Revelation 11:11-12

Sermon preached on June 16, 2013 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2013. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at

Unless otherwise noted, quotations are from The Holy Bible: New International Version (NIV). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.

The book,
A Higher Call tells the story of a German World War II hero, Franz Stigler. What's really interesting about the book was that Franz was not just a heroic fighter pilot for his country—he was a hero to some American pilots as well. I'm not going to tell you the main story of the book today, but I want to share with you a little incident from the book.

Before the war started Franz worked as a civilian teaching beginner pilots of the German Air Force. One of his students was his older brother, August. One time August had a week's leave coming which he decided to use to go see his fiancée. She lived about two hundred miles from where they trained and he didn't get to see her very much. On the last day of training before his leave he was sent on a long-distance training flight. His instructor told him to fly from airfield to airfield and at each one to get his logbook stamped by the duty officer in the tower as proof of his stops and training. But when he returned Franz found out that his brother was missing a stamp. August explained that he couldn't find the duty officer at one airport and so he left without it because he was in a hurry to finish and start his vacation.

"In front of the other cadets, Franz tore up August's holiday papers and canceled his leave. August was shocked and angry. Franz told his brother to go prepare an airplane for more training. August obeyed and left Franz's office, sulking.The brothers took to the skies, Franz in front, August behind, to practice August's least favorite mission—flying blind. Soon after takeoff, Franz ordered August 'under the hood.' August pulled a handle and a black cloth covered his canopy, locking him into a cockpit lit only by instruments. Franz flew the plane for a while to disorient August. Then he shouted orders between cockpits and told August which course to steer and for how long. Franz knew that August had no idea where he was going.An hour and a half later, Franz told August he was taking control of the plane. August asked to remove the hood, which was customary, but Franz denied the request. Franz landed the craft, taxied to a stop, and only then told August he could remove the hood. August started to give Franz a piece of his mind for keeping him in the dark for so long, but he stopped mid-sentence."Waiting for him by a hangar on the tarmac was his fiancée. August immediately recognized the airport—Regensburg—they weren't back at Dresden—they were home. August's fiancée giggled at the shock on his face. She knew what Franz had done."

Excerpt From: Adam Makos & Larry Alexander. "A Higher Call." Berkley Caliber, 2012-12-31.

That's a great story of the love between two brothers. I particularly like how in an instant August went from being frustrated and greatly disappointed—to great joy. He thought his week was ruined and all of a sudden he realized it was going to be an absolutely wonderful vacation.

In cases like that I love sudden reversals—where a situation turns from being really bad to being exceedingly good. That's the way that it is for the two witnesses (the church) in our text. We read, (Revelation 11:11–12)

"But after the three and a half days
a breath of life from God entered them,
and they stood on their feet,
and terror struck 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,
while their enemies looked on."

One of the things that we Christians should be convinced of is God's power to deliver us. What we have in our text is an example of

God's great power, specifically God's power to give life, God's power to deliver from everything that God's enemies can do to us.

After 3 ½ days the breath of life from God entered the two witness and they stood on their feet. Then there was a voice from heaven telling them to come up—and they went into heaven in a cloud, while their enemies looked on.

For awhile it seemed that God had deserted the witnesses, that their enemies had triumphed. But that was not so.

There are a number of important things to note here that should help our faith in regard to God's power to deliver.

First, note the reference to the breath of God entering them.

This harkens back to Ezekiel 37 and the Valley of Dry Bones. In Ezekiel 37:10 we read,

"So I prophesied as he commanded me,
and breath entered them;
they came to life and
stood up on their feet—
a vast army."

It's almost the same language and we have in our text. The prophecy in Ezekiel is about how God would restore Israel out of the Babylon exile. The nation of Israel was likened to corpses. Only they are not the corpses of those recently killed—only dry bones remained. The Spirit asked Ezekiel if the bones could live? Ezekiel wasn't sure—he answered that the Lord alone knew. Then he heard a noise, a rattling sound, and bones came together, bone to bone. Then tendons and flesh appeared on them and skin covered them. Then breath came into them and they stood on their feet—a vast army.

The point is that God can give life to His people even after they are dead and seem defeated.

Life comes from God. Death cannot separate us from Him nor can it hold us in its power.

Our text also reminds us of Genesis 2:7, the original creation of man. We read,

"the Lord God formed the man
from the dust of the ground
and breathed into his nostrils
the breath of life,
and the man became a living being."

God gives life. One of the great truths that we as Christians should always remember is as, Acts 3:15 says,

Jesus is the author of life.

He gives life. as Elihu said in Job 33:4,

"The Spirit of God has made me;
the breath of the Almighty gives me life."

We don't have to be afraid of losing our lives because Jesus hold life in His hands. He will take care of His people. That's why Jesus could say, (Matthew 16:25)

"whoever loses his life for me
will find it."

Jesus possesses ultimate authority over life. As we read in Revelation 1, Jesus said that He was dead and is alive and lives forever more. He ever lives to give us life. Death has no power over Christians. Because we are in Christ it belongs to us now. As Paul told the Corinthian Christians, (1 Corinthians 3:21–23)

"All things are yours, whether…
the world or life or death
or the present or the future—
all are yours,
and you are of Christ,
and Christ is of God."

Secondly, note the pattern here—they lie dead for three and a half days and then they are raised.

This is significant—in two ways. First of all, as we saw a few week ago the 3 ½ is half of seven. Seven denotes fulness and half of that indicates that God intervenes and cuts the time of their disgrace and humiliation in half. Grant R. Osborne writes, (Revelation, BECNT; p. 429)

"The 'three-and-a-half-day' duration of the celebration is mentioned again (after 11:9) for emphasis; the time is cut short, as is common in apocalyptic literature, to demonstrate the sovereignty of God over the forces of evil."

God is in control.

Secondly, some commentators see an allusion here to the 3 days that Jesus was in the tomb. It's not exact, but it's close. Grant R. Osborne writes, (Revelation, BECNT; p. 429)

"As the three years of the drought under Elijah were apocalyptically extended to three and a half years in the NT (11:6), so the time of Jesus in the tomb is linked to the three and a half days here."

But it's not just the time that is significant, it's the pattern. R. C. H. Lenski writes, (Revelation)

"Here is a resurrection, followed by an ascension, that are somewhat, though only somewhat, like those of the Lord."

Jesus' people are linked to Him. The pattern is death and then resurrection. Vern Poythress writes, (The Returning King, p. 131)

"Christ's martyrdom and resurrection provide the pattern, the firstfruits (1 Cor. 15:23, 49) We who belong to Christ cannot but share in his victory."

If we reflect what is going on here theologically, we see that it is absolutely necessary that these two witnesses (the church) be raised from the dead. Jesus, by virtue of His death and resurrection, has defeated death. The great curse that was against us has been dealt with. Death has no lasting claim on us. Physical death has lost it's power over those who belong to Jesus. As the apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 15:44–45,

"If there is a natural body,
there is also a spiritual body.
So it is written:
'The first man Adam
became a living being';
the last Adam,
a life-giving spirit."

Jesus became a life-giving Spirit. He breathed life into His two witnesses. So what we have in view here is not just the power of God exhibited in the resurrection of these two witnesses—but the absolute necessity of them being raised and ascending into heaven. As 1 Corinthians 15:23 says,

"But each in his own turn:
Christ, the firstfruits;
then, when he comes,
those who belong to him."

Notice how the Holy Spirit puts it in 1 Corinthians 15:53,

"For the perishable
must clothe itself
with the imperishable,
and the mortal with immortality."

The word 'must' is noteworthy. That's exactly what the Greek word means. It's refers to something that is, (BDAG, 214)

"under necessity of happening,"

As verse 49 of 1 Corinthians 15 says,

"And just as we have borne
the likeness of the earthly man,
so shall we bear the likeness
of the man from heaven."

R. C. H. Lenski writes, (Revelation)

"Even hell and its beast and the whole world of men cannot conquer the Word."

God's witness rise to their feet and are called up to heaven. This is something that follows the pattern of our Lord's death and resurrection. The resurrection of the two witnesses has to take place. It cannot be otherwise.

The third thing we see from our text is that

God vindicates His servants in the most dramatic, the best possible way.

God spoke to them from heaven telling them to come up. Then they ascend into heaven in a cloud in front of their enemies. Nothing could be greater than this. We will experience a loud voice telling us to come up into heaven. This is a heavenly voice of approval. Jesus had these voices of approval when He was on earth, first at His baptism and then on the Mountain of Transfiguration. How wonderful it will be to hear that voice!

Then, like Elijah we will ascend into heaven to be with the Lord.

Death is left behind once and for all. Satan and his plans are completely thwarted. As Simon J. Kistemaker writes, (Revelation, p. 338)

"Their ascension signifies full and complete victory over the evil one."

Our enemies will see it.

We will go up in a cloud—the cloud of God's glory and we will enter into it and so be with the Lord forever.

Now what does this mean for us in practical terms?

First, of all, two lessons about vindication. First, our text shows us that

we don't have to worry about vindicating ourselves.

God is going to vindicate us. God is going to vindicate us in a glorious manner.

Vindication is important to us. Vindication has to do with righting a wrong, with defeating wrong, with establishing the truth.

Vindication is also important to God. He is more concerned with righting wrongs than we are. He is more concerned with defeating wrong than we are. He is more concerned with establishing truth that we are.

So we can leave it with him. He will vindicate us in the best, the most glorious, the most wonderful way. Our enemies will see it and know.

Secondly, regarding vindication,

during the time that you're waiting for vindication, there is an opportunity to experience closeness to our Savior, because there was a period of time when He was not vindicated.

Toward the end of Jesus' life there was a time when He as not vindicated. I'm not sure the exact length of time that was, but we could say that it was at least from the time of the last great miracle that He performed until He died. But perhaps more accurately, we could say that it was from the time that He performed His last great miracle to the time that He rose from the dead.

In His miracles Jesus relied on the power of His Father and His Father showed His power through His Son. During His earthly ministry Jesus' miracles, were, to an extent, a vindication. But at some point Jesus performed His last great miracle. I'm not sure which it was. Possibly we're not even told about it. In Luke's gospel we're told that He healed the ear of the high priest's servant, the ear that Peter cut off. But that wasn't a great miracle because the effects of that were negligible. The soldiers still arrested him and took Him in. One of the miracles mention before that was the fig tree withering. Again, that was a miracle that was unnoticed, except by the disciples. It could be that Jesus last great miracle was the raising of Lazerus from the dead. That certainly was a vindication. But after that, until His death on the cross, there was little vindication. During that time He was despised, ridiculed, humiliated, shamed. Pilate's attempt to vindicate Jesus was quickly crushed. He told the crowd that Jesus had done nothing wrong. But he was shouted down with shouts of, 'Crucify Him.' While He was on the cross there was no vindication, unless you see the darkness as being a sort of vindication. But if it was a sign of vindication, most missed it. The sign that Pilate put above Him— "This is Jesus, the King of the Jews", was in a very small way, a vindication, but I suspect it was primarily a way for the Romans to mock the Jews.

When Jesus died there were some great tokens of vindication—Matthew 27:51ff) The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook and the rocks split. The tombs broke open and the bodies of many holy people were raised to life and they went into the holy city and appeared to many people. The centurion and the soldiers were terrified when Jesus died and exclaimed, (Matthew 27:54)

"Surely He was the Son of God!"

But they were only partial—previews of a much greater vindication to come. Jesus' body remained in the grave. His enemies, in spite of the earthquake, in spite of the temple curtain being torn—still, to a great degree thought that they were victorious and that Jesus was defeated. His real vindication came when He rose from the dead and when He ascended into heaven and sat down at the Father's right hand.

Jesus' vindication took a long time—a long and difficult time. You too, will have to wait for your full vindication. In doing so you are like your Savior. In such a time you are sharing in the sufferings of our Savior. (Philippians 3:10) Take comfort in such a time. Rejoice in having such an experience. Cultivate such a time and use it to grow in holiness, use it to become more like your great Savior.

The third application that we should take from our text is that

we don't have to wait for our bodily resurrection to have confidence in God's power.

The last day is going to be great. There will be nothing like it. We're going to ascend in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. (1 Thessalonians 4:17)

But what we should realize is that resurrection power is available to us now. In Ephesians 1:18–23 Paul prayed for the Ephesian Christians this way,

"I pray also that
the eyes of your heart may be enlightened
in order that you may know the hope
to which he has called you,
the riches of his glorious inheritance
in the saints,
and his incomparably great power
for us who believe.
That power is like the working
of his mighty strength,
which he exerted in Christ
when he raised him from the dead
and seated him at his right hand
in the heavenly realms,
far above all rule and authority,
power and dominion,
and every title that can be given,
not only in the present age
but also in the one to come.
And God placed all things
under his feet and appointed him
to be head over everything for the church,
which is his body, the fullness of him
who fills everything in every way."

His incomparably great power is available for us now.

Often we feel powerless. Our prayers, at times, seem totally ineffective. Circumstances seem to conspire against us. It seems that we are being overcome and defeated.

But it only seems that way. We have God's power to stand for the truth and proclaim it. We have God's power to return love for hate. We have God's power to bless when we are cursed. We have God's power to do good to others when they despitefully use us. We have God's power to demolish strongholds. (2 Corinthians 10:4)

So Christians, take heart. When you live in such ways you are being vindicated. Others will try to ignore it—but as 1 Peter 2:12 says,

"Live such good lives
among the pagans that,
though they accuse you of doing wrong,
they may see your good deeds
and glorify God on the day he visits us."

Lastly, for those of you who are not Christians,

realize that unless you go to Jesus, on the last day you are not going to be vindicated.

You are not going to be raised and told to go up into heaven. No. You are going to be raised from the dead, but as Jesus said in John 5:24, you,

"will rise to be condemned."

Jesus will say to you, (Matthew 25:41)

"Depart from me,
you who are cursed,
into the eternal fire
prepared for the devil and his angels."

Don't let that happen to you. Go to Jesus and find life.