Osborne, Grant R. Revelation. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2002. Location: Ellis BS 2825.53.O73 2002
III. God in Majesty and Judgment (4:1-16:21) pp. 218-602.
A. God’s Sovereignty in Judgment (4:1-11:19) pp. 219-450.
3. Seven Trumpets (8:2-11:19) pp. 339-450.
e. “Interlude: Prophecy and Witness (10:1-11:13)” pp. 390-437.
iii. “Ministry, Death, and Resurrection of the Two Witnesses (11:3-13)” pp. 417-437.
Revelation 11:3-13 speaks of ‘two witnesses.” Osborne finds this narrative tied directly to the passage immediately before it, as the court of the temple is turned over to the Gentiles, then this passage seems to speak of what happens then. The identity of the two witnesses has been hotly debated throughout church history, as Osborne summarizes briefly (Osborne 2002, 417). He then suggests that a decision between a literal and figurative reading here may be less important than the principle. Those who stand for Christ in the last days can expect opposition leading to apparent destruction, which is overcome in the resurrection (Osborne 2002, 418).
In verses 3-6 the two witnesses receive authority from God, again asserting his sovereign control (Osborne 2002, 419). Osborne notes that the two witnesses are required by the Mosaic law so as to document guilt and lead to a conviction (Osborne 2002, 420). They are clothed in sackcloth, a typical sign of mourning and repentance. Osborne further observes that there are potential references to a prophetic vision in Zechariah 4, where people are called to return to God in faith (Osborne 2002, 421). The witnesses proclaim God’s glory. During this period, God will not allow harm to come to them, though any who try to harm them are killed by patently supernatural means. Osborne draws parallels to 2 Kings 1, where the prophet called down fire on those who came to attack him, but hwho received those who approached in repentance (Osborne 2002, 422). The udgments upon the unrepentant come from God, reoughly as parallels to the judgments of the trumpets and bowls. Osborne continues to find parallels to various biblical acocunts of God’s judgment (Osborne 2002, 423).
In Revelation 11:7, God allows an apparent defeat of his witnesses. Osborne refers to Revelation 6:11, where there was a concern that the witness should be complete. Here, the witness is complete and God allows “the beast” to attack and kill the witnesses (Osborne 2002, 424). This beast is “the one who ascends out of the abyss” (Rev. 11:7), so is the demonic leader referred to in Revelation 9. Osborne adduces numerous other passages, especially in Daniel, describing a demonic ruler who wages war against God’s people (Osborne 2002, 425). He observes that in the perspective of Revelation the enemy is defeated already and that his assaults against God’s people serve only to move them to their place of victory (Osborne 2002, 426). In this passage, not only are the witnesses killed, but they are also left in the street, a way of showing disrespect. Osborne considers the location of this “great city” and concludes that it is a conglomeration of Rome and of Jerusalem, which has proven apostate (Osborne 2002, 427). The death and dishonoring of the witnesses draws attention of people from many nations, who see and rejoice, a sign of defiance against God (Osborne 2002, 428).
The celebration over the dead witnesses is cut short in Revelation 11:11, as after three and a half days, they are raised from the dead. Osborne observes the similarity to Jesus rising on the third day as well as the end of Elijah’s drought after three and a half years (Osborne 2002, 429). Those who see are terrified at the power of God, a typical reaction seen in the Scripture (Osborne 2002, 430). The witnesses are taken up into heaven by the call of a great voice. Osborne questions whether the event described is the rapture of the church. The symbolism of the voice from a cloud is typical of an appearance of God (Osborne 2002, 431). However, the general resurrection appears to be at the very end, while this event seems to be followed by other events. Osborne concludes that this may be an anticipation of the resurrection/rapture event, since it is not really at the end of history (Osborne 2002, 432). What is clear is that the enemies of the witnesses see this all happening and many are converted.
The raising of the witnesses is followed by a terrible earthquake in Revelation 11:13. This divides the city and kills some seven thousand, the same number preserved for God in 1 Kings 19:18 during a time of apostasy. Again, Osborne notes that the tremendous judgment is still not utterly complete (Osborne 2002, 433). The survivors “give glory to
God,” whether from genuine repentance or from the coercive power of the victor. Osborne is inclined to consider this genuine repentance (Osborne 2002, 434).