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!