Revelation 11:1-14 has been described as one of the most difficult passages in the Bible to understand, but it is worth remembering that any prophecy foretelling the future can seem baffling to us at the time (hindsight, as they say, is a wonderful thing!) In the time of Jesus, even the religious leaders struggled to understand the different prophetic writings about the Messiah, whereas the New Testament writers, filled with the Holy Spirit, explain these passages to us with remarkable simplicity and clarity. Whilst we may not be able to imagine another temple in Jerusalem (especially because at present the site of the original temple is the site of the Dome of the Rock, a Muslim mosque) or understand who the ‘two witnesses’ who speak out during the Tribulation could be, this should not make us doubt the accuracy of God’s word. What is now shrouded in mystery will one day be made known by God Himself. Whether these things are to be interpreted literally or symbolically should not necessarily cause us confusion; we need to be able to trust God for all that we do not fully understand.
These verses describe supernatural events, with the two witnesses having the power to do miraculous signs and bringing God’s message of judgment to His people. They face death but also experience resurrection, reminding us once again that God is Sovereign over all, and death cannot have the last word in His presence (or for His servants.) The passage alludes to many passages in the Old Testament (including Daniel 9, Zechariah 4 as well as references to Moses and Elijah, who represent for us the Law and the Prophets), reminding us that the whole of Scripture is involved in the story of God and that each part influences another.
In his first lecture on the psychological significance of the Bible, psychologist Jordan Peterson shared an image with the audience that he called “one of the coolest things that he had ever seen.” It was a visual representation of the entire Bible, which showed how the text of Scripture interacts with itself. The bar graph on the bottom represents all the chapters in the Bible, while the nearly 65,000 textual cross-references are depicted by coloured arcs, which correspond to the distance between chapters. It’s an amazing example of the connected narrative within the Bible and how it speaks to and interprets itself, and as we study the final book of the Bible, we see that it cannot possibly be understood without reference to the rest of Scripture. As we spend time studying the Bible, we see more of its connected narrative and can therefore trust that God will bring to completion all that He has designed and planned.