Not By Might Nor By Power 3-17-19
Revelation 11:3-8 Lesson 32
Let’s take our Bibles if we could and open them to the Book of Revelation, chapter 11. As time permits maybe making it through verse 10 today. The title of our message this morning is Not By Might Nor By Power. And if you have been tracking with us in our study through the Book of Revelation you know that we’re in a section of the book where we are sort of in between trumpet six and trumpet seven judgments. You’ll recall those six trumpets, those terrible judgments poured out upon the earth yet future. Yet before we get to trumpet number seven there is a break in the action and this typically happens every time you hit a six in a series. In between seal six and seal seven there was a break in the action, kind of giving us more information about things happening. And the same kind of thing is happening now in between trumpet six and trumpet seven.
This break in the action occurs, as we’ll be studying in our study of the Book of Revelation, about five times. Generally the prophecies of the book I think are chronological except for five interruptions. There was a break in the action between seal six and seal seven in Revelation 7 and that’s where we got information about the 144,000 Jewish evangelists. And now in between trumpet six and trumpet seven we have a second break in the action, chapters 10 and 11.
We’ve seen in that interlude chapter 10, the announcement of no more delay. We have seen last week in that interlude the final forty-two months of the end of the time period called the times of the Gentiles, chapter 11:1-2. And now we’re moving into a part of the Book of Revelation which I personally find so very, very fascinating. It’s the prophecy of the coming ministry, if you will, of the two witnesses, and we see that in verses 3-13. We have the description of their ministry described, verses 3-6, followed by their martyrdom or their murder, verses 7-10. And then what happens in verses 11-13 is their revival, their resuscitation from the dead leading to a further revival, not just physically but spiritually. And the Lord was showing me so many things in this chapter I don’t know if I can do the whole thing in one sitting but whatever we don’t complete this week we’ll just jump right into next week.
But notice the ministry, if you will, of these two witnesses. We have its duration, it’s empowerment and its activities. Notice, if you will, Revelation 11:3, notice how long their ministry lasts. It says, “And I will grant authority to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for twelve hundred and sixty days, clothed in sackcloth.” You’ll notice here that it talks about how God is going to grant authority to these two witnesses. And you see, this is the type of spiritual leadership that you need to get behind, leadership that’s not voted into power, leadership that is not the whim of a human being but leadership that you already see God working in.
It’s concerning elders of the church at Ephesus, Paul says in Acts 20:28, “Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers,” that’s the kind of a person that we want to lay hands on as an elder, someone who has already been made an elder by virtue of the Spirit’s work already taking place in their lives. And that’s how you recognize spiritual leaders, you don’t make them into spiritual leaders, you recognize God’s work already happening in them and you lay hands on those that God has already empowered and chosen. And that’s who these two witnesses are, they are those that have been granted authority not based on themselves but by God and they have been appointed in this very difficult time in the tribulation period to stand in the gap for the Lord.
You’ll notice there in verse 3 it says, “…and they will prophecy for twelve hundred and sixty days,” what does that mean? It’s a time period of how long? Three and a half years. Sometimes this increment of time is described as forty-two months. You’ll see forty-two months in the prior verse, verse 2. [Revelation 11:2, “Leave out the court which is outside the temple and do not measure it, for it has been given to the nations; and they will tread under foot the holy city for forty-two months.”] Sometimes, like in Revelation 12:14 the next chapter, this time increment will be called “a time, times and a half a time, a “time” being a Jewish year, “times” two Jewish years, “half a time” half a Jewish year, three and a half years total. [Revelation 12:14, “But the two wings of the great eagle were given to the woman, so that she could fly into the wilderness to her place, where she was nourished for a time and times and half a time, from the presence of the serpent.”]
So in the Book of Revelation and in the Book of Daniel you’ll see these expressions used as synonyms, forty-two months sometimes, verse 2. Sometimes it’ll say one thousand two hundred and sixty days. Sometimes it’ll say a time, times and a half a time, all speaking of the same increment of time of three and a half years. Why is that? Well we know from our studies in the Book of Daniel, Daniel 9:27, that the tribulation period is divided… or first of all it will last seven years and then something happens right in the middle called the desecration of the temple. [Daniel 9:27, “And he will make a firm covenant with the many for one week, but in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering; and on the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate, even until a complete destruction, one that is decreed, is poured out on the one who makes desolate.”]
And so we know that the tribulation period, seven years total, is divided into two three and a half year time periods. Three and a half years before the desecration of the temple, three and a half years after the desecration of the temple. And sometimes the Scripture is calling our attention to different halves through these expressions, forty-two months, one thousand two hundred and sixty days, or a time, times and a half a time. And so what we’re being exposed to here is a ministry of two witnesses empowered by God that will take place in one of these halves.
Now there’s sort of a debate on which half we’re talking about here and are the two witnesses going to prophesy in the first half or the second half. I’ve heard good arguments on both sides of that issue. I’m sort of the leaning that this will take place in the first half; I don’t know if I would go start a new denomination necessarily over that, but that’s sort of my general leaning.
Probably the guy that does the best job arguing that this will take place in the first half of the tribulation period is John Whitcomb, and you can find his paper if you’re interested on the pre-trib study group website, www.pre-trib.org if you’re interested in the argument for that. It’s a very complicated discussion which I think is interesting but I’ll just kind of sum it up by saying I think Dr. Whitcomb is right and I think it’ll probably be in the first half of the tribulation period.
But you’ll notice that these witnesses are coming forward and they are prophesying during this very difficult time period in human history. And if you look at the end of verse 3 it says they are clothed in sackcloth. [Revelation 11:3, “And I will grant authority to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for twelve hundred and sixty days, clothed in sackcloth.”]
What is sackcloth? Sackcloth is a symbol of mourning before God. In fact, remember the prophet Jonah who was told to preach to Nineveh in the east and what did Jonah do? He went west, the exact opposite way God told him to go and so God got his attention, you know the story, swallowed by the giant fish. Jonah had sort of a little attitude adjustment there in chapter 2, in the belly of the fish. He’s vomited back onto dry land and he goes east where God told him to go. After all, he didn’t want to see the grace of God go to those Ninevites of Assyria who were, by the way, some of the most blood thirsty diabolical people that we know of in human history. It would be like God telling you to go preach the grace of God to Isis. Would you do that or would you have some reservations? Grace for me but not for thee is sometimes our attitude.
And so Jonah actually is probably the only prophet we have record of from the Bible that was actually successful and that’s what he was worried about. He didn’t want grace to go to THOSE people, and so he preached the message God gave him and what happened? The whole city of Nineveh repented. And what does it say there in Jonah 3:5, “And the people of Nineveh believed in God and they called a fast and they put on” what? “sackcloth from the greatest to the least of them.” Why would they put on sackcloth? It’s a symbol of mourning of their prior condition.
And to be completely honest with you I think this idea of mourning over sins, sorrow over sin is something that has almost been erased from American culture. You know, in the old days, particularly in the south, they used to have what are called mourning benches in the front of the church where people had an opportunity to come forward and essentially kneel before God and express sorrow over their sin. When was the last time you were in a church that had such a mourning bench? It’s almost unheard of today.
So what do we have today? We have the national day of prayer. Well, what is that? Well that’s where Catholics and Mormons and Muslims and everybody that has some kind of belief in a higher being get together and pray to God. The national day of prayer is to my mind has become sort of very ecumenical. But if you go back to the origin of the national day of prayer the national day of prayer was never called the national day of prayer. Do you know what they used to call it? I found this on the internet: “Congress issues a proclamation recognizing a day of public humiliation fasting in prayer observed by the English colonies Thursday, July 20, 1775. In his role as Commander in Chief of the Continental Army General George Washington acknowledged a day of fasting, humiliation, and prayer, proclaimed by the Continental Congress to be held Thursday May 6, 1779.” We today call it a National Day of Prayer and we’ve thrown out a few of these descriptors. It used to be called a day of fasting and humiliation in prayer. I mean, when was the last time that we began to fast over our sins? I spend a lot more time feasting than I do fasting.
And you’ll notice it used to be called a day of humiliation where there was an open acknowledgement of sin before God and now we don’t call it fasting, we don’t call it humiliation, we just call it a national day of prayer and as long as everybody thinks they’ve got some kind of pipeline to God everything is going to be okay, as long as you’re sincere. Boy, things have changed in this country, haven’t they? These two witnesses, when they show up are wearing sackcloth. This is mourning over the condition of the nation of Israel at this time in history. Why would Israel need to be mourned over? Well, if you drop down to verse 8, maybe we’ll get there today, maybe not, it says, “And their dead bodies,” now that should give us a hint as to how well their ministry is going to go. “And their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city which mystically is called Sodom and Egypt, where also their Lord was crucified.” [Revelation 11:8]
There’s no doubt this is Jerusalem. And here the literal city of Jerusalem has been overtaken by a mentality that’s similar to Sodom in Egypt; more on that later. But this is why they’re in sackcloth, they’re mourning over the condition of the city that God has sovereignly decreed or determined to abide in and live with Him forever. They’re sorrowful over the condition of the Jewish people. They’re sorrowful over the condition of the nation of Israel.
And frankly that’s why these two are outstanding prophets; we are told here that they will prophesy. That’s what prophets did. I mean, prophets showed up during times of national disobedience and called the wayward nation back to the plumb line or the standard of God. And this is why the prophets weren’t well received, Matthew 23:35. [Matthew 23:35, “so that upon you may fall the guilt of all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar.”] Most of them were killed, including these two that will show up probably in the first half of the tribulation period.
And how we need prophets like this today. How we need people to stand up and reveal the pathetic simple condition of these United States of America that murders babies around the clock through something called freedom of choice, abortion, and has turned aside every reasonable sexual standard that you can find in the Bible, overturned the whole thing, putting our kids in brainwashing [can’t understand word] called public education, where they’re taught to hate God and that we all came out from God, from the goo to the zoo to you, or from the goo to you by way of the zoo over billions of years when there’s not a single shred of scientific evidence to back up any of it, just for the purpose of writing God out of the picture.
I can’t think of a time in history where we need prophets like this and yet people that want to do this as they feel led by God, you know who gets criticized? The prophet of God does. Oh, look at his tone, or he’s too negative, or he’s too critical. They never focus the spotlight on the evil that the prophet is pointing out, they all want to attack the prophet. And my goodness, this is what’s happening here in the first half of this tribulation period. And they’re going to need some power, these two, and we have the source of their power revealed there in verse 4. Notice Revelation 11:4, “These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth.” Notice that these two witnesses are given the designation “olive threes” two of them, and “lampstands.”
Now you probably won’t recognize what this imagery is unless you know something about the Old Testament, unless you know something about the Book of Zechariah. You might hold your place in the Book of Revelation chapter 11 and go back to Zechariah chapter 4 for just a moment. What is happening in Zechariah 4? The Babylonian captivity is coming to an end, Nebuchadnezzar having destroyed the temple as that captivity started seventy years earlier, that was the Solomonic temple that was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar and now the seventy years are over and the children of Israel are coming back as returnees into the land of Israel. And one of the things that they’re told is to get about the business of rebuilding the temple that had been destroyed seventy years earlier.
And let me tell you, this was a tough job. You go through the postexilic literature in the Bible, whether it’s the Book of Zechariah, the Book of Ezra, the Book of Nehemiah, the Book of Haggai, all of this was written around the same period and these people just faced one frustration after another. Have you ever felt like that in your Christian walk? One setback after another, one disappointment after another, and they were, to be honest with you, at the place where they were ready to just throw in the towel; it’s not worth it anymore. And consequently God raised up two prophets, you’ll find their names given in Ezra 5:1 called Haggai and Zechariah. [Ezra 5:1, “When the prophets, Haggai the prophet and Zechariah the son of Iddo, prophesied to the Jews who were in Judah and Jerusalem in the name of the God of Israel, who was over the.,”]
And Zechariah is dealing with a very discouraged community. In fact, when they started to rebuild the temple it was so miniscule compared to what the Solomonic temple once was that the old men, when they looked at this new puny pathetic temple looked at it and they remembered the glory of the Solomonic temple and they just started to cry. You say where does it say that in the Bible? Ezra 3:12, Haggai 2:3. [Ezra 3:12, “Yet many of the priests and Levites and heads of fathers’ households, the old men who had seen the first temple, wept with a loud voice when the foundation of this house was laid before their eyes, while many shouted aloud for joy,” Haggai 2:3, “’Who is left among you who saw this temple in its former glory? And how do you see it now? Does it not seem to you like nothing in comparison?”]
Now the younger guys who had never seen the Solomonic temple, they thought this little thing was great; they had no frame of reference, but the old men, they remembered what it was like and they began to cry. And consequently the Lord is working through the prophet Zechariah to encourage this very discouraged postexilic community. And Zechariah says things like this in chapter 4:10, “For who has despised the day of small things?” [Zechariah 4:10, “For who has despised the day of small things? But these seven will be glad when they see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel– these are the eyes of the LORD which range to and fro throughout the earth.”]
Another way of saying it is why are you despising the day of small beginnings. What has started here will turn into something great, you just don’t see it yet. And I find that a lot of us were given assignments from the Lord when we don’t want these assignments, too small, it’s beneath me. Well, what you don’t know, what we don’t know is what the Lord is going to do with that small thing. He’s going to turn it into something big that you can’t necessarily see yet because God wants you to walk by faith. If God gave you an end product it wouldn’t be faith anymore, would it? “For without faith it is” what? “impossible to please God.” Zechariah 4:10, “Who is despised the day of small beginnings.” And these people were so tired and frustrated and Zechariah says in verse 6 says, (and that’s why I gave this title to this particular sermon,) “[Then he said to me, “This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel saying,] ‘Not by might nor by power, but by My” what? “Spirit,’ says the LORD of hosts.” You’re going to pull this off but it’s not going to be through human strength; you’re going to pull this off through the power of the Holy Spirit.
And then you drop down to verse 9 and Zechariah makes the statement about Zerubbabel, the governor of that time, and he says this, “The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of the house and his hands will finish it.” In other words, the project will be started is actually going to be completed through God’s power. And these are all words of encouragement given to this post-exilic community, who by the way, were being opposed on the outside and on the inside. Internally they got murmuring and complaining and things of that nature, discouragement. You know, discouragement is sort of contagious, isn’t it? You get discouraged and tell your discouraging words to someone else, they get discouraged and suddenly it spreads everywhere.
And not only that, when we study the Books of Ezra and Nehemiah, they were being opposed, not just from the inside but from the outside by the people that were living in that land as the Jews had been evicted from the land for seventy years. Read the Book of Nehemiah, read of the difficulties that he went through trying to get the wall all around the city built. And you start to see the significance of Zechariah.
Now what does this have to do with Revelation 11? Because in Zechariah 4:11-14 this is what Zechariah says. It’s very interesting, he says: “Then I said to him, ‘What are these two olive trees”’ does that sound familiar, that’s right in our passage, Revelation 11:14, “What are these two olive trees on the right of the lampstand” sounds familiar, that’s in our passage, “What are these two olive trees on the right of the lampstand and on its left?”  And I answered the second time and said to him, “What are the two olive branches which are beside the two golden pipes, which empty the golden oil from themselves?”  So he answered me, saying, “Do you not know what these are?” And I said, “No, my lord.”  Then he said, “These are the two anointed ones who are standing by the Lord of the whole earth.”
Now he gives Zechariah a picture of something which really is an ingenious device. He sees a lampstand, we call that the Menorah, or the candlestick made of pure gold, and on top of that lampstand is a bowl and the seven lamps have connected to that bowl seven pipes and so obviously what’s coming into the bowl is empowering the candlesticks. Do you see that? Now this was a structure that is found in the temple and the tabernacle without the two olive trees (which I’ll talk about in just a minute) which meant that the only way that that candlestick could be empowered is if the priest put oil in the bowl. See that? If the priest were not putting oil in the bowl there was no power for the candlestick or the lampstand.
And yet Zechariah sees something different here with this structure, he sees two olive trees. On either side of the lampstand are two olive trees (that’s what is new here) from which gold pipes carried oil to the bowl on top of the lampstand. Now what’s interesting is those two olive trees are going to give automatic oil, without any priest’s attending it. Whether a priest is there or not there with this device two olive trees are going to shed their olives in due season, they are going to go into the bowl, oil is created and the candlestick is going to be automatically empowered.
And who are these two olive trees? One is Joshua, not the Joshua know of from the Book of Joshua, this is a different Joshua, a post-exilic Joshua, the high priest. The other one is the governor of the nation of Israel, Zerubbabel. One olive tree is the religious leadership of the nation; the other tree represents the political leadership of the nation.
And what does oil in the Bible represent. Anybody know? The Holy Spirit. You say well where are you getting that from? A lot of places. Psalm 133:2, concerning the anointing of Aaron, the high priest, it says, “It is like the precious oil upon the head, coming down upon the beard, even Aaron’s beard, coming down upon the edge of his robes.” The high priest was anointed with oil and what does the oil represent? Isaiah 61:1, the Lord said unto Himself, “The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has” what? “anointed me” oil [can’t understand word] depicted as the Spirit of God on Christ. And it’s not just Christ, it’s not just figures in the Old Testament that had this anointing from the Holy Spirit, you’ve got it as well, as a church age saint.
1 John 2:20, New Testament, “But you have an anointing,” isn’t that the whole oil imagery there? “you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you all know.” 1 John 2:27, “As for you, the anointing which you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need of anyone to teach you, but as His anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, just as it has taught you, abide in Him.”
What is happening here? Just as these two olive trees are going to automatically produce the energy round the clock necessary for the candlestick to burn in the same way Joshua and Zerubbabel have an automatic around the clock anointing of the Holy Spirit whereby through that power they are going to be able to finish the job, the difficult job, if not the impossible job of reconstructing the second temple despite internal opposition and external opposition in the post exilic world. That’s what this whole imagery is about. That’s what it represents.
And you’ll notice that the two witnesses are not just called here, verse 4, two olive trees, they are also called two lampstands. [Revelation 11:4, “These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth.”] Their ministry is going to be so powerful that it won’t just be one lampstand, as we saw earlier with this device, but two lampstands.
David Hocking who I went to with Israel, whose commentary on the Book of Revelation I very much enjoy, writes: “In Zechariah’s vision and prophecy there was only one lampstand, whereas there are two lampstands in Revelation 11:4. This distinction reveals that we are not to make the two passages identical, but rather to see that the one illustrates the other.” What is being revealed here in Revelation 11, when you understand Zechariah 4 is the complete and total empowerment of the Holy Spirit, just as the Holy Spirit around the clock automatically empowered Joshua and Zerubbabel to do an impossible task the Holy Spirit is going to be all over these two witnesses and automatically empower them, which will enable them to do something impossible… stand before a wicked nation and a wicked world and prophesy unto God.
When you start to understand this background then you start to understand why Zechariah would say “Not by might, not by power but by My Spirit says the Lord.” [Zechariah 4:6, “Then he said to me, “This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel saying, ‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the LORD of hosts.”] The two olive trees revealing the automatic empowering of oil into the bowl without even having to be attended by the priests that will energize the lampstand in the same way the Holy Spirit will automatically empower these two witnesses to do their job that God has called them to do in the tribulation period. They’re called “lampstands” because they are shedding light in the midst of darkness.
You know a lot of people will say this: you know, the Christian life is hard. And that’s a statement I usually like to correct. The Christian life is not hard, the Christian life is impossible. God has placed in front of his people impossible tasks. Just like there was an impossible task in the days of Zechariah concerning the rebuilding of the temple there will be an impossible task before these two witnesses who will prophesy to the point of martyrdom.
And may I just say there’s probably in your life right now an impossible task. It’s bigger than you, wherever God has you. And the flesh wants you and Satan wants you to get out there and shoulder that burden through your own strength. And sometimes God will allow us to try to do that just to show us how badly we need the Holy Spirit. And when you reach a point of frustration, where you say I can’t do it, then the Lord says okay, now you’re ready to listen. You need to go back and study Zechariah 4, study Revelation 11, and you need to understand that I never called you to do the work of God through human power. The work of God is an impossibility; if it’s God’s work it requires God’s power. “Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit says the Lord.”
And that is what is going to allow you to be the light God wants you to be in the midst of darkness, whether it’s your family, even in your church, at your place of employment. God doesn’t call you to go out there and do it on your own. He supplies around the clock this perpetual, continuous anointing of the Holy Spirit and that’s their empowerment. And what do these guys do with the power of the Holy Spirit.
Look at verses 5 and 6 where we see the activity of their ministry described. Look at verse 5, “And if anyone wants to harm them,” oh my goodness, “fire flows out of their mouth and devours their enemies; so if anyone wants to harm them, he must be killed in this way.” You say well, who are these guys. Well, I would just submit to you Numbers 16:35 where fire was used to destroy life, Moses’ enemies in the midst of Korah’s rebellion, because a bunch of people got together and they didn’t like their pastor for whatever reason. [Numbers 16:35, “Fire also came forth from the LORD and consumed the two hundred and fifty men who were offering the incense.”] We got some disagreements here, we don’t like the way you part your hair, we don’t like the ties you wear. By the way, I did wear an interesting tie today just because it has green on it but it does contain the books of the Bible, Amen! Happy Saint Patrick’s Day, Right. I want to make sure I didn’t wear this tie for no reason.
So we don’t like this, we don’t like that, so they got their own little click together and they rose up against leadership and God says to Moses, don’t worry Moses this one’s on Me and the ground opened up and swallowed up all the disgruntled churchgoers, right into the ground. And then there was a little faction of religious people that was still around and fire came and destroyed them. And so when you read this it looks an awful lot like Moses, and did you know the exact same thing happened with Elijah. In the Old Testament, 2 Kings 1:10-14.
2 Kings 1:10-14, “Elijah replied to the captain of fifty, “If I am a man of God, let fire come down from heaven and consume you and your fifty.” Then fire came down from heaven and consumed him and his fifty.” And it gets more interesting.  “So he again sent to him another captain of fifty with his fifty. And he said to him, “O man of God, thus says the king, ‘Come down quickly.’”  Elijah replied to them, “If I am a man of God, let fire come down from heaven and consume you and your fifty.” Then the fire of God came down from heaven and consumed him and his fifty.” Wow! Verse 13, “So he again sent the captain of a third fifty with his fifty. When the third captain of fifty went up, he came and bowed down on his knees before Elijah, and begged him and said to him, “O man of God, please let my life and the lives of these fifty servants of yours be precious in your sight.  Behold fire came down from heaven and consumed the first two captains of fifty with their fifties; but now let my life be precious in your sight.”
It sounds an awful lot like these two witnesses are Moses and Elijah. And I’m going to have a lot more to say about this as we progress in this study but I think the evidence is overwhelming that Moses and Elijah are going to have sort of a reappearance one day, to fulfill the specific prophecies in God’s Word.
So their activities under the Spirit’s empowerment, number one involved fire. Number two, they involved drought, look if you will at verse 6. “These have the power to shut up the sky, so that rain will not 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 plague, as often as they desire.”
So you look at verse 6 and they have the power to create drought. Who did that in the Old Testament? Elijah, 1 Kings 17:1, “Now Elijah the Tishbite, who was of the settlers of Gilead, said to Ahab, “As the LORD, the God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, surely there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word.” By the way, do you know how long Elijah shut up the heavens so it wouldn’t God’s power? Exactly three and a half years. Where are you getting that from? Luke 4:25, “… Elijah, when the sky was shut up for three years and six months….” James 5:17, “Elijah … he prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the earth for three years and six months.” Didn’t we just run into that time figure, earlier in verse 3? One thousand two hundred and sixty days which is a synonym for three and a half years.
And you continue reading on in verse 6 describing what these two witnesses do under the Spirit’s empowerment and it talks about them having the ability to touch the water and it becomes red like blood. Does that sound like anybody in the Old Testament? It sounds an awful lot like Moses. Go home today and read Exodus 7:12-21 and you’ll see it.
[Exodus 7:12-21, “For each one threw down his staff and they turned into serpents. But Aaron’s staff swallowed up their staffs.  Yet Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, and he did not listen to them, as the LORD had said.  Then the LORD said to Moses, “Pharaoh’s heart is stubborn; he refuses to let the people go.  “Go to Pharaoh in the morning as he is going out to the water, and station yourself to meet him on the bank of the Nile; and you shall take in your hand the staff that was turned into a serpent.  “You shall say to him, ‘The LORD, the God of the Hebrews, sent me to you, saying, “Let My people go, that they may serve Me in the wilderness. But behold, you have not listened until now.”  ‘Thus says the LORD, “By this you shall know that I am the LORD: behold, I will strike the water that is in the Nile with the staff that is in my hand, and it will be turned to blood.  “The fish that are in the Nile will die, and the Nile will become foul, and the Egyptians will find difficulty in drinking water from the Nile.”’”  Then the LORD said to Moses, “Say to Aaron, ‘Take your staff and stretch out your hand over the waters of Egypt, over their rivers, over their streams, and over their pools, and over all their reservoirs of water, that they may become blood; and there will be blood throughout all the land of Egypt, both in vessels of wood and in vessels of stone.’”  So Moses and Aaron did even as the LORD had commanded. And he lifted up the staff and struck the water that was in the Nile, in the sight of Pharaoh and in the sight of his servants, and all the water that was in the Nile was turned to blood.  The fish that were in the Nile died, and the Nile became foul, so that the Egyptians could not drink water from the Nile. And the blood was through all the land of Egypt.”]
In fact, Exodus 7:17 says, “’Thus says the LORD, ‘By this you shall know that I am the LORD: behold, I will strike the water that is in the Nile with the staff that is in my hand, and it will be turned to blood.”’
What does it also say at the end of verse 6, “they can strike the earth with plagues.” Revelation 11:6, “These have the power to shut up the sky, so that rain will not 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 plague, as often as they desire.”] God, in Egypt, brought ten plagues, didn’t He. And who did He use as an instrument? He used a man like Moses.
So this ministry that these two will have is very interesting. We’re given, number one, the exact duration of the ministry, probably the first three and a half years of the tribulation period. Number two, we’re told the source of power of this ministry, the equivalent of these two olive trees that perpetually kept the bowl full which would perpetually around the clock empower the candlesticks which is a description of the Holy Spirit. And number three, verses five and six we’re told what these people are going to do to these two witnesses. It involves fire, it involves drought, it involves water, and it involves plagues.
Never under estimate what God can do with your life when you’re in His will. Maybe you’re not going to breathe out fire; I know some people on radio that kind of do that anyway. But there is a reservoir of power available to you to do whatever it is you’re in right now, no matter what it is. Valley, hospitalization, relationship problems, marriage issues, insubordinate children, problems with your boss, I mean, you can think of endless possibilities.
And many times we’re put in those circumstances because of forces beyond our control and we say to the Lord, Lord, I didn’t bring this on myself, what am I doing here? God doesn’t give us an answer, what He reminds us of is the 24/7 anointing of the Holy Spirit by which you can be sustained and even overcome in the midst of adversity. So these two witnesses, we have a description of their ministry. Now does the world just sit around and say this is really neat, I mean, I just love it when the prophets of God speak up and God backs up their message through signs and wonders.
This is interesting because a lot of people in Christendom today say you’ve got to have signs and wonders because if you don’t have signs and wonders you’re not giving any proof to the unsaved world that God is real. They call this power evangelism… word plus works is what they say, words plus power, words plus the supernatural. Well, these folks from the world have been watching the supernatural and they’re not persuaded at all. In fact, they’re so angry at what happens that they rise up and they kill, verses 7-10, these two witnesses.
What does your Bible say? “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of Christ.” [Romans 10:17] It’s the Word which changes people’s lives. It’s not necessary for it to be accompanied with signs and wonders although God, as we’re seeing here, sometimes accompanies it with signs and wonders. Do you remember what the rich man said when he died and went into Hades in Luke 16? Send someone back from the dead to warn my brothers. You remember what it says at the end of Luke 16? “They have Moses and the prophets,” if they’re not going to believe that they’re not going to believe even if someone rises from the dead. [Luke 16:27, “And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, that you send him to my father’s house— for I have five brothers—in order that he may warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’  “But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’  “But he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent!’  “But he said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.’”]
And so these miracles apparently don’t convince the world watching resulting in the martyrdom of these two witnesses.
Moving down in verses 7-10, we have the causes of martyrdom, the place of the martyrdom, the contempt of the world and the detestable diabolical celebration that happens once the murder of God’s two servants takes place here in verses 7-10. What causes the destruction of these two witnesses. Look at verse 7, Notice the beginning of verse 7 because it’s very important, it says “When they had finished their testimony,” the world system is not going to be allowed to eradicate these two until their ministry under God is completed.
I’m reminded of this quote, usually attributed to George Whitfield, the great revivalist of early America. He said, quote, “We are immortal until our work on earth is done.” If God has you here to do something I believe this, hell itself can try to stop it, even to the point of trying to take your life. But your life itself cannot be extinguished until you do what God calls you to do.
Verse 7, “When they had finished their testimony,” you know what the word for “testimony” there is in the Greek? It’s where we get the word marturas, where we get the word martyr. Sometimes it’s your testimony, talking about the things the Lord has done for you that brings the wrath of the world system upon you, even to the point of martyrdom itself. And I want you to see the sovereignty of God in the whole thing. Yeah, evil it looks like gets the upper hand here for a moment, but only if God allows it.
And who is the troublemaker? If you look towards the middle of verse 7 it talks about this entity, called “the beast” this is the Greek noun thērion, which is the first reference to the beast in the Book of Revelation. In fact, we’re going to run into two beasts, antichrist and false prophet in Revelation 13. And this is the first reference to the beast in the Book of Revelation. Now we’ve run into him before with different imageries. He was the rider on the white horse if you’ll remember, who brought in temporary peace, Revelation 6:1-2, the one that goes out conquering and to conquer, the one with the bow riding on the white horse. [Revelation 6:1-2, “Then I saw when the Lamb broke one of the seven seals, and I heard one of the four living creatures saying as with a voice of thunder, “Come.”  I looked, and behold, a white horse, and he who sat on it had a bow; and a crown was given to him, and he went out conquering and to conquer.”]
That’s the antichrist. The antichrist is the same entity as the beast here in verse 7, the same entity as the beast in Revelation 13. Why is he called “the beast”? He’s called the beast because of his character. His character is animalistic; it is without conscience, it is without really an awareness or a knowledge of anything that is holy and precious in the sight of God. That’s who the antichrist is, he does the unthinkable in defying biblical norms and realities. That’s why he’s called here the beast. Where does he come from? Well, if you look very carefully at verse 7 he comes out of a place called the abyss. [Verse 7, “When they have finished their testimony, the beast that comes up out of the abyss will make war with them, and overcome them and kill them.”]
This word “abyss” abussos in the Greek, we’ve run into it, it’s the bottomless pit where the demons came out of. Remember, Revelation 9:1, trumpet seven, to torture men for five months. [Revelation 9:1, “[Revelation 9:1, “Then the fifth angel sounded, and I saw a star from heaven which had fallen to the earth; and the key of the bottomless pit was given to him.”] It’s the same place that Satan is dethroned during the thousand year kingdom, in the abyss, same word in Greek. Revelation 20:1, Revelation 20:3. [Revelation 20:1, “Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding the key of the abyss and a great chain in his hand.” [Revelation 20:3] “and he threw him into the abyss, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he would not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were completed; after these things he must be released for a short time.”
It’s highlighting the demonic nature of the antichrist. You say well, is the antichrist a demon or is the antichrist a man? And I think my answer to that would probably be yes, he’s clearly a man; Revelation 13:18 he’s got the number of a man, he’s a human being. [Revelation 13:18, “Here is wisdom. Let him who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for the number is that of a man; and his number is six hundred and sixty-six.”]
And 2 Thessalonians 2:3 calls him “the man of lawlessness.” [2 Thessalonians 2:3, “Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction.”] He’s clearly a person, he’s clearly a human being and yet what does Revelation 13:4 say? “they worshiped the dragon” who’s the dragon? The devil, because he gave his authority to who? The beast. [Revelation 13:4, “they worshiped the dragon because he gave his authority to the beast; and they worshiped the beast, saying, “Who is like the beast, and who is able to wage war with him?”]
There’s only two people in biblical history that are given the title “son of perdition” or “son of destruction. Who was the first? A man named Judas. John 17:12. [John 17:12, “While I was with them, I was keeping them in Your name which You have given Me; and I guarded them and not one of them perished but the son of perdition, so that the Scripture would be fulfilled.”] Who was the second? The antichrist, 2 Thessalonians 2:3. Both are called the son of perdition, the son of destruction. Why? What do both have in common? They’re probably the only two people in human history that are possessed by the devil himself. John 13:27 says Satan went into Judas so Judas could fulfill the deed of the betrayal of Christ. [John 13:27, “After the morsel, Satan then entered into him. Therefore Jesus said to him, ‘What you do, do quickly.’”]
When it comes to the big jobs Satan himself gets involved in the action and actually goes into a person and the only other example that we have of it in the Bible will be the Antichrist himself. The text is not as clear as I would like it to be but I think there’s a very strong case that when Satan is kicked out of heaven, Revelation 12, he will actually go into the Antichrist. And this mindset or description of him coming out of the abyss highlights his wicked demonic character. There are people in world history that are so debase that I am convinced that a demon is inside of them causing them to do what they do. Erwin Lutzer, a well-known pastor describes Adolf Hitler this way in his book Hitler’s Cross: The Revealing Story of How the Cross of Christ Was Used As a Symbol of the Nazi Agenda.
And Lutzer says this on page 83. “Ernest [can’t understand word]” if I’m pronouncing that right, “introduced him” that’s Hitler, “to psychedelic drugs that produce clairvoyant visions and heighten spiritual perceptions. In this way he was empowered to perform the deeds that he believed fate had decreed. Even those who knew Hitler from his early days were well aware of his occult powers. August Kubizek, a friend, said, “It was if another being spoke out of his body. It was not a case of a speaker being carried away with his own words. I felt as though he himself” that’s Hitler, “listened with astonishment and emotion to what broke forth from him.”
I mean, apparently according to this testimony Hitler himself was stunned by his own words. Why is that? Because something greater than himself, in this case a demon, was inside of him. Now with the antichrist there’s not going to be a demon, it’s going to be the top dog, the devil himself, the very devil that indwelt Judas in John 13:27 and consequently what is this antichrist going to do to these two witnesses when God allows it, once their testimony is over, verse 7, will make war with them,” that’s the Greek word, polymos, war, where we get the word polemical. It’s the exact opposite of the Greek word Eirene where we get the word irenic, peaceful.
See, when Satan gets an upper hand in any culture he goes to war with the people that are standing for God. That’s why as our society flirts more and more with the occult and acts as if occultic phenomenon are okay you can expect the culture to turn more and more against two groups of people, A. Orthodox Jews (we’ll see them in Revelation 12) and B, evangelical Christians. They call us the “f” word, fundamentalists, as if being a fundamentalist is the worst thing in the world. The fundamentalist today is a [can’t understand word] , oh, you’re a fundamentalist. Well, I guess I am a fundamentalist if you define it right. A fundamentalist is someone who believes in the fundamentals of the faith. If that’s what you mean by a fundamentalist then I’m a fundamentalist.
By the way, when I go out and do my flying I don’t fly myself, I get on an airplane, I am very comforted by the fact that the pilot is a fundamentalist, that interprets numbers and gages and all that other stuff in a normal literal sense and that he understands the fundamentals of flying.
Today fundamentalism is sort of looked at as the ultimate cussword you could hurl at somebody. And you can expect that in a culture that’s turned its back on God. That’s what happened in Nazi Germany.
It says, “When they had finished their testimony the beast that has come up out of the abyss will make war with them and will overcome them and will kill them.” [Revelation 11:7] So he is the cause, if you will, of the martyrdom. Well, this is all interesting; where is this going to take place? San Francisco? Washington D.C. You have a very clear answer there in verse 8, notice what it says. “And their dead bodies” killed by the Jews, “will lie in the street of the great city” what city would that be, “which mystically is called Sodom and Egypt, where also their Lord was crucified.” Where was Jesus crucified? Jerusalem. You’ll notice that these martyrs have made Jesus their Lord. These are not just people that have believed in the gospel to get their fire insurance paid up, these are people that have submitted to the call of discipleship, following Christ even to the point of martyrdom itself. And the whole thing happens right here in the great city, the city streets of Jerusalem.
Well, Jerusalem is the holy city, right? What can be wrong with Jerusalem? I mean, it’s on all our Christmas cards, right? Look at how Jerusalem is described. By the way, I take every single geographical reference in the Book of Revelation literally. I’ve been trying to compile a list of geography as I’ve gone through the Book of Revelation, I can’t find an allegorical example anywhere of a geographical reference and you note all of them, and in this chart I tried to do that. Maybe that will help you.
I think God means what He says and says what He means. Amen. It’s going to happen in Jerusalem, that’s what’s going to take place. If it’s going to happen to two witnesses it’s not going to be five or ten, it’s going to be two. If it says fire is going to come out of their mouth, I don’t know how that’s going to happen but that’s what’s going to happen. If the beast is going to murder them, possessed by Satan, if I’m understanding this right then that’s what will take place.
What could be wrong with the city of Jerusalem during this time. Their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city… oh-oh, “which is mystically called Sodom and Egypt….” [Revelation 11:8] You say I thought we were supposed to take this literally. You are, unless the text uses the word like “mystically.” Once it uses a word like mystically it’s taking the literal meaning and adding a layer of truth. And you’re not allowed to interpret that layer of truth any way you want, you have to pay attention to the interpretation. It’s very similar to Galatians 4:24 where Paul begins to describe an allegory from two women, Sarah and Hagar. He says in Galatians 4:24, “This is allegorically speaking, for these women are two covenants: one proceeding from Mount Sinai bearing children who are to be slaves; she is Hagar.”
Paul never takes the Sarah and Hagar story and de-historicizes it and pretends like it never happened. The story is true, there were two women, one of them was named Sarah, one was named Hagar but what Paul does as an apostle is he adds to it a layer of understanding. Now I’m not free to do this unless I see words in the Bible, like mystically or allegorically. And even when I see it I can’t just make up any interpretation I want, I have to pay attention to the interpretation that the Holy Spirit has given.
So he talks about this great city, the city of Jerusalem, and then he says let me say what Jerusalem is like during this time period; it’s just like Sodom and it’s just like Egypt. Now within the nation of Israel today the vast majority of them are unbelievers, they don’t believe anything, atheists you might even call them. And what are they like, even though they’re God’s people? They’re just like Sodom, they’ve just invented their own sexuality and did whatever they wanted. There are some within the nation of Israel, a minority, that we call the Orthodox and they are believers, not so much believers in Yeshua, not so much believers in Jesus but believers in the Old Testament Law. And you know what they’re trying to do? They’re trying to put people back under the Law.
“Well, the last time I checked the Law of itself is a place of bondage, it’s a place of prison, and doesn’t what that imagery of Egypt remind us of? Wasn’t the nation of Israel in bondage in Egypt for 400 years? After all, Galatians 3:24 says, “Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ….” The Law exists to show us that we can’t measure up to God’s righteousness through human performance. It’s there to lead us to Jesus, He did it in our place. And once the Law has done its job in our life it’s done its job. It’s not meant to put people back under it, it’s meant to lead us unto Christ. And if people are using the Law in any other way they’re putting people in a state of bondage similar to Egypt.
So the nation of Israel, the city of Jerusalem here is in a terrible mess. That’s why these prophets are prophesying in Jerusalem in sackcloth, because they’re prophesying to a group of people in God’s city that are either atheists, like Sodom and Gomorrah, inventing their own sexuality, or they’re following the orthodox, putting people back under the Law, putting people in a state of bondage. And the reality of the situation is God is dealing with the nation of Israel here in their unbelief. I think sometimes in our Zionism and in our desire for Israel and our support for Israel and our support for them in their land which is a legitimate belief, I hold it myself, we’ve forgotten the fact that those are unbelievers over there.
B.B. Netanyahu, I love the man, he’s not a Christian, he doesn’t have the Holy Spirit inside of him, and there is a program for Israel in unbelief to make them into Israel into what? Belief! And that’s how I look at the nation of Israel. I look at the nation of Israel the same way as I look at the Holy Spirit who worked in my life before I was saved. Did the Holy Spirit work in your life before you were saved? Of course He did, and that’s what He’s doing with the nation of Israel. that’s why I can look at the nation of Israel today through a divine lens loving them, supporting them, yet at the same time acknowledging that they still need Christ as every single human being on planet earth needs. And they, in this state of Sodom and Egypt, are actually going to make a deal with the devil himself; it’s called a covenant with Sheol, Isaiah 28. They are going to reach out to the antichrist who promises to give them security and safety and they’re going to be grossly disappointed once they get three and a half years into this because the antichrist is going to go into that rebuilt Jewish temple and betray them.
So when we’re dealing with Israel are we dealing with Israel in belief or unbelief? One day belief, today unbelief. I like this chart compiled by Randall Price, who’s spoken here, he compares present Israel with future Israel. The present Israel, they’re returned to part of their land, future Israel they will return to all of their land. The present regathering is Israel in unbelief but once they are betrayed by the antichrist and the Holy Spirit begins to break the blinders off their eyes they’ll return in faith. That’s the end game. Currently they’re restored to the land only, still Sodom and Egypt, but one day they’re going to be in their land and restored not just to the land but to the Lord. Currently the stage is being set for the tribulation period. The stage is being set for what? Divine discipline which is the mechanism that God will use to bring them to Himself, for once it’s all said and done the stage will be set, not for discipline but for millennial blessing. And the tool that God is going to use to move them from the left column to the right column is the events of the tribulation period. God knocks us down so we look up.
Jeremiah 30:7 says, “’Alas! for that day is great, There is none like it; and it is the time of Jacob’s distress,” now whose name was changed from Jacob to Israel in the Old Testament? Jacob’s name was. Jacob is a synonym for Israel. , “’Alas! for that day is great, There is none like it; and it is the time of Jacob’s distress, but he” who’s that? Israel! “will be saved from it.” That hasn’t happened yet; we’re still in Jerusalem as Sodom and Egypt. And these two witnesses show up to give the nation this message and they’re not liked very much and as the demonically inspired beast himself does, he kills them right there in the city streets of Jerusalem. And what does the whole world do? My goodness, I’m out of time, I can’t even get into it. They have a Christmas party, that’s next week. They even have an office gift exchange. And then it says, verse 10, the whole world is going to see this event happening, and is going to look at their corpses. [Revelation 11:10, “And those who dwell on the earth will rejoice over them and celebrate; and they will send gifts to one another, because these two prophets tormented those who dwell on the earth.”]
Well, how in the world could that happen? It’s interesting, you go back to commentators trying to make any sense of that passage. You don’t have to try really, the whole thing makes sense to us, we have Skype and cable TV and life streaming, I mean, you could get on your phone right now (I don’t recommend you do that in a worship service) but you can get on your phone right now and push a button and see exactly what’s happening in the city streets of Jerusalem. In fact, do you know what I saw in my recent trip to Jerusalem? Camera after camera after camera after camera after camera. Every block there’s a camera; every store there’s a camera, there’s cameras on the Temple Mount, the Temple grounds, the Temple sight, the Wailing Wall, cameras, cameras, cameras everywhere. Do you think the Lord is getting ready for this event? How much further proof do you need?
And so really the question becomes we’re not Israel, we’re the church, we’re going to be raptured out before these things happen, just take my word for it. If you want to argue with me on it, that’s fine, I’ll explain it to you on the way up! [Laughter] But we’re kind of there by way of analogy, aren’t we. God has a program of taking people from unbelief to belief. Well how do you, as a lost human being in the age of the church go from unbelieving to being a believer? How do you go from being on one side of the ledger, the left, to the right side of the ledger? It’s always the same in all of human history. It’s the gospel! Why do we call it the gospel? Because it means good news; it’s good news because Jesus did everything in our place. Everything that has ever been necessary to bridge the gap between sinful man and a holy God has been accomplished through the work of Jesus Christ in the death, burial, resurrection and ascension. That’s why His final words on the cross were “It is finished!” Which is a Greek translation of tetelestai, which in Greek means paid in full, well done, meaning you can’t earn your way to God through self-righteousness, you have to receive what He has done in your place. And you receive what He has done in your place simply by exercising faith, which means trust in what Jesus has done. That’s how you move from the left column to the right column. It’s that simple.
Israel and its condition of Sodom in Egypt doesn’t get it yet but it’s going to be explained to them through life events very fully in the events of the tribulation period. But you know what, it’s being explained to you right now; in fact, the Holy Spirit is right now convicting people of their need to do this. So we really don’t have any excuse for not doing it, right? So if you want to get saved I would say this: the best you know how, in the quietness of your own heart as the Holy Spirit places you under conviction trust, which means place confidence in, rely upon what Jesus has done for you 2,000 years ago, because when He died on that cross He wasn’t just thinking of the world (He was) but He’s thinking of you! You were on His mind and the gift there which is free to receive.
Israel, in their darkness, spiritually thinks they’re going to get there through Egypt which is going back to the Law. That won’t get you there. Going to church won’t get you there. A self-help program won’t get you there. Having a religious enterprise won’t get you there. Giving money won’t get you there. Raising a hand won’t get you there. Even walking an aisle, I can get myself stung to death here in Texas by saying stuff like that, won’t get you there either. It’s a one-step process, it’s not even a process, it’s a moment where you trust in Christ and His righteousness is transferred to you. I would encourage you to trust in Christ now, where you’re seated, or anybody watching online you can trust in Christ right now. If it’s something you need more explanation on I’m available after the service to talk.
Shall we pray. Father, we’re grateful for these prophecies that are destined to come to our planet very soon. Helps us to be yearning and watchful and waiting as we look for the soon return of our Lord Jesus Christ. Help us to understand the urgency of the times. We’ll be careful to give you all the praise and the glory. We ask these things in Jesus’ name, and God’s people said…. Amen