Revelation chapter 11
The camera now turns to focus on the first part of chapter eleven where we find a second episode in the interval between the blowing of the sixth trumpet (Rev 9:13) and the seventh trumpet (Rev 11:14). Bear in mind that all the events from Rev 9:13 up to Rev 11:14 come under the sixth trumpet and are the second woe.
Chapter eleven starts with the temple being measured (Rev 11:1f) and with the witness of the church being revealed in a way that encourages us to trust in God as we read of death, resurrection and earthquakes. The second woe is then spoken of as having passed and the third woe comes (11:15ff) as the seventh trumpet is blown. Glory is given to the Lord God, the All-Powerful and the Ark of His covenant is made visible in the Temple.
Chapter eleven begins with a prophetic message being revealed to John in what could be termed an acted out parable and can remind us of the vision of measuring the new temple in Ezekiel 40. Ezekiel had previously spoken of God’s judgement on Judah and the surrounding nations. Ezekiel then goes on to speak about the future blessing of God’s people (33-48). He also speaks of the new temple (a sign of God’s presence with His people) and the restoration of the people (the fruit of His presence).
In Jesus’ day the temple was greatly admired (Mat 13:1), yet Jesus had already said that one greater than the temple was now present (Mathew 12:6, John 2:19-21). The word ‘Temple’ means ‘palace of God’ – a ‘royal residence’ and the earthly temple was to be known as a house of prayer for all nations (Luke 19:46). In Jesus, people from all nations and kingdoms find their true home and security in His work alone. We are the temple in which God dwells by His Spirit (1 Cor 3:16; 1 Cor 6:19, 2 Cor 6:16).
From all of this we see that the measuring of the temple in chapter eleven does not refer to the literal temple (which was destroyed in 70AD). Instead, it points to the perfect work of Jesus and those who have placed their trust in His salvation creating activity. As believers we are not called to build great temples or create images to express the power and majesty of God because we are, in Him, a living temple (1 Cor 3:16).
In Eph 2:21 we are reminded by Paul that all believers (whatever background they come from) are fellow citizens with Jesus. In Ephesians Jesus is spoken of as the cornerstone (Eph 2:20) of the temple and elsewhere we are spoken of as believers who are living stones (1 Peter 2:5), built together in the work of Jesus.
In the book, ‘I am N’ by The Voice of the Martyrs is the story of Afrooz, a young Iranian Muslim woman who found Jesus, or to put it more accurately, was found by Jesus.. Afrooz was struggling in her work and school and was beginning to have doubts about her Islamic faith. One night after challenging Allah to show himself to her she fell asleep and had a vision. She said, “The room was full of light. I thought it was morning, but later I realised it was midnight. I lifted my head and was seeing Jesus Christ. He was wearing white. Although I had never seen a picture of the Messiah, I recognised that this could be no one else.” She then pulled out a pen and paper to take notes if he spoke, and he did, saying, “Come to me, all you who labour and are heavy laden and I will give you rest.” The vision then ended.
Afrooz later confided in a co-worker in her office who had noticed that she was not her usual self at work and he blurted out that he followed Jesus. She then told him about the words that had been spoken to her and he showed them to her from Matthew 11:28 in the Bible. That, she later writes, was the beginning of her faith in Jesus. Afrooz is now married and has a daughter called ‘Emmanuel’. The family have suffered for their faith but continue to be built up in the Lord and share their faith in Jesus.
Taken from “I am N” from ‘Voice of the Martyrs’ pages 99-100
We are holy; we are set apart as special (Eph 2:21); a ‘dwelling’ where God touches our lives by his Spirit (Eph 2:22) and we are called to shine for Jesus.
As Abraham Heschel (a well-known Hebrew scholar in the 20th cent) once pointed out, man is not called to have buildings and symbols but to be a symbol of God’s blessing in a fallen world. For us as Christians this means being like Jesus. We are to live in close communion with the Father and a reliance on the leading and empowering of the Holy Spirit. This is then evidenced in how we think and act in His world.
Measuring the Temple.
As already mentioned the measuring of the inner court speaks of the precision and preciseness of God’s work, ultimately seen in Jesus Christ. In Eph 2:10 Paul writes that we are God’s workmanship through His work and in the presence and leading of the Spirit we are able to overcome all obstacles. Through His grace and mercy we are the Temple in which the Spirit dwells (Eph 2:21-22, 2 Cor 6:16; 1 Peter 2:5).
Our heavenly Father knows us personally and we are loved with an everlasting love. He is the One who hears every ‘Hagar’ in the desert (Gen 16:7, 10-11; 21:17-20), does not forget the small bird sold for pennies and knows the number of hairs on our head (Luke 12:6-7). His presence is with us because of Jesus (Heb 7:22), the ‘No one can take them from my hands’ One (John 10:28) and His power is experienced in our lives through the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit (John 14:16), who is described as ‘another counsellor’ (John 14:16). The word ‘another’ speaks of one who is exactly the same by way of nature and character as Jesus, with the word ‘counsellor’ revealing the Holy Spirit as another advocate who defends us against the work and accusations of darkness and empowers us to live out the truth. His work is perfect in every way.
The outer court of the temple.
As already mentioned, the temple in chapter eleven speaks of all true believers who trust in Jesus’ work alone for their salvation (Eph 2:8-10). But what about the outer court that is excluded and has been given over to the Gentiles who will trample on the holy city for forty-two months (Rev 11:2)? To answer this question we need to look at the outer court in the days of Jesus and His disciples.
The temple in Jesus’ day had been reconstructed by Herod who had doubled its foundation and in doing so changed the whole outlay of Jerusalem. The outer courts were designed for gentile believers and a great deal of the intellectual and spiritual life of the city took place in the courtyards. However, in Jesus’ day the outer court had become a place of exploitation where money-lenders charged exorbitant exchange rates for the temple coinage and greatly inflated prices for sacrificial animals (Matthew 21:12-13).
In many ways the outer court had come to speak more of religion in the hands of man than God, yet also spoke of where Jew and Gentile met. This place of meeting should have represented life, yet often dealt in death and on one occasion Jesus threw out moneylenders saying they had made God’s temple into a den of robbers (Mark 11:17). From what we have been saying we see that the gentile court in Revelation eleven could speak of where the world meets the church by way of everyday life.
The heart of the church is protected (measured) by the work of God, yet this does not mean we do not suffer in a world which reaps the harvest of its ‘not-interested-in-God’ attitude and its own planning. All across history and all across the world we see that economic downturns affect everyone, both believer and non-believer alike. If we think, as some do, that Christians should be exempt from this then we should look to Jesus who entered our limitations and suffered for the sake of others.
We can all be affected by natural disasters, wars and famine, but we do not have to be infected by what is going on in the sense of being so crushed in heart and mind that we just panic or give up straight away. No matter how hard it is we need to seek the empowering presence of God’s Spirit and continually give ourselves over to the, ‘I will never leave nor forsake them’ One, rather than become bitter and put up mountains of ‘why me?’ barriers.
The Holy City is trampled for forty-two months (11:2).
The holy city being trampled represents the earthly lives and work of the people of God as being continually under attack, but for a limited period of time. For example, we can be attacked by ideology (e.g. “There is no God,” or, “Jesus is just a good person – one amongst many”), persecuted by other religions and mocked by those who think that church is yesteryear with no place in a modern world. Yet still the church continues to grow.
In the specific time-period of persecution (forty-two months), we have a reminder of the length of Jesus’ earthly ministry as the One who rested in the Lord no matter what He went through. He knows what we are going through and will help us to take His victory in all areas through the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit.
In all that we go through we are to rest in the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ. The number forty-two (elsewhere spoken of as three and a half years) reminds us of this rest and protection in that Numbers 33:5-49 speaks of forty-two encampments during Israel’s desert wandering until she entered into the Promised Land. In the desert wanderings they had places of rest, safety and security whilst being sustained by God.
“The LORD God is my shepherd too. I lack nothing. In quiet spots of soft green grass the LORD lets me settle down in peace. My Shepherd leads me out to flowing waters giving rest. The LORD brings me back to myself. The LORD leads me in the tracks of doing what’s right for the sake of God’s holy Name!
Even if I have to walk through the Valley of the shadows of Death, I will fear no evil because you are with me. Your shepherd crook and your strong club reassure me. You set a table for me with a meal right in front of my enemies! You anoint my head copiously with oil. My drinking cup is overflowing! –
It’s true! Your covenantal mercy and what’s creaturely good shall follow me all the days of my life, and someday I shall dwell in the house of the LORD God for as long as there are days….”
Psalm 23: Translation by Prof C. Seerveld.
“The Psalmists testify to being steadied and comforted as they struggle through sickness, disappointments, obstruction, aging, and the shadow of death. When we listen in on their testimony, we become invited to join their company, not to eavesdrop, but to ease into their conversation with the Lord and be anointed with the same comfort.”
Prof C. Seerveld.
During all forms of persecution and all aspects of life, the church is called to rest in the finished work of Christ. Resting speaks of a cessation of one’s own activities in order to focus on, feed and grow in the ways of another – in this case, our heavenly Father. One example of a person resting in this way despite incredible hardship is Noah.
Noah (whose name means ‘rest’) was a preacher of righteousness (1 Peter 2:5). At a time when the world was becoming increasingly wicked, he did everything the Lord asked him to do. Over many decades he built an ark whilst undoubtedly enduring the mockery and laughter of many. How did he survive? How did he keep going when it would have been so easy to give up after a few weeks? He rested in the Lord, putting God first in everything.
A call to rest and the call to trust.
On one occasion Jesus spoke of the need to rest in Him and place their trust in Him in saying that He gives rest for the soul and has a yoke that is easy and a burden that is light (Matthew 11:28-30). A pair of oxen would be measured two or three times for a yoke so that it fitted perfectly.
The yoke that Jesus speaks of represents the perfect rule, reign and agape law of the kingdom of God ‘fitting’ the lives of those who were created for kingdom living. The uncomfortableness that many find in God’s law comes from either the way religious people seek to impose it on them or because it challenges their sinful nature. However it is always going to be better to feel uncomfortable from doing what is right, than feeling uncomfortable through damaging our lives and distancing ourselves from God. The denial of our dependence on God is a denial of life as it should be lived because He is our Creator who knows exactly how life should be lived and all across our world today His work is evidenced, often in the most difficult of circumstances.
“Missiologists (scholars who study contemporary and historical trends among those spreading the message of the Messiah) tell us that roughly 70 percent of all growth in the Messianic kingdom has taken place during this century. (In other words, 70 percent of all those who have believed in Jesus the Messiah and received a new heart through him have done so in the twentieth century alone). Of that phenomenal growth, 70 percent has taken place since World War 2. And – brace yourself – of that incredible increase, 70 percent has taken place since the mid-1980s! These overwhelming statistics tell us that one-third of twenty centuries of the expansion of the kingdom of God has taken place in a period of less than twenty years – and most of it is occurring among the most impoverished, oppressed, and downtrodden peoples of the world.”
Dr. M. Brown in, ‘Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus’, page 92.
God strengthens His people.
The word ‘God’ (Gen 1:1 ‘Elohiym’) carries a picture of One who has greater strength than an ox and the authority of a Shepherd, this being imagery that would not be lost to an agricultural community.
A yoked pair of oxen would always have a lead ox teaching and leading a younger one and taking up most of the strain, and in Jesus, we see God Incarnate, the Shepherd King yoking Himself to humanity with the offer of life. Throughout Jesus’ three and a half year ministry we see a Son who fully trusted His father in all things even unto death. In the persecution that is mentioned in Revelation suffering does come the way of the church, yet in the mention of “forty-two months” we are reminded of God’s protective care.
Through Jesus’ witness, suffering, death and resurrection we are brought into freedom and security by the “no one can take them from my hand” One (John 10:28); the ‘Bless you and keep you’ One of Numbers 6:24 who is reaching out to people today.
“My parents were intellectuals, valuing discussion and debate of literature, the arts, politics and just about anything else. However, in their early thirties they came to a point in life where they seemed to have everything they had pursued, and they began to question the ultimate meaning of life. My father went along to various spiritual groups of different flavours, but was surprised at one meeting to hear a Christian say: “The only reason you should accept Christianity is because it is true...” He found this rather a startling remark coming from a religious person, but went on with his life as it was. Then one night, as he was marking some student’s papers alone in his study, he had an experience of God. He saw all kinds of different situations in his life where he had hurt others or acted selfishly, and then saw the reaction of Jesus to those things. He then found himself seeing the cross and kneeling before it. He had been raised by an atheist father who had forbidden churchgoing, but the words of Scripture; “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief” came into his mind, so he said them. He found himself experiencing the love and forgiveness of Jesus and, overwhelmed went into the bedroom to wake up my mother. He woke her up with the words, “Jane. The most fantastic thing has happened – I have become a Christian!””
A. Orr-Ewing in her book, ‘Why Trust the Bible’, page 126
"The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face towards you and give you peace."' Num 6:24-26
Kept by God.
A picture behind the Hebrew word ‘keep’ is that of a sheepfold of thorns. Think of a shepherd gathering thorn bushes in order to make a corral to place his flock in to protect them and you get the picture. God protects us where life is lived first and foremost: in the heart and mind. He protects us from outside attack and from what the self is like by way of the world. The word ‘keep’ also speaks of ‘watching over and destroying the rebel – the one who seeks to be the first judge’ and ‘bringing things back to how they should be’ so that we move forward as ‘witnessing ones,’ living by the Spirit.
We are kept by God and whilst the world seeks to persecute and destroy, the church continues to witness out of a deep abiding relationship with the Father. We are kept by God and as the world seeks to trample our lives, the life of the church (depicted as two witnesses) continues to shine. One of the ways the church is called to shine is through praying for those who come against Christians (Mt 5:44). The following story which speaks of shining God’s light in this way is taken from “I Am N” by The Voice of the Martyrs:
“Habila Adamu responded to a knock on the door of his home one day to find members of Boko Harem confronting him and telling him they were there to do the work of Allah. On finding out that he was a Christian they demanded that he convert to Islam. His reply to them was, “I am a Christian – and will always remain a Christian –even to death.” Shortly after this Habila was shot in the mouth for refusing to convert to Islam and fell to the ground and lay still with blood pouring out of him. The terrorists then told his wife that if she tried to get help they would find her and kill her along with her child. After kicking Habila to make sure he was dead they then left, chanting, “Allahu akbar.”
Habila’s wife Vivian bent down to look at him and he whispered, “I am still alive - get help.” It took a few hours for friends to get him to the hospital where a doctor said that it could only be by God’s grace that he had survived that long. Doctors scheduled him for a bone graft but before they began to operate they were surprised to see that his cheekbone had virtually healed and there was no reason for a graft.
Habila is often asked how he feels about the men who attacked him. Instead of talking about them, he speaks of forgiveness saying, “We are all condemned criminals. Jesus died for us. He loves us. That’s why we must show that love to the people who hate us.” He went on to say that he prayed earnestly for those who tried to kill him.”
Adapted from, ‘I Am N’, produced by ‘The Voice of the Martyrs,’ pages 201-204
The two witnesses refer to the church.
In Deuteronomy 19:15 we see that two or three witnesses were necessary to convict someone of a crime and in Mat 18:16 Jesus said that every matter must be established by the testimony of two of three witnesses. Moving further on in the New Testament we find Paul telling Timothy of the importance of two or three witnesses (1 Tim 5:19). From this we see why the church is spoken of as ‘two witnesses.’ Speaking of the witnesses representing the church, Prof Beale says…
“…they represent the whole community of faith, whose primary function is to be a prophetic witness. Just as John the Baptist was not a literal reappearance of Elijah, but came “in the spirit and power of Elijah” (Luke 1:17) likewise the witnesses are not Moses and Elijah reincarnated. Nevertheless, the two witnesses are patterned after these two OT figures.”
Beale in ‘The Book of Revelation’, p 573
The Olive Trees and Lampstands speak of the church.
The two witnesses (the church) are also spoken of as two olive trees and two lampstands standing before the Lord of the earth (Rev 11:4) with the witnesses being clothed in sackcloth, revealing their ministry of gospel-proclamation and a call to repentance (Jonah 3:7-8: Mat 11:21). Being clothed in sackcloth is also a recognition that no man can rely on good works, no matter how good or powerful they seem, as a means of earning blessing from God (Dan 9:3-5; Isaiah 64:6).
Olive oil was the main ingredient in anointing oil, and anointing speaks of being set apart and empowered by the Holy Spirit for a particular task by God. The olive tree is the only tree that can produce a harvest for up to one thousand years and therefore symbolises abundance of God’s blessing in the Holy Spirit.
In Zechariah 4:3-14 we read of two anointed witnesses being likened to olive trees and lampstands with the witnesses, at that time, referring to Joshua the High Priest and Zerubbabel the governor. Zerubbabel, whose name meant ‘seed of Babylon,’ led the first group of captives out of Babylon and back to Jerusalem, accompanied by Joshua.
Zerubbabel may have been called the ‘seed of Babylon’ (a name given by the enemy to show control and dominance) but the fruit of his life showed him to be rooted in God. Joshua, representing the priesthood, was initially in filthy rags which were removed through grace and mercy as he was clothed in the forgiveness and power of God (Zech 3:1ff). The two men as anointed witnesses (olive trees and lampstands) were to rebuild the Temple and the altar on its old site and restore the daily sacrifices.
In Revelation one the church is spoken of as lampstands and we have the imagery of an olive tree also used to symbolise being rooted in the Lord (Ps 1:1-3); anointed and sealed by the Holy Spirit (Eph 1:13, Eph 4:30). From this we see that the two witnesses clearly refer to the church.
These witnesses are seen to have the same power (11:5-6) as others, who once stood for God in difficult times, notably Moses who brought God’s people out of slavery and Elijah who brought them out of idolatry. Moses turned the Nile into blood and Elijah shut up the sky and later called down fire on Carmel. Elsewhere God says to the prophet Jeremiah, “I will make my words in your mouth a fire and these people the wood it consumes” (Jer 5:14-15). The church is called to reveal the presence and power of God as God sees fit in any given situation and will prophesy for 1260 days.
Moving on to Revelation 11:6 we read that ‘Anyone who wants to harm them [the witnesses] must be killed in this way’ (consuming fire) this speaks of a judgement that fits the crime as was the case in the Mosaic Law. Nothing goes unnoticed by God who is spoken of as a consuming fire (Heb 12:29).
In scripture fire is often used as a symbol of God’s presence, speaking of His holiness and also His anger against sin. He is the One who revealed Himself as with fire to Isaiah, Ezekiel and John (Is 6:4-5; Ezek 1:4-5 and Rev 1; 13-14). One day Jesus will be revealed from heaven in blazing fire (1 Thes 1:7).
The witness of the church.
The church is to be the ‘Let your light shine before men’ ones (Mat 5:16) in a world of darkness. Those who make up the church are the ‘go out into all the world’ ones (Mat 28:19) called to witness in a world of cut corners, lies and subterfuge. The word ‘Witness’ (11:3) takes our minds back to the work of Christ who constantly remained in His father’s will and at all times continued to give out amazing grace.
“Christianity promised life after death for its believers, but it offered life before death as well. Christians fed the poor with a daily meal. They clothed widows. They visited those in prison. They healed the sick and cast out demons. They were a counterculture right in the mix of the urban mass.”
N. Paige in ‘Kingdom of Fools’; p 100.
“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:2
When the witnesses had finished their testimony the beast comes up from the Abyss (Rev 11:7).
In the gospels, we see that the power of Satan is no match for the One who came in the weakness of the flesh (2 Cor 8:9). Here in our reading, the witnesses are killed yet resurrected three and a half days later. However, we need to remember that the death of the witnesses does not mean that the whole church dies since they represent the church whilst not literally being the church.
“The martyrs were effective witnesses to the truth of the Gospel because their faith in Christ’s victory over death was so convincingly evident in the way they faced death and died.”
R. Bauckham in, ‘The Theology of the Book of Revelation’, page 88
Scripture speaks of Satan as the father of lies (John 8:44), he being the one who ‘birthed’ the first alternative worldview on planet earth through his ‘Did God really say?’ and ‘Surely you will not die?’ challenges in the Garden of Eden (Gen 3:4).
It is this lying spirit which is behind much of the suffering and persecution we see throughout history. The church is often mocked and ridiculed and at times appears to have no power; yet ministry continues as long as God permits - this witness continuing at times even to the point of death. In this we see that the church is not just triumphant through healing and deliverance, but also through suffering and death and, in all of this, it is called to continue to be a witness. As with Jesus, who continued to reveal love whether to the crowds who followed him or those who sought his death, so too the church is called to walk in the strength and power of the Spirit – even through death (Acts 7:55-59). Those who continued to proclaim the gospel in the Roman Empire and indeed in any empire that man has set up were mocked, ridiculed, imprisoned and, on occasion, martyred in horrific ways, with one particularly notorious case being Nero’s crucifixion of believers at one of his garden parties.
In many respects the church has often been ‘killed’ when viewing it from a worldly perspective and yet she rises again and again from the ashes whether in Russia, North Korea, China or the Middle East. In all of this we see that the picture of witnesses dying and coming back to life is to show that even when Satan is allowed to do his worst and kill believers, believers still stand. We follow the One who once said to the religious people around Him, ‘This is your hour when darkness reigns’ (Luke 22:53). He was arrested and crucified yet neither death nor Satan could hold Him (1 Cor 15:4) and He now stands victorious as the Second Adam (1 Cor 15:45). Because of His victory all believers stand in victory, even in death.
The witnesses are ‘killed’ and their corpses lie in the city symbolically called Sodom, Egypt and Jerusalem where their Lord was crucified. Therefore the ‘great city’ speaks of the illegitimate rule of man (religious or godless) wherever it is found and the language in these verses are reminiscent of words found in Psalm 79: -
“God, the nations have invaded your inheritance; they have defiled your holy temple, they have reduced Jerusalem to rubble. They have given the dead bodies of your servants as food to the birds of the air, the flesh of your saints to the beasts of the earth. They have poured out blood like water all around Jerusalem, and there is no-one to bury the dead. We are objects of reproach to our neighbours, of scorn and derision to those around us.”
In Psalm 79:1-4 we read of the time surrounding the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple by Nebuchadnezzar in 587BC. The city of life had become known as the city of the dead in a society where the bodies of the conquered were often dishonoured by being left to wild animals (Is 14:18-19). As an added insult the bones of the dead were sometimes left in the sanctuary of the defeated as a means of making it ceremonially unclean.
In Rev 11:10 we read that people rejoice and celebrate the death of saints with a language that is reminiscent of Micah where enemies gloated over the suffering of God’s people. Micah (Circa 750-687) spoke of God’s judgement and was seen as a champion of the oppressed. He condemned the wealthy for taking land from the poor (2:2) and came against dishonest business people who bribed judges, charged excessive interest rates and used false weights. In all that Micah faced, his hope was always in God his Saviour, he pointed out (in language reminiscent of the Exodus) that God would save his people (7:8-13).
In Revelation the surrounding nations looked on in contempt and the survivors who had lost friends and family to death or captivity would undoubtedly have struggled as have so many down through the centuries, yet there was always hope.
In all things and in all ways the church is called to look to God even when everything around appears to be falling apart. God is our only hope and in the period of three and a half days that is spoken of (Rev 11:11) we are reminded of the one who bore our bruises and took our punishment and on the third day was resurrected. He is not just our hope, He is our living hope.
God reaches out.
Throughout history we see that God has always been willing to help people. We see this from the outset of scripture where Adam and Eve are raised from the pit of their own making and incidences such as Joseph being raised from the pit he was thrown into. Joseph later became second in command of the most powerful nation on earth because God was with Him. God also raised up Rahab the prostitute (Heb 11:31) and a repentant Nineveh (Jonah 3), revealing His compassion and mercy to all who would receive His grace and mercy. God lifts the needy out of affliction (Ps 107:41) and we, His church, are raised up in Christ (Eph 2:6) and encouraged to set our hearts on things above (Col 3:1). In Christ alone the church continues to stand (Eph 6:14), He being the Righteous One (1 John 2:1) and the Great Shepherd (Psalm 23:1; John 10:11) who releases us into the pasture of His presence. In the Ancient Near East, a shepherd was often known as the ‘man of the eye.’ This is because He is the One who watches over the sheep as He protects, leads and feeds His sheep.
The church resurrected and called by God (Rev 11:11).
In Revelation 11:11 the breath of life raises up the witnesses (church) pointing to the church victory over the death-blows of darkness with the ‘breath of life’ language reminding us of Genesis 2:7 where God the Life-Breather, raised man from the dust of the ground and breathed life into him. In many respects He has been raising us ever since then.
When my mother was serving God in China she heard of a whole village that had turned their lives over to Jesus Christ after murdering two Christians whom they believed were responsible for failed crops that year. The two believers were put to death and they then saw them leave their bodies and ascend to heaven.
Whilst there are those who are sceptical about occurrences like this the question has to be asked: What other explanation can be given as to why this whole village turned to faith in Jesus Christ? What possible gain could there be in making up such a story about how you came to Christ in a country known for persecuting Christians?
A picture that we could relate to Revelation 11:11f is the raising to life of dry bones in Ezekiel 37:5, 10-12 mentioned in verses that come after the chapter’s speaking of judgement on Judah’s idolatry, (chapters 4-24) and the gentile nations surrounding Israel (25-32). In Ezekiel chapters thirty-three to forty-eight we then read of the future blessing of God’s covenant people and it is in these chapters that we see the restoration of dry bones.
Ezekiel is describing the aftermath of a major battle scene where the dead have been denied a proper burial (a calculated insult and curse by the enemy). God then commands Ezekiel to speak to the bones and they are raised to life.
In this imagery we see a lifeless Israel (in captivity and under covenant judgement) returning home (restored to covenant living) after the Babylonian exile. In the New Testament in Romans 11:15 Paul speaks of ‘life from the dead’ for those in Judaism who turn to the Messiah.
The imagery of the witnesses being raised to life and going up to heaven in a cloud also reminds us of Elijah’s ascension to heaven (2 Kings 2:11) and of the ascension of Jesus (Acts 1:9). We can also note Dan 12:2 and 1 Thess 4:16-17 where we read:
“For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord for ever.”
The need to be a Spirit-empowered Church.
All across the world, in difficult circumstances and being greatly outnumbered, the church continues to grow and in doing so testifies to its divine origin and the presence and leading of the Holy Spirit. However, it only grows where the Holy Spirit is present with His people.
After the demise of the Roman Empire the church was still standing; yet it was not unscathed with real damage being done after persecution that ended towards the latter part of Rome’s history. During the reign of Constantine (who was sympathetic towards Christians) the old Adam started trying to rule the church and quenching man’s openness to the leading of the Spirit. Charles Colson comments on this briefly in his book, ‘Choose Love not Power’ where he writes…
“In 313 A.D. the Christian Church went through a major transition that changed its character. In that year the Emperor Constantine gave official recognition to Christianity and provided it with a favoured status; Christianity became the unofficial religion of the Roman Empire. Seemingly overnight people throughout the Roman domain had to adjust to having a “born again” emperor…..The church moved into dominance throughout the Roman Empire. Its leaders were no longer renegades and outlaws, but persons who wielded substantial political power. The general consensus of Church historians is that the moment Christianity allied itself with the power of the state, it entered into a period of corruption and disintegration gradually losing much of its moral authority and spiritual dynamism….as the Church increased in power, it decreased in authority. It came to be known more by the power its bishops wielded than the sacrifices made by its people.”
C. Colson in ‘Choose Love not Power’ pages 93-94.
An earthquake (Rev 11:13).
In the opening of the sixth seal in Revelation chapter six we read of an earthquake (Rev 6:12) marking the beginning of the judgement. In Rev 11:13 the earthquake is another phase of judgement (coming through the seventh seal) underlining and intensifying the picture previously given. Earthquakes and the shaking of the Earth are sometimes linked to judgement in scripture (eg Ps 68:7-8, Is 64:3, Jer 10:10) as well as final judgement (Heb 12:26-7) when God calls time as we know it to an end.
A tenth of the city (Jerusalem) collapsed and seven thousand people are killed in an earthquake with survivors being terrified and giving glory to God (Rev 11:13). But why is the number seven thousand mentioned?
Perhaps the number seven thousand is used to contrast God’s ability to protect His people and man’s inability to save himself from judgement? For example, in (1 Kings 18:18; Rom 11:4) we read that God reserved for himself seven thousand prophets, whilst here in God’s judgement in Revelation the enemy cannot prevent seven- thousand from dying. Symbolically, seven thousand in the context of 1 Kings speaks of God’s perfect protection, whilst in Rev 11 it speaks of perfect judgement; God makes no mistakes.
The camera continues to swing round and the second woe now seen is over and the seventh trumpet sounds. The third woe is about to come about with its nature being described in the bowls of judgement in chapter sixteen. However, before seeing this we read of the legitimate power which rules: the kingdom of the Lord and of His anointed One. We also read of Elders representing the people of God, giving thanks to the Lord God Almighty (the sovereign over all history). He is the Life-breather who resurrects through incredible love, grace and mercy.
“What I find amazing is that around the world, in every country I have visited, I have met Christians who experienced the same transforming power through faith in Jesus the Messiah, including former Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists, animists, atheists, terrorists, alcoholics, drug addicts, prostitutes – you name it – and who believe in the same fundamentals of the faith. Friends of mine who have spoken in as many as ninety different countries can attest to the same phenomenon. There is a supernatural unity among those who truly believe and who have come to know God through Yeshua.”
Dr. M. Brown in, ‘Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus’, pages 207-8
The life-breather who resurrects.
As we have already commented, God is the One who raised Adam and Eve out of their self-imposed isolation (Gen 3:8) and continually brings life and hope into all manner of difficult situations. He is the One who raised Abel to eternal life following his brutal murder by his brother Cain (Heb 11:4), and He raised Stephen who was stoned to death by religious fanatics (Acts 7:55-60). God is also the One who raised Noah’s Ark on the waters of the flood (Gen 7:17) and Moses from the backside of the desert, initially engaging with him through a burning bush (Acts 7:30-33). In God’s conversation with Moses we see grace and mercy releasing a mind caught up in the bondage of self. Moses didn’t think of himself as anything special (Exo 3:11), yet God points out that it is not about Moses, but the fact that God was with Him (Exo 3:12). Moses said, “Who shall I say you are?” God said, “Everything you need.” Moses said, “I can’t really speak” (Exo 4:10) and God replies with, “Who gave man his mouth?”(Exo 4:11).
God is the One who can breathe life into any given situation, which is why Paul writes, “I can do everything through him who gives me strength” (Phil 4:13) and as David writes…
“He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord.”
In placing God first in our lives we find His victory in all that we go through. This victory may not always come about in the way we would like to see it, but it will be His victory as He enables us to keep in step with the Holy Spirit (Gal 5:25). We cannot always predict what God is going to do, and He never said that He would show us everything He is doing. However we do know His nature and character and in this there is great comfort and security.
During the persecution of Christians in Rumania (1970s) a Policeman knocked on a Pastor’s door and asked to talk. He’d been sent to arrest worshipping Christians the night before and had waited until they all entered a hall and started singing. On approaching the hall the singing faded and started in another area. They followed, yet the singing faded and was heard in yet another area. Later, all the Christians were seen leaving the hut they had first entered. It was this that brought him to the realisation that he needed to know God: the One who is the Lord, who provides and protects.
The incredible presence and authority of the Messiah.
People were constantly amazed at Jesus’ authority, seen in both word and deed as He stilled storms (Mark 4:41), cast out demons (Lk 4:36) and raised the dead (Mt 6:22f, Luke 7:14-15, John 11:17). He also revealed who He is in saying that He has authority to forgive sins (Luke 5:24) and that His words will never pass away (Mark 13:31).
Through Jesus’ life (which speaks of intimacy with the Father and a reliance on the leading of the Spirit), lepers were healed (Mt 8:2f), paralytics were raised up (Lk 5:24), the deaf could hear (Mark 7:32-34) and the blind were able to see (Mt 20:30,Mk 8:23, Jn 9:2f) as good news was proclaimed to all people (Lk 4:18-19, 43). He is the Covenant Head who sustains His people and bestows ability and gifting far beyond our normal ability (2 Peter 1:3).
Life is going to be tough at times, yet He is the One who has put everything under His feet (Psalm 8), this speaking of the absolute mastery of the One whose presence makes the earth tremble (Psalm 114:7). We are not our own, having been bought at a price (1 Cor 6:19-20) and His grace is sufficient in all things (2 Cor 12:9). God is with us.
The camera continues to whirr and chapter eleven starts drawing to a close with the twenty four elders worshipping God and acknowledging His power. Judgement is coming (Rev 11:18) and what the world has become by way of sin will finally be removed forever. Those who destroy the earth – the rulers of the Roman Empire (and any empire standing against God) will one day be no more.
God’s Temple is then seen as being open with the appearance of the Ark of the Covenant along with flashes of lightning, thunder, earthquakes and a hailstorm, again, underlying judgement. God’s kingdom is present and those who have oppressed others and refused to turn to God, along with those who seek to destroy the earth, are given notice.
The Ark of the covenant in the Temple (v19).
The imagery of the Ark (the earthly ark was lost during the Babylonian exile) points to law, blessing, mercy and covenant living. God is a covenant-keeping God and those who break or attack His covenant will be dealt with, whilst those who accept God’s love, grace and mercy find forgiveness and reconciliation.
Within the original Ark of the Covenant, which was covered with the Mercy Seat, were the Ten Commandments given to Moses, the golden pot of manna and the almond rod of Aaron that budded. (Heb 9:4).
The Ten Commandments speak to us of God’s teaching and are part of the Torah given out of our heavenly Father’s love and concern for us all and reveal the heart of kingdom living summed up in Jesus’ words, “You shall love….” (Mat 22:37f).
The Hebrew word ‘Torah’ is derived from a verb meaning, “To point with the finger or hand” or “to shoot an arrow” and speaks of a Father who is perfect in all His ways, instructing His people. Laws can be put in place by governments with no real interest in their subjects, yet the Torah law is very different: it is the teaching of a Father who ‘hits the mark’ of man’s needs.
The Ten Commandments and the Torah underline the terms of the covenant between God and man, with blessing and cursing according to how we live or don’t live the right way. If I serve God I am available and open to the blessing of the covenant; if I go my own way I live in the ‘curse’ – the ‘separated from my father’s love’ place, as did two sons in the parable of the loving Father (Luke 15). Fallen man continually fails to keep God’s covenant, yet all covenant terms are fulfilled in Jesus Christ.
Also contained within the Ark of the Covenant was the golden pot of Manna (Deut 8:16) speaking of God’s provision and blessing during Israel’s desert wandering, and the almond rod of Aaron that budded (Num 17).
The Almond tree was the first tree to blossom in Israel and bore its fruit in spring. In a challenge to an ‘off-the-mark’ priesthood, it was Aaron’s rod that supernaturally budded, clearly underlying that all true growth of God’s people is of a supernatural origin through Him alone.