The Two Witnesses (Rev. 11:1-13)
This has been perhaps the most difficult passage in Revelation for me to get my head around up to this point. However, I am not alone and there seems to be a general consensus among the commentaries that this is indeed a difficult text to explain. It brings us back to the method of interpreting this book. How is it best approached?
Some think that the best approach is just to take everything literally. So in this chapter, they would say that it’s a prediction that there really will be exactly two fire-breathing prophets who will be able to kill their enemies and call down droughts upon the land. There will be an actual beast that literally comes out of a shaft going down into the Abyss who will kill these prophets and let their dead bodies lay in the streets of Jerusalem for three days. Then they will rise from the dead and ascend into heaven, and this is then followed by an earthquake that kills seven thousand men, causing those who remain alive to tremble and quake at the judgment of God. That’s what the text says, and we are to take it literally.
That’s a simple and straightforward approach, but the problem is that it is almost certainly wrong. It reminds me of those students who try to add fractions by adding the numerators and denominators. Very straightforward but also very wrong. Now the argument that some make is that we should take everything in Revelation literally unless John interprets it for us. For example, in chapter 5 we noted that the incense is interpreted to be the prayers of the saints (5:8). The reasoning is this: if John interprets some things for us, that must mean that the uninterpreted parts are meant to be taken literally.
Nevertheless, this just doesn’t work. For one thing, it fundamentally misunderstands the nature of apocalyptic genre. But it doesn’t even work when you try to apply it consistently in the book of Revelation itself. For example, in chapter 5, we see a lion and a lamb. But the Lion is interpreted by the Lamb and the Lamb is never interpreted in the book of Revelation to be Jesus. Now some may say that it’s obvious it’s Jesus, but that misses the point: if we are to take this principle and run with it, it would mean that the Lamb really is a Lamb, full stop. However, we all know this is Jesus, and that the Lamb is a symbol for the sacrificial nature of the atonement which our Lord accomplished on the cross. The bottom line is that not every symbol is interpreted.
Another problem with this approach is that some symbols are themselves interpreted symbolically. For example, in 4:5 the lamps of fire around God’s throne are interpreted to be “the seven Spirits of God.” Many (if not most) commentators would agree with me that the seven Spirits of God are a symbolic reference to the one Spirit of God in the plenitude of his grace and power. So you have a symbol interpreted by a symbol! You see that even here in chapter 11, where the symbolic “great city” (which, as we shall see as we progress through this book, is almost certainly Rome as a symbol of the power of wickedness under the rule of the Antichrist) is interpreted symbolically in terms of Sodom, then Egypt, then Jerusalem (ver. 8). So it just doesn’t work to say that we must take things literally unless they’re interpreted for us when even symbols get interpreted symbolically.
What then is the key to interpreting the book of Revelation? The answer is that the Old Testament is the key to interpreting the symbols in Revelation. In this chapter, we see the temple, the two witnesses, the judgments they render on their enemies, and the 42 months or 1260 days. John didn’t just pull these images out of his hat; they all came from Old Testament figures, events, places, and prophesies. It’s as we understand the Old Testament background of these symbols that we will be able to understand their meaning in the context of the book of Revelation. So I think as we approach this chapter we have to understand that a point is being made here, but it is being made symbolically. And the key to understanding what these symbols mean is to try to understand their OT background.
What then is the big picture here? What is the main point that is being driven at in these verses? What do the symbols symbolize? I think it is this: God will preserve and protect his church as it bears witness to him in the last days even as it suffers persecution. And in the end, he will vindicate his church in a bodily and glorious resurrection.
That is, I think, the big picture, but it doesn’t make all the difficulties go away. In particular, one of the most difficult things I’ve struggled with in the interpretation of this passage is trying to understand the timeframe for it. There are a lot of different views on this, more than you might think. I won’t go through them all, but I’ll mention a couple that I have found plausible. Most are convinced (I am too) that John is alluding to a prophesy in the ninth chapter of the book of Daniel, in which the Lord disclosed to him that even though Jerusalem was to be restored, this didn’t mean the end was at hand, or even that there would be an end of Israel’s troubles (cf. Dan. 9:24-27). Daniel is told that instead there will be seventy weeks of years that begin from the order to rebuild Jerusalem. In this prophesy, the seventieth week is distinguished from the previous sixty-nine. The question is, how is John alluding to this seventieth week?
Well, some think that the timeframe for the events of this passage, the 42 months or 1260 days (42 times 30 days – the months were all 30 days long back then), represents the entire period of time between the first and second comings of Jesus. This may very well be correct, though I favor a slightly different interpretation which I will get to in a moment.
Others think that John is splitting the seventieth week of Daniel into two periods of three-and-a-half years and interpreting both halves. The first half represents a period of time in which the church is protected, and the second half represents a period of time when that earthly protection is removed, and the church is severely persecuted. In addition to all this, some think that the 42 months is a literal period of time and others believe it is a figurative period of time.
I’ll tell you what I think and let you decide whether it makes sense to you or not. Almost everyone (if not everyone) agrees that the 42 months or 1260 days is a three-and-a-half-year period that comes from the book of Daniel. In the book of Daniel, every place where you come across this time period (“time, times, and half a time,” see Dan. 7:27; 9:27; 12:7, 14) it is referring to a future time a great tribulation for the people of God. That is obviously the background for the three-and-a-half-year period in Revelation. It would seem then that every instance in the book of Revelation to this three-and-a-half-year period would also be a reference to this period of intense persecution for God’s people. So therefore I don’t think John is using this timeframe in different ways; I don’t think he is referring to two different three and a half year periods of time. In every case, they refer to the same period of time, this time of intense and severe persecution.
Now when is this? Are we living in this period of time now? I don’t think so; I really do think this is a reference to a future period of time at the end of history. Daniel seems to understand this period to belong to the end of history – and not merely the new age ushered in by the death and resurrection of Christ but a time when “many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever” (Dan. 12:2-3). Daniel goes on to ask “How long shall it be to the end of these wonders? (6), to which we get the following answer (in terms reminiscent of Rev. 10:5-7): “And I heard the man clothed in linen, which was upon the waters of the river, when he held up his right hand and his left hand unto heaven, and sware by him that liveth for ever that it shall be for a time, times, and an half; and when he shall have accomplished to scatter the power of the holy people, all these things shall be finished” (Dan. 12:7). This sounds very much like the end.
Also, I think the overall structure of Revelation favors an end-times perspective. We have argued that the opening up of the seals had to happen in order for the contents of the scroll – God’s plan for the consummation of history in the salvation of his people and the destruction of his enemies – to be enacted. The trumpet judgments which follow the opening of all the seals are therefore the inauguration of the end. In chapter 11, we are still in the midst of these judgments (the second woe apparently includes both the sixth trumpet and the events of chapter 11), and so I take this to refer to a great tribulation at the end of history through which the church will have to pass.
How would churches in the first century benefit from this though? Well, I think again Daniel is a guide here. Daniel also prophesied of this future time of persecution, which though it was partially fulfilled in the times of Antiochus Epiphanes, even that was still future to Daniel. Nevertheless, Daniel clearly wrote his book to encourage other Jews like himself who were having to remain faithful to God’s law while living in a pagan environment. But this message about the future was not irrelevant to them; it was certainly meant to be relevant to them as well. And we can easily imagine how it would be. Both Daniel’s past experience and the future experience of the saints narrated in the prophesies were meant to encourage Jews who felt beleaguered in a foreign land. The example of past, present, and future was meant to give them courage and to know that what they were called to do is something God’s people have been called to do, are being called to do, and would be called to do.
In the same way, Revelation reminds us that at the end God’s people will be called upon to pass through the severest of persecutions. And in that persecution they will be called upon to remain faithful witnesses to Jesus Christ. They will be called upon to remain faithful unto death. Their example is meant to put iron in our blood. It is meant to give us courage though their example. It is meant to show us how to live. Therefore, there probably is not that much difference between the way I see this and the way folks see it who interpret this whole section as pertaining to all of church history. For though I think it is about the end-times, I also think believers in every part of the history of the church are meant to apply the example of these future believers to their own lives. So in the sense of application it does pertain to all of church history.
These verses are divided naturally into two parts. Verses 1-2 picture both the protection and persecution of the church in the last days in terms of the temple. Then verses 3-13 picture the witness of the church in the last days in terms of two prophets. Together these verses underline the main point, that God will preserve and protect his church as it bears witness to him in the last days even as it suffers persecution.
The Church as God’s Temple (1-2)
We read: “And there was given me a reed like unto a rod: and the angel stood, saying, Rise, and measure the temple of God, and the altar, and them that worship therein. But the court which is without the temple leave out, and measure it not; for it is given unto the Gentiles: and the holy city shall they tread under foot forty and two months” (1-2).
Remember we said that this is a symbolic passage and that the key to interpreting these symbols is the Old Testament. So what is the OT background to these verses? And the obvious answer is Ezekiel 40-42 in which Ezekiel is shown God’s temple in a vision and in this vision an angel measures the temple, just as John is told to do here. Ezekiel’s temple is not Solomon’s temple (which had just been destroyed) nor is it Herod’s temple (which would be destroyed). Rather, this temple is closely associated in the prophet with the final age of blessing (see especially the later chapters of Ezekiel) and which is fulfilled in the New Heavens and New Earth in which all the earth becomes the temple of the living God and in which God will dwell with his people and they with him. This also means that we should see Ezekiel’s temple in light of the heavenly temple shown to us in Rev. 21-22.
But there is another aspect to this temple in Revelation. In Revelation, the New Jerusalem which comes down out of heaven and which will function as the temple of God is called the Lamb’s bride (21:9-10). In other words, there is a close connection in Revelation between God’s city, God’s temple, and God’s bride. We have seen this already in 3:12 in the promise to the church of Philadelphia: “Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name.”
You also see that here in 11:1, for John is told to measure “the temple of God, and the altar, and them that worship therein.” In Ezekiel, the angel only measures structures, not the saints; but here John is told to measure the saints along with the sanctuary. It points us again to the close identification in this passage of the temple with the people of God. In other words, the temple is meant to be a symbol for the people of God.
Isn’t this what the rest of the NT teaches us as well? The apostle writes to the Corinthians: “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are” (1 Cor. 3:16-17). Or to the Ephesians: “Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit” (Eph. 2:19-22). Or, as the apostle Peter puts it: “Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 2:5).
But what is the significance of measuring the temple? In Ezekiel, measuring the temple comes right before the indwelling of the temple by God. In other words, measuring was a symbol of God’s ownership and blessing and presence in the temple. By implication it would also include God’s protection of the temple. And that’s what you see here. The part of the temple, the outer court, which is not measured is left to be trampled underfoot by the nations (Rev. 11:2). It is clear that the inner temple, that part which is measured, is protected from this desolation by the unbelieving world.
What is this supposed to mean? What is signified by the inner and outer parts of the temple? Recall that the inner part of the temple is where the priests alone where allowed to go. It was in the inner temple that God’s presence was manifested over the ark. The outer court on the other hand was open to the rest of the people of Israel.
It seems that this picture is meant then to portray the dual reality that on the one hand God’s people are protected with God’s blessing and sealed from enduring God’s wrath, but that on the other hand they are not immune from the opposition of the world. Perhaps it is meant to say that whereas the souls of those who belong to Jesus are eternally protected and secure, they are not always guaranteed physical safety from the persecutions of the world – here the soul is represented by the inner court and the physical body by the outer court. Even if this is not the exact application of this image, the main point still stands: the dual nature of the church as protected by God for his blessing while being exposed to the persecutions of the world. I am reminded of the words of Jesus to his apostles: “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows” (Mt. 10:28-31).
We should not interpret this to mean that God only cares for our souls. The words of our Lord to his apostles makes that clear. God cares about all of us, body and soul. This is shown later in the text in the fact that the prophets who are killed are physically raised up by the Lord and ascend into heaven. God reverses the worst the enemy can do. Even when he allows the outer court to be trampled, he is still with his people. He will never leave us or forsake us. And what we need the most cannot be touched or taken away: men cannot take away God’s favor and blessing from us.
These themes are further developed in the next verses (3-13).
The Church as God’s witness (3-13).
In verses 3-4, we read, “And I will give power unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days, clothed in sackcloth. These are the two olive trees, and the two candlesticks standing before the God of the earth.”
Again, to properly understand this passage, we need to understand the OT background to it. In fact, there are several OT themes running in the background here. The first is the prophesy in Zechariah 4. There, Zechariah the prophet sees a lampstand representing a rebuilt temple and two olive trees furnishing oil to the lampstand. The two olive trees (“the two anointed ones,” Zech. 4:14) most likely represent Zerubbabel the ruler in Judah at the time, and Joshua the high priest, who together helped to rebuild the temple, and who did so despite the serious opposition of the enemies of the Jews. The one main difference between Zechariah 4 and Revelation 11 is that in the latter passage the one candlestick (lampstand) becomes two.
What do the two lampstands and the two olive trees represent here? Well, since in Revelation 1-3 the seven lampstands are specifically said to represent the churches, it seems most likely that the two lampstands here also represent the church. The reason why they are two here instead of seven is probably for a couple of reasons. First, they are two in order to correspond to the prophesy in Zechariah. Although there is only one lampstand in Zechariah, there are two olive trees. The fact that both lampstand and olive trees are two in number here again shows the close correspondence between the church as temple (the lampstand) and the church as a witness. So secondly, they are two because they represent the function of the church as witnesses for Jesus (“my two witnesses”), and in the OT you needed two witnesses to establish legal testimony.
The application of the image is straightforward. The church, the lampstands, are the new temple, as we saw in verses 1-2. But the church also functions as witnesses for the Lord Jesus, just like the two prophets who are the two olive trees. And the church does this despite serious opposition from the enemies of the Lord. This is the way it will be at the end, but it is also the way it has always been. The apostle Paul expresses it this way: “For a great door and effectual is opened unto me, and there are many adversaries” (1 Cor. 16:9). God opens the door of witness for his church, which the world cannot close, but that does not stop them from trying.
There are two things to note about the witness of the church as represented by these two prophets. First of all, we see God’s protection of them in verses 5-6: “And if any man will hurt them, fire proceedeth out of their mouth, and devoureth their enemies: and if any man will hurt them, he must in this manner be killed. These have power to shut heaven, that it rain not in the days of their prophecy: and have power over waters to turn them to blood, and to smite the earth with all plagues, as often as they will.” The OT background here are the careers of the prophets Moses and Elijah. You might recall that Elijah called down fire out of heaven to devour the two squads of soldiers who were sent by the king of Israel to arrest him (2 Kings 1:9-12). Elijah also shut up heaven for three and a half years (42 months!, see Jam. 5:17). Moses, on the other hand, was able to “smite the earth with all plagues.” He also called down fire out of heaven to consume the Kohathites who wanted to displace him as the prophet of the Lord (cf. Num. 16:35).
Whether or not the church will literally consume its enemies in this way I’m not sure is the point. The point is that God will preserve the witness of his church. The gates of hell will not be able to prevail against it. The enemies of the church have no more power to silence the church than the enemies of these prophets were able to prevail against them. The judgments which are visited upon them also signify that God will vindicate his people. As the psalmist put it, “God judgeth the righteous, and God is angry with the wicked every day. If he turn not, he will whet his sword; he hath bent his bow, and made it ready. He hath also prepared for him the instruments of death; he ordaineth his arrows against the persecutors” (Ps. 7:11-13).
What was the message of these prophets? What is the message of the church? It is a message of repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 20:21). We see that it is a message of repentance in the fact that these prophets are clothed in sackcloth (Rev. 11:3). On the other hand, we see that it is a message of faith in Jesus in the fact that they are his witnesses (3). This has always been the message of the church to the world. Turn from your sins and turn to Christ. Though it is through this message that God will gather in his elect, it is also the fact that it never has been and never will be popular with the world. Nevertheless, it is the very best of news. It is a message of astonishing mercy and grace, and it underlines the hardness of men’s hearts that they reject it.
But then there is an unexpected turn of events. Here we see the persecution of the two witnesses, which is the second thing we notice here about the witness of the church: “And when they shall have finished their testimony, the beast that ascendeth out of the bottomless pit shall make war against them, and shall overcome them, and kill them. And their dead bodies shall lie in the street of the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified. And they of the people and kindreds and tongues and nations shall see their dead bodies three days and an half, and shall not suffer their dead bodies to be put in graves. And they that dwell upon the earth shall rejoice over them, and make merry, and shall send gifts one to another; because these two prophets tormented them that dwelt on the earth” (Rev. 11:7-10).
This text has given a lot of people the wrong impression because of the phrase “where also our Lord was crucified.” Some say this means the whole text is about Jerusalem and the Jews, either as they pertained to the events of AD 70 or as they will pertain to the events of the last days. But I agree with the NT scholar G. K. Beale who argues that “where also our Lord was crucified” further elucidates the spiritual or figurative identification of this city: “which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified.” In other words, John describes the “great city” in terms of places upon which God’s wrath had fallen, and proceeds chronologically from Sodom to Egypt to Jerusalem. In every other instance in Revelation, the “great city” is Babylon, prefigured by Rome, and the center of earthly power against the people of God. What John is indicating here is that this city will itself one day experience God’s wrath, poured out upon it at the end of history. One day the back of the persecutors will be broken.
Note the words: “when they shall have finished their testimony.” I love those words. The rise of the beast is not what determined the end of their testimony. The language here indicates that it was because the testimony of the two witnesses was finished that the beast was allowed to kill them. You see this “Divine passive” in chapter 13 which describes the same events from a different perspective: “And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them: and power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations” (7). Who gave this to him? God did. God sometimes in his wise and mysterious purposes allows evil to temporarily triumph, but not until his servants have fulfilled their purpose in his plan. There is truth to that saying: we are immortal until our life’s work is done. That is certainly true for the church. The enemies of Christ may put Paul in prison, and they may even kill him. Yet this stands true: “Remember that Jesus Christ of the seed of David was raised from the dead according to my gospel: Wherein I suffer trouble, as an evil doer, even unto bonds; but the word of God is not bound. Therefore I endure all things for the elect's sakes, that they may also obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory” (2 Tim. 2:8-10).
The one who kills the prophets and persecutes the church is called the beast. This language again comes from the book of Daniel where several different types of beasts represented world kingdoms both present and future. The beast John probably has in mind here is the one from Dan. 7, the fourth beast the prophet saw in his visions who shall “shall wear out the saints of the most High, and think to change times and laws: and they shall be given into his hand until a time and times and the dividing of time” (25). We note in Rev. 13 that this beast is given power for the same length of time that the witnesses prophesy (Rev. 13:5), which is 42 months or “a time and times and the dividing of time.” I believe that this beast is the Antichrist but is also prefigured by Rome and by every government hostile to the kingdom of God since.
These verses remind us that it is dangerous (though easy) to interpret events just in light of earthly consequences. If we just interpret our lives this side of eternity it would be easy to become depressed, and like Elijah to think we’ve not accomplished anything, and woe is me. But we must remember that God is sovereign even over evil. God determined when the testimony of the witnesses was finished, not the beast. God is sovereign even when a good work falls flat or is squelched by the enemy. That doesn’t mean God causes people to sin. But it does mean that if evil happens, it happens because God allows it. And God allows it on purpose. It is a good purpose. It is for his own glory and our eternal good and happiness. We need to remember that. Jesus conquered by dying. Though a Christian becomes a martyr, this is not a defeat for them; it is a glorious victory. Over and over again in the book of Revelation we see that God’s people conquer through death. They world may rejoice over our deaths, but the One who sits on his throne laughs at them (Ps. 2:1-4).
The following verses help us to see why: “And after three days and an half the spirit of life from God entered into them, and they stood upon their feet; and great fear fell upon them which saw them. And they heard a great voice from heaven saying unto them, Come up hither. And they ascended up to heaven in a cloud; and their enemies beheld them. And the same hour was there a great earthquake, and the tenth part of the city fell, and in the earthquake were slain of men seven thousand: and the remnant were affrighted, and gave glory to the God of heaven.” (Rev. 11:11-13).
Here we see the vindication of God’s people pictured in two ways. First, we see it in the resurrection of the two witnesses. Second, we see it in the earthquake visited upon the great city. That is the main point, although the details are admittedly a little more difficult.
The difficulty is this: if the witnesses represent the church it would seem then that their resurrection is the resurrection of the righteous. But then what do we make of this earthquake? The fact that not everyone dies in it, and that those who are left are terrified yet not converted indicates that this is not the final judgment. But doesn’t the resurrection take place at the very end of the age? The order here doesn’t seem to be right. We would expect it to be, earthquake then resurrection, not the other way round.
I may not be correct here, but here is what I think: I believe that to get too wrapped up in the order of things misses the point of the text. I’m not sure that John’s point is for this to picture the order in which things will take place or which comes first. I think the point here is that the church will be vindicated in the resurrection of our bodies and that the wicked will be judged. This judgments of God upon an evil world will increase as the end draws nearer. Already in this book many judgments have fallen upon the wicked and more will come. We will note that God’s judgment is often represented by earthquakes in Revelation (6:12; 8:5; 11:19; 16:18), and an earthquake will be a part of the last vial of judgment in which God’s wrath is fulfilled. So though this may not be a complete representation of the final judgment, it does seem to be a sort of inauguration of it.
Nevertheless I do think all this is at the end. We are told that the ministry of the two witnesses lasts 42 months. We are also told that the reign of the beast is for 42 months. Again, I don’t think these are two different periods because the three-and-a-half-year period in Daniel always refers to the same thing. So I think the ministry of the witnesses and the reign of the beast basically coincide. The point of Rev. 11:7 is not that the beast just then emerges (the text doesn’t actually say that), but that it is at that time that he is able to finally kill the prophets. The triumph of the beast will actually be very short, “one hour” according to Rev. 17:12. In fact, you see that in chapter 11: how long do the enemies of God get to rejoice? Three and a half days. Then God’s judgment falls. In chapter 11, all this takes place at the end of history without necessarily indicating the order in which it is going to happen. The main takeaway is not the order of things but that the vindication of the people of God will be sweet and eternal, whereas the triumph of the wicked will be at best swift and temporary.
Brothers and sisters, let us learn from this text that God calls upon the church to be his witnesses. These two prophets may represent the church at the end of the age, but the role of the church is no different now than it will be at the end. Our Lord told his disciples prior to ascending into heaven, “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth” (Acts 1:8). We are still called upon to be his witnesses to the uttermost parts of the earth. It is a part of the Great Commission which is for the church in every age: “And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen” (Mt. 28:18-20).
We are not witnesses for ourselves; we are to be witnesses for Christ. Not our name, but his name; not our glory but his. The only good news we have for anyone is the good news of Jesus Christ, that though we are unrighteous before God and deserve his wrath, God has opened up a way for us to escape his wrath. Not by our good works or by our righteousness, but by the righteousness of God given as a gift to those who put their trust in Jesus Christ. For Jesus became our propitiation – the one who bore God’s wrath in our place, who bore the punishment due to our sins – so that we might receive his righteous as a gift of grace. The gospel is this: believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved, not because you are good enough but because Christ has been good – not only good, but perfect – for you.
The Revelation is also a reminder that we are called to be bold in our witness. We can be courageous because for us the outcome is sure. And the outcome is sure because, no matter how much the world may rage against the church, God protects us. Our eternity is secure in Christ. I like the way John Piper has put it: we can take risks for God because we serve a God who doesn’t take risks. He doesn’t take risks because he knows and is sovereign over the future. We don’t know the future, but God does, and he is letting us know here that his plan will triumph, his church will be vindicated, and both his and our enemies will be judged and overcome.
Brothers and sisters, there is therefore no reason for us to become depressed, no matter how bad the world around us gets. Revelation reminds us that no amount of Satanic or beastly power can thwart the plan of God for his glory and our good. Do we live like that is reality? If we believed that as we ought, it would change our despair to hope, our sluggishness to zeal, our unbelief to faith.