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Apr 29 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

Revelation chapter 11 – 04/28/2024



Welcome and Prayer: Nancy Lopez

Good morning, RefleXion! Grace and Peace to you!
There’s an adage that says, “It’s not what you know but who you know that counts.” This week during Lectio Divina, an image and an insight were given to me. I apologize to our group for repeating myself here. The passage we were reading was Matthew 7:21-23. It begins, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” It goes on to talk about those who say ‘Lord, Lord,” because they have done things in his name: prophesied, cast out demons…mighty works. But Jesus says to them, I never knew you; depart from me.

I had a picture of “being present for a reading of a will.” In this passage—and in the kingdom of this world–the people were doing what they thought a person would want and then hoping to be in the will, being good for the sake of a reward. Generally, unless it is a condition of the will, the beneficiaries don’t have to be present for the reading. The way of the Lord seems to be in the opposite order. First, he wants relationship, he wants us to know him, he wants our presence. The benefit of being present to the reading of the will, of course, is hearing the reading first hand and being clear about what the will contains, especially for us: What is our inheritance? And then the use of what we inherit will follow.

Now, we know that someone must die before a will is executed. Well, Jesus did die. And now his will can be “read,” and must be read to establish the relationship – the knowing of the Voice of the Lord and his will for us. Listen, this world is getting noisier and noisier; there are a lot of voices. And do we know HIS Voice? What is His word to the Church today? What role do we play? How then shall we live? This is our time.

We are invited to the reading of the will of God. We might think of a tradition of reading scripture, prayer, and meditation. Yes, and how else do you rendezvous with God. Without being present to his will, we will be off track, and ultimately could he then say that He never knew us? Can we think of anything worse? We are invited to find ourselves in his will. Knowing his voice and his will for us, then we will know our own inheritance and go and spend it on the world for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. What do you think about that? Maybe it’s all about who you know after all.

Will you pray with me? Lord, Lord may we be ones you know because we make our way by knowing you. Forgive us and lead us not into temptation, deliver us from evil. Enliven us with Spirit and embrace us with Grace. Let us find ourselves in your will; for such a day as this, for such a time as this. In Jesus’ Name and for the Kingdom’s sake. Amen

Morning Talk: chuck smith, jr.

Then I was given a measuring rod like a staff, and I was told, “Rise and measure the temple of God and the altar and those who worship there, but do not measure the court outside the temple; leave that out, for it is given over to the nations, and they will trample the holy city for forty-two months. And I will grant authority to my two witnesses, and they will prophecy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth” Revelation 11:1-3

Intro: We have arrived at the heart of Revelation

Not only the middle of the book, but its central message
– I’m going to take you backstage and show you my work room
• the Bible is many books and among them, different writing styles
◦ there are books of history (written more or less like storytelling), poetry, legal codes, prophetic writings, wise sayings, and letters
◦ each literary style has its own form, rules, and devices, and that style determines how it is to be read and interpreted
• for instance, poetry, wherever it appears in the Hebrew Scriptures, uses lots of parallelism
◦ one line is followed by another (or more than one other) line that mimic or react to it
◦ sometimes the second line repeats the first line backwards, or uses different words to say the same thing, or intensifies the message of the first line, and so on
◦ here’s a sample of poetry that repeats the first line backwards:
When I am afraid,
I put my trust in you.
In God whose word I praise,
in God I trust; I shall not be afraid.
What can flesh do to me? (Ps. 56:3)
– in other ancient writings, some stories and epic poems were written in an unusual style
• when laid out in a diagram, they form a ring
Mary Douglas, “the first indication of a ring composition is that the end corresponds to the beginning. . . .
The correspondences are indicated by key words . . . .”
◦ the beginning and end connect as if with a clasp to form a circle like a bracelet or necklace
• the ring involves more than the beginning and end
◦ the development of the message in the first half is written as if going up a staircase,
the development of the second half is like walking down the same staircase
◦ the themes of the first half match themes of second half
– the midpoint of the ring is the key theme or message
Douglas, Thinking In Circles, “The elaboration is not just for fun; it is the way to say that something is important, something serious needs to be said, there is a message that must be heard.”

Jacques Ellul identified a ring structure in Revelation (see handout below)
– the first chapter is a prologue (introduction) and last part of chapter 22 is an epilogue (conclusion)
• the theme of part 1 is church (now), part 5 is the church in future the New Jerusalem
part 1 is promise part 5 is fulfillment
• both part 1 and part 5 play on the words “Then I saw” and the command for John to “write”
– all of part 3 through part 4 have an introduction, a body, and a conclusion
in the introduction an impressive person appears (Son of Man, a mighty angel, the Lamb, another angel)
in the body there is a series of sevens (e.g., seals, trumpets, bowls)
in each conclusion worship is offered to God in doxology, praise or thanksgiving
– I think it’s also important to see how each section overlaps — one part flows into the next
• the seventh seal leads into first trumpet; the seventh trumpet leads into the first bowl, etc.
• that is why we can feel the forward motion as we read Revelation

I’ve dragged you through this to emphasize where we are
– we are still in between sixth and seventh trumpet and the second and third woe
– the visions in this part tell the story of Jesus’ earthly life (chapters 12-14:5)
• but we are shown his life from a heavenly perspective
• and what we find here does not look anything like the four gospels

John is again given a role to play in the visions

Here he is told to take measurements
– there are similar visions found in the Old Testament prophets, who are given a measuring rod
• usually the message is that God’s people fail to measure up to his requirement
• but it’s obvious here that the purpose of John’s taking measurements is not to determine the size of spaces
◦ first, no units of measurement are given (as compared to the city in Rev. 21:15-17)
◦ secondly, there is no temple in New Jerusalem to measure (Rev. 21:22)
(Jesus is the temple – cf. Jn. 2:19, “Destroy this temple . . .” )
◦ third, John was to include “worshipers” in his measurements!
– the point here is to define boundaries and doing so to establish identities
• those inside the lines are worshipers – outside the lines are the nations
• one group worships God, the other tramples his holy city
(trample suggests domination, oppression, and in this context, defilement)

At same time, God authorizes and empowers his two witnesses
– the time-frame is given in two different numbers
forty-two months and 1,260 days — both equal three and a half years
(the Hebrew calendar has thirty days in each month)
◦ This is significant!
• they wear “sackcloth” garments – clothing is important in the visions of Revelation
◦ white robes, fine linen, golden sashes, helmets and crowns
◦ sackcloth typically represents grief, even devastation
– the witnesses wear the seriousness of their mission

The identity and ministry of God’s two witnesses
These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth. And if anyone would harm them, fire pours from their mouth and consumes their foes. If anyone would harm them, this is how he is doomed to be killed. They have the power to shut the sky, that no rain may fall during the days of their prophesying, and they have power over the waters to turn them into blood and to strike the earth with every kind of plague, as often as they desire. And when they have finished their testimony, the beast that rises from the bottomless pit[a] will make war on them and conquer them and kill them, and their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city that symbolically[b] is called Sodom and Egypt, where their Lord was crucified. For three and a half days some from the peoples and tribes and languages and nations will gaze at their dead bodies and refuse to let them be placed in a tomb, and those who dwell on the earth will rejoice over them and make merry and exchange presents, because these two prophets had been a torment to those who dwell on the earth. But after the three and a half days a breath of life from God entered them, and they stood up on their feet, and great fear fell on those who saw them. Then they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, “Come up here!” And they went up to heaven in a cloud, and their enemies watched them. And at that hour there was a great earthquake, and a tenth of the city fell. Seven thousand people were killed in the earthquake, and the rest were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven Revelation 11:4-13

First, they appeared in the prophecies of Zechariah (ch. 4)
– I find the attention given to their identity there intriguing
• the vision is first a lampstand set between two olive trees
◦ the trees are feeding oil into the lampstand
◦ Zechariah immediately asks “What” the olive trees were — he senses that they are important
“Do you not know what these are?” I said, “No, my lord” (Zec. 4:4-5)
then again later in the chapter, “What are these two olive trees on the right and the left of the lampstand? And a second time I answered and said to him, “What are these two branches of the olive trees . . .?” “Do you not know what thee are?” I said, “No, my lord.” Then he said “These are the two anointed ones who stand by the Lord of the whole earth” (Zec. 4:11-14)
• now, after all these years, the olive trees show up again in John’s vision
– during the period of the witnesses’ ministry, no one can touch them
• at the same time, signs and wonders go with their testimony
◦ when their work is complete, the beast from Abyss kills them
(we haven’t been introduced to this creature yet)
• their corpses will be left exposed
“in the great city that symbolically is called Sodom and Egypt”
Jacques Ellul, describes these cities as “places of the absolute revolt of [humankind], places of the total refusal of the will of God, places of hatred against God.”
◦ Jerusalem had been conformed to the standard of world nations
◦ with this turn, the witnesses are connected to Jesus, and, specifically, to his crucifixion
where their Lord was crucified

For three and a half days,
those who dwell on the earth will rejoice over them
– this is reminiscent of what Jesus told his disciples before his crucifixion and resurrection
A little while and you will not see me . . . Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice (Jn. 16:19-20)
• like Jesus, they were raised from the dead and ascended into heaven
• is it possible these similarities between the witnesses and Jesus are too much of a coincidence?

Let me remind you that these visions unfold like dreams

Everything is symbolic and not everything makes sense
– Jacques Ellul argues that the two witnesses represent Jesus
Ellul, The description of the ministry of the two witnesses suggests that it “would be difficult to be more explicit in describing the time of Jesus upon the earth (as we have emphasized, the vision must be understood on the basis of this which has been told us; and we must not, for example, become confused by the number ‘two’). Truly then there is here an exact synthesis of the work of Jesus. The two witnesses undoubtedly represent the two dimensions that relate to Jesus Christ.”
– from the first chapters of Revelation, Jesus is described as the faithful witness
• and the faithful and true witness (1:5; 3:14)
◦ this defines his life and ministry–especially in John’s gospel
• of course, we wonder why John would see two witnesses to represent Jesus and not one
◦ for one thing, neither witness is named – they’re identical, and we can’t tell one from the other
◦ secondly, where we read “dead bodies” in vv. 8-9 the Greek text is singular, “their dead body”
– Ellul suggests that the two of them represent the twofold nature of Jesus
Son of Man and Son of God – divine word and flesh–Jn. 1:14
• also, combined in Jesus is the witness of the Word and the witness of the Spirit
◦ I’m not dogmatic about this, but it makes sense that at the heart of Revelation is Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection

An announcement regarding the three woes
The second woe has passed; behold, the third woe is soon to come

The seventh trumpet sounds and heaven erupts in praise again

Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever.” And the twenty-four elders who sit on their thrones before God fell on their faces and worshiped God, saying,
“We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty,
    who is and who was,
for you have taken your great power
    and begun to reign.
The nations raged,
    but your wrath came,
    and the time for the dead to be judged,
and for rewarding your servants, the prophets and saints,
    and those who fear your name,
    both small and great,
and for destroying the destroyers of the earth.”

Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and the ark of his covenant was seen within his temple. There were flashes of lightning, rumblings,[c] peals of thunder, an earthquake, and heavy hail Revelation 11:15-19

With Jesus’ resurrection, the kingdom of God entered our world
– it’s not the fullness of what is yet to come,
• but it is a real presence and the promise of completion

Conclusion: Jesus defined the identity of his disciples when told them “you will be my witnesses”

He did not say, “You will go witnessing” but “you will be my witnesses”
– we represent Jesus to the world as he represented the Father

Driving my granddaughter Addison home on Friday I was feeling frustrated with the heavy traffic on the road and negligent drivers. Addy sensed my frustration (well, actually, she witnessed it), so I announced, “I am going to start ‘Christian driving.’ I then held up my hand and motioning to the cars around us, I said, “I forgive you. I forgive you, I forgive you.” Addy giggled, and that made my day.

You may know already, the Greek word for witness is martus, from which we get the English word martyr
There is a kind of death we experience when we represent Jesus
A death of our personal concerns so we can tend to the needs of others
In this dying, we lose some things and we gain some things
St. Paul tells us that the losses are worth it

How did the witness of Jesus first come to you? Who brought it?
How did Jesus reveal himself to you through that person?
You are becoming that for someone else

The transformation that occurs with our spiritual development,
is also the process by which we become living witness to God’s love


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