Revelation 12 – Part 3

“So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.” Revelation 12:9

Last time in our study of the book of Revelation, we saw that the dragon, Satan (12:9), failed to destroy the Christ Child at His birth and during His life and in His death, so Jesus could ascend victoriously to heaven after His resurrection (12:3-5). Since Satan cannot get to the Christ Child who is now on His throne in heaven (12:5), he is going to go after what is dearest to the Child – His people, Israel.

The apostle John writes, “Then the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, that they should feed her there one thousand two hundred and sixty days.” (Revelation 12:6). Christ’s birth and ascension to heaven in verse 5 took place some two thousand years ago, but the events described here in verse 6will take place in the future. The nation of Israel, represented by “the woman” (cf. 12:1-2; Genesis 37:9-11), will flee “into the wilderness” immediately at the middle of the Tribulation period when the Man of Sin (the Beast or Antichrist) occupies the rebuilt temple in Jerusalem and declares himself to be God (12:6a; cf. Matthew 24:15-21; 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4). 1

During the first half of the Tribulation many Jews will believe in the gospel of the kingdom proclaimed by the Two Witnesses from Jerusalem (11:1-6). This believing remnant (“our brethren” – 12:10) will need to get out of Israel as quickly as possible because Satan’s desire is to exterminate Israel so he can render God’s promises to them as false, making God a liar.

If Israel obeys Jesus’ command to flee to the mountains to the “place prepared by God” when the Man of Sin occupies the rebuilt Jewish temple (“abomination of desolation” – Matthew 24:15-16), God will “feed” or provide for her “there one thousand two hundred and sixty days” or three and a half years during the last half of the Tribulation period (12:6b). “God fed millions of Jews for forty years during their Exodus from Egypt, and He will do so again in Israel’s darkest hour.” 2

Hitchcock suggests that this place of refuge prepared by God for Israel could be the rock city of Petra in modern Jordan (cf. Micah 2:12-13; Daniel 11:41). He writes, “This place is also consistently described as being in ‘the mountains’ or ‘the wilderness’ (Matthew 24:16; Revelation 12:6, 14, NASB). Therefore, this city must be prepared by God in advance, must be in the hills and in the wilderness. The city of Petra fits all of these criteria: it is adequate to hold what may be one million Jewish people; it is both in the hills and the wilderness; and it is accessible to the fleeing remnant. Therefore, putting all these points together, it is apparent that God will provide the fleeing Jewish remnant an accessible place of refuge in the wilderness and in the hills that will be like a sheepfold and that will be outside the Antichrist’s domain. The place that best fits the clues provided in Scripture is the magnificent rock city of Petra.” 3

To protect Israel during the last half of the Tribulation, John writes, 7 And war broke out in heaven: Michael and his angels fought with the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought, 8 but they did not prevail, nor was a place found for them in heaven any longer.” (Revelation 12:7-8). John then sees a “war” break “out in heaven” between “Michael,” the archangel who battled with Satan over the body of Moses (cf. Jude 1:9), 4 and Satan, “the dragon.” Michael is accompanied by “his” unfallen “angels” and Satan is joined by “his” fallen “angels” or demons (12:7). The angels’ way of fighting here will be like what they do on behalf of all believers today (cf. Hebrews 1:14). The accidents we narrowly escape, and the perfect timing of various life events are not coincidences, but heaven’s divine arrangements of all things for our good. 5

As Michael fought on Daniel’s and Israel’s behalf against demons in the Old Testament era (cf. Daniel 10:13), angels fight for believers today and will fight for Israel in the last half of the future Tribulation. 6 Daniel 12:1a explains this event when it says, “Michael shall stand up,” which undeniably refers to the fact that the archangel is ready to act on behalf of Israel (cf. Daniel 10:21). This war in heaven will occur just before the time of Jacob’s “trouble” – the last half of the Tribulation (cf. Daniel 12:1b). 7

Despite all of Satan’s raging, he, and his fallen angels “did not prevail” over Michael and his angelic army (12:8a). As a result, there was no “place found for them in heaven any longer” (12:8b). Satan and his demonic cohorts are prohibited from entering heaven ever again. Since the fall of humankind, Satan used this God-given access to make relentless accusations against the people of God (cf. Revelation 12:10; Job 1:6-12; 2:1-7), but near the middle of the Tribulation period, this access to God’s throne is stopped. 8 God will no longer hear Satan’s accusations against believers in His throne room. 9 In the end, Satan and his demonic armies will not be able to stop God’s plan for Israel nor His Son’s return to earth to set up His kingdom. 10

Hitchcock states,Both amillennialists and postmillennialists… view the casting of Satan from heaven in Revelation 12:7-9 as parallel with Luke 10:18-19. They point to Mark 3:27 and Matthew 12:25-29 as the fulfillment of the binding of Satan during the earthly ministry of Christ. For them, Satan’s activity and power are restricted during this present age. However, this contradicts the way Satan is pictured in the New Testament. Satan is called ‘the ruler of this world’ (John 12:31; 14:30), ‘the god of this world’ (2 Corinthians 4:4), ‘an angel of light’ (2 Corinthians 11:14), ‘the commander of the powers in the unseen world’ (Ephesians 2:2), and he is ‘like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour’ (1 Peter 5:8). The devil schemes against believers (2 Corinthians 2:11; Ephesians 6:11), hinders us (1 Thessalonians 2:18), accuses us (Revelation (Revelation 12:10), and blinds the minds of the lost (2 Corinthians 4:4). Satan is anything but bound today. He is aggressively opposing the work of God. 11

“As someone once said, ‘If Satan is bound today, he must have an awfully long chain.’ Satan is characterized as the arch-deceiver in the New Testament. Yet, Revelation 20:3 says that when he is bound Satan will ‘not deceive the nations anymore.’ This does not fit the current situation. It demands a later time after the Lord’s coming.” 12

Satan’s defeat in heaven at the midpoint of the Tribulation led to his and his fallen angels’ expulsion to earth. So, the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.” (Revelation 12:9). God identifies “the great dragon” as “that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan.”

What do we learn about Satan in this verse? He is a “great dragon” who is fierce, cruel, and monstrous in nature. 13 As the “serpent of old,” he is crafty and subtle in character (cf. Genesis 3:1-5; 2 Corinthians 11:3). Satan is too strong and crafty for us to overcome his strategies on our own. We need God’s power and wisdom to experience victory over him in our Christian lives.

The name “Devil” (diabolos) means “Slanderer” or “Accuser.” 14 This title for “the evil one would have made a specially strong impact in the first century, for there was a well-known and well-hated figure called the delator, the paid informer. He made his living by accusing people before the authorities.” 15

In this church age the Devil focuses on accusing believers of wrongdoing. But because God has “justified” or declared believers totally righteous in His courtroom the moment we believe in Jesus apart from any works (Romans 4:5), no one can successfully accuse us of wrongdoing before God (cf. Romans 8:33), including the Devil.

The title “Satan” (Satanas) means “Adversary.” 16 Satan is not our friend. He is against us. He is our worst enemy. He hates us and wants to destroy our lives and testimony. But Jesus is our “Advocate” (I John 2:1-2) Who ceaselessly defends us and intercedes before God the Father’s throne in heaven (Hebrews 7:25). Whenever Satan accuses us of wrongdoing, Christ says to the Father, “I paid for that sin, Father.”   

John writes that Satan is the one “who deceives the whole world” (12:9b). The primary strategy Satan uses to accuse and oppose us is deception. The Devil cannot win spiritual battles by exerting authority because he has been defeated on the cross (cf. Colossians 2:14-15; Hebrews 2:14-15). So, Satan must win by deception, influencing our thinking through spiritual and worldly means. We permit Satan to achieve victories in our lives when we act on that deception rather than rejecting it as a lie. 17

How can we overcome Satan’s deception? Jesus tells us in John 8. 31 Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, ‘If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. 32 And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.’” (John 8:31). Christ is talking to Jewish believers who have eternal life, so He is not talking about salvation here. He is talking about the lifelong process of discipleship after we believe in Him for everlasting life.

Hence, the first way to overcome Satan’s deception is to believe in Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God, so you may have eternal life in His name (John 20:31). The only condition for eternal life is simply believing in Christ for it. Obviously, then if you want to be free from the deception of the Devil, you must believe or trust in Christ alone for His gift of everlasting life. And the moment you do, the eternal Son of God comes to live inside of you. If you don’t have Jesus Christ in your life, the only changes in your life will be superficial. You may read your Bible, pray, and go to church or counseling, but you are not going to experience lasting freedom from Satan’s lies without Christ in your life! Only Christ has the power to defeat the Devil’s deception in your life.

But overcoming deception does not stop with believing in Christ. Christ says to these believers, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed” (8:31b). What is the condition for being Jesus’ disciples? Abiding in His Word. To “abide” (menō) in Christ’s Word means “to continue or remain” 18 in Jesus’ teaching – literally, “to make one’s home at.”Where we make our home is where we spend our time. So, notice that you can believe in Jesus and not abide in His word. When believers “abide” or remain in Christ’s word, they “shall know the truth, and the truth shall make” them “free” (8:32).

Note two things. First, there is such a thing as truth. Truth is the absolute standard by which reality is measured. We live in a relativistic society that denies absolute truth, claiming, ‘What’s true for you may not be true for me.’ But truth is not based on our feelings, experiences, or desires. Truth is God’s viewpoint on every matter, and it is not subject to redefinition. Pilate would ask, ‘What is truth?’ (18:38), and the answer to that question is ‘Jesus’ (see 14:6).

“Second, knowing the truth results in genuine freedom. Don’t be confused. Truth alone doesn’t liberate; rather, the knowledge of the truth liberates. Deliverance comes when we know the truth—that is, when we hang out in what God says. When this happens, we will experience the truth setting us free from illegitimate bondage” 19 to Satan’s lies.

I cannot stress enough the importance of being a part of a discipleship relationship with other believers. We always learn from others, truths we would never learn on our own. Other people will help you see insights you would miss and help you apply God’s truth in a practical way. They can also help hold you accountable and I know I need that, don’t you? So, as we abide or remain in Christ’s word, we shall know the truth, and the truth, Jesus Christ (John 14:6), shall make us free from Satan’s deception. The truth will identify the lies we have been believing that have held us in bondage to sin and will also provide the remedy to overcome those lies. It is knowing and applying the truth of God’s Word that will overcome the Devil’s deception.

Prayer: Father God, thank You for reminding us that although Satan is a powerful and aggressive foe, he will not be victorious. Your angels will defeat him at the midpoint of the Tribulation period, so he never has access to Your throne in heaven again. And while Satan accuses us before You every day and night during this current Church Age, we have an Advocate, Jesus Christ, Who ceaselessly defends us and intercedes for us. Not only this, but Jesus also gives us eternal life the moment we believe in Him so we can subsequently abide in His Word and know the truth which sets us free from Satan’s lies. Please empower us, Lord, to know, believe and act on Your truth so that we may become all that You intended us to be for Your glory alone. In the mighty name of Jesus Who is the truth, we pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Bob Vacendak; Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach. The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1542.

2. Ibid.   

3. Mark Hitchcock, The End: A Complete Overview of Bible Prophecy and the End of Days (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2012 Kindle Edition), pp. 378, 490 491.

4. Vacendak, pg. 1542.

5. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 2397.

6. Ibid.

7. Vacendak, pg. 1543; see also John F. Walvoord, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, (David C Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), location 5701 and Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 136.  

8. Vacendak, pg. 1543. cf. Hitchcock, pg. 314.

9. Constable, pg. 136.

10. Evans, pg. 2397.

11. Hitchcock, pp. 413-414.

12. Ibid., pg. 414 cites Grant R. Osborne, Revelation (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2002), pp. 702-703.

13. Contstable, pg. 136.

14. Ibid., see also Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature: Third Edition (BDAG) revised and edited by Frederick William Danker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000 Kindle Edition), pg. 226.

15. Ibid., cites Leon Morris, The Revelation of St. John, Tyndale New Testament Commentary series, Reprint ed. (Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press, and Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1984), pg. 161; cf. William Barclay, The Revelation of John Vol. 2, The Daily Study Bible series, 2nd ed. (Edinburgh: Saint Andrew Press, 1964), pg. 102.

16. Ibid., cf. Bauer, pg. 916.

17. Evans, 2397.

18. Bauer, pp. 630-631.

19. Evans, pg. 1779.

Revelation 12 – Part 2

“She bore a male Child who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron. And her Child was caught up to God and His throne.” Revelation 12:5

As the apostle John continued to survey the seventieth week of years (Daniel 9:27) a second time (cf. Revelation 10:11) in the book of Revelation, he focused on specific characters who will appear on stage as the drama unfolds. Beginning in Revelation 12, the apostle will describe the conflict between God and Satan in the spiritual realm that has taken place throughout history since Satan’s rebellion against God (Isaiah 14:12-15; Ezekiel 28:11-18) so we can understand how it will be manifested in the physical realm during the second half of the Tribulation period, especially during the bowl judgments (Revelation 16). 1

Last time John introduced two characters involved in the conflict: a woman and a Child (12:1-2). We learned that the woman represents the nation of Israel (12:1; cf. Genesis 37:9-11) and the Child represents the Lord Jesus Christ (12:2). Today, we will look at the third character in this spiritual battle.

“And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great, fiery red dragon having seven heads and ten horns, and seven diadems on his heads.” (Revelation 12:3). This second “sign” is described as a “fiery red dragon.” God identifies this dragon as “that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan.” (Revelation 12:9; cf. 20:2). The color “red” might indicate the bloodshed Satan causes during this last half of the Tribulation period. 2

Why is the dragon used as a symbol of Satan? Pharaoh, king of Egypt, in his cruelty to God’s people, and in proud and haughty independence of God, is termed ‘the great dragon’ (Ezekiel 29:3, 4). Nebuchadnezzar is similarly spoken of in respect to his violence and cruelty (Jeremiah 51:34). Gathering up the numerous scripture references in the Book of Psalms, and in the first three of the greater prophets, to the crocodile, the sovereign of the seas, who is identified with the dragon, insatiable cruelty seems the main feature. The Egyptians regarded the crocodile or dragon, according to their hieroglyphics, as the source and author of all evil, worshipped under the name of Typho. The color of the dragon, red, denotes his murderous, bloodthirsty character. This is the first time in Scripture that Satan is directly spoken of as a dragon. The heathen monarchs, Pharaoh and Nebuchadnezzar, enslaved and oppressed the people of God, and, thus far acting in satanic power, merited the appellation of dragon. But at the time treated of in our chapter, Satan is the prince of the world—its virtual ruler. The Roman power is the instrument through which he acts. Hence the title ‘great red dragon’ can now for the first time be used of him.” 3

Satan is described as “having seven heads and ten horns” (12:3b), which are the same as the Beast (Antichrist) possesses during the last half of the Tribulation period (Revelation 13:1; 17:3, 7). Revelation 13:2b clearly tells us that this individual derives his authority from Satan: “The dragon gave him his power, his throne, and great authority.” This demonstrates that Satan is seeking a governmental authority over the woman’s “offspring” (Revelation 12:17), the nation of Israel, which authority rightly belongs to Christ Himself (Revelation 12:5; cf. Psalm 2:6-9; Matthew 2:2; 27:11, 37). 4

The “seven heads” and “ten horns” probably represent seven nations and ten rulers (12:3b; cf. Revelation 17:12) and the “seven diadems” represent political authority in the Tribulation period (12:3b; cf. Revelation 17:10-12). 5 Ten kings will rule under Satan’s authority in the Tribulation period (12:3b; cf. Daniel 7:7, 23-24; Revelation 13:1; 17:7, 12), but when the Beast (Antichrist) rises to preeminence among them, he will subdue threeof them, leaving only seven (Daniel 7:7-8, 20, 23-24; Revelation 13:1). 6

“His tail drew a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was ready to give birth, to devour her Child as soon as it was born.” (Revelation 12:4). God was coming down to Satan’s turf on earth! And the old dragon was not about to let that happen without a fight! John informs us that Satan’s “tail drew a third of the stars of heaven” or fallen angels who followed Satan’s rebellion against God “and threw them to the earth” to try to prevent the birth of Jesus the Messiah (12:4a). When Jesus is born into the world, Satan is there, with his cohorts, waiting to destroy Christ. While shepherds are watching and angels are singing, Satan is waiting to make his move.

The attempt to kill the Christ Child John sees in this vision is probably a reference to king Herod’s attempt to kill Jesus. Herod was the Roman government’s puppet king over the nation of Israel. The book of Matthew tells us that when Herod learned that Jesus had been born, he had all boys two years old and younger be murdered (Matthew 2:1-16). Herod was afraid, because he knew that he wasn’t the rightful king and that Jesus was, so he did what political leaders do when threatened, and he tried to exterminate the competition. John pictures Herod’s brutal attempt to kill Jesus as a Satanic attempt to stop Jesus in fulfilling His mission.

So, when we celebrate the birth of Christ, I believe the Lord would tell us that we ought never forget the great conflict that was being waged in the heavenlies to get the Savior to earth. Think about how vulnerable Christ made Himself! Here He was, the Creator of the world, lying helpless and hungry in the arms of a woman that He created! The Savior who came to bring peace and restore God’s creation was the object of the greatest hatred ever known to God’s creation. And He found Himself in the middle of the greatest conflict to be waged yet on this earth.

“She bore a male Child who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron. And her Child was caught up to God and His throne.” (Revelation 12:5). In this version of the Christmas story, Jesus goes from being born at Bethlehem (“She bore a male Child”) to ascending to heaven where He would sit on “His throne.” Satan failed to destroy Jesus at His birth, and because he also failed to destroy Him during His life and in His death, Jesus Christ ascended victoriously into heaven 7 where He would sit on His throne until His enemies will be made the footstool of His feet (cf. Hebrews 1:10). The Messiah’s kingdom will come in spite of any and all attempts of the dragon to prevent it. 8 Christ will “rule all nations with a rod of iron” in His Millennial Kingdom on earth after He returns from heaven to earth with His church (Revelation 19:11-20:6; cf. Psalm 2:8-9). John uses this one verse to summarize the birth, life, death, resurrection, ascension, and future reign of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Satan not only used Herod in an attempt to kill the baby Jesus, but He would later use Judas to betray Him (John 13:27) andPilate to condemn Him (Mark 15:15) andthe Romans to crucify Him. All the fury of hell would be released against the child born on that silent night.

As Jesus lay in the manger, somewhere in Palestine there grew a tree, straight and strong. One day that tree would be cut down and fashioned into a cross. And it would become the ultimate Christmas tree upon which was hung the ultimate gift! On that cross the perfect Son of God would take our punishment for our sin and defeat the devil once and for all. This was predicted in the first book of the Bible.

When the first man and woman disobeyed God, the Lord pronounced a curse on the serpent, the woman, and the man (Genesis 3:14-19). Regarding the serpent, God said: And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.” (Genesis 3:15). God said there would be a perpetual struggle between Satanic forces and humankind. It would be between Satan and the woman, and their respective offspring or “seeds.” The “offspring” of the woman was Cain, then all humanity at large, and then Christ and those collectively in Him. The “offspring” of the serpent includes demons and anyone serving his kingdom of darkness, those whose “father” is the devil (John 8:44). God’s pronouncement was ultimately fulfilled when Satan would bruise Jesus’ heel (“he shall bruise His heel”) through Christ’s sufferings and death, but Christ, would deliver the fatal blow to Satan when He defeated the Devil through His death and resurrection (“He shall bruise your head”).

How? Christ 14 wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. 15 Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it.” (Colossians 2:14-15). Through His death on the cross, Christ “wiped out” or erased the certificate of debt, with its obligations, that was against us (2:14). When a person was executed under Roman law, the sentence was attached to the accused’s cross (cf. John 19:19). All our sins were attached to Jesus’ cross. Jesus took all of Satan’s accusations against us away, effectively nailing our certificates of debt to His cross. He paid our sin debt to God in full; He died for our guilt and shame. God “made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

In doing so, Christ also disarmed “principalities and powers” – Satan and his forces – disgraced them and triumphed over them (Colossians 2:15). A fallen angel is no match for the Son of God, who took away Satan’s rulership. Satan’s accusations against us are empty because Christ paid the penalty for all our sins.

If somebody has a gun pointed at you, whether or not it’s loaded is a huge deal. The devil doesn’t want you to know that his gun has been emptied by the cross of Christ. Now, if you don’t know that, you’re still going to cower and run, living in fear and shame. But you don’t have to listen to him. Though he is right about your sin, your debt has been paid by Christ. You are free to live for God. Satan still has power, but he no longer possesses final authority in history.” 9

The Bible tells us in Hebrews 2:14-15: 14 Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.” Jesus Christ became a man without ceasing to be God, to render the devil powerless over us. Through His death, Jesus conquered death to free people from the fear of death (2:14-15). If the Son has set you free, then, the only power the devil has over you is what you permit him.Satan is “the father of lies” (John 8:44), so he’ll try to trick you into giving him permission to exercise authority over you. But the devil no longer has the power of death.Hence, the fear of death should no longer make you a slave (see 1 Corinthians 15:51-57). 10

This cosmic war between God and Satan is won through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. John wants us to see the manger through the lens of the cross in Revelation 12:1-5! He wants us to understand that Jesus’ victory began on the day He was born.

When John wrote, “And her Child was caught up to God and His throne” (Revelation 12:5b), he used the Greek word haparzō (“caught up”)for the ascension of Christ from earth to heaven after His death and resurrection (cf. Acts 1:9-11). This word means to snatch, seize, or take suddenly.” 11 This is the same word that the apostle Paul uses to describe the Rapture or sudden removal of the church from the earth prior to the Tribulation. “Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up (haparzō) together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus, we shall always be with the Lord.” (I Thessalonians 4:17).

It is interesting to observe in Revelation 12:6 that John then fast forwards in time from Christ’s ascension to Satan’s hostile attacks against the woman representing the nation of Israel during the Tribulation period. John skips over the entire history of the church here. Why? 

“For one thing, the emphasis in the book of Revelation is not on what happens to the church during the present age but on what will happen to Israel and Gentile believers during the future Tribulation. Second, ever since Pentecost the church has been spiritually united with Christ through the baptism of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:12-13), so we share with Christ in His destiny. Just as the male child was caught up to God and rescued from Satan’s earthly wrath, the church also will be caught up to God to be rescued from the coming wrath of the Tribulation (1 Thessalonians 4:17; 5:9-10).” 12

Christ’s resurrection and ascension guarantees our own resurrection and ascension to heaven through the Rapture of the church (I Thessalonians 4:14-17). Instead of facing the wrath of the Tribulation period on earth, the church will be caught up to be with the Lord Jesus in heaven (Revelation 4:1-4; cf. I Thessalonians 1:10; 4:13-5:11). What a glorious future awaits those who believe in Christ during this Church Age. Satan hated Jesus and He hates Christ’s church. But Jesus loves us infinitely and has provided an incredible future for us with Him in heaven (John 14:2-3). May all the glory go to Him!!!

Prayer: Precious Lord, thank You for Your Word which gives us heaven’s perspective about earthly events. Since his rebellion, Satan has aggressively opposed You and Your people. The Devil failed to destroy Jesus at His birth, and because he also failed to destroy Him during His life and in His death, the Lord Jesus ascended victoriously into heaven. Because of Christ’s death and resurrection, we who have believed in Jesus will also be resurrected and caught up to heaven in victory to be with Christ forever when He returns at any moment for His church. We praise You, Lord, for the plans You have for us, to prosper us and not to harm us. Plans involving a future that is filled with hope. Satan on the other hand, is a liar and a murderer who seeks to devour us. Please use Your Holy Spirit to expose his strategies, we pray, and open the eyes of those who have been blinded by his deceit. We ask that many more people on earth will hear and believe the gospel of grace before Jesus returns for His church, so Christ is most glorified. In the mighty name of Jesus. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pp. 132-133 cites Robert L. Thomas, Revelation 8—22: An Exegetical Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1995), pg. 117.

2. John F. Walvoord, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, (David C Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), locations 5673 5679.

3. J. Dwight Pentecost, Things to Come (Zondervan Academic, 2010 Kindle Edition), pg. 287 cites Walter Scott, Exposition of the Revelation of Jesus Christ (London: Pickering and Inglis, [n.d.]), pp. 249-250.

4. Pentecost, pg. 287.

5. Constable, pg. 134.

6. Ibid.

7. Ibid., pg. 135.

8. Bob Vacendak; Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach. The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1542.  

9. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 2148.

10. Ibid., pg. 2243-2244.

11. Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature: Third Edition (BDAG) revised and edited by Frederick William Danker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000 Kindle Edition), pg. 134.

12. Charles R. Swindoll, Insights on Revelation, (Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary Book 15, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2014 Kindle Edition), pp. 235-236.

Revelation 12 – Part 1

“Now a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a garland of twelve stars.” Revelation 12:1

If you are a Christian, you are familiar with God’s love for you. Jesus said, “For God so loved the world…” (John 3:16). The world includes you and me. God loves us!!! The apostle Paul wrote, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8). God showed how much He loved us by dying in our place “while we were still sinners.” God did not wait for us to clean up our lives and become “worthy” of His love. Even when we were at our worst, God loved us by giving His best for us when He took our punishment for sin on the cross.

As much as God loves us, we need to understand that Satan hates us. Swindoll writes, Never forget those three words if you love and follow Christ’s teachings. Satan wants nothing more than to sabotage our love for God and for others, to tempt us into a moral catastrophe, and to see us choose a lifestyle of sin rather than a walk with the Lord Jesus Christ. When we falter, he stands ready to accuse us before God. When we pass the tests of temptation, he looks beyond that and is already strategizing his next attack. Satan’s hatred of us is relentless.

“… Understanding that Satan is neither all-powerful nor completely powerless will help us come to terms with the real challenges we face as we do battle with Satan’s evil empire in its current form. I say ‘current form’ because it’s important to understand that Satan’s ability to unleash his fury on God’s people is limited in the present age. However, one day Satan’s empire will be allowed to strike the world in full force before crumbling at the coming of Christ.” 1

You may recall that the apostle John received instructions to“prophesy again,” a second time regarding the seven-year Tribulation “about many peoples, nations, tongues, and kings” in Revelation 10:11. Therefore, Revelation 11-19 surveys the seventieth week of years (Tribulation) a second timewith a view to revealing the specific characters on the stage of the drama. In Revelation 11, John reviews the first half of the Tribulation with a focus on the Two Witnesses whom God will bring directly to faith in Christ so they can proclaim the truth to the world from Jerusalem (11:1-6), resulting in the salvation of the 144,000 Jewish evangelists (“firstfruits” – 14:4) who will proclaim the “gospel of the kingdom” during the last half of the Tribulation period (cf. 7:1-10) to “all the nations” (cf. Matthew 24:14).

At the end of Revelation 11, the seventh trumpet sounded to prepare the apostle John, and his readers for the seven horrific bowls of wrath (cf. Revelation 16) immediately before Christ returns to set up His kingdom on earth (Revelation 11:15-19). God now gives John and his readers more information about the forces behind the anti-God hatred during the last half of the Tribulation (Revelation 12-15), so John and his readers could understand the bowl judgments (Revelation 16) which the seventh trumpet judgment contained. 2

Beginning in Revelation 12, John will describe the conflict between God and Satan in the spiritual realm that has taken place throughout history since Satan’s rebellion against God (Isaiah 14:12-15; Ezekiel 28:11-18) so we can understand how it will be manifested in the physical realm during the second half of the Tribulation period, especially during the bowl judgments. 3

John will now focus on five main characters in Revelation 12 that are involved in this spiritual conflict. First, we are introduced to a woman. “Now a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a garland of twelve stars.” (Revelation 12:1). The phrase “a great sign” (mega sēmeion) Walvoord says refers to “the first of a series of events called ‘signs’ or ‘miracles’ (12:3; 13:13-14; 15:1; 16:14; 19:20). As signs they were symbols of something that God was about to reveal and usually contained an element of prophetic warning. Though this sign was seen in heaven, the events which followed obviously occurred on earth.” 4

Swindoll states that the Greek word for ‘sign’ (sēmeion) signifies a mark or symbol that carries a special meaning or points us to something beyond it.” 5 In this case, John indicates that the new vision contains symbolic characters that point to real people or events in history – past as well as future.” 6

Many interpretations have been offered regarding the identity of the “woman” in this verse. Some have said that John was referring to something that his original readers knew about, namely, the “mother of the gods” represented on Roman coins. 7 Others have held that this woman is the church that is laboring to bring Christ to the nations. 8 This is built on an allegorical interpretation of Scripture and must be disallowed. The church did not produce Christ, but Christ produced the church. Also, since the church is not seen on earth in Revelation 4-19, the church cannot be represented by this woman. 9

Others say the woman refers exclusively to Mary, the mother of Jesus. 10 But this is not possible because Mary was never persecuted and never fled into the wilderness where she was fed for 1260 days (Revelation 12:6, 13-14). Clearly the woman is the nation of Israel who will be intensely persecuted during the last half of the Tribulation period (Revelation 12:13-17; cf. Matthew 24:15-22).

Other reasons why the “woman” refers to the nation of Israel include:

1. The context of Revelation 12:1 reveals that John is dealing with the nation of Israel. Grant says of Revelation 11:19, “The ark, then, seen in the temple in heaven is the sign of God’s unforgotten grace toward Israel…” 11

2. The identity of the woman as the nation of Israel is supported further by the reference to “the sun… the moon… and twelve stars” (Revelation 12:1) which connects back to a similar symbolic representation of Israel in Genesis 37:9-11. In this passage, Joseph, the son of Jacob has received a dream from God. 9 Then he dreamed still another dream and told it to his brothers, and said, ‘Look, I have dreamed another dream. And this time, the sun, the moon, and the eleven stars bowed down to me.’ 10 So he told it to his father and his brothers; and his father rebuked him and said to him, ‘What is this dream that you have dreamed? Shall your mother and I and your brothers indeed come to bow down to the earth before you?’ 11 And his brothers envied him, but his father kept the matter in mind.” These verses identify “the sun” and “moon” as Jacob and Rachel, Joseph’s parents, and the stars as Jacob’s twelve sons (cf. Isaiah 26:17-18; 60:1-3, 20). Compare Jeremiah 31:35-36; Joshua 10:12-14; Judges 5:20 and Psalm 89:35-37 where heavenly bodies are associated with Israel’s history. 12

3. The use of the term “woman.” Eight times the term “woman” is used in this chapter (12:1, 4, 6, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17), and thirteen additional times the pronoun “she” (12:2, 5, 6, 14) or “her” (12:1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 14, 16, 17) is used in reference to the woman. We find this term used frequently in the Old Testament to refer to the nation of Israel (cf. Isaiah 47:7-9; 54:5-6; Jeremiah 4:31; Micah 4:9-10; 5:3; Isaiah 66:7-8). While the church is called a “bride” (Revelation 21:2, 9, 17), a “wife” (Revelation 19:7; cf. Ephesians 5:22-33), or a “chaste virgin” (2 Corinthians 11:2), we never find the church referred to as a woman in the New Testament. 13

4. The use of the term “wilderness.” The “wilderness” is said to be the place of refuge afforded the woman in her flight (Revelation 12:6, 14). The “wilderness” was a common reference to Israel in her national history (Exodus 3:18; 4:27; 5:1; 7:16; 8:27-28; 13:17-18, 20; 14:3, 11-12; 15:22; 16:1-3, 10, 14, 32; et al.). Israel was taken into “the wilderness of the land of Egypt” (Ezekiel 20:36). Israel, since she refused to follow God into the promised land, was turned back into the wilderness for forty years where they would die, and a new generation would be brought forth (Numbers 14:1-35; cf. Hebrews 3:7-18). Israel’s unbelief caused Ezekiel to declare God’s purpose: “And I will bring you into the wilderness of the peoples, and there I will plead My case with you face to face.” (Ezekiel 20:35). Hosea reveals that in the long period Israel would spend “in the wilderness” God would be gracious to them (Hosea 2:14-23). 14

5. The references to the period of three and a half years (“one thousand two hundred and sixty days” – 12:6 and “a time and times and half a time” – 12:14) in Revelation 12 connect to the last half of the week of Daniel’s seventieth week prophecy (Daniel 9:24-27) which was specifically addressed to “your people and for your holy city” (Daniel 9:24). Since this prophecy was given to Daniel it could only refer to Israel and the city of Jerusalem. Each time this period is mentioned in Scripture, whether as a “one thousand two hundred and sixty days” (Revelation 11:6; 12:3), “forty-two months” (Revelation 11:2; 13:5), “time, times, and half a time” (Daniel 7:25; 12:7; Revelation 12:14), or three and a half years, it always refers to Israel and a period in which God is dealing with that nation. 15

6. The reference to the angel, “Michael” (Revelation 12:7). In Daniel 12:1 the archangel Michael is called “the great prince who stands watch over the sons of your people.” Michael is united with the destiny of the nation Israel by this word of the Lord to Daniel. In Revelation 12:7 Michael appears again in reference to the warfare in heaven. The fact that Michael appears on the scene here indicates that God is again dealing with the nation Israel, and Michael is a character here because the destiny of Israel is involved. 16

Pentecost quotes Moorehead regarding Revelation 11:19, And the temple (sanctuary) of God was opened in heaven, and there was seen in his temple the ark of the covenant.’ This is strictly Jewish ground; the temple, the ark, the covenant belong to Israel, represent Hebrew relations with God and Hebrew privileges. The Spirit now takes up Jewish things, Jewish standing, covenant, hopes, dangers, tribulations and triumph.” 17

Clearly the people of Israel are in view here, so the woman in Revelation 12 represents the nation of Israel.

Next John writes, “Then being with child, she cried out in labor and in pain to give birth.” (Revelation 12:2). Since the woman is Israel, the “child” is the Lord Jesus Christ (cf. 12:5). The Bible tells us that Christ would come from the nation of Israel. 3 For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my countrymen according to the flesh, 4 who are Israelites, to whom pertain the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service of God, and the promises; 5 of whom are the fathers and from whom, according to the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, the eternally blessed God. Amen.” (Romans 9:3-5).

The “labor” and “pain” in giving “birth” to Jesus (Revelation 12:2) are pictures of the grief and sorrow that the nation of Israel experienced in Old Testament days at the hand of Satan in his attempts to prevent the Messiah from coming. This agonizing struggle between Satan and Israel has been going on from the very beginning (cf. Genesis 3:15). 18

Israel’s founding father, Abraham, was promised a son (Genesis 12:1-7). Instead of waiting on God’s timing, Abraham took a shortcut and slept with his maidservant, Hagar, who gave birth to Ishmael (Genesis 16:1-16). Later Abraham’s wife, Sarah gave birth to Isaac (Genesis 21:1-7). The result of these two births has been a source of conflict between the Arabs and the Jews ever since (Genesis 21:8-21; 25:12-16). Israel faced terrible pain while in exile in Egypt, Babylon, and Assyria.In the days that Jesus was born, Israel was under the oppression and taxation of the Roman government.

God used many imperfect people to bring His Son into the world through the nation of Israel. When you examine the genealogies of Christ (Matthew 1:1-17; Luke 3:23-37), these lists of names contain broken sinners like you and me. They include Jacob (Matthew 1:2; Luke 3:34) who was a deceiver. David (Matthew 1:6; Luke 3:31) who committed adultery and murder. Solomon (Matthew 1:7) who took an abundance of wives and concubines. Manasseh (Matthew 1:10) was one of Judah’s most wicked kings.

Moreover, and while women do not normally show up in biblical genealogies, the women in Jesus’s line were particularly questionable. Tamar (Matthew 1:3) was a Canaanite who posed as a prostitute and committed incest with her father-in law Judah. Rahab (Matthew 1:5) was a prostitute; Ruth (Matthew 1:5) was from Moab, a non-Israelite people that worshiped false gods.

Another observation about Jesus’ genealogies is that they are mixed racially, including both Jews and Gentiles which indicates that Jesus’ kingdom identity and rule includes all races of people. All of this points to God’s sovereign grace. He accomplishes His glorious purposes despite difficult circumstances and the character of the people involved. If God can use the imperfect people listed in these genealogies to bring Jesus, the Messiah-God, into the world, God can surely use you and me to accomplish His purposes. 19

Evans writes, Notice also that of the five women mentioned in Matthew’s genealogy, four are of Hamitic descent: Tamar, Rahab, Bathsheba, and Ruth. That doesn’t mean that Jesus was black. To assert such, as some black theologians and religious leaders do, is to fall into the exclusionist perspective of many whites, who would make Jesus an Anglo-European, blue-eyed blond with little relevance to people of color. It would also fail to respect the distinct Jewish heritage of Christ. Jesus was a person of mixed ancestry.

“It blesses me to know that Jesus had black in His blood because this destroys any perception of black inferiority once and for all. In Christ we find perfect man and sinless Savior. This knowledge frees blacks from an inferiority complex, and at the same time it frees whites from the superiority myth. In Christ, we all have our heritage.

“Black people, as all other people, can find a place of historical, cultural, and racial identity in Him. As Savior of all mankind, He can relate to all people, in every situation. In Him, any person from any background can find comfort, understanding, direction, and affinity—as long as Christ is revered as the Son of God, a designation that transcends every culture and race and one to which all nations of people must pay homage.” 20

In conclusion, God wants us to remember that His faithfulness to His promises is not contingent upon our character, but upon His. We see this throughout history when God promised to bring the Messiah through the nation of Israel despite the nation’s unfaithfulness. The genealogies of Christ underscore God’s faithfulness in using imperfect Jews and Gentiles to fulfill this promise. As a nation, Israel had to endure much pain to usher the Messiah into the world. Likewise, we may have to endure much pain to fulfill God’s purposes. Whether we are faithful or not, God remains faithful to what He has promised.

The Bible tells us, “If we are faithless, He remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself.” (2 Timothy 2:13). I have heard many Christians and churches insist that going to heaven is based on our faithfulness to God, instead of His faithfulness to His promises. Where is the assurance in such an assertion? If our assurance of going to heaven is based on our faithfulness to God, then we are all in a heap of trouble.

Why? Because like the nation of Israel, we also have sinned against God (Romans 3:23). Our good thoughts, words, and actions cannot make us right before God because they are all stained with sin (Isaiah 64:6). This is why God sent His only perfect Son into the world through the imperfect nation of Israel (Romans 9:3-5) so He could pay the penalty for all our sin once and for all by dying in our place on a cross and rising from the dead (John 19:30; Romans 5:8; I Corinthians 15:3-6; Hebrews 7:27; 9:12; 10:10-14). All God asks us to do to enter His heaven is believe in Christ and His finished work on the cross.

Jesus said, “14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:14-15). Just as Moses “lifted up” the bronze serpent in the wilderness so that all the dying Israelites could look at that serpent in faith and live physically (Numbers 21:1-8), so Jesus Christ was lifted up on the cross so “that whoever believes in Him” or looks to Him “should not perish but have eternal life.” Nowhere does Jesus say, “Whoever remains faithful to Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” Repeatedly, Jesus and His followers tell us to “believe” 21 or have “faith” 22  in Christ alone as the only condition for entering God’s heaven.

Have you been looking to your own faithfulness as the way to Christ’s heaven? If so, Satan has deceived you to trust your own faithfulness instead of God’s. This is an expression of the Devil’s hatred toward God and humanity. Satan is a liar, a thief, and a murderer (John 8:44; 10:10a). He wants to deceive people to miss God’s heaven by distorting the gospel message lest people believe it and are saved (Luke 8:5, 11-12).

If you have believed the gospel, that Christ gives eternal life to all who believe in Him (John 3:14-18), but now you are trusting your own faithfulness as the basis of your assurance that you will go to heaven, then Satan, being the thief that he is, has successfully robbed you of your assurance of going to heaven. You still have eternal life because of your faith in Jesus, but your assurance of going to heaven is lost by looking to your own faithfulness instead of Christ’s. Our faithfulness to God can vary from moment to moment. So, when we are unfaithful to God with our thoughts, motives, words, or actions, we are prone to doubt our salvation if our assurance is rooted in our own faithfulness.

God makes it clear in the Bible that He does not want any of His children to doubt that they have eternal life and a future home in heaven with Him. “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life.” (I John 5:13). God wants you to know that you “have eternal life” the moment you believe in the name of the Son of God.” So, if you lack assurance of going to heaven, why not ask God to show you the truth and to make His Word understandable to you? 23

The key to assurance of salvation is looking to Jesus’ promise that all who simply believe in Him have everlasting life (John 3:14-18; 5:24; 6:35-50, 47; 7:37-39; 11:25-26; et al.). It is also important to remember, that we do not get to heaven through the promises we make to God, but through the promises He makes to us! 24

If you have been trusting your own faithfulness or anything else besides Jesus and His finished work on the cross to get you to heaven, Christ invites you right now to stop and look to Him and His finished work on the cross as Your only way to His heaven. When you do this, God gets all the glory and the only boasting in heaven will be in our gracious and loving Savior Who got us there (I Corinthians 1:18-31; Ephesians 2:8-9).

Prayer: Father God, we give You praise for the first main character in Your description of the conflict between You and Satan. The nation of Israel is central to Your redemptive purposes. It was through this imperfect nation and imperfect individual Gentiles that You brought Your only perfect Son into the world the first time to be our one and only Savior. If any of us struggle with shame and not feeling worthy to be used by You, may Your Holy Spirit use today’s Bible verses to silence our shame so we can present ourselves to You as Your available servants. You are a faithful God Who remains faithful to His promises even if we are faithless. Thank You, Lord, for this powerful reminder that can embolden us to faithfully proclaim Your saving message no matter what our past. Please use us to accomplish Your purposes so all the glory belongs to You. And Lord, if there is anyone reading this article right now who is trusting in someone or something other than Christ alone as their only way to heaven, please persuade them to stop and believe in Jesus for His free gift of eternal life. Thank You, Lord, for hearing our prayers. In the mighty name of Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Charles R. Swindoll, Insights on Revelation, (Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary Book 15, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2014 Kindle Edition), pp. 234-235.

2. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 132.

3. Ibid., pp. 132-133 cites Robert L. Thomas, Revelation 8—22: An Exegetical Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1995), pg. 117.

4. John F. Walvoord, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, (David C Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), locations 5656 to 5662.

5. Swindoll, pg. 235 cites Eugene Nida and Johannes P. Louw, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament Based on Semantic Domains, §33.477.

6. Swindoll, pg. 235.

7. Constable, pg. 133 cites as examples Merrill C. Tenney, Interpreting Revelation (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1959), pg. 337; and Ethelbert Stauffer, Christ and the Caesars (London: SCM, 1965), pp. 151-152.

8. J. Dwight Pentecost, Things to Come (Zondervan Academic, 2010 Kindle Edition), pg. 288 cites as an example Ford C. Ottman, The Unfolding of the Ages (New York: Baker and Taylor, 1905), pg. 280.

9. Pentecost, pg. 288.

10. Ibid., cites F. C. Jennings, Studies in Revelation (New York: Loizeaux Brothers, [n.d.].), pp. 310-311.

11. Ibid., cites W. Grant, The Revelation of Christ (New York: Loizeaux Brothers, [n.d.]), pg. 126. There is extensive biblical evidence showing that the woman of Revelation 12 is best identified as the nation of Israel (see Pentecost, pp. 288-291).

12. Ibid.

13. Ibid., pg. 289.

14. Ibid.

15. Ibid., pg. 290.

16. Ibid.

17. Ibid., pp. 290-291 cites William G. Moorehead, Studies in the Book of Revelation (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: United Presbyterian Board of Publication, 1908), pg. 90.

18. Bob Vacendak; Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach. The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1541.

19. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pp. 1480-1481.

20. Ibid., pg. 1481.

21. Matthew 18:6; 21: 32(3); 24:23, 26; 27:42; Mark 1:15, 9:42; 15:32;16:16(2), 17; Luke 8:12, 13; 22:67; John 1:7, 12, 50; 2:11, 23; 3:12(2), 15, 16, 18(3), 36(2); 4:39, 41, 42, 48, 53; 5:24, 38, 44, 45, 46, 47(2); 6:29, 30, 35, 36, 40, 47, 64, 69; 7:5, 31, 38(2), 39, 48; 8:24, 30, 31, 45, 46; 9:35, 36, 38; 10:25, 26, 37, 38(3), 42; 11:25, 26, 27(2), 42, 45, 48; 12:11, 36, 37, 38, 39, 42, 44(2), 46, 47; 13:19; 14:12; 16:9, 27; 17:8, 20, 21; 19:35; 20:29, 31(2); Acts 2:44; 4:4, 32; 5:14; 8:12, 13, 37(2); 9:42; 10:43, 45; 11:17, 21; 13:12, 39, 41, 48; 14:1, 23, 27; 15:5, 7; 16:1, 31, 34; 17:4, 5, 12, 34; 18:8, 27; 19:2, 4, 9, 18; 21:20, 25; 22:19; 26:27(2); 28:24(2); Romans 1:16; 3:3, 22, 4:3, 5, 11, 17, 24; 9:33; 10:4, 9, 10, 11, 14(2), 16; 13:11; 15:31; I Corinthians 1:21; 3:5; 7:12, 13; 9:5; 10:27; 14:22(2); 15:2, 11; 2 Corinthians 4:4; Galatians 2:16; 3:6, 9,

22; Ephesians 1:13, 19; Philippians 1:29; I Thessalonians 1:7; 2:10; 4:14; 2 Thessalonians 1:10; 2:12,13; I Timothy 1:16; 3:16; 4:3, 10; 6:2(2); 2 Timothy 1:12; Titus 3:8; Hebrews 11:31; I Peter 1:21;2:6, 7; I John 3:23; 5:1, 5, 10(3), 13.

22. Matthew 9:2; Mark 2:5; Luke 7:50; 17:19; 18:42; Acts 6:7; 14:22, 27; 15:9; 16:5; 20:21; 24:24; 26:18; Romans 1:17; 3:3, 22, 25, 26, 27, 28, 30(2), 31; 4:5, 9, 11, 13, 14, 16 (2); 5:1, 2; 9:30, 32; 10:6, 8, 17; 11:20; 16:26; I Corinthians 15:14, 17; Galatians 2:16 (2); 3:2, 5, 7, 8, 9, 14, 22, 24, 26; 5:5; Ephesians 2:8; Philippians 3:9(2); Colossians 1:4; 2 Thessalonians 3:2; 2 Timothy 3:15; Titus 1:4; Hebrews 6:1;11:31; James 2:1, 23, 24; I Peter 1:21; 2 Peter 1:5; I John 5:4.

23. Robert N. Wilkin, The Road to Reward: A Biblical Theology of Eternal Rewards Second Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, 2014 Kindle Edition), pg. 7.

24. Ibid.

Real Solutions to Real Problems – Part 1 (Video)

This is the first video in a series entitled, “Real Solutions to Real Problems. You will learn how to cope with stress by discovering how to apply biblical principles from the life of Jesus Christ.

All Scriptures are from the New King James Version Bible unless otherwise noted. Digital images are used with permission from backpew.com by Jeff Larson, Goodsalt.com, Good News Productions International and College Press Publishing / FreeBibleimages.org, Arabs for Christ / FreeBibleimages.org, Sweet Publishing / FreeBibleimages.org, www.LumoProject.com, GoodSalt / goodsalt.com, or they are creative common licenses.

Revelation 11 – Part 3

“Then the temple of God was opened in heaven, and the ark of His covenant was seen in His temple.” Revelation 11:19

Since the first century when Jesus taught His disciples to pray, “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:9-10), Christians have been praying this prayer often. By the time the apostle John wrote the book of Revelation in 96 A.D., reciting this prayer was probably a widespread practice. 1

Although Christians have faithfully prayed this prayer since the first century, most of this ancient prayer has not been answered literally. In Matthew 6:10, Christ prayed, “Your kingdom come.” If we are honest with ourselves when we look at world affairs, none of us would conclude that God’s kingdom has literally come to earth where His will is “done on earth as it is in heaven.” As a matter of fact, when we turn on the news, it seems more like Satan’s kingdom has come and his will is done all around the globe.2

During this church age Christians are to make disciples of Jesus by preaching the gospel of Christ’s death and resurrection to a lost world (Mark 16:15; I Corinthians 15:3-6), followed by baptizing those who believe the gospel as the first step of discipleship, and then teaching them to obey all Christ’s commands (Mark 16:15; Matthew 28:19-20). But the day when King Jesus rules on the earth so that the Father’s will is “done on earth as it is in heaven” will not take place until after the seven-year Tribulation on earth (Revelation 11:15-19; 19:11-20:6).

What a glorious day that will be when Jesus sits on His throne in Jerusalem and rules with a rod of iron so that all His subjects will obey Him, and universal peace will be established (Isaiah 2:4; 9:6-7; 11:6-9; Psalm 2). As glorious as Christ’s kingdom on earth will be, we must not forget that it will be preceded by terrible judgments during the final part of the seven-year Tribulation. With the sounding of the seventh trumpet judgment, God prepares the apostle John, and us (Revelation 11:15-19), for the seven horrific bowls of wrath (cf. Revelation 16) immediately before Christ returns to set up His kingdom on earth. 3

The apostle John writes, “Then the seventh angel sounded: And there were loud voices in heaven, saying, ‘The kingdoms of this world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!’” (Revelation 11:15). When “the seventh angel sounded” his trumpet, “there were loud voices in heaven saying, ‘The kingdom of this world has become the kingdom of our Lord (God the Father) and of His Christ (God the Son), and He shall reign forever and ever!’” These voices in heaven refer to the future reign of Christ on the earth in the past tense as if it has already taken place. 4 Their declaration of King Jesus’ future reign is anticipatory. 5

The actual coronation of Christ will not come to pass until He returns to earth after the seven-year Tribulation is complete, but heaven is already singing about it and viewing it as accomplished. Once He is crowned as king, Christ will ‘reign forever and ever!’ ‘And of His kingdom there will be no end’” (Luke 1:33).” 6

Some Bible students believe Revelation 11:15 refers to the Rapture of the church at the midpoint of the Tribulation, equating “the last trumpet” in 1 Corinthians 15:52 and I Thessalonians 4:16 with the seventh trumpet in Revelation 11:15.  7 There are several flaws with this midtribulation rapture position:

1. It fails to realize that the church was raptured at the end of the church age as represented by the twenty-four elders in heaven (cf. Revelations 4:1-4; see Revelation 4 – Parts 1 and 2 articles) and is therefore already in heaven when Revelation 11:15-19 announces the future reign of Christ on the earth.

2. It fails to distinguish the Rapture with the Second Coming of Christ. The Rapture is when Christ will come in the air to receive believers into heaven (I Thessalonians 4:13-18; cf. John 14:1-3; Revelation 4:1-4). He will not come all the way down to earth in the Rapture. He will only do that at the Second Coming, when He will be accompanied by the church age saints (Revelation 19:7-21; cf. I Thessalonians 3:13; Jude 1:14). 8

3. It fails to distinguish the “last trumpet” of the church age in I Corinthians 15:52 when church age believers are caught up to meet Jesus in the air (I Thessalonians 4:16) from the seventh trumpet judgment in Revelation 11:15 which announces Christ’s return to earth at the end of the Tribulation with church age saints to judge His enemies (cf. Revelation 19:11-21). 

“Simply because the trumpet in 1 Corinthians 15 is called the ‘last’ trumpet does not mean that it is the last trumpet in God’s whole prophetic program. As Paul Benware notes, ‘Those of us in school settings know that during the day there are a number of ‘last’ bells that ring. The last bell for the eight o’clock class rings but that is not the last bell of the day. ‘Last’ must be understood in relationship to the context in which it is found.” 9

“Furthermore, the seventh trumpet in Revelation 11 is not the last trumpet in the Tribulation. At the second coming of Christ a trumpet is blown to gather God’s elect (Matthew 24:31). So, the last trumpet argument actually undermines” 10 the midtribulation rapture view.

4. The trumpet that summons the church is called “the trumpet of God” (I Thessalonians 4:16) while the “seventh trumpet” is an angel’s trumpet (Revelation 11:15). 11 Strombeck well observes: In the search for ‘the last trump’ one must, then, be guided by the fact that it is God’s own trumpet, sounded by the Lord Himself. In view of this one would hardly be willing to contend that the last trumpet of God is the last of a series of trumpets blown by the priests of the Aaronic priesthood. These were not in a class with the trumpet of God. Remembering that the angels are only a little higher than man, it is just as contrary to the laws of logic to say that ‘the last trump,’ which is God’s own trumpet, is the last of a series of trumpets blown by angels. Both men and angels are creatures of God. They cannot sound the trumpet of the Creator.” 12

5. The trumpet for the church is singular (I Corinthians 15:52; I Thessalonians 4:16). No trumpets have preceded it so that it cannot be said to be the last of a series like the trumpet in Revelation 11 that closes the Tribulation period as the last of a series of seven. 13

6. The trumpet in 1 Thessalonians 4 issues in comfort and hope, while the trumpet in Revelation 11 issues in judgment upon God’s enemies.

7. In the I Corinthian passage the trumpet sounds “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye” (15:52). In Revelation 10:7 the indication is that the seventh trumpet shall sound over a continued period of time, probably for the duration of the bowl judgments that fall under it (Revelation 16), for John speaks of the angel that shall “begin to sound.” The duration gives evidence of the distinction in these two. 14

8. The trumpet in 1 Thessalonians 4 is distinctly for the church. Since God is dealing with Israel in particular, and Gentiles in general, during the Tribulation period (cf. Daniel 9:24-27), this seventh trumpet, which falls in the period of the Tribulation, could not have reference to the church without losing the distinctions between the church and Israel. 15

9. While the church will be rewarded at the time of the Rapture, yet the reward given to Your servants the prophets and the saints” (11:18), cannot be that event. The rewarding mentioned in Revelation 11:18 is seen to take place on the earth after the Second Coming of Christ to earth, following the judgment of His enemies. Since the church is rewarded in heaven following the Rapture (see Revelation 4:1-4; cf. 2 Corinthians 5:10), these must be two distinct events. 16

10. While the midtribulation rapturist agrees that Christians will be spared from the wrath of God that is poured out on the earth, they hold that the wrath begins at the midpoint of the seven-year Tribulation with the seventh trumpet. 17 The problem here is this contradicts what Jesus taught when He surveyed the entire seven-year Tribulation period in Matthew 24:4-14. Christ said God’s wrath would be poured out upon the earth in the first (Matthew 24:4-8) and second (Matthew 24:9-14) halves of the Tribulation, with more details given about the second half’s more intense judgments (Matthew 24:9-22). Matthew 24:5-8 describe the first half of the Tribulation period consisting of judgments depicting the second, third, and fourth seal judgments of Revelation 6:3-8 which take place long before the seventh trumpet of Revelation 11:15.

11. Finally, the midtribulation rapture position undermines the doctrine of imminency which is drawn from several New Testament passages stating directly or indirectly that the Rapture could happen at any moment without any warning or signs: 18

– Matthew 24:36: “But of that day and hour no one knows.” Throughout Matthew 24:5-31 there are many observable “signs” or “warnings” that signal Christ’s future return to earth. In Matthew 24:32-35 Jesus commands His disciples to “learn this parable from the fig tree” and “When you see all these things, know that it [His return to earth] is near.” But when we come to Matthew 24:36, Jesus says, “But of that day and hour no one knows.” Now Jesus is talking about His coming without any preceding observable signs that signal His return. Jesus is talking about two different aspects of His Second Coming – one that involves observable signs before Christ returns to earth to judge His enemies (Matthew 24:4-31; cf. Revelation’s description of the seal, trumpet, and bowl judgments prior to King Jesus’ return to earth) and one that involves no observable signs before Jesus removes His church from the earth to meet Him in the air (Matthew 24:36-44; cf. I Thessalonians 1:10; 4:13-5:11; Revelation 4:1-4).

– I Corinthians 1:7: “eagerly waiting for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Why would Paul be “eagerly waiting” for Christ’s return if many observable signs must take place first?

– I Corinthians 16:22: “O Lord, come!” Why would the apostle Paul ask the Lord to “come” at this time if His coming was a long way off?

– Philippians 3:20: “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.” Believers in the first century expected to meet their Savior at His return, not judgments on the earth.

– Philippians 4:5: “The Lord is at hand.” How can Paul expect the Lord’s return to be “at hand” or near if many observable signs must take place first?

– I Thessalonians 1:10: “wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.” The verb “wait” (anamenein)is in the present tense which means they were to wait continuously and literally means to “wait up for” like a parent waiting up for and looking for a child that he or she expects to be home at any moment. 19

– I Thessalonians4:15, 17: 15 For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep… 17 Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.” The apostle Paul includes himself among those who expected to be “alive” when believers would be “caught up” to meet Jesus “in the air” to “always be with” Christ in heaven. In his mind, Christ could return for His church at any moment.

– Titus 2:13: “looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.” Why be constantly “looking” for Christ if He can’t come at any moment?

Hebrews 9:28: “To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation.” Why “eagerly wait” for Jesus’ coming if it is a long way off?

– James 5:7-9: 7 Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord… 8 You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. 9 Do not grumble against one another, brethren, lest you be condemned. Behold, the Judge is standing at the door!” How can one expect the Lord’s coming to be “at hand” or near if many observable signs must take place first?

– I Peter 1:13: “Be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”

– Jude 1:21: “Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.”

– Revelation 3:11; 22:7, 12, 20: “I am coming quickly.”  Why would Jesus promise that He is coming quickly if His return was delayed?

All these Scriptures refer to the Rapture and speak of it as though it could occur at any moment. In some ways, anticipating Christ’s return could be compared to living in California and waiting for an earthquake. You can be certain, living there, that an earthquake will happen; it’s only a matter of time. It may be soon or it may happen a decade from now, but it will most assuredly happen. It could also happen at any moment. And it could happen without warning. Sure, there could be tremors ahead of time, but not necessarily.

“This is similar to the way pretribulationists think about the Rapture. When it comes to imminency, they have three main ideas in mind: it could happen at any moment; it could happen without warning; and it will certainly happen, even if it doesn’t happen soon.” 20

Christ warns in Matthew 24:45-51 that if a believer removes the imminency of His return (which midtribulationism does since many observable signs must take place prior to Christ’s return), and begins to think, My master is delaying his coming” (24:48b), it is more likely to lead to a self-indulgent lifestyle now (he begins to beat his fellow servants, and to eat and drink with the drunkards” – 24:49), and the loss of rewards in the future (Matthew 24:50-51).

Swindoll writes with regard to the trumpet blasts of I Corinthians 15/I Thessalonians 4 and Revelation 11:15, that, it appears that these two trumpet blasts refer to separate prophetic events. Paul’s ‘last trumpet’ announces the resurrection, rapture, and rescue of the church from the earth before the seven-year Tribulation period. The seventh trumpet blast of Revelation 11 brings the series of trumpet judgments to a close, previews both the wrath and reign of Christ, and makes way for the visions leading up to the seven bowls of wrath (chapters 12–16).” 21

With this said, let’s continue to look at Revelation 11:15-19. Next, the apostle John writes, 16 And the twenty-four elders who sat before God on their thrones fell on their faces and worshiped God. 17 saying: ‘We give You thanks, O Lord God Almighty, the One who is and who was and who is to come, because You have taken Your great power and reigned.’” (Revelation 11:16-17). We already saw in Revelation 4:1-4, that “the twenty-four elders” represent believers from the church age who have already been raptured and rewarded at the Judgment Seat of Christ (see Revelation 4, Parts 1 and 2 articles).

When these church age believers heard the announcement in verse 15, they “fell on their faces and worshiped” the eternal “God” whose existence was uninterrupted (“who is and who was and who is to come”), making His endless reign on the earth possible (11:17). 22

Until now God had allowed powers hostile to His people to control the earth, but now He will begin to rule directly.” 23

These elders were giving thanks to God because He has taken His “great power and reigned.” The often-recited prayer, “Your kingdom come” (Matthew 6:10), will soon be fulfilled. Finally, the many Old and New Testament prophecies of Jesus’ Second Coming to rule on the earth will be actualized. This will be an incredible victory whereby the kingdom of this world will become the kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ (11:15-16).

The establishment of Christ’s reign is so certain, it is communicated in the past tense. Swindoll states, In John’s vision, these events are viewed as already accomplished, but we should not let this fact confuse us. From our perspective, all of the events described in 11:16-18 are still in the future. However, because the purposes of God cannot change and the prophesied events are certain, we can join the heavenly throng in praising God for what He will do.” 24

This worship in heaven will be contrasted with the rebellion of humanity on the earth. “The nations were angry, and Your wrath has come, and the time of the dead, that they should be judged, and that You should reward Your servants the prophets and the saints, and those who fear Your name, small and great, and should destroy those who destroy the earth.” (Revelation 11:18). At the end of the Tribulation period when the Lord Jesus returns to earth (Revelation 19:11-21), there will be a time of intense “wrath” in which the angry nations of the world under the control of Satan will be defeated by Christ, making way for the establishment of Jesus’ throne on the earth (11:17b-18a; cf. Psalm 2:1-12). Then another resurrection will take place when John writes, “and the time of the dead, that they should be judged” (11:18b). This is not the resurrection of church age believers because that occurs at the Rapture (I Thessalonians 4:13-18). This is the resurrection of God’s Old Testament “servants the prophets” (cf. Daniel 12:1-3) and Tribulation “saints” who will be given the “reward” they are due along with those who “fear” His “name,” both the insignificant (“small”) and influential (“great”)(11:18c).

When Jesus returns to the earth, He will “destroy those who destroy the earth,” which is most likely a reference to the judgment of the great harlot (cf. Revelation 17:1), whose devastating and destructive influence over the nations is referred to three other times in Revelation (cf. 14:8; 18:3; 19:2). Hence, “the twenty-four elders give anticipatory thanks because Christ reigns, evildoers are judged, and the faithful in Christ are rewarded.” 25

“Then the temple of God was opened in heaven, and the ark of His covenant was seen in the temple. And there were lightnings, noises, thunderings, an earthquake, and great hail.” (Revelation 11:19). John then saw “the temple of God… opened in heaven” where “the ark of His covenant was seen in the temple,” a symbol of God’s presence and faithfulness. In the Old Testament the presence of God dwelt between the cherubim on the ark (cf. 1 Samuel 4:4). It was the ark of God that led Israel across the Jordan and into their inheritance (cf. Joshua 3–4). Just as God protected and kept His promises to His people in the Old Testament, God will also do the same for His people in the Tribulation. 26

The accompaniment of “lightnings, noises, thunderings, an earthquake, and great hail” signifies the awesome power of God. As great as God’s judgments were in Revelation 6-11 leading up to the bowl judgments, the storms He will send on rebellious humankind in Revelation 12-19 will be even worse, like none the world has ever seen before (cf. Matthew 24:21). 27

John’s vision of the open temple in heaven (Revelation 11:19) shows us that believers in Jesus have unlimited access into God’s presence at any time which is based on the grace of God whose forgiveness was purchased for us by the blood of Christ. In addition, as His beloved children, we are also free from His coming wrath on the earth. Christians will not experience the seventh trumpet judgment nor any of the other judgments in Revelation 6-19 because they will have been removed from the earth via the Rapture of the church (Revelation 4:1-4; cf. 1 Thessalonians 1:9-10; 4:13-5:11). We will have already been transformed and taken to heaven at Paul’s “last trumpet” (1 Thessalonians 4:16). While unbelievers endure the Tribulation on earth, the church will be preparing to return with Christ to earth where He will reign a thousand years (Revelation 17:14; 19:7-20:6). 28

If you were to die right now, do you know for sure you will enter the door into God’s temple in heaven? It is open to all who come to God on His terms.The “ark of the covenant” inside God’s heavenly temple (11:19) contains the Ten Commandments (Deuteronomy 10:2), which are a constant reminder of God’s holy standard. The Bible tells us that all of us have sinned and fall short of God’s righteous standard (Romans 3:23). The penalty for our sin is death or separation from God (Romans 6:23).

In the Old Testament, God would meet with His people above the atonement cover or mercy seat over the golden chest of the ark between the two cherubim (Exodus 25:22). On the Day of atonement (Leviticus 16), the high priest sprinkled blood on the mercy seat to cover or make atonement for Israel’s sin (Exodus 30:10). The atonement cover represented for Israel what was later accomplished by Christ, Who as the Lamb of God (John 1:29), made atonement for sin (Romans 3:25; Hebrews 9:11-14) by His shed blood (Ephesians 1:7; 1 Peter 1:18-19).

Through His death and resurrection nearly two thousand years ago (cf. I Corinthians 15:3-6), Jesus made it possible for us to receive eternal life and unlimited forgiveness of sins if we would simply believe in Him alone (John 3:14-16; Acts 10:43). Christ said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.” (John 5:24). What does Jesus say you must do to have eternal life and enter His temple in heaven?He says you must “hear” and “believe.”

When one “hears” His Word and “believes” what He says, Jesus says he “has everlasting life.” That means right now, not after you die. How long is everlasting life? It is forever! Next, Christ guarantees that you “shall not come into judgment.” That is a promise and God does not break His promises. A believer in Jesus Christ will not be judged for his or her sins in the future because Christ was already judged for our sins when He died on the cross. Such a one has “passed from death into life.”That means death is behind him, not before him. It is past, not present or future.

Again, I will ask you, have you heard Jesus’ promise of eternal life and believed Him for it? If so, you now have unlimited access into God’s presence in heaven. You can boldly approach Him at any time about anything because of the shed blood of Jesus Christ. “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16). What is your greatest need right now? You can boldly approach God in prayer to meet that need. If heaven’s door is open to you, take time to enjoy your unlimited access to your heavenly Father. 29

In summary, while judgment is taking place on the earth during the Tribulation period, the occupants of heaven are worshipping and giving thanks to Christ as they anticipate His return when He will reign on earth, judge evildoers, and reward faithful Old Testament and Tribulation believers (11:15-19). As Christians living today during a time of spiritual decline throughout the world, we can worship and give thanks to the Lord Jesus Who will return one day to rule the earth, judge those who have rejected Him and His Word, and reward those who lived faithfully for Him. May He find each of us who know Him as our Savior, faithful to Him.

Prayer: Father God, thank You for this seventh trumpet blast which announces the certainty of Jesus’ return to earth to defeat His enemies and establish His throne. John was so clear and certain of this that he used the past tense to declare this long-awaited truth. May our response also be one of confidence and hope. Please use us to proclaim the good news of Jesus’ death and resurrection so more people will have unlimited access into Your presence the moment they believe in Christ. In His matchless name, we pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Charles R. Swindoll, Insights on Revelation, (Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary Book 15, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2014 Kindle Edition), pg. 223.

2. Adapted from Ibid., pg. 224.

3. Ibid., pg. 224.

4. The words translated “have become” is a prophetic use of the aorist participle egeneto. See Archibald Thomas Robertson, A. T. Robertson’s Word Pictures in the New Testament [with Bible and Strong’s Numbers Added!], 6 Volumes (E4 Group, 2014 Kindle Edition), Kindle Locations 221057-221060.

5. Bob Vacendak; Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach. The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition  (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1539.

6. Ibid.

7. J. Dwight Pentecost, Things to Come (Zondervan Academic, 2010 Kindle Edition), pp. 196-197 cites Norman B. Harrison, The End (Minneapolis, Minnesota: Harrison Service, 1941), pg. 75.

8.  Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 2395.

9. Mark Hitchcock, The End: A Complete Overview of Bible Prophecy and the End of Days (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2012 Kindle Edition), pg. 137 cites Paul N. Benware, Understanding End Times Prophecy (Chicago: Moody, 1995), pg. 219.

10. Ibid.

11. Pentecost, pg. 198.

12. Ibid., cites J. F. Strombeck, First the Rapture (Moline, Illinois: Strombeck Agency, Inc., 1950), pg. 109.

13. Ibid.

14. Ibid.

15. Ibid., pp. 198-199.

16. Ibid., pg. 199.

17. Hitchcock, pg. 168.

18. Ibid, pp. 167-168.

19. Ibid., pg. 168.

20. Ibid., pp. 168-169.

21. Swindoll, pg. 227.

22. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 130.

23. Ibid.

24. Swindoll, pg. 227.

25. Vacendak, pp. 1539-1540.

26. Ibid., pg. 1540.

27. Ibid.

28. Swindoll, pg. 229.

29. Adapted from Ibid., pp. 229-230.

Revelation 11 – Part 2

“And they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, ‘Come up here.’ And they ascended to heaven in a cloud, and their enemies saw them.” Revelation 11:12

We saw last time that through two witnesses God brings directly to faith in Christ, He will proclaim the gospel of the kingdom during the first half of the Tribulation period, resulting in the salvation of the 144,000 Jewish evangelists who will then evangelize all the nations during the last half of the Tribulation period (Revelation 11:1-6; cf. 7:1-17; Matthew 24:14). These two end-time prophets empowered by God’s Spirit will seem to be untouchable and unstoppable even though their enemies will hate them because of the judgments they bring upon the earth (11:5-6). But like other servants of the Lord, when God says, “Mission accomplished,” He removes His protection from them and permits their enemies to kill them. 1

The apostle John writes, “When they finish their testimony, the beast that ascends out of the bottomless pit will make war against them, overcome them, and kill them.” (Revelation 11:7). It is only when the two witnesses “finish their testimony” after 1260 days (three and a half years – 11:3) that God will permit “the beast” to “kill” them. They will not die prematurely. This is the first of 36 references to “the beast” in Revelation (cf. Daniel 7:21). 2 He is the Antichrist, as later passages will show (Revelation 13:1-10; 14:9, 11; 15:2; 16:2; 17:3-13; 19:20; 20:10). As John testifies in his first epistle, the Antichrist and his servants, will deny that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah-God, and will mislead many people away from the truth that Jesus alone guarantees eternal life to those who believe in Him (I John 2:18-25; 4:3; 5:9-13, 18; 2 John 1:7; cf. John 11:25-27; John 14:6; Acts 4:10-12). This verse in Revelation 11 describes the Antichrist as having his origin in the “bottomless pit,” the abode of Satan and his demons (cf. Luke 8:31). 3

It is interesting to discover that the Greek word translated “testimony” (11:7),is martyrian, which has the same root as our English word “martyrdom.” Swindoll writes, “Originally, to be a martyr meant to give public testimony about the truth, but that public witness could lead to the sealing of that testimony with death. Thus, these two ‘martyrs’ of the future will follow their Savior and countless saints before them in the path of martyrdom for the sake of the gospel of Jesus Christ.” 4

Only “the beast” or Antichrist will be able to stop these two witnesses. At the middle of the seven-year Tribulation (Daniel 9:27; Matthew 24:15), he will become the world’s dictator and “will make war against them, overcome them, and kill them” (11:7; cf. 13:1-10). His power overrules the power of these two witnesses—but only temporarily. 5

It is important for us to remember that just like these two witnesses, our times are in God’s hand as well (cf. Psalm 31:14-15). We, too, are invincible until the Lord is finished with us, and we have completed our work for Him on earth. What a comforting, strengthening truth this is amid a dark and devastating world. 6

We see the world’s contempt for these two prophets in their response to their deaths. 8 And their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified. 9 Then those from the peoples, tribes, tongues, and nations will see their dead bodies three-and-a-half days, and not allow their dead bodies to be put into graves.” (Revelation 11:8-9). The beast will add insult to injury by allowing the “dead bodies” of the two witnesses to “lie in the street” of Jerusalem where the “Lord” Jesus “was crucified” (11:8). To leave a corpse unburied was the worst indignity that someone could perpetrate on a person in biblical times (cf. Psalm 79:2-3). 7 “Spiritually” Jerusalem was “called Sodom” because of its pride and iniquity (cf. Genesis 13:13; Ezekiel 16:49) and “Egypt” because of its oppression of God’s people (cf. Exodus 3:7; 20:2). 8

Some “peoples, tribes, tongues, and nations” will not allow the two witnesses to be buried, viewing their corpses for “three-and-a-half days” (11:9). Just as individuals from “all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues” will be saved by the blood of the Lamb (7:9), some from every ethnic group will also harden their hearts against God. The beast will engineer all this activity to show he is superior in power to God’s two witnesses and to the God they serve. 9

This viewing of the witnesses’ dead bodies by every ethnic group implies some worldwide display, now made possible by modern technology. 10 Television and satellite communications make this scene seem even more plausible today.

Mark Hitchcock writes, “It means their bodies will be seen simultaneously by people all over the world. If this is correct, it means that John saw something that has only become possible in the last sixty years, almost two thousand years since he predicted it.

“At the time this prophecy was given, and for centuries after, the scope of such a prediction would have seemed impossible. Yet today it’s commonplace. It happens 24/7 every day on cable news all around the world, even in many poor Third World countries.” 11

“As Tim LaHaye says, ‘Ours is the first generation that can literally see the fulfillment of 11:9 in allowing people of the entire world to see such an awesome spectacle. This is one more indication that we are coming closer to the end of the age, because it would have been humanly impossible just a few years ago for the entire world to see these two witnesses in the streets at a given moment of time.’” 12

The entire world will celebrate the deaths of these two witnesses. “And those who dwell on the earth will rejoice over them, make merry, and send gifts to one another, because these two prophets tormented those who dwell on the earth.” (Revelation 11:10). John informs us that “those who dwell on the earth” will celebrate not only the death of the two witnesses, but the triumph of the beast as well. This celebration will involve gifts, like those given at a Christmas or birthday party, because wicked men and women will delight in the death of two prophets who “tormented” them with supernatural judgments and the preaching of God’s truth. 13

Hitchcock quotes Ray Stedman, They keep telling the truth to people who want only to embrace their delusions. They keep blunting the Antichrist’s carefully concocted propaganda. . . . The vile and godless society of the world under the Antichrist takes the death of the two witnesses as a cause for global celebration. One is reminded of a saying that was common among ancient Roman generals, ‘The corpse of an enemy always smells sweet!’” 14

People all over the world will be so ecstatic these witnesses for God are dead that they will hold a Christmas-like celebration and send gifts to one another—Satan’s Anti-Christmas. This is the only mention of any kind of rejoicing or celebrating on earth during the entire Tribulation period. People will be so thrilled to see these men dead that no burial will be allowed. They will want to watch their bodies rot in the street.” 15

This worldwide celebration of the two witnesses’ deaths will not last long. “Now after the 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). John tells us,“After the three-and-a-half days the breath of… God” resurrected the two witnesses causing “great fear to fall on those who saw them.” The two dead bodies that “stood on their feet” will “terrify these onlookers, because these gawking God-haters will be able to do no more to silence their enemies beyond killing them. The use of the prophetic present tense in the verbs in this verse pictures what is future as fact.” 16

Picture the scene—the sun-drenched streets of Jerusalem, the holiday crowd flown in from the ends of the earth for a firsthand look at the corpses of these detested men, the troops in the Beast’s uniform, the temple police. There they are, devilish men from every kingdom under heaven, come to dance and feast at the triumph of the Beast. And then it happens! As the crowds strain at the police cordon to peer curiously at the two dead bodies, there comes a sudden change. Their color changes from cadaverous hue to the blooming, rosy glow of youth. Those stiff, stark limbs—they bend, they move! Oh, what a sight! They rise! The crowds fall back, break, and form again.” 17

As these mockers look on with fear, They heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, ‘Come up here.’ And they ascended to heaven in a cloud, and their enemies saw them.” (Revelation 11:12). Before these God-haters are even able to process all that they are observing, they hear “a loud voice from heaven.” The beast’s bragging will be silenced by God’s voice calling, “Come up here.” At that, the witnesses will be taken up in a cloud while “their enemies” watch. 18 Just as Christ was raised from the dead and ascended in a cloud (cf. Acts 1:9), so these two witnesses will ascend to heaven in a cloud and will be seen by “their enemies.” Their glorious ascension is also like that of Elijah (2 Kings 2:11), and Christians at the Rapture (1 Thessalonians 4:17). 19

This is a quite a scene. People all over the world will see the two witnesses caught up to heaven on their favorite TV newscast as the analysts will sit around discussing its significance. 20

Shortly after the ascension of the two witnesses, God’s judgment fell upon the city of Jerusalem. “In the same hour there was a great earthquake, and a tenth of the city fell. In the earthquake seven thousand people were killed, and the rest were afraid and gave glory to the God of heaven.” (Revelation 11:13). A “tenth” of Jerusalem’s buildings are destroyed as “a great earthquake” rips through the city, and kills “seven thousand people.” The people in Jerusalem who survive the earthquake become “afraid” and give “glory to the God of heaven.” As God often does, in this instance He will allow catastrophic events to occur because those events will bring Him greater glory. 21

The biblical text does not say that these survivors believe in Christ for eternal life. Instead, their response is like people who endure frightening events such as tornadoes or typhoons and acknowledge them as acts of God. However, a person who is overwhelmed by God’s power and a person believing in Christ for eternal life are two different things. 22

The great Jerusalem earthquake following the ascension of the two prophets will bring a close to the interlude between the sixth and seventh trumpet judgments. “The second woe is past. Behold, the third woe is coming quickly.” (Revelation 11:14). The “second woe” or sixth trumpet judgment announced in 8:13 had come to pass, leaving only the “third woe” or final trumpet judgment, to come “quickly.” 23

The account of the two witnesses in Revelation 11:1-14 encourages us to remember that no matter how dark things may be, the Lord never leaves Himself without a witness. Paul Benware offers this comforting insight about the life and ministry of the two witnesses: 24

“These two miracle-working servants of God are lights for the Lord in the morally and spiritually dark city of Jerusalem. The two witnesses are a reminder that even in the worst of times God does not leave Himself without witnesses.” 25

When I observe people mocking God and His servants today, I often complain about the lack of Christian influence in the world. But God is convicting me to be His witness in the darkness. This is the challenge from Revelation 11:1-14 to all of us who know the Lord Jesus Christ as our Savior. God wants to use each of us regardless of our past or our weaknesses. One day He will send His two witnesses to proclaim His life-giving message to a wicked world. But for now, God has sent those of us who believe in Jesus to announce the truth about the risen and ascended Christ to a world that is reeling in the darkness of deception.

Prayer: Lord God Almighty, we thank You for this amazing account of the two witnesses who were permitted to be killed by the Antichrist only after they had finished their prophetic ministry to the world. What a great reminder that no one can touch us until we have completed the work You have given us here on earth. And just as the death of the two witnesses was not final, nor will ours be. You raised them from the dead so they could ascend to heaven, and You will also triumphantly raise up believers who have died to be caught up together with those believers who remain alive to meet our Lord Jesus in the air when He returns for His church prior to the horrific judgments of the Tribulation (I Thessalonians 1:10; 4:13-18). Thank You for promising us triumph after tragedy. Please enable us to proclaim your life-giving gospel message with all boldness and faithfulness so more people can be translated into Your presence the moment You tell us to “Come up here.” In the name of the ascended Lord Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Charles R. Swindoll, Insights on Revelation, (Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary Book 15, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2014 Kindle Edition), pg. 217.

2. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 127.

3. Ibid.

4. Swindoll, pg. 217.

5. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 2394.

6. Mark Hitchcock, The End: A Complete Overview of Bible Prophecy and the End of Days (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2012 Kindle Edition), pg. 349.

7. Constable, pg. 127.

8. Bob Vacendak; Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach. The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1538.

9. Evans, pg. 2394.

10. John F. Walvoord, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, (David C Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), locations 5617-5623.

11. Hitchcock, pg. 350.

12. Ibid., cites Tim LaHaye, Revelation Unveiled (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1999), pg. 188.

13. Evans, pg 2394.

14. Hitchcock, pg. 349 cites Ray Stedman, God’s Final Word: Understanding Revelation (Grand Rapids: Discovery House, 1991), pg. 220.

15. Hitchcock, pg. 349.

16. Constable, pg. 128.  

17. Hitchcock, pp. 350-351 cites John Phillips, Exploring Revelation (Neptune, NJ: Loizeaux Brothers, 1991), pg. 150.

18. Evans, pp. 2394-2395.

19. Constable, pg. 128.

20. Hitchcock, pg. 351.

21. Evans, pg. 2395.

22. Vacendak, pg. 1538.

23. Walvoord, location 5628.

24. Hitchcock, pg. 352.

25. Ibid., cites Paul N. Benware, Undersanding End Times Prophecy: A Comprehensive Approach (Chicago: Moody, 1995), pg. 254.

Revelation 11 – Part 1

“And I will give power to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy one thousand two hundred and sixty days, clothed in sackcloth.” Revelation 11:3

To introduce this next part of the parenthesis between the sixth and seventh trumpet judgments in Revelation 10:1-11:14, I want to quote Christian author and speaker, Chuck Swindoll:

When they come to us in the form of bestselling novels, prime-time television, epic poems, or blockbuster movies, the heroes in classic stories tend to follow a common formula. They often are average individuals who endure and conquer overwhelming adversity at the cost of tremendous personal sacrifice in order to accomplish seemingly impossible goals. Think about some of the great films of the last couple of generations—Star Wars, Rocky, Titanic, Braveheart—and you get the picture. Such tales motivate us to overcome our weaknesses and accomplish great objectives. Enemies attack, obstacles are hurled into their path, and tragedies strike; but the heroes of great stories find a secret source of strength beyond themselves. Such strength enables them to vanquish even the most potent adversaries.

“When the people are real and the events are true, such stories inspire us all the more. Consider the brave men and women of the “Greatest Generation” who sacrificed their comfort and even their lives to defeat the overwhelming forces of evil during World War II. We remember individuals like Corrie ten Boom, who risked her life to help Jews escape the clutches of the Nazis. In fact, history—especially church history—is filled with moving stories of saints, mere men and women like you and me, who took a stand for Christ and paid the ultimate price for their courageous convictions. Though their flames were extinguished in their own dark generations, the light of their valor continues to burn brightly.

“The book of Revelation also presents us with the story of underdogs who stand against overpowering and intimidating forces. John himself stood strong under the persecution of the emperor Domitian (Revelation 1:9). Members of the early church courageously stood against trials and temptations (2:9-11). Now, in Revelation 11:3-14, we’ll encounter two end-times prophets, simply called the ‘two witnesses,’ who take a stand in the midst of the worst generation in human history.” 1

The apostle John was instructed to “prophesy again,” a second time regarding the seven-year Tribulation “about many peoples, nations, tongues, and kings” (10:11). This second survey of the seven-years Tribulation would focus on specific characters, including the two witnesses of Revelation 11 and their people, the Jews.To establish the context in which these two witnesses will minister, John writes, “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.’” (Revelation 11:1). John was instructed to use a “a reed like a measuring rod,” much like a modern yardstick, to “measure the temple of God, the altar, and those who worship there.”

This is a reference to the rebuilt temple of God by the Jews during the first half of the Tribulation period when God resumes dealing directly with the nation of Israel (11:1; cf. Daniel 9:27; 2 Thessalonians 2:4). This is important to understand from John’s perspective. After all, John had this vision around the year AD 96. Twenty-five years earlier, the Roman army had leveled the Jerusalem temple under the command of the Roman general, Titus. When John heard this angelic voice tell him to measure the temple, his first thought may have been, “Temple? What temple?” 2

However, John also knew that Old Testament prophecies, the Lord Jesus, and the apostle Paul all pointed to a future temple that would stand during the seventieth week of years known as the Tribulation (Daniel 9:27). Daniel 9:26-27 mentioned both the destruction of the “city and the sanctuary” which took place in 70 A.D. when the Roman army invaded Jerusalem (Daniel 9:26), and the ceasing (He shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering”) of reestablished temple worship in Jerusalem at the midpoint of the seventieth “week” of years (Daniel 9:27; 12:11). 3

Jesus quoted Daniel’s prophetic words when He spoke of “the abomination of desolation” being set up in “the holy place” or temple in Judea (Matthew 24:15-16). The apostle Paul shared more details about the same future event when he described the coming of the Beast or Antichrist as 3 the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, 4 who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.” (2 Thessalonians 2:3-4). 4 What this means is that the Jewish temple will be rebuilt before the midpoint of the seven-years Tribulation when the Beast of Revelation or Antichrist will enter the temple and become the focal point of worship.

“Bible scholar Charles Ryrie suggests that the temple mentioned in Revelation 11:1-2 is ‘the temple that will be built during the Tribulation, in which Jewish worship will be carried on during the first part of that seven-year period and in which, at the midpoint, the man of sin will exalt himself to be worshiped.’” 5

Christian author and pastor Tony Evans writes, To measure a structure or piece of property in Scripture is a means of laying claim to it. You measure it because you own it. In this case, then, God is laying claim to the Jewish temple in Jerusalem that will be rebuilt during the tribulation. Today a Muslim mosque known as the Dome of the Rock sits on the temple site. Orthodox Jews, however, pray daily for the return of the temple at the Western Wall—the one remaining structure from the ancient Jewish temple complex that sits beneath the Dome of the Rock.” 6

The angel told John to leave something out of his measurement. 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 forty-two months.” (Revelation 11:2). John is told to “leave out the court which is outside the temple” because it will be “given to the Gentiles” who “will tread the holy city underfoot for forty-two months” during the last 3 ½ years of the Tribulation period after the Beast or Antichrist breaks his covenant with Israel in the middle of the seventieth week of years and controls the temple court and the rest of Jerusalem (cf. Daniel 9:27; Matthew 24:15-22; Revelation 13:5).

This explains in part why John’s “stomach became bitter” when he received this revelation of future judgment from God (10:10). His own people, the Jews, would be under the oppressive direction of the Man of Sin who would severely persecute God’s people in Jerusalem during the last half of the seven-years Tribulation (cf. 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4; Daniel 7:25). Jerusalem had to be judged because it became spiritually corrupt like Sodom and Egypt in Old Testament days (cf. Revelation 11:8). 7

We learn two things from Revelation 11:1-2: “First, the worshipers at the temple will be far fewer in number than those left out. John was able to quickly measure those within, but those on the outside were too numerous to count. This serves as an important reminder that God can and does work out His plan through a remnant.

“Second, we see that God has set in advance a limit on the time during which the nations will be permitted to ‘tread under foot the holy city.’ The ‘forty-two months’ here likely refers to the second half of the Tribulation period, during which the future Antichrist and his false prophet will reign (see 13:5). As we’ll see in a moment, the end-times regime of that diabolical duo won’t come to full power until God has first delivered His last prophetic words through His own duo of divine spokesmen—the two witnesses.” 8

We also learn from verse 2 that God gives the Gentiles only what is “outside” while the inner reality of Israel’s worship and worshippers is protected by Him (this protection is symbolized by the measurement of the temple in verse 1). The true worship of God is protected at the same time the city (and by implication the temple), falls under the oppressive dominion of the Gentiles. 9

In contrast to the the “forty-two months” of Gentile domination during the last 3 ½ years of the Tribulation (11:2), John writes, “And I will give power to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy one thousand two hundred and sixty days, clothed in sackcloth.” (Revelation 11:3).

Who are these two witnesses? Many commentators believe they will be “Moses” and “Elijah” restored to life, since these men were prophets and performed the kinds of miracles these witnesses will perform (11:6). 10 In addition, they refer to Moses and Elijah appearing with Christ on the Mount of Transfiguration in a preview of His Second Coming to earth (Matthew 16:27-17:7; 2 Peter 1:16-18). 11 Other students of the Bible believe they will be “Enoch” and “Elijah,” since God took these men to heaven without dying. 12 Another reason some believe one of these witnesses will be Elijah is Malachi 4:5, which predicts that Elijah will return before the Messiah. 13 Some interpreters “who believe that this particular part of Revelation refers not to future events but to events that occurred in the first century have identified the two witnesses as Peter and Paul, James and John, or even two high priests killed by the Romans in AD 68!” 14

The bottom line is God does not reveal the identity of these two witnesses in the biblical text. What God does tell us is these “two witnesses…will prophesy” or communicate revealed truth from God “one thousand two hundred and sixty days” which would be 3 ½ years during the first half of the Tribulation period, resulting in the conversion of the 144,000 Jewish evangelists who will spread the “gospel of the kingdom” during the last half of the Tribulation period (11:3; cf. 7:1-10) to “all the nations” (cf. Matthew 24:14). The gospel of the kingdom refers to the good news of King Jesus returning to earth to set up His kingdom at the end of the Tribulation period (Revelation 19:11-21). Only those who believe in Christ will be able to enter His kingdom on earth (Matthew 18:3; 21:31-32; John 3:3-16). 

The two witnesses do not neglect the preaching of the cross, for Revelation 7:14 and Zechariah 13:7-9 indicate that the preaching of the gospel of the kingdom in the seventieth week is accompanied by the preaching of the cross. The message committed to the church is the message of grace. The church has no other message. The fact that the message announced is one of judgment, repentance, and preparation in view of the coming of the King indicates that the church must no longer be present, for no such message is committed to her.” 15

That this refers to the first half of the Tribulation period 16 is seen by comparing these two witnesses to “the two olive trees” of Zechariah 4:1-14, namely Joshua the high priest and Zerubbabel, the Jewish governor, who returned from captivity in Babylon to re-establish worship in Jerusalem (11:4; cf. Zechariah 3:1; 4:1-14). These two witnesses will not be able to re-establish worship in Jerusalem during the last half of the Tribulation because the Beast or Antichrist will put an end to sacrifices and persecute God’s people so that they will have to flee from Jerusalem (Matthew 24:15-22), so their ministry must take place during the first half of the Tribulation.

Keep in mind that after Jesus removes His church from the earth via the Rapture (Revelation 4:1-4; cf. I Thessalonians 1:10; 4:13-5:11), not one saved person will be left on the earth. But this will change the very day it becomes true. Two men in Israel will be converted to Christ—apparently by direct, supernatural revelation (similar to Samuel in 1 Samuel 3 or Saul of Tarsus in Acts 9). They will become the first prophets of Israel (outside those of the early church) since John the Baptist and will be given power to perform miracles that will torment (cf. Rev 11:10) earth’s inhabitants. Their clothing of sackcloth will match their message that the Day of Judgment spoken of by the OT prophets (the Day of the Lord; cf. Isa 13:9; 34:8; Zeph 1:14-18; Zechariah 14) has arrived. They will also share the good news of the gospel so that the firstfruits of the Lamb—the 144,000—will be converted, and spread the gospel to the ends of the earth (Matt 24:14). However, the primary role of the two witnesses is clear: they will testify about the Creator who has begun to pour out His wrath on rebellious mankind.” 17

John gives us a few more details about these two men. “These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands standing before the Lord of the earth.” (Revelation 11:4). These two witnesses are compared to “two olive trees and… lampstands” because they are dependent on the oil of God’s Spirit to be the Lord’s light in a dark world as they speak the truth of God, Who controls the entire “earth.”

“And if anyone wants to harm them, fire proceeds from their mouth and devours their enemies. And if anyone wants to harm them, he must be killed in this manner.” (Revelation 11:5). “If anyone wants to harm” these two witnesses, and they will because of the judgments these witnesses bring upon the earth (cf. 11:6), the witnesses will be able to protect themselves with “fire” that “proceeds from their mouth and devours their enemies,” like what Elijah did (cf. 2 Kings 1:10-14).

Like Elijah (cf. I Kings 17:1, 7; 18:1), these two witnesses “have power to shut heaven, so that no rain falls in the days of their prophecy” (Revelation 11:6a). Also, the length of their ministry(“days of their prophesying”) will be the same as the drought that God sent during Elijah’s day (three and a half years – I Kings 17:1; 18:1; cf. Luke 4:25; James 5:17). Like Moses (Exodus 7:14-12:30), “they have power over waters to turn them to blood, and to strike the earth with all plagues, as often as they desire.” (Revelation 11:6b). The supernatural power of these two witnesses will exceed what Moses possessed in that they will be able “to strike the earth with all plagues, as often as they desire.” God used Moses to destroy Egypt with plagues (cf. Exodus 10:7), but these two servants of the Lord will be used to inflict devastation on the whole earth. 18

This will be the fifth period in history when God will enable a few people to do unusually spectacular signs and wonders in connection with delivering great amounts of new revelation. 19 The first four periods were:

1. The times of Moses and Joshua.

2. Of Elijah and Elisha.

3. Of Daniel and his three friends.

4. The times of Jesus Christ’s earthly ministry and that of His apostles.

Do you ever feel like you are the only person in your community that cares about the things of God? Do you think you are helpless to see transformation in your own life or in the lives of others? What Revelation 11:1-6 teaches us is that no matter how hopeless or helpless a situation may seem, God can change things for the better.

Even though there will be no believers remaining on the earth after the removal of the church at the time of the Rapture, God’s grace is seen when He provides His life-giving message during the most wicked time in human history. Through two witnesses He brings directly to faith in Christ, God will proclaim the gospel during the first half of the Tribulation period, resulting in the salvation of the 144,000 Jewish evangelists who will then evangelize all the nations during the last half of the Tribulation period (11:1-6; cf. 7:1-17; Matthew 24:14).

The “power” these two witnesses will receive from God comes from the same Holy Spirit Who indwells and empowers all who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. The same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead will empower God’s two witnesses during the first half of the Tribulation and is the same Holy Spirit that indwells all who believe in Jesus today. Just as God gave supernatural “power” to these two witnesses to proclaim His message to a wicked world (Revelation 11:3), so God gives Christians today the supernatural ability through His Holy Spirit to proclaim His truth to a secular and pluralistic world that does not want to hear the gospel of grace which exposes their sin and their need for a Savior (Acts 1:8). The key for Christians is to depend upon the Holy Spirit, not themselves. When we do that, all the glory belongs to God, not ourselves.

Swindoll writes, The Bible is filled with examples of God using outcasts and underdogs to accomplish His will: David versus Goliath, Elijah versus the prophets of Baal, Gideon’s three hundred men versus thousands of Midianites, Esther versus Haman. Our God delights in turning the tables on the world’s mindset of ‘bigger is better’ and ‘only the strong survive.’ In a world that sees success and accomplishments as the ultimate standard for determining a person’s worth, it’s easy to forget that God often chooses the small over the large and a remnant over the masses.” 21

God will take two men during the darkest time in human history and use them to change the lives of 144,000 Jews whom God will use to spread the gospel around the world. Since God will do that, never underestimate what He can do through you at a time when you may feel all alone and unable to make a difference. God is able to provide for you and protect you as He did the two witnesses.

Prayer: Gracious Father, thank You for giving us a glimpse of Your magnificent grace during a time when the world deserved Your devastating judgments. After removing Your church from the earth, You could have wiped out every human being on earth with the outpouring of Your wrath. But because of Your grace, You directly brought two men to faith whose prophetic ministry would result in the salvation of 144,000 Jews who would preach the gospel to all the nations during the last half of the Tribulation period. When we feel alone and unable to make a difference in our declining world, Your Word reminds us that nothing is impossible with You, Lord. If You can use two men to change thousands of lives during the worst time in human history, You can use us to make a difference for Christ in our world today so all the glory belongs to You. Please help us never to forget that our strength comes from You alone. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.   

ENDNOTES:

1. Charles R. Swindoll, Insights on Revelation (Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary Book 15, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2014 Kindle Edition), pg. 213.

2. Ibid., pg. 214.

3. Ibid.

4. Ibid.

5. Ibid.

6. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 2392.

7. Bob Vacendak; Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach. The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1536.

8. Swindoll, pg. 215.

9. Vacendak, pg. 1536.

10. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 125 cites J. B. Smith, A Revelation of Jesus Christ Edited by J. Otis Yoder (Scottdale, Pa: Herald Press, 1971), pg. 169; Merrill C. Tenney, Interpreting Revelation (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1959), pg. 191 and William Barclay, The Revelation of John Vol. 2, The Daily Study Bible series, 2nd ed. (Edinburgh: Saint Andrew Press, 1964), pp. 86-87. 11.  Mark Hitchcock, The End: A Complete Overview of Bible Prophecy and the End of Days (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2012 Kindle Edition), pg. 348.

12. Constable, pg. 125 cites Joseph A. Seiss, The Apocalypse Charles C. Cook, 1900; reprint ed., (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1973), pg. 244; and Thomas W. Mackay, “Early Christian Millenarianist Interpretation of the Two Witnesses in John’s Apoclaypse, 11:3-13.” In By Study and Also by Faith, pp. 252-65, 310. Edited by John M. Lundquist and Stephen D. Ricks. Salt Lake City: Deseret, 1990.

13. Constable, pg. 125 cites Robert H. Gundry, The Church and the Tribulation, Contemporary Evangelical Perspectives series (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, Academic Books, 1973), pg. 94.

14. Swindoll, pg. 216 cites Gregory K. Beale, The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text, The New International Greek Testament Commentary series (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., and Carlisle, England: Paternoster Press, 1999), pp. 572-573 and Grant R. Osborne, Revelation Verse by Verse, Osborne New Testament Commentaries (Bellingham WA: Lexham Press, 2016), pp. 417-418.

15. J. Dwight Pentecost, Things to Come (Zondervan Academic, 2010 Kindle Edition), pg. 217.

16. Swindoll, pg. 216 cites Charles C. Ryrie, The Ryrie Study Bible (1961), cf. Vacendak, pg. 1536.

17. Vacendak, pp. 1536-1537.

18. Ibid., pg. 1537.  

19. Constable, pg. 127; Swindoll, pg. 217.

20. Swindoll, pg. 217. 21. Ibid., pg. 219.