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Saturday, 22 July 2017 05:13

75. The two witnesses: the world celebrated their death * Revelation 11:9-10 - Part 4 of 6

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9  And they of the people and tribes and tongues and nations shall see their dead bodies three days and a half, and shall not allow their dead bodies to be put in graves.

10  And they that dwell upon the earth shall rejoice over them, and make merry, and shall send gifts one to another; because these two prophets tormented them that dwelt on the earth.

 

PART 4

 

*** The people and tribes and tongues and nations ***: Once again we see the distinction between the people who belong to God and the people who have not come to God. Both verses (Revelation 11:9 and 10) start out by mentioning the people who oppose God's two witnesses. The expression "people and tribes and tongues and nations" was used earlier in the book. In Revelation 10:11, the voice from Heaven called John to "prophesy again about many peoples, and nations, and tongues, and kings." In the previous verses, the text focused on God's witnesses, who they were and what they did. We see a shift in verses 9 and 10. The witnesses are dead in the middle of the street, and the reader can now learn what the rest of people were doing in the "great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt" (Revelation 11:8). In Revelation 14:6-7, we see that the message being sent out to the nations is a message pointing to God's Truth, calling them to repentance: "And I saw another angel fly in midheaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and tribe, and tongue, and people, Saying with a loud voice, Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment has come: and worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters." The angel had the "everlasting Gospel", and made an invitation to those who "dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and tribe, and tongue, and people" to fear God and give Him glory. Those who dwell on the earth, and every nation, tribe, tongue, and people represent those people who have not yet accepted the Gospel and do not worship God.

*** Dead bodies on the street for three and a half days ***: Now that we know that the "people who dwell upon Earth" do not recognize God's supremacy, we can understand their reaction to the death of His witnesses. The Earth-dwellers just stared at the witnesses, dead, lying down in the middle of the street (Revelation 11:8,9) and did nothing for three and a half days. They didn't bury the witnesses and they didn't move them out of the way. This reminds us of the language used in Revelation 11:2, where we read about how the gentiles would tread the Holy City under foot for forty-two months. Forty-two months is the same amount of prophetic time the two witnesses had to preach God's message, 1260 days. Forty-two months and 1260 days equal 3.5 years. As we said many times before in our studies, in prophecy, 1 day = 1 prophetic year (see studies #16, #20, #68, #71 and #72 for a more in-depth explanation). Revelation 11:9 tells us that the witnesses were left dead on the streets for 3.5 days, which prophetically equals 3.5 years. Compared to 1260 years of preaching, 3.5 years of being left dead on the street is not a very long time. It is evident that the verse is comparing the period the witnesses stayed dead to the time they were alive prophesying: 1 prophetic day of being dead to each prophetic year they preached in sackcloth.

As we saw in study #74, the period of 1260 years happened during the Middle Ages, culminating with the French Revolution. During the French Revolution, the government established a new atheistic religion, the Cult of Reason, which was intended to substitute Christianity (November 10, 1793). We can certainly search for events related to Christianity and the Bible that happened 3.5 years after Reason was elevated to the status of religion but we would be missing the main point if that is all we do. Revelation 11:8-9 contain important clues as to the main objective of the symbolism used in the Biblical text:

- The people and tribes and tongues and nations: The reaction to the death of the two witnesses goes beyond the people of France. It includes the whole planet. While not every country was happy with what the French leaders were doing at the time, the ideals behind the new religion stood strong. The Age of Enlightenment or Age Reason, as it was called, dominated the whole world during the 18th century. Although it was initiated by France, the movement was not limited to that country only.

- The great city was spiritually called Sodom and Egypt: The key word in this sentence is 'spiritually'. The attitude they had towards God is what characterizes the spiritual aspect of the problem at hand. France had their agenda and they were fighting their political battles. Not all of the battles had a religious motive. In the grand scheme of things, their battles are irrelevant. Their rejection of God is what is being emphasized in the Biblical texts, not their petty wars.

- The city where also our Lord was crucified: It was with that mindset of rejection to God's teaching that the Jewish nation rejected Jesus and sent Him to the Cross. Just like the two witnesses, Jesus' time prophesying was 3.5 years. In His case, those were 3.5 literal years. At the end of that time, He died.

*** The people of the Earth celebrated ***: Now we can begin to see what these verses are trying to tell us. They are comparing the path of the two witnesses to Christ's. The difference comes when the witnesses remained without burial, while Jesus was placed in a tomb. The witnesses suffer a terrible humiliation based on the standards of the time. That did not seem to bother the nations of the Earth. On the contrary. They were celebrating the death of God's messengers. The Bible talks about the behaviors commonly displayed by those who rejected God's message. The first example is about the people in Noah's time: "But as the days of Noah were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark" (Matthew 24:37-38). We read about another example in Daniel 5, when the over-confident king Belshazzar was throwing a feast using the utensils which belonged to God's tabernacle. While he was celebrating, unknowingly to him, his kingdom was being taken over by his enemy. The pattern here is that those who reject God's message seem to just go about their day, celebrating, trampling over the Truth, as if nothing else mattered. Despite the warnings sent by God, they seem unaware of what is coming their way - destruction by flood or enemy attack, as we saw in our two examples.

*** The two witnesses tormented the people of the Earth ***: We can ask ourselves, why exactly were they celebrating the death of the two witnesses? Revelation 11:10 seems to answer that question: it's because the two witnesses tormented the people of the Earth. The verse refers to the two witnesses as the "two prophets". Throughout the Bible, we see the work of prophets, calling the people and leaders to repentance. One example of this "torment" is seen when God sent Elijah to call king Ahab to repentance and sent 3.5 years of drought over the land because of their idolatry (1 Kings 16:29-33 to 1 Kings 17:1; Luke 4:25; James 5:17). When Ahab met with Elijah after 3.5 years, Ahab called the prophet the one "that troubles Israel": "And it came to pass, when Ahab saw Elijah, that Ahab said unto him, Are you he that troubles Israel?" (1 Kings 18:17). This is exactly what those who reject think about God's messengers. What they preach touches them in a vulnerable place, and that makes them uncomfortable. They see God's people as trouble makers, threatening their false sense of security. Elijah's answer to Ahab clarifies the scenario and identifies what the problem actually is: "And he answered, I have not troubled Israel; but you, and your father's house, in that you have forsaken the commandments of the LORD, and you have followed Baalim." (1 Kings 18:18).

*** Overview ***: When the new religion that substituted God's Truth for human reasoning began, God's two witnesses perished. They were shut down and remained dead on the streets of the world. The nations of the Earth watched them for 3.5 years and did nothing to restore their dignity. On the contrary, they celebrated the apparent end of those who were constantly reminding them to repent and come to God. Even though God had warned them about their dangerous atheistic choices and inevitable consequences, they still preferred to reject the Gospel and pursue a life centered in human logic and temporary pleasures. The philosophies initiated with the Age of Enlightenment are still alive today. Their arguments can still deceive those who are not connected to God. The world will see Christians as a threat to their order. Christians will be labeled as troublemakers. As Jesus said, "And you shall be hated of all men for my name's sake: but he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved." (Mark 13:13). Let's not lose focus of the prize awaiting those who remain faithful to the end: eternal life with God.

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