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The scroll John eats is taken from the hand of the powerful messenger who announces the fulfillment of all the prophecies. Just as it did for the Old Testament prophet Ezekiel (2:8–3:4), the scroll represents the message John is required to proclaim; but first he must take it in and it must become a part of him. Initially it tastes sweet, but as it settles deep within him, it becomes bitter. God’s message is always bittersweet. It is sweet joy for those who turn to God, but bitter sadness for those who do not accept it.

11 Then I received a measuring rod. It resembled a staff, and I was commanded to take measurements.

A Voice: Get up, and measure the temple of God, the altar, and those who worship in it. However, do not measure the court outside of the temple. Separate that area out because it has been handed over to the nations. They will trample over the holy city for 42 months. I will authorize my two witnesses to prophesy for 1,260 days dressed in sackcloth, the clothes that mourners wear.

These two witnesses are the two olive trees and two lampstands standing in front of the Lord of the earth. If anyone wishes to harm the witnesses, fire spews out of the witnesses’ mouths and consumes their foe in flames. Anyone who wishes to harm them is destined to die this way. They have the authority to shut up the sky so that no rain may fall during the time of their prophecies. They also have authority to turn the waters into blood and to strike the earth with any plague whenever they desire.

The two witnesses bear a striking resemblance to the faithful prophets of Israel and the faithful martyrs of the churches. Together they stand speaking God’s message as the nations rant and rave and trample the holy city. The lampstands, which signify the churches, are not the light, but they welcome the light and present it to the world. The olive tree, even today, is a symbol of Israel. Olive trees supply the oil for the lamps so that they may burn brightly in the darkness. For a season, the two witnesses enjoy God’s protection, but a time is coming when they will fall victim to the nations and then lie silent.

On the day they finish their testimony, the beast from the abyss will declare war on them and win victory by killing them. Their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city (which, spiritually speaking, is called Sodom and Egypt) where their Lord was crucified. For three and a half days, representatives of the peoples and ethnicities, languages and nations stare down at their lifeless bodies and refuse them a proper burial. 10 Because these two prophets tormented the earth dwellers by speaking God’s message, the people will rejoice over their dead bodies and celebrate their deaths by exchanging gifts with one another.

11 At the end of the three and a half days, the spirit of life that comes from God entered their corpses, raising them, and they stood again on their feet. Those who looked on were terrified by what they saw. 12 Then they heard a great voice from heaven.

A Voice: Come up here!

Their enemies watched the spectacle as the witnesses ascended into heaven in a cloud.

13 In that same hour, a great earthquake shook the earth causing one-tenth of the city to crumble into dust, and 7,000 people were killed in the earthquake. Then the rest who were left alive, quaking in fear, turned and glorified the God of heaven.

14 The second disaster has passed; watch as the third disaster comes quickly.

15 The seventh messenger sounded his trumpet, and great voices in heaven confessed:

Voices from Heaven: The kingdom of the world has given way to the kingdom of our Lord
        and of His Anointed One.
    He will reign throughout the ages.

When the seventh messenger blows his trumpet, the kingdom of this world comes to an end. The rule and reign of God and His Anointed has arrived in full to eclipse the rogue kings who rebelled against the Creator and mocked His good name. God’s kingdom entered our world in the incarnation, death, and resurrection of Jesus. It slipped in almost unnoticed beneath the noses of the powers that be. It grows silently as a seed in the earth until it fills the cosmos.

Today Christians live between the times: we live as aliens and strangers rescued from this present darkness, but we also live as citizens who long for the Kingdom that is to come. Until then we are to seek His kingdom and help carve out the territories for Him.

16 Then the twenty-four elders, who sit before God on their thrones, fell prostrate and worshiped God.

17 24 Elders: We give You thanks, Lord God, the All Powerful,
        who is and who was.
    For You have wielded Your great power
        and have begun Your reign.
18     The nations have raged against You,
        but Your wrath has finally come.
        It is now time to judge all of the dead,
    To give a just reward to Your servants, the prophets,
        and to the saints and all who honor Your name,
        both the small and the great,
    And to destroy those who cause destruction to the earth.

19 Then God’s temple in heaven was opened up, and His covenant chest could be seen within His temple. Lightning flashed all around. Noises and thunder rumbled. The earth trembled. Heavy hailstones fell from the sky.