Unfortunately, the controversy surrounding the interpretation of Revelation 10-11 has robbed these chapters of much of their power. In reality, they provide an amazingly clear guide from God with interesting detail about our role in the church age.
Our conviction is that these words complete the prophecy given to God’s people (Daniel 10:14) by Daniel in Daniel 10-12. What was closed to Daniel (Daniel 12:4, 9) was opened to John who now completes it. A word which starts in the third year of Cyrus in 535 BC and ends at the end of the age. A word whose first half, described in Daniel, is temporarily suspended when the power of God’s people is totally shattered (Daniel 12:7) by the Roman Empire. A word whose second half is resumed when the Islamic Kingdom came to power and completed during the rest of the church age. So Revelation 11 is not a prophecy which is fulfilled in 3.5 calendar years, but rather in more than 1,200 years.
The language is clearly symbolic, but is also narrative prophecy with a literal meaning. If the prophecy was just for 3.5 calendar years, then very likely the two witnesses introduced in Revelation 11:3 are two individuals. The NIV reference to the them as men (Revelation 11:6) seems to favour this futurist perspective and perhaps reflects a translator bias. However, given that the prophecy extends for over 2,500 years and begins in 535 BC and is explicitly about God’s people then the two witnesses must be God’s people, not two individuals.
Therefore, the period of 3.5 years must be symbolic. Since the two witnesses are called to minister in the power of the Spirit for 3.5 years, then to be defeated, die, to lie dead for 3.5 days, rise again and then ascend into heaven, then they are clearly called to follow in the footsteps of Jesus, exactly as Jesus did. The allusion to the ministry of Jesus is remarkably clear and obvious.
At this point we could delve deeply into the detail of what we are called to be and to do. That would make this post incredibly long. We leave it for another time.
So these two chapters sit at the crossroads of understanding the book of Revelation. Previous chapters set the context, subsequent chapters’ flow along the direction implied by how they are interpreted.