We ended yesterday's reading by taking a break from the horror. We begin today by watching the temple get measured. This is our introduction to the two witnesses as well.
“Rise and measure the temple of God and the altar and those who worship there, but do not measure the court outside the temple; leave that out, for it is given over to the nations, and they will trample the holy city for forty-two months. And I will grant authority to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth.” Rev 11:1-3 (ESV)
The Bible is very specific – 1,260 days, or 3 ½ years, the same 3 ½ years in which the nations will trample the holy city. These witnesses have the power to cause drought and water which turns to blood. At the end of the 3 ½ years, the Beast, Satan, will be able to kill them. Everyone in the world will see their bodies lying in the street for 3 ½ days. They will return to heaven in full view of the world, and God punctuates their resurrection with an earthquake. Seven thousand people will die.
It's time for the seventh trumpet to sound. As it does, the bowl judgments are revealed. Heaven's voices are heard, and the earth groans, thunders, makes hail, and quakes.
Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever.” And the twenty-four elders who sit on their thrones before God fell on their faces and worshiped God, saying, “We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty, who is and who was, for you have taken your great power and begun to reign. The nations raged, but your wrath came, and the time for the dead to be judged, and for rewarding your servants, the prophets and saints, and those who fear your name, both small and great, and for destroying the destroyers of the earth.” Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and the ark of his covenant was seen within his temple. There were flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, an earthquake, and heavy hail. Rev 11:15-19 (ESV)
Enter the woman – the first of seven signs in the last half of Revelation. This woman symbolizes Israel, which was portrayed by the prophets as the wife of God. She is clothed with the sun..and twelve stars. The stars represent Israel's tribes, and the sun represents glory and exalted status. She is giving birth to a male child, Christ, who ultimately ascended to heaven. She will be protected for the last 1,260 days of the Tribulation.
At this point, Satan will no longer have access to God in heaven (Job 1:6, 2:1). Furious because he is not allowed to devour Israel, he attacks earth's remaining believers.
Chapter 13 contains two terrifying beasts. The first beast has seven heads and ten horns. This beast is in charge of the entire world. This beast had a “deadly wound” which was healed, and most commentators say that this refers to a fake death and resurrection sequence (Satan does everything he can to counterfeit God's workings).
And the beast was given a mouth uttering haughty and blasphemous words, and it was allowed to exercise authority for forty-two months. It opened its mouth to utter blasphemies against God, blaspheming his name and his dwelling, that is, those who dwell in heaven. Also it was allowed to make war on the saints and to conquer them. And authority was given it over every tribe and people and language and nation, and all who dwell on earth will worship it, everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain. Rev 13:5-8 (ESV)
We close the chapter with a description of the second beast, the false prophet. This man is the Antichrist's enforcer, and he...
...causes all, both small and great, both rich and poor, both free and slave, to be marked on the right hand or the forehead, so that no one can buy or sell unless he has the mark, that is, the name of the beast or the number of its name. This calls for wisdom: let the one who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man, and his number is 666. Rev 13:16-18 (ESV)
If you are a Christian, these verses give you hope for your future. If you've yet to accept Christ, you are rieading about your end – if Jesus comes soon. We do not know when Jesus will return and set off the events of the Tribulation. Every generation has thought that they were “the ones”, and every generation has been wrong. We look at the signs around us and think that it will happen soon, but only God knows. Don't get caught up in predictions about the beginning of the end. But if you've not accepted Christ, why gamble with your eternity?
Things get much worse before they get better, but have hope! I close with words from Jesus which should bring us comfort as we look around at today's headlines as well as looking at the horrors God has promised for the end of the earth.
Let not your hearts be troubled.
Believe in God; believe also in me.
In my Father’s house are many rooms.
If it were not so,
I will come again and will take you to myself,
that where I am you may be also.
John 14:1-4 (ESV)