving him the exarchate of Lombardy. The beginning of the third woe itself stands, Revelation 12:12.

Verse 15

[15] And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever.

And the seventh angel sounded — This trumpet contains the most important and joyful events, and renders all the former trumpets matter of joy to all the inhabitants of heaven. The allusion therefore in this and all the trumpets is to those used in festal solemnities. All these seven trumpets were heard in heaven: perhaps the seventh shall once be heard on earth also, 1 Thessalonians 4:16.

And there were great voices — From the several citizens of heaven. At the opening of the seventh seal "there was silence in heaven;" at the sounding of the seventh trumpet, great voices. This alone is sufficient to show that the seven seals and seven trumpets do not run parallel to each other. As soon as the seventh angel sounds, the kingdom falls to God and his Christ. This immediately appears in heaven, and is there celebrated with joyful praise. But on earth several dreadful occurrences are to appear first. This trumpet comprises all that follows from these voices to Revelation 22:5.

The kingdom of the world — That is, the royal government over the whole world, and all its kingdoms, Zechariah 14:9.

Is become the kingdom of the Lord — This province has been in the enemy's hands: it now returns to its rightful Master. In the Old Testament, from Moses to Samuel, God himself was the King of his own people. And the same will be in the New Testament: he will himself reign over the Israel of God.

And of his Christ — This appellation is now first given him, since the introduction of the book, on the mention of the kingdom devolving upon him, under the seventh trumpet. Prophets and priests were anointed, but more especially kings: whence that term, the anointed, is applied only to a king. Accordingly, whenever the Messiah is mentioned in scripture, his kingdom is implied.

Is become — In reality, all things (and so the kingdom of the world) are God's in all ages: yet Satan and the present world, with its kings and lords, are risen against the Lord and against his Anointed. God now puts an end to this monstrous rebellion, and maintains his right to all things. And this appears in an entirely new manner, as soon as the seventh angel sounds.

Verse 16

[16] And the four and twenty elders, which sat before God on their seats, fell upon their faces, and worshipped God,

And the four and twenty elders — These shall reign over the earth, Revelation 5:10.

Who sit before God on their thrones — which we do not read of any angel.

Verse 17

[17] Saying, We give thee thanks, O Lord God Almighty, which art, and wast, and art to come; because thou hast taken to thee thy great power, and hast reigned.

The Almighty — He who hath all things in his power as the only Governor of them.

Who is, and who was — God is frequently styled, "He who is, and who was, and who is to come." but now he is actually come, the words, "who is to come," are, as it were, swallowed up. When it is said, We thank thee that thou hast taken thy great power, it is all one as, "We thank thee that thou art come." This whole thanksgiving is partly an enlargement on the two great points mentioned in the fifteenth verse; Revelation 11:15 partly a summary of what is hereafter more distinctly related. Here it is mentioned, how the kingdom is the Lord's; afterwards, how it is the kingdom of his Christ.

Thou hast taken thy great power — This is the beginning of what is done under the trumpet of the seventh angel. God has never ceased to use his power; but he has suffered his enemies to oppose it, which he will now suffer no more.

Verse 18

[18] And the nations were angry, and thy wrath is come, and the time of the dead, that they should be judged, and that thou shouldest give reward unto thy servants the prophets, and to the saints, and them that fear thy name, small and great; and shouldest destroy them which destroy the earth.

And the heathen nations were wroth - At the breaking out of the power and kingdom of God. This wrath of the heathens now rises to the highest pitch; but it meets the wrath of the Almighty, and melts away. In this verse is described both the going forth and the end of God's wrath, which together take up several ages.

And the time of the dead is come — Both of the quick and dead, of whom those already dead are far the more numerous part.

That they be judged — This, being infallibly certain, they speak of as already present.

And to give a reward — At the coming of Christ, Revelation 22:12; but of free grace, not of debt, 1. To his servants the prophets: 2. To his saints: to them who were eminently holy: 3. To them that fear his name: these are the lowest class. Those who do not even fear God will have no reward from him.

Small and great — All universally, young and old, high and low, rich and poor.

And to destroy them that destroyed the earth — The earth was destroyed by the "great whore" in particular, 17:2,5; but likewise in general, by the open rage and hate of wicked men against all that is good; by wars, and the various destruction and desolation naturally flowing therefrom; by such laws and constitutions as hinder much good, and occasion many offences and calamities; by public scandals, whereby a door is opened for all dissoluteness and unrighteousness; by abuse of secular and spiritual powers; by evil doctrines, maxims, and counsels; by open violence and persecution; and by sins crying to God to send plagues upon the earth. This great work of God, destroying the destroyers, under the trumpet of the seventh angel, is not the third woe, but matter of joy, for which the elders solemnly give thanks. All the woes, and particularly the third, go forth over those "who dwell upon the earth;" but this destruction, over those "who destroy the earth," and were also instruments of that woe.

Verse 19

[19] And the temple of God was opened in heaven, and there was seen in his temple the ark of his testament: and there were lightnings, and voices, and thunderings, and an earthquake, and great hail.

And the temple of God-The inmost part of it. Was opened in heaven - And hereby is opened a new scene of the most momentous things, that we may see how the contents of the seventh trumpet are executed; and, notwithstanding the greatest opposition, (particularly by the third woe,) brought to a glorious conclusion.

And the ark of the covenant was seen in his temple — The ark of the covenant which was made by Moses was not in the second temple, being probably burnt with the first temple by the Chaldeans. But here is the heavenly ark of the everlasting covenant, the shadow of which was under the Old Testament, Hebrews 9:4. The inhabitants of heaven saw the ark before: St. John also saw it now; for a testimony, that what God had promised, should be fulfilled to the uttermost.

And there were lightnings, and voices, and thunders, and an earthquake, and great hail — The very same there are, and in the same order, when the seventh angel has poured out his phial; Revelation 16:17-21: one place answers the other. What the trumpet here denounces in heaven, is there executed by the phial upon earth. First it is shown what will be done; and afterwards it is done.