Revelation 11: The Vindication of Christ and His Church

Revelation 11

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.

Image above — Jesus’ ascension to Heaven depicted by John Singleton Copley in Ascension (1775) Wikimedia Commons


We still need to remember that we are dealing with apocalyptic literature. We are not reading a newspaper account of the end of this age. Rest assured we are dealing with the Second Coming of Christ for his saints who have been slain on the earth for their testimony for Him. There will be some Christians who are alive at this point. The outward expression of Christianity—the Church—has been destroyed by the ungodly. Some pockets of believers still remain.

This is no secret rapture! Those who killed them will see them rise. Christians may be killed in ignominy, but they will rise in glory to meet their Lord! As in a battle, the dead are often not given a proper burial.

Shallow Grave of War Dead

Gettysburg, Pennsylvania graves pictured above. Unfinished Confederate shallow graves near the center of the battlefield. image from https://www.pinterest.com/manuelfocus/civil-war/

Note the little mentioned verses from Matthew’s Gospel Chapter 27—

51 And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split. 52 The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, 53 and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many. [ESV; emphasis mine.]

It is my opinion that this passage in Revelation 11 is echoing our Lord’s ministry, death, resurrection and ascension. (1) Our Lord witnessed as Messiah ≈ 3½ Years; (2) He was crucified in ignominy; (3) those who did it thought they finally had done with Him for good; (4) He lay in the tomb ≈ 3½ days; (5) Many Old Testament saints were raised and came out of their tombs and appeared to many in the city when He was raised; and (6) He ascended in a cloud to His Father in heaven. (see Beale, p. 229, below.)


As I have stated in previous posts—

Chapter 11 gives us a view into what God’s people will be experiencing as they witness to the Gospel of Christ between His Resurrection-Ascension and Second Coming.

In the section of Revelation 11 for this post we are at the end of the age as far as the church is concerned. (More will follow for the wicked.) 

IV. Christ will return and resurrect his faithful and vindicate those who have been faithful witnesses to His Gospel.

vs. 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.

The tense of the verb is significant. It shifts with this verse to the past (aorist) tense to indicate that the events are so certain that he can speak of them as if they are already in the past.

Quinten_Massys_Vision_des_Propheten_Ezechiels

Quentin Metsys the Younger ” The Valley of Dry Bones Lives” (ca. 1543 – 1589) Public Domain image from Wikimedia Commons

It seems John may have in mind Ezekiel’s “Valley of Dry Bones” (see Ezekiel 37:1-14). Like the saints who were raised when Jesus was and went into the city, the ungodly recognize Christians that are raised at the Second Coming of Christ. Just when the world thinks the church is dead and they are rid of its testimony, the church is resurrected. This will be the case at the end of the age.

Gustave_Doré_-_2_Kings_2_-_11

vs. 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. Left Gustave Dore’s engraving of Elijah going to heaven in the clouds (II Kings 2:1-12). 

The martyrs go the same way their Lord did—they ascend in a cloud. (cf. Acts 1:9 And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight.) John uses the definite article in referring to the cloud. It seems to confirm the premise that the church’s history is to match its Lord’s—(1) A period of testimony (2) Followed by a period of seeming defeat; (3) Followed by resurrection and ascension. This would have given great assurance to the early church as they suffered for the Lord. They were a minority wondering if what they were doing counts for eternity. In this vision they see it does!

Destruction_of_Pompeii_and_Herculaneum

The volcanic earthquake that destroyed Pompeii and Herculaneum was well know in the Mediterranean world.

vs. 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.

Calamity interrupts the celebration, making sure it is short lived. The Greek reads, “At that [very] hour… .” The resurrection of the church is followed by cataclysmic occurrences. The irrefutable testimony and the judgments force men to acknowledge that God has done it. It does not bring about the repentance of the remaining ones, however.

This is the first tremor of the cosmic shaking that will remove move the first heavens and earth (cf. 20:11; 21:1), the great quake that we have seen in the vision of the sixth seal (6:12-17) and will see again when the seventh bowl is poured out, shattering the “great city” Babylon into three pieces, causing the cities of the Gentiles to fall, and removing moving islands and mountains (16:17-21). (see Johnson, D, E. below).

The number of people affected—7,000—is approximately 1/10th of the population of ancient Jerusalem. Since Jerusalem is a symbol of worldwide opposition to God, this verse refers to a portion of the world and its population being destroyed by the cataclysmic judgments inflicted at the resurrection of the church. “This is not the end, but it is the beginning of the end.” (paraphrase of Winston Churchill’s famous quotation.)

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

The Woes — In 8:13 we were told that the last three trumpets were so terrible that they are called woes. Two have occurred in chapter 9. Now we are told that the third is about to occur. With the Third Woe, we are brought to the end of the age in another of the cycles of Revelations judgments. We have called this method of interpretation progressive parallelism, after William Hendriksen (1939).

Notes
(Commentaries on which I rely without direct quotation) 

Beale, G. K. (2015). Revelation: a Shorter Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. Kindle Edition.

ESV. (2001). Accessed 24 June 2020 from https://www.biblegateway.com

Hendriksen, William. More Than Conquerors: An Interpretation of the Book of Revelation. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. (p. 125).

Johnson, A. F. (1982). Revelation in Expositor’s Bible Commentary, ed. Gaebelein. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Johnson, D. E. (2001). Triumph of the Lamb: A Commentary on Revelation. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Kenner, C. (2000). The NIV Application Commentary: Revelation. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Academic.

Morris, Leon. (1987). Revelation in Tyndale New Testament Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

WikiMedia Commons for Images

© 2020 C. Richard Barbare All Rights Reserved

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