I have summarised what this means by referencing Matthew 28; Mark 16; Luke 24, and John 21. Our Great Commission may seem daunting, BUT God has equipped us to join with Him in His Mission of drawing people to himself.
The Revelation Revisited Series is still underway, so if you have not joined with us on this exciting journey then please do so by having a look at the Summary Video on YouTube HERE, or downloading the text summary HERE.
This sermon addresses Revelation 7 and also includes a reminder of how to understand the book of Revelation.
Drawing from Matthew 3:13 to 4:1 I speak of baptism, both of the Spirit and in water. The bible is clear on this – just do it! If you have given your life to the Lord Jesus Christ then you MUST be baptised in water because this is what we are told to do! When Jesus was baptised by John he went humbly to him, got baptised, and then spent time in prayer with His Father and our Father.
I understand that trauma, neglect, and abuse of any kind can leave emotional scar tissue, and that even late in life these negative legacies can trigger defense mechanisms in us. This I get. What I don’t get is why anyone should believe that they are a prisoner of their past. I look at Ephesians 4:22-24 to find out how to escape from this self-made prison.
‘Light’ is a common theme in the Bible, right from book 1 (Genesis) when God commanded ‘let there be light’, and in Exodus where the Israelites followed the pillar of light in the desert. In this article I look at light and it’s association with God and compare it to what we know in physics about its properties. In this article I reveal how in Jesus we see the light of God!
What may look to the world as a massive defeat is often a glorious victory for the Kingdom of God.
The Two Witnesses of Revelation 11 symbolise the church throughout the ages, but most especially in the days in which we live. But note this; the witnessing church these witnesses depict is found within the larger ‘outer court’ of a church made up mostly of members masquerading as true disciples. Note also that the Witnesses represent a revived church, a universal body of believers displaying great spiritual power and vitality. Church history records several great revivals, but I believe that we are soon to experience the greatest of all church revivals… and with it severe tribulation.
The Two Witnesses prophecy for a period of time and then they are ‘killed’ and their witness silenced. How can this be?! Does this foretell a defeated church and a failure of monumental proportions? And why would God not only allow this but, it seems, plan this from the start?
First, we need to consider the nature of the church’s commission. From the very start Jesus has commissioned us to speak and demonstrate a two-fold message to the world but, by and large, we seem to have only grasped half of it. We have always understood the Good News to be, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16). Yet this most well-known statement by Jesus does not stand in isolation, for He went on to say: ”Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son” (Verse 18). The New Living Translation translates this as,“those who do not trust him have already been judged for not believing in the only Son of God”. The comprehensively attested biblical declaration is that all human beings are born into this world in a state of spiritual separation from God the Father; dead in the sin of the rebellion of Adam and Eve (Romans 3:23 5:12). This is why Jesus said that “whoever does not believe stands condemned already”.
This is the second part of the Gospel we are commissioned to proclaim… and most of us just don’t like this. It is a most unpopular message, particularly in the 21st century. Most people, except Atheists and Islamics, don’t object so much to the idea that Jesus has sorted out Adam’s error of judgement, but they do object to being told that they already stand condemned and that the remedy to their deathly condition is in and through Jesus Christ alone.
Now, think of how this ‘full’ Gospel sounds in the ears of religious leaders who are trying to unite the whole of Christendom, and to then align this One Church the major world religious systems. This should give you some idea of why the numerically superior professing church would want to silence a revived confessing church.
“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”. (Revelation 11:7-10)
What we need to grasp is this: A Kingdom of God victory is perceived by the world as defeat and self-sacrifice is regarded as pitiable weakness. Yet the truth is just the opposite: self-sacrifice is the ultimate measure of strength and true victory comes through surrender. The key to understanding this in the context of Chapter 11 of the book of Revelation is where it connects with Jesus’ death with the words, “where also their Lord was crucified” (Revelation 11:8). Jesus died, not because He was the victim of worldly power, but because He chose to do so. In his apparent ‘defeat’ on the cross was embedded the greatest victory the cosmos has ever witnessed. This is why Paul quoted from Isaiah 25:8 when he wrote that in the crucifixion “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” (1 Corinthians 15:54).
This is such an important and misunderstood truth that I want to devote another article to it. In the meanwhile, here is a scenario and a question that highlights an application I will discuss in my next post:
An assistant pastor becomes offended and dissatisfied by his apparent lack of appreciation by the senior pastor and as well as his perceived limited career prospects. He starts to talk to key leaders about how poorly he has been treated, and it soon becomes apparent that he is planning on splitting the church by leaving and taking half of the members with him to plant a new congregation. What should the senior pastor do?
The main responsibility of the church to the world is to witness: Not to reform society but to witness through words and deeds.
In Chapter Eleven of the book of Revelation the church is symbolically depicted as a temple housing two types of professing believers; those ‘having a form of godliness but denying its power’ (2 Timothy 3:5) in the outer temple court, and those in the inner court who are true followers of Jesus.
The true church, all who are genuine disciples of the Lord Jesus, are depicted in this chapter as two olive trees. This is a clear allusion to Zechariah Chapter Four where the prophet saw a vision of two Olive trees which the angel speaking to him interpreted as “the two who are anointed to serve the Lord of all the earth.” (Zechariah 4:14) In the context of Israel in that day these two anointed ones would have been readily identified as Joshua (the High Priest) and Zerubbabel. Joshua represented the people of God who, after returning from exile, would be given a new and glorious status, and Zerubbabel was the man who rebuilt the Jerusalem temple.
The two Witnesses of Revelation are then described as having the power to shut up the heavens so that it does not rain and to inflict plagues upon the earth. Two great figures from Israel’s history are alluded to here: Elijah (1 Kings 17:1) and Moses (Exodus 7:17), two mighty prophets for Jehovah in the darkest situations. Elijah confronted the wicked king Ahab and defeated the prophets of Baal, and Moses confronted Pharaoh and defeated his army. Significantly, Jesus encountered both Moses and Elijah on the Mount of Transfiguration (Mark 9:4).
If we apply this Old Testament imagery and meaning to the church (as is John’s intention in Revelation) then a picture emerges of a revived people of God witnessing to the world with devastating power and effectiveness. The connection to Jesus is obvious – He is the head of his body the church and we are expected to witness to the world as He did. The Two Witnesses of Revelation prophecy for 1260 symbolic days (that is 1260/30=42 months = 3 and a half years) and Jesus ministered on Earth for the same period of time between his 30th birthday and his crucifixion. So the burning question is ‘How did Jesus witness?’
Well, He didn’t call down fire upon his detractors and, in fact, rebuked his disciples from wanting to do this (Luke 9:54). Instead He spoke truth, healed, gave life, delivered the demonised, blessed, and taught. When He sent out his disciples to practice what He had taught them He said, “As you go, preach this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven is near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received, freely give” (Matthew 10:7-8)
Let me be as clear as I can on this. Our task is not to conduct ‘spiritual warfare’ through ‘mapping’ or ‘binding and loosing’ or ‘praying in an open heaven’; our task is to WITNESS to the Gospel of Jesus Christ through what we say and what we do. Our task is not to organise ourselves into some ‘New Apostolic Reformation’ in order to take over the reins of power in the key sectors of society; our task is to speak and minister life in Jesus’ name. This is what the church through the ages has been doing and this is what it will do with even greater power in the years ahead.
Verses 7 to 10 of Chapter Eleven appear to paint a devastating picture of the defeat of the witnessing church, but wait for the next post in this series because embedded in ‘defeat’ is the most glorious victory possible!
The church is soon to experience the greatest revival ever! It should also expect severe persecution and tribulation.
We have arrived at Chapter 11, the end of the third part of the book of Revelation. As I have previously pointed out, Revelation is divided into seven parts each covering the time between the Cross and the Second Coming of Christ.
Chapter 11 is fascinating from many perspectives because it features a temple, mystical numbers, lamp-stands, and two witnesses who have the power to call down fire from heaven, stop the rain, and turn water into blood. What are we to make of all this? As a starting point, remember that all of Revelation is presented in symbols and these include numbers. Remember too that John often refers to well-known Old Testament events because his original readers would have been steeped in the history of the Jewish people.
The first allusion to Old Testament prophecy is when John is told to measure the Temple and the Altar and to count the worshippers there. Herod’s Temple existed during the time of the early church and it was entered through two courts – the Outer or Great Court and within that, the Inner Court, also known as the Court of the Israelites. Gentiles and unclean Jews were allowed into the Outer Court but only ceremonially pure Jews were allowed to enter the Inner court which contained the Altar of Sacrifice. So, John is instructed to distinguish between Jews and Gentiles in the Temple of God. Paul explains in 1 Corinthians 3:16 that the Church is the real Temple of our times when he writes: “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you?” (see also Ephesians 2:19-22). The Great Bronze Altar stands as a symbol for the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the Cross, the entrance qualification for a Christian (Romans 3:21-26). So, the picture that is emerging is that the church, like Herod’s Temple, will contain both believers and unbelievers. What is more, the unregenerate church ‘members’ will trample on the ‘holy city’, another symbolic reference to the church (Revelation 21:2-3).
The period of the trampling under foot of the believers by the ‘gentiles’ of the church is given as 42 months. Those who take the images and numbers of Revelation literally jump to one of two conclusions:
Either John was not writing about the church at all, but about the Temple that was destroyed in 70 AD, or
An end-time desecration of the church is in view.
In both interpretations the Great Tribulation of the church would last exactly 42 months. But the number given here is an expression of a very well-known symbolic period of time stated elsewhere in Revelation as 1,260 days or three and a half years, and first found in Daniel 7:25. Seven is a number that occurs throughout the Bible and carries the meaning of completion or perfection. Three and a half years stands for a broken, incomplete period.
So, the true church, consisting of born-again disciples of the Lord Jesus, exists within the ‘churches’ of Christendom and suffers at the hands of those who profess to be Christians but are not. This has always been the case but it will become more obvious and painful as time moves inexorably towards the end-of-days. Jesus told a parable to teach us the reality of this sad situation:
“The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared. “The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’ “‘An enemy did this,’ he replied. “The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’ “‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may root up the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.'” (Matthew 13:24-30)
The next few verses of Revelation 11 describe what the real church has always done, but will do with greater power and effectiveness in the years to come when we shall undoubtedly call it ‘Revival’. See if you can trace the powerful descriptions in verses 3 to 6 back to their Old Testament prototypes – till next week…
The man leaned in towards me, cupped his hand beside his mouth and whispered, “The time of end of the world is… tomorrow at 12 noon”.
Almost four decades ago I led a fellowship group for our local church and had been persuaded to invite a guru on the end-times to come and address us. He spent an hour or so taking us through the book of Revelation as though it were a prophetic calendar, but he also focused a lot on the book of Daniel. By the end of his talk he had plastered three walls with charts and diagrams and then he finished with the words, “I know when the end is coming but I shouldn’t say.” The evening ended with tea and cake and it was then that I sidled up to him and asked him to tell me his big secret, you know, man to man and leader to leader. That is when he made his startling behind-the-hand disclosure.
I can’t remember the poor man’s name but he was not the first to make claims about the End of Days, and he won’t be the last. One of the more recent and colourful ‘prophets’ of our day was Harold Camping. He predicted the end, was proved wrong when his date came and went, and then predicted another date… and then another…. and then he died.
What embarrassment and trouble could be avoided if we just followed Jesus’ example. His disciples asked him when he would return and when the end of the world would come. He replied with these words: “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father” (Matthew 24:36). So there you have it from the master’s lips.
Despite Jesus’ admonitions not to be deceived (Matthew 24:4), many commentators insist on treating the book of Revelation like a cosmic clock or giant calendar, and Revelation 10:6-7 is one of their favourite texts: it reads,“There will be no more delay! But in the days when the seventh angel is about to sound his trumpet, the mystery of God will be accomplished, just as he announced to his servants the prophets.”
It would take more space than I have in this series of posts, and probably more patience than you have, to explain the linguistic and contextual subtleties of this text. G.K.Beal’s monumental, and excellent, commentary contains a 11 page analysis of these two verses. So, I will just blunder in and state what I believe it means in a few simple sentences.
I paraphrase the angel’s declaration as: ‘There will be no delay between when the seventh angel sounds his trumpet and the accomplishment of God’s prophetically announced mystery.’ In other words, when all is ready, then it will happen very quickly.
The seventh, and therefore final, trumpet is a theme which Paul explains in 1 Corinthians 15:51-52: “Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed”. In 1 Thessalonians 4:15-18 he amplifies this statement with: “According to the Lord’s own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore, encourage each other with these words”.
Jesus is coming again to judge all of humanity, to destroy the current evil world system, and to create a new composite Heaven and Earth (HeavenEarth) where He will live forever with his disciples. So, let me encourage you with this – We, His followers, will not be subject to his judgmental punishment, but, like every generation of Christians before us, we will live through tribulation and refinement in our lives on earth. When He comes to judge and recreate, then all those believers who have previously died will accompany Him and be given resurrection bodies. Those who are still alive on earth will rise to meet him and will also be given resurrection bodies. Resurrection bodies are material but not physical as we know it.
Our new bodies will be like Jesus’ when he rose from the grave and we will live with him in this state, together with all believers of all generations, on the recreated planet which I choose to call HeavenEarth.
Now that is encouraging! So, don’t worry about the date when all this will happen, but rather, heed Jesus’ words in Matthew 24:44: “So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him”.
My name is Christopher Peppler and I was born in Cape Town, South Africa in 1947. While working in the financial sector I achieved a number of business qualifications from the Institute of Bankers, Damelin Management School, and The University of the Witwatersrand Business School. After over 20 years as a banker, I followed God’s calling and joined the ministry full time. After becoming a pastor of what is now a quite considerable church, I earned an undergraduate theological qualification from the Baptist Theological College of Southern Africa and post-graduate degrees from two United States institutions. I was also awarded the Doctor of Theology in Systematic Theology from the University of Zululand in 2000.
Four years before that I established the South African Theological Seminary (SATS), which today is represented in over 70 countries and has more than 2 500 active students enrolled with it. I presently play an role supervising Masters and Doctoral students.
I am a passionate champion of the Christocentric or Christ-centred Principle, an approach to biblical interpretation and theological construction that emphasises the centrality of Jesus
I have been happily married to Patricia since the age of 20, have two children, Lance and Karen, a daughter-in-law Tracey, and granddaughters Jessica and Kirsten. I have now retired from both church and seminary leadership and devote my time to writing, discipling, and the classical guitar. I have started a site called Classical Guitar SA to serve classical guitar enthusiasts in South Africa.