4 [The two witnesses] are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth. 5 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. 6 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.
Image above by Douglas W. Krieger – “The Visions and Prophecy of Zechariah” issued under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 from Wikimedia Commons
As we saw in the last post, Chapter 11 gives us a view into what God’s people will be experiencing as they witness to the Gospel of Christ between His Resurrection-Ascension and Second Coming.
II. God’s people have at their disposal divine weapons to exercise in prayer against God’s and their enemies. vss. 4-6
vs. 4 [The two witnesses] are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth.
The Background to the Symbols — The Church is identified with symbols from Zechariah 4. In this passage the lampstand is prominent as a symbol of the Church. Earlier in Rev., there were 7 lampstands. In Zech. the oil from the olive tree is a definite symbol of the Spirit’s enabling of the Church in its witnessing.
“Though the prophetic witnesses live in a world of danger, they are never far from their Lord’s sovereign presence, and nothing can separate them from their secure relationship with Him.” (See Beale, p. 222, below.)
You and I ought never forget that it is in the presence of the Lord God that we stand as His servants! We go forth in His name to witness and work. Our protection is of the Lord God we serve! Elijah was conscious of this as he faced wicked Ahab.
I Kings 17:1 Now Elijah the Tishbite, of Tishbe in Gilead, said to Ahab, “As the Lord, the God of Israel, lives, before whom I stand, there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word.” (ESV; emphasis mine.)
Olive Trees — “Zechariah speaks of the two witnesses, the king and the priest, who reestablish a literal temple, whereas John sees two witnesses helping to build the heavenly temple. In contrast with Zechariah, the two witnesses are not individuals but represent the church universal.” (see Beale, p. 222, below.)
vs. 5 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.
The Church’s Weapons — George Whitefield said, “We are immortal until our work on earth is done.” (see Whitefield, below.) This verse certainly refers to protective resources. However, the destruction referred to in this verse and in the following ones is not physical primarily. It is spiritual destruction. It is torment of the spirit and not a desire for public vindication. It certainly includes some actual physical destruction. The words of the witnessing church is destructive. They can heal and harm. The condition of the hearer determines which result is inflicted.
Elisabeth Elliot was often asked about Jim Elliot’s faith in Psalm 91 and his singing of the hymn based on it the night before he went to meet martyrdom along with others.
We rest on Thee, our Shield and our Defender;
We go not forth alone against the foe;
Strong in Thy strength, safe in Thy keeping tender.
We rest on Thee, and in Thy Name we go.
Yea, in Thy Name, O Captain of salvation!
In Thy dear Name, all other names above;
Jesus our Righteousness, our sure Foundation,
Our Prince of glory and our King of love.
We go in faith, our own great weakness feeling,
And needing more each day Thy grace to know:
Yet from our hearts a song of triumph pealing;
We rest on Thee, and in Thy Name we go.
We rest on Thee, our Shield and our Defender:
Thine is the battle, Thine shall be the praise
When reigning in the Kingdom of Thy splendor;
Victors, we rest with Thee, through endless days.
(see Net Hymnal below.)
Why didn’t Jim and his party have the protection of the “shadow of the Almighty” while they were bearing witness for Christ? many asked her.
Elisabeth always added, “Jim had another saying, too!
‘He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose!'”
John Piper says, “This is where Jim Elliot was slain — in the shadow of the Almighty.” (see Piper below.)
Jim Elliot was! But, he was kept safe there, too. Like all of us, kept safe in the shadow of the almighty until our work is finished; and then, still under that shadow, we are carried home safely to be with our Lord at death! We are never out from under that shadow!
II Corinthians 10
3 For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. 4 For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. 5 We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ… .
(ESV; Emphasis mine.)
vs. 6 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.
Old Testament Symbols — This verse brings to mind two O.T. men — Elijah and Moses. John is saying that the NT Church witnesses in the strength and power of these two OT prophets. We have already seen that the Church’s prayers bring the plagues upon the earth. Those who refuse to repent will experience those plagues.
How can we be protected and yet be martyred at the same time? Our souls are secure and our bodies will be raised at the last trumpet! We can’t lose.
“[The Church] may undergo bodily, economic, political, or social harm, but their eternal covenantal status with God will not be affected. Though they may suffer and even die, they will invincibly and successfully carry out the spiritual mission for which they have been ‘measured’ and commissioned.” (see Beale, p. 223, below).
We move on to the next section of chapter 11, in the next post.
(Commentaries on which I rely without direct quotation)
Beale, G. K. (2015). Revelation: a Shorter Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. Kindle Edition.
ESV. (2001). Accessed 24 June 2020 from https://www.biblegateway.com
Hendriksen, William. (1939). More Than Conquerors: An Interpretation of the Book of Revelation. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. (p. 125).
Johnson, A. F. (1982). Revelation in Expositor’s Bible Commentary, ed. Gaebelein. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
Johnson, D. E. (2001). Triumph of the Lamb: A Commentary on Revelation. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Kenner, C. (2000). The NIV Application Commentary: Revelation. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Academic.
Morris, Leon. (1987). Revelation in Tyndale New Testament Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.
Net Hymnal. (1872-1897). “We rest on Thee, our Shield and our Defender”. Accessed 13 August 2020 from https://www.hymnal.net/en/hymn/h/881
Piper, J. (2016). “Slain in the Shadow of the Almighty.” Accessed 13 August 2020 from https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/slain-in-the-shadow-of-the-almighty
Whitefield, G. (n.d.). Accessed 13 August 2020 from https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/george_whitefield_201221
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