It’s a terrible time to be clueless.
Sometimes Christians walk around in the same haze as non-Christians, saying nobody can know what the will of God is, or nobody can know what God is doing. That statement might sound pious and humble, but it’s really just dumb. We have a Bible of sixty-six books that tell us what God is doing. His will has been captured in human words on paper.
Here’s the short form: God is saving people through faith in his Son, His Son grows in those people who have believed, and one day at the end God will complete retaking this world, especially in the Book of Revelation and most especially in chapters like Revelation 10 and 11.
Why do we need to know this? So we can stand with God while he does his work, and not watch from the sidelines like some befuddled spectator who watches a cricket match, and can’t figure out why a man is hitting a ball with a bat shaped like a fraternity paddle.
God continues His move to re-take the earth, and the first thing He does is identify what belongs to Him and what doesn’t.
11:1 Then I was given a measuring Rod like a staff, and I was told, rise and measure the temple of God and the Altar and those who worship there, 2 but do not measure the court outside the temple; leave that out, or it is given over to the nations, and they will trample the holy city for forty-two months.
Measuring is an Old Testament prophetic device meant to demonstrate either God’s protection, or His judgment or His ownership. In this case, it shows His ownership. For instance, when you want to determine the size of your property, you don’t start pacing off what belongs to your neighbor.
Technically, in God’s case, everything belongs to Him–all matter, cognizance, and consciousness–but not everything is available to Him. Whatever is not readily available to him, that is, not willing to give him glory, He does not consider His. Even as you legally own a piece of property, if a group of squatters moved on to it, it would not be available to you, and therefore for all practical purposes would not be yours, until you took steps to reclaim it. That’s why God tells John not to measure the court outside the temple. It has become the stomping ground of the nations, the ungodly and rebellious.
How will God address this problem?
11:3 And I will grant authority to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth.” 4 These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth. 5 And if anyone would harm them, fire pours from their mouth and consumes their foes. If anyone would harm them, this is how he is doomed to be killed. 6 They have the power to shut the sky, that no rain may fall during the days of their prophesying, and they have power over the waters to turn them into blood and to strike the earth with every kind of plague, as often as they desire.
God sends two individuals that will prophesy for 1,260 days. That is over 1,200 days of word, while these witnesses function as olive trees, from which the ancients got oil (emblematic of the Holy Spirit). They will also function as lampstands for light. Earlier in the Book of Revelation, we saw that the lamp stands were the churches. But now the lampstands are these two individuals, indicating that on earth at that time there may no longer be a church witness available.
Their message is not welcomed, probably because they call for repentance (they wear sackcloth). Their hostile audience is therefore seeking to kill them, but cannot do it, because the supernatural component of their ministry protects them.
Who are these two? God does not provide their names. However we can see some clues in the description of their ministry. The prophet who was historically known for consuming his enemies with fire and shutting up the sky is none other than Elijah. The prophet known for turning water into blood and striking the Earth with plagues was Moses.
No one knows how these two come back to the Earth; perhaps they suddenly appear as they did with Jesus on the Mount of transfiguration. At any rate, Moses represents the law, and Elijah, the prophets. On the mount of transfiguration, the law and the prophets were subservient to Christ and eclipsed by His greater glory. Here again, the law and the prophets seem to come directly to Jerusalem in the personage of Moses and Elijah, bringing the testimony of God back to Israel.
7 And when they have finished their testimony, the beast that rises from the bottomless pit will make war on them and conquer them and kill them, 8 and their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city that symbolically is called Sodom and Egypt, where their Lord was crucified. 9 For three and a half days some from the peoples and tribes and languages and nations will gaze at their dead bodies and refuse to let them be placed in a tomb,10 and those who dwell on the earth will rejoice over them and make merry and exchange presents, because these two prophets had been a torment to those who dwell on the earth. 11 But after the three and a half days a breath of life from God entered them, and they stood up on their feet, and great fear fell on those who saw them. 12 Then they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, “Come up here!” And they went up to heaven in a cloud, and their enemies watched them.
A striking thought occurs at the end of verse 8, where the Lord Jesus is called “their Lord.” If these two are Moses and Elijah, they obviously believe and confess the lordship of Christ, and see their ministries fully subsumed within Him. In fact, their witness conforms to a pattern, a template established in Christ that constitutes true witness, and thus, true ministry.
They bring Word, Spirit, and light, which their Lord did. They are hated, killed ( indeed, in the very city that their Lord also died), but are also resurrected, and ascended. it is not as though they are equally doing things as Christ did them, but all the experiences through which they pass follow in the wake of the great archetype, Christ, who is Himself the faithful witness (c.f. 1:5). Moses and Elijah were types of Him before he came, now they are followers of him after his first coming, and preparing the world for His second coming.
For all those who do not heed this word from these two witnesses and reject them, judgement must come in verse 13: And at that hour there was a great earthquake, and a tenth of the city fell. Seven thousand people were killed in the earthquake, and the rest were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven.
However, it is important to note that God does not begin with judgement first. He sends the word first and for a protracted period of time. You see, if you are a landlord, and you find yourself needing to carry out the unpleasant task of evicting tenants, you send letters and representatives first. You wouldn’t begin with armed force.
God’s first reaction is that of witness and word. And the template of witness is a cycle that we all must enter in order for our witness to be considered truly representative of Him. First, we bring Word, Spirit, and light. But because our message also heavily involves repentance, even if we are gentle and tactful and respectful, we will often not be received. Then we must die to self, as Jesus said, We must deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow him.
After this experience of the cross, comes a greater experience of resurrection, a fuller abundance of divine life than what we have ever found before. And following this, the experience of ascension, where we stand above all the things of this Earth with authority and greater sight. The closure of this cycle doesn’t end, though. It brings a fresh revolution, where we are we are once more sent with Word and Spirit and light, with new depth and power. Under the power of the Holy Spirit, these successive seasons cause our witness to grow.
Ministry does not increase just because a person has a gift, goes on social media, gets a million likes, and goes viral. No, that is the cycle of celebrity. The cycle of ministry in Christ is found in sending, death, resurrection, and ascension.
It is profound and honored by God, therefore those who see and hear this cycle of witness are held accountable when they reject it:
14 The second woe has passed; behold, the third woe is soon to come. 15 Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever.” 16 And the twenty-four elders who sit on their thrones before God fell on their faces and worshiped God, 17 saying, “We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty, who is and who was, for you have taken your great power and begun to reign. 18 The nations raged, but your wrath came, and the time for the dead to be judged, and for rewarding your servants, the prophets and saints, and those who fear your name, both small and great, and for destroying the destroyers of the earth.” 19 Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and the ark of his covenant was seen within his temple. There were flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, an earthquake, and heavy hail.
Suddenly it seems, the Ark of the Covenant enters the picture. Why does it make an appearance? Well, recall the Book of Joshua where Israel marched around the city of Jericho, a stronghold of rebellious, sinful resistance. Israel circled the place seven times, blowing trumpets and carrying the Ark. This alone brought down the walls of the city, without any arrows, spears, or swords.
Though the people were deeply involved with serving God, following Him, and fighting His battles, this initial fight for the good land was to be won by the power of the Ark alone. When the Ark appears here in Revelation, it also comes with the trumpet, and brings wrath and judgment (v. 18). However for God’s servants and those who fear His name, it comes with reward.
Actually, the Ark of the Covenant was An Old Testament type of Jesus Christ himself. All judgment has been given to Him (John 5:22), and all reward is with Him (Rev. 22:12).
Sinners typically complain about God’s judgment, and how they didn’t have enough proof, and how God is overly severe. Yet returning to the earlier illustration, it is like tenants moving into a landlord’s property who deal drugs, smash holes in the wall, and refuse to pay rent, so the landlord sends warning messages for 3 and 1/2 years, promising consequences if things don’t change. He sends representatives from the management company, but the tenants kill the representatives.
It is only reasonable to assume that there will be an escalation.
The ark reminds us that we are not the ones to carry out worldwide judgment. We are witnesses and representatives only. The power of God will work out all necessary final justice. In the meantime, we should know that our witness is backed by heaven itself, including all the way into into the most holy place. Never think of yourself as a mere churchgoer, or a religious person.
You’re more than that. You’re a witness, standing before the Lord of all the earth.
Jesus said so (c.f. Acts 1:8).