Last year my BSGs did a study on Revelation. It was a challenging deep dive into one of the most mysterious books of the Bible. Any Hollywood script writer or New York Times bestselling author would probably consider the story told in Revelation to be a pinnacle piece. It weaves its way through the story of the complacency of the times and the coming storm of evil. It has heroes and martyrs. It has all the special effects of world-wide destruction to win an Oscar. And it has a savior. And a beautiful new beginning for the world.
There’s been plenty of apocalyptic movies and stories told in the last 100 years or so that draw upon the themes found in Revelation. Man and satan lead the world in its own inevitable destruction and a savior rises from the ashes. But what is unique about the Bible’s Revelation is it’s all true.
From Genesis to Jude, new beginnings abound. But in this one final book of God’s Word, we see 1,000s, millions even. Martyrs rising from the ashes to take their place near the throne. The 1444,000 appointed Jews who are to be God’s instruments in spreading the word of the final judgement. And of course, the rapture of believers, taken up before the final judgements are passed on this world.
But there are two people that have a special place in this book. Two ordinary people to whom God will speak and send out to the world as prophets or truth tellers. Smack in the middle of the 22 chapters of Revelation you’ll find two people whose new beginnings will send shockwaves around the world.
And I will appoint my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth.” Revelation 11:3
The two witnesses’ identities have long been up for debate. Suffice it to say if they were extraordinary people I believe the text would say so. But they aren’t even given names, just like Naaman’s little slave girl. And unlike Jonah, they appear to walk boldly into a hostile world without pause. Maybe God has a pre-game “pow wow” with them where He explains the plan. More likely, God tells the witnesses, after having been prepared through their own study and trials, to go to Jeruselem at an appointed time and start spreading the Word that judgement time had come. But also unlike Jonah, they will tell how to avoid a terrible death.
“Now when they have finished their testimony,…” Revelation 11:7
Notice the two witnesses won’t go about town crying out, “The end is near!” They instead speak of God’s rescue from sin — their testimony. God will protect them for 1,260 days while they tell the world of the Good News of the Gospel and yes, about the impending judgement. And when God’s time for them is up, they will be killed by evil forces. It appears their new beginning would end there. But their death is just the middle of their story. For all the world to see after three and a half days lying dead in the street of Jeruselem, God will cause them to rise to their feet, sparking terror in the hearts of those who celebrated their deaths. Their new beginning, a reunification with the Lord, sets the world on fire.
At that very hour there was a severe earthquake and a tenth of the city collapsed. Seven thousand people were killed in the earthquake, and the survivors were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven. Revelation 11:13
Thousands, most likely, will give glory to God. Because of two unnamed people speaking the truth about God’s love, promises, rescue and judgement. Two people that are like you and me – flesh and blood. Two people, who like Noah, heard God’s voice and obeyed courageously. Who like Moses sought out an intimate relationship with God. Who like Queen Esther will stare into uncertainty and know God will not fail her. Two regular humans like Onesimus who studied at the feet of a teacher and then asked for forgiveness from both his spiritual and earthly masters. Like Joseph who stood alone against judgement by his community knowing God was with him. And like the 3,000 who put discipleship at the forefront of their faith.
In my study of Revelation, Warren Wiersbe points out the Gospel of John shows us how and why to believe. The epistles give us confirmation of who God is and what He expects of us. And Revelation is all about being ready. Ready for what? Ready for your new beginning. To be a witness for all of God’s glorious ways.
Friend, we don’t know when the events outlined in Revelation 11 will happen. But we need to be ready, they are nearer today than they were yesterday. You might be one of the witnesses called to be part of this amazing New Beginning for the world. Your name may never be known by man but God has a plan for you. A plan for your new beginning.