A mighty angel came down from heaven. A message, short and sweet, lay open in his hand.
He had one foot planted on the sea and the other planted on the land. The message was global.
The voices of seven thunders spoke and John scrambled to write their words down. But a voice from heaven said, “No, don’t write it down.”
Not everyone needs to know everything all the time, but God seems to always tell someone what He is going to do. On that day He took John into His confidence. I want to be taken into His confidence, too.
For the Lord detests the perverse
but takes the upright into his confidence. Proverbs 3:32
The voice from heaven told John to eat the scroll.
It was sweet and sour.
That’s how God’s words are sometimes – sweet when we take them in, but a little hard to digest, a little hard to actually incorporate into our being. Sweet in thought and word, but not in deed.
Like forgiveness. It’s a sweet concept in general, and God’s forgiveness of us, specifically, is even sweeter. But the thought of actually extending it to certain people can make us a little nauseous.
John wasn’t eating the words on the scroll for his own personal nourishment, though. He was eating them in order to speak them. He had more prophesying to do.
And that’s it. Chapter 10 ends right there.
The scene changes and John is told to measure the temple, its altar and the worshipers. Don’t measure the outer court, though, because that has been given to the non-believing Gentiles, who will trample the holy city for 42 months (3 1/2 years).
God will appoint two witnesses to prophesy for 1,260 days, which coincidentally works out to just about 3 1/2 years.
I wonder why 42 months is used for the trampling and 1,260 days is used for the prophesying. Perhaps because the witnesses, clothed in sackcloth, giving their mournful message, were counting the days.
They would be witnessing to a hostile crowd who was trampling on everything holy, but they wouldn’t be left defenseless. They’d be equipped to breath fire, should anyone get too close. And with the ability to shut off the rain (so everything would be dry and easy to ignite?). They had all the plagues at their disposal to call down as often as they wanted. God knew He could trust them with that.
Who were these witnesses? No one knows. Chapter 11 is considered by some to be the most controversial chapter in all of Revelation because of the variety of theories.
Some think they might be Moses and Elijah. Reasonable guess: Elijah prayed that it wouldn’t rain and it didn’t – for 3 1/2 years. Elijah also called down fire from heaven. Moses was instrumental in the Egyptian plagues. Plus, Moses and Elijah both met with Jesus on the mount of transfiguration. So, though they had both long since been “gathered to their people,” they were both still players in God’s grand scheme.
All I know is that they are described as lampstands and olive trees.
In Revelation 1 Jesus told John that the lampstands are churches. And olive trees produce olives, which are pressed for oil, which is used for anointing.
So are these two anointed churches witnessing to a hostile crowd in God’s holy city?
I turn to Zechariah 4.
Then the angel who talked with me returned and woke me up, like someone awakened from sleep. He asked me, “What do you see?”
I answered, “I see a solid gold lampstand… Also there are two olive trees by it, one on the right of the bowl and the other on its left.”
I asked the angel who talked with me, “What are these, my lord?”
He answered, “Do you not know what these are?”
“No, my lord,” I replied.
So he said to me, “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty.
Okay hold it right there. These witnesses, whoever they are, cannot prophesy out of their own intelligence or strength, but only by God’s Spirit. Same goes for us. We’ll see how true that is in a minute.
Zechariah went on:
…Then I asked the angel, ‘What are these two olive trees on the right and the left of the lampstand?”
Again I asked him, “What are these two olive branches beside the two gold pipes that pour out golden oil?”
He replied, “Do you not know what these are?”
“No, my lord,” I said.
So he said, “These are the two who are anointed to serve the Lord of all the earth.”
Two things: First, sometimes you have to ask more than once in order to get answers. Second, the two olive trees here are two servants who are anointed to serve the Lord of all the earth. It sounds like its a permanent assignment. So are they the same olive trees that John sees? Are they on duty right at this very moment?
They are protected for exactly as long as their service is required. And when their job is done, the beast is allowed to come up from the Abyss, attack and kill them.
And how do the gnarly non-believing citizens respond? They refuse to bury the two witnesses – just leave them lying dead in the street. They celebrate and give one another gifts in a bizarre sort of anti-Christmas.
Glad tidings are everywhere because there is no longer light exposing their hard, dark hearts.
Everyone can finally sin* in peace.
It’s a good thing they didn’t bury the witnesses. It’s a good thing they left them lying in the street. This way everyone could see God breathe life back into them. They could hear God call them back to heaven, maybe even hear Him say, “Well done, good and faithful servants.”
Whatever they heard, they definitely saw these two resurrected. And there were lots of bloodless faces gulping.
God shook the earth hard and 7,000 died. And the terrified survivors finally gave glory to God.
Those two olive trees, who may have been at their earthly post for centuries, were no longer needed. They were called back to heaven, their work on earth was done.
The seventh angel sounded his trumpet. Loud voices in heaven said:
“The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah, and He will reign for ever and ever.”
After generations of uttering of the Lord’s prayer – “Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven…”
His kingdom has finally come!
The temple in heaven is opened, and within the temple the ark of the covenant is seen.
“And there came flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder…”
A new storm is brewing, this time in the heavenly realm…
P.S. If you want to see for yourself… and add your own two brilliant pennies:
*Chapter 9 ended with: “The rest of mankind who were not killed by these plagues still did not repent of the work of their hands; they did not stop worshiping demons, and idols of gold, silver, bronze, stone and wood—idols that cannot see or hear or walk. Nor did they repent of their murders, their magic arts [pharmakeia – the use of drugs], their sexual immorality or their thefts.”