Revelation 11 and 12 Bible Study Questions and Answers: How Jesus Defeated Satan On Calvary's Cross
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11Then I was given a measuring rod like a staff, and I was told, “Rise and measure the temple of God and the altar and those who worship there, 2 but do not measure the court outside the temple; leave that out, for it is given over to the nations, and they will trample the holy city for forty-two months. 3 And I will grant authority to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth.”
4 These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth. 5 And if anyone would harm them, fire pours from their mouth and consumes their foes. If anyone would harm them, this is how he is doomed to be killed. 6 They have the power to shut the sky, that no rain may fall during the days of their prophesying, and they have power over the waters to turn them into blood and to strike the earth with every kind of plague, as often as they desire. 7 And when they have finished their testimony, the beast that rises from the bottomless pit will make war on them and conquer them and kill them, 8 and their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city that symbolically is called Sodom and Egypt, where their Lord was crucified. 9 For three and a half days some from the peoples and tribes and languages and nations will gaze at their dead bodies and refuse to let them be placed in a tomb, 10 and those who dwell on the earth will rejoice over them and make merry and exchange presents, because these two prophets had been a torment to those who dwell on the earth. 11 But after the three and a half days a breath of life from God entered them, and they stood up on their feet, and great fear fell on those who saw them. 12 Then they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, “Come up here!” And they went up to heaven in a cloud, and their enemies watched them. 13 And at that hour there was a great earthquake, and a tenth of the city fell. Seven thousand people were killed in the earthquake, and the rest were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven.
14 The second woe has passed; behold, the third woe is soon to come.
15 Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever.” 16 And the twenty-four elders who sit on their thrones before God fell on their faces and worshiped God, 17 saying,
“We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty,
who is and who was,
for you have taken your great power
and begun to reign.
18 The nations raged,
but your wrath came,
and the time for the dead to be judged,
and for rewarding your servants, the prophets and saints,
and those who fear your name,
both small and great,
and for destroying the destroyers of the earth.”
19 Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and the ark of his covenant was seen within his temple. There were flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, an earthquake, and heavy hail.
12 And a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. 2 She was pregnant and was crying out in birth pains and the agony of giving birth. 3 And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads seven diadems. 4 His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven and cast them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she bore her child he might devour it. 5 She gave birth to a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, but her child was caught up to God and to his throne, 6 and the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, in which she is to be nourished for 1,260 days.
7 Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon. And the dragon and his angels fought back, 8 but he was defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. 9 And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. 10 And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. 11 And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death. 12 Therefore, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!”
13 And when the dragon saw that he had been thrown down to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child. 14 But the woman was given the two wings of the great eagle so that she might fly from the serpent into the wilderness, to the place where she is to be nourished for a time, and times, and half a time. 15 The serpent poured water like a river out of his mouth after the woman, to sweep her away with a flood. 16 But the earth came to the help of the woman, and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed the river that the dragon had poured from his mouth. 17 Then the dragon became furious with the woman and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring, on those who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus. And he stood on the sand of the sea. 
Bible Study Questions and Answers
Let’s start by remembering that John is experiencing a heavenly vision throughout much of the Book of Revelation. Thus far, he has been given various viewpoints on events during the Last Days and has been shown things from a heavenly perspective as well as an earthly one.
In light of this, what do you make of the temple John is told to measure at the beginning of chapter 11? Is it a literal temple or a symbol for something else? Why do you think John is told to measure the inner elements of the temple but not the outer court?
As is true elsewhere in the Book of Revelation, the New Testament, and in most early Christian literature, the temple appears here to be a representation of the church. The area around the inner court represents those who are already in heaven (a group that can be numbered), while the outer court represents those who are still on the earth and will be “given over” to the world for a period of time. That’s not to say that the 3.5 years here are not meant to be taken literally. In my opinion, the next two digressions in the book (chapters 11 and 12) likely speak to us in multiple ways. The 3.5 year period is mentioned four times in these two chapters, and I believe this refers to both a literal period of time at the end of history as well as to the entire period of history between the first and second comings of Christ.
Before we set out to identify the two witnesses, let’s look at some of the symbolism attached to them: why do you think they are referred to as “two olive trees” and “two lampstands”? Is the anything from the Book of Revelation or the Bible that can speak to this?
The fact that they are referred to as “two olive trees” and “two lampstands” is the first legitimate sign that they may, in fact, represent something greater than two individuals. Elsewhere in Revelation, lampstands are synonymous with churches (1:12/2:1). In the New Testament, the olive tree is used as a symbol of God’s faithful New Covenant people, made up of both Jewish believers (cultivated olive branches) and Gentile believers (wild olive branches). Could it be that the two witnesses symbolize the Jewish and Gentile factions of the church on Earth? I believe so.
This fits with what John was previously asked to do, namely, measure the temple (11:1). If the temple represents the church (it likely does), then it makes sense that the two witnesses, the faction of the church, still alive on planet Earth throughout the Church age, are an ever-growing number of disciples who will only be quantifiable at the end of the age. At the very end of the Book of Revelation, we see the New Jerusalem coming down from heaven, and at that point we are given its measurements. Needless to say, it is massive.
Beyond this, the two witnesses are also said to have the power to perform signs and wonders for the sake of their witness to the world, including the power to shut the sky, turn water into blood, bring plagues on the earth, and breathe fire. More on this below.
Who do the two witnesses remind you of? What actions do they take which seem to indicate that they share an identity with two other characters in the Bible?
The two witnesses do various things that are intended to remind us of two very important Old Testament figures: Moses and Elijah. These are the same two characters who appeared to Peter, James, and John during Jesus’ transfiguration and were likely the two most prominent figures in first-century Judaism. The two witnesses call down plagues, turn water into blood (Moses), and stop rain from falling on the earth (Elijah), which equates to inducing famine.
The question is, are these two witnesses literally Moses and Elijah coming again? Or are they some other combination of Old Testament saints? I do not believe so. Much like Moses and Elijah appeared during Jesus’ transfiguration in order to exalt the supremacy of the Son over every Old Testament figure, these examples are meant to remind us that the church is meant to act as a greater witness during the end of the age than any Old Testament figure alone ever could have. Also, while Moses and Elijah were incredible men of faith who have surely passed on into God’s heavenly cloud of witnesses, Jesus was clear that the least spirit-filled saint in His Kingdom will act in a greater capacity than any Old Testament saint ever could have.
That is not to say that these two witnesses will not be literal people who appear at the very end of the age. While I believe that the two witnesses are meant to symbolize the church during the entire age, I do not believe that this eliminates one’s ability to also see a literal, 3.5-year fulfillment featuring two bold, individual witnesses who will embody the best attributes of Christ’s Church from throughout the age.
What happens to the two witnesses at the end of their allotted time of witnessing on the earth? What occurs in heaven after they are resurrected and taken to heaven?
It is likely that the outer court and the two witnesses are synonymous. That one represents the other. At the end of their designated time of testifying, the two witnesses are martyred, then resurrected and taken to heaven. This inaugurates the third and final woe in the Book of Revelation, which takes us all the way to the end of the book when we see the New Jerusalem coming down out of heaven. It is my belief that the church will remain on the earth during the entire time of the end, all the way up until the Lord Himself returns and inaugurates the final judgment (third woe). This is completely consistent with what is taught by the Apostle Paul in 1 Thessalonians 4-5 and 2 Thessalonians 1-2.
Chapter 12 introduces yet another digression in the letter. One could argue that chapter 11 was also a digression since, even though it encompasses the seventh trumpet judgment, it also incorporates the entire church. However, chapter 12 (which I believe should start with verse 19 of chapter 11) is a digression from the main pattern of the letter in the fullest sense of the word. John goes from systematically working through the various judgments (seals, trumpets, etc.) to suddenly discussing various signs appearing in heaven and some sort of cosmic battle taking place. Let’s see if we can figure out what he’s talking about and how it fits into the story.
Three major characters are introduced in the cosmic battle of chapter 12, two of whom are said to be “signs,” meaning they are symbolic. We are not talking about a literal woman and a literal dragon in the sky. What are we told about these two? Are there any indications as to who/what they symbolize?
We are told explicitly in verse 9 that the dragon is the ancient serpent, aka Satan. We are not told who the woman is explicitly, but we are told that she gives birth to a child whom the dragon wants to devour (the child will rule the nations) and that she will remain on earth even after the child is “caught up to heaven” (12:5-6).
The woman’s child seems to be very important. Any indications as to who is the “male child” in verse five?
Clearly, this is talking about Jesus. He is to “rule all the nations with a rod of iron” and is “caught up to God and to His throne” (12:5). There is simply no one else this could possibly represent.
If the male child is certainly Jesus, what does it mean that he is, in this story, “caught up to God and to his throne” at birth? Jesus didn’t ascend into heaven until after he lived his life, died around the age of 33, and was resurrected. What is this talking about?
The narrative of chapter 12, although masquerading in the form of a birth story (and it does encompass the story of Jesus’ birth), is more acutely about the resurrection and ascension of Jesus. Namely, his exaltation. The child is brought forth by the woman giving birth in great agony. The history of the people of Israel is marked by tribulation, hardship, unfaithfulness and suffering, but also by their Messianic hope, which only seemed to burn brighter and brighter until the time of Christ’s birth.
While there has never been a single act of rebellion committed by Satan and his angels more consequential than his resistance to Jesus and his message, this fits with the pattern of behavior Satan has exhibited from time immemorial. He always resists God’s plan. Throughout the life of Jesus, from his birth and infancy all the way up to his death, Satan’s endeavored to contest and annihilate him. He attempted to devour Jesus during his infancy (Matthew 2:16-18), but the woman still brought forth a child who was eventually “caught up” to heaven (12:5). The Father sovereignly protected Jesus throughout His life, up until the moment Jesus gave His life for our sins on Calvary’s Cross. After dying, He was resurrected by God and ascended victoriously to God’s throne in Heaven, where he fulfilled Daniel’s prophecy regarding the Son of Man presenting Himself before the Ancient of days and being given a Kingdom.
It was at this point, during the victorious death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus, that Satan and his angels were cast out of heaven. While they still possess the authority to deceive, tempt, and persecute the people of the earth, Satan no longer has the authority to enter heaven’s throne room and bring accusations against God’s faithful remnant as he did in times past (see Job 1:6-11; 2:1-6/Zechariah 3:1-2 and Romans 8:33). The accuser has been thoroughly defanged and thrown out of God’s heavenly courtroom by our advocate. This is what Jesus prophesied in Luke 10:18 when he said, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.” This is not a reference to Satan’s fall from glory, as many have argued in reference to Isaiah 14:12/Ezekiel 28:16. Rather, it is a reference to the victory that Jesus himself would bring on the cross – the actualization of what the disciples experienced in Luke’s account of the 72 (the Kingdom of God coming/Satan being trampled). The removal of Satan and his angels from heaven is what Jesus is referencing when he says things like “it is finished” (John 19:30), “I go to prepare a place for you” (John 14:3), and most importantly, “Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out. 32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” 33 He said this to show by what kind of death he was going to die” (John 12:31-33).
Considering all this, who is the woman in this narrative? Is it Mary? Or the church? Or something else?
The woman represents the faithful remnant of God’s people from both the Old and New Testaments. This interpretation fits perfectly with what we’ve seen throughout the Book of Revelation: a representation of God’s “church” being made up of faithful saints, both Jew and Gentile, throughout history. Chapter 7 features the 144,000 faithful Jews who will be alive at the end, as well as the multitude of saints from every tribe, nation and tongue who are continually entering heaven during the church age. Chapter 11 features the two witnesses, which is likely a symbol of God’s faithful church, made up of both Jews and Gentiles, throughout the church age (see above).
While this interpretation fits the thematic pattern of the Book of Revelation, it is not the reason why I believe the woman is a symbol of God’s faithful people throughout history. The two reasons why it is likely that the woman represents God’s faithful remnant throughout history are:
She is responsible for “bringing forth the child” (12:2-5),
She is on the earth after her child (the ruler of all nations) is “caught up to heaven” (12:13-14), and
The rest of her offspring are the saints (12:17).
Faithful Israel is responsible for bringing forth the Messiah, and the Mother imagery is clearly pointing us in this direction. While many Catholics and some Protestants believe that the woman represents Mary, I do not believe the woman is meant to represent Mary, simply because nothing in this story fits with anything we know about Mary from history or tradition. Is Mary, as a member of God’s faithful remnant and a key figure in Christ’s story, included in this picture? Of course! As are Joseph, Zechariah, Elizabeth, Anna and Simeon, the Prophets and the Patriarchs. But nothing in the Book of Revelation leads us to conclude that Mary is the person behind the symbol.
Often in the Old Testament, faithful Israel is portrayed in two ways: as the mother of restored future Israel (see: Isaiah 66:7-10; Micah 4:9-10) and as a bride (Isaiah 54:5-8; Ezekiel 16:8-145). According to Keener, those two images become conflated here in Revelation 12. Note that the woman is wearing a crown with 12 stars. In Revelation 21, we see the New Jerusalem, which serves to elucidate the full coming together of the Old and New Testament saints. Its foundation features the name of the 12 apostles of the Lamb (21:14), and it features 12 gates inscribed with the names of the 12 tribes of Israel (21:12; also a fulfillment of Ezekiel 48:30-34). This is confirmation of something that is hinted at all throughout the New Testament (Ephesians 2:20) and has become one of the central themes of the Book of Revelation. The New Jerusalem is made up of both the Old and New Covenant saints, those who remained faithful to Yahweh amid life’s trials and tribulations.
 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Re 11:1–12:17.  See Romans 11 for more on this.  Many have conjectured that the two witnesses could also be Elijah and Enoch OR Elijah and Jeremiah  Matthew 11:11  Keener Craig S. 2000. Revelation : The NIV Application Commentary from Biblical Text ... to Contemporary Life. Grand Rapids Mich: Zondervan, pg. 318.  As Beale puts it, “Just as Satan and his hosts fell at the beginning of the first creation so he had to fall at the start of the second, new creation.” G. K. Beale, The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text, New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI; Carlisle, Cumbria: W.B. Eerdmans; Paternoster Press, 1999), 658.  Daniel 7:13-14.  The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Lk 10:18.  Our place in heaven is prepared since our accuser has been thrown out.  Keener Craig S. 2000. Revelation : The NIV Application Commentary from Biblical Text ... to Contemporary Life. Grand Rapids Mich: Zondervan, pg. 314.
Revelation 11 and 12 Bible Study Questions and Answers: How Jesus Defeated Satan On Calvary's Cross