“Then I was given a measuring rod like a staff, and I was told, “Rise and measure the temple of God and the altar and those who worship there, 2 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. 3 And I will grant authority to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth.” Revelation 11:1-3
Revelation uses a lot of imagery to teach the church. Revelation 11 is no different and the focus is that the church will suffer greatly in this world. God will protect His church and yet Christians will suffer persecution and even death. But in the end, they have victory because Christ is victorious.
There’s a lot going on in this chapter, but it helps if you understand that both the temple and the two witnesses are a picture of the church.
This temple is the church where God dwells with His people in Word and Sacrament. This is how the church is sustained even in the face of persecution, suffering, and even death. The church will suffer and suffer greatly but it will not ultimately be defeated.
This is the same thing we see with the two witnesses. The two witnesses are representative of the church’s preaching and teaching ministry, that is its prophetic witness to the world. The church calls the world to repentance and proclaims Christ crucified for them.
The two witnesses are even killed in this section. At times the witness of the church will be silenced in an area for a time (and the world will even celebrate this!), but then the church is raised up in that place again just as we see the two witnesses raised up.
The end of the chapter shows the end of all things and the great joy that God’s children will have on that day. The ark of the covenant makes an appearance at the close of the chapter because it is a symbol of God’s presence and shows that His presence and fellowship is possible because of the atonement of Christ.
Martin Luther has some helpful insights into what it means for the church to suffer under the cross. He calls this suffering the seventh mark of the church: Seventh, the holy Christian people are externally recognized by the holy possession of the sacred cross. They must endure every misfortune and persecution, all kinds of trials and evil from the devil, the world, and the flesh (as the Lord’s Prayer indicates) by inward sadness, timidity, fear, outward poverty, contempt, illness, and weakness, in order to become like their head, Christ. And the only reason they must suffer is that they steadfastly adhere to Christ and God’s word, enduring this for the sake of Christ, Matthew 5 [:11], “Blessed are you when men persecute you on my account.” Wherever you see or hear this, you may know that the holy Christian church is there, as Christ says in Matthew 5 [:11–12], “Blessed are you when men revile you and utter all kinds of evil against you on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven.”…This too is a holy possession whereby the Holy Spirit not only sanctifies his people, but also blesses them.
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