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.

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.

Faithful Witness

“When that generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation arose after them who did not know the lord or the work which He had done for Israel.” Judges 2:10

Each generation is born in sin and must come to faith in Christ or there will be a speedy turning away from knowing the Lord toward the world’s religions. This is evidenced in the book of Judges as well as in our modern world.

The attractions of the world’s religions are that they appeal to comfort, greed and pride (1 John 2:16). True Christianity often results in tribulation in this world and produces sacrifice and humility in the Christian as exemplified in Jesus Christ.

The experience of the church is not unlike the experience of Israel. Many parents are grieved because their children do not come to know the Lord and walk with Him. There may be several reasons why children do not choose to follow Jesus but in the verse quoted above the reason given is that the new generation did not know the history of God’s dealing with the nation. This is much more than just academic knowledge of history. It also includes acknowledging God’s hand in history.

In earlier years I attended churches where people regularly stood before the congregation and shared how they came to faith in Jesus Christ or some experience in their life where the Lord had intervened. This does not seem to be happening as often these days. So children may not hear of the ways in which the Lord has changed lives in earlier generations.

A biography or autobiography by someone not known personally are helpful but can only go so far. If our children have only known us as Christians we need to explain to them that it was not always so and share our spiritual path. A niece of mine was reluctant to accept that in my youth I was extremely selfish and self-centred because she has only known me as a Christian. From that point I was able to explain that it is Jesus Christ who is making a change in me. It helps her to understand why I follow Jesus.

As we read the earlier books in the Bible regarding Israel’s departure from Egypt and arrival in Canaan we observe many events and practices designed to teach and remind the people of how they made that journey. How will the next generation in our churches come to faith if they do not hear the testimony of previous generations? Yes, we share the Gospel of Christ with them but our own personal testimony will give great weight and help make it personal.

Paul wrote, “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:5). It is a church family responsibility and privilege to share testimony to the next generation, confirming the parents’ testimony, so that they may choose to follow Jesus. The faithful witness of parents and other Christians, of both the Gospel and personal testimony, will go a long way in helping a child choose Christ.

A Word in our Mouth

“I will give you a mouth and wisdom which all your adversaries will not be able to contradict or resist” Luke 21:15

Jesus is answering the disciples’ question regarding the timing and sign of His Second Coming. As He describes the nature of the last days before His return He knows those who will be waiting for Him will need encouragement in the face of great opposition and extreme persecution.

The context tells us that Jesus is speaking of a situation that will eventuate in the future of Israel and the world in the time of the great tribulation and that He is speaking primarily to believing Jews. In verse twelve we read Jesus’ words, they will lay their hands on you and persecute you delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons.” Unbelieving Jews will also persecute believing Jews just as they did to Jesus and also as Saul did to the Jews before Saul met Jesus on the road to Damascus.

This future period of time appears to be something to fear and something that will harm the cause of Christ yet in the next verse we read that it is quite the opposite; But it will turn out for you as an occasion for testimony.” Just as Paul was imprisoned and found it an opportunity to witness, believing Jews in the tribulation will also find it an opportunity to witness. The other apostles and many believers since Pentecost have discovered the same reality and opportunity.

While no one would seek to be in this position it has, is and will occur to true followers of Jesus. Just as they persecuted Jesus they will persecute His followers. How will they turn such a terrible situation into an opportunity to be faithful witnesses of Jesus Christ?

Jesus says that believing Jews won’t have to worry about what they say. He will give them the right words at the right time. They will be words that come out of the One who is called Wisdom in Proverbs. Just as those who opposed and persecuted Jesus had no answer to His words those who oppose His people will have no answer to the words He will give His disciples during the tribulation.

Does this have any application to Christians today? Most assuredly! The principle stands even if the specific context does not. Just as the Lord put words in the mouths of the prophets (cf. Jeremiah 1:9; Isaiah 51:16) He does similar for Christians. Christians throughout the centuries and have found Him faithful in this regard. In the book of Acts we read some of the early occasions in the lives of Peter and Paul.

This does not need to be an unusual occurrence in the life of Christians and we should not be surprised when it happens. The Holy Spirit is the One given to help and who, leads and teaches us. He even helps us in prayer when we do not know how to pray (Romans 8:26). There is a need for caution however as we read that in just one conversation Peter spoke both from the Father and from Satan (Matthew 16:16-18; 22-23).

There is only one condition that Jesus gives and it is recorded at the end of verse twelve, “… for My name’s sake.” The qualification is that we are about His mission and not our own; that we are serving His interests and not our own; that we are walking in close intimacy with Him subject to His will to glorify His name and not our own.

Missing the Point

“How is it that we hear, each in our own language in which we were born? … We hear them speaking in our own languages the wonderful works of God.” Acts 2:8, 11

The first time something is mentioned in the Bible it gives us a base point upon which all else on that subject is built. The book of Genesis has many first mentions of a subject. For example, the first mention of marriage in Genesis 2:24 and sin in chapter three. There are many, many others.

In Acts chapter two we have the first activity of the Holy Spirit in the church as it commenced on the day of Pentecost.

Jesus had already told His disciples what role the Holy Spirit would have with regard to the church:

  • He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you (John 15:26)
  • He will testify of Me (John 15:26)
  • He will convict the world of sin (John 16:7)
  • He will guide you into all truth (John 16:13)
  • He will glorify Me (John 16:14)

It is sad that many Christians totally miss the point of the first thirteen verses of Acts two. It is not that the Holy Spirit enabled the disciples to speak in other languages; it was that this is the first enabling of the Holy Spirit in the church and it was the beginning of the Holy Spirit fulfilling the role revealed by Jesus to His disciples mentioned above.

The ability to speak and be heard in another language was incidental to the real event, “we hear them speaking … the wonderful words of God.” That they heard it in their “mother tongue” is miraculous but it is not the main event.

In Acts one Luke records Jesus’ commission to His disciples,“But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the world.”

The events recorded in chapter two are the commencement of the church being a witness to Christ and the Holy Spirit’s enabling.

The ‘first’ of Acts two is the beginning of Christian mission, taking the Gospel to the entire world. After His resurrection Jesus said to His disciples, “As the Father has sent Me, I also send you” (John 20:21). The Holy Spirit is the enabler to accomplish Jesus’ mission through the church. Everything else we read in the N.T. concerning the Holy Spirit has its foundation in this first.