After terror attacks on September 11, church attendance spiked. “People thought this type of crisis of national significance would lead people to be more religious, and it did,” Mark Chaves, a professor of sociology at Duke University, observed. “But it was very short-lived. There was a blip in church attendance and then it went back to normal.” A single event doesn’t usually affect a society’s religious practice, and today’s passage is evidence that multiple events may not make a difference, either.
The temple in our passage today most likely refers to a reconstructed temple. The act of measuring the temple is clearly symbolic and seems to indicate something about the nature of God’s unfolding plan. Clearly events are following a divinely set timetable.
Scholars are divided about the identity of the two witnesses. The most reasonable approach is to take the text at face value. These two unnamed prophets bear witness in Jerusalem, perform miracles, and are killed by the beast who comes up from the abyss. Their martyrdom sparks a celebration; people gloat over their deaths and send one another presents. The subsequent resurrection of these two prophets after three-and-a-half days will be accompanied by a great earthquake that will destroy a tenth of the city and kill seven thousand people. Those who survive will “give glory to the God of heaven” (v. 13).
The stage is set for the final act of this redemptive drama. It begins with the sounding of the seventh trumpet, announcing the arrival of the Messiah’s kingdom (v. 18). In an antiphonal response, the temple in heaven opens to display the Ark of the Covenant, along with flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, an earthquake, and a severe hailstorm.
APPLY THE WORD
Scripture says that one day every knee will bow before the Lord (Phil. 2:10). Will you bow out of love and praise, or will it take the power of God’s judgment to force your knee to bend? Accept His invitation to follow Him, and receive the blessing of His promise to be with you until the end of the age (Matt. 28:20).