Sunday, July 12, 2009

A Powerful Witness

And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, [even] unto the end of the world. Amen. Matthew 28:18-20 KJV

This passage of scripture has become known as the "Great Commission". It is here that Jesus tells not only His disciples, but all who choose to believe that our responsibility is to be a witness for Him in the world in which we live. I'm sure I am not alone in finding it difficult or intimidating at times to speak out to others about what I believe, and sharing Christ with someone else. It is at times like these that I pray for power to do what I know I should, and for help from the Holy Spirit to say the right thing. There is coming soon, however, a time when two individuals will appear on the scene who won't have a problem speaking out the message of God; and these men are referred to as the "Two Witnesses of Revelation". I want to spend just a little time looking closer at these two individuals to see what they can teach us about witnessing today.

And I will give [power] unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred [and] threescore days, clothed in sackcloth. These are the two olive trees, and the two candlesticks standing before the God of the earth. And if any man will hurt them, fire proceedeth out of their mouth, and devoureth their enemies: and if any man will hurt them, he must in this manner be killed. These have power to shut heaven, that it rain not in the days of their prophecy: and have power over waters to turn them to blood, and to smite the earth with all plagues, as often as they will. Revelation 11:3-6 KJV

So talk about having some power here, these two guys are going to be a serious witness for Christ when they appear. There are several things about these two witnesses I want to mention in the hope they might not only help us understand their role in the tribulation period, but inspire us as well to be better witnesses right now as we appear to be approaching the beginning of that seven year period of time we know as the Tribulation.

Many people have spent a great deal of time trying to identify just who these two men might be, so it might surprise you to hear me say that I really don't believe it matters a whole lot just who they are. I suppose my initial reaction was that if God wanted us to know who they were, He would have told us. I think it's entirely possible that God chose not to tell us in the hope we would understand that in His opinion, anyone can be a witness for Him without having to be a famous, well known person. These two witnesses may well be just two ordinary men chosen by God to fulfill this role at the particular time He appoints.

Speaking of the appointed time, lately I have become aware that a great many people believe that these two witnesses appear at the beginning of the seven year tribulation period, and witness for 1260 days until the mid-point three and one half years into it. However I believe that the greater weight of evidence supports the position they appear at the mid-point of the tribulation when the anti-christ proclaims himself to be God, and then witness during the last three and one half years which is called the Great Tribulation. In his book "The Revelation of Jesus Christ", John F. Walvoord says this;

From the fact, however, that the two witnesses pour out divine judgments upon the earth and need divine protection lest they be killed, it implies that they are in the latter half of the seven years when awful persecution will afflict the people of God, as this protection would not be necessary in the first three and one half years. The punishments and judgments the witnesses inflict on the world also seem to fit better in the great tribulation period.
"The Revelation of Jesus Christ", (Chapter 11, The Two Winesses)

This position is agreed to by pastor Ray Stedman in his book "God's Final Word", where he says this;

These two witnesses are allowed to witness for 1,260 days, i.e., 42 months, or 3-1/2 years -- half of the seven-year period. If the 42 months that the nations trample down the holy city is the first half of that period, as I think it is, then the change to 1,260 days as a time-designation here probably indicates that the witness of these two men is during the last half of the week, or throughout the great tribulation. The Lord Jesus told us that there is coming a time of trouble "such as has never been on earth before," (Matthew 24:21). Even the Nazi Holocaust cannot compare to it. That will be the last 3-1/2 year period of this seven-year section. So, as these two witnesses come onto the stage, we are at the beginning of the great tribulation.
"God's Final Word", (Chapter 17, The Last Warning)

Finally, in his book "Things To Come", J. Dwight Pentecost tells us;

On the other hand, in Revelation 11:2 the "forty and two months" undoubtedly refers to the second half of the Tribulation, and the period of the testimony of the two witnesses seems to be synchronous with this.
"Things To Come", (Chapter 18, pp. 309)

So is it important to understand when these two witnesses are called to serve God in this way? I think so, especially if you look at what is happening during the last part of the tribulation. The anti-christ has just proclaimed himself to be God, and embarks on a campaign to kill all of the Jews he can find. So God produces two witnesses that not only contradict what the anti-christ has to say, they are protected by God and given powers to prove their authenticity. After all, don't you think there will be many during this period of time who will wonder why the anti-christ can't kill these two if he really is God? Timing is everything.

Something else I noticed about these two is the way that they are dressed. Notice they will be clothed in "sackcloth"? This is of course, what the prophets in the Old Testament wore when they appeared to warn of God's coming judgment, but since this is the twenty first century, I think these two are going to stand out like a sore thumb dressed like this. Of course, that isn't all. These two have the power to defend themselves by fire shooting out of their mouths. (Hey, not even Hollywood could come up with that.) Do you think CNN will notice two guys with that ability? Then of course they can stop it from raining, turn water to blood, and bring plagues "as often as they will". You have to believe that after these two show up, the majority of the world is going to watch the news every night just to see what these guys are up to. How frustrating is this going to be to the anti-christ as he tries to advance his program and these two witnesses call him out daily for what he is. Wow.

Finally, after they are finished doing all that God has for them, He will allow them to be killed. This is not, however, the end of their testimony for the Bible tells us that after three and a half days of public display, God will breathe life back into them and they will stand back up in front of all who are watching. Revelation tells us that "great fear" falls upon those who saw them. No kidding? There is just no way I can imagine what will go through the minds of those who see this happen. Then we are told a voice from heaven says come up here, and off they go in the clouds.

What do I get from this story about these two witnesses? One, God has an appointed time that He wants to use them. Doesn't the Great Commission tell us as believers our time is now? Two, by the way they are dressed it's obvious they want to stand out and be noticed. As believers, shouldn't we? Three, they are bold because they know they have power from God to do their witnessing. As believers indwelt by the Holy Spirit, don't we have the power not to be afraid? Finally, four, they are faithful until death, knowing God has the power to raise them up. If we have accepted Jesus Christ as our saviour, don't we have the very same promise?

I hope this helps us all as born again believers to be faithful to witness even more as we see the day approaching.