The prophetic ministry and the resurrection of the true remnant - Revelation 11, 3-13
(Source of inspiration, from which we deviated at times: H. Stücher, see German part of this publication)
Rev. 11, 3 And I will give power to My two witnesses, and they will prophesy a thousand, two hundred and sixty days, clothed in sackcloth.
The number two is symbolic, it stands for “witness” in general (a minimum of two witnesses is needed to establish it: Deut. 19, 15; Caleb and Joshua were the two faithful spies sent into Canaan, their witness was true, Num. 14, 6; Two olive trees (Zech. 4, 3+11-14) are two anointed witnesses standing by the Lord). This passage is not exclusively about two distinct persons, while there will be two literal witnesses fulfilling this prophecy literally in the future, too (just as there have been literally two faithful spies, Joshua and Caleb, in Numbers 14,6). But for us now this is at the same time a prophetic word of encouragement for all true witnesses of Christ. A true witness of Christ is a prophet who speaks God’s word (not his dreams) into a given situation concerning God’s people. Everybody who has this spirit of prophecy (namely a Scripture-related one, not a diviner’s spirit granting revival and peace to apostate Christianity) is in fact sharing the prophetic ministry of these “two” witnesses. These two witnesses receive “power” from God. Every true witness of Christ can ask God to receive power on the basis of this verse, in order to receive the Holy Spirit’s authority for his or her witness and in order to be able to stand up against the tide of adversity encountered.
4 These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands standing before the God of the earth.
Spiritual authority is granted to those who do not stand before men but before God.
5 And if anyone will hurt them, fire proceeds out of their mouth and devours their enemies. And if anyone will hurt them, so it is right for him to be killed.
In Revelation 6, 9 we saw “... those who had been slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held.” The “two” witnesses in this chapter, however, cannot be quietened until their testimony has been established. They cannot be kicked out of a church respectively kicking them out of a church will not quieten their testimony. This is now something different. Up to then apostles had been kicked out of the synagogues and true Christians out of the churches. But now a witness is established that cannot be destroyed. In the present time a witness against apostate Christianity is emerging that cannot be voted against by a church board or mission board and that will have a tremendous impact. The more those from the camp of apostate Christianity fight against it, the more its impact is increased. Of course the “two” witnesses do not spit out any literal fire and no one is being burned up or killed by them literally. This is merely a description of the spiritual power this end-time brand of Jesus-witnesses has and will have. This could be seen in the past as well, the more a church reformer was attacked, the sharper his witness became and the more thorough false religion got smothered by the fire of the Spirit then. The more apostate the Church becomes (and Christianity is becoming the more apostate the more time is moving towards the Lord’s coming; 2. Thess. 2, 3), the more spiritual authority is allocated to this brand of end-time remnant (and those belonging to this remnant will definetely be more than two persons, at least prior to the rapture). They will experience the words God spoke to Jeremiah: ”And I will make you to this people a fortified wall of bronze; and they shall fight against you, but they shall not overcome you; for I am with you to save you and to deliver you, says the LORD.” Jer. 15, 20
6 a) These have authority to shut up the heaven, that it may not rain in the days of their prophecy.
Verses 5 and 6 are reminiscent of Elijah’s calling fire from heaven, slaughtering Baal’s priests and closing up heaven as well as praying for rain following the people’s repentance (see Jacob 5, 17). The prophecy of the “two” witnesses is affecting apostate Christianity. The sham “blessing” which apostate Christianity is celebrating is suddenly coming to a halt and they feel their spiritual poverty. The hearts become dried up and thirsty, the preaching of the word becomes barren and the souls are suffering hunger. A great spiritual famine is the effect, there will be even more splittings and tensions in the Church and the “two” witnesses will be made responsible for that. But it is not them that have brought “Israel” (the Church) into that situation, it is :”... you and your father's house..., in that you have forsaken the commandments of the LORD, and you have followed the Baals.” (1. Kings 18,18b).
6 b) And they have authority over waters to turn them to blood, and to strike the earth with every plague, as often as they desire.
This is what Moses did in Egypt. The “two” witnesses brand of end time remnant church has the power to eliberate the true remnant of God out from among apostate Christianity. The hardened (“egyptian”) Church leaders are softened by the plagues that will come over them through the ministry of the “two” witnesses.
7 And when they complete their testimony, the beast coming up out of the abyss will make war against them and will overcome them and kill them.
There is a time during which God wants to establish a witness to the truth and during which nobody can stop His witnesses. And there is a time when the witness has been established and when the enemy is allowed to destroy the witnesses. Counterfeit Christians will set “the beast” up against these “two” witnesses. It is then that they experience their Gethsemane and Calvary. This persecution of the true servants of Jesus is not first of all a political affair of the future (though it will be that, too, after the rapture, see commentary to verse 13). It is first and foremost an inner-church affair. The true witnesses of Jesus are “killed” through slander, excommunication and false testimonies raised against them.
8 And their bodies will lie in the street of the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified.
How has the holy city of God, the Church, changed its character! Now it is a “great” city, called Sodom and Egypt. “How has the faithful city become a harlot? It was full of judgment; righteousness lodged in it, but now murderers.” Isa. 1, 21. The Church is now no better than the old Jerusalem which crucified the Lord. Inside the city everybody is feasting a false and spiritually superfluous Passah. Outside the city the true Passah-lamb, Jesus, rejected and executed. This apostate system is called “Sodom” because of its sinfulness and “Egypt” because of its unjust violence which suppresses all true spirituality. For Christ and His witness there is no place left.
9 And many of the peoples and tribes and tongues and nations will see their dead bodies three days and a half, and they will not allow their dead bodies to be put in tombs.
In the name of Christ truthful servants of Christ are “crucified” and publically put up to an open shame. Had this not happened repeated times in church history, one could not believe it. In the end times there are (in v. 9 the tense changes to present) respectively will be Christians who believe in verbal inspiration and the necessity of personal salvation and who will commit such deeds. “...and who have fallen away; it is impossible, I say, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify the Son of God afresh to themselves and put Him to an open shame.” (Hebr. 6, 6).
10 And the ones who dwell on the earth will rejoice over them, and will make merry, and will send one another gifts, because these two prophets tormented those living on the earth.
“The ones who dwell on the earth” can be interpreted in an allegorical way, namely as a type for those sowing to the flesh and being interested in earthly things and not in spiritual things, like Cain, Nimrod and Esau. To them the witness of the “two” witnesses was a torture and their liquidation felt as a relief. Now nobody can punish their sins through the prophetic word any longer. Now the mouth of God is quietened – now God starts speaking through events.
11 And after three days and a half, a spirit of life from God entered into them, and they stood on their feet. And great fear fell on those seeing them.
The wording is almost identical to Hesekiel 37, 10: “So I prophesied as He commanded me, and the Spirit came into them, and they lived and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army.” The power of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who “... by a resurrection of the dead, ... would be the first, going to proclaim light to the people and to the nations.” (Acts 26, 23), is active in all true New Testament believers as well. The apostate people of God is going to see them. Everybody is going to see it. Just like in Mt. 27, 52 and 53 “... many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep arose and coming out of the tomb after His resurrection... went into the holy city and appeared to many”, these “two” witnesses of the end times are going to rise again. This will find a literal fulfillment with a literal resurrection after the rapture (just as all true believers will also be literal, namely bodily raised from among the dead) but true witnesses of Christ can already now find themselves in this verse in a parallel spiritual fulfillment, namely in that their witness is kill-proof. Often times it happens that the apostate religious world seemingly manages to extinguish the witness of Christ and then – whoops – there it is again. Just as only few days after Christ’s death and resurrection Pentecost came and suddenly the witness about Christ was more alive and stingent than ever, the witness of the end time Christian remnant is going to reach at one point a level of impact which nobody would have been able to imagine before. Currently the Christian remnant is pushed aside, none or only very little truly prophetic (not speculative) literature is published, the remnant has to gather in the underground, using the internet and spreading no-profit books publicized mainly through mouth-to-mouth or e-mail-to-e-mail propaganda. It seems as time goes by that apostate Christianity is becoming more and more united against the true remnant of the Church. If you do not believe it, try to propose a manuscript of a truly prophetic book that is calling the church to repentance, to a contemporary Christian books publisher, for publication. But there will come a day shortly before the rapture when the remnant will stand on its feet like an exceedingly great army and those fallen away will not be able to do anything about it.
12 And they heard a great voice from Heaven saying to them, Come up here. And they went up to Heaven in a cloud, and their enemies watched them.
What contemporary prophets of Jesus really need is a fresh vision about Christ’s triumphant victory over death. The spirit of God leads us to a spiritual beholding of the glory of Christ which will lift us up above all negative circumstances and sad, frustrating experiences. The church of the true disciples becomes jubilant leaving their enemies puzzled and confused. If we are risen with Christ and have occupied our spiritual place with Christ in the heavenly places, we can look at things from a God-ward perspective and sadness and fear have to fade away. There will be a new in-filling of the Holy Spirit and the only speculative sign accompanying that in-filling for which scriptural warrant can be found is that the true witness of Christ is going to rise on its feet again, the remnant church is going to triumph over the apostate church. This will take place before the rapture, because as taken in their spiritual, parallel, sense, these passages are not to be placed in the tribulation. In the tribulation, after the rapture, Rev. 11, 3-13 (as well as the rest of Revelation from ch. 4 onwards) finds a literal fulfillment, too. The “beast” for example, will then not be merely a spiritual phenomenon within the church, but a tangible, political power. But until the rapture “the beast” is well and alive within the church, as a mystery-power that cannot be limited to distinct persons.
13 And in that hour a great earthquake occurred, and the tenth part of the city fell. And seven thousand names of men were slain in the earthquake. And the rest were frightened and gave glory to the God of Heaven.
Just as there is a false Israel and a false Church, there is even a false remnant. The “seven thousand names of men” claimed to be the remnant, they identified themselves with the seven thousand “... which have not bowed to Baal...” (1. Kings 19, 18 and Romans 11, 4). But whoever is not truly part of the ISRAEL OF GOD according to Gal. 6, 16, through faith in Christ, belongs to the “perverse generation” from which one has to be saved according to Peter (Acts 2, 40), no matter how much he or she insists on belonging to the remnant. They are not really the “seven thousand men”, they are just “seven thousand names of men”. They are merely having “a name”, they are not living in the reality of being the true remnant.
Preterist commentators compare this “earthquake” to Peter’s sermon at Pentecost through which 3.000 men were saved and which therefore proved to be another fatal blow to the Jewish religious authorities [symbolized here according to some as “the tenth part”, i. e. the system administering the law (“ten commandments”) according to the Old Covenant while having in reality fallen away from God]. Preterism then remains with that and puts everything regarding this passage into the past. Dispensationalists (who, by the way, believe in a re-instauration of the priestly system, including sacrifices plus Jewish King) put it, as usual, exclusively into the future. CRC proposes a spiritual parallel to both: A great earthquake (namely the true witness of Christ that has risen on its feet again) will destroy the apostate counterfeit remnant before the rapture and lead many to Christ. Now the true witnesses of Christ are hidden in fear and frustration and ashamed. They wonder whether they are paranoids or failures. They even become so discouraged that they deny the Lord just like Peter did and try to forget everything, becoming backslidden, just as Peter did when he chose to go fishing again. But one day they will rise on their feet again and instigate a “great earthquake”, just as Peter did at Pentecost with his bold sermon in Acts 2.