Monday, March 31, 2014

Revelation 11:1-14 : THE MYSTERIOUS TWO WITNESSES #2

We   continue  to consider the  mysterious two witnesses who  are  introduced to us  in 11:3. We  consider them   under  5 headings , the first  two of which we have  already  looked at in our previous sermon.  

 1.      The time of their witness (11:2,3)
 2.      Their identity  (11:3-6)
 3.      Their work (11:7-10)
 4.      Their opposition (11:7-10)
 5.      Their future (11:11-12)


We  saw, firstly   that  the command  to John to   measure  the temple (11:1-2) relates not  to the physical temple  as  it  stood in Jesus’ day. It would have been physically impossible  for him to do so, since at this stage he was  imprisoned on the island of Patmos.  Moreover, consider that Jesus had  foretold that this temple was going to be destroyed  (Matt 24:2),  which  actually  happened  in AD 70.   This  brought  the OT temple era  to an end.  Furthermore consider that  in the  N.T.  there is no mentioning of the place of the physical   temple  in worship.  Jesus  foresees  a spiritual temple, comprised  of   a people that  would  worship God  in spirit and in truth[1]. This people  Jesus called   the church [2].  Peter says that  this church is  “a  temple  made of  living stones[3].  This is the  people-  the   true church  which   John is called to measure and they are found in “the temple of God and the altar“  (11:1).  This church also features  widely  in in Paul’s  letters, and after Pentecost we see  the church distributed into all the world.[4] 

Secondly,  we saw that out of  this  true  church,   two witnesses  will  arise. They  will  prophecy  for   1260 days (11:3)  or 42 months (11:2) or  a time, and times , and  half a time  (12:14).  This is the time  between Christ’s  ascension and his descension – the time in which we are now living.

Thirdly, we noted the identity  of  these two witnesses. ( 11:4)  They are symbolically  identified  as     two olive trees and two lampstands. We discovered that  the  picture of the two  olive trees    was taken from   Zechariah 4 :1-14, and  we saw  in  context of Zechariah’s prophecy  that the  two  olive trees  were   Joshua the faithful high priest (Zec. 3:1)  and  Zerubbabel  the  faithful governor  of Judah[5] ( Zec. 4:6). These were  men who   courageously led Israel  by the Word of the LORD in  difficult times.  The second picture  of the  two lampstands  is a picture of  the true church in  a hostile  world,  in this age. Revelation 2 &3  helped us to see  that the lampstands  were   symbolic pictures of the church.  These two witnesses (gospel witnesses  and gospel churches)  have,   in this present age continually testified  to the truth as it is in Jesus.  Having   considered  their   identity and the time frame in which they operate , we must now ask : What exactly  do they do ?

3.      Their work  ( 11:3-6)

They must prophesy  (v.6)  The main  work of gospel witnesses and gospel churches is to prophesy. They  proclaim/ announce/ preach  the  prophetic word of God.  True prophets can only speak that which is  given to them by God.  The very message  of this  book of Revelation is prophetic and John tells  us in Rev.  1:3 :  “Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those  who hear , and who keep what is written in it , for the time is near.”  
The   content of the prophetic witness is obvious. They must  bear witness  to Christ and to His truth:
 1. That  every man is made in God’s image  with an eternal soul, and  finally accountable to God.  

 2. That  by the  disobedience of  the first man,  Adam, the father of  humanity,  every one of his  descendants   inherits a  sinful nature[6].  This does not only mean that every man is alienated from their  holy  God, but it also means that  every man  in that condition is destined to go to a place that is called “hell” – of which Jesus said that  it is “a place of outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth… an eternal fire  prepared for the devil and his angels… a place of eternal punishment” [7].

3. That forgiveness is  available  if  people will  trust in Christ, the second Adam  who is  God’s only  and sufficient provision  and remedy for  sin[8]. To trust  in Christ  means that people  will  have  to  repent – that is to turn away from their sin and rebel nature  and follow God, asking God to help them daily  to  seek His kingdom,   and  then  upon death   inherit  heaven .

This   message is the   fire that comes out of their mouth[9]  (11:5)  which is   the Word of God  which in the end  shall  judge   those that resist  this  testimony. The prophet Jeremiah was given a taste of this ministry when he was told  “… behold  I am making my words in your mouth a fire, and this people wood, and  the fire shall consume them…”  (Jer.  5:14). So too, by the word of Elijah,   God  shut the heavens up  by his prayer[10]. By the word of God , Moses  turned the waters of Egypt  into blood  etc. . The church  is given the  keys of the kingdom. Whatever she binds on earth shall be bound in heaven ; whatever she looses on earth shall be loosed in heaven (Matt 16:19;  18:18) . Christ has given  authority  to the church  by His powerful Word. We, modern gospel witnesses and  modern gospel churches  may not always  see this is the effect that the Word has upon the world.  “They have the power to shut the sky…” (v.6). All the temporary judgments – all the things that we call  natural disasters  (e.g. tsunamis, earthquakes ,  wars , diseases , famines) are in fact “acts of God“ in response to  His Word. It shall eventually become clear  to the world, even as it was plain to  king Ahab in Elijah’s day that rain was lacking because God had spoken, and  even as it was plain to the pharaoh of Egypt  that the 10 plagues were sent from God (and not just natural disasters) – it will be clear  to the world  that these 2 witnesses  in the hands of God Almighty   are instrumental  in bringing these plagues!

We have  already noted that  the testimony is to   be prophesied   to many people, nations, languages and kings (10:11).  We shall now see  that the world finds this message offensive[11] , in the same way in which  people were offended by  Jesus’ words. We now understand  why the world wants to harm  and kill the faithful witness. We shall see this in our next point.

4.      Their opposition (11:7-10)

Now we understand why  the beast  rises from the bottomless pit  to make war on these witnesses (v.7). It is THE beast. The reference is plainly to  Daniel 7, and the picture of the  fourth beast, “terrifying and dreadful and exceedingly strongIt  was different from  all the beasts that were before it, and it had 10 horns” . From the 10  horns[12]there came up  among them  another horn, a little one before  which three of the first horns were plucked up by the roots … in this horn  were eyes like the eyes of  a man and a mouth speaking great things  (Dan 7: 7- 8). This beast  is not the same as the dragon in Chapter 12 who is there identified with Satan. The beast  is closely connected to the dragon.   The beast comes out of the bottomless pit  (11:7 see also 9:11). That  is his spiritual origin. This is the anti-Christ, and it seems as if he appears in human form. John already  has spoken of the anti- Christ in his letters  (1 Jn.  2:18-22). The anti -Christ exists already exists in the time when John writes. Sometimes his influence is  weaker, sometimes stronger, but towards the end of  this  age it appears that he will  rise up  to kill these two witnesses. We must point out  that this beast  can only do that  after the 2 witnesses  have finished their testimony (v.7). God remains sovereign!  The apostle Paul  says the same thing in 2 Thessalonians  2:5-7. The  anti- Christ (the man of lawlessness)  must wait until the time of prophecy is finished. This will be after the gospel has been preached to all nations  and when the  level or measure of sin will have reached its fullness.[13] The world must hear  the witness of the faithful preachers and the faithful churches, and hear this repeatedly, and it must reject the salvation offered  in Christ. Then the  testimony shall be finished, and then it may be silenced by the power of the Anti-Christ. This will be the worst time in the history of the church!   This does not mean that every Christian  will  be killed, for we know that  at the Lord’s coming there will be those living on earth  ready to meet Him, and when they shall be changed in the twinkling of an eye. Those days however will be full of distress, unequalled from the beginning of the world until now – and never to be equaled again. It will seem as if the true church is dead. It will seem as if  the beast has finally triumphed.  Figuratively, the gospel testimony  will lie dead e in the streets of Jerusalem (the city which kills the prophets- Luke 13:34), the great city which is  figuratively called Sodom and Egypt. The two bodies will lie unburied in the sight of the nations – a   sign of contempt and shame, with their life and power gone, and their prayers and testimony silenced. They do not judge the world any longer, and the world rejoices that they are dead. The world  celebrates. They are so happy  that they even  send gifts  to one another!

5.      Their Future  (11:11-12)

But their end has not come! This is the  kind of story we all like to hear.  The tribulation  will only last for 3 ½  days! This means that the days of the anti-Christ will be cut short. He will only  be allowed to triumph for half a week. Just as the time in which we live is indicated by 3 ½ years (the time of witness) so the time of suffering  is indicated by 3 ½ days. The Scripture tells us in Matthew 24:22 that for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short, and at the end of these 3 ½ symbolic days the suffering of God’s people shall be ended.

Daniel 9   and the vision of the 70 weeks (Daniel  9: 24-27)  as it relates  to Revelation 11 

1. The 70 weeks  indicate the period from Daniel’s time to the end of time, when iniquity shall be finished.

2.  This period  is divided into three  smaller periods:
a.  7 weeks – from Daniel to Christ.
b.  62 weeks – from  Christ until the finished work of the antichrist. At the end  of the 62 weeks we read that  Christ shall be cut off and have nothing ( Dan 9:26)  – which is what we read  of here , when it says that the witnesses  are lying dead in the street.
c.   Then we have another week left: that is the week of the anti-Christ- when he shall reign  for a little while. But  here, as in Daniel, this week is cut in half- and the Spirit of the Lord raises  the two witnesses up!  The foundational  paradigm is  the killing of Jesus and his raising on the third day; He is pre-eminently the true and faithful witness (Rev 3:14) – and his rising from the dead is both the power and guarantee of the  rising from the dead of His faithful witnesses.

And now as this all  happens, terror strikes  their  enemies. A loud  voice speaks  from heaven:  “come up  here “ … and they went to heaven  in a cloud , and their enemies watched them . This is the true rapture! Now the church is delivered.

At this time the enemies of God  will feel the full wrath  of God (v.13). A tenth  of the wicked city is destroyed  at this time. The time of repentance is over. This is the time of judgment. There is no more witness of the word of God on earth. The Spirit  of God is withdrawn. Terrible things  happen when the retraining  hand of God is removed. There is terror, and  people will know that this is the hand of God  - but  nothing will change : hell is truth  obeyed to late !

This, dear brothers  and sisters is in short – the history  and the  future of the world. Are you  hearing this?  

[1] John 4 : 23,24
[2] Gr. ekklesia –  lit. those that are ‘called out’; cf. Matt.  16:18
[3] 1 Peter  2:5
[4]   E.g. 1 Cor. 3:16; 2 Cor. 6:16;  Eph. 2:20-22
[5] Zechariah  4:6 -   see  also  Haggai 1  
[6] Romans  5:12
[7] Matthew  25:21; 41,46
[8] Rom 5:17
[9] See also  Revelation  19:15,21; see also Isa. 11:4 ).
[10] 1 Ki. 17:1; Lk. 4:25; Jas. 6:17
[11] John 15:18-25
[12] The ‘ horn’ in the Bible is a symbol of strength and power
[13] This is  similar to  Genesis 15:16. The judgement of the peoples of Canaan has to  wait for its appointed time.

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