Revelation 11: Seeming Defeat of Christ’s Church and Celebration over it.

Revelation 11

7 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, 8 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. 9 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, 10 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.

Image above John Martin, Belshazzar’s Feast, c. 1821; Wikimedia Commons.

In Chapter 11, we are given a vision of the truth that the church will experience various trials and triumphs during its time of witness on earth.

III. The Church will experience seeming defeat at the end of this age. vss. 7-10. 

vs. 7 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…

This marks a final stage in redemptive history. According to Revelation 6:9-11 the martyrs are told to rest until their number is complete.

9 When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne. 10 They cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” 11 Then they were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brothers should be complete, who were to be killed as they themselves had been.

“At this time, the church will have completed its role of bearing witness to Christ before the world, and will appear defeated (so Matt. 24:9-22).” (see Beale, p. 226, below).

The Beast & the Church — There is a limit to the physical protection of the Church. When the period of testimony is over, the day of grace is past. The Lord will permit the seeming destruction of the Church. The Beast from the abyss will accomplish the deed of destruction. He will be identified later in chapter 13.

la_bete_de_la_mer

Left Image from Wikimedia Commons: A medieval tapestry, this detail of which shows John, and the Beast. We should be mindful that the figures in Revelation do not take physical form, but are intended to illustrate spiritual realities behind the sufferings of the church.

vs. 8 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.

The Identification of the City — The city is identified as the earthly Jerusalem which rejected and crucified Jesus. Later on, it is also expanded to ultimately refer to the whole world. Jerusalem was a microcosm. Its attitudes and actions symbolize those of the entire world in opposition to God and His Redemptive Plan for it. The Cities of Sodom, Babylon, Jerusalem, and Rome are combined as a symbol of the world in its opposition to God and His Covenant people.

Nero Torching Christians

“The painting depicts a group of early Christian martyrs who are about to be burned alive as the alleged perpetrators of the Great Fire of Rome, during the reign of emperor Nero in AD 64. People from many different social spheres, including the emperor himself, are present to watch the burning, which takes place in front of the Domus Aurea (Nero’s Golden House). The motif is based on the descriptions by Suetonius and Tacitus.” Text and Image above from: WikiPedia; Painting in Public Domain by Siemiradski Fackeln, 1876

vs. 9 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…

The Time Period of the Beast’s Triumph — Note that 3½ days is a short time in comparison to the 3½ years of testimony. Jesus testified 3½ years, and laid in the tomb for approximately 3½ days. This is a possible reference to the church’s experience being like her Lord’s. There will be a period of testimony followed by a period of seeming defeat.

vs. 10 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.

The Celebration over the Church’s Demise — The inhabitants of the earth (literally, “earth–dwellers” in Greek) are those who are settled down in this earth. They are dominated by this world system. They oppose God and his plans in this world.

This passage always makes me think of Belshazzar’s Feast in Daniel five. One would have thought he would have learned the lesson his father Nebuchadnezzar had learned from his insane period (Daniel 4). Belshazzar sent for the vessels of Solomon’s temple to make his feast an idolatrous meal. Daniel 5:4 They drank wine and praised the gods of gold and silver, bronze, iron, wood, and stone (ESV). (see the image at the head of this post.) 

Gifts Sent — The Greek reads, “They shall send gifts to one another.” They will throw a party to celebrate the destruction of the church. The word doran means “a gift” such as someone would send to a birthday party.

Why the celebration? — The inhabitants of the earth regard the ones who preach salvation through Christ alone as those who are tormentors. The Greek word basanizō means “to torture or torment.” The noun form basanistēs is used of a jailer who tortures his prisoners (see Matt. 18:34; ESV).

Baal_thunderbolt_LouvreFor instance, Ahab regarded Elijah as the one who tormented Israel. I Kings 18:17-18 records the interchange.

17 When Ahab saw Elijah, Ahab said to him, “Is it you, you troubler of Israel?” 18 And he answered, “I have not troubled Israel, but you have, and your father’s house, because you have abandoned the commandments of the Lord and followed the Baals.

Right above is a stele of Baal holding a thunderbolt. He is God of fertility, weather, rain, wind, lightning, seasons, war, sailors. Yet, he was not able to call down fire on a sacrifice at Mt. Carmel. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

Those who oppose God mistreat God’s people because they remind them of God’s commandments and statutes.

The last word hasn’t been said yet! Next time… .

Notes
(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. 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.

WikiMedia Commons for most images

© 2020 C. Richard Barbare All Rights Reserved

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