Revelation of John 11Forty and two months; equal to three years and a half—a period not unfrequently occurring in the Scriptures, and supposed by some commentators to be used here for an indefinite period. The mention of the same period in days occurs in v. 3, and appears to indicate that a specific time is intended.
Two. This number seems intended simply to represent plurality. The witnesses are the advocates and defenders of Christianity.—Prophesy; promulgate the gospel.—Clothed in sackcloth; exposed to sorrow and suffering.
The meaning is, that those who injure them shall suffer a terrible retribution. The image of fire from their mouth—that is, fire coming at their call—may have been suggested by the case of Elijah, (2 Kings 1:10-14,) a supposition which is confirmed by the language of the next verse, which also corresponds with events in the history of Elijah. (1 Kings 17: 18:)
These expressions seem intended to denote the power and prevailing efficacy of the Christian's prayer.
The second woe; that is, the second of the three woes referred to, 9:12, and represented by the sounding of the three last trumpets. The account of the first is contained 9:1-11, and of the second from 9:13 to 11:13. Some commentators refer the announcements made under the three woe trumpets, as they are called, viz., the last three of the seven, to events connected with the destruction of Jerusalem; while, on the other hand, most Protestant writers consider them as referring to the history of the Roman church. On this latter supposition, the witnesses represent the succession of the true servants of God, supposed to have continued in an unbroken line through the ages of superstition, preserving the image of true piety in the world; and that the slaying of the witnesses denotes some temporary triumph of the Roman power over the interests of true Christianity, which is yet to come. The time when it is to be expected, they infer from v. 2, 3, will be in twelve hundred and sixty years from the time when the Roman church fairly entered upon its career; which epoch they place variously between A. D. 600 and 750. This would bring the events denoted by the slaying of the witnesses, between A. D. 1860 and 2010.
On an examination of the predictions contained in the two or three succeeding chapters, which are those connected with the sounding of the seventh trumpet, it will be evident that they prefigure contests between the cause of Christ and the hostile influences to which it is exposed; the woman and the child representing the church, and the dragon her enemies. Some commentators consider these contests as the struggles of the early church against Jewish and pagan hostility; while others consider the dragon as the emblem of Popery, and of course they extend the period of this conflict down to much later times.
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