Who Does What In The Tribulation - Pt. 2

Steve Viars March 20, 1990 Revelation 11:

    

- we're studying the end time events, or "what in the world

  is going to happen"

- tonight I'd like to begin by reviewing what we've learned

  from the book of Revelation

- Often times folks are apprehensive about this book

  because they're not sure they can understand it, but what

  I'd like to show is that if you've been here the past

  couple of weeks-

     - you could actually walk your way through the first

       half of this book and explain what the various

       passages are referring to

- chap. 1 - Christ reveals Himself to John, and tells him to

            write

- chap. 2-3  - message to the seven churches

- chap. 4 - 24 elders

- chap. 5 - 7 sealed scroll taken by Christ

- chap. 6 - 1st 6 seal judgements (occur during the first

            half of the tribulation)

- chap. 7 - parenthetic, 144,000 sealed witnesses, saved

            Gentiles

- chap. 8-9 - 7th seal (comprised of the 1st 6 trumpets)

- chap. 10 - announcement of "no further delay"

 

- after the first six trumpets, John gives us a longer

  parenthetical section which tells us much about some of the

  persons and events during the tribulation

- thats what we're going to study tonight - "Who does what

  during the tribulation?"

- remember last week we talked about what the Holy Spirit

  does, we talked about the 144,000, and we talked about what

  the church is doing in heaven during this time

- tonight we want to talk about the two witnesses

- might wonder, "Why take them in that order?"

- answer is -because thats the order in which they appear in

  the book of Revelation

- chapter 11 -  The 2 Witnesses

 

 I. The Setting vs. 1-2

   

      verse 2 refers to the 2nd half of the trib.                             

        - so John is to measure the temple of God

        - obviously this is in the first half of the trib.

        - the AntiChrist has made a peace pact with the Jews

          and they have their temple again, and some have

          turned to God and are worshipping him

    - now lets see who is ministering at that time

    - (read 3 - 6)

    - we're talking about the witnesses

 

II. Their Ministry

 

        - INPUT - what does the passage say these individuals

                  do?

 

    A.  prophesy

 

            - please remember that a prophet had a 2-fold

              ministry

                - foretelling & forthtelling

                - foretelling - predicting the future

                - forthtelling - preaching repentance and a

                  return to the true God

            - the primary function of the two witnesses is

              forthtelling - where they are encouraging

              people, especially the Jews, to trust Jesus

              Christ as personal Savior

            - the passage also says that they can:

 

    B. perform miracles

 

            - INPUT - what kind of miracles are the ones that

                      are mentioned in the text?  (judgement)

            - INPUT - there's one more unusual thing thats

                      said about these men - what is it?

 

    C.  protected by God

 

            - if any man hurts them, they will be killed

    - INPUT - the passage also tells us something about their

              identity - what does it say?

 

III.  Their Identity

 

        - v. 4 - the two olive trees and the two lampstands

                 standing before the God of the earth

        - I realize you might say - well that doesn't help me

          identify them very much!

        - the truth is that that description is very

          important

              1) it would have meant volumes to an Jew who

                 knew his OT

              2) it would have been very meaningful to the

                 people John was writing to because of the

                 situations they were presently facing

              3) it has a real key to how this passage should

                 be applicable to us

        - when John likened the two witnesses to the olive

          trees and the two lampstands standing before the

          God of the earth, a Jew who knew his OT would have

          immediately thought of a very famous prophecy in

          the OT

        - we're not going to take the time to look back at

          the passage, but I want to spend a few minutes

          talking about it because I think it will help us

          apply this passage

        - INPUT - what prophet would the readers who knew

                  their OT think about when they heard the 2

                  witnesses likened to the 2 olive trees and

                  lampstands?  (Zechariah)

        - Zechariah was written after the Jews had been

          released from captivity

        - in the early 500's B.C., Zerubbabel and Joshua

          the priest (not Joshua of the book of Joshua) were

          allowed to go back and rebuild the temple at

          Jerusalem that had been destroyed

 

    A. Likened to Zerubbabel and Joshua - Zech. 4

 

        - their work was hindered--you can read about that in

          Ezra 5

        - of course that was very discouraging to the people

          who had longed to have their temple back and now

          were facing stiff opposition

        - in the interim time, God gave Zechariah a prophecy

          which included two olive trees and lampstands

        - without getting into the details of the prophecy,

          the point to both Zerubbabel and Joshua are found

          in Zech. 4:6 which says,

             - "Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit,

                says the Lord"

             - probably a better translation of the verse is

               "not by might, nor by power, except by my

                Spirit, says the Lord"

             - in other words, God was telling those men

                  - you are going to be able to complete the

                    task, but its not just by your own

                    strength and abilities

                  - you'll complete it as you combine your

                    might and power with the might and power

                    of the Spirit of God

             - this prophecy came true, and these two men

               were able to lead the Jews in rebuilding the

               temple

        - the question is, why did Jesus, in Rev. 11, want

          the two witnesses to be identified with this event?

 

    B.  Why were the 2 witnesses likened to these two

            men?

            - answer - these men are ministering in the midst

              of great difficulty (we'll see the details of

              that in a minute) yet they are able to have a

              mighty ministry because the Holy Spirit of God

              was enabling them to face difficult

              circumstances and overcome them.

            - the men and women that John was writing to

              desperately needed to hear these words

            - here are people who have witnessed direct

              persecution on the church through leaders like

              Nero and Domition

            - we're talking about persecution where

              Christians were placed on poles and set afire

              to provide light for the emporers outdoor

              parties

            - in addition, because the churches had been

              established for a while, they were facing a

              number of internal problems

               - one church has allowed false doctrine to

                 come in

               - another has allowed a wicked prophetess to

                 teach and seduce many

               - another had lost their first love

               - one was about to die

               - another was lukewarm

        - they desperately needed to hear about these two

          witnesses who could have a mighty ministry because

          of the power of the Holy Spirit

        - because they had the Holy Spirit too

        - as they obeyed the Holy Spirit's sword,

        - and as they worked and co-operated with the power

          of the Holy Spirit of God,

        - as they read about this Revelation of the Holy

          Son of God

             - they would see that they too could be

               overcomers and solve problems in their

               churches and in their personal lives

 

        - so because of Joshua & Zerubbabel in the past and

          the two witnesses in the future,

              - John's original audience would be encouraged

                to solve problems and minister effectively

                right where they were

 

        - we'll have more to say about how that applies to us

          in a minute, but let me just say one more thing

          about the identity of the two witnesses

        - some interpreters say that these two can be

          identified specifically as either Moses, Elijah, or

          Enoch

        - those discussions get rather detailed, I've chosen

          not to go into that simply because the text doesn't

          say and therefore the views really can't be proven

 

    - we've looked at the setting, the ministry, and the

      identity of the two witnesses, now let's look at their:

 

IV.  Their murder

        vs 7-10

        - INPUT - who is the murderer? (beast, Antichrist)

 

    A.  Murderer - the beast

 

          - so the passage says that at the mid-point of

            the tribulation, the Antichrist kills the two

            witnesses -- I don't think thats surprising, but

            what is surprising about this event?

 

    B.  The reaction to the murder

            a.  no burial

            b.  gave gifts to one another

 

            INPUT - why would people do that? (their message

                    was convicting, they are glad to have

                    them out of the way)

            INPUT - perhaps on of different scale, what truth

                    should this remind us of?  (the gospel is

                    an offence to those who don't know

                    Christ)

            - now I want to be careful here, but I think

              this may be an issue where some folks need to

              change their thinking some

            - we're talking about your witness and testimony

              in the community.  Or maybe we could say it

              this way - how you are perceived (or how you

              want to be perceived) by individuals around you

              that don't know Christ as Savior

            - let me present three possible groups, and ask

              you which group you most closely resemble

 

    - Group #1 - "No Problem, Because No One Knows"

        - a person in this group function perfectly well with

          unbelievers because no one knows he/she is a

          Christian.  The person talks the same way, works

          the same way, lives the same way--there's no one

          who would be agitated at their testimony because

          there is no testimony.

 

    - Group #2 - "No Problem, Because I'm A Good Joe"

        - people in this group want their Christianity to

          affect their relationships, and they even want

          others to know they're a Christian -- but the

          effect is all positive.  Their Christianity causes

          them to be kind, gentle, fair, honest, loving--all

          of which are great qualities and right qualities--

          but thats as far as their Christianity affects

          anyone.  They want to be and they are known as the

          good ole Joe.

        - let me just ask you to consider - Is there

          something wrong if I live in this group

          exclusively?  In other words, if all the unsaved

          people I know only view my Christianity as having

          positive effects for them, is there something wrong

          there?  -  I would say yes. There's got to be a

          third group.  I would call it:

        - Group #3 - Balance of life and message, and

          therefore slight tension at times.  In other words,

          our relationships with folks who don't know Christ

          ought to be like a rubber band--

             - our kindness, love, fairness, generosity all

               ought to attract folks to us

             - but our message of salvation through Christ

               alone ought to make those who have rejected

               Christ uncomfortable

        - Now I realize that this could be taken out of

          balance very quickly

        - but we've got to deal with what happens in this

          passage - unbelievers give gifts because these

          witnesses have died

        - Obviously thats an extreeme reaction because of

          nature of the times, but I don't think we'd be true

          to the Scriptures on this one if we said that

          reaction is completely uncharacteristic to those

          who don't know Christ

        - Paul said the preaching of the cross is foolishness

          to them who are perishing

        - I realize there's a ditch on the other side

        - we're not talking about becoming purposely

          offensive with the gospel

        - we're not talking about cold-turkey evangelism

          where there has been no relationship established

        - we're not talking about making the headlines for

          methods of evangelism that are unwise or offensive

        - that would undoubtedly be wrong and dis-pleasing to

          God

        - but I would say that at least equally dis-pleasing

          to God are those who fit what we've described as

          groups #1 or #2 where no one will ever be saved

          because a verbal message of any kind has ever been

          given to anyone

        - Can I ask you tonight - which of these groups do

          you most closely resemble?

        - the story of the two witnesses reveals something to

          us about Jesus Christ and His message

        - Is there anyone in your life who would say, that

          so & so - I know he a believer, and his faith makes

          him a super person to be around

             - but he thinks I'm missing something--he thinks

               I need a Savior and Lord

    - so the two witnesses were killed and the people

      despised their message so much that they had a

      party to celebrate their death

    - you might say, boy that sure has a sad ending--it would

      if that were the end - read 11-14

 

V.  Their Resurrection

    - you can imagine what this must have been like, with

      live news coverage spreading the story of these men's

      death around the united world

    - people are talking about how great and powerful their

      leader is, and how wonderful it is that he has

      triumphed over these two preachers

    - and then all of a sudden the bodies that have been

      there for three and a half days stand up

    - a voice says - "Come up here" - up they go

    - I believe this passage would have been very helpful and

      instructive and encouraging to the orignal churches who

      received this letter

    - I think its also got several allpications for us (in

      addition to the ones we've already mentioned)

VI.  Applications

 

    A.  Place right emphasis on "God working in you"

        - we have to be careful on this one because:

            1) a number of folks have gone hog wild on the

               subject of the Holy Spirit

            2) we always have to keep in mind that the

               primary ministry of the Holy Spirit today is

               to glorify the Son of God

            3) a number of Baptists and others have taken

               such a mystical approach to growth where the

               Holy Spirit does everything and the person

               does nothing

    - but even realizing all those dangers, this passage

      still has some important implications to you and I

    - the verse "not by might, nor by power, except by the

      Spirit says the Lord" applies to you and I too

    - perhaps the best way to explain it in a NT church

      concept is what Paul wrote in Phil. 2:12-13 and said

      -"work out your own salvation with fear and trembling"

      (v. 12) and "its God who works in you both to will and

      to do of his good pleasure" (v. 13).

    - question I like to ask of that passage is - Who's doing

      the work?

    - answer is - both

    - the believer is to be working, and running, and

      fighting, and exercising himself unto godliness

    - but he's also to be praying for, depending on, trusting

      in and asking for the Holy Spirit of God to:

        - help him understand truth

        - help him apply truth

        - help him see the worthiness of Jesus and how he

          must change and grow to be more like Him

 

    - we're talking about a balance where we're placing the

      right emphasis on "God working in you"

    - see, without that, the 2 witnesses would have never

      made it

    - Joshua & Zerubbabel would have never made it

    - the original readers in the revelation churches would

      have never made it

    - you and I will never make it - that is achieve the

      maturity and accomplish the ministry that God has

      planned for us if we don't keep in balance--

        - not by might, nor by power, except by my Spirit,

          saith the Lord"

    - I think a good question to ask here would be, well, how

      do I know if I have that right balance?

    - well, lets think about a couple of questions:

         - let's think about personal growth

         - can you think of a time in the month of March

           where you were wrestling with an area where you

           needed to change and you paused and asked for

           God's help and enablement?

    - you might say - well, isn't that just natural?

       - answer is - no -- its possible to:

           - see any area that needs to be changed

           - run over here and grab a Bible verse

           - then go back and live every bit as much as a

             practical athiest (as if God didn't exist or

             wasn't important) - now its just a practical

             atheist with a Bible verse

    - see, when is the last time you had the kind of balance

      we're talking about in reference to personal growth?

    - I'm sure there are individuals here who could say--well

      that happened to me today, and its happens most days

 

    - some would have to say - thats really not a part of my

      lifestyle

 

    - I would encourage you to think through that same series

      of questions with regards to child raising, handling

      trials, and outreach ministry

 

    - place the right emphasis on God working in you - its

      not by might, nor by power, except by my Spirit

- I believe a second application of this passage is to:

 

    B.  Develop biblical confidence

        - remember when we talk about hermeneutics, we always

          want to ask "who was the writer originally writing

          to and what effect would this passage have had on

          them?"

        - one of the answers without a doubt is that, as they

          heard about the ministry of the 2 witnesses, they

          would have been more confident in:

            - growing in the ways God wanted them to grow &

            - ministering in the ways God wanted them to

              minister

        - now remember - every time they took a step of

           growth - every time they became a little more like

           Christ

             - that increased the possibility of them being

               persecuted

        - every time they set out to obey the great

          commission and win people to Christ and disciple

          them:

              - that increased the possibility of persecution

       - they needed to hear this story and be reminded of

          trues like Jesus' words in Matt. 10:28:

            "Fear not them who kill the body, but are not

             able to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who

             is able to destroy both the body and soul in

             hell"

        - they needed to be reminded of trues like Prov.

          29:25 - "the fear of man bringeth a snare"

    - they needed the revelation of Jesus Christ

    - they needed to see that they had been:

          - fearing the wrong person or persons

          - concerned about the power and abilities of the

            wrong person or persons

    - they needed to see the:

            - power of the Lord Jesus Christ

            - enablement of the Lord Jesus Christ

            - protection of the Lord Jesus Christ

    - the two witnesses had confidence and their story ought

      to instill confidence

    - you might say, well, God's not going to raise me from

      the dead after 3 days

    - thats right--He's going to do it to you immediately

        - depending on when the rapture occurs,  it'll might

          take your body a while to catch up

        - but you have nothing to fear, because to be absent

          from the body is to be immediately present with the

          Lord

    - now you might say, well, we're not like the early

      church - we don't have anything to fear

    - I would disagree with that

    - we're not like the early church, but the fear of man

      is still bringing a snare

    - some folks aren't growing at the rate they should be

      because they know that every step closer to Christ is a

      step away from the world

          - and they're not sure they want to live with the

            possible alienation or ridicule

    - some folks aren't ministering in the ways they should

      because of the fear of man

        - what if they don't like it

        - what if they don't like me

        - what if I mess it up

        - what if I mess them up

        - what if I'm ridiculed

    - this passage ought to put that in perspective

    - I believe God would be pleased if we would leave this

      study with a growing confidence in our ability to grow

      and minister because of who Jesus is

Steve Viars

B.S. - Bible, Baptist Bible College
M.Div. - Grace Theological Seminary
D.Min. - Westminster Theological Seminary

Pastor Steve Viars has served at Faith Church since 1987. He and his wife Kris were married in 1982 and have two married daughters, a son, and two grandchildren. Pastor Viars’ gifted teaching ministry, enthusiasm for the Word of God, and organizational skills are instrumental in equipping Faith Church. He oversees the staff, deacons, and all Faith ministries and serves on the boards of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, Biblical Counseling Coalition, Vision of Hope, and the Faith Community Development Corporation.

Read Steve Viars’ Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Viars to Faith Church.

View Pastor Viars' Salvation Testimony Video