Victory In Witness

by Roger McCay
8 January 2023
Sermon Passage: Revelation 11:7-14
Link to Audio Version

In his book, Encourage Me!, Chuck Swindoll wrote:

“Encouragement is awesome. Think about it. It has the capacity to lift a man’s or a woman’s shoulders. To breathe fresh air into the fading embers of a smoldering dream. To actually change the course of another human being’s day, week, or life.” [1]

We all get this. We’ve felt that extra burst of energy or motivation when we’ve been encouraged. It’s something essential for us, and it helps us keep going when the going gets tough.

When we study Revelation, we study a book meant to encourage the church, initially Christians throughout the Roman Empire, who were undergoing persecution. Remembering this helps us as we study this difficult passage, in Rev. 11, as it was written to help the Lord’s people stay faithful, persevering and overcoming until the end in the war the enemies of Christ wage against them.

And when it comes to being faithful to the Lord, as his witness before the world, let’s be honest, that endeavor brings with it a bit of trepidation, a bit of fear. This is because you and I know that when we actively engage in sharing Christ, as his witnesses, we engage in warfare at the spiritual level. As the Apostle Paul so memorably states,

“Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Eph. 6:12).

But what an encouragement that the victory has already been won by Christ. And that in Christ we find victory in our faithfulness to him, no matter what may come. We even find victory in death. The world and its hatred for our Lord and how they rail against him, even if we take the brunt of that hatred in this life, well, it really comes to nothing except to bring glory to our Lord and our eternal joy and satisfaction as the Lord glorifies us. As the Psalmist says, in response to those who would arrogantly oppose the Lord, “He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision” (Ps. 2:4). There is no power in heaven and earth that can mount a successful war against our Lord. And there is no power in heaven and earth that can “separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:39).

So, here’s a quick rehash of Rev. 11 up to where we are today. In vv. 1-2, the passage spoke to the security of the Lord’s people, saved by Christ Jesus, who are measured, numbered in full, and built up into his temple by the power of the gospel and his Spirit, and who are priests of the Lord. These things are true for the Lord’s people in all times and places. For the churches in Asia, who received this letter shortly after John wrote it, circa. AD 65, and for all the churches going through tribulation throughout the Roman Empire, this reminder of the Lord’s faithful presence was surely an encouragement, as they soldiered on for Jesus. Also, v. 1 gave particular encouragement to the church in Jerusalem. Whether they escaped Jerusalem (heeding the Lord’s warning) or they stayed through the great tribulation, they were secure in the Lord. The Lord would never, ever abandon them. On the other hand, v. 2, particularly, spoke to how the Jews who were not counted among their number (having rejected God’s covenant in their rejection of Christ), the apostate Jews would face God’s wrath, as the Roman forces trampled through the Land of Israel and Jerusalem, culminating in the destruction of the city and the Temple, in AD 70, the latter which the Lord had abandoned and left desolate (Matt. 23:38; Matt. 24:2; and Luke 21:23-24).

Then in Rev. 11:3-6, we were introduced to the concept of the two witnesses. In general, the two witnesses serve as a metaphor for Christ and the church. The passage further zeroes in on Christ and the church in the representative form of those of the Jerusalem church who remained during the 42 months (v. 2) … the 1260 days (v. 3) of the Roman conquest of Israel. These were those Christians who remained as Christ’s witnesses, in Jerusalem, through the great tribulation, until their martyrdom. And, as was mentioned, my thought is that they were either two or more than two literal people, the number “two” being symbolic for the witnesses having met the legal requirements for a valid testimony, according to the Jews’ own Law (Deut. 17:6; John 17:8). Indeed, these witnesses were some of the martyrs who would be killed mentioned in Rev. 6:11, and those who, after their deaths, rejoiced in the presence of the Lord in heaven, in Rev. 7:9-17. They faithfully stayed to share the gospel with their neighbors, knowing the coming doom upon the city. The Lord was with them, and they were secure in him. They testified to the truth of his Word and the gospel. Like the prophets of old, they prophesied as to God’s wrath upon the unfaithful, the coming destruction of the city and Temple, and they called the apostate Jews to repent and believe the gospel. They were empowered by the Spirit of God to accomplish their mission effectually, according to his will, and so they were bold and faithful in their witness until the end.

Now, as we’ve seen, Rev. 11 has spoken of truths applicable to Christ and his church (the universal church; the body of Christ; all the Lord’s people united with Christ; the priests of the Lord with the high-priest who is the Lord) and likewise to the representative few (this passage particularly singling out the faithful church that remained in Jerusalem). What was true for one was true for the other. The Lord is with his people. The Lord’s people are eternally secure, in him. And while circumstances differ across time and space, the principal of witness and empowerment by the Spirit, which is true for the whole church, was also true for the representative witnesses in Jerusalem. Again, the truth of these things for one was true for the other and vice versa, as the representative few is part of the whole. This dynamic was likewise the case when it came to both the enemy’s opposition and the Lord’s vindication, which we’re going to consider today.

First off, there is the enemy’s opposition we see in vv. 7-10:

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, 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. 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.

You may recall, we’ve seen this beast from the abyss (the bottomless pit) before. He was mentioned after the blowing of the fifth trumpet (Rev. 9:1-11), called Abaddon in Hebrew and Apollyon in Greek (meaning “The Destroyer”), whom we identified as Satan when we studied those passages. The Lord ensured the two witnesses’ testimony would be given in full, but Satan would war against them, through his minions, and see them martyred.

Now, in the following passages, the prophetic lens of near and far overlap a bit, with a great deal of symbolism, which is why it can be so confusing. But keep in mind that the two witnesses are a metaphor for Christ and the church, and the two witnesses are also a historical representative of believers.

So, with the witnesses’ death, it seems that Satan and his minions are victorious over them. Sound familiar? On the cross, it seemed like the Satan was victorious over Christ, but on the cross, Christ secured the ultimate victory (what Augustine called “the devil’s mousetrap”).[2]

But consider the imagery of the two witnesses’ dead bodies lying in the street for three and a half days while being refused the dignity of the tomb. Clearly this is not a direct reference to Christ’s specific experience at the end of his earthly ministry, although the three and a half days they lay dead may hearken to the time Christ lay dead (three days). But Christ was buried; they were not. And there are lots of ideas as to what this all symbolizes. The point made, though, is that the two witnesses were dead for a time (perhaps 3 ½ being a symbol of a broken seven representing a time of “calamity and shame”[3] – and notice 42 months and 1260 days (both being 3 ½ years) also represent a broken seven – although 3 ½ days is not the same thing as 1260 days, like 1260 days is also 42 months) … as it was, they were dead for a period of time in which it seemed their witness, even the truth of their testimony was defeated, dead in the street (perhaps like the “truth fallen in the street” of Isa. 59:14). Then, on top of that, their lack of burial was a deliberate strike against their dignity, a humiliation in death, even a curse (one that is touched upon in numerous places in the Scriptures—e.g. Eccl. 6:3; 2 Kgs 9:10; Jer. 36:30, etc.).

Now it might have been that this prophecy describes what would and did literally happen to the bodies of the two witnesses in Jerusalem. There’s no record of it in history, so we can only speculate. As it is, the symbolic nature of the whole passage makes its literal fulfillment not a requirement for the point made. The symbolism of how the two witnesses were treated in death, speaks to the perception of the Jewish unbelievers that the Jerusalem church was defeated. As for the reference to “some from the peoples and tribes and languages and nations,” Josephus explained that the city was full of people from all over who had come during the time of the feasts, which were going on when the Romans had begun their siege. [4] Indeed we’ve seen such representation before, in Acts 2:5-6, with the Jews “from every nation under heaven” who spoke a whole variety of languages, who were in the city during the time of the feasts. But now, rather than hearing the gospel and believing, like when Peter preached, these folks heard the gospel and didn’t believe.

From the perspective of the apostate Jews in Jerusalem, in the death of the two witnesses, the Christian church was defeated. The Jerusalem church was the mother church of Christianity, and with it gone from Jerusalem, it would have seemed a great victory for Christ’s enemies. And not only were they gone, but they were derided with the utmost contempt. This was a “kill them all and let their bodies rot” kind of hate. So, “those who dwelt in the Land,” (v. 10) a term for the apostate Jews which we’ve discussed before (and how “land” can be the better translation in context, like here) … the Jews rejoiced in their victory. They hated the church, and the language for their celebration was symbolic of their satisfaction and joy, thinking they themselves had been vindicated. For, as v. 10 says, the testimony of the two witnesses was such that it was “a torment” to them. And isn’t that like what Paul had written?

15 For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, 16 to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life” (2 Cor. 2:15-16).

The Jews heard the message of the gospel. They knew the testimony of the witnesses They knew the prophecy of the Lord’s wrath coming down upon them, and they hated it—“a fragrance from death to death.”

So, how is it that Jerusalem, where the Lord was crucified, was symbolically called Sodom and Egypt, in v. 8? Well, we’ve touched on this a bit, up to this point, but as Milton S. Terry explains, “the words ‘Sodom and Egypt’ were synonymous with fragrant wickedness and oppressive persecution.”[5] The OT prophets, for example, used the symbology of Sodom to reference unfaithful Jerusalem. For example, in Isa. 1:10, the prophet called out to the rulers of Judah, “Hear the word of the Lord, you rulers of Sodom; Give ear to the law of our God, you people of Gomorrah.” Then, in Jer. 23:14, the people and false prophets of Jerusalem are said to be unto God as Sodom and Gomorrah. Then, as Terry describes, “Egypt figures frequently in the Old Testament of the house of bondage and the seat of abominable idolatry.” He lists passages from Exodus, Deuteronomy, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel to make his point.[6] He then goes on, saying, “No more suitable names … could have been employed, spiritually, to designate that great city upon which Jesus charged the crimes specified in Matthew 23:34-47 and Luke 13:34.”

The latter which says, O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it!” Likewise the crimes that Stephen listed, in Acts 7:52, “Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have now betrayed and murdered.” So, yeah, Jerusalem (its apostate leaders and the people, who had cried “his blood be on us and our children,” in Matt. 27:25) … Jerusalem was symbolically called Sodom and Egypt, and it was upon them that the Lord put all the shed blood of the Lord’s prophets, which would include the two witnesses (in both the larger and narrower sense).

But as for the impact of the death of the two witnesses, perhaps it was felt far and away more than in just Jerusalem, like some have suggested, and so it speaks also to larger, empire-wide repercussions. Like Kenneth Gentry suggests:

“In the destruction of Jerusalem, the home of the mother church of Christianity, the place where the death of the two witnesses occur, it might appear that Christianity will be destroyed itself. Christianity might be appearing to die as they themselves die.” [7]

But the appearance of victory for the Lord’s enemies was a false perception of victory. Indeed, like the devil’s mousetrap, the Lord overcame and turned their victory into sourness in their mouths. The Lord trumped the two witnesses death by resurrecting them to life—vindication both for himself and his martyred saints.

Take a look at vv. 11-14.

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.

In Rev. 7, a picture is given of the multitudes in heaven before the Lord, and they are identified “as the ones coming out of the great tribulation,” in v. 14. Rev. 11, vv. 11-12 corresponds to that reality. And how similar the image is here to when Stephen was encouraged, vindicated, and welcomed by the Lord into heaven, in Acts 7.

In Rev. 11:11-12, the symbol given for the two witnesses triumph is their being resurrected and going “up into heaven in a cloud,” which is “after the manner of the ascension of their Lord.”[8] The time they were dead, too, seems to correspond, perhaps, with the period of time indicated with the command to wait a “little longer” to the martyrs, in Rev. 6:11. This would make sense because of the nature of their “resurrection.” The point was that the two witnesses didn’t just die and rot, forgotten, with their testimony coming to nothing. Rather, it seems that this resurrection, in v. 11, is a symbolical reference to the reality in Rev. 20:4. Speaking of the martyrs, Rev. 20:4 says, “They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.” With the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple (which was God’s wrath coming down), Christ and the church were vindicated, and the task of the martyrs (who died in the tribulation and the great tribulation, crying for vengeance under the altar in heaven) … their task to “wait a little longer,” was complete.

Gentry, in his book Navigating the Book of Revelation, speaks to the situation of these first-century martyrs, which may explain what was happening when they stood up before the people who killed them and the fear that struck those who saw them. His point is made in relation to the martyrs coming to life, in Rev. 20:4. And my observation is that these numbers would logically include the company of martyrs under the throne, in Rev. 6:9, those who gathered in the throne room of God in anticipation of the Lord’s wrath and his and their vindication, in Rev. 7, and the two witnesses from Jerusalem in Rev. 11 (none of whom worshipped the beast, as stated in Rev. 20:4). Gentry’s suggestion is this:

They actually receive their vindication by being given the right to sit in judgment over their enemies…. To those caught up in the earthly terror, the martyrs would seem to be tragically destroyed and altogether lost in the struggle…. It would also seem to the world round about that the martyrs have lost the battle and that the living persecutors have won the victory. But John characteristically provides a heavenly insight, showing that these are actually living and enthroned with Christ.[9]

In the destruction of Jerusalem, the vindication of the Lord Jesus and his martyred saints took place, and the fear that those outside of Christ felt (when they recognized this vindication), was quite real and appropriate, as judgment came down upon them. As Jesus himself had told the high priest and the scribes and priests responsible for his death, “you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven” (Matt. 26:64).

And from the larger perspective of the church across the empire and into our present, we know well that the church would not perish with Jerusalem. As Gentry suggests:

“Though Christianity was deemed to be a sect of Judaism, and though the mother church was in Jerusalem, and though the two witnesses are overwhelmed and killed, nevertheless Christianity will continue.”[10]

So, vv. 13-14:

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.

As the martyrs went to heaven to rest until the time for their final vindication was at hand, calamity fell upon the city of Jerusalem. We’ve spoken of the earthquakes besetting the land (symbolically and literally) before. The apocalyptic nature of this event here is similar, corresponding to the blowing of the sixth trumpet (Rev. 6:12). Destruction continued to rain down on the city, and people continued to die during the siege (with the “a tenth” being symbolic like a “fourth” (Rev. 6:8) and a “third” (Rev. 8:7,8). Then the number 7000 seems to be symbolic for seven (completeness) times 1000 (a number which “is frequently used in Scripture as an indefinite, yet significantly large number”[11]). And notice how this 7000 was kind of an opposite to the 7000 in 1 Kings 19:18, whom the Lord assured Elijah he would “leave” or “spare” (who had not bowed down to Baal, nor kissed him)—i.e. the 7000 faithful remnant he preserved. And while we could spend some time examining the various symbolic angles, the point is that lots and lots of people died, and it was so many that terror befell the city. [12] The signs of the Lord’s wrath and vindication were raining down upon them, and they were terrified, corresponding to the terror described, in Rev. 6:15-17.

But like we so often see in the OT prophets, in the midst of proclamations of judgments and calamity, the Lord often gives a word of hope. Some of those who lived, while terrified, also “gave glory to the God of heaven.” Perhaps this is simply saying that the testimony of the two witnesses, as their prophetic words were shown to be true … perhaps even in death, by the Spirit, in the midst of the destruction, there were some who came to believe, thus by God’s grace trusted in Christ Jesus and were saved.

Thus, the interlude contained in chs. 10 and 11 is complete, which followed the second woe (described after the blowing of the sixth trumpet in ch. 9). The seventh trumpet is about to be sounded (11:15), and the description of the third woe is on its way.

Now with all that said, what does it mean for us? Boiling it down, what this encouraging word from Rev. 11 means for us is that faithful Christians will be victorious, as we faithfully follow the Lord and fulfill his calling upon us to be his witnesses. And if you are a believer, this means you. Our labors are not in vain. Even if we die, the mission will be accomplished by the Spirit of God. The Lord is with us. We are eternally secure, in him. The same principal of witness and empowerment by the Spirit that applied to the two witnesses, applies to us. Likewise, we face the enemy’s opposition. But in Christ, we are vindicated as to the truth of our testimony and with resurrection unto eternal life—victory in Jesus.

So, my friends. Let us be encouraged! We are assured absolute victory in our mission for the Lord. Let this bolster your dedication to faithfulness, as his witness, and in your perseverance, overcoming until the end! As faithful Christians, we have victory in Jesus!

Since the Lord is victorious even over death, we should be bold in our witness.


[1] Charles R. Swindoll, Encourage Me!, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1993), 97.

[2] Jay Rogers, “Revelation 11 in Preterist Perspective,” The Forerunner, pub. 12 September 2021,, quoting Augustine, Sermon 263, “On the Ascension.”

[3] Milton S. Terry, The Apocalypse of John, ed. Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr. and Jay Rogers (Chesnee, SC: Victorious Hope Publishing, 2021; originally pub. 1898), 141.

[4] Flavius Josephus, trans. William Whiston, The Works of Josephus: Complete and Unabridged (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1987), 749. J.W. 6.9.3. Josephus clarifies of the numbers: “the greater part of whom were indeed of the same nation [with the citizens of Jerusalem], but not belonging to the city itself; for they were come up from all the country to the feast of unleavened bread.” Thus “some from the peoples and tribes and languages and nations” (v. 9) fits in contrast to “those who dwell on the land” (v. 10).

[5] Terry, 139.

[6] Ibid.: “(Exo. 1:13-14; 13:3; 20:2; Deut. 15:15; Jer. 43:12-13; 46:25; Eze. 20:7; 23:3, 8).”

[7] Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr., Survey of the Book of Revelation, Video Series (Chesnee SC: Victorious Hope Publishing, 2012), DVD 3, lesson 13.

[8] Terry, 141.

[9] Kenneth L. Gentry Jr., Navigating the Book of Revelation: Special Studies on Important Issues, Second edition. (Fountain Inn, SC: GoodBirth Ministries, 2010), 172–173.

[10] Gentry, Survey of the Book of Revelation, Video Series, Lesson 13.

[11] Kenneth L. Gentry Jr., The Beast of Revelation, Second Edition. (Fountain Inn, SC: Victorious Hope Publishing, 2002), 181.

[12] Concerning how the 7000 who died also seems to be a reversal of the remnant of 7000 believers in Elijah’s time (1 Kgs. 19:18), cf. David Chilton, The Days of Vengeance (Fort Worth, TX: Dominion Press, 1987), 285.