I don’t want to make too much of this but not only does the tone of chapter 11 change from the rest of the book, I found it interesting that the tense also changed.
When describing the prophets actions, the tense is present: fire “comes out” and they “have authority”
When it talks about the monster and the death of the prophets, it’s future tense: “will make”, “will be”, “will celebrate.”
However, when the spirit of life calls them, we’re back to the present tense: “they stood”, “they heard”, they went.”
I’m stumped. There has got to be some parallel to Jesus’s death and resurrection but I’m missing it. Let me know if you can think of anything.
Wait, don’t you get the sense that the victory is already won by these prophets even though bad stuff is going to happen to them?
This is the woe that works. Unlike the plagues or any of the previous trials, this makes people turn to God. Why is that? Is raising the dead really any more dramatic than horse-sized locusts with scorpion tails? I’m not sure. Are the plagues the witnesses bring any more horrible than God’s previous attempts to get humankind’s attention. I doubt it.
The key difference I see here is the witness. The words of people accompany the disasters, giving them a context and a reason. Then when God miraculously raises the witnesses, it shows God’s ultimate authority. Whew.
That’s an important lesson for me today. How much am I opening my mouth and giving God the credit for things that happen in my sphere of influence? Do people (correctly) attribute God’s work in both the successes and tragedies of my life? Probably not …
It is somewhat difficult to read about the martyred church from my recliner. As I have been blogging for the last couple of weeks on Revelation, I sit in my easy chair with a hot cup of coffee, breaking every now and then to get a snack. When it gets a bit warm, I turn on the AC. I sometimes walk out on my deck to get some fresh air, wondering, “What’s for lunch?” I can’t really say that I have ever suffered for my faith. In fact, I get a tax break for giving money to my church.
In today’s passage, we find two authoritative witnesses who prophesy to the world with signs, wonders, and powers. When their job is done, a monster from the Abyss kills them. Their bodies lay in the street while the inhabitants of the earth …
I once heard a definition of God’s will–God’s will is exactly what I would do, if I had all the facts. I think that applies to this whacked-out passage of Revelation. God knows what he’s doing. His way is the right way and his understanding of his process is flawless. Nothing is wasted or late or meaningless. The beauty of it is–he doesn’t need my approval. Not comprehending all of his plans and how he executes them doesn’t mean I should just shrug my shoulders, scratch my head and not try to at least give it a good think. Part of knowing and understanding God is seeing how he works and what that reveals about his character. I may be puzzled, but I will keep looking for the missing pieces.
Today marks half way through our study with NT Wright. Twenty three down and twenty three to go. I have always had a hard time with the middle of something. I like the beginning because it is exciting and I like the end because you can see your way to completion, and ultimately onto a new beginning. But the middle just begins to get muddled sometimes.
So as we come to the end of this passage in chapter 11, NT points out that right here in the middle, “turns out to be one of the most important and central statements of what John wants to say to the churches to whom he is writing.” NT says:
Suddenly out of the smoke and fire of the earlier chapters, a vision is emerging: a vision of the creator God as the God of mercy, …
I agree with Tom Wright that it’s best not to take these two witnesses as either allegorical or literal people. Chapter 11 is something like a parable, or a short story, designed to instruct us how to be the church. “Witness” is an interesting word choice, by the way, since its primary connotation is the courtroom. The witnesses are not on trial, since the appropriate word for that would be “defendant”, but are instead testifying on behalf of someone else.
Who? Jesus, of course.
Christ is “on trial” for claiming to replace the kingdoms of this world with the kingdom of our God, for subverting the status quo, for claiming that he has been given all power and authority in heaven and on earth and under the earth. He is on trial because, to all outward appearances, he is deluded. Caesar is …