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.

Making the Connection

“But we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel” Luke 24:21

At Passover Israel looks back and reflects on the great deliverance the fledgling nation experienced under Moses’ leadership. But the Passover also looks forward to the Messiah who would deliver Israel again from Gentile dominance – and much more. The two disciples discussing this were speaking to the risen Jesus though they didn’t know that it was Him at that time.

Even though Jesus had told His disciples several times that He would die and rise again (Luke 6:44; 18:33; Mark 9:31; Matthew 16:21; 17:9, 23) they still had not grasped it even now that He had been crucified. They had not yet made the connection between the Passover and Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection.

One of Jesus’ statements on the cross was, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do” (Luke 23:34). Not only the religious Jews but also Jesus’ own disciples had not understood that the Christ must be crucified and rise again before anyone could be forgiven. The angel reminded the women, “He is not here, but is risen. Remember how He spoke to you when He was still in Galilee, saying, ‘The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again’” (Luke 24:6-7). These two disciples walking to Emmaus knew of the encounter the women had with the angel (v 22) yet they did not yet believe that Jesus had risen. As a consequence, instead of being overjoyed, they were extremely saddened at what they perceived a failure.

Israel is still in a similar position. They are still missing the truth that Jesus is the Passover Lamb. They have not made the connection. John the Baptist recognised Him from the start crying out, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).

Many people will take part in some Easter activities and may even attend a church service and yet they will not make the connection and miss the true meaning.

One of the thieves crucified with Jesus did and understood who Jesus is. He confessed his sinfulness and asked for forgiveness (Luke 23:40-43). Since Jesus had just asked the Father to forgive those who were crucifying Him he knew he would receive a positive response. Let us pray that, this Easter, many more people will come to the same realisation as this thief on the cross. If they follow his example they will also be forgiven.

Do Not Lose Heart

“For we who are in this tent groan, being burdened, not because we want to be unclothed, but further clothed, that mortality may be swallowed up by life” 2 Corinthians 5:4

In my role as a volunteer driver for the local shire I was transporting a lady to a hospital appointment. She had been employed in the medical profession for a significant portion of her life and had witnessed many people suffer terribly leading up to their bodily death. She commented that she hoped that she would have the right to euthanasia should she ever be in that situation. From the viewpoint of one who believes that there is nothing beyond the grave – that one’s existence ceases altogether at death – this makes logical sense. This is why some people, some quite young, choose suicide. They believe it will end the pain that they believe has no end otherwise. One can only imagine their great disappointment to discover their error and that they have robbed themselves of ever having the opportunity to receive new life in Jesus Christ. Of course that presupposes that someone would share the Gospel with them. We cannot know how many suicides might have been prevented if Christians shared the Gospel.

In the verse above Paul gives us a Christian view of similar situations. Yes, we do groan as our bodies age and feel all kinds of pain. Christians are also often burdened with the same slow and painful deaths that many unbelievers experience. It is necessary that our earthly tent is destroyed so that we can put on the eternal dwelling place (v 1). The how, when and where of our bodily death is God’s sovereign choice – just as was our birth.

The person without hope in Christ just wants to be rid of their pain and suffering; but the person with hope in Christ, while having no desire to cling to this body (v 8), is more focussed on the new resurrected body we shall have when in Christ’s presence. This is why Paul writes, “Not because we want to be unclothed, but further clothed.” A little further on Paul writes, “We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord” (v 8).

If we only focus on what we want to leave behind, we will not have much in the way of joy. Those latter years of our lives will be a time of sadness, grief and perhaps self-pity. However, if our focus is on Jesus and what lies ahead, we will have joy in the glorious expectation of that day we see Him face to face. Yes, there will still be the groan to be free from our dying body; but our affections and desire will be upon being fully clothed in Christ (5:2).

Just before these words Paul wrote, “We do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day” (4:16). The perishing of our body Paul writes is a “light affliction but for a moment” and God has a purpose in it (4:17).

The Glory of God

“And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins.” Ephesians 2:1

This is the greatest and most desired miracle of all. It is the only miracle that is permanent into eternity. The forgiveness of sins and the destruction of the sin disposition that we inherited from Adam is the reason for Jesus being born into this world. “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved” (John 3:17).

In the eleventh chapter of John’s Gospel we can read of the restoration of life to Lazarus. Both Martha and Mary, Lazarus’ sisters, knew that Jesus is God incarnate (vv 27, 32) and that He could have healed him before he died. Neither of them, nor Jesus’ disciples, considered that He could restore Lazarus to life after he had died. Their faith was real and genuine but Jesus would stretch and strengthen their faith by revealing more of Himself. Notice that Jesus initiated the whole situation that allowed Mary, Martha and Lazarus to endure suffering and grief in the process.

Jesus had been telling His disciples that He would soon be taken and crucified. This experience with Lazarus being raised would help prepare them for that rapidly approaching day when they would need to accept that Jesus had been raised bodily from death.

We notice in the Gospels that miracles of themselves do not bring about belief in who Jesus is. Upon the resurrection of Lazarus many did believe in Jesus (v 45) but there were also many who did not even though they were well aware of the miracles Jesus had done (v 47). Indeed, it was the miracles that provoked them to want to kill Jesus (v 53). They would also try and kill Lazarus to conceal this miracle (12:10-11).

Lazarus suffered an illness until he died and after Jesus raised him to new life he was hunted in order to kill him again. All this was because Jesus desired to reveal Himself more fully to His friends and disciples. You can check with Lazarus when you see him but I am sure he has no complaint against Jesus.

Jesus came into this world to save sinners and give to them resurrection life. We can read the verse at the head of this article with immeasurable gratitude and praise. But His coming is not about us though we benefit beyond measure. Jesus said to Martha, “Did I not say to you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God?” (v 40). This whole event was about Jesus revealing the glory of God but only those who believed in Him would see it. Jesus making us alive from bondage to sin and death is so that those who believe may see the glory of God. At Christmas time it is only those who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ who will see the glory of God.

Ancestry Matters

Nicodemus asked Jesus, “How can a man be born when he is old?” John 3:4

In recent years there has been a lot of interest in ancestry. Online access to data enables us to discover some of our ancestry without even leaving home. There is also a television program dedicated to searching out the ancestry of well known people. There have been surprises one way or the other. All kinds of questions may turn out to have unexpected answers.

One thing is certain and that is that if we are able to trace our ancestry back a hundred or so generations we would discover that we all have Noah and his wife as ancestors. If we follow that back further we discover that we are all descendants of Adam and Eve. As descendants of Adam we inherit the curse that his sin brought – death to intimacy with his Creator evidenced by bodily death (Genesis 2:17; 3:17-19). The consequence is that all of Adam’s descendants have inherited a sin nature, no intimacy with our Creator and bodily death.

We are helpless to change our ancestry. That is history and no amount of rewriting will change the fact. People who try to rewrite history by denying our ancestry in Adam and replacing it with a fiction story are only deceiving themselves and fail to understand Jesus’ answer to Nicodemus’ question. Rather than rewriting history we need to have our ancestry actually changed. Hence we have Nicodemus’ question that ordinarily would defy an answer.

When Jesus said to Nicodemus, “You must be born again (born from above)” (John 3:3) He was saying that he needed a new ancestry. Not surprisingly Nicodemus realised that this was humanly impossible. On another occasion Jesus said. “With men it is impossible, but not with God; for with God all things are possible” (Mark 10:27). This is essentially what Jesus was endeavouring to communicate to Nicodemus. What was necessary in order for Nicodemus to enter the Kingdom of God was impossible with men but not with God.

Everyone trying to enter God’s Kingdom by their own effort will fail because he cannot change his ancestry. John made this clear in the early part of his Gospel. “As many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:12-13). Faith in the Person and work of Jesus Christ is the condition that must be met and then God will create us new in Christ. That which is impossible with men God achieves in response to faith in Christ.

By the birth of Jesus into the world and the His death and resurrection He is able to change our ancestry from the first Adam to the last Adam, Himself. In Christ alone we have God as our Father.

The Slain Lamb on the Throne

“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 out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation” Revelation 5:9

It may seem strange that a slain Lamb would rule the earth. However, to the one who knows that Lamb it is no mystery. The risen Lamb is the only One worthy to open the scrolls that initiate God’s righteous judgement on the world and then to rule the world.

Mankind judged the Lamb as unworthy of headship and worship and crucified Him. That very act revealed that mankind is unworthy of the Lamb. The Lamb alone is worthy to judge the world and rule it. The Lamb shed His own blood for the sin of all mankind but just as most rejected Him at His first coming most still reject Him now. It is by their rejection of Him that people unwittingly judge themselves as unworthy of Him.

Those who have received the gift of eternal life have already judged themselves as unworthy, accepted the only remedy for sin and received the gift of eternal life (Romans 6:23). They trust the risen Lamb for forgiveness and cleansing (John 1:29) and they boast in nothing and no one else (Galatians 6:14). Their names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. This book is mentioned at least seven times in the book of Revelation. Those whose names are in this book have received eternal life (Revelation 21:27). Only they are washed in the blood of the Lamb (Revelation 1:5).

There are only three references to Jesus being King in Revelation; two of them as King of kings and Lord of lords. There are twenty six references to Him being the Lamb. As typified in Genesis 22 and in the Passover Lamb, Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (1 John 2:2). This is God’s last revelation to us and the focus is on the cross of Jesus Christ. The obvious invitation is to come to Him for forgiveness and cleansing while we may.

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). When we agree with God that we are sinners and have sinned, declaring our unworthiness to enter His presence, He is justified in forgiving us because Jesus Christ shed His blood for our sin.

It may seem strange to a lost world to have a slain Lamb ruling but to the redeemed He is the only One worthy to do so. “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and strength and honour and glory and blessing” (Revelation 5:12). He is the risen Lamb of God for whom we eagerly await. “Even so, come, Lord Jesus!”

The Truth Exchanged for a Lie

“It was too painful for me until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I understood their end” Psalm 73:16b-17

The writer of this Psalm noted the prosperity of people who gave no thought to their Creator; the One who gives them life and provides their sustenance in gracious abundance. He observes that they are full of pride and count pride in themselves as a blessing (v 6), they oppress others (v 8) and boast in wickedness and blaspheme against God (v 9). They are at ease in the earthly riches (v 12) that God has provided for them.

The psalmist then asks himself what the advantage was of him living a righteous life in which God has frequently chastised him (v 13) when the ungodly appear to suffer no chastisement (cf. Hebrews 12:5-8).

We live in such a world as the psalmist observed. There are many who deny God’s existence and are proud in themselves for their material success. Such blessings were meant to turn their hearts in thankfulness for God’s grace. Instead they boast that they have done it by their own ability and strength.

Those who walk with the Lord Jesus Christ do suffer at the hands of the ungodly. Many have their earthly lives ended prematurely at the hands of the ungodly. All Christians will suffer some form of persecution and oppression.

The psalmist then records that as he entered the sanctuary and bowed before the Lord praying about these matters, the Lord reminded him of the destiny of the ungodly.

The world is still going blindly on in unbelief and instead of receiving the truth the truth is suppressed. By God’s grace there are still many people turning to the Lord Jesus daily but that is against the tide of ungodliness. We live in an age of people “who [have] exchanged the truth of God for the lie and worshipped and served the creature [man] rather than the Creator” (Romans 1:25).

As he waited before the Lord the psalmist realised that those people who have rejected God and refuse to have a change of heart have no expectation other than the wrath of God. He understood that such people are in dire need of mercy and forgiveness and that it was he who was in the most blessed state.

Jesus related an account of a certain rich man and a beggar named Lazarus to give us understanding when we observe these things (Luke 16:19-31). The most necessary thing for people is to hear and believe God’s word. Jesus said, “If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead” (Luke 16:31). At Easter we give special attention to the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is another opportunity God has given us to share the truth with family, friends and acquaintances.