Is this future? Is this past? Is this all symbolic? If it’s not symbolic, are the seals, trumpets, and bowls sequential, or cyclical? When do the various events and interludes happen? What does the temple signify? Who are the two witnesses? The understanding of much of Revelation depends on your interpretation of various symbols, terms, and events. It is also affected by your understanding of its basic purpose. Was it primarily written to help a struggling and persecuted church? Or was it primarily written to show what will happen in the end times?
Many who follow a particular understanding see the first half of chapter 11 as literal and future. A literal temple. Two literal witnesses. Literal deaths. A literal resurrection. A literal rapture and earthquake. And then a glimpse of the future reign of Christ! But there is a way to apply the passage for us today:
- The temple in much of the New Testament represents the church (1 Cor 3:16-17, Eph 2:20-22, 1 Pet 2:4-10).
- The two witnesses harken back to Zechariah 4. They share the Word of God with power, and represent the mission of the church.
- But the powers of the world (symbolized by an ungodly Jerusalem) reject the testimony of the witnesses and seek to destroy them. This speaks to the ongoing hatred of Christians and the persecution we face.
- Any persecution that the world can do is limited by God (symbolized by 42 months), and any victory that they have is temporary (symbolized by the resurrection).
- God’s work in the world can cause people to recognize His glory (11:13). That doesn’t necessarily mean that they repent, just that they are scared (James 2:19).
- Jesus is coming back and will set up His kingdom. It will be a time of wrath and judgment for some (Jeremiah 51:25), but a time of reward and worship for the saints!