Witnesses (Revelation 10 – 11)

Chairman Mao’s cultural revolution saw the expulsion of missionaries from China, a crack down against the underground church and the closer of official churches. For many years, we were really in the dark about what was happening in China.  Then when Deng Xiao Ping began to open up again, we were amazed to see that despite persecution the church had grown. Today we remain in the dark about how the Gospel is doing in other locked down countries such as North Korea, we pray for a similar story to Communist China.

We may also be concerned at the moment as lockdown here prevents our usual activities from our buildings and puts restrictions on outreach activities such as courses, toddlers’ groups, door to door etc. Can we be confident that the Gospel will go out despite all of those obstacles?

What does John See?

Remember that we have said that John’s revelation is designed to take us to God’s throne room from where we get to see the whole of history from the perspective of the end, in order that we might know how to live now.  So when we get to John 10 -11 we are seeing that perspective specifically as it focuses on witness.

Here are some things that John sees.

Thunders that sound and speak -but their message is not to be recorded (10:1-7) The full mystery will be revealed later. We may not and will not understand everything now but God is still sovereign and reveals what we need to know, when we need to know it.

A scroll which is eaten and proves both bitter and sweet (10:8-11) Here we see  echoes of Ezekiel 2:3; 3:1-3.  God’s word has both a sweetness because it is the good news of the Gospel but there is bitterness because of rejection too. God’s word is good but will also cause discomfort.[1]

Measuring of the Temple (11:1) Again there are echoes of Ezekiel. This is symbolic of marking out God’s space and the place of protection.[2] -Rather than imagining a physical temple we should probably be encouraged to think about how God’s people are now his temple.

2 Witnesses (ch 11) They are pictured as olive trees and as candlesticks, symbolic of Israel. There have been various suggestions for why two witnesses are seen. Suggestions have included Israel and the Church, The Spirit and Word or two great Old Testament heroes.[3]

However, the point of having two witnesses is that this was the legal requirement for reliability. So we are probably not meant to spend our hours trying to guess the identity of the two but rather, meditating on how God has not left the world without a witness

The primary focus should probably be on God’s people as his witness here. We may at times be crushed and beaten down by the World but cannot be destroyed.   We will also be reminded and encouraged by the example o of Jesus as the ultimate witness who is killed by his enemies but is raised to life again in triumph.

What does this say to us?

This chapter should be a great encouragement to us as believers and a challenge too. We are the primary means by which God ensures that there is a witness to the Gospel in the World today. We can take great comfort in the fact that although it may often be difficult to make sense of what is going on around us in the world that God has not left his gospel without a witness. God will ensure that his word goes out and will protect it. 

We should be challenged to take our responsibility seriously.  First of all, we should not forget that there are many believers around the world facing persecution and paying for their stand for the Gospel with their lives.   Would we be prepared to pay the same price, trusting in the resurrection if persecution came to these shores? Do we remember to pray for those who are persecuted, our brothers and sisters around the world?

Secondly, we are reminded that we are called and commissioned to be Christ’s witnesses. How are we getting on with that? Each of us have different gifts and different opportunities so this does not mean that we all have to sign up to the same activities or use the same methods but we should be sharing the good news about Jesus in some way. It could be as simple as being ready to share your testimony when someone notices the difference in your life or inviting friends along to a church event, via Facebook now or back at the building in the future.

Conclusion

It is both a great responsibility and an honour to be called to share the Gospel.  We should take that seriously and use every opportunity. This calling does not shield us from suffering and persecution, however we can trust God to take us safely through persecution to the other side and resurrection to everlasting life.


[1] Wright, Revelation for Everyone (Kindle: location 1560)

[2] Wright, Revelation for Everyone (Kindle: location 1626)

[3] Wright, Revelation for Everyone (Kindle: location 1642)

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