Monday, 15 February 2021
And they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, “Come up here.” And they ascended to heaven in a cloud, and their enemies saw them. Revelation 11:12
The two witnesses that were killed were brought back to life in the previous verse. There, it said that the breath of life from God entered them, and they stood on their feet. John now continues with the amazing words concerning them, saying, “And they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them.”
A voice from heaven was last noted (twice) in Chapter 10. It now calls out again, this time directly to the two witnesses. One reason for taking these two witnesses as literal humans is this statement. If they are simply being used as metaphors of something not alive, it would be rather hard to understand why a voice is calling out to them.
It is true that they could be metaphors for categories of people, like Jews and Gentiles within the church, but that would mean that all of the believers on the planet would have been killed and left in the streets of Jerusalem for three- and one-half days. Such analyses are quickly found to be wanting. It is probably best to accept these as two literal people who have served the Lord all along (see comments on verse 11:4) and who are now being called out to after their deaths. With this thought in mind, the words of the voice are recorded, saying, “Come up here.”
In Revelation 4:1, this was recorded –
“After these things I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven. And the first voice which I heard was like a trumpet speaking with me, saying, ‘Come up here, and I will show you things which must take place after this.’”
As was seen, and which follows the carefully detailed timeline of Scripture, that was a picture of the rapture of the church. From chapters 1-3 the church was addressed, but after 4:1 – all the way up to chapter 19 – the church is never mentioned again. The world, however, was deceived into believing that no such thing as the rapture occurred. Paul explained in 2 Thessalonians 2:11, 12 that this deception would happen. The people of the world will be blinded to the truth of the rapture, and they will accept some cunningly crafted story instead.
But when these two witnesses are brought back to life, there will be no doubt about what they have seen. In the same call as the church received, “Come up here,” they will be gathered to the Lord. And it will be in a similar fashion to the rapture as well, just as Paul explains –
“For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. 16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.” 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17
The comparison to the rapture as is being described by John now is purposeful. He continues saying, “And they ascended to heaven in a cloud.” Believers in Christ will be gathered to the Lord in the twinkling of an eye (1 Corinthians 15:50-52). It will be an immediate change from a state of death (Paul calls it “sleep”) for those who have passed, or a change from this earthly life to a new and eternal life for those who are still alive at the Lord’s coming. This will be so sudden and abrupt that it will allow for the great delusion to occur. However, the words of Scripture testify of the event. When the two witnesses are raised to life and taken to heaven, it will be a witness that such things are possible and that those who failed to believe after the rapture were without excuse. With the ascension of these two witnesses, the end will come. The timeline is referred to by Paul –
“But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming. 24 Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power.” 1 Corinthians 15:23, 24
This is the general order of things. Christ was raised. Christ will come for His church. The end will come. Paul was giving an overall summary of the timeline, not every detail. The ascension of the two witnesses comes three- and one-half years after the rapture of the church. The way it occurs here in Revelation 11 does not match Paul’s description in 1 Corinthians or 1 Thessalonians.
The ascension of the two witnesses is the conclusion of the matter though, because after that occurs, the time of the end will be at hand. Again, Paul’s words form an overall summary that is supplemented with greater detail elsewhere, both in his words and those of John in Revelation. With this understood, the verse closes out with, “and their enemies saw them.”
Unlike the rapture, which will be instantaneous, this is a visible event. Such events are recorded in Scripture to stand as a witness to the fact that it truly occurred, and those who beheld it could be confident of what they saw. It happened at the taking of Elijah in 2 Kings 2, it happened at the ascension of the Angel of the Lord in Judges 13, and so forth. It also happened in Acts 1 at the ascension of the Lord Jesus. Interestingly, it is probable that these two witnesses who are now being called to heaven after their resurrection were there at that time (meaning Enoch and Elijah) –
“Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. 10 And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, 11 who also said, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.’” Acts 1:9-11
The raising and ascension of these two witnesses is not a picture of the rapture of the church. Instead, it is a sign to the people of the world that the words of Scripture concerning the rapture of the church were true. Rather than believing the word of God, most will have believed the lie.
Life application: These two men, most probably Enoch and Elijah, were taken directly to heaven to serve the Lord for the past thousands of years. If so, they were there with Him in the Old Testament, they were probably the two with Him at His ascension, and they will testify concerning Him at the end of the present age. Eventually, they too will be taken up in a cloud just as their Lord was. Imagine the stories these two men have concerning their service to the Lord!
But imagine the stories you too can have, right now, for the service of the Lord. The results of your judgment for rewards and loss at the Bema Seat of Christ is totally up to you. As long as you are alive, you still have a chance to do GREAT THINGS for the Lord. What may seem like a small thing can have immense effects.
If you give to a church or missionary, they may – in turn – bring many to Christ, build up and train believers, and so on. If you pray for the lost, your prayers may be responded to in a manner that will bring about the event that brings them to Christ. Doing something great for the Lord may involve helping out with the writing or editing of commentaries or sermons for your pastor. It may be that you can help with uploading sermons to the internet. Each of these things may seem insignificant, but the results of them may be enormous.
And remember that each and everything you do should be with one overall purpose – to reveal to a lost and dying world the majesty of the Lord, our Lord, JESUS!
Lord, the way you have tied things together in Scripture is simply astonishing. The small clues you have placed throughout the pages of Your word lead to immensely interesting patterns and parallels. They also testify to Your faithfulness to Your people. When the world is judged, Your people have nothing to fear. At the same time, the world at large will have no excuses. Hallelujah! Thank You, O Lord. Amen.