God’s Vindication of His “Witnesses”
The “back and forth” of the Book of Revelation meets us again. We noted yesterday that the “two witnesses” represent the Church throughout her history proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, the Church’s message has the power to convert men and save nations. She also has the power to bewilder men, torment them when they refuse to repent, and harden them when they go years refusing the gospel. Nothing in the last two-thousand years has done more to change the world, neither have any other people been more persecuted nor holy book more despised. Left to themselves, men shall always choose their idols over the true God, their flesh over the Spirit, and death over life.
But now the Book reveals for us how matters will be for the Church just before the end, as it did in 6:12-17 just before the opening of the seventh seal. “And when [the witnesses] have finished their testimony, the beast that rises from the bottomless pit will make war on them and kill them.” Revelation speaks more about this “beast” later, but it suffices now to say that the beast represents any and all worldly powers (political, social, et. al) that oppose the Church. That the beast “makes war” on the “two witnesses” proves our point from yesterday that the two witnesses are more than just two individuals but all God’s people (NICNT, 225). That their dead bodies will lie unburied in the “great city” (Rome of John’s day but any and every city of our own), and that unbelievers will actually celebrate with gift-giving as if the death of millions of Christians were cause for holiday, shows in glaring fashion the utter and boundless contempt pagans have for the Church and her message which “had been a torment” to them.
All of this is to show the horrible persecution that shall come upon the Church in the last days. The Church has always endured such, but persecution shall grow far more intense in that time. But we are told that God will vindicate his “witnesses” by calling them to “Come up here,” after a very brief period represented by “three and one-half days” (mirroring the “three and one-half years” sojourn of the Church in the world). If we must speak of a “rapture” in Revelation, this is it (Matthew 24:40-41; Luke 17:34-35; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). And as with 6:12-17, a great earthquake and many deaths signal God’s coming judgment on sinful men. But we must not think that just because “the rest gave glory to God” means that they were converted; it only means they feared God and trembled—like the demons (James 2:19). God always vindicates His great name and people.