That They May Know

“Now after three-and-a-half days the breath of life from God entered them, and they stood on their feet, and great fear fell on those who saw them” Revelation 11:11

God’s two witnesses will be a thorn in the side of those who oppose Christ for three-and-a-half years. Those who want to silence them will be consumed by fire (v 5). As part of their testimony God will give them power similar to that which He gave to Moses and Elijah. They will cause a drought for the whole time they testify, turn water into blood, and strike the earth with plagues (v 6). No wonder many will wish them dead and attempt to kill them – but the Lord will protect them. John records that those who oppose Christ will make war against the two witnesses and eventually kill them but not before they have finished their ministry (v 7). We can be comforted by this in that the Lord takes care of His people until their work is done.

It will seem a triumph when the two witnesses are finally killed. Television, newspaper and other media will give this first event full coverage. Social media will run amuck with celebration for a few days (v 10) until God raises them from the dead (v 11). Television and newspapers will not headline this second event, however. Heads of government will endeavour to shut down social media conversation just as they do now with any news that is unpalatable to them.

Why will the Lord allow the two faithful witnesses to experience such opposition and the pain of death?

A purpose for the plagues in Egypt through Moses was so “that the Egyptians may know that I am the Lord” (Exodus 14:4). The same is true of this future event. Also it would appear that many Egyptians left their homeland with Israel in the Exodus (Exodus 12:38; Numbers 11:4). The Egyptians had seen the destruction of their false gods and the revelation of the one true God and been moved in heart (Exodus 12:36). Those who left with Israel presumably had chosen to follow the God of Israel much like Ruth did years later.

The death and resurrection of these two witnesses was a final testimony to Israel first and to all mankind that Jesus Christ who rose from the dead is the one true God and has power to raise up and give life to whom He will. While the majority will harden their hearts there will be many who will repent and humbly surrender to the Lord. The book of Revelation reveals that multitudes will be saved during this time even though it may cost their earthly lives (i.e. Revelation 12:11). They will have discovered and now know the truth about Jesus Christ.

Thank the Giver

“Thus says the Lord, “You have sold yourselves for nothing, and you shall be redeemed without money” Isaiah 52:3

When the Lord spoke these words through Isaiah to Jerusalem the people had turned to idolatry and away from knowledge of the Lord. This sounds much like our world today. As we consider how the Lord dealt with Israel we will gain an understanding of how He will deal with people now.

The book of Isaiah makes it clear that the Lord’s intent is to redeem Israel. By the time we get to chapter 51 the Lord is pleading with Israel to “Listen to me,” stated three times. God wants to be heard but the people were not listening. Our world is not listening to God’s word either. There are few who really want to hear what God has said.

For those who do listen there is another step. The Lord then says to Israel, also stated three times, “Awake, awake.” It is not enough to just hear what God is saying but to respond to it. As our world is today so was Israel then. People who expect utopia on earth without Christ are dreaming. Israel had tried everything to keep safe. They attempted to build their own military, they had paid tribute to other nations and they had bought mercenary armies and yet they still suffered. For all their attempts to buy freedom they had failed. The Lord says they sold themselves for nothing. Their treasuries were emptied for no gain. All attempts that people make to buy deliverance the Lord says are futile.

Many people seek forgiveness and salvation but they want to be able to boast that they achieved it by their own effort, merit and wisdom. Such is the nature of pride. Paul responds to this by writing, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the Gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).

It goes against pride but forgiveness of sin and salvation are a gift from God. The Lord says through Isaiah, “You shall be redeemed without money” (52:3). Israel will be redeemed as a gift from the Lord. In this we observe the Divine Nature of God. In chapter 53 the Lord describes how He will do it. That chapter is a description of Jesus Christ at His crucifixion and resurrection. In a nutshell we have it in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” Jesus Christ is the Gift. Those who receive Him are the children of God (John 1:12). Later Paul would write, “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).

The Lord’s plea with Israel and with all people today is to cease futile efforts to buy forgiveness and salvation with money, by acts of righteousness, by personal achievement, or religious ceremony and ritual, and simply receive forgiveness and salvation as the Gift it is in Jesus Christ. There is only one thing left for us to do. When we have received a gift, we thank the giver.

The “Would Have Beens”

“He would have fed them with the finest wheat; and with honey from the rock I would have satisfied you” Psalm 81:16

We may often ponder what might have been if we had made a different choice or acted and spoken differently but there is a certainty about these words: “Would have been.” This Psalm is a prayer for Israel to return to the Lord. Things would have been much different had they heeded the word of the Lord that had come through His prophets.

“Hear, O My people … O Israel, if you will listen to Me” (v 8) and “Oh, that My people would listen to Me, that Israel would walk in My ways!” (v 13). Had Israel heeded the Lord the nation would have been immeasurably better off. The Lord would have subdued their enemies and provided abundantly for them. Instead, He has allowed their enemies to have power over them and their land had been much less fruitful than it would have been.

Nothing can be done about the past except, hopefully, to learn from it. The Word of God will let us know what would have been had we been more willing to hear and conform to the will of God. The person without Christ will merely reflect on what might have been but God’s Word opens the door to realise that we have at times missed the perfect will of God. In His grace, as a loving Father, God has kept us through those times and not disowned or abandoned us.

Let us come to the Lord confessing our failure to hear and heed His word and determine in our hearts that, by His gracious enabling, there will be no more “would have beens” in our lives and plenty of “have beens!”

We discover His will for us through reading and studying the Bible combined with prayer and life experiences that the Lord sends our way. The temptation is to do that which seems right in our own eyes without seeking His will and way.

Vance Havner writes, “I suspect that much of our praying to be used is selfish and underneath it is the sneaking desire to make our mark and be recognised.” Our desire may be to glorify ourselves so that we and others think better of us but Peter writes that we are to live so “that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 4:11).

The key question we must ask with regard to all things in our lives is, “Is God glorified or am I?” If we are really honest before the Lord the answer might not be as we had hoped but this is an opportunity to grow in grace. Then He shall satisfy our hearts.

Faith is its Own Reward

“Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; whatever a man sows, that he shall also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption,  but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life” Galatians 6:7-8

Whenever we see a statement like the commencement of these verses it is for our good that we take notice. That Paul would write such a line shows that he knew Christians who were being deceived and who were attempting to mock God even if unwittingly.

The principle of sowing and reaping was also used by Jesus in teaching His disciples. It isn’t uncommon for a person to say that they haven’t enough faith or that they desire more faith. We can even read it in the Gospels. In Romans Paul writes that “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17) but if just hearing audibly or reading visually was all there was to it many more Christians would have greater faith. “Hearing” has more to it than that.

“Hearing” means also believing to the point of obedience or conforming in thought and activity. A sower may fill his pouch with seed but if he does nothing with it he will not increase his seed. The same is true of faith. If we don’t follow through it will remain just as it is, seed without increase. This is one reason that James wrote, “Faith without works is dead” (James 2:20). If we want our faith to increase we must sow that which we already have. In other words, if we don’t act on what we already know then we will know no more. If we do not act upon something we know it shows that we don’t really believe it to be true.

The new Christian is able to exercise the same faith as a mature Christian even if that mature Christian is a theologian who has studied the Bible for decades. The problem we have in regard to faith is not in how much we know but in believing and acting upon what we already know. This is just like the farmer who takes his seed and sows it in the ground. It is the act of sowing that is evidence of faith, not the quantity or quality of the harvest.

In the parable of the Sower Jesus tells us that not all seed will reproduce and bear a harvest but that is in no way a reflection on the faith of the sower.

As we exercise faith in Jesus Christ and His word we will discover that He is faithful to who He is and what He has said. If we think that sowing faith will reap health, wealth and prosperity then we have missed the principle that kind begets kind and we reap what we sow.

The reward for acting in faith in Jesus Christ and His word is more faith. The writer of Hebrews puts it this way, “Without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6). The reward for acting in faith in Jesus Christ is more faith in Jesus Christ.