Summary: The events of the interlude between the sixth and seventh trumpets teach us about proper worship and guide us as witnesses for Jesus.
Last night the University of Arizona played Oregon State in football. There were maybe around 200 people or so who participated in that event – coaches, players, officials, managers, trainers, etc. But together they represented less than ½ 0f 1% of the 56,000 fans in the stadium and a far smaller percentage if you include the people who watched the game on TV or the internet or listened to it on the radio.
But unlike football, being a Christ follower was never intended to be a spectator event. Last week, we began to look at an interlude between the sixth and seventh trumpets in which all the action around John stops so that John can experience a one-on-one encounter with God where John becomes a participant in what is occurring rather than merely a spectator. That interlude continues in the passage that we’ll read this morning in Revelation 11, beginning in verse 1. Go ahead and turn in your bibles to that chapter and you can follow along as I read in just a moment.
But before we go any further, I need to remind us of an important principle that we’re using in our journey, and perhaps do a better job of communicating that principle than I’ve done in the past.
We must keep in mind that the Book of Revelation is Hebrew apocalyptic literature. John is a Jew, and even if He wrote this book in Greek, he is writing from a Hebrew mindset. We would do the same thing if we were translating something from English to a foreign language. In fact, when I was ministering at the Korean Baptist Church here in town and preached to a mixed audience of Korean and English speakers and had my sermon translated, I realized just how difficult it was for the Korean pastor to translate my words in a way that made sense to people from a different culture. I guess that’s why occasionally just one sentence from my message became a paragraph as he translated.
One important attribute of Hebrew apocalyptic literature is that it contains both literal and symbolic, or figurative, elements. In order to identify which elements are literal and which are figurative, we must consider the text itself, the context, and any other supporting texts.
And unless there is something in that process to indicate that something is to be taken figuratively, our consistent approach has been to take the elements literally. That approach is going to be absolutely essential to our examination of the passage before us this morning. With that in mind, follow along as I read our passage:
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, 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. 3 And I will grant authority to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth.”
4 These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth. 5 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. 6 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. 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, 8 and their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city that symbolically is called Sodom and Egypt, where their Lord was crucified. 9 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,
10 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. 11 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. 12 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. 13 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.