Be God’s Faithful Witness

As you read through Revelation, you notice many references to the Old Testament. But perhaps no section is more full of those references than Revelation 11:1–14. This forms the second interlude (Revelation 10 is the first) following the sounding of the sixth trumpet—before the seventh one sounds. This interlude focuses on the concept of witness.

Be a powerful witness. You are safe in suffering. In Revelation 10 John’s call to bring God’s Word, symbolized by the scroll he had to eat, was confirmed. Now he is given a measuring rod and told to measure God’s temple, together with it altar and the worshipers there. As in Ezekiel 40, where the prophet in exile has visions in which he is measuring the temple, the act of measuring indicates protection and certainty. As you read through the New Testament, you come to see the reality that was symbolized by the magnificent Old Testament building. On Mount Zion stood a physical building where God was pleased to dwell in the midst of his people. That building was temporary, subject to destruction, first by Nebuchadnezzar, then its replacement by the Romans in 70 A.D. But following the death and resurrection of Christ, a better temple has been built, as both Paul and Peter indicate, one made of living stones, one in which you are built to be the dwelling of the Holy Spirit. Revelation 3:12 has introduced that idea into this book. Rather than thinking of the dimensions of a building, John is showing God’s protection of the living temple, his people. In what seems paradoxical, the Lamb protects hs church, his people, from apostasy. But, at the same time, part of the temple structure is subjected to being trampled by the nations for a limited period of time, symbolized by 42 months or 1,260 days (look back to Daniel 7:25; 12:7, 11). In a book where the Lion of the tribe of Judah is announced, and John sees a Lamb, and the Lamb was slain but is alive, don’t be surprised that the church is protected in one sense and subjected to suffering and persecution at the same time. “In Revelation 11 the measuring connotes God’s presence, which is guaranteed to be with the temple community living on earth before the consummation. The faith of his people will be upheld by his presence, since without faith there can be no divine presence. No aberrant theological or ethical influences will be able to spoil or contaminate their true faith or worship.” (G. K. Beale, The Book of Revelation, p. 559). Continue reading

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A Bittersweet Scroll

The Book of Revelation has strange images. Revelation 10 (and the first part of 11) form an interlude between the sounding of the sixth trumpet (Revelation 9:13) and the seventh (Revelation 11:15). Revelation 10 can be seen as reaffirmation of John’s commissioning to write, and that point is made with the imagery of John being commanded to eat a scroll that is both bitter and sweet. The imagery may be strange, and people may differ in understanding the details, but the basic message is one of comfort—God is in control and he will not delay the end.

Take comfort in God’s promise. A mighty angel swears by the eternal Creator of all. John sees a mighty angel coming down from heaven. This figure is majestic. Robed in a cloud reminds you of the pillar of cloud and fire that led Israel through the desert. There are echoes of the majestic figure of Revelation 1, and of the Lord swearing in Deuteronomy 34:40. Some have identified this figure with the Angel of the Lord, Christ himself. But, more likely this is a glorious angelic creature (notice that “another might angel” brings to mind the earlier mighty angel of Revelation 5, who shouts the question as to who can break the seals of the scroll held by the Father). He reflects the glory and majesty of the Lord he serves. “The radiance of the angel’s appearance marks him as one who bears the image of his Master, reflecting the Master’s glory as he brings the Master’s message. . . . Throughout Revelation angels are superhuman servants of God, doing his bidding and carrying his revelation to the embattled saints on earth.” (Dennis E. Johnson, Triumph of the Lamb, p. 158). His stance with one foot on the sea, the other on land, indicates that nothing is outside of the control of his Lord. The shout of the angel is answered by seven thunders, but John is forbidden to record what they said. The focus is on the words and actions of this angel. In the midst of the disasters brought by the sounds of the first six trumpets, God’s people may be wondering if things are spinning out of control. This angel swears by the eternal God (see Daniel 12:7). The universal sovereignty of God reassures you, as it was intended to reassure John’s hearers. Continue reading

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The Truth and the Triumph of the Resurrection

In 1 Corinthians 15 Paul takes up one last problem of the church there. Apparently some were denying the resurrection of the body in general and Christ’s resurrection in particular. In dealing with the problem, Paul shows how central the resurrection is to your entire life as a Christian.

Believe that Christ has been raised—because it’s true. What if there is no resurrection? The denial of the resurrection in Paul’s day may have stemmed from a Greek philosophical depreciation of the physical. Today it may arise from an attitude that resurrection is scientifically impossible. Religious leaders a century ago might openly deny the truth of the resurrection accounts. Now the skepticism remains unchanged, but the focus is on the faith of the disciples. However, this faith is disassociated from our real world. The spirituality of our post-modern culture may focus on renewal or even reincarnation, but is as uncomfortable with a bodily resurrection as were the Greek philosophers of Paul’s day. But Paul is speaking of real events in a real world. In 1 Corinthians 15:12–19 Paul explores the consequences—what if there is no resurrection, whether in general, or of Christ. If Christ has not been raised, your faith is vain and you are pitiable. What you believe has real-life consequences. Continue reading

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Why Was Christ Buried?

A funeral may be a good way to honor someone, to remember what she or he has done while alive, but burial marks the end of their activity. Why the emphasis in Scripture on the burial of Christ? It is described in all four Gospels, including our text, Luke 23:50–56, and is part of Paul’s summary of things “of first importance” in 1 Corinthians 15:3–4. It is included in the Apostles and Nicene Creeds.

Christ was buried because he truly died in your place. He suffered for your sins. Don’t look at the death of Christ as simply the tragic death of a martyr. He died as the sin-bearer in the place of his people. This is the last stage in the events of his arrest, trials, and crucifixion. Jesus had spoken words of comfort to the thief, and had committed his spirit into his Father’s hands. The curtain of the temple had been ripped, and he had breathed his last. John’s Gospel tells of the spear thrust which ensured that Christ was truly dead. That certainty is increased by his burial. Continue reading

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A Fallen Star and a Voice from Heaven

Sometimes God’s judgment is ironically appropriate. If people persist in rebelling against him and worship idols, he may turn them over to what they worship. The result can be chaotic, but God’s people are sometimes caught up in that. Hananiah, Mishael, Azariah, and Daniel were godly Israelites, but were caught up in the judgment of of Israel as she was exiled in Babylon (Daniel 1 and 3). Revelation 9 tells of the sounding of the fifth and sixth trumpets. Idolaters are subjected to judgment. Revelation 9 reminds you that God is still in control. It summons you to turn from idols to the living God. Continue reading

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