1. And there was given me a reed like unto a rod: and one said, Rise, and measure the temple of God, and the altar, and them that worship therein.
2 And the court which is without the temple leave without, and measure it not; for it hath been given unto the nations: and the holy city shall they tread under foot forty and two months.
There is a very complex Rabbinic tradition which has to do with the time of the Messiah and the time of the Gentiles. This verse fits in that framework. For a full discussion see Strackís Kommentar zum Neuen Testament aus Talmud und Midrasch, Vol. 4, chapter 2. Suffice it to say that these three and a half years symbolize a period of short duration. That is, the Gentiles will trample the Temple, sure enough, but not forever.
3. And I will give unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days, clothed in sackcloth.
The non-biblical Jewish text, The Apocalypse of Baruch 13:1-12 discusses the two witnesses of the messianic era. The period of time is three and a half years. That is, just while the Gentiles rage, so also the word of God is set forth for them to hear.
4 These are the two olive trees and the two candlesticks, standing before the Lord of the earth.
Jewish tradition is divided as to who these 2 lamps are. Zach 4:14 is pointed to as the source of this idea and is interpreted to mean, a) Moses and Aaron, or b) Aaron and David, or c) Zerubbabel amd Joshua, or d) the righteous and the pious, or e) the Messiah and the High Priest of the Messianic age, or f) The Priestly Messiah and the Royal Messiah. Thus there are a variety of possibilites as to who these two are.
5 And if any man desireth to hurt them, fire proceedeth out of their mouth and devoureth their enemies; and if any man shall desire to hurt them, in this manner must he be killed.
These witnesses are powerful. They speak with "fire". (The reader must once more be reminded that these passages are visionary in nature -- these witnesses are symbolic of the Word of God).
6 These have the power to shut the heaven, that it rain not during the days of their prophecy: and they have power over the waters to turn them into blood, and to smite the earth with every plague, as often as they shall desire.
7 And when they shall have finished their testimony, the beast that cometh up out of the abyss shall make war with them, and overcome them, and kill them.
8 And their dead bodies lie in the street of the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also their Lord was crucified.
Egypt is known in 1st century Judaism as the place of bondage. Clearly this is a description that Jerusalem is meant- for according to the early Church Jerusalem was the place where Jesus was rejected. It is only appropriate that Godís word continue to be rejected there (at least according to John).
9 And from among the peoples and tribes and tongues and nations do men look upon their dead bodies three days and a half, and suffer not their dead bodies to be laid in a tomb.
10 And they that dwell on the earth rejoice over them, and make merry; and they shall send gifts one to another; because these two prophets tormented them that dwell on the earth.
People who will not hear the Word of God rejoice when they do not have to.
11 And after the three days and a half the breath of life from God entered into them, and they stood upon their feet; and great fear fell upon them that beheld them.
But His word lives on and will rise up and speak against those who wish to kill it or ignore it, regardless of what they do to it.
12 And they heard a great voice from heaven saying unto them, Come up hither. And they went up into heaven in the cloud; and their enemies beheld them.
13 And in that hour there was a great earthquake, and the tenth part of the city fell; and there were killed in the earthquake seven thousand persons: and the rest were affrighted, and gave glory to the God of heaven.
14. The second Woe is past: behold, the third Woe cometh quickly.
15 And the seventh angel sounded; and there followed great voices in heaven, and they said, The kingdom of the world is become the kingdom of out Lord, and of his Christ: and he shall reign for ever and ever.
Once more the Christians of Asia Minor, who are suffering such great trials, are reminded that God is still on the throne which is above every throne. Domitian is nothing and God is everything.
16 And the four and twenty elders, who sit before God on their thrones, fell upon their faces and worshipped God,
17 saying, We give thee thanks, O Lord God, the Almighty, who art and who wast; because thou hast taken thy great power, and didst reign.
18 And the nations were wroth, and thy wrath came, and the time of the dead to be judged, and the time to give their reward to thy servants the prophets, and to the saints, and to them that fear thy name, the small and the great; and to destroy them that destroy the earth.
19 And there was opened the temple of God that is in heaven; and there was seen in his temple the ark of his covenant; and voices, and thunders, and an earthquake, and great hail.
When the people of God recognize His victory on their behalf, they rejoice and worship. Only those who do not know what God has done can withhold worship from Him.
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