Rich Realities in Revelation Studies in the Apocalypse that Give us Hope In the Midst of Persecution, the Church’s Mission Remains Revelation 10-11

    The Christians who received the book of Revelation were told to “read, hear, and heed” the things written in it. Some of them were being persecuted at that very time. John was a “fellow partaker in the tribulation and kingdom and persecution,” while writing on the island of Patmos (1:9).

The church in Ephesus, apparently to continue in existence, had allowed their evangelistic light to burn low (2:5). They had turned inward, to preserve themselves, but as a result, had stopped evangelizing. The church in Smyrna was experiencing persecution (2:10) and the Christians in Pergamum had lost one of their own (2:13). The church in Thyatira was dealing with false teaching within, the spirit of compromise (2:20).

The Christians in Sardis were spiritually dead, consumed by the culture around them (3:1). The church of Christ in Philadelphia was persevering in their evangelism and sound doctrine but they, too, would be put through an hour of testing (3:10). The church in Laodicea was content to go along, to get along (3:15).

How many times have I heard Christians say, in the midst of morally decadent culture, they would like to move into some kind of commune with other Christians and get away from it all. Or they would like to move south, to Texas, or wherever Christians are strong. That is not what God needs or wants from us! Somebody needs to preach the Gospel in Washington, D. C. Somebody needs to preach the Gospel in Hollywood, CA. Somebody needs to preach the Gospel in Las Vegas, NV. That is the message of chapters 10 & 11:

In the midst of persecution, the church’s mission remains: preach the Gospel!

In chapter 10, in a vision reminiscent of the prophet Ezekiel (2:8ff), John is told to take a book and consume it. The message would be both sweet (in promises of blessings) and bitter (in threats of punishment). That message contains both sides of the same coin of God’s nature – the goodness and severity of God (Romans 11:22). Having consumed the book, John was told: “You must prophesy again concerning many peoples and nations and tongues and kings.”

In the midst of persecution, the church’s mission remains: preach the Gospel!

In chapter 11, John sees a vision of a temple, the spiritual temple of God, the church of Christ. He is told to measure it, an object lesson by which God assures His children that He has it all under His control. Then, John sees two witnesses (the lamp stands symbolize the church, 1:20; so the olive trees likely do as well), personified in Elijah and Moses. Both men were faithful in teaching the word of God to their own contemporaries.

These two witnesses prophesied (11:3), or to visualize it another way: “fire flows out of their mouth and devours their enemies” (11:5). But, the beast, symbolizing the Roman Empire, makes war with them, kills them, and their bodies are left in the open. The nations are glad the church’s witnesses is shut down because the “two prophets tormented those who dwell on the earth” (11:10).

But, God cannot be killed and Christ has the power of death and Hades in His hand. So, after a 3 1/2 day period (corresponding to Jesus’ own 3 1/2 year ministry), God raises these two witnesses to life and takes them to heaven.

In the midst of persecution, the church’s mission remains: preach the Gospel!

In the meanwhile, God once again punishes those who disrespect His followers – an earthquake levels 1/10 of the city and kills 7,000 of the disobedient on earth.

The call of the seventh trumpet (11:15-19) reminds us that God will judge every single person.

The message from chapters 10-11 that give us hope: In the midst of persecution, the church’s mission remains: preach the Gospel! God will reward us for our faithfulness.

Paul Holland

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