One Year Bible
New Testament passage for Thursday, December 20, 2012: Revelation 11:1-14
And I will grant authority to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth. Revelation 11:3 (ESV)
Two days before He was tried and crucified, Jesus was asked about the signs of the end of the age. We can find this discussion in Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21. It is a fascinating study to unpack all the various signs of the Second Coming of Jesus and how they play out in our world today.
It is my conviction that the most important sign that Jesus gave was, "this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come" (Matt. 24:14, Mark 13:10). While the various other signs (wars, earthquakes, pestilence, etc.) are fascinating and very noteworthy, the one sign that must command the attention of the church is the GREAT COMMISSION. We cannot know for sure when the end will come. These things are known only to the Father. But we DO KNOW that we are be His witnesses right up until the end (see Acts 1:6-8).
God always sends His witnesses, His messengers before He does something. There are always prophets that precede God's mighty acts. Malachi 3:1 says, "Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before Me". Later in Malachi, He identifies this messenger, "Behold I send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord" (Mal. 4:5). John the Baptist was just such a prophet, a forerunner to prepare the way for Jesus (Matt. 11:12-14). God always sends prophetic ministry out just prior to His mighty acts of redemption or judgment! I believe just such a mighty prophetic ministry is being released today! God is about to do something!
Here in Revelation 11, we find this happening. God sends two prophetic witnesses. Their words and their work are part of the end of the age. They prophecy TO THE NATIONS. Scripture says that all the "peoples, tribes, tongues, and nations" (vs. 9) will hear and see their message.
Much discussion has arisen about who these two witnesses might be. Frankly, it is near impossible for us to answer that with finality. Are these literal, flesh-and-blood men who will minister in coming days? Or, are they symbolic, representing some larger aspect of biblical truth? Some have said these are the Law and the Prophets or the Old Testament and the New Testament. From the description of the works they perform, they seem very similar to Moses and Elijah. They turn rivers into blood and release plagues (Moses). They call down fire and can shut up the heavens so that rain is withheld (Elijah). These are also the two men who met with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration in Luke 9.
Regardless of how you see these two, here are some observations that we can be sure of. And I will add a few personal opinions alongside:
1. God is speaking prophetically in our day. His Word is going forth. There is a mighty release of truth, warning, and invitation that we must hear.
2. This message and ministry will be met with violent opposition. The battle of the end of the age is fueled on one side by a "beast that ascends out of the bottomless pit" (vs. 7) and on the other by the power of God that releases signs and wonders to confirm the word preached.
3. The ministry of the Holy Spirit CANNOT be stopped until it fulfills its objective (vss. 5,7). We can take great courage and assurance from the promise that God is with us! This Gospel of the Kingdom WILL go forth. It can't be stopped. It's like a gigantic bulldozer plowing through the earth.
4. All setbacks will only be setups for the final victory. At this point, I will add a few personal observations that might seem a bit far out. (I will admit that I am taking some aspects of our current world picture and "reading them into" this story, so my subjective interpretations should be taken as such.) The two witness die! They are killed -- temporarily -- in "the great city which is spiritually called Sodom and Egypt" (vs. 8). What does this mean? By most interpretation, Sodom refers to the dual cities of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 13 and 14). This is synonymous with the wickedness of a culture permeated by homosexuality. Egypt might well represent the Islamic world that has become so aggressive in our day. If this were true, the two witnesses will appear to die in defeat before two forces: the homosexual agenda and militant Islam.
5. God always wins. In the midst of what seems to be defeat, GOD WILL RAISE UP HIS WITNESS SUPERNATURALLY. This, in my opinion, is a great end-time revival to bring one last engathering of souls before final judgment falls.
This eleventh chapter of Revelation has been said to be both the most difficult and also the most important chapter in this great book. It is difficult because it contains dramatic symbolism for which there can be no sure certainty of interpretation. It is important because it contains a summary of the entire book. These things are written for our ENCOURAGEMENT. Jesus wins! His witness will prevail! He might not come again for another thousand years -- I do not know -- but, this I DO KNOW: We live in exciting days and His Truth is marching on.