Revelation 11:7-10


Sermon preached on May 26, 2013 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2013. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at http://www.cantonnewlife.org/.

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.

Michael Horton has written a great little book called,
A Place for Weakness. It's designed to help Christians prepare for suffering. Horton opens the book by telling about the last months of the lives of his father and mother. When his father was 78 he was diagnosed with a brain tumor that required surgery. The surgery failed. His father lived for nearly a year after that, almost paralyzed from head to toe. It was a very difficult year for those who loved him, seeing him suffer like that. His wife took care of him for most of the time but then, after about 10 months of looking after her husband, she suffered a massive stroke and became totally dependent on others to take care of her. Horton writes,

"I recalled a couple of times in the past when my parents had mentioned their worst fears about old age. For my dad, a debilitating disease would be the most horrible way of death, he said; for my mom, it was being a burden — and from their caregiving experience they knew both well. In my darker moments, I wondered why God would allow them to experience their worst scenarios in the last act of their play, especially when they had done so much for so many others."



That's puzzling isn't it? Their worst fears about old age were realized. God allowed them to experience the exact thing that they didn't want to experience. Why would God allow that to happen to them? On the surface it might seem to suggest that God didn't care about them at—that all their devotion to Him was for nothing.

What happened to Michael Horton's parents was not unique. It has happened to many other Christians. There have been some Christians who have prayed to God and asked Him not to have one special thing not happen to them—and that's exactly what came upon them. When he was in Strasbourg, after he was kicked out of Geneva, the last place that John Calvin wanted to go back to was Geneva. After he found out that there was a movement afoot to call him back to Geneva, he wrote to his friend William Farel, (Letter of March 29, 1540)

"…rather would I submit to death a hundred times than to that cross, on which I had to perish daily a thousand times over."



Yet, where did God call him? Back to Geneva.

The same thing happened to Moses. When God called him at the burning bush he didn't want to go back to Egypt and lead God's people out. He was a wanted man there. He was afraid of being recognized and killed. He gave excuse after excuse and when he ran out of excuses, he said to God, (Exodus 4:13)

"please send someone else to do it."

When he went to Egypt and told the Israelites that God cared about them and was going to deliver them, the Israelites were glad. But then Pharaoh made their work harder and they complained to Moses. Moses said to God, (Exodus 5:22–23)

"O Lord, why have you brought trouble upon this people?
Is this why you sent me?
Ever since I went to Pharaoh
to speak in your name, he has brought trouble
upon this people, and you have
not rescued your people at all."

The very thing that Moses didn't want God to do to him—God did that to him.

In the Old Testament we read the story of the Shunammite woman who was hospitable to the prophet Elisha. She and her husband provided a room for him to stay whenever he was in their area. After sometime Elisha was staying at her house and he asked her what he could do for her—to speak to the king or the commander of the army on her behalf. She refused to ask for anything. Then Gehazi told Elisha that she had no son. So Elisha called her in and told her that in about a year she would hold a son in her arms. It was too much for her to hope for. She said, (2 Kings 4:16)

"No, my lord. Don't mislead
your servant, O man of God!"

But she became pregnant and had a son. But before he was very old he was in the field with his father and said,

"My head! My head!"

They carried him to his mother and he died shortly afterwards. She went to Elisha and said,

"Did I ask you for a son, my lord?
Didn't I tell you, 'Don't raise my hopes'?"

Why would God do that? It was so hard on the Shunammite woman. It was also very difficult for Elisha. He got the woman's hopes up and she was in anguish because her son died.

Jesus is the Good Shepherd. Jesus loves us. God is a better parent to us than we are to our children. In Matthew 7:11 Jesus said to His disciples,

"If you, then, though you are evil,
know how to give good gifts
to your children, how much more
will your Father in heaven
give good gifts to those who ask him!"

So why would God sometimes allow Christian's worst fears to come upon them? Why would our Good Shepherd allow His people to suffer humiliation and defeat? Our text is another example of this. It reads,

"Now when they have finished
their testimony, the beast that comes
up from the Abyss will attack them,
and overpower and kill them.
Their bodies will lie in the street of the great city,
which is figuratively called Sodom and Egypt,
where also their Lord was crucified.
For three and a half days men from every people, tribe,
language and nation will gaze
on their bodies and refuse them burial.
The inhabitants of the earth will gloat
over them and will celebrate
by sending each other gifts,
because these two prophets had
tormented those who live on the earth."

They are killed and disgraced. That fact that their bodies laid unburied for 3 ½ days is significant. Grant R. Osborne writes, (Revelation, BECNT; p. 426)

"To refuse to allow burial for the dead was a terrible insult in the ancient world (see Gen. 40:19; 1 Sam. 17:43–47; 2 Kings 9:10; Tob. 2:1–8; Josephus, J.W. 3.8.5–6 §§376–84). This emphasizes the universal scorn heaped upon the witnesses after they are martyred."



The inhabitants of the earth rejoice over their deaths. They exchange presents with each other and are filled with glee.

This passage is important for us because it teaches us things about the Christian life.

The main principle we see here is that

there is often a great discrepancy between how much God loves us and what happens to us on this earth.

We see it in our text. These are God's two witnesses. They serve Him faithfully. But they are killed and their bodies desecrated. This doesn't seem in line with the fact that God loves them very dearly.

But we know that God loved them. They were His faithful witnesses and He loved them. They were faithful to death just like Antipas of the church of Pergamum. Yet Jesus loved Antipas and He commended him in Revelation 2:13.

Jesus died for us. He chose to come to this earth and take the horrible curse for our sins. It's hard to imagine what He endured. The physical pain must have been incredible. The shame and humiliation of his death is almost unspeakable. What is very difficult for us to grasp is the spiritual torments that He endured, how He underwent the wrath of God, how He suffered the unbearable anguish of being associated with our sins, how He endured the separation from the Father.

Yet we know that He did it because He loves us. As 1 John 3.16 says

"This is how we know what love is:
Jesus Christ laid down his life for us."

Such things show us the love of Jesus for us.

We also know that the Father loves us dearly. He was the One that sent His one and only Son to die for our sins. (John 3:16) To have His beloved suffer like that on our behalf—His love for us is so great that some of it is beyond our understanding.

The Spirit loves us. He is the One that opens our eyes to the glory of Jesus and unites us to Him. He is God's presence with us.

God love us so dearly. In Zechariah 2:8 the prophet told the people of God that,

"whoever touches you
touches the apple of his eye"

John Calvin comments,

"the love of God towards the faithful is so tender that when they are hurt he burns with so much displeasure, as though one attempted to pierce his eyes. For God cannot otherwise set forth how much and how ardently he loves us, and how careful he is of our salvation, than by comparing us to the apple of his eye. There is nothing, as we know, more delicate, or more tender, then this is in the body of man; for were one to bite my finger, or prick my arm or my legs, or even severely to would me, I should feel no such pain as by having my eye or the pupil of my eye injured. God then by this solemn message declares, that the Church is to him like the apple of his eye, so that he can by no means bear it to be hurt or touched."



When we are injured, God takes it personally.

Yet God's people suffer so much. God's two witnesses are killed by the beast. Their bodies lie unburied.

We have many other examples of this in the Bible. Job suffered severely even though he was the most righteous man of the earth. The end of Hebrews 11 describes some of the other suffering of the Old Testament saints. We read, (verses 36–37)

"Some faced jeers and flogging,
while still others were chained and put in prison.
They were stoned; they were sawed in two;
they were put to death by the sword.
They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute,
persecuted and mistreated."

Things like that often happen to Christians. In Revelation 13:7 we are told about the beast out of the sea.

"He was given power to make war
against the saints and to conquer them."

Later in Revelation 13 we read about the beast from the earth, who, (Revelation 13:15)

"He was given power to give breath
to the image of the first beast, so that it could speak
and cause all who refused
to worship the image to be killed."

Verse 17 goes on to tell us that if anyone refused to receive the mark of the beast they could not buy or sell.

God's people sometimes experience unimaginable horrors on this earth.

Now this means two main things for those of us who are Christians.

The first lesson is that

such things should not shake your faith in Jesus.

Your faith is not to be dependent upon how God treats you.

It's important that we understand this. Some people mistakenly have their faith in God's actions toward them. If God treats them well, if things go good for them, they seem to be fine and all's well with the world.

But if things go badly for them—they start doubting. They might think that God is displeased with them. That may not be true at all. Or they may think,

"I've been wrong all along, God dosen't love me at all. I'm not one of His people."



But what we should learn from these two witnesses is that our faith should not and does not rest on God's providences toward us. God's providences, as they relate to us, are not the object of our faith. Our faith does not rest on them. The object of your faith is not your earthly circumstances. We see this clearly from Job. In Job 13:15 we read that in the midst of his suffering Job said,

"Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him;"

His faith was not going to be extinguished even if God killed him.

So it was with God's two servants. Their faith as not resting on the things that they underwent. They were faithful to death. They trusted in God even though they suffered and died.

What we must understand about our faith is that it is to be rooted in God. Specifically,

the object of your faith is Jesus.

Faith looks to Jesus and receives and clings to Him. It's a personal relationship. Your faith is to rest in Jesus. We believe 'in Jesus', (John 3:15, 6:29) Our faith rests in Him, in His person, in His work, in His Word.

So you see, the whole world can be against us and seem to conqueror us and put us to death and yet during that ordeal our faith should not be shaken. Jesus told us not to fear those who can kill the body and do no more. He told us that some of His people would die for Him. So if things go bad for you and everything seems to turn against you—your faith should remain strong because it's in Jesus and not in your earthly circumstances.

The second thing we learn from this is that

we need to look beyond the earthly realities to the heavenly realities.

The two witnesses seem to be defeated. They seem to be dead. It seems like their work was in vain—their enemies have triumphed.

Some of Jesus' disciples felt that way after Jesus was crucified. The two disciples on the road to Emmaus, when Jesus met them, (Luke 24:17)

'stood still, their faces downcast."

They didn't recognize Jesus and told him all about what had happened at Jerusalem, and how they, (verse 24)

"had hoped that he was the one
who was going to redeem Israel."

This was very day that Jesus had been raised from the dead. He had triumphed! He had defeated the powers that were against us—and they were thinking that everything was lost! How wrong they were. As Jesus said to them, (Luke 24:25–27

"How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe
all that the prophets have spoken!
Did not the Christ have to suffer
these things and then enter his glory?"

And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.

We must not view things as the world does. We must have a different viewpoint. We must know the Word of God and view things in light of it.

This is well illustrated by John Brown's wife, Isobel. John Brown was a Scottish Covenanter who was put to death for his faith in Jesus. This happened outside his farmhouse in front of his wife and children. Brown was arrested and was going to be shot at once, but the soldiers gave him a few moments to prepare himself for death. We read,

"Three times did the soldier interrupt Brown in his loud and somewhat protracted devotions, saying that he had given him time to pray, not to preach. 'Sir,' answered the condemned man, 'you know neither the nature of preaching nor praying if you call this preaching.' Then, turning to his wife, he… asked her if she were willing to part with him. 'I am heartily willing," said she. 'This is all I desire,' replied her husband, 'I have nothing more to do but to die.' He then gave her his blessing, commended his children to her care, and placed himself at the disposal of the dragoons. These men, touched no doubt by so affecting a scene, showed signs of nervousness and seemed unwilling to murder their prisoner. But Claverhouse, whether because he feared that his troopers might bungle the execution, or in the interests of military discipline, drew his pistol and himself shot Brown through the head."'What do you think of your husband now?' he brutally inquired of Isobel as she knelt over the dead body.'I aye thocht muckle o' him, sir,' she replied. 'But never sae muckle as I do this day.'



She knew he had gained the victory. She knew that he had obtained an eternal glory. (2 Corinthians 4:17) She viewed things entirely differently than her husband's murderer.

You Christians are sons of the King. You are safe forever. As Jesus told His disciples in Luke 10:19

"I have given you authority
to trample on snakes and scorpions and to
overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you."

Darrell L. Bock writes, (Luke 9:51–24:53, BECNT; p. 1,008)

"When it comes to evil, the disciples can overcome anything that opposes them, for Christ's authority overcomes the enemies' power… In the war with Satan, Jesus' ministry is D-day."

Even when we are killed, we win, Christ triumphs. Even death belongs to us. As the apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 3:21–23,

"All things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas
or 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."

Our viewpoint of life and death should be different than that of the world. As the apostle Paul wrote in Philippians 1:21,

"For to me, to live is Christand to die is gain."

Thirdly,

Christians, how wonderful Jesus has been to you.

The world can do it's worst against you, Satan and all his demons can do their worst against you, the beasts from the sea and the earth can do their worst against you—and though in the eyes of the world, they win and defeat you—their victory is an illusion. In Christ you triumph. In Christ you win. You can never really be defeated. Your are going to reign with Jesus forever and ever.

If you're in a terrible situation, don't get depressed about it. If you're losing everything, don't let yourself be discouraged—rejoice in your great Savior. Lift His name high. There's not one like Him. He has saved you from your sins and is going to bring you to glory.

Lastly, for those of you who are not Christians,

Jesus is the only way to victory, to happiness, to joy and satisfaction.

Anything else is only temporary and fleeting. If death comes to a Christian, it's victory for Him. It's but a doorway to Christ. It's but the first step in their resurrection.

But you, you don't have that. If death comes to you it's the worst thing ever. It's over. You're done. Death in all it's fulness will have you forever.

Don't let that happen to you. Go to Jesus. Find life in Him.