May 4, 2008,
A CONTINUATION OF THE
ORIGINAL THRUST AND BASE
OF THE PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH OF AUSTRALIA
ON BIBLICAL LINES …
Shafts of Light and Perils in This Present Age
City, The Witnesses,
The Rapture and the Resurrection
Kingdom Transformation and the Rewards of Faith
The Mouth of God
I) THE SIGNIFICANT CITY - 11:1-2
The 42 months, a prophetic equivalent to the 1260 days, marks a period left in terms of Daniel 9’s great prediction that included the date for the death of the Messiah, around AD 30, from hundreds of years beforehand. He indicated that 70 times 7 would bring in the completion of prophecy and the arrival of everlasting righteousness. Of these, 69 times 7 would be the time required to go from the command to rebuild a destroyed Jerusalem, to that Messianic date. Adding those 483 years to that 5th century BC date leads us to the area of the AD 26 start of Jesus’ Messianic ministry, which going on for some 3 and one half years, gives the death date around AD 30.
The first half of the 70th seven, is this actual Messianic ministry of Jesus Christ, so that after that to the end of the Age was the second half of the last of the seventy sevens. That is 3 and one half times whatever is in mind for the seven. However Christ told the disciples as in Acts 1 that it was not for them to know the times the Father had set in His own hand, and that His kingdom would come in power at the time He chose. In other words, the Messiah having been crucified, the last part of the time left would be as long as it would take for His Gospel to soak into the soil of this world and His plan to be fulfilled through it.
This last 7 in the 70, it was HIS period, and what remains of it, the second half, thus comes to symbolise the extent of this present Age until He comes, the numbers used in Revelation (42 months, 1260 days cf. Revelation 11:2-3, 17) simply forcing you to see the scope of Daniel’s prophecy, and to realise that the present is the Messiah’s last part, HIS seven times (the 70th) being completed for the other half, not used for His Ministry on earth. For what then is it used ? for His ministry from heaven. What are its units ? those at His pleasure for the completion of the prophecies and bringing in everlasting righteousness. Thus the millenium follows the Lord’s return as in Revelation 19-20, and then before the world is removed, there is judgment.
These things being so, it is of great interest that Jerusalem would be given to the other nations, the Gentiles till the Age was complete. In particular note that the Court of the Temple was to be given to the Gentiles, not least because when Christ died, the need for the Temple, oriented to animal sacrifice, finished. It may offend unbelievers in Israel that the Moslem Mosque sits on the crown of Mt Zion, but it is perfectly sound, that what is no longer applicable, now that animal sacrifices are gone for ever (Hebrews 8), should be tossed about by those who do not know God, receive His Gospel or honour the deity and redemption of Jesus Christ. Two wrongs do not in this case make a right, but they DO make an especially base association. It is on Israel’s return to the Lord, that the power that accompanies truth will fall like lightning (cf. II Thess. 1). Meanwhile, they have the Mosque, a silent reminder of their own straying, that God lets enemies utilise the Temple site!
Now that Jerusalem is back in the hands of Israel, we are aware that the end of this Age is at hand (Luke 21:24 predicting this for its restoration). Naturally, hell’s limited but incendiary power is lusting for Jerusalem to remove it from Israel, so that God might seem contradicted and His work and witness through Israel, removed. Even though it is not a Christian nation, this is precisely what was predicted for it in Ezekiel 36-37, that their return would be as unbelieving, and so it has been.
THE WORK OF THE WITNESSES 11:3-6
The identity of the witnesses appears to be this: They stand for the religious and the godly power of testimony concerning Christ, just as in Zechariah 4 shows. These in Zechariah 4:11 are identified as two olive trees, which indicate the priestly and princely power of the nation in the rule of God, the ‘two anointed ones’, that is the Governor and the High Priest focussed in Zechariah 3 and 4. The Church, a kingdom of priests and those to be made as kings in the power of God (Revelation 22:4), with its elders and preachers is thus the body which exhibits the role of the two witnesses.
It is the Church which uses this power amidst its enormous suffering, throughout history, never extinguished, though often subjected to massive murders as in the Inquisition, and always flaming anew. The power that God has used in His Church may seem to some to be overshadowed by the false churches which have attacked the servants and services and word of God, but it is not so. The evil follies come and go, but the gates of hell do not prevail against the continuing Church of God (cf. Matthew 16), as Christ promised. WHO has been acknowledged by so many for so long as Jesus Christ, and in whose name has so much been accomplished in so many ways in this world for millennia, as in His!
III) THEIR APPARENT DEATH AND THE GLOATING OF
REJOICING AT THEIR APPARENT END 11:7-11
When the ‘witnesses’ are killed, this means that the situation shown in Revelation 13 and 17 is in place. This is the prelude, the preliminary, the foothill, to the coming of the Mountain of Christ, of His return as foretold in Acts 1:7ff.! It means that the Church of Christ, as in China already, and in USSR for scores of years, is subjected to such persecution that its visible body seems all but gone; but it is still there, and rising in power from its deadly wounds, it is called to heaven as in Revelation 11:12.
It is Jerusalem that this is most apparent, where Christ was killed, a fitting parallel, and
“those who dwell on the earth will rejoice over them, make merry,
and send gifts to one another,
because these two prophets tormented those who dwell on the earth.”
IV) RAPTURE AND THE RESURRECTION 11:12-13
Though the enemies of Israel are to be destroyed, yet the antichrist will use his power, as the people of God are removed, whether from Israel in its new-born faith or from the Gentiles, leaving Jerusalem and its Temple a beautiful site for the Man of Sin to skite, showing himself that he is God (II Thessalonians 2:4ff.).
But HOW are the people of God to be removed ? It is quite simple. It is as if an Army truck were sent to an enemy prison camp, and simply trained its guns on the control centre, and came and evacuated the prisoners.
Just as in the creation, God spoke and it was done, so that the mere thought and executive command MEANT that the thing was done, since He had the power, like a President of a Country – His is the kingdom of heaven – so here. Thus God is shown to CALL to the witnesses, COME UP HERE! Hence it is done, and they GO, as at the creation the first man CAME.
But where to they go ? They go where the first man came from, to God. Where else! COME UP HERE signifies the requirement to come to heaven where God is, and this is the Rapture as in Matthew 24:36ff., I Thessalonians 4. So Revelation does not omit it at all!
What a delight to have Deity call, what a deliverance, as from a concentration camp, in that day when all hell is then seeking the destruction of the Christians (cf. Revelation 12), to have God simply intervene. HOW OFTEN He does this, even before that time, this Pastor for one can attest, in miracles of healing, of leading and as important, of being given patience, with which we must possess our souls till He DOES come! (cf. Luke 21:19).
The power of God is ever present to those who walk with Him (I Peter 1:5), and while it is no substitute for suffering, it is relief to the impossible situations and deliverance from the deadly onslaughts (cf. II Timothy 3:5), where the power of God will not be fashionable as our Age advances towards its last part – which is now, as in Answers to Questions Ch. 5.
(V) TRANSFORMATION OF THE KINGDOMS OF THIS WORLD 11:14-17
Now this great deliverance of the assorted people of God - a sort of spiritual Dunkirk at which those surrounding by advancing armies and hemmed in, as you see so clearly in the persecutions shown for this time, in Revelation 13 - thus brings the end of the Church testimony on earth, till Christ comes back with His saints (as in I Thessalonians 3:13). In Revelation, you have various shafts which move from certain episodes, suddenly to view the end, as if one lifted one’s eyes from some point in a battle, to see – if space were as time – the end of the matter. You see this very clearly in Revelation 6. Ch. 11:16ff. looks there too, to the onrush of the kingdom and the 24 elders glory in it.
We see later in Revelation 19, the ‘wedding’ of the ‘bride of Christ’ (as in Ephesians 5, the Church in a figure) in heaven, before they with Him, sally forth in spiritual judgment. These are led in the command of the Word of God, One with a sword – that very word – proceeding from His mouth. The frauds and false shepherds and prophets, rulers and persecutors, all are judged and the millenium of peace, in which the power of God and His righteousness rule, is made manifest, and proceeds in power (as in Psalm 72, Isaiah 11). In this setting of numerical symbol, as in Revelation so freely, the exact length of this period of vindication and exhibition of the righteousness of God, when the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of God as the waters cover the sea (Isaiah 11, Habakkuk 2:14) is not known. It will be long enough for the point in view to be … made.
With all this in place and about to happen, starting as in the CALL of Revelation 11:11-12, we have the glorious exuberance expressed in Revelation 11:17-18. They give thanks since God has taken His great power and acted, ruling, overruling and bringing in the finale at last!
“The kingdoms of
this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ,
and He shall reign forever and ever!”
Now, it is cried, is the time of the judgment of the dead, as of other matters (Revelation 11:18).
ONCE the resurrection has occurred, the devious disciples of that devilish dynamic, the Satan, are gathered to make war on the Lord and He proceeds as in Revelation 19:19, to meet them. His light devastates their darkness, as judgment comes like a cloud to invest their darkness, fiery and brilliantly bright alike, exposing it for its shame and contemptibility (as in Daniel 12:1-2).
(VI) THE REWARD OF CHRIST’S SERVANTS 11:18
Indeed in Revelation 11:18 we see also that it is the time of the reward of “your servants the prophets and the saints, and those who fear your name, small and great”. In fact. looming before too long from then, is the day when He will “destroy the earth”. That will be a sad loss and a great gain simultaneously, since its pollutions and inequities are a cry to heaven, its inhumanity, its pathological barbarity, its heedless cruelties and vast pretences and pretensions (II Peter 3).
Yet how sad that so much beauty and wonder of creative magnificence should go … and yet, it has been cursed and this aspect is now coming to the fore (Romans 8:18ff.). After all, if you own a beautiful picture of some magnificent artist, and he has plenty more to provide, do you weep too much when one is lost, when many more are to come ? Thus there is to be a new heaven and a new earth (Rev. 20). But in the meantime, we live on this one, and so let us be worthy of our Christian calling to be saints (cf. Romans 1:1ff., I Cor. 1:1ff., II Cor. 1:1ff., Eph. 1), and act like it.
Does this mean perfection : far from it (as in Philippians 3), but IT DOES MEAN the uttermost surrender to the word and will of God, as our rule and guide; and since Christ is resurrected, it means KNOWING GOD, as one knows a friend. After all, THIS IS eternal life, that you should know God and Jesus Christ whom He has sent (John 17:1-3). As to the rewards of His servants, the chief of these is precisely that accorded, in principle to Abraham of whom it was said by the Lord Himself: “I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward” …
“Whom have I in heaven but You,” asked the Psalmist, declaring this: “and there is none on earth whom I desire on earth beside You!” It is only then, when the heart is so placed, that more may be found added from His people. It is when such is the solitary place of majesty given to the Lord in one’s heart (as in the testing of Abraham - Genesis 22), that this can be.
It is He, God who so loved that He sent from eternity His only begotten Son as a sacrifice for sin and the paragon of life; it is God who so came that He might redeem, as that very Son; and it is the Spirit of God who inhabits the hearts of His people, and brings the power and peace of God to their hearts. Sender, Sent and Spirit, He is one God, magnificent in majesty. As in Isaiah 48:16, He is all three, ONE in being, THREE in persons who displays His grand splendour in this effulgence.
For continuation on this theme, see the next sermon.