the lord’s witnesses
The world looks grim right now. This year alone, we’ve faced the political tension of an impeachment trial, a global pandemic, economic turmoil, and civil unrest. And that’s not even accounting for the personal tragedies or challenges we’ve each faced.
As a result, I’m tired. And I’d bet you are too.
And on top of feeling exhausted, I also feel confused at times. I wonder, what should I do at a time like this? Where do I even start?
Thankfully, the Bible is not silent on such matters. Granted, the Bible may not lay out specifics in a way that me might like, but it does give us a clear purpose: to be witnesses for God’s Kingdom to the world around us. There’s a lot packed in that purpose—more than can be drawn out in a single blog post. But, by looking at the two witnesses described in Revelation 11:1–14, we can see part of what it means to be witnesses for Christ in turbulent times.
First, the Bad News
Revelation 11 describes two witnesses that will be clothed in burlap and prophesy for three and a half years during the Great Tribulation. Jumping to the end of their story (kind of), we see a frightening scene.
“The beast that comes up out of the bottomless pit will declare war against them, and he will conquer them and kill them. And their bodies will lie in the main street of Jerusalem, the city that is figuratively called ‘Sodom’ and ‘Egypt,’ the city where their Lord was crucified.”
On its own, the deaths of these two witnesses is tragic but not unexpected. Jesus was persecuted and crucified. His apostles were persecuted and killed. Countless Christians throughout the past 2,000 years have been persecuted and martyred. And if that was the whole story, it’d be a pretty depressing one. It would leave us in moments like ours now, slightly comforted that we’re not the first Christians to face persecution for being Jesus’ witnesses, but it would mostly leave us discouraged that hardship is the only guaranteed outcome.
The Bible guarantees so much more than hardship for those are faithful witnesses for Christ though. It guarantees so, so much more.
Then, the Good News
The martyrdom of the two witnesses is bookended by two promising realities that should encourage us as we seek to be witnesses. The first we’ll see is in Revelation 11:4–5.
“These two prophets are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of all the earth. If anyone tries to harm them, fire flashes from their mouths and consumes their enemies. This is how anyone who tries to harm them must die.”
God preserved and protected these two witnesses. Even throughout the Great Tribulation, God will raise up, empower, and preserve people to share the Good News of the Gospel. What a mercy that is! Though judgement will be all around, the lost will still have a chance to hear about God and come to Him. We could say the same for our day and age—though the world is broken and pain seems everywhere, God has preserved His Church to be a witness of the peace and love available in Christ. As long as the Church still exists, which it always will, we must not despair. The second takeaway is from verses 11 and 12.
“But after three and a half days, God breathed life into them, and they stood up! Terror struck all who were staring at them. Then a loud voice from heaven called to the two prophets, ‘Come up here!’ And they rose to heaven in a cloud as their enemies watched.”
Did that give you goosebumps? Because if not, go back and read through this passage again.
After all the judgement that’s occurred, after these two witnesses were martyred, and after their bodies lay in the street for three and half days as the world mocked them, God enters in to the story, breathes life back into these witnesses, and raises them up to Heaven. This passage is bursting at the seams with hope because this is a picture of the resurrection that all believers will experience some day.
This hope motivates us to move forward as witnesses…Not because things are going well. Not because we’ll ever create a utopia on this earth. Not because it’s safe. Rather, we continue on as witnesses “in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” because God has called us to that purpose (Acts 1:8). And in that calling, we know God will use His witnesses to accomplish that for which He sends them, and He will eventually raise up every witness to worship Him in Heaven forever.
So, no matter how grim the world seems, we know we can always be faithful to our purpose as Christians because we can always be a witness for Christ.