Saturday, 08 July 2017 00:10

73. The two witnesses: having amazing power * Revelation 11:3-6 - Part 2 of 6

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5 And if any man will hurt them, fire proceeds out of their mouth, and devours their enemies: and if any man will hurt them, he must in this manner be killed.

6 These have power to shut heaven, that it rain not in the days of their prophecy: and have power over waters to turn them to blood, and to smite the earth with all plagues, as often as they will.

 

PART 2

 

*** Who would want to hurt the two witnesses ***: Revelation 11:1-2 talked about the restoration of the communication between God and His people. God was assuring His children that those who choose to connect to Him will have a direct line of communication, and will be protected inside His presence. Revelation 11:3-4 talked more specifically about who will be doing God's work, and spreading His message on Earth: His two witnesses. They have the same purpose and will present the character of God to the world. This message is carried out by the power of God Himself, through the Bible and His Church. Revelation 11:5-6 presents yet another characteristic of the two witnesses: they have special powers. In their mission to spread the Truth, they will face opposition, as Jesus stated: "These things I have spoken unto you, that in me you might have peace. In the world you shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world." (John 16:33). The very target of their witnessing is what could hurt them: the world. The expression "the world" is a reference to the group in the outer court, the ones who are not to be measured (Revelation 11:2). "The world" is the equivalent to "those who dwell on the earth". (See study #42 and #56).

*** Power 1: a fire that comes out of their mouth ***: Power number one is "fire proceeds out of their mouth", which has the ability to "devour their enemies" (Revelation 11:5). In study #72, we learned that the two witnesses are the Bible and the Church. Such a strong power coming out of the witnesses' mouth reminds us of the two edge sword coming out of Jesus' mouth (Revelation 1:16; Revelation 2:12,16). Hebrews 4:12 says: "For the word of God is living, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart." God's Words are the defense of His followers. There is power in the Word of God because He is the source of the message. God's followers defend themselves by continuing to speak the Truth. The Truth is what protects the citizens of Heaven, and is what devours the dwellers of the Earth. By rejecting the Gospel, the enemies of God will be choosing their own destruction.

The symbolism seen in this verse, of a consuming fire coming down to the aide of the servants of God, also reminds us of the story of Elijah and the soldiers sent by king Ahaziah. The king was sick and ordered a messenger to "inquire of Baal-zebub the god of Ekron whether [he would] recover of this disease." (2 Kings 1:2). God sent Elijah to intercept this messenger and send back a message from God to king Ahaziah. God disapproved of the pagan behaviors the king of Israel was displaying. For three times, the king sent soldiers to arrest Elijah. The first two times, fire came down from heaven and consumed the soldiers when they arrived at Elijah's place. God was clearly protecting the life of His prophet.

We see in the Bible the power that the Word of God has. In the book of Jeremiah, we have the description of how strong and how serious God is about what He says. Because of the people's disobedience, God told Jeremiah He would turn the message in the prophet's mouth into fire, and He would turn the people into wood, so they would be consumed by the Word of God (Jeremiah 5:14). Israel was going down a very dangerous path. Jeremiah said: "They have lied about the LORD, and said, It is not he; neither shall evil come upon us; neither shall we see sword nor famine" (Jeremiah 5:12). They were saying things which were opposite to what God had previously said. They were denying the Word of God. That same Word is what would consume the disobedient people.

Note that both in Jeremiah and in John's texts, the fire comes from God. The power is really coming from the Lord, not the prophet himself. God is the One who is in charge of the defense of His people and His message. Those living inside the Truth find liberty and safety, while the ones standing outside of it are destroyed. Destruction doesn't come without warning. From the beginning, God told Adam and Eve that if they decided to choose sin, they would certainly die (Genesis 2:17). When God turns on His light of perfection and full glory, darkness ceases to exist. That is why He insists with His people to come back to Him, to choose Him again, so they won't be destroyed. Those who choose to oppose His Truth will have to face serious consequences. God respects people's freedom of choice to such an extent that He will allow them to choose whichever side they prefer: life or death.

*** Power 2: to control the rain ***: The second power listed for the two witnesses is the power "to shut heaven, that it rain not in the days of their prophecy". This is another reference to Elijah. King Ahab had driven the Israelites into deep pagan worship. Because of this terrible apostasy, God sent Elijah to warn the king. If they didn't repent, God would send a drought that would last 3.5 years (which equals to 42 months or 1260 days - Luke 4:25; James 5:17). During that time, many prophets of God were being persecuted, and in hiding (1 Kings 18:4). The leader of the nation of Israel was the most wicked of all (1 Kings 16:30) and did not wish to change his ways. The 42-month period is significant in the story of Elijah and parallels the period the two witnesses would be prophesying in sackcloth (Revelation 11:3). For Elijah and the remaining prophets, this was a difficult time but even then, they were never without the protection and care of the Lord. They went through a period of spiritual and physical famine because of the poor choices the ones rejecting God's message were making.

*** Power 3: turn water into blood ***: The third power reminds us of another person in the Bible: Moses. God gave Moses the words to speak to Pharaoh: "Thus says the LORD, In this you shall know that I am the LORD: behold, I will strike with the rod that is in my hand upon the waters which are in the river, and they shall be turned to blood." (Exodus 7:17). This was the first plague falling on Egypt. God mentioned the goal of the plague: "In this you shall know that I am the LORD". The Egyptians worshiped many idols, including the Nile river. With this plague, God was showing them that He was more powerful than the river. Once again, God's truth was shattering enemy lies.

*** Power 4: smite the Earth with plagues ***: The fourth power is also a reference to the rest of the Egyptian plagues (Exodus 7-11). Revelation 11:6 even mentions an additional clause to it: the two witnesses can smite the earth with those plagues as often as they want. At first, this seems strange, because the natural human tendencies would be that of revenge and deliberate abuse of power. The difference here is that this power is only available to the true followers, the true witnesses. They are in the service of the Creator. As we saw in Revelation 11:1-4, they cannot have access to such power unless they are connected to God and in the business of spreading the Truth. Just like the fire that came from heaven, the plagues are also sent by God. The witnesses are the vessel by which God sends His message to the Earth. Since they are always willing to follow God's instructions, they have the power to deliver His message quite often, just like His servant Moses. And the purpose of the message never changes: to bring people to God, so they have the choice to recognize that God is the Lord and Savior.

*** Overview ***: In study #72 we learned that the two witnesses come serving the role of king and priest. They have a prophetic and a heavenly royal mission. Based on the description of the two witnesses we read in Revelation 11:5-6, we see yet another aspect of their prophetic role. They come displaying a similar power to that of Elijah and Moses. They are filled with the Holy Spirit. They dive in profound work, spreading the Gospel, not because of how strong they are, but because of how strong the One they serve is. As agents of the Word of God, the two witnesses are able to show others who God is "Not by might, nor by power, but by [God's] spirit" (Zachariah 4:6). At the Mount of Transfiguration, Moses and Elijah came to talk to Jesus about the final moments of Jesus' life on Earth (Luke 9:31). This was a glimpse of what the Second Coming will be: Moses representing those who died in the Lord, and Elijah representing those who will be alive at the second coming (see 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17). In Malachi 4:5-6 we read a prophecy regarding the coming of Elijah before the coming of the Day of the Lord. This doesn't mean that Elijah himself will come to our planet and resume his ministry here. We can understand that God's people living during the last days will be powerful witnesses for God, just like His prophets were in the past.

   
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