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This Week's Teaching: "What If The Two Witnesses of Revelation 11 are Israel and the Church?"
Watch above, read below
If I might preface this week's teaching with a comment that I made in response to someone on the YouTube forum (edited here for relevance):
There are generally two credible ways to read Revelation, but no consensus. That's why I try to say "I think" or "I'm speculating." I know that sounds like I haven't studied it, but I really just hope that by demonstrating a more conversational approach to these things, we can learn to stay away from the doctrinal certitude that divides the body of Christ around disputable matters. The helpful conversation allows for different views. So if I explain another view, please don't hear it as me shutting out yours.
Generally some people say that Revelation is to be read literally (although they would probably still say the beast and dragon are not literal, but symbolic). Others say it is to be read figuratively (although they would probably still say the angels and martyrs, etc. are literal). I land in the second camp.
In the first camp, people would say the prophets are literally two people. (Although they wouldn't say they're literally "two olive trees" and "two lampstands," which I find a bit ironic.) Of those who believe they're literally people, some would say they're two resurrected prophets of old. I think the best case for that is Moses and Elijah who Jesus talked to on the Mount of Transfiguration. Others would say that it's two new prophets that come onto the scene, like we see in the pop eschatology of Left Behind, etc.
In the second camp where I'm at, people would say the prophets are symbolic. Every time I study it, I'm most satisfied by the interpretation that the two witnesses are "the Old Covenant and the New Covenant." Embodied, we can speak of them as "Israel and the Church." But at the heart of it, it's the OC and NC. If you read the book of Revelation in sections, allowing the "sevens" to divide it (churches, seals, trumpets, plagues), you'll see the same story being told in parallels, and this will become more clear.
All that said, if two literal prophets show up on the scene, it won't frustrate my faith at all. And if they don't, I'll be ready for what comes. That's my prayer and my desire in bringing this teaching.
If I could just piggyback off of my comments from last week when I was talking about Israel and Hamas or Gaza. I mentioned about Israel and the church being the two witnesses in the end time and in that I talked about Israel as the holy people of God. And someone asked me, how do I define Israel as the holy people of God?
And I think that's worth clarifying.
I do not believe that nationhood makes Israel God's holy people. In other words, what happened in 1948 or 1967 or whatever the dates are, the current nationhood of Israel doesn't secure their holy people status before God. Nor do I believe Zionism is the same thing as Israel, the holy people of God.
I don't believe that them occupying a certain land with specific boundaries, even though I know that the promised land was given and the boundaries were marked out. It's clear in scripture. But even though there is a land element to it, I don't believe that them occupying a specific land is what makes them holy before God.
I do believe that God choosing Abraham for himself and saying, " I am going to establish a covenant with you, not that you asked for it, but I am choosing you. You will be my people and I will be your God" -- that declares Israel, through Abraham's seed , the people of God.
Now here's the difficulty. Here's the tension I have with the whole thing. I don't believe you can reject Jesus as Messiah and still be right with God. And by and large, the Jewish people reject Jesus as the Messiah. I don't believe they're right with God. I believe they have a call on their life, but I don't believe they're right with God. You can't reject God and be safe with God. You can't reject God's son and be safe with God's son. You can't reject the Lord and be safe with the Lord.
And so I would stop short of saying that they are in God's favor. To the contrary, I believe that as long as they persist in rejecting the Holy Spirit's witness about Jesus; as long as they persist in the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit, ascribing the witness of the Holy Spirit to the witness of demons; as long as they persist in rejecting the Holy Spirit's witness of Jesus, they are not safe with God. And they are not holy unto the Lord.
Now when we talk about "holy," we think about it a couple different ways. Holy unto God is to be dedicated to God, to be set apart for a sacred purpose, to be devoted to him. And in some sense God declares us holy. He declared the Israelite people holy. He called them out of and set them apart for himself.
And for the Christians, he calls us out of and sets us apart for himself. He declares us holy by his own declaration, and it doesn't always line up with the decisions we make in life or how we act, but we're still declared holy.
And yet there's another way to look at holiness where, if I am living my life devoted to the Lord, I can be described as living a holy life, a life set apart for the Lord. And the same would be true for those in Israel, the Jews, the Israelites.
As I'm recording this, the conflict in Israel between Israel and Hamas or Gaza or the Palestinian people, however you want to frame it, is still something that's ongoing, and as I listen to what everyone is saying, there is this outcry against the Jews.
I was surprised at how quickly people jumped on the Jews in favor of the Palestinians. I'm not going to attempt to dissect why that is here, but I was surprised at how quickly hatred for the Jews comes up. I'm not saying that everyone who has compassion for the Palestinians has hatred for the Jews. I'm talking about hatred for the Jews.
And I was surprised to hear of the hatred for the Jews. And I started to ask, why is it? Why do people hate the Jews so much? They're not that different from an awful lot of people in the world that the world doesn't hate. Why is it that they have hatred for the Jews?
I believe it's because they live and exist as a witness of God's selection. God selected them out of the world as a people for himself. And historically that meant sending them in to take land from enemy nations, meaning not enemies just of the Jewish people, but enemies of God -- people who had made themselves a stench to God, who had defied God, who had defiled the land. And he sent his people in to rid the land of them. Through violence. And that's enough to register some bitterness. I wonder if that's a part of why the world hates the Jews so much.
And yet behind that would be why does the world hate God so much?
I don't think that every time the Israelites or every time the Jews kill their enemies that that's of God. But I have to admit that there's times in scripture where God sent them in to do things that I actually find objectionable. And yet I believe that God, because He's God, I believe that anything God does is righteous. It is good. It is right. It is wise. It is true. Like, I don't question anything God does because He gets to decide these things. If God asks someone to do something, it's good. It's good. I don't question that.
I wonder if that's why the world hates the Jews so much. Because God used them to exact his vengeance on people who had done really bad things. I'm talking a long time ago. A long time ago.
I think also the Jews live as this ongoing witness of God selecting people and that in itself is kind of incriminating for people. It's insulting that God would pick these people and not those people. And so those people could easily, legitimately, justifiably be offended that God would pick the Jews and not them. And that could settle in as this grudge that gets nursed over generations and generations. It could be that.
When I heard last week that there was a call for a global day of jihad, which was turned into a global day of rage, however people talked about it -- I'm just being transparent about my thought process -- my first thought was a bit of fear. Like just doing the assessment of what do I need to do to protect my family and all that. Just doing that assessment, I quickly said, "Well, yes, looking at me, I could pass for a Jew, but I'm not Jewish. I'm probably safe. I probably don't need to worry about global jihad."
And then I realized Israel lives as this witness of God hated by the world. And the church lives as this witness of God hated by the world. If the Jews are chased down, it's reasonable to expect that the Christians too will be chased down, especially by people who have declared their hatred for both groups. And that's pretty sobering.
Now, I'm not saying the sky is falling, I'm not a doomsayer, like, that's not my thing. And yet, I think hardship is coming. And so when I read Revelation 11... This morning, I was studying Revelation 11 and it took me back into Ezekiel. (I'll put this in the description below so you can press pause, read it, whatever you want.) It took me back to Ezekiel. And then to Daniel chapter seven and chapter 12. And then Revelation 11 and then Revelation 13. And as I was reading through all this, there is a consistent, profound, explicit witness that God's people will be defeated for a time.
An explicit witness, prophetic witness that God's people will be defeated for a time, and then they will possess the kingdom. Then they will be given their reward. This is consistent.
When I read Revelation 11 about the witnesses prophesying for forty two months or twelve hundred and sixty days, which is three and a half years. And when I read Daniel and see the same numbers, and that God's people are going to be defeated for a time.
And I read Ezekiel, and Ezekiel is given a measuring rod and told to go measure the temple. And when I read Revelation 11, John sees an angel who has a measuring rod, and is told to go and measure the temple. And I read the outer courts has been given to the Gentiles to be trampled on for a time.
I believe Revelation 11 is saying that the two witnesses -- and I could be wrong. This is speculating. It doesn't say the two witnesses are this. I'm saying I think the two witnesses are this: Israel and the church. I believe it's the two witnesses who for three and a half millennia, have been a witness of God.
Israel and the church. It just might be that where Revelation 11 says that they're prophesying for the 42 months, the 1,260 days. It might be that this is the time that Israel and the church are going to be defeated, overthrown, for a time, for three and a half days, whatever that means.
And then after that, the breath of God enters them and they stand to their feet and they rise up to meet God in the air, to meet the Lord in the air.
It might be that that's what this is. It might be that we are facing that time.
Here's my concern. Many say that this is a time where the church is supposed to take over the kingdom and we're supposed to establish the kingdom on the earth and God wants to prosper us and all that. If that's this, and for some reason God allows, as he's decreed, he allows for the witnesses to be defeated and to lie dead in the streets where the enemies refuse them a decent burial, and they come from all over to gloat over them and give each other gifts and high fives. If this is the time for that, and we're prepared only for prosperity, we will be defeated in our souls, in our spirits. On the other hand, if we understand that, yes, there is a time that God has sovereignly decreed that his people will be defeated for a time, and then after that receive the kingdom; if we believe that there is a time we can be prepared for that. And if for some reason God chooses to give us favor and prosperity, man, so be it. Amen.
My challenge, my encouragement to you is be strong in the Lord. Be strong in the faith. Choose faithfulness, no matter what. Pray for peace. Pray for the peace of Jerusalem. Pray for peace in Israel, pray for peace in the church. Pray that our witness would be complete. That it would be of grace. That it would be of Jesus. Pray that God's sovereign plan would be fulfilled, even in our lifetime.
Many of us live with this sense of, come Lord Jesus, come quickly. What if this was it? What if it was time? That's my prayer. That it would be time. I leave you with that.
If you have any other thoughts on this, please leave a comment below. I would love to interact with you. We're figuring this out prayerfully, asking God for wisdom and discernment.