John says in Rev. 12:6 the woman fled to the wilderness where she had a place prepared by God. But in many commentaries, it is not clear what is meant by the wilderness.
Many commentators mention that the prophecy alludes to the Exodus. The eagle’s wings given to the woman in Rev. 12:14 allude to the wings of eagles mentioned in Exod. 19:4: “Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles’ wings, and brought you unto myself.” Eagles’ wings are also mentioned in Deut. 32:9-12.
In the table below two kinds of interpretation of Revelation 11 & 12 are compared. The column at the left identifies many of the symbols in these chapters. The middle column presents commonly held views based on a literal approach, and what is here considered the natural or human point of view, represented by the little horn in Daniel 7, with “eyes like the eyes of a man.” The column at the right contains a more mature, spiritual interpretation. Often, scholars will offer a mix of interpretations from either of the two columns.
Elements of the prophecy of the two witnesses of Revelation 11, possibly alluding to the account of Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden in Genesis 2 & 3 are identified in the table below.
William Milligan (1821-1892) was Professor of Divinity and Biblical Criticism in the University of Aberdeen. The following is his commentary on the prophecy of the two witnesses of Revelation 11. [William Milligan. The Book of Revelation. In: Marcus Dods, Robert Alexander Watson, Frederic William Farrar, eds. An Exposition of the Bible: a series of expositions covering all the books of the Old and New Testament, Volume 6. S. S. Scranton Co. Hartford, Conn. 1904. pp. 873-879]
The word of God in prophecy is like mountains, and the theories, and opinions, and interpretations of men are like clouds in comparison. The prophet Joel spoke of the day of the Lord as “A day of darkness and of gloominess, a day of clouds and of thick darkness.” [Joel 2:2] Clouds are associated with darkness of a spiritual kind.
Peter described the false teachers as “clouds that are carried with a tempest; to whom the mist of darkness is reserved for ever.” [2 Peter 2:17]
The sceptical Westminster Review for Oct. 1861 included a “secular exposition” of the Apocalypse, based on the work of various critics.
The author or authors of the essay took some pains to promote the notion that the Apocalypse was written before 70 A.D. Attempts at dating the writing of the Apocalypse before 70 A.D. are founded upon the idea that the cities mentioned in Rev. 11, the ‘holy city’ of vs. 2, and the ‘great city,’ called ‘Sodom and Egypt’ in vs. 8, are the same. This they insisted upon, while defending the opposite view of the temple of God mentioned in vs. 1 and vs. 19. These temples of God, they claimed, are different; the temple of God in Rev. 11:1 is located in the earthly Jerusalem, that (in their opinion) was not yet destroyed; John had to descend from heaven to measure it; but the one in vs. 19 is the temple in heaven.
The prophecy in Revelation 11:1-14 refers to two cities, one being the holy city, which is Jerusalem, and another one which is not named specifically, but is referred to in a cryptic way.
These two cities are contrasted, as the labels “holy city” (verse 2) and “Sodom and Egypt” (verse 8) are as opposite as can be imagined. But, many expositors have tried to equate these two cities and find only one city in the chapter, which they identify with the earthly Jerusalem!
In Revelation 11 & 12, there is a contrast between things of the earth, and things in heaven. In Revelation 11:2, the holy city is trampled by Gentiles for 42 months. This is not the earthly Jerusalem; rather, it is the one which Jesus called the city of the great King, [Matt. 5:35] which is established in the top of the mountains, and raised up above the hills. [Isa. 2:2] The heavenly city is the focus of prophecy, after the resurrection of Jesus; the earthly one was identified with Hagar the Egyptian bondwoman, who was cast out. [Gal. 4:25]
Christopher Wordsworth, (1807-1885) was a nephew of poet William Wordsworth, and the author of several theological works, including a Bible commentary, and 50 hymns. He was headmaster of Harrow Boys School (1836-1850), and Vicar at Stanford-in-the-Vale, Berkshire (1850-1869), and Archdeacon of Westminster, and became Bishop of Lincoln in 1868.
In the following, Christopher Wordsworth discusses the second woe of Revelation 9 & 11, from: Lectures on the Apocalypse, Critical, Expository, Practical, delivered before the University of Cambridge by Christopher Wordsworth, Canon of Westminster. 3rd. ed. London, 1852. pp. 142-158.
6. The next, the Sixth, Trumpet has occasioned some perplexity.
In Revelation 11 and 12, there are several things ascending and descending, and heaven and earth, the sun, moon, and stars, are prominent symbols.
In the following sermon, Samuel Farmar Jarvis (1786-1851) discusses the certainty, use, intent, and importance of prophecy. [Samuel Farmar Jarvis. Two Discourses on Prophecy. James A. Sparks, N.Y., 1843]
2 Peter 1:19-21
We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts:
Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.
In Revelation 11:1, John is told to measure the temple of God, which in the gospel era, is the church. In verse 2 he is told to omit the outer court, which is given to Gentiles, who trample the holy city for 42 months.
The prophecy of Daniel 7 describes the saints as given into the hand of a little horn, which arises among the ten horns of the fourth beast, representing the Roman Empire. The “time, times and a half” in Daniel 7:25 is the duration of the period of warfare between the saints and the little horn.