The Rollercoaster Rolls on:
“Then I was given a measuring rod
like a staff,
and I was told,
“Rise and measure the temple of God
and the altar
and those who worship there,
but do not measure the court outside the temple;
leave that out,
for it is given over to the nations,
and they will trample the holy city
for forty-two months.
And I will grant authority to my two witnesses,
and they will prophesy for 1,260 days,
clothed in sackcloth.”
These are the two olive trees
and the two lampstands
that stand before the Lord of the earth.
And if anyone would harm them,
fire pours from their mouth
and consumes their foes.
If anyone would harm them,
this is how he is doomed to be killed.
They have the power to shut the sky,
that no rain may fall during the days of their prophesying,
and they have power over the waters
to turn them into blood
and to strike the earth with every kind of plague,
as often as they desire.
And when they have finished their testimony,
the beast that rises from the bottomless pit
will make war on them
and conquer them
and kill them,
and their dead bodies
will lie in the street of the great city
that symbolically is called Sodom
where their Lord was crucified.
For three and a half days
some from the peoples
will gaze at their dead bodies
and refuse to let them be placed in a tomb,
and those who dwell on the earth
will rejoice over them
and make merry
and exchange presents,
because these two prophets had been a torment
to those who dwell on the earth.
But after the three and a half days
a breath of life from God entered them,
and they stood up on their feet,
and great fear fell on those who saw them.
Then they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them,
“Come up here!”
And they went up to heaven in a cloud,
and their enemies watched them.
And at that hour
there was a great earthquake,
and a tenth of the city fell.
Seven thousand people were killed in the earthquake,
and the rest were terrified
and gave glory to the God of heaven.
The second woe has passed;
behold, the third woe is soon to come.”
Is it coincidence that my neighbors’ young toddler went from crying to laughing, back to crying and is now laughing, in the span of about 3 1/2 minutes? Normally, I come up with a title after writing some. Today as I wrote out the Biblical passage, the title popped into my head. In the time it took to write it, and the heading, I heard a cry, a laugh, another cry and another laugh. I’m not taking it as a divine sign, but we learned last time that God is in complete control. Also, there is a trifold meaning within the title; let’s see if we can work it out.
First–superlative in order–not importance, Revelation truly is a rollercoaster of emotions. We’re up, we’re down, we’re spinning round and round. In chapter 11, everything seems to begin well enough. We’re still resting on the comfort of God in chapter 10. Chapter 11 begins basically benign, as John is told to measure the temple (trust me, we’ll get back to this). He’s told to leave out the outer court, it’s going to be for the nations; still nothing seemingly earth-shattering there. Even when we read that they are going to trample the holy city for 42 months, we’re still not greatly concerned; though perhaps we should be. Enter the two witnesses–now our blood is pumping; that’s right, fire-breathing Moses and Elijah, preaching to the torment of the people. But then they’re killed and people give gifts? Now we quickly dive deep into dismay. But it’s ok, God revives them! They go to heaven and Earth suffers a quake and many people die…And so forth. However, we may be reading this wrong.
If I were the typical writer in America, the first (superlative in rank and importance, to them) thing I would say is, verse seven “is the Antichrist.” I would site, erroneously, numerous passages of the Bible, taken out of context.
In the CAGED method, context is King. However, using the entire context of Revelation, one finds that there is no context concerning the Antichrist; not even mentioned once, nor is the rapture. I know the argument–the Trinity is never mentioned in the Bible but we believe in that. Yes, because it is clearly stated from Genesis 1:2, all the way through to Revelation. Let’s be honest, that is a jaundiced juxtaposition, filled with envy. Example: a person tells you, “I don’t believe in the Trinity because the Bible never specifically states the word, ‘Trinity.'” What would your response be? You wouldn’t say, “well, revelation never specifically mentions the Antichrist but he’s obviously there.” That response is rooted in bitterness. Rather, you would explain that one of the major themes in the Bible is God’s oneness and yet, his plurality. In Genesis; the Spirit of God used to hover over the waters. Also, God said, “let us make man in our image,” clearly conveying plurality. Skipping ahead to John 8 for time’s sake; “Before Abraham was, I am.” And what Peter said in Acts, Why do you lie to the Holy Spirit, you haven’t lied to man but to God. And of course, my favorite, “John to the seven churches that are in Asia: Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth.” Does God love the number 3 or what? Throughout the Bible, the Trinity is clearly and concisely explained. Not so with the Antichrist in Revelation.
The Antichrist is clearly and concisely explained in 1st and 2nd John–nowhere else. The Antichrist or, antichrists, are those that deny Christ came in the flesh, end of story. I am thinking back to the very reason I started this blog–the line I tell to all my students–unless you are learning for yourselves, you only know what you have been taught. I promise you, if you read the Bible fresh, without presuppositions, using the CAGED method, where: Context is King, applying the author’s aspirations to his audience amplifies, the Genre is General, Expository exegesis enlightens the intended meaning and dividing rightly reaches the proper conclusions, you will not assume that Revelation 11:7 is referring to the Antichrist. None of these principles support the theory. And that is all it is, a theory; a poorly constructed, contextually, theory. Have you ever noticed that it is often said, “this is the Antichrist,” but it’s never found in the context? If I read Revelation 1 and say, this is the Trinity, contextually, it makes sense. Yet one must pull the proverbial rabbit out of the hat to link Revelation 7 with an Antichrist rather than the beast. Here is the second allusion in my title; you’ve quickly been moved to dismay. You truly believe that this is the Antichrist; it’s what you have been taught. This must be the Antichrist; except that it isn’t, so accept that it isn’t. Once again, the same John that wrote 1st and 2nd John, also wrote Revelation. Can we not assume that if this were the Antichrist of which he had written, he would call him the Antichrist? This may actually help: the beast is much worse than the Antichrist. The Antichrist was; or is, more like a false prophet. He preached that Jesus did not come in the flesh. The beast is far worse. He is; or was, a monster. Hence the name, beast. Are we decidedly delving deep into dismay and disparity? Let not your heart be troubled; though it does get worse, literally and figuratively.
You want answers. You don’t believe me but you want to give me the benefit of the doubt. You’ve read this far and desire for me to fully explain the difference between the Antichrist and the beast. Problem: I can’t do that fully at this point and stay true to proper exegesis. This is my point when speaking of most pre-tribulation writers when they emphatically state, “this is the Antichrist.” In order to try to prove their hypothesis, they must jump from passage to passage so that they can say, “this is the Antichrist.” They’re wrong and we will prove it more thoroughly as we continue, using the CAGED method. You may think I am taking verses out of context myself, but ultimately, I am displaying their disparity. I am simply stating that within the context, there is no Antichrist mentioned. Context is king; we have read zero about an Antichrist thus far, agreed? We haven’t read about a pre-tribulation rapture either; but I digress.
Context: John is given a staff to measure the temple. Problem; after 70 AD, there is no temple. Another problem for my amillennial friends, the court is given to the gentiles, who trample the city, therefore, it can’t be a heavenly, Spiritual temple. Problem number 3: it can’t be a future temple because Jesus can return at any time. Solution, it was Herod’s temple, prior to 70 AD. No? Impossible? I thought all things were possible with God? For argument’s sake, could we set aside our disbelief and entertain the thought that it’s possible if not plausible?
As we have mentioned, the court is not measured. It’s given over to the nations, and they trample the holy city for 42 months. 3.5 years, exactly one half of the spiritually complete number of seven. Again, context is king, and genre is general. We’re not looking at 42 months specifically but the representation of the number.
If you thought we weren’t controversial before–enter the two witnesses. Clearly the context draws from two Biblically historical and prominent figures, Moses, the law-giver and thorn in the side Pharaoh, and Elijah, the prophet who shut up the sky. Quite unbelievable to me, there are those, who teach our children, that believe the two witnesses are literally Moses and Elijah. They support this claim by the context, which is good, but they also claim that it is due to the fact that neither Moses or Elijah died–they were raptured. While this is true with Elijah, Moses did die. “Moses my servant is dead…” -Joshua 1:2. The argument: we never actually read about him dying, Joshua simply states that Moses is no longer on the earth. Why don’t we take historical genre literally but we force a literal translation on apocalyptic genre? Newsflash: Moses is dead. And Hebrews emphatically explains that a man dies once. If one of the two witnesses is literally Moses, Hebrews lies. Again, context is King and the genre is general. The two witnesses are clearly metaphorical–like Moses and Elijah. Notice the context; they wear sackcloth, like John the Baptist and other prophets, such as Isaiah. That is, until he gets naked. Also, the two witnesses are compared to the two olive trees and lampstands in Zechariah. Those men are confirmed to be Zerubbabel, the governor and Joshua, the high priest. We also will do well to remember that the law, given by Moses, states; “a single witness shall not suffice against a person for any crime or for any wrong in connection with any offense that he has committed. Only on the evidence of two witnesses or of three witnesses shall a charge be established.” Deuteronomy 19:15. Ultimately, the two witnesses, as most of the prophesies in the Bible, find their culmination in Christ. He died and rose again. He witnessed for approximately 1,260 days, he had 2 witnesses in the Father and the Spirit (remembering his baptism), and he spoke of judgement. The two witnesses are metaphorical of the Biblical account up until this point. No, they don’t shoot literal flames out of their mouth. The figurative language used describes the power of the word of God. We have to be honest, that’s way cooler than blow torches–literally. It’s not literal fire that consumes their enemies, but the message that they bring.
After this, the beast gets them. In a horrifying display of self-centered evil, the people rejoice over their dead bodies. Again, the allusion is comparable to Christ. Not particularly appreciating the message, the masses rejoice over the silenced prophets.
Their dead bodies are left to rot in Jerusalem, the “city of peace,” figuratively called Sodom, for its perversion and Egypt, because of its slavery. Yet very similar to Jesus, they are risen after 3 1/2 days after an earthquake. Symbolism abounds here. Don’t miss it. The metaphorical meanings swallow up the literal translation. Moses and Elijah returning with blowtorches in their mouths appears to be very convincing, but considering the context and genre, a much deeper meaning rises up. And as it should, it all points to Christ. The two witnesses represent more than Moses and Elijah, they represent all of his servants and he, himself.
Those in the city who were not killed by the earthquake, were moved to give God the glory. Interesting, we’ll be zooming in on this next time. For now, count the times you hear a teacher of Revelation say, “this is the Antichrist.” I’m not kidding, they just can’t help themselves. That’s because the context never says it, so they have to.
Capricious Consternation, us or them? What does it mean? Do we rapidly descend into despair at the reading of Revelation? Did the first century church delve deeper into depression? What was John thinking as he saw these visions? I think it is fair to say that John fully understood that which God revealed to him. We must read Revelation keeping that in mind. John wasn’t confused by 20th; sorry, I always do that, 21st century phenomenon. The unveiling made sense to him and the first century church.