A student in Bible School was confused when his theology professor began a series of lectures on Bible prophecy, or “eschatology” as he called it. The professor spoke about pre-millennialism, a-millennialism, and post-millennialism. Then he talked about the pre-trib, mid-trib, and post-trib views of the rapture of the church. It was more than the student could take.
So he folded his arms one day, sat down and said, “I.A.K.”
The professor asked, “What does that mean?”
The student replied, “That means I am confused.”
The professor said, “Confused doesn’t start with a K.” &
The student responded, “You don’t know how confused I am.” (George Sweeting, Why Study Prophecy? Founder’s Week Messages, 1978, p.5-6)
Sometimes the study of Bible prophecy, or eschatology, can be very confusing. The book of Revelation doesn’t make sense to a lot of people, and many find it to be irrelevant to their needs today. After all, who cares about the Great Tribulation to come when you’re going through your own tribulations today?
Yet there is a lot we can learn about handling our own trials by looking at how God’s people will handle their trials during the Great Tribulation. Do you want to know how to handle your trials today? Then turn with me, if you will, to Revelation 11, Revelation 11, where we see how God’s people will handle their trials during the Great Tribulation.
Revelation 11:1 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… (ESV)
During the Great Tribulation, there will be people who worship God.
Revelation 11:2 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. (ESV)
Already several questions present themselves, like what is the Temple of God? And why measure it? Why is the outer court excluded? Why is it given to the Nations if it’s a Jewish Temple. And what does it mean, “They will trample on the holy city for 42 months?”
Well, in my study of Bible prophecy, I have found it best to take things at face value. The Temple here is a literal temple in the Holy City, Jerusalem, that will obviously be rebuilt before or during the Tribulation. Like the last Temple in Jerusalem, it will have an inner court for the Jews and an outer court for the Gentiles. And for a literal period of 42 months, during the Tribulation, other nations will overrun Jerusalem.
Now, that’s not so hard, is it? The question is, “So what?” “What is the significance of all this?” Well, I believe the significance is found in the instruction to “Rise and measure the temple…and those who worship there” (vs.1). It is an expression of ownership. God is evaluating His property.
What do you do when you buy a house? You measure it. I’ve seen people pull out a tape measure and run it along the length and width of what will be their new home. Some people pace the length and width of their property to get an idea of how big it is. In the houses we have purchased over the years, we always paced the floors of each room to get an idea of their dimensions.
When you measure something, it is an expression of ownership. You are evaluating YOUR property. In Zechariah 2, Jerusalem is being measured. Why? Because Zechariah 2:12 says, “The LORD will inherit (or possess) Judah as his portion in the holy land, and will again choose Jerusalem.” God is measuring His property, and that is what God is doing here in Revelation 11. All those who worship God belong to God. So in the midst of your tribulation…
Serve the Lord. Bow before Him and give Him praise.
That’s what God’s people will do during the great tribulation. They are God’s very own people. In fact, these particular ones are Jewish believers in Jesus, because they are in a place where Gentiles are excluded. They are in the Temple, and they are worshipping the true and living God, unlike the rest of the world who will worship the antichrist at this time. These are the ones that God will claim as His very own, even during the Great Tribulation.
Tell me: Do you want God to claim you as His very own during your trials and tribulations? Then do what these people are doing. Worship Him. Praise the Lord even in the midst of your pain.
Steven Galloway's 2008 novel, The Cellist of Sarajevo, tells a fictional story about the real lead cellist in the Sarajevo opera, Vedren Smajlovic. In the novel, Smajlović, put on his formal black tails and sat down on a fire-scorched chair in a bomb crater and began to play (show picture). The crater was outside a bakery in his neighborhood where 22 people waiting in line for bread had been killed the previous day. During the siege of Sarajevo in the early 90s, more than ten thousand people were killed.
The citizens lived in constant fear of shelling and snipers while struggling each day to find food and water. Smajlović lived near one of the few working bakeries where a long line of people had gathered when a shell exploded. He rushed to the scene and was overcome with grief at the carnage.
For the next 22 days, one for each victim of the bombing, he decided to challenge the ugliness of war with his only weapon – beauty. He became known as the “Cellist of Sarajevo.” After that, Smajlović continued to unleash the beauty of his music in graveyards, at funerals, in the rubble of buildings, and in the sniper-infested streets. Although completely vulnerable, he was never shot. It was as if the beauty of his presence repelled the violence of war. His music created an oasis amid the horror. It offered hope to the people of Sarajevo and a vision of beauty to the soldiers who were destroying the city.
In the novel, a reporter asked him if he was crazy for playing in a war zone. Smajlović replied, “Why do you not ask if they are crazy for bombing Sarajevo?” (Skye Jethani, Planting Roses While the World Burns, www.PreachingToday.com)
That’s what worship does: It challenges the ugliness with beauty; it creates an oasis amid the horror; it confronts the insanity with truth.
Christians since the first Century have often faced their pain with worship. The epic film Quo Vadis depicts their struggle in the decadent Roman Empire under Nero in AD 64. Military commander Marcus Vinicius has fallen in love with the beautiful Lygia, a Christian, who refuses to marry him because he rejects her faith. Emperor Nero (Peter Ustinov) has Rome burned down so he can rebuild the city. When the citizens turn on him, he blames the new sect of believers called Christians. Many of them are taken to the Roman arena and thrown to the lions. Take a look… (show Quo Vadis arena scene)
The expectant crowd roars its approval as about 200 Christians are forced into the arena. Soldiers urge them on with whips. Several ferocious lions climb concrete steps up to iron bars that face the arena grounds. One older woman holds a younger woman and prays, “Oh dear Lord Jesus, help me, help me.”
As Emperor Nero watches, his chief commander tells him he may give the signal. Suddenly the apostle Peter enters the arena and in a loud booming voice proclaims to the audience: "Peace! Peace to the martyrs. Peace to them. Take thy children, Lord. Numb their wounds. Suffer their pains. Give them strength, oh Savior. Blessed are you, my children, who die in the name of Jesus. I say to you, that this day you shall be with him in paradise. Here where Nero rules today, Christ shall rule forever." Three guards quickly seize him and take him away to the jeers of the crowd.
Nero asks the commander, “Who is that man?”
"I think he is their leader. A man called Peter. He escaped us before."
"He said Christ would replace me! What sort of…" Nero stops as the martyrs calmly begin to sing a hymn. Nero listens in disbelief. "They're singing!" he says.
The lions pace impatiently behind the iron bars. The crowd looks on in anticipation. Nero signals the trumpeters. The iron bars are slowly lifted and several dozen lions walk out onto the arena grounds to the cheers of the crowd. (Quo Vadis, 1951, MGM, directed by Mervyn LeRoy, written by S. N. Behrman and Sonya Levien, 00:46:25 to 00:50:08; www.PreachingToday.com)
What else can you do in the midst of your pain but worship God? It’s what the early Christians did when they faced Nero. It’s what the Tribulation saints will do when they face the antichrist, and it’s what we must do when we face tribulation of any kind.
Worship God even when you don’t understand the reason WHY. Instead, focus on the WHO behind the why. Look beyond your circumstances to Jesus, who will rule forever where evil men rule today. Look beyond your circumstances to Jesus, who suffered your pain to give you eternal life. Look beyond your circumstances to Jesus, who loves you as His own even when others reject you. In the midst of your tribulation, worship God. Then choose to be a…
WITNESS FOR CHRIST.
Share the good news of about Jesus. Let others know about your Savior.
During the tribulation, God will raise up two very special witnesses.
Revelation 11:3 And I will grant authority to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth.” (ESV)
God will raise up two men who will proclaim His word for 1260 days during the Tribulation. That is 42 months or 3½ years, and my guess is, it is the first 3½ years of the Tribulation. Their message is one of judgment. That’s why they are in sackcloth, or mourning clothes. But who are these two witnesses?
Revelation 11:4 These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth. (ESV)
Well now, that’s very enlightening (tongue-in-cheek). Aren’t you glad it’s real clear now?
Actually, this is a reference to Zechariah 4, where the governor and high priest of Judah were involved in rebuilding the second temple in Jerusalem, about 500 years before Christ. They had just returned from captivity in Babylon, and they wanted to restore the worship of YHWH to God’s people, the Jews. Zechariah 4 calls the governor and high priest “two olive trees,” and that’s the same description we have here in Revelation 11.
The “two olive trees” are probably a reference to a governor and a high priest in Israel, who will spearhead the effort to rebuild the temple during the Tribulation. They will seek to restore the true worship of YHWH to God’s people, the Jews, and thus they are called “two witnesses” here in Revelation 11.
Not too long ago, nobody thought this could ever happen. The Jews were scattered all over the world with no hope of becoming a nation again. But in 1948, the nation of Israel was re-established “in a day.” Then in 1967, during the 6-day war, the Jews recaptured Jerusalem and took control of the city for the first time since the Babylonians destroyed it in the 6th century B.C. Now, just like it was when the Jews retuned from captivity in Babylon, there is a big push to rebuild the Temple.
Several years ago (1999), I had an opportunity to go to Israel with Jimmy DeYoung, a journalist and a frequent speaker on the Radio Bible Class. He took us to the Western Wall of the ancient temple, where Gershom Solomon leads a group, called The Temple Mount Faithful, in prayer every Friday night for the rebuilding of the Temple.
We also went into the Western Wall Tunnel, which goes underground alongside the Temple Mount. In that tunnel, we came to a place where the wall was different, like it had been opened up and cemented over again. Jimmy DeYoung told us that the chief rabbi in Jerusalem had informed him that the Ark of the Covenant was behind that wall. When Jimmy asked him why they hadn’t retrieved it yet, the rabbi said, “Oh, we will when we have a place for it in the Temple.”
We also saw the Young Israel Synagogue and the Institute for Talmudic Commentaries, where Rabbi Nacham has a data base of every Jew qualified to be a priest.
Then we toured the Temple Institute, which for years has been at the forefront of preparing everything needed to rebuild the Jewish Temple on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. They have trained hundreds of priests. They have all the priestly garments in storage, including the blue robe for the High Priest. They have crafted all the Temple implements needed to operate the Temple, and the 4,000 harps needed for Temple music are completed. The work of the people at the Temple Institute over the last 30 years has prepared them to rebuild the Temple, install the priests and reinstitute worship at a Jewish Temple in Jerusalem. (Jimmy DeYoung, “Jimmy’s Prophetic Perspective on the News,” December 9, 2005; www.prophecytoday.com/newsupdate/Dec092005)
Let me tell you, the stage is set right now for these “two witnesses” in Revelation 11 to begin their work of rebuilding the Temple in Jerusalem. Everything is in place, and nobody will be able to stop them!
Revelation 11:5-6 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. (ESV)
They will be like Elijah and Moses, shutting up the sky and turning water into blood. They are invincible until their work is done.
Revelation 11:7 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… (ESV)
This beast, according to Revelation 17, is the revived Roman Empire, which comes to life again after being dead for so long. Actually, it is a loose confederation of nations, controlled by the Antichrist, another “beast” which comes from the sea, according to Revelation 13.
Here’s the point: The Antichrist will lead a confederation of western nations into Jerusalem, where they will kill the “two witnesses,” desecrate the Temple, which has just been rebuilt, and “trample on the holy city for 42 months,” or the last half of the Tribulation. But, at the midpoint of the Tribulation, when the two witnesses are killed…
Revelation 11:8 …their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city that symbolically is called Sodom and Egypt, where their Lord was crucified. (ESV)
That city, of course, is Jerusalem. She is called “Sodom” because of her immorality, and she is called “Egypt” because of her idolatry. It IS the place where Jesus was crucified.
Revelation 11:9-10 For three and a half days some from the peoples and tribes and languages and nations 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. (ESV)
One commentator called this “A Satanic Christmas.” The whole world will throw a big party and give gifts to each other when they see the dead bodies of these two witnesses.
Do you know that’s only recently possible with the development of satellite technology, accessible through your smart phone? At no other time in history has the whole world been able to view live shots from the streets of Jerusalem. One day, the whole world will turn on their electronic devices, see these two witnessed dead in the street, and they will celebrate for 3½ days.
Revelation 11:11-13 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. (ESV)
Up until this point they thought they were dealing with just 2 human witnesses. Now, they know they are dealing with the Living God, who empowered those witnesses and protected them until their work was done.
Do you know, that’s what God does for his witnesses today. Oh, we don’t call down fire from heaven, shut up the sky so the rain doesn’t fall, or turn water into blood. But God DOES empower us and protect us until our work is done.
Then, when death comes, we too look forward to a resurrection! For the Lord himself will descend from heaven, with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first (1 Thessalonians 4:16).
So be a bold witness for the Lord. Even in times of persecution and tribulation, don’t be afraid to tell others about Him.
You have to appreciate the stand Kim Davis, the Rowan County, Kentucky, clerk is making these days. She is a new believer, having come to faith in Christ just four years ago (in 2011). However, she is willing to go to jail for her stand against same-sex marriage. As the Rowan County clerk, she is refusing to issue any marriage licenses, because she cannot in good conscience sign a marriage license for a same-sex couple.
Even so, a federal judge ordered her to issue the licenses, an appeals court upheld that decision, and the U.S. Supreme Court declined to intervene. Should Davis continue to defy the law, she could be fined or sent to jail.
On top of that, she has incurred the wrath of militant LGBT activists and their supporters. She said, “They told my husband they were going to burn us down while we slept in our home.”
Even so, Davis says she will not violate her religious beliefs – and she will not resign her post. “I’m very steadfast in what I believe,” she said. “I don’t leave my conscience and my Christian soul out in my vehicle and come in here and pretend to be something I’m not. It’s easy to talk the talk, but can you walk the walk?”
Now, whether or not you agree with the wisdom of her approach, you have to appreciate her bold witness in the face of such opposition. Even the mainstream media has gotten into the fray, portraying her as a monster – a right-wing, homophobic hypocrite. They have smeared her reputation by tabloid-style reports on her checkered past, writing extensively about her failed marriages.
It’s true, she’s been married four times. But what’s missing in the mainstream media coverage is the context. Her life was radically changed by Jesus Christ in 2011, and since then she has become a different person. She readily admits, “I had created such a pit of sin for myself with my very own hands… My God in heaven knows every crack, every crevice, every deep place in my heart… And he has given me such a beautiful and wonderful grace through all of this.”
So how does she handle the reporters and talking heads who call her a hypocrite? She says, “All I can say to them is if they have a sordid past like what I had, they too can receive the cleansing and renewing, and they can start a fresh life and they can be different. They don’t have to remain in their sin; there’s hope for tomorrow.” (Information from Todd Starnes, “Kentucky Clerk: I Am Prepared to Go to Jail,” Todd’s American Dispatch, September 3, 2015; www.foxnews.com/opinion/2015/09/03/ kentucky-clerk-am-prepared-to-go-to-jail.html?intcmp=hpbt4)
Wow! What a beautiful witness in the face of such hostility! It’s the kind of witness every believer must be, especially as our culture grows increasingly hostile to our biblical values.
In times of tribulation, you only need to do two things: worship God and be a witness for Christ. By God’s grace, don’t waste your pain; use it for God’s glory!