Revelation 11:2-4

Sermon preached on April 28, 2013 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2013. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at

Unless otherwise noted, quotations are from The Holy Bible: New International Version (NIV). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.

There’s a quote from Winston Churchill that I like. It gives advice to people who are going through difficult times. He said,

“If you’re going through hell, keep going!”

Don’t stop there! Keep going. I love that quote because it’s one that gives encouragement and hope. Churchill was a master at giving hope. In May of 1940 the British looked to be in a hopeless situation. Nazi Germany was in control of all of Western Europe. They had crushed Poland, Denmark, the Netherlands, Belgium and France. It didn’t look like anyone could stand against them. Britain stood alone and it seemed only a matter of time before Nazi Germany invaded and crushed them. Such was the situation soon after Churchill became Prime Minister of Britain.

In one of his first speeches to as Prime Minister Churchill galvanized the British people and set a tone of defiance to Nazi Germany. He said,

“we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.”

Churchill instilled confidence in the people and stirred them to action. Churchill’s strategy of defiance toward Hitler worked. The British Air Force was able to defeat the Germans in the Battle of Britain and prevent the planned Nazi invasion. Even more than that, his steadfastness was an example to other countries and they joined him in the struggle and they went on to defeat Nazi Germany.

Churchill was a great leader. He knew how to encourage people to endure adversity and trouble. He knew how to give them confidence. He assured them of victory. He told the British people what they needed to do.

We have a great leader in our Savior Jesus. He is on a much higher level than Churchill. Churchill actually wasn't sure that Britain would win. Britain wasn't prepared for war. They hardly had any equipment and most of what they did have had to be left on the beaches at Dunkirk when France fell and the British Expeditionary Force had to abandon their equipment there and flee to England in small boats. Immediately after his great speech saying that they would fight on the beaches and the landing grounds, he whispered to a colleague,

"And we'll fight them with the butt ends of broken beer bottles because that's … all we've got!"

But we know that Jesus, by His work on the cross, His death and resurrection, has already won the victory. We know that Jesus will save all His people. Last week we saw that we cannot be lost. The book of Revelation and many other parts of the Bible assure us of this. This is a truth that we need to keep in mind as we live is this dark world. We should have confidence of ultimate victory. That can be a great help to us when we are going through troubles or persecution.

But Jesus doesn't merely tell us that we will have the ultimate victory. In our text He shows us what we are to do, what our job here on earth is.

The great lesson our text teaches us is that

we must be faithful witnesses in spite of opposition.

The great mission of the church is to be a witness for Jesus. The two witnesses in our text show us our duty. They show us that we must do it in spite of opposition and persecution.

God uses various symbols to teach us this. Specifically he uses the outer court, the holy city, the two witness and the 42 months. This morning we're going to look at them to see what they teach us.

First, let's look at the outer court.

What does the outer court represent?

Some Christians take that verse literally and think that it represents a future temple, one that will be rebuilt just before Jesus comes again. For the 42 months just before Jesus comes they think the outer court is going to be overrun.

But a literal future temple doesn't fit in with the theology of the New Testament. A future temple with an altar would be like the Old Testament sacrificial system. But Hebrews 10 affirms that Christ's sacrifice fulfilled the Old Testament sacrificial system and abolished that system forever. There is no more sacrifice for sin because Jesus has offered Himself once and for all.

Others believe that the outer court is symbolic and refers to the
unbelieving Jews or to apostates who claim to be Christians—people like the followers of Balaam (2:14) or Jezebel (2:20). They are going to be trampled upon.

But there are reasons to believe that verse 2, the outer court refers to the church from a different perspective than verse 1. According to this view, the outer court refers to faithful Christians who suffer because of their obedience to Jesus. They are the same ones who were counted in verse 1.

There are a number of things that point to that.

First, the fact that the outer court is associated with the 'holy city' indicates that it is referring to faithful Christians. The 'holy city' is trampled upon for 42 months. In every other place in Revelation where the 'holy city' is mentioned it always refers to the people of God.

Secondly, the reference to the 42 months or 1260 days supports the idea that when the outer court in trampled it refers to Christians being persecuted. In chapter 12 the 1260 days are also mentioned. John saw a vision of a dragon, standing in front of the woman who was about to give birth, so that he might devour it the moment it was born. The woman gave birth to a son, who will rule the nations with an iron scepter. The child was snatched up to God and His throne. The woman fled into the desert to a place prepared for her by God, so that she might be taken care of for 1260 days. It's the same length of time.

A little farther on in Revelation 12 (verse 14) we are told that,

"The woman was given
the two wings of a great eagle,
so that she might fly to the place
prepared for her in the desert,
where she would
be taken care of for a time,
times and half a time,
out of the serpent's reach."

Many commentators think that a time, times and a half a time refer to 3 ½ years, which is 42 months, approximately 1260 days.

These are probably the same period of time. The 42 months doesn't start at some point in the future but started when Jesus rose from the dead.

Forty-two months is also mentioned in Revelation 13. At the end of chapter 12 we read that the dragon was hurled from heaven. This was after the war in heaven and Satan was hurled down. He was filled with fury and went off to pursue the woman who had given birth to the male child. But the woman was given wings to fly to a place prepared for her in the desert, where she would be for,

"a time, times, and half a time…"

Many commentators see that as referring to 3 ½ years, or 42 months. The dragon then stood on the shore of the sea ad the beast out of the sea came up. We read, (verses 5-7)

"The beast was given a mouth
to utter proud words and blasphemies
and to exercise his authority for forty-two months.
He opened his mouth to blaspheme God,
and to slander his name
and his dwelling place and
those who live in heaven.
He was given power to make war
against the saints and to conquer them.
And he was given authority
over every tribe, people, language and nation."

It's the same period of time—42 months.

So these references to the same length of time in chapters 12 and 13, which refer to the persecution of the church, make it highly likely that the outer court being given to the nations and the holy city being trampled for 42 months means the same thing—that it refers to the church being persecuted—and as chapter 12 shows—persecuted since the victory of Jesus Christ.

So I believe that verse 2, like verse 1, has to do with the church, but from a different perspective. Robert H. Mounce says, (Revelation NICNT; p. 214-215)

"The distinction between the sanctuary and the outer court is a way of pointing out the limitations placed upon pagan hostility. It may physically decimate the witnessing church (in 11:7 the two witnesses are killed), but it cannot touch its real source of life (the witnesses are raised and ascend to heaven; 11:11–12)."

The two witnesses are killed by the beast that comes from the Abyss. They are persecuted. But while they live they are to be witnesses. This is our second point.

The second question has to do with the 42 months or 1260 days refer?

What do the 42 months and 1260 days refer to?

The Old Testament background here is interesting. The number 42. It points us to the ministries of Moses and Elijah. The ministry of the two witnesses, the church, are to be modeled on their ministries and show us what the testimony of the church is to be like.

Israel's wandering in the wilderness was approximately 42 years. We know that they wandered there for 40 years and punishment and they were probably two years before they came to that point of sending the spies out. At any rate Numbers 33:5-49 tells us that they had 42 encampments during that time. Moses led them from Egypt to the promised land.

Elijah's ministry of judgment was 42 months. He prayed that it not rain and for 3 ½ years, or 42 months, it never rained. Verse 6 tells us that the two witnesses have power to shut up the sky so that it will not rain during the time that they prophesy. That brings us back to Elijah and his shutting up the sky.

The 3 ½ years could be symbolic in that the church's witness is presented as the same time as Jesus' earthly public ministry, which was 3 ½ years.

The book of Daniel also gives us insight to the 42 months. We see references to this period of time in Daniel 7:25, 9:27 and 12:7, 11-12. It represented a eschatological time of tribulation. In Daniel 9 God tells us that there will be a period of 70 'sevens' during which He will accomplish worldwide redemption. From the time of the issuing the decree to rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One, the ruler comes, will there will be 70 sevens which are divided into seven 'seven's and 62 'sevens'. After the 62 sevens the Anointed One will be cut off and will have nothing. (Daniel 9:26) Then another ruler will come and destroy the city and the sanctuary.

I believe the Anointed One is Jesus and Him being cut off refers to His death. The other ruler who comes and destroys the city and the sanctuary is the Roman ruler who destroyed the city of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. Then Daniel 9:27 says,

"He will confirm a covenant
with many for one 'seven.'
In the middle of the 'seven'
he will put an end to sacrifice and offering."

So it seems that the reference the 42 months of our text takes up at that point and it refers to the whole time from Christ's first coming to His second coming.

All of these things point to the fact that the 1260 days are probably the whole time between Christ's resurrection and His second coming.

But even if we disagree on the details, there are applications here that I think we can all agree on. One of the main things we see from our text is that

we must witness in spite of opposition. We must do it for the time to which we are called.

This is one of the great truths that we as Christians and the church as a whole needs to impress upon themselves. The two witnesses show us this.

We are probably not to think of these two witnesses as two individuals as their witness is the same time length as the 'holy city', 'the woman' (Revelation 12) and 'the beast' from the sea blasphemes those in heaven. They are referred to 'lampstands'— the very thing the seven churches were called in Revelation 1:20. They represent the whole community of faith. (Beale)

So what we should understand is that

witnessing is our great duty.

The churches are lampstands. They are to proclaim the gospel. They are to stand against sin and call on people to repent. They are to point people to Jesus and the salvation that they can have through Him.

The church today faces two choices. We can either give in to the world and compromise the gospel or we can be faithful witnesses for Jesus. What our text tells us is that if the church is faithful, it will suffer. The two witnesses are clothed in sackcloth. The beast is going to attack them, overpower them and kill them. There is going to be antagonism between the world and the church.

The 42 months, pointing us to the Israelites in the wilderness, to Elijah's ministry of judgment, to Jesus—has an important lesson for us.

It points us to hardship in ministry. We must always be faithful.

Moses had a most difficult task. He had to lead the people out of Egypt to the promised land. What opposition he faced—not only from the Egyptians but from the Israelites. Perhaps this could have something to do with the outer court being trampled. When Pharaoh made their work harder—the Israelite foremen said to Moses, (Exodus 5:21)

"May the LORD look upon you and judge you!
You have made us a stench to Pharaoh
and his officials and have put
a sword in their hand to kill us."

Moses not only had to face enemies from without, but also from within the community. When the Israelites arrived at the Red Sea and saw the Egyptians coming after them, they said to Moses, (Exodus 14:11–12)

"Was it because there were
no graves in Egypt that
you brought us to the desert to die?
What have you done to us
by bringing us out of Egypt?
Didn't we say to you in Egypt,
'Leave us alone;
let us serve the Egyptians'?
It would have been better for us
to serve the Egyptians
than to die in the desert!"

How many times did the Israelites grumble against Moses? How any times did Moses think that the Israelites were going to stone him? When went a short time without water—they grumbled and complained. When the spies saw that the people of the land were strong—they talked about stoning Moses and choosing another leader to take them back to Egypt. When Korah, Dathan and Abiram rebelled against Moses and the earth opened up and swallowed them—we read, (Numbers 16:41)

"The next day the whole Israelite
community grumbled
against Moses and Aaron.'
You have killed the Lord's people,'
they said."

Moses met so much resistance, from within and without. He had to stay faithful to the Lord. At times he almost stood alone.

It was the same with
Elijah during the 42 months of judgment. He had to flee from King Ahab because Ahab was trying to kill him. He was all alone. God told him to flee to the Kerith Ravine and the ravens fed him. Then the brook dried up and God told him to flee to Zarephath of Sidon. After 3 ½ years God told Elijah to present himself to Ahab. After the confrontation with the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel Elijah had to flee again because Queen Jezebel threatened to cut his head off. He thought he was all alone. He asked the Lord to take his life. He said he had enough. But the Lord told him that there were 7000 besides him who had not bowed the knee to Baal.

This shows us that as Christians we need to be faithful to God and not get discouraged even when it seems we're all alone in the faith. We must not go with the crowd. Your faith is in Jesus, not other people. So even if everyone else deserts Jesus and you seem to be alone—that's okay. Elijah was like that. Stand firm. Be zealous for the glory of your great Savior.

We also saw that number 42 could relate to our Lord's earthly public ministry. What opposition Jesus faced! How few followers He had. In John 6 when He talked about Himself being the Bread of Life—many of His disciples grumbled at His teaching. (John 6:61) When Jesus spoke to them about it, many of them left Him! We read, (verse 66)

"From this time many of his disciples
turned back and no longer followed him."

So the number 42 points us to Moses and his ministry, to Elijah and his ministry, and to our Lord and His public ministry. What we should understand is that

their ministries are typical, representative of the church's ministry.

How do you measure success in Christian circles? How do you measure success of a church? Was Moses a successful leader? In hindsight we would say 'yes', but in his day many of the people of Israel were saying, time and again,

"This guy is a disaster. We need to get rid of him."

Was Elijah a success? How many followed him? So often he was alone in following God, in being a witness for him.

What about Jesus? Was He a success? According to the world today He was not. According to many in His time He was not. They shouted out for Him to be crucified.

How do you measure success for a church? It's by faithfulness to God. These two witnesses were faithful to Jesus. In many ways they weren't a success in the eyes of the world. The world hates them. They ended up being overpowered and killed.

The world thinks of success differently from God.

Scripture consistently links success to obedience—obedience to God and His Word.

That's how we should evaluate things in the church. Are we being faithful to Jesus? If we are, it doesn't matter if aren't highly regarded in the eyes of the world. If we are, it doesn't matter if we aren't wealthy. Being faithful witnesses is what it is all about.

The church at Laodicea was rich, had lots of money and thought that they didn't need a thing. But Jesus characterized it as being 'wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked'. God looks at things differently than we do. We need to make sure we are faithful to Him. Be a good witness for Him. Paul told Timothy, (2 Timothy 4:1–5)

"In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus,
who will judge the living and the dead,
and in view of his appearing and his kingdom,
I give you this charge:
Preach the Word;
be prepared in season and out of season;
correct, rebuke and encourage—
with great patience and careful instruction.
For the time will come when men
will not put up with sound doctrine.
Instead, to suit their own desires,
they will gather around them
a great number of teachers to say
what their itching ears want to hear.
They will turn their ears away
from the truth and turn aside to myths.
But you, keep your head in all situations,
endure hardship,
do the work of an evangelist,
discharge all the duties of your ministry."

What about you as an individual? Are you a good witness for Jesus? Are you maintaining your witness, your faithfulness to Jesus in spite of opposition? Or are you fitting in with this world? You can't be a friend to the world and a friend to Jesus. Cling to Jesus, to Him alone.

The third thing we see from our text is that

we need to be faithful until we get to glory.

We need to be faithful for the 42 months—till the Lord comes and vindicates His church. Moses got tired. Elijah got discouraged. But with Jesus, it was different. Hebrews 12:2 says,

"Let us fix our eyes on Jesus,
the author and perfecter of our faith,
who for the joy set before him
endured the cross,
scorning its shame,
and sat down at the right hand
of the throne of God."

Jesus has done so much for us. He has accomplished the victory. We need to point others to him because He is the only One that can save them. Be persistent in witnessing.

Lastly, for those of you who don't know Jesus. Being a Christian can be costly. But it's suffering is only for a short time, represented by 42 months. Eternity, on the other hand, is everlasting. You want happiness. You want joy. You want peace. You can have it for a short time, or for eternity. Which is the wise decision. Go to Jesus now.