Monday, December 15, 2014

THE DEVIL'S CHRISTMAS (Revelation Chapter 11)

Revelation 11:3-11, “And I will grant authority to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth.”  These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth.  And if anyone would harm them, fire pours from their mouth and consumes their foes. If anyone would harm them, this is how he is doomed to be killed.  They have the power to shut the sky, that no rain may fall during the days of their prophesying, and they have power over the waters to turn them into blood and to strike the earth with every kind of plague, as often as they desire.  And when they have finished their testimony, the beast that rises from the bottomless pit will make war on them and conquer them and kill them, and their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city that symbolically is called Sodom and Egypt, where their Lord was crucified.  For three and a half days some from the peoples and tribes and languages and nations will gaze at their dead bodies and refuse to let them be placed in a tomb, and those who dwell on the earth will rejoice over them and make merry and exchange presents, because these two prophets had been a torment to those who dwell on the earth. But after the three and a half days a breath of life from God entered them, and they stood up on their feet, and great fear fell on those who saw them.”

The blast of the seventh trumpet must wait until two witnesses “prophesy for 1,260 days” (Cf. Revelation 11:3).  Revelation chapter 11 speaks to their ministry.  There has been much speculation regarding the identity of these two.  Some suppose them to be merely symbolic or representative of a group of people (i.e. the church).  Amongst those who believe them to be to actual persons there are various opinions as to their identity, but they are most commonly thought to be Moses and Elijah--they will do the kinds of things Moses and Elijah did (Cf. James 5:17-18 and Revelation 11:6; Exodus 7:20 and Revelation 11:6) and it was Moses and Elijah who appeared with Jesus on the mount of transfiguration (Cf. Matthew 17:3).

Their ministry.  They minister by the authority of God (Cf. Revelation 1:3).  They are heaven-sent to proclaim truth in an incredibly evil time.  They will “prophesy for 1,260 days” (Revelation 11:3).  Their message will be one of repentance (they are “clothed in sackcloth”; Cf. Revelation 11:3; Isaiah 37:1-2; Jonah 3:5; Matthew 11:21).  Zechariah gives some insight into their role (Zechariah 4:2-3 is referenced in Revelation 11:4).  Zechariah preached a message of repentance to the people of his day, encouraging them to return to Israel to rebuild the destroyed temple.  In a vision he saw a lampstand of gold with a bowl on top and seven lamps on it.  He also saw, on either side of the lampstand, two olive trees (Cf. Zechariah 4:2-3).  The “two olive trees and the two lampstands” of John’s vision allude to what Zechariah witnessed.  The two lampstands of his vision represented Joshua and Zerubbabel who had a God-given role in the rebuilding of the temple.  That historical incident also looked forward to the future day and the two witnesses who would be used by God in some similar way.  In the immediate context reference is made to “the Branch” and events that come to pass in His millennial Kingdom (Cf. Zechariah 3:8-10).

God supernaturally protects the two witnesses.  Fire comes from their mouths and consumes anyone who would seek to do them harm.  They have power to shut off the rain, turn waters into blood, and strike the earth with plagues.  It is only after they have “finished their testimony” that the beast (the Antichrist) is able “to make war on them and conquer them and kill them” (Revelation 11:7).  Their death will result in a huge celebration when “those who dwell on the earth will rejoice over them and make merry and exchange presents” (Revelation 11:10).  J. Vernon McGee has commented on this, “This is the Devil’s Christmas.  The modern celebration of Christmas gets farther and farther from the birth of Christ and closer and closer to paganism.  The day will come when it will be anti-Christian—it is almost that now.  Here is the celebration of what Antichrist has done instead of celebration of the coming of Christ to Bethlehem.”

While the world celebrates the death of the two witnesses something astonishing happens.  “But after three and a half days a breath of life from God entered them, and they stood up on their feet” (Cf. Revelation 11:11).  In dramatic fashion the ungodly revelers are silenced and then overcome by great fear.  Any celebration of sin is at best short-lived.  In the message of the birth of the One who came into the world to save sinners there is a true and lasting reason to rejoice and celebrate (Cf. 1 Timothy 1:15).

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