Commentary on the Bible, by Adam Clarke, , at sacred-texts.com
The command to measure the temple, Rev 11:1, Rev 11:2. The two witnesses which should prophesy twelve hundred and sixty days, Rev 11:3. The description, power, and influence of these witnesses, Rev 11:4-6. They shall be slain by the beast which shall arise out of the bottomless pit, and shall arise again after three days and a half, and ascend to heaven, Rev 11:7-12. After which shall be a great earthquake, Rev 11:13. The introduction to the third wo, Rev 11:14. The sounding of the seventh angel, and the four and twenty elders give glory to God, Rev 11:15-19.
And there was given me a reed - See Eze 40:3, etc.
Measure the temple of God - This must refer to the temple of Jerusalem; and this is another presumptive evidence that it was yet standing.
But the court - is given unto the Gentiles - The measuring of the temple probably refers to its approaching destruction, and the termination of the whole Levitical service; and this we find was to be done by the Gentiles, (Romans), who were to tread it down forty-two months; i.e., just three years and a half, or twelve hundred and sixty days. This must be a symbolical period.
My two witnesses - This is extremely obscure; the conjectures of interpreters are as unsatisfactory as they are endless on this point. Conjecturas conjecturis superstruunt, parum verosimiles, says Rosenmuller: quorum sententias enarrare, meum non est. I say the same. Those who wish to be amused or bewildered, may have recourse both to ancients and moderns on this subject.
These are the two olive trees - Mentioned Zac 4:14, which there represent Zerubbabel and Joshua the high priest. The whole account seems taken from Zac 4:1-14. Whether the prophet and the apostle mean the same things by these emblems, we know not.
Fire proceedeth out of their mouth - That is, they are commissioned to denounce the judgments of God against all who would attempt to prevent them from proceeding in their ministry.
These have power to shut heaven - As Elijah did, 1 Kings 17:1-18:46.
To turn them to blood - As Moses did, Exo 7:19-25. They shall have power to afflict the land with plagues, similar to those which were inflicted on the Egyptians.
The beast that ascended out of the bottomless pit - This may be what is called antichrist; some power that is opposed to genuine Christianity. But what or whence, except from the bottomless pit, i.e., under the influence and appointment of the devil, we cannot tell; nor do we know by what name this power or being should be called. The conjectures concerning the two witnesses and the beast have been sufficiently multiplied. If the whole passage, as some think, refer to the persecution raised by the Jews against the Christians, then some Jewish power or person is the beast from the bottomless pit. If it refer to the early ages of Christianity, then the beast may be one of the persecuting heathen emperors. If it refer to a later age of Christianity, then the beast may be the papal power, and the Albigenses and Waldenses the two witnesses, which were nearly extinguished by the horrible persecutions raised up against them by the Church of Rome. Whatever may be here intended, the earth has not yet covered their blood.
The great city - Some say Rome, which may be spiritually called Sodom for its abominations, Egypt for its tyrannous cruelty, and the place where our Lord was crucified, because of its persecution of the members of Christ; but Jerusalem itself may be intended. All these things I must leave to others.
Shall not suffer their dead bodies to be put in graves - They shall be treated with the greatest barbarity. Refusal of burial to the dead was allowed to be the sum of brutality and cruelty. In popish lands they will not suffer a Protestant to have Christian burial, or to have a grave in a churchyard! Contemptible wretches!
Shall send gifts - This was a custom in days of public rejoicing. They sent gifts to each other, and gave portions to the poor. See Est 9:19, Est 9:22.
They stood upon their feet - Were restored to their primitive state.
They ascended up to heaven - Enjoyed a state of great peace and happiness.
A great earthquake - Violent commotions among the persecutors, and revolutions of states.
Slain of men seven thousand - Many perished in these popular commotions.
The remnant were affrighted - Seeing the hand of God's judgments so remarkably stretched out.
Gave glory - Received the pure doctrines of the Gospel, and glorified God for his judgments and their conversion.
The seconds wo is past - That which took place under the sixth trumpet, and has been already described.
The third wo cometh - Is about to be described under the seventh trumpet, which the angel is now prepared to sound.
Of the three woes which were denounced, Rev 8:13, the first is described, Rev 9:1-12; the second, Rev 9:13-21. These woes are supposed by many learned men to refer to the destruction of Jerusalem. The first wo - the seditions among the Jews themselves. The second wo - the besieging of the city by the Romans. The third wo - the taking and sacking of the city, and burning the temple. This was the greatest of all the woes, as in it the city and temple were destroyed, and nearly a million of men lost their lives.
There were great voices in heaven - All the heavenly host - angels and redeemed human spirits, joined together to magnify God; that he had utterly discomfited his enemies and rendered his friends glorious. This will be truly the case when the kingdoms of this world become the kingdoms of God and of his Christ, But when shall this be? Some say, that is meant by these words has already taken place in the destruction of the Jewish state, and sending the Gospel throughout the Gentile world. Others say that it refers to the millennium, and to the consummation of all things.
The four and twenty elders - The representatives of the universal Church of Christ. See on Rev 5:8-10 (note).
O Lord God Almighty, which art - This gives a proper view of God in his eternity; all times are here comprehended, the present, the past, and the future. This is the infinitude of God.
Hast taken to thee - Thou hast exercised that power which thou ever hast; and thou hast broken the power of thy enemies, and exalted thy Church.
The nations were angry - Were enraged against thy Gospel, and determined to destroy it.
Thy wrath is come - The time to avenge thy servants and to destroy all thy enemies.
The time of the dead, that they should be judged - The word κρινειν, to judge, is often used in the sense of to avenge. The dead, here, may mean those who were slain for the testimony of Jesus, and the judging is the avenging of their blood.
Give reward unto thy servants - Who have been faithful unto death.
The prophets - The faithful teachers in the Church, the saints - the Christians.
And them that fear thy name - All thy sincere followers.
Destroy them which destroy the earth - All the authors, fomenters, and encouragers of bloody wars.
The temple of God was opened in heaven - The true worship of God was established and performed in the Christian Church; this is the true temple, that at Jerusalem being destroyed.
And there were lightnings, and voices, and thunderings, and an earthquake, and great hail - These great commotions were intended to introduce the following vision; for the 12th chapter is properly a continuation of the 11th, and should be read in strict connection with it.
I Now come to a part of this book that is deemed of the greatest importance by the Protestant Church, but is peculiarly difficult and obscure. I have often acknowledged my own incapacity to illustrate these prophecies. I might have availed myself of the labors of others, but I know not who is right; or whether any of the writers on this book have hit the sense is more than I can assert, and more than I think. The illustration of the 12th, 13th, and 17th chapters, which I have referred to in the preface, drawn up and displayed with great industry and learning, I shall insert in its place, as by far the most probable I have yet seen; but I leave the learned author responsible for his own particular views of the subject.