THE SIXTH TRUMPET IS SOUNDED, PART 6
Rev 11:3-6 And I will give power unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days, clothed in sackcloth. These are the two olive trees, and the two candlesticks standing before the God of the earth. And if any man will hurt them, fire proceedeth out of their mouth, and devoureth their enemies: and if any man will hurt them, he must in this manner be killed. These have power to shut heaven, that it rain not in the days of their prophecy: and have power over waters to turn them to blood, and to smite the earth with all plagues, as often as they will. (Also See Rev. 11:7-13)
The angel, introduced by John in verse one of this chapter, continues to speak to him in the lesson text. John is told that two witnesses, ...clothed in sackcloth, a symbol of sorrow and mourning, would prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days. This is the same period the church of Christ, represented in verse 2 as the holy city, is symbolically prophesied to be tread under foot, or defied and persecuted for forty and two months. During this period of Christian apostasy, imposed by the corrupt and abominable papal doctrines of Catholicism, two witnesses, meaning a very small number of faithful, diligent teachers of God's word, would prophesy, that is, continue to preach and defend Christ's pure New Testament gospel message to all that faithfully obey God's call to eternal salvation. These faithful, witnessing preachers are symbolized here as olive trees, and ...candlesticks. The fruit of the olive trees was the source of oil for candles that gave forth light. Hence, these teachers were, for 1260 days (symbolically 1260 years), to give forth the gospel light to all people - to all that were standing before the God of the earth.
The light given forth by these ministers of God would be eternal, and, although persecuted by those professing false doctrines, the true word of God would providentially withstand all forces of evil during this period of tribulation. The power of God, represented here as the forces of "fire," would continually defend His true messengers, even to the extent of executing divine judgment on those that seek to bring harm to them. Have faith Christian friends. These prophetic words assure us that, although it has been harmed, temporarily restricted, and denied by worldly influences in many ages, the true light of the New Testament gospel of salvation through Christ Jesus has never been, nor will it ever be, completely extinguished by the anti-Christian forces of the world. The same divine power of God that, in times past, caused rain to descend on earth, or bring drought; the same Godly power that turned the natural waters of the earth into blood; the power of God that brought about all types of plagues on sinful mankind - this same God has the power to protect His faithful messengers, and the New Testament doctrine which they proclaim, from complete extinction by the hands of Satan and his evil followers.
In the verses following the lesson text, John continues his revelation found at the sounding of the sixth trumpet. Although previous verses 4 through 6 foretell of the successful spreading of the gospel of Christ, it seems that verses 7 through 10 tell of a period when Roman influences will come close to completely preventing its teaching. John tells us that, at a future time in history, the New Testament teaching, that is, the testimony of the angelic messengers of God, will be completed. When this is done, the true doctrine of Christ will suffer restrictions and much harm by the warring attacks of the beast that ascendeth out of the bottomless pit. This symbolism certainly applies to any Satan-inspired "religious" body, and/or civil government, that vehemently opposes the faithful, scripturally authorized, church of Christ. Without any doubt this applies to the apostate religious body of Roman Catholicism as well as the civil authorities, which they controlled during this historical period.
Although silenced by imposing civil laws which forcefully eliminated access to bibles by all people under Roman jurisdiction, we are assured that the true word of God may only become temporarily dormant for a period of time. Teachers of God's Word would be persecuted, and even slain, by Roman religious and civil authorities, leaving their bodies contemptuously lying unburied in the street of the great city (Rome),for all to see, and bring submissive fear for their own lives. Here Rome is characterized as Sodom and Egypt because of the anti-Christian, sinful degradation that was allowed, and even approved of, by its Catholicized governmental leaders. This "war" against the church of Christ would continue for three and a half days, which symbolically represents three and a half years. We also note that those desiring to bury the dead bodies would be prevented from doing so.
Divine retribution against the powers of evil is foretold in the prophetic symbolism found in verses 10 through 13. With the Reformation, we are told, would come the restoration of the Bible, the Word of God, to the people. John tells us that these two prophets, referred to as two witnesses in verse 3, would return and turn the world upside down with their teaching of the gospel of salvation through Christ Jesus. They would rejoice, ...make merry, and ...send gifts one to another, to celebrate the glorious revival of Christianity. This spiritual revival, according the eleventh verse, was to take place within three and a half years, symbolically stated after three days and an half. After this period of time the Holy Spirit of God would encourage willing and faithful teachers of the pure, unadulterated truths of the New Testament. Being filled with spiritual zeal, they would openly teach the gospel of Christ. The voice of God had come to life in the preaching of these daring enthusiastic prophets. Their enemies, who had silenced them by threatenings, torture, and even death, now became filled with great fear at the resurgence of Christianity. Verse 12 tells us, symbolically, that they were called up into heaven in a cloud; and their enemies beheld them. The meaning here seems evident that the enemies of Christ beheld the approval of God, not only for His preachers, but for the gospel message of salvation though His Son, Christ Jesus, which they taught. People of the world, as it existed during this period of history, were now able to openly witness, and comprehend, the true New Testament will of God, as taught by His faithful messengers.
And the same hour was there a great earthquake, and the tenth part of the city fell, and in the earthquake were slain of men seven thousand: and the remnant were affrighted (Vs. 13a). An earthquake symbolized a great turmoil that would exist because of the teaching of God's Word. There was to be much commotion, fear, and panic within the political authorities and the Catholic hierarchy. Much of the wicked city of Rome would be destroyed, and those that remained and witnessed this Christian revival would be affrighted, terrified, fearing bodily harm, or even death, would be their lot. To say that these awestruck Romans gave glory to the God of heaven (Vs. 13b),may only mean that they acknowledged His power over the universe, or that it could also mean they may have been impressed to the extent that they repented of their past sinful life, accepted the teaching of God's messengers, and obeyed His call to become a believing member of Christ's church. .
Although the narrative above, I believe, fairly represents the meaning of this vision of John, as recorded in these verses, it may be well, as some bible scholars have done, to include some closing comments. For instance, consider the two witnesses introduced by John in verse three, which seem to be the same as the two prophets spoken of in verse ten. These appear to be righteous messengers of God that teach His Word. Because there are specifically "two," could they represent both the Old and New Testaments of God? They were testifying that Jesus Christ was the promised Messiah, the Savior, and the Son of God. Certainly, through prophesy, the Old Testament testifies of Jesus as the descendent of David and the promised Savior. And the New Testament gives testimony of our Lord and Savior in factual history, which was confirmed by numerous compassionate miracles. Assuredly these two heavenly messengers, as borne out in these symbolic scriptures, teach the world that God has the power to both save and destroy all men and women, based on their acknowledged rejection, or their belief and obedience, to His Holy Word.
Regarding the one thousand, two hundred and sixty year period of persecution to the church of Christ, and its dedicated preachers of God's gospel of salvation, this additional comment seems warranted. Reckoning time from A.D. 533, the date when the Papacy of the Roman Catholic Church became firmly established, and sanctioned by the imperial powers ruling the Roman Empire, 1,260 years would take us to the year 1793. During this period of time the church of Christ suffered varying degrees of continuous civil restrictions and persecution. Even after spiritual light was experienced by the "Protestant Reformation," initiated by Martin Luther, there remained much intolerance for true, scriptural Christianity. Near the close of the last century of this period, the most serious and devastating attack was made against the scriptural teaching of God's Word.
Atheism arose in France, led by Voltaire and Rousseau, and immediately spread throughout European nations. Concerted efforts were made by disbelievers to stamp out all, so called, Christian religions. Determined to abolish the bible and the worship of God, legislators of France decreed that God could not be worshipped and their citizens were only allowed to worship the civil rights of "Reason and Liberty." As far as it has been historically recorded, this was the only instance of governmental abolishment of all religion since the Christian era had its beginning in A.D. 33. B. W. Johnson, in his New Testament commentary, wrote, that from it was "just 1260 years, the prophetic period, from the time when the Pope was styled 'Lord of the Church' by imperial authority, until the date of the abolition of the Bible and of God by 'the eldest son of the Church,' or from A.D. 533 to A.D. 1793.