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.

A Day Nearer

“Who is worthy to open the scroll and to loose its seals?” Revelation 5:2

The above question was asked in heaven by a “strong angel.” Opening this scroll by breaking the seals is described in this book beginning in the next chapter. The breaking of the seals is the beginning of God pouring out His wrath on the nations. God has judged people groups before. He wiped out all but eight people at the time of the worldwide flood. He judged the new population later by confusing their language and He judged the sexual immorality of Sodom and Gomorrah by destroying the whole region and only saving Lot and two of his daughters. The Bible records that God has judged nations and people groups on many occasions in the past and that He will do so again.

God’s holiness demands that sin be dealt with. People deny or disregard God’s warnings of future judgment at their peril. John records God’s revelation to him of the future outpouring of wrath in this book. Revelation 6:16-17 and 19:15 particularly reveal this warning.

Who is worthy to judge the nations? Certainly no man is worthy. Many set themselves up as judges but this “strong angel” can find no one worthy to judge the nations. Worthy has to do with character. The scribes and Pharisees believed that they were worthy judges and brought a woman they caught in the act of adultery to Jesus to see if He would agree with their judgment. His response was, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first” (John 8:7). As the Gospel records, they all left without so much as picking up a pebble. None of them was worthy to judge the woman. The “strong angel” seems to be in that kind of situation as well. Who is without sin to judge mankind?

The only one found to be worthy is the one who Himself bore the wrath of God that was due us. John made this clear in his first letter, “And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world” (1 John 2:2). “Propitiation” is the turning away of wrath by satisfying the debt.

Consequently Paul could write, “For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 5:9; cf. 1:10 & Romans 5:9).

In Revelation 5:9 we read the words of a new song sung in heaven by the twenty four elders, saying, “You are worthy to take the scroll, and to open its seals; for you were slain, and have redeemed us to God by your blood.” This is what makes Jesus Christ worthy to open the seals of God’s judgment. No one else qualifies. Every day brings us a day nearer to when the nations will be judged by Jesus Christ.

Pleasing the Crowd

“So Pilate, wanting to gratify the crowd released Barabas to them; and he delivered Jesus, after he had scourged Him, to be crucified” Mark 15:15

In democratic countries of the world the political systems have deteriorated into essentially politicians seeking to please the people in order to be elected to office. One only has to take a casual look at the style of electioneering to observe this. When leaders of a country have only their own interest at heart and thereby seek to gratify the crowd then righteousness will be crucified.

In Daniel’s explanation of king Nebuchadnezzar’s dream regarding his and future kingdoms, the last kingdom in the image prior to the Lord’s return is a mixture of iron and clay (Daniel 2). These substances cannot hold together. We know that the iron represents the oppressive dictatorship of the Roman Empire but in the last days that will be mixed with a weak form of government depicted by clay in the feet and toes of the image. Just as iron and clay cannot mix, neither does a dictatorship and democracy. Just as iron is strong and clay crumbles, so a dictatorship is strong and democracy is weak. The weakness of democracy is in the fact that in order for politicians to be elected they must please the people. If the people seek righteousness it is strength but when they seek unrighteousness the weakness of democracy is revealed.

In Saul’s day the people demanded a king like the surrounding nations. In doing so they rejected God as their King (1 Samuel 8:7). The final renunciation of Jesus by the chief priests is expressed in their words, “We have no king but Caesar” (John 19:15). In these days we observe that politicians, in order to please the crowds of lobbyists, are choosing to crucify Jesus all over again by turning from righteousness to unrighteousness and oppression of His people.

God gave Israel the king they desired essentially saying, “You can have the king you desire but you will be sorry” and “You will cry out in that day because of your king whom you have chosen for yourselves, and the Lord will not hear you in that day” (1 Samuel 8:18). Samuel had just told the people of Israel that the kind of king they wanted would tax their hides for his own luxury and a vast military force.

If, as a nation, we demand unrighteous leaders (by our democratic vote) God may give what we ask for but we will be sorry.

In the current alignment of nations and the raising up and pulling down of nations, we are observing the horizon of fulfillment of the prophetic Scriptures drawing ever nearer. “… knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed” (Romans 13:11).

You Shall Know

“’Then you shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken it and performed it,’ says the Lord” Ezekiel 37:14

This statement and some like it, such as “Then you shall know that I am the Lord” (v 13), are repeated some seventy times in the book of Ezekiel. The Lord is making the point that the foretelling aspect of prophecy includes when the prophesied events come to pass people will know that it is God who has spoken it and done it. The test of a true prophet is that what he foretells comes to pass exactly as he said (Deuteronomy 18:22). The majority of times this statement is used in Ezekiel relate to Israel but there are quite a few that relate to Egypt and other Gentile nations so that they also may know.

Three times Jesus told His disciples that He would be crucified and rise again (Matthew 29:19). He also predicted the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem, the Tribulation and His return (Matthew 24 & 25). The purpose in telling His disciples these and other things in advance was that they would not be discouraged when they occurred but rather encouraged.

In Paul’s first letter to the Christians in Thessalonica he wrote concerning the return of the Lord Jesus Christ. Once more we see that the purpose in informing Jesus’ followers ahead of time was that they might “comfort one another with these words” (4:18; 5:11). If these words are not to be understood in the normal literary sense then no one would be comforted.

By neglecting the foretelling aspect of prophetic revelation we rob Christians of the comfort that comes from knowing that current and future events must come to pass and that they will not prevent, hinder or delay Jesus returning, establishing His earthly kingdom and creating a new heavens and a new earth. We are in fact encouraged and comforted as we see the day approaching.

This may be one of the compelling aspects of the ministry of the 144,000 witnesses spoken of in Revelation seven and fourteen and the two witnesses spoken of in Revelation 11. They would be able to point people to Scripture, and what will at that time be current events, to show that the God of the Bible is the One true God and that Jesus is the Christ. This will provoke many to believe and receive the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Jesus did this Himself with the two disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:27). He confirmed it as a legitimate way to share the Gospel to all the disciples. He said to them, “These are the words which I spoke to you while I was with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me” (Luke 24:44).

We do a great disservice to God’s people if we fail to expound and teach the foretelling aspect of the prophetic Scriptures and we rob ourselves of joy, peace and comfort if we do not study and believe them.

Trembling at His Presence

“In that day Israel will be one of three with Egypt and Assyria – a blessing in the midst of the land, whom the Lord of hosts shall bless, saying, “Blessed is Egypt My people, and Assyria the work of My hands, and Israel My inheritance” Isaiah 19:24-25

Considering the current Middle East environment it is quite a mental exercise to accept that these three nations will one day get along as one. The previous verse tells us that there will be a highway between Egypt and Assyria which, of geographic necessity, must pass through Israel. People who have not experienced the power of God in salvation through the Lord Jesus Christ might be inclined to say that such talk is but a dream. However, the Lord says He will perform it when He comes. Jesus is the solution to the problems in the Middle East. The question, “If there is a God, why doesn’t He do something?” will be answered forever.

This outcome will not come progressively over a long period of time. Verse two indicates a time of civil unrest or even civil war in Egypt from which a cruel and oppressive leader will arise (v 4). The river Nile will dry up most likely by drought inland. Without the Nile hunger and disease will afflict the nation. Out of this severe trial Egypt will turn to the Lord and He will deliver them (vv 20-21).

Leaders of the nations of the world carry on in futility trying to resolve the Middle East unrest, terrorism and wars but they reject the One who would show them the way. They refuse His counsel and wonder why things are getting worse. Paul describes them and their actions in Romans 1:18-32 summing up their words and actions in verse 22, “Professing to be wise they became fools.”

In the Proverbs we read, “The Lord gives wisdom” (2:6) and “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding” (9:10). As long as people reject God’s wisdom, knowledge and understanding they will fail at every turn. When the Lord returns He will resolve all the divisions but tragically people will suffer because they refuse the wisdom of God.

Isaiah would cry out for the Lord to tear apart the heavens and come down “to make Your name known to Your adversaries, that the nations may tremble at Your presence” (Isaiah 64:1-5) and the Lord will do so but there was still the need of the cross first. In mercy God gives time for people to repent and in this He shows His patient love. “God demonstrates His own [kind of] love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8; cf. 1 John 3:1).

The “rich man” in Luke 16:19-31 begged the Lord to send someone back from the dead to warn his brothers of their great error but Jesus responded, “If they do not hear Moses and the prophets [the Bible], neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead” (v 31). In great power Jesus rose from the dead and there are hundreds of recorded witnesses but the exhibit of God’s power by itself is ineffective to save. Salvation only comes when a person chooses to believe God’s Word and trust Jesus Christ.

A Glimpse into the Future

“The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb … The lion shall eat straw like the ox … The weaned child shall put his hand in the vipers den” Isaiah 11:6-9

Isaiah is giving us a glimpse of how the world will be when Jesus returns and establishes His earthly kingdom. The world Isaiah is describing is not the same as the one we observe and experience today. There has been an account of a vegetarian lion that refused to eat meat but that is considered an extraordinary circumstance. When Jesus reigns there will only be vegetarian lions. The passage tells us that leopards, bears and wolves will also be vegetarian. Cobras and vipers will not bite young children even if a child is unintentionally rough when playing.

In many respects this will be a return to the world as it was before the curse. There will be harmony among all the animals in Christ’s kingdom and people will be able to interact with them without fear of harm. This also means that animals can interact with people without fear of harm. Neither of these scenarios is possible at present.

Jesus’ death on the cross for our sin is the only reason that the curse can be removed. “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29)! Because we have only lived in a world where the curse exists it is impossible for us to imagine exactly how a world where the effect of the curse has been significantly reduced will be. In this chapter Isaiah gives us a glimpse. Revelation twenty tells us that Satan will be bound and that resurrected Christians will reign with Jesus during that time. There are other passages in the Bible that add to the glimpse that Isaiah gives.

The most notable aspect of this period is not the restored earthly order among animals and people or even Satan being bound and unable to deceive people. The most notable aspect is that “the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea” and “The Gentiles shall seek Him” (Isaiah 11:9, 10). We can only begin to imagine living in an environment where the most common topic of discussion is not the weather but Jesus Christ! All the inhibitions and distractions that plague us now will be wiped away.

Up and Away

“The Lord Himself will descend with a shout … and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord” 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17

The Bible does not give the timing of Jesus’ Second Coming. In fact Jesus tells us that He will come when the world least expects Him. However, believers are encouraged to look for His coming and be ready. As with His first coming He will come exactly at the right time.

On the biblical prophetic calendar the next event is when Jesus removes His church from the world. There is nothing in prophecy that must occur before that event so it could happen today or in a hundred years – only the Lord knows!

We are given a lot of information about what the world’s condition will be soon after the church is taken out. Jesus Himself gives us much information that has been recorded by Matthew (Chapters 24 & 25). There are many people and groups of people mentioned in the Bible who will live in that time. In consideration of the Bible’s description of the world’s condition at that time it seems quite plausible to believe that the church could be taken up soon. If that did happen then the people who feature in the tribulation period could already be alive today:

  • The 144,000 Israelites, 12,000 from each tribe (Revelation 7 & 14)
  • the two witnesses and those who kill and/or witness their death and resurrection (Revelation 11)
  • the multitudes of new believers who are martyred during the tribulation and those who kill them
  • The many unbelievers who will seek death (Revelation 6:15-16)
  • the false prophet (Revelation 17 and later)
  • the Beast, also called the Antichrist (1 John 2:18f; Revelation 13 and later)
  • The many who will protect Israelites in a world of anti-Semitism worse even than the holocaust (Matthew 25:35f)
  • The multitude of believing Jews and Gentiles who will enter the earthly kingdom at Christ’s Second Coming

There are other groups mentioned but this list is sufficient to awaken us to the times in which we live. People we live alongside may be included among those mentioned above.

Since there is the possibility that these events may take place soon, and the participants may be alive now, how should we conduct ourselves? The Apostle Paul gives an answer to that question in 2 Thessalonians 3:6f. It is evident from his letters that he expected that Jesus might return in his lifetime. His instruction to the believers of his time is equally valid for our time. At such a time we cannot be idle.

Because there may be little time that is not reason to sit back and wait, it is reason to be acting in full obedience to the Great Commission. Jesus’ command to make disciples is not rescinded and He makes no mention of a retirement plan this side of heaven (Matthew 28:19-20).