Witnessing Power

The Little Book of the Revelation - Fourteenth in a series

We now return to the verse by verse study of the Little Book.

We read in Revelation 11:3 (post 12) that the Lord would give power to his two witnesses and they would prophesy 1260 days clothed in sackcloth. We explained that, figuratively, these are Christians who 1) belong to God and 2) obey his Word. However, this concept is not presented as doctrine or in a dogmatic way.

  • VERSE 4
    They are the two olive trees, and candlesticks standing before the God of the earth.

They have the oil of anointing of the Holy Spirit which continuously keeps aflame their powerful light and witness about Jesus Christ.

  • VERSE 5a
    If any man will hurt them, fire proceedeth out of their mouth, and devoureth their enemies:

Their message is a devouring and consuming flame, as is their God’s. (Heb 12:29)

  • For the word of God is living, and active, and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing even to the dividing of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and quick to discern the thoughts and intents of the heart. (Heb 4:12)
  • VERSE 5b
    and if any man will hurt them, he must in this manner be killed;

The manner or method of killing our enemies must be only by kindly heaping coals of fire on their heads through sharing the Word, that is, the bread of God. Killing with kindness is always right.

Though Christians are often denigrated for speaking truth and there is a need to season our words with salt (Col 4:6), yet even when our words are judgmental (John 7:24), they are kindness to those who have not understood nor believed the Bible.

  • …Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and spake forth unto them, saying, Ye men of Judaea, and all ye that dwell at Jerusalem, be this known unto you, and give ear unto my words. …
  • The sun shall be turned into darkness, And the moon into blood, Before the day of the Lord come,
  • That great and notable day: And it shall be, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.
  • Ye men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God unto you by mighty works and wonders and signs which God did by him in the midst of you, even as ye yourselves know;
  • him, being delivered up by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye by the hand of lawless men did crucify and slain: …
  • Let all the house of Israel therefore know assuredly, that God hath made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom ye crucified.
  • Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and the rest of the apostles, Brethren, what shall we do? (Acts 2:14, 20-23, 36-37)
  • (Included in this passage are an end-time prophecy and one fulfilled on the day of Pentecost.)

Judgments that ‘prick hearts’

  • VERSE 6
    These have the power to shut heaven, that it rain not in the days of their prophecy and power over the waters to turn them to blood and to smite the earth with all plagues as often as they will.

Since it is God who controls the timing of the catastrophes, even that the waters turn to blood (Rev 8:8), we could view God’s witnesses, those who are his, as assisting to instigate the natural disasters which are also judgments, by their prayers— as often as they will, which would never be more or less often than God's will. At this juncture, these judgments are to open the eyes and ears of the rebellious as well as to enforce punishment.

The prayers of the saints were poured out before the first of the seven trumpet blasts that announce each cataclysm (Rev 8:3-5). In Revelation 6 we heard the saints in heaven cry out, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?” (Rev 6:10) The intensity of these cries of God’s people in heaven and on earth will crescendo as the world is overcome by evil, yet they will be salted with tears for the lost (Eze 33:11).

The Lord is judging the earth on behalf of his own, bringing an end to the persecution of his people even as some suffer from the final blows, which are not so terrifying to them as to the ones who have no hope of heaven.

Will some escape the terrors of the last days? (Rev 3:10) If we do not, we can nevertheless advance from strength to strength in the midst of them as God has promised (Ps 84:7), by remaining in his Word and power.

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Looking for the rescue

The Little Book of the Revelation - Thirteenth in a series

As we climb toward the top—or the end, as it were, of the Little Book, let us pause on a curve of the staircase to look back on our brief discussion of the Rapture. That was in Post 7.

Many cherished pastors preach that the faithful saints will be rescued from the time of the great tribulation. Their reasoning is that such punishing blows will be meted to the evil sinners not to the redeemed ones. ‘The gates of Hell will not prevail against the Church,’ they preach, but believers will go forth to loose and bind the powers of darkness, not being held captive in a world under the rule of the Antichrist.

This viewpoint in supported by passages such as in Luke 21:

  • But watch ye at every season, making supplication, that ye may prevail to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man. (Luk 21:36)

That verse caps off the discussion of the Lord with his disciples about the Temple being completely destroyed which he stated early in the discourse (Luk 21:6), and later referenced in a warning to flee Jerusalem to escape its total destruction. (Luk 21:20) He foretold that Jerusalem would be trodden down by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled. (Luk 21:24)

He warned that antichrists would come in his name to lead men astray (Luk 21:8), that wars and tumults would spread on the earth but ‘the end is not immediately.’ (Luk 21:9) He said nation would rise against nation, kingdom against kingdom, and there would be great earthquakes, pestilences, fearful sights and signs from heaven. (Luk 21:10-11)

  • But before all these things, they shall lay their hands on you, and shall persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons, bringing you before kings and governors for my name’s sake. (Luk 21:12)

The Lord explained that they would be betrayed by parents, relatives and friends, who would cause some of them to be put to death. (Luk 21:16) Indeed, they would be hated by all men because they were God’s appointed messengers, yet ‘not a hair of your head shall perish.’ (Luk 21:18)

It would be their glory to be patient, and when they would see Jerusalem compassed with armies, they would know her desolation was imminent. (Luk 21:20) Then they should flee to the mountains and any in Israel should not enter Jerusalem. (Luk 21:20-24)

In commentaries we learn that the early Christians and noble Jews who had heard that warning took heed and fled across the Jordan River when Jerusalem came under siege, mostly to Pella and “we do not read of one who perished in Jerusalem.” (ref)

After the warning about the destruction of Jerusalem, the Lord continued to prophesy, but the time frame seems to have moved to a farther distance, when the second coming would occur. This passage that starts at verse 25 also seems to circle back to the previous predictions in verses 8-12. The disregard for chronological order may be frustrating to us, but is completely natural to the ancient Hebrew mind— as we had noted in Post 4. (ref)

Do not worry

In reading the full chapter of Luke 21 at your leisure, you may ponder whether the warning to watch and make supplication in order to escape the coming events (Luk 21:26) was in respect to 70 AD or to a much later date, which we today could embrace as a promise of being Raptured.

But as we ponder, let us especially recall the Lord’s words that though one may die, not a hair of his or her head will perish. (Luk 21:16-18) Did the Lord not have hair after he was resurrected? And we will too. Some would say that all our bald spots will be repaired in that day!

Some popular books today envision a Rapture of believers whose loved ones and many others are left behind on the earth in a time of great terror. Those left behind then struggle to discover what has occurred and how to adjust their lives.

Paul taught the Thessalonians that they should not worry that the Day of the Lord had come and gone and left them behind:

  • Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him,
  • That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand.
  • Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition;
  • Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God. (2 Thess 2:1-4)

To summarize, Paul taught that the “gathering together” of the saints in the Lord would not occur before 1) an apostasy in the church, 2) the revealing of the Antichrist, and 3) his proclaiming himself to be God in a future temple.

  • And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time.
  • For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way. (2 Thess 2:6-7)

“He who now letteth will let” refers to God, the only one who has power to control when end-time events come to pass. Then, the “he” who is “taken out of the way” could refer to the Antichrist, not to the Holy Spirit— which is a point of belief in the Rapture scenario.

  • And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming:
  • Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders,
  • And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. (2 Thess 2:8-10)

The Lord will thus make clear to those who took the mark of the beast, that their “savior” is the great deceiver. Not only will the Antichrist be taken out of the way once he has played his part, but he will also be consumed “with the spirit of his mouth”— that is, the mouth of the Lord. The imposter will be destroyed at the second coming of the Lord. This will make clear to those who took the mark of the beast that they have been deceived.

Which man is the son of perdition (2 Thess 2:3)?

Who is the “even him” (2 Thess 2:9 ASV) who demonstrates the power of Satan “with all power and signs and lying wonders”? Is “the son of perdition” the first beast or the second beast– the false prophet? A careful reading of Revelation 13 points to the second beast:

  • And I beheld another beast coming up out of the earth; and he had two horns like a lamb, and he spake as a dragon.
  • And he exerciseth all the power of the first beast before him, and causeth the earth and them which dwell therein to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed.
  • And he doeth great wonders, so that he maketh fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men,
  • And deceiveth them that dwell on the earth by the means of those miracles which he had power to do in the sight of the beast; saying to them that dwell on the earth, that they should make an image to the beast, which had the wound by a sword, and did live. (Rev 13:11-14)

The false prophet (Rev 16:13; 19:20), not the first beast, is the one who “causes” (not necessarily forces) all people to worship the image of the beast or be slain, and to receive a mark in order to buy or sell. (Rev 13:15-17)

Perhaps “the mystery of iniquity” (2 Th 2:6-7) is that evil is permitted to harm and destroy the saints despite God being in full control. As one theologian has said, God has ordained evil; evil is not good but evil works toward good. (ref)

Reality check

We see that, initially, the beast arises as a configuration of nations which seems impossible to oppose. From that “system” one leader emerges, the first beast. Power is given to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them, and power over the world is given to him. (Rev 13:1-7)

Are we seeing that beast emerge today?

Do we today see a great falling away from the church and apostasy from saving faith of those in the church?

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The two witnesses

The Little Book of the Revelation - Twelfth in a series

Among the sevens, twelves, three and a halfs, forty-twos and so on, there are other important numbers in the Revelation, such as two. In Scripture, two speaks of unity, confirmation and strength.

  • Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labor. (Ecc 4:9)
  • VERSE 3a
    And I will give power unto my two witnesses

There are two ways (at least two) to regard the two witnesses: 1) They are real men who will arise in the end time, or 2) They symbolize two aspects of God’s power to work. In both cases, Bible expositors offer numerous ideas about who or what the two witnesses may be, and in either case their prophecy is about the Lord and his coming judgment.

In the first concept it may be Moses and Elijah, for example, or Enoch and Elijah. In the second, it could be the Old and New Testaments— law and gospel, or Christians and Messianic Jews.

I favor the symbolic viewpoint, though not dogmatically, and that grace and law are the two, as delineated in 2 Tim 2:19— Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, 1) The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, 2) Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity.

  • The Lord knoweth them that are His.
  • Those who base their faith on Christ’s atoning death on the cross are the sheep who hear the Shepherd’s voice. “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand…” (John 10:27-29) See Rev 13:8.
  • Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity.
  • When we belong to Him, we are enabled by the Holy Spirit to live for Christ, in obedience to his teaching and commands. We are not those described by Jude, who turn the grace of our God into lasciviousness (license), thus denying our Lord Jesus Christ. (Jude 1:4) The unbeliever mocks the true faith by saying, “Let’s continue in sin that grace may abound.” (Rom 6:1) In other words, whatever a sinner does can be forgiven, so don’t sweat it. But that is not saving faith.

The two witnesses symbolize Christians who prove their salvation is by grace alone through faith alone as they live in obedience to Scripture. (Jas 2:26; Mat 5:18) What could be a more sure or any more convicting witness than the mature Christian?

That said, we all fall far short and sin daily, even hourly. But fortunately, under intense trials, our reliance upon the Lord increases exponentially, and should we ever find ourselves in the end-time great tribulation, without a doubt we would cry out for divine help so fervently that our capacity for obedience to God’s laws would measurably increase. I have always found that my ability to please the Lord is greatly enhanced when I am humbled and incapable of helping myself out of trouble.

What is your concept of the two witnesses? As Christians strive to interpret and to apply Scripture we are warned against adding to or taking away from it by any suggestion or view. Each person will reflect upon the verses and perhaps come to no conclusion, but let us all carefully consider the power, holiness, love and fear of God.

  • VERSE 3b
    and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days

As we have noted previously, this time period connects dots between and among numerous scenes: 1) the antichrist’s reign, 2) the protection of Israel by God, 3) the testimony of the two witnesses, and 4) the gentiles trampling on the holy city.

In saying that the time period connects dots, it would seem that all these activities are concurrent, and that the ‘time, times and half a time’ denoted would be the ‘great tribulation.’* (Dan 7:25, 12:7; Rev 12:14)

Perhaps this terror is not at the start or end of a seven year period, but within it. Perhaps it is to be understood as a segment rather than a definite length of time. We do read that the great tribulation has been shortened by God, otherwise no flesh would survive. (Mat 24:21-22)

The protection of Israel by God is noted twice in Revelation 12, in verses 6 and 14. In vs. 6 the time period is a thousand two hundred and threescore days, and in vs. 14 it is a time, and times and half a time. This double reference seems to be for confirmation that the Jews will be helped while they are yet in the wilderness, not in the settled place of rest.

  • VERSE 3c
    The witnesses are clothed in sackcloth.

True believers will understand what hour it is and will be of sober spirit in the final days, crying out for the salvation of family members and friends, and for those without any understanding, and they will mourn for the earth, God’s beautiful creation.

*Time, times and half a time is 1 year + 2 years + 1/2 year = 1260 days or 40 and 2 months, if a year is 360 days.

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