Revelation Devotion #18
– Pastor Timothy
In Joshua 5:13-15, we find one of several Christophanies — the appearance of the pre-incarnate Christ — in the Old Testament. He is identified in the text as the Commander of the Lord’s army.
Joshua chapter 6 then records Israel’s conquest of Jericho and their entrance into the Promised Land. Israel’s victory takes place at the sounding of a 7th trumpet (cf. Joshua 6:15-25), which prefigures God’s people entering the fullness of the land of promise as laid out in Revelation chapters 10-11.
In the same way that Revelation chapter 7 provided an interlude between the opening of the 6th and 7th seals, Revelation 10:1-11:14 presents an interlude between the sounding of the 6th and 7th trumpets.
At 10:1, John sees a mighty angel described in a similar fashion to God and to Christ: with a rainbow on His head (cf. Revelation 4:3), clothed with a cloud (cf. Revelation 1:7), with His face like the sun and His feet like pillars of fire (cf. Revelation 1:15-16). Robby C. Waddell contends that the convergence of divine characteristics of both God and Jesus in describing the mighty angel distinctly points to the third person of the Trinity. Albeit not a widely held position, it is a viewpoint that I support.
The fact that His right foot is on the sea and His left foot is on the land (10:2, 5, 8) affirm this figure’s divinity. Placing one’s foot on something is indicative of sovereignty over it (cf Joshua 10:24-26). The mighty angel exercises sovereignty over all the earth, identifying His equality with God, even as His function is to glorify the Father and the Son.
In Revelation 1:20, the angels of the seven churches are messengers, who in some way or another communicate God’s Word to Christ’s church. In his gospel, John highlights how Christ will send the Holy Spirit into the world to commission His prophets with a message — the same message from the little scroll mentioned in Revelation 10:2 (cf. Ezekiel 2:7-3:3).
As the Redeemer who alone could open the scroll of Revelation 5:7, Jesus takes it from the Father and subsequently gives the opened scroll to the Holy Spirit as the mighty “messenger,” who passes it to John. The message of the scroll given to John communicates how God defeats evil by rescuing His people through the Lamb of God, who will usher in a new heaven and a new earth.
That is a message sweeter than honey in one’s mouth (cf. Psalm 119:103) and yet bitter to the stomach (10:10). It is bitter on two accounts:
1. God redeems the church (cf. Revelation 5:9) in order to prophesy to the nations (10:11). Christians want for all persons to believe, but we know that many will reject the message of hope. The non-repentant response to the message by persons inside and outside the church is a mournful thing (cf. Luke 19:41-44).
2. The church will endure suffering as a result of sharing God’s Word. John’s mention of the temple and the two witnesses in 11:1-14 establishes this point.
John is told to measure the temple and the altar with its worshipers but to exclude the outer court, as unbelievers will trample on the holy city for 42 months (11:1-2; not a literal amount of time). Seeing as how all peoples could assemble to worship in the outer court (cf. Jeremiah 19:14; 26:2), it here represents the church not yet gathered in the presence of God but living amid an idolatrous cultural system.
The appearance of the two witnesses lends credence to such an interpretation, as they represent the greater worldwide church. In verse 4, they are called lampstands: the precise reference for the church in the opening chapter (cf. Revelation 1:12, 20). Furthermore, the duration of their prophetic activity lasts the same symbolic length of time as that of the temple’s outer court being trampled by the nations (11:2-3). Finally, these nations will view the defeat of the witnesses (11:9-10), which only makes sense if referring to the worldwide church instead of two individuals.
G. K. Beale observes that in Zechariah 6:11-13, the prophet “speaks of the two witnesses, the king and the priest, who reestablish a literal temple, whereas John sees two witnesses helping to build the heavenly temple.” Such a “dual kingly-priestly role of the corporate church has already been explicitly affirmed (1:6; 5:10) and will be again (20:6).”
The presentation of two witnesses is also in keeping with Torah stipulations regarding the minimal number of witnesses required to validate a truth claim (cf. Numbers 35:30; Deuteronomy 19:15). Jesus appeals to this stipulation (cf. Matthew 18:16), as does the apostle Paul (cf. 2 Corinthians 13:1).
Additionally, two angels testified to the truth of the resurrection in Luke 24:4 as well as to the fact of Jesus’s imminent return in Acts 1:10-11.
Moses and Elijah embody the witness of the church in Revelation 11:3-12 (cf. Malachi 4:4-5). They were both prophets concerned with honoring the covenant of God, and they set the precedent for the church’s prophetic witness to the world. Keep in mind how Moses and Elijah appeared on the Mount of Transfiguration to legally bear witness to Jesus as the Son of God (cf. Matthew 17:3; Mark 9:4-7), the precise purpose for which the Holy Spirit sends out the church.
Again, the church goes out into an unbelieving world that will increasingly resist its message. “The beast that comes up from the abyss” in 11:7 does not suggest that satanic forces only surface at the very end of the age; rather, that a period of great tribulation awaits God’s people (cf. Daniel 7:21-25).
The great tribulation will not last long, as the reference to three and a half days in 11:9 implies (cf. Matthew 24:21-22). It further seems plausible to infer that the “three and a half days” intends to connect the church with the One to whom they testify — with the death and resurrection of Jesus (11:11-12).
In fact, I would humbly suggest (and I respect that many views exist on this matter) that the “loud voice from heaven saying to them, ‘Come up here,’” is Christ rapturing His Bride. John Christopher Thomas and Frank D. Macchia write: “There is a striking parallel between the words of the resurrected Jesus that He will come with the clouds (1:7) and the witnesses going up in the cloud. Just as every eye will see Jesus, even those who pierced Him, so their enemies behold the two prophets being taken up into heaven! The parallel between Jesus’ own experience of death, resurrection, and ascension and that of these two prophets indicates that the prophetic ministry of the church stands in direct solidarity with that of their Lord.”
In other words, the Commander of the Lord’s army — the exalted Christ before whom “every knee shall bow and every tongue confess” (11:13; cf. Philippians 2:10-11) — will meet with His church in the air, the seventh trumpet will sound, the idolatries of this age will cease, and the Kingdom of the Messiah shall ensue (11:15-19).
Remember, we should not read Revelation sequentially or chronologically. The seventh trumpet offers a glimpse of what will unfold in greater detail in Revelation chapters 19-22.