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Wednesday in the Word

Second Baptist Church

August 20, 2014

Revelations 11:3-6

  1. Many of the incorrect teachings concerning the book of Revelations have to do with an old problem that still exists today. Jesus said, "My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place." (John 18:36). The people at Jesus‘time, including the disciples, thought that the kingdom of God was going to be an earthly, physical kingdom, similar to the earthly government of the Roman Empire. That's why the two sons of Zebedee wanted to sit one at His right hand and one at His left hand in His kingdom (Matthew 20:20-23). That‘s why the disciples were offended when Jesus told them that He had to suffer and die (Luke 9:22-44). That‘s why, just before He ascended into heaven, the disciples asked Him whether He was going to restore the kingdom to Israel at this time (Acts 1:6). All these verses point to the struggle the early disciples and others had with the real Kingdom of God. Many of the issues concerning the understanding of Revelations have to do with man’s failure to see things in the Spirit. John 6:25-63. People today are still looking for God to establish a kingdom like the Roman Empire. God is always moving from the physical and temporal to the spiritual and eternal. Revelations is a book about the old physical kingdom being destroyed and done away with so the new spiritual kingdom can be ushered into existence. See Mark 1:15, Matthew 10:7.

  2. Recap. In the first two verses of Revelation 11 we were shown that the temple of the Lord, representing the holy people of God, would be spiritually spared and remain safe with God through the coming national judgment. However, it was not going to go well for those who were not the people of God. Revelation 11:2 tells us that the holy city, Jerusalem, would be trampled by the Gentiles for 42 months. This statement parallels Jesus’ words in Luke 21:20-24 where Jesus described the destruction of Jerusalem that the Romans would inflict in 70 AD. Revelation 11 has shown us that the physical Jewish nation was about to be judged for its sinfulness. The rest of the imagery continues in verse 3.

  3. Chapter 11:3. THE TWO WTTNESSES, who are they? In order to really understand what we are about to see I must show you some other scriptures that can help us interpret this text Deuteronomy 17:6, 19:15; Matthew 5:17, 7:12, 11:13, 22:40; Luke 16:16,29-31, 24:44; John 1:45, Acts 13:15, Romans 3:21. What we can see is that God established that a matter be determined by at least two witnesses. The witness for God has always been the message of Law and the Prophets. Prior to the destruction of Israel in 70 AD Stephen preached and was stoned for saying that the unbelieving nation of Israel had rejected the Law and the Prophets (Acts 7:51-53). The two witness are the preaching of the law and the prophets which was all fulfilled in Christ (Matthew 5:17-20).

    1. What is the role of the two witnesses? God gives authority to his “two witnesses” to prophesy for 1260 days clothed in sackcloth (Acts 1:6-9). As we noted in our last lesson, 1260 days is the same as 42 months and a time, times, and half a time. This time marker reveals that it would be a limited time of tribulation, distress, and persecution. Further, the two witnesses are clothed in sackcloth. Sackcloth was used for times of mourning and distress (Job 16:15; Esther 4:1-3; Genesis 37:34; 2 Samuel 3:31). The witnesses are mourning over the judgment message they are preaching. They are mourning for the sins of the nation and the judgment that will result (Joel 1:8; Amos 8:10).

  4. Chapter 11:4. The image of two olive trees and two lamp stands comes from Zechariah 4 which represented how God would use his servants to offer prophetic warning of Israel destruction due to their rejection of God’s ways. John is being shown that the ‘two witnesses” are God’s representatives on Earth (GOD of Earth) that will clearly preach the message of repentance in spite of being rejected by the nation. The work of the olive tree and the lampstands in Zechariah is done by the Spirit of God and not by might or by power. See Zechariah 4:6.

  5. Verses 5-6. Verse 5 tells of the judgment will fall upon those who harm the two witnesses. The language is reminiscent of the divine protection God offered to the prophets (2 Kings 1:10; Jeremiah 5:14). When Ahaziah sent his army to take Elijah back to him, Elijah called for fire to come down and the fire consumed the army. The fire pictures judgment against those who resist these two witnesses. Verse 6 reveals who these two witnesses are. The witnesses have the power to shut the sky that no rain may fall while they prophesy and they have the power to turn the waters to blood and strike the earth with plague. The one who was able to shut the sky was Elijah (1 Kings 17:1) and the one who brought the plagues was Moses (Exodus 7:17-21). To match what we were told in verses 4-5 we must see Elijah and Moses representing the Law and the prophets. Remember that we saw that the two olive trees and two lampstands represent the word of the Lord being accomplished through the power of the Spirit of God. The Law and the prophets foretold these events concerning the destruction of the Jewish nation. Moses prophesied these things would happen in Deuteronomy 28:15- 68. (see verses 49-57). This description details exactly what happened during the Jerusalem siege by the Romans from 66-73 AD. Daniel prophesied the destruction of the Jewish nation in the vision of the 70 weeks (Daniel 9:24-27).

  6. Conclusion. Therefore, the two witnesses represent all of God’s servants who are proclaiming the word of the Lord. Notably, the witnesses would include the prophets and apostles who were prophesying and preaching that the holy city would be trampled. The word of the Lord will be accomplished and the servants of God (the two witnesses) are proclaiming that God’s promises and prophecies will happen. The descriptions that we read about the two witnesses indicate that we are talking about a larger body of God’s servants, not just two people. (1) The beast makes war on the two witnesses (vs. 7). The two witnesses are the prophets, apostles, and those who are proclaiming the message of judgment. (2) The world is watching them die, which speaks to many dying and not just two people. To summarize the point of verses 3-6: the symbol is the message of the Law and the prophets prophesying judgment for the sins of the Jewish nation. The prophets, apostles, and people of God were the ones preaching this message to the Jewish nation.

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