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The Witness of Sacrifice (Revelation 11:1-13)

“I was given a reed like a measuring rod and was told, “Go and measure the temple of God and the altar, with its worshipers. But exclude the outer court; do not measure it, because it has been given to the Gentiles. They will trample on the holy city for 42 months. And I will appoint my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth.” They are “the two olive trees” and the two lampstands, and “they stand before the Lord of the earth.” If anyone tries to harm them, fire comes from their mouths and devours their enemies. This is how anyone who wants to harm them must die. They have power to shut up the heavens so that it will not rain during the time they are prophesying; and they have power to turn the waters into blood and to strike the earth with every kind of plague as often as they want. Now when they have finished their testimony, the beast that comes up from the Abyss will attack them, and overpower and kill them. Their bodies will lie in the public square of the great city—which is figuratively called Sodom and Egypt—where also their Lord was crucified. For three and a half days some from every people, tribe, language and nation will gaze on their bodies and refuse them burial. The inhabitants of the earth will gloat over them and will celebrate by sending each other gifts, because these two prophets had tormented those who live on the earth. But after the three and a half days the breath of life from God entered them, and they stood on their feet, and terror struck those who saw them. Then they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, “Come up here.” And they went up to heaven in a cloud, while their enemies looked on. At that very hour there was a severe earthquake and a tenth of the city collapsed. Seven thousand people were killed in the earthquake, and the survivors were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven.”

‭‭Revelation‬ ‭11:1-13‬ ‭NIV‬‬


Revelation 11:1-13 is a picture of the church. The imagery of the two witnesses is not two literal witnesses but rather, this picture is using a courtroom illustration where in the law of Moses it says there must be two witnesses for a point to be true. John is using the two witnesses to represent the church proclaiming the message of Jesus. The symbolism of two witnesses is confirming that this message about Jesus is true.Then John uses miracles from different stories from the Hebrew Scriptures that will lead the original audience to understand the power of the followers of Jesus. Even in times of persecution the power of the Spirit of Jesus will fill all believers. John is pointing the the climax of God's Kingdom invading earth just like all the Hebrew Scriptures prophecy. When taking that into perspective this is one of the easiest chapters to read and see what apocalyptic literature is all about. Every story of great faith in the Hebrew Scriptures points to the moment of God's kingdom restoring creation. John in using the history of Israel and putting it in perspective of the Kingdom of God invading earth and finalizing what Jesus initiated by His life, death, resurrection and accession.

The witnesses show us that unlike the picture of the nations that is filled with chaos and hate, judgement against these wicked deeds does not lead to repentance. Therefore, like some of the prophets of the old testament these witnesses who spoke of God’s judgment were killed by a beast. However, unlike the prophets of the Old Testament these witnesses rose from the dead by God’s Spirit and then the people of the nations repented. What does this show us? That the judgment of God was never the answer for salvation that was to set the stage for our need for Jesus. What brings salvation is the sacrificed lamb who died and rose again. As the church we will be persecuted but it is not our place to bring judgment we are participating in the sacrifice of Jesus and when we sacrifice our own lives God will bring salvation. Because we are telling the story of Jesus by our example. We must sacrifice our lives just like Jesus did and through our spiritual resurrection the nations will come to know King Jesus.

When we lay down our lives in sacrifice to serve the world around us we are participating in Heaven's invasion of Earth and conquering the world with the Kingdom of Heaven. The end of this passage is probably the most puzzling part of this entire scripture but when we think of the context which John is writing and John’s original audience we think of the Old Testament scriptures where God brought judgement on people. All of Sodom and Gomorrah was annihilated, only seven thousand people were left following God in the time of Elijah. This matters because now only seven thousand die in the earthquake which is a representation of God’s judgement after the resurrected witnesses ascend to Heaven. The passage about the witnesses show that even though the world will oppose the church and therefore oppose God, God is still coming to restore the world to bring mercy and grace to all that will accept it. God’s grace does not run out, God is not returning to bring full out judgement unlike many believe, but God is returning to restore the world and because it is our God’s character this restoration of creation will be full of grace. Those who are judged it will not be because God is harsh but because they choose to deny Him and oppose Him. Humanity will have plenty of chances to believe in King Jesus. Grace will be available until the very end.



Resources

Koester, Craig R. Revelation and the End of All Things. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2018.


Mackie, Tim, and Jon Collins, eds. “Watch: Revelation 1-11 Bible Book Overview Video: BibleProject™.” BibleProject. Last modified 2016. Accessed June 16, 2021. https://bibleproject.com/explore/video/revelation-1-11/.


Wright, Nicholas Thomas. Revelation for Everyone. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Pr. 2011.

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