Revelation 11:1–10 (NKJV)
After the command for John to eat the little book, we see the vision of the end times continue, with a new story line: John is ordered to measure the temple of God, and two witnesses show up to prophesy for three and one-half years.
1 Then I was given a reed like a measuring rod. And the angel stood, saying, “Rise and measure the temple of God, the altar, and those who worship there. 2 But leave out the court which is outside the temple, and do not measure it, for it has been given to the Gentiles. And they will tread the holy city underfoot for forty-two months. 3 And I will give power to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy one thousand two hundred and sixty days, clothed in sackcloth.”Revelation 11:1-6
4 These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands standing before the God of the earth. 5 And if anyone wants to harm them, fire proceeds from their mouth and devours their enemies. And if anyone wants to harm them, he must be killed in this manner. 6 These have power to shut heaven, so that no rain falls in the days of their prophecy; and they have power over waters to turn them to blood, and to strike the earth with all plagues, as often as they desire.
John is given a reed like a measuring rod. The angel then orders him to measure the temple, the altar, and those who worship there. He is told not to measure the court outside the temple. though, for it will be overrun with Gentiles. They will trample the temple mount and holy city underfoot for forty-two months (three and one-half years). However, the temple, which could represent the body of Christ or the people of God, will be preserved. The measuring rod is often a symbol of measuring for the purpose of preserving.
Two witnesses will be empowered by God to prophesy for three and one-half years as well, dressed in the sackcloth of mourning. The speaker describes the two witnesses as olive trees and lampstands, standing before the God of the earth. They had a built-in defense weapon. If anyone chose to harm them, fire would proceed from their mouths and devour their enemies. The witnesses have the power to shut up heaven and cause the rain not to fall. They can turn the waters to blood, and also strike the earth with all types of plagues, and they can do this as often as they please. These are divine messengers and witnesses of God and His truth. They come from God, and are protected by His divine power. These witnesses are not named, and are suspected to be either divine emissaries, or else are representative of the people of God, witnessing His truth even at the cost of their lives. There is some speculation among scholars that these witnesses could be Enoch and Elijah, both taken up to heaven without dying, or else Moses and Elijah, two fo the greatest prophets that lived, and that appeared at Jesus transfiguration. These two pieces (measuring rod, and two witnesses) of the story are not necessarily in chronological order, as the temple has already been destroyed at this point of John’s life, but could have been built back in the early part of the tribulation period.
7 When they finish their testimony, the beast that ascends out of the bottomless pit will make war against them, overcome them, and kill them. 8 And their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified. 9 Then those from the peoples, tribes, tongues, and nations will see their dead bodies three-and-a-half days, and not allow their dead bodies to be put into graves. 10 And those who dwell on the earth will rejoice over them, make merry, and send gifts to one another, because these two prophets tormented those who dwell on the earth.Revelation 11:7-10
The description of the Holy City as Sodom and Egypt shows the degradation of the city to a place of immorality and oppression. When the witnesses finish their testimony, the beast, not mentioned to this point, ascends out of the bottomless pit, from which the locusts of the fifth trumpet came. The beast is seen here in a somewhat premature appearance, as he will be much more prominent at a later time in Revelation. He contends with the witnesses, and then kills them, leaving their bodies in the street. This is a sign of utter disrespect, as the body has great dignity in the Jewish faith. It was only criminals and enemies of the nation that would be left out in public after death. It is also telling that the bodies were left out three and one-half days. In Jewish tradition, the soul presumably hovers near the body for three days after death, or until the burial of the body. This is also reminiscent of the period Jesus lay in the tomb until His resurrection. This would be proof that the souls of these witnesses had left the bodies for a half-day before their resurrection, equalling a miracle. While they are dead, the evil people of the city rejoice over their death, an end to the holy witness. They celebrate, give gifts to one another, and rejoice that the holy witness has been overcome. While this is reminiscent of some actions taken by ungodly people today, rejoicing over the end of Christian influence, it is to be short-lived. God will not be stopped, and His witness will not be silenced.
Artwork from https://jmichaelrios.files.wordpress.com/2014/02/two_witnesses_-_book_of_revelation.jpg AND https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/9/92/BambergApocalypseFolio027v2ProphetsAndBeastFromAbyss.JPG