11:3-13 In the time of treading down, God kept his faithful witnesses to attest the truth of his word and worship, and the excellence of his ways, The number of these witnesses is small, yet enough. They prophesy in sackcloth. It shows their afflicted, persecuted state, and deep sorrow for the abominations against which they protested. They are supported during their great and hard work, till it is done. When they had prophesied in sackcloth the greatest part of 1260 years, antichrist, the great instrument of the devil, would war against them, with force and violence for a time. Determined rebels against the light rejoice, as on some happy event, when they can silence, drive to a distance, or destroy the faithful servants of Christ, whose doctrine and conduct torment them. It does not appear that the term is yet expired, and the witnesses are not a present exposed to endure such terrible outward sufferings as in former times; but such things may again happen, and there is abundant cause to prophesy in sackcloth, on account of the state of religion. The depressed state of real Christianity may relate only to the western church. The Spirit of life from God, quickens dead souls, and shall quicken the dead bodies of his people, and his dying interest in the world. The revival of God's work and witnesses, will strike terror into the souls of his enemies. Where there is guilt, there is fear; and a persecuting spirit, though cruel, is a cowardly spirit. It will be no small part of the punishment of persecutors, both in this world, and at the great day, that they see the faithful servants of God honoured and advanced. The Lord's witnesses must not be weary of suffering and service, nor hastily grasp at the reward; but must stay till their Master calls them. The consequence of their being thus exalted was a mighty shock and convulsion in the antichristian empire. Events alone can show the meaning of this. But whenever God's work and witnesses revive, the devil's work and witnesses fall before him. And that the slaying of the witnesses is future, appears to be probable.
13. "In that same hour"; literally, "the hour."
great earthquake—answering to the "great earthquake" under the sixth seal, just at the approach of the Lord (Re 6:12). Christ was delivered unto His enemies on the fifth day of the week, and on the sixth was crucified, and on the sabbath rested; so it is under the sixth seal and sixth trumpet that the last suffering of the Church, begun under the fifth seal and trumpet, is to be consummated, before she enters on her seventh day of eternal sabbath. Six is the number of the world power's greatest triumph, but at the same time verges on seven, the divine number, when its utter destruction takes place. Compare "666" in Re 13:18, "the number of the beast."
tenth part of the city fell—that is, of "the great city" (Re 16:19; Zec 14:2). Ten is the number of the world kingdoms (Re 17:10-12), and the beast's horns (Re 13:1), and the dragon's (Re 12:3). Thus, in the Church-historical view, it is hereby implied that one of the ten apostate world kingdoms fall. But in the narrower view a tenth of Jerusalem under Antichrist falls. The nine-tenths remain and become when purified the center of Christ's earthly kingdom.
of men—Greek, "names of men." The men are as accurately enumerated as if their names were given.
seven thousand—Elliott interprets seven chiliads or provinces, that is, the seven Dutch United Provinces lost to the papacy; and "names of men," titles of dignity, duchies, lordships, &c. Rather, seven thousand combine the two mystical perfect and comprehensive numbers seven and thousand, implying the full and complete destruction of the impenitent.
the remnant—consisting of the Israelite inhabitants not slain. Their conversion forms a blessed contrast to Re 16:9; and above, Re 9:20, 21. These repenting (Zec 12:10-14; 13:1), become in the flesh the loyal subjects of Christ reigning over the earth with His transfigured saints.
gave glory to the God of heaven—which while apostates, and worshipping the beast's image, they had not done.
God of heaven—The apostates of the last days, in pretended scientific enlightenment, recognize no heavenly power, but only the natural forces in the earth which come under their observation. His receiving up into heaven the two witnesses who had power during their time on earth to shut heaven from raining (Re 11:6), constrained His and their enemies who witnessed it, to acknowledge the God of heaven, to be God of the earth (Re 11:4). As in Re 11:4 He declared Himself to be God of the earth by His two witnesses, so now He proves Himself to be God of heaven also.