Reading for Monday, Nov 26: Revelation 11
In chapter 11, John continues to pile on the OT allusions and references. He is immediately given a measuring rod and told to measure the dimensions of the temple of God, hearkening back to the episode in Ezekiel 40. My belief is that the temple here is less a physical structure and more of a reference to the people of God, as in 1 Cor 3, Eph 2, and 1 Pet 2. The court outside the temple is given over the nations for trampling; think of Rome’s oppression of the early church; think of the opposition each believer has faced throughout history. But this oppression is finite, as indicated by the forty-two months of v2.
Two witnesses emerge as enduring prophetic representatives in the face of all that follows. Once again, I understand this to be a highly figurative reference to the community of faith. In Deuteronomy 19, the OT Law stipulates that two witnesses are required in order for testimony to be valid. Alluding back to this, John sees two witnesses (we might say, faithful witnesses, given his language at the beginning of the letter) — and these witnesses collectively proclaim God’s activity, even in the midst of the adversity that is to come.
After this testimony, the best rises from the bottomless pit and wages his war against these witnesses. In fact, it looks as if he is victorious, at least by all human accounting. “But after the three and a half days, a breath of life from God entered them, and they stood on their feet, and great fear fell on those who saw them,” (v11). John is acknowledging that we will face adversity, even feeling at times that spiritual forces are waging war against us. But Revelation’s consistent message to us is one of perseverance. This time of tribulation is finite; it will not endure. The promise of resurrection and vindication has been fuel for the church’s imaginative sense of hope for two thousand years. And this same hope is borne anew among the conquering faithful even today.
The seventh seal is finally opened and we see scenes of blissful glory: “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever,” (v15). This, my friends, is how all things will end.
May this word encourage us today, whatever situations may befall us.