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March 28, 2022 2:00 am
To remind you of significant hermeneutical principle that we must observe before going to understand the book of the Revelation aright. It is a visionary picture book that we have before us, rather than a literal narrative of future events can keep that in mind, that will help us if we insist on a literal interpretation many times will find ourselves bewildered and lost in our understanding Chapter 11 is our consideration tonight were not going to get very far. This chapter, and particularly the verses under consideration tonight cannot be understood correctly without consulting the Old Testament references that are referred to in the chapter we see here a depiction of the church. The church bearing a mighty and powerful testimony during a tumultuous time in this gospel age God directs and God sustains his church and its prophetic witness of the gospel in a time of increased violence in opposition to the truth and that is the condition of the world in which we live effects descriptive of this period of church history. I remember talking to a man who seemed to confine the work of God simply to what he saw within the four walls of the church is because this wasn't happening in the church, God wasn't doing anything and I tried to help his brother to understand that God is building his church and it's a worldwide global church and he's gathering his elect from the four corners of the earth, and you might not be seeing it here in this particular place on this particular Sunday but never fear, God is building his church and God is working.
Sometimes we impose what our experience is on the church worldwide, and we forget to realize that the vast majority of the church is in perilous times facing opposition facing persecution, we have brothers and sisters who are giving their lives for the cause of need to be aware of that church, its history is marked by violence in opposition and oftentimes bloodshed and martyrdom. It was true. In John's day the church was facing persecution and it is true in our day as well. So tonight my concern is to help us identify the two witnesses that are referred to in verse three and I will give power to my two witnesses, let's revisit the first couple of verses. It's been a couple weeks I think since we looked at that verse one and two.
John says, then I was given a reed like a measuring rod and the angel stood, saying, rise, and measure the temple of God, the altar, and those who worship there but leave out the court which is outside the temple and do not measure it, for it has been given to the Gentiles, and they will tread the holy city underfoot for 42 months. John's given a reed, a measuring rod. He's think measuring is a little misleading he's to mark out and he's to mark out the temple of God, the altar, and those who worship there. Mark out is to set aside to put parameters around and were not to think of the temple in terms of the building were to think in new covenant terms. The we are the temple of God, God dwells in us, Christ in us the hope of glory and we look for a day and we long for a day were told in Revelation this wonderful truth. John says but I saw no temple is talking about the new Jerusalem, but I saw no temple in it for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple were God will dwell with his people with no hindrance.
What a time to look forward to, but there's a delineation been made. He's to mark out those who are part of the temple of God, the altar, and those who are worshiping their buddies to leave out verse to the court which is outside the temple do not measure do not mark that part for it is been given to the Gentiles, and they will tread the holy city underfoot for 42 months. God is guaranteeing the spiritual survival of those who were true and faithful, those who were worshipers of his, while those who are outside would be trodden underfoot and not enjoy God's protective keeping power that Solomon say about this first couple of verses. It was, it was important to say something because verse three begins and and I will give power to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy 1260 days, clothed in sackcloth. These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands standing before the God of the earth, so let me give you the the landscape. What I want to try and do tonight work only going to consider the two witnesses. Identify who these two witnesses are so it's going to be a bit. I don't think tedious is the right word, but you're gonna have to follow because there's a lot here to cover this chapter were just gonna consider the two witness but this chapter will tell us for things it will tell us who they are.
It will tell us what they must do. It will tell us number three the opposition they will face and it will tell us number four how and for what purpose they are preserved and destined that's arrested Chapter 11 but again tonight were only going to consider the identity of the two witnesses.
Notice first with me. The personal pronoun that's used in reference to the two witnesses.
I will give power to my two witnesses. Notice the verse doesn't just speak of two witnesses, but of my witnesses. I do not think that this is a reference to the angel speaking in verse one was look at that again that I was given a reed like a measuring rod in the angel stood, saying, so there's an angel speaking to John in verse one, but I think the reference to verse three my witnesses is a reference to Christ himself who is speaking, I will give power to my two witnesses say will. How did you get that why think the construct is similar to what we saw in chapter 10. So let's look back at chapter 10 verse one John says I saw still another mighty angel coming down from heaven, clothed with the cloud and the rainbow was on his head, his face was like the sun, and his feet like pillars of fire he had a little book open in his hand and he said his right foot on the sea on his left foot. He said his right foot on the sea and his left foot on the land and he cried with a loud voice, as when a lion roars when he cried out seven thunders uttered their voices, so here's an angel particular angel and we speculated that it perhaps is the Archangel Michael. Perhaps Gabriel but it's different than what we see in verse four now when the seven thunders uttered their voices I was about to write, but I heard a voice from heaven. This is not the voice of the angel he hears a voice from heaven saying to me seal up the things which the seven thunders uttered and do not write them so I believe that's Christ, God speaking to John there in verse four. And I think we have something similar going on here in chapter 11 and verse three because of the personal pronoun. I will give power to my two witnesses, who would say that who could say that Christ could say that he has his witnesses. This designation that is that it is Christ, the head of the church speaking is reinforced when we consider. Secondly, not only the personal pronoun but what he actually communicates. I will give power to my witnesses, and they will prophesy 1260 days, clothed in sackcloth.
Was he communicating he's communicating a promise of power to prophesy now. The Hebrew construction here and I'm talking about the grammatical construction of the sentence here.
It's a bit awkward, but it puts the emphasis in the right place. So let me give it to you in just the the other way that it's rendered in the Hebrew if you were to take the words and simply translate them in the order in which there given this is what you would find quote I will give that my two witnesses, shall prophesy 1200 and threescore days.
I will give that my two witnesses, shall prophesy 1203 days I will give what Christ is saying, in essence, I will give unto my two witnesses, all that they need so that they may not keep silent but witness for me and my cause in the midst of the world of growing hostility and opposition that I think is the essence of what is being communicated now. Our task from this point forward is to identify who the two witnesses are what are some of the possible interpretations well let me mention for them and there are far, far more than four there's more than I can count more than we had. We would have time tonight for me to stand here and say will. Some say this. Some see that someone of believe this, but let's just deal with for possible interpretations number one. Some see here a literal description of Jerusalem's destruction.
In the last days. Again, it's going back to verse one and two, verse two, they will tread the holy city underfoot for 42 months, so we just have to pause and I think we can dismiss this one rather quickly.
What we say about this.
Why think without too much controversy.
It's easy to establish the fact that at the time that John is writing and given us this revelation. Jerusalem and its temple have already been destroyed in A.D. 70, and not just partially destroyed. Not that the temple and the altar is been set apart and marked off and protected in only the outer court is been trampled underfoot. History tells us that the entire temple mount was destroyed laid waste so it's hard to see how this could be an interpretation of that happening in the future, and it's very difficult to find who the two witnesses would be in that awful destruction so I think that is pretty easy to dismiss. Think you'll find the second interpretation of been interesting.
This interpretation is set forth in reference to the period preceding the Protestant Reformation. This interpretation held by the reformers. Many of the reformers saw the two witnesses as the Bible. The old and the New Testament. Those of the two witnesses in this interpretation takes the reference to time the 200 or I'm sorry 1260 days 1260 days. They take that literal. That's 3 1/2 years misinterprets interpretation says that that corresponds to the years of struggle that preceded the Reformation for a long time. The witness of the Scriptures stood against the corruption of the Falls Church, the Roman Catholic Church and that corruption grew and developed and reached its climax. A few years before the official beginning of the Reformation in 1513, a papal bull that is an official edict from the Pope of the Roman Catholic Church was issued in an attempt to silence every voice of truth, and the reformer said that was the death of the two witnesses that was the death of the old and the New Testament, but in the fall of 1517. About 3 1/2 years after this capable was issued in 1513. Martin Luther nailed his thesis to the castle door in Wittenberg, Germany, the resurrection of truth.
What about this been taken to heaven, while it's an expression. They believed of speaking of the sphere of safety where the enemies of truth can silence them no more.
Try as they may. These witnesses are secured by God, that they might continue to shine forth and propagate truth not you can see how this becomes a rather popular interpretation with the reformers who had to fight such a hard and bitter battle over truth where truth was opposed and the was widespread persecution, however there are some challenges with that interpretation, what is that, well, it's limited to a very small period of church history and I but I believe in accurate interpretation here is were looking at the gospel he were not just confined to a very short period of time. So for that reason and some other reasons I think this interpretation is compelling in some ways, as it is, is lacking. 1/3 interpretation held by good many in our day holds to a literal interpretation that we have here two witnesses real people raised up by God to bear witness who will be known and I'll give power to my two witnesses, they will prophesy 1260 days, clothed in sackcloth is on the say they will be verse seven when they finish their testimony, the beast that ascends out of the bottomless pit will make war with them, overcome them and kill them in his objective. The chapters on the will be a resurrection. What we make of this. Well in Malachi chapter 4 verse five we read these words, behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord why my bringing up Elijah well because were told in verse six.
These two witnesses. They have power to shut heaven, so that no rain falls in the days of their prophecy.
Remember the words of James chapter 5 verse 17 Elijah was a man with a nature like ours and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the earth for three years and six months in the New Testament we find repeated references to Elijah and his coming. The people of Israel the scribe's especially clearly expected his return. And in Matthew chapter 17 turn there for a moment, Matthew 17 get there in verse 10 we read these words and his disciples asked him, that is Jesus saying, why then do the scribes say that Elijah must come first. Jesus answered and said to them, indeed.
Elijah is coming first and will come and will restore all things stop there is Elijah, what about this to witnesses Elijah would be one of those that hold this interpretation say will any because the other one another no clear reference to any but a unique and Elijah were witnesses in a time of general apostasy. They both spoke of judgment. They both were taken into heaven, they will once more witness of the name of the most high. In a time of great apostasy.
This interpretation goes to finally be killed by Antichrist shall be raised from the dead, and shall ascend to heaven all in a literal sense of the word. Well, what we say about that. Well, one thing we say is let's go back and finish reading what Jesus said in Matthew chapter 17 verse 10 his disciples asked him, saying, why then do the scribes say that Elijah must come first. Jesus answered and said to them, indeed. Elijah is coming first and will restore all things. But I say to you that Elijah has come already, but all oh, the kind of blows up that that particular interpretation doesn't Elijah has come already and they did not know him but did to him whatever they wish. Likewise, the Son of Man is also about to suffer at their hands. Then the disciples understood that he spoke to them of John the Baptist, Jesus is saying that John the Baptist is the fulfillment of the prophecy of Elijah coming so what we say about this interpretation well, it's hard to it's hard for me to get my mind around the fact that two men who were translated are in a glorified state in glory are going to come back and take on human flesh again and prophesy and die again if you take it to heaven again. It it just it just doesn't seem to me to be very plausible and it's in conflict with Scripture. As I said, because Jesus said Elijah is John the Baptist now let's go back to Revelation 11 and see if we can get some help in identifying who these two witnesses are I will give power to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy 1260 days, clothed in sackcloth.
These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands standing before the God of the earth. What does verse four have to do with verse three. How does verse four help us identify who these two witnesses are well were trying to identify who these two witnesses are in the text of Scripture says in verse four. These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands standing before the God of the earth will that forces us to go back to Zechariah chapter 4 let's go back there. Zechariah chapter 4. Here is a clear reference to Zechariah chapter 4 Zechariah received a portion of his revelation from God in vision, similar to John here in the book of the Revelation must read Zechariah chapter 4 it's beginning verse one now the angel who talked with me, came back and wakened me as a man who is wakened out of his sleep and he said to me, what do you see so I said I am looking and there is a lampstand of solid gold with a bowl on top of it and on the stand seven lamps with seven pipes to the seven lamps to all of trees are biased one at the right of the bowl and the other at its left so I answered and spoke to the angel who talked with me, saying, what are these, my Lord, then the angel who talked with me answered and said to me, do you not know what these are and I said no, my Lord, so he answered and said to me this is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel not by might nor by power but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts who are you, O great mountain before Zerubbabel you should become a plain, and he shall bring forth the capstone with shouts of grace, grace to it. Moreover the word of the Lord came to me saying the hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this temple. His hands shall also finish it.
Then you will know that the Lord of hosts has sent me to you for who has despised the day of small things for the seven rejoiced to see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel, they are all they are the eyes of the Lord which scanned to and fro throughout the whole earth that I answered and said to him, what are these two olive trees at the right of the lampstand and at its left and I further answered and said to him, what are these two all the branches that dripped into the receptacles of the two golden of the two golden pipes from which the golden oil drains that answered me and said do you not know what these are and I said no, my Lord, so he said these are the two anointed ones who stand beside the Lord of the whole earth. It's obvious that that's what is being referred to there in Revelation chapter 11 verse four it's a reference here to Zechariah now these olive trees. Let's back up Zechariah receives a vision he beholds in the vision, a candlestick with seven lamps above the candlestick he sees a golden bowl or reservoir that's filled with oil, then there are all of trees that are connected with the bowl above the candlestick so that from them. The oil continually pours into the bowl and supplies oil for the lighting of the candlestick. What is the point there of Zechariah chapter 4. The point is, the oil is symbolic of the Holy Spirit in the whole. The take away from the chapter is verse six. This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel not by might nor by power but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts.
What's the context back in Revelation chapter 11, persecution what is being promised to those who are in the midst of persecution who are part of the church of the Lord Jesus Christ. I will supply everything they need in order to bear testimony in the midst of hostility and persecution, even martyrdom and is not by power nor by might but by my Spirit saith the Lord God is making a promise that he is going to sustain those who are his and keep them regardless of how dark regardless of how difficult life might be. That's the promise. There what is meant by the candlestick and what about the olive trees will the candlestick again is symbolic language. It's symbolic of the people of God who are shining in their testimony in a world of darkness your member there. In Revelation, you have to maintain consistency as we've learned things we've got to carry them on in our further study in her understanding your member chapter 1 the mystery of the seven stars which you saw in my right hand and the seven golden lampstands. The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches in the seven lampstands which you saw are the seven churches.
So we have set being symbolized here is the church letting us light shine in the midst of a world that's growing darker and darker with more and more hostility and unbelief. Who were the two olive trees.
Well, Zechariah chapter 4 verse 14. They were the two anointed ones member that the two anointed ones.
They stand before the Lord of the whole earth again back to Revelation 11.
These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands standing before the God of the earth in the Old Testament there was but two who were officially anointed to be servants in the theocracy. They were the king and the priest they were the anointed ones find it interesting that in the beginning of John's Revelation. He says this to us, to him who loved us and washed us from our sins in his own blood.
This is Revelation 1 in verse five verse six and has made us kings and priests to his God and father to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
New covenant believers.
Those who have trusted the Lord Jesus Christ have been made according to that verse kings and priests. We are servants of God we serve him in the church in this world.
That's good news. But with that privilege comes serious responsibility because we say will who sufficient for these things in our natural selves were timid were fearful.
We shy away were not quick to be bold for Christ. What we say in that context. God says I will give power to my witnesses, he will supply everything we need in order to stand and identify ourselves as followers of Jesus Christ got a saying I will have my witnesses my two witnesses, and their this is typical language not to be looking for to particular individual people, but their types in the anti-types of fulfillment of that are new covenant believers. Those who make up the church of the Lord Jesus Christ. When I say new covenant believers that that's the age in which we live.
It's all believers of covenant believers as well as new covenant believers that she was his in mind here so what we have here. Well, there's a word of warning the word of warning is to those who are outside of Christ. Opposition will not have the final say those who are resistant to Christ and his authority who will not bow the knee will be judged ultimately that's the warning, but there's strong encouragement.
The candlestick shall shine God will supply that oil from the olive tree. It's unceasing supply would never have to worry about the power going out will never have to worry about a power shortage. God is determined that he will have a witness he's always had a witness, even in the time of the Reformation. When things were very, very, very dark and there are difficult days ahead.
There is a there is a an increased time of departure coming. Paul spoke of that and second Thessalonians, we considered that when Pastor workman was going through that passage to regardless of what the world may say Christ will have a witness. The church, those who make up his church are to be faithful in how we need boldness how we need to not quench the Spirit. But stay in a place where we're receiving the ministry of the Spirit of God that we might be able to stand and cold and dark days.
There's a lesson here about careful exposition. It's amazing.
As I studied how many different interpretations there were to who these two witnesses are and if you just follow the reference to the to witness and read the next verse that will keep you from all kinds of wild speculation.
I will give power to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy 1206 60 days, clothed in sackcloth. These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands standing before the God of the earth. If you keep those two verses together it can find your interpretation.
It'll keep you from being crazy. Some of the interpretations were just flat out crazy so I thought, you know, it's a good lesson in our study of Scripture that we keep our finger in the text and we asked the text of Scripture and we keep studying the word of God, and allow the word of God to be the interpreter of Scripture. Let's where we are tonight.
I'm sure you are listening as I read the contents of chapter 11. I don't know how many of you are reading on ahead and wondering what in the world you gonna say about this. What is he gonna say about that. To be honest with you there some things that I've read. I'm not sure what I'm going to say about this. What I'm going to say about that but I promise you I'm committed to study and trust God and thank you for praying. I talked to brother Don Theobald on Friday and asked if I was preaching on Sunday and I said I am, Sunday night itching set on preaching to the book of Revelation. Anyone oh my, he said I'm in the John Calvin Kim took a minute to think what he meant by the John Calvin Kim.
Well, that's one book that John Calvin did not write a commentary to he didn't go near it. While I was sitting near it, but he didn't offer a exegetical commentary in the book of Revelation, and I'm understanding why, but it's a good place to be. It's a good place to be humbled by Scripture to be dependent upon God. I came home encouraged one day after work and I said to Carla, set up, I feel like God gave me special illumination to understand a portion of his word. I've been frustrated trying to understand this trend understand that and I said, the Bible says that God will illuminate our minds. We might understand this. That's a promise. That's what he did for the men on the road to Damascus. That's what he does for us.
That's what were dependent upon God illuminating our minds so that we might understand the Scriptures. It's wonderful to be on the receiving end of that. You know, have you had that experience. Have you been scratching your head trying to understand what this means and God by his spirit illuminate your mind and you begin to understand Scripture.
Let's cause for rejoicing that supernatural. That's God helping you understand his word.
So I was encouraged this week and I trust that your encouraged and yes we will you know if I could talk to some of these commentators that I'm reading I would say to them what you did was not fair because when they often times when they come to difficult passage. They skip over. I read a couple commentaries that would be three or four pages on the entire 11th chapter.
Nothing I wait a minute here there is a whole lot more there than what you're dealing with. Let's get on the safer ground. I do know that were going to have definitive answers to everything were going to encounter but were trusting God to illuminate our minds.
We might understand his word right and when one of the challenges is I was saved in a dispensational context. So I'm I am fighting preconceived notions and ideas.
I'll take just to three minutes and explain how God and his kind Providence brought me to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, the church where we were attending were showing the motion pictures a thief in the night in a distant thunder.
How many of Sina's motion pictures. Some of you we were in the habit of going to church on Sunday morning. Now I'm not a believer yet, but were in northwestern Pennsylvania and its February and it's freezing cold. I got to start the car.
The car will not start Sunday morning so I take the battery out of the car, take it into the house and can I get this battery warmed up and maybe in the afternoon I can put the battery back in. It'll start will go to church Sunday night because they're showing I remember know which one it was a distant thunder one of the one the films such that we did in the car started. We went to church and there was an evangelistic peel at the end of the motion picture that was designed to scare the willies out of you and Carl and I both resisted the evangelistic peel and went home. We got home Carla said to me, shouldn't left the church tonight so were only 10 minutes away got back in the car, drove back to the church pastor was closing up the church talk to him started a new job that night. Working 11 to 7 and we just saw this motion picture that dramatizes the rapture the church okay start this new job, 3 o'clock in the morning found myself in a corner at a bench on my knees crying out to God. It was a dark corner of that particular shop and are not many people working at 3 o'clock in the morning but when I will what when I got up off my knees. God had shined the light of his gospel into my heart and I knew had been changed so all this prophecy stuff has affected our lives.
It's a strange Providence God worked and so that you can understand a little bit about my background and a lot of us have had that back. That's what we grown-up.
That's what we've heard, we haven't heard anybody else address the book of the Revelation from a different theological perspective and that's what I'm trying to be honest to the Scriptures as I is I can read the Scriptures and think about some of the things that are drama sought dramatized in those motion pictures. It's unconvinced overstimulated imagination. This, be sure were getting our theology from the word of God and not from Frank pretty left behind series, motion pictures, I committed to that are only thus saith the Lord, and even those hard places that really make you dig and really make you praying really make you see God.
It's worth the search. It's worth the study. It's worth the effort. Let's pray father, thank you for tonight.
Thank you for your word. Thank you for the spirit of God who illuminates our minds we might understand the Scriptures. What we believe difficulties or ahead for the church in America and we thank you for the promise that you will supply everything we need to stand faithfully for you. Will God help us, we might be bold and unflinching in the hour of difficulty and temptation when hostility rises and darkness increases Lord we know not what a day may bring forth that we read about the persecuted church.
We wonder why that hasn't happened here why that hasn't come here and yet we believe that perhaps it is coming. So prepare us for the day, our God, that we might stand in that dreadful day and be faithful to you. We pray in Jesus name, amen