AGCC Sun. a.m. 3/25/2001
#9 (Book of Revelation Series)
TEXT: Rev. 11:1-14
INTRO: This chapter in Revelation takes us from the middle of the tribulation period to near the end of it. This covers the last 3 ½ years of the 7 year period.
No period of time in the earth's history will be darker or more sinister than this period of time. Evil will appear to triumph completely over righteousness. Yet, even in the worst of times God has servants ready and willing to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ. No matter the situation, the Gospel marches on ... as does the Church!
ILLUS:"The church has many tasks but only one mission." - Arthur Preston - Edythe Draper, Draper's Book of Quotations for the Christian World (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1992). Entry 3328.
The preaching of the Gospel has occurred at the worst moments of human history, and it will be no different in the tribulation period. We must never underestimate the power of God's Word, either now or in the future.
ILLUS:When missionary Ray Dibble and his wife left Nigeria at the beginning of World War II, they had just finished translating the New Testament into the Igala language. There were only six typewritten copies of the New Testament and a handful of Christians when they left. Returning after the war the Dibbles found fifty congregations. Tribesmen had made at least one hundred copies of the New Testament by hand. Some pages were torn, so some tribesmen had committed whole gospels to memory that they might not be lost. The believers were persecuted by nonbelievers and called "The Word of God People." They never gave up, and they deserved the title! -- Robert C. Shannon, 1000 Windows, (Cincinnati, Ohio: Standard Publishing Company, 1997).
We can learn from the calling of these two witnesses who were called to testify about God at the worst of times ... that we can surely testify for Christ in the day we live, a time when it isn't nearly as difficult to witness for Christ.
PROP. SENT: The Bible teaches us that God's calling to tell others about Christ will not cease until the final days of time, it is a call we must all answer during the time we live.
I. TESTIMONY OF A SERVANT'S RESPONSE 11:1-12
A. God's People 11:1-4
1. As John takes us to the mid point of the tribulation we see conditions deteriorate.
a. The AntiChrist has just desecrated the temple by setting up his own image in it.
b. The Jews now realize that the AntiChrist is not their long awaited Messiah.
2. This event dramatically changes the atmosphere on the planet, we now enter the "great tribulation" - a time of unparalleled evil, and judgment ...
a. And yet ... God still desires to have the message of salvation preached!
b. God will raise up in Jerusalem two witnesses who will testify for Him to the Jews and the world.
c. These two witnesses will preach for the last 3 ½ years of the 7 years of tribulation, they preached judgment on sin -- indicated by their wearing of sackcloth.
3. God doesn't need a vast army, nor does he need modern technology ... He just needed two men who will speak up for Him.
a. Why two?
b. The Bible says that every matter must be established in the mouths of at least 2 witnesses.
ILLUS:Men look for better methods, but God looks for better men. - Erwin W. Lutzer (1941- ) - Edythe Draper, Draper's Book of Quotations for the Christian World (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1992). Entry 3318.
4. God doesn't need a lot of "stuff" to accomplish His purposes, just obedient people who will speak His Word.
B. God's Power 11:5-6
1. Notice that though the days were full of evil these witnesses for Christ are given God's power to witness.
a. Nothing can stop them, God has ordained them to do the work of ministry and not even Satan can hinder them or prevent them from preaching the Gospel.
b. This raises an important point: If Satan cannot prevent their ministry even when he appears to have full control over the earth then we can be sure that he cannot prevent the preaching of the Gospel today either!
c. This means ministry CAN happen if we are willing to be used.
2. The two witnesses have the power of Moses and Elijah:
a. to shut up the heavens from rain, or to loose the rain.
b. to have plagues hit the earth like they did on Egypt.
3. There would be supernatural manifestations following their preaching ministry ... a similar promise in the New Testament for believers today!
a. We can expect God to do great things when we preach His Word.
b. God will confirm His Word with signs following! (see Mark 16:17 ff)
4. They are committed to preaching in spite of the pressures!
ILLUS:C. S. Lewis fell into grace. But instead of simply entering a monastery, he did worse. He ended up publicly explaining and openly defending his personal God to millions of listeners and readers. Such undignified behavior embarrassed the hierarchy at his college at Oxford and cost Lewis his chance of ever advancing to a higher position on the faculty there. Lewis learned that if you speak about beauty, truth or goodness, and about God as a great spiritual force of some kind, people will remain friendly. But he found that the temperature drops when you discuss a God who gives definite commands, who does definite acts, who has definite ideas and character. - Kathryn Lindskoog -- James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988), p. 490.
5. While not always the popular thing to do, preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ is the mission of the Church, and thus the responsibility of every member of the body of Christ.
a. The two witnesses preached with the Holy Spirit's power and enablement.
b. Certainly the image of these two witnesses as "two olive trees" (11:4) would indicate that God's Spirit was their supply, as olive oil is often used as the symbol of the Holy Spirit.
c. If we had to depend on our abilities the Gospel would surely fall away, but God promises His power so we are sure of success.
ILLUS:People say that it is so hard to bring Jesus Christ and present him before the lives of men today. Of course it is, it is so hard that it is impossible except by the power of the indwelling Holy Ghost. - Oswald Chambers (1874-1917) - Edythe Draper, Draper's Book of Quotations for the Christian World (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1992). Entry 3322.
6. The preaching of the Gospel is not dependent on our abilities, it is anointed by God's Spirit.
a. Therefore, nothing will stop it!
b. It never returns void! Isa. 55:11 "so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it."
C. God's Plan 11:7-12
1. Notice here that God's plan includes a witness to the whole world, that the Gospel will be fully preached ... ONLY then is Satan allowed to kill these two witnesses, only after they had FINISHED the task given them by God.
a. Satan in not in control, GOD IS!
b. The lives of these servants were protected until they had accomplished God's purposes in their lives.
c. We must not live in fear, God's hand on our lives is so powerful that only when we have completed God's task does our time on earth end.
2. Notice that the world so hated these two men that they celebrate and send gifts to each other after they are killed.
a. The world was critical of their message ... which no doubt included preaching judgment!
b. They did not hesitate to tell the whole truth however, in spite of how popular they were ... or how popular they weren't!
3. If we are afraid to witness because we don't want people to think badly about us then we will let people go to Hell! It is too important to ignore ... and we need to realize that even if our message isn't always well received, it is needed!
ILLUS:One day a lady criticized D. L. Moody for his methods of evangelism in attempting to win people to the Lord. Moody's reply was "I agree with you. I don't like the way I do it either. Tell me, how do you do it?" The lady replied, "I don't do it." Moody retorted, "Then I like my way of doing it better than your way of not doing it." -- James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988) p. 178.
4. The proof of the message however was witnessed by the world when these two witnesses are resurrected back to life, and then they are raptured to Heaven.
a. In the end the message we preach will be authenticated by God's power to raise the dead.
b. This the was the proof of Jesus' claims and message ... when He arose from the dead it settled the issue of whether He was God or not!
c. These two servants though despised by the world are honored by the Lord ... and they are raised back to life as evidence that they were sent by God with the correct message.
d. Satan could do nothing about this either! It simply states that when God raised them back to life and took them to Heaven that "their enemies looked on."
II. TRAGEDY OF A SHALLOW RESPONSE 11:13-14
A. Great Panic! 11:13
1. At the moment of the witnesses being caught up to Heaven there is a great earthquake that causes a 1/10 of the city to collapse ... this kills 7,000 inhabitants.
a. The result of this causes fear to strike the survivors and they did something interesting here, they "gave glory to the God of heaven."
b. Have they finally turned from their sins as they witnessed God's power to raise the two witnesses back to life and take them to heaven? Has God's power in the earthquake made them rethink their relationship with God?
c. The answer to the above questions are a resounding NO!
2. While they are briefly willing to offer glory to God ... they are not willing to repent of their sins!
a. Their last minute decision to glorify God does not represent a real change of heart, just a last minute emotional reaction ... there must be more to our worship of God than just an emotional response ... it must also include repentance!
b. God wants to be more than just a God of a crisis moment.
ILLUS:An insurance agent received a phone call from an excited woman. "I want to insure my house," she said. "Can I do it by phone?" "I'm sorry," answered the man, "but I'd have to see it first." "Then you'd better get here right away," exclaimed the woman, "because the place is on fire!" -- James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988), p. 478.
3. It is tragic that these men and women did not repent of their sins, even after witnessing God's power to raise the dead and transport them to heaven!
a. Miracles alone will not convince anyone to accept Christ ... there must be conviction in the heart that one is a sinner and is in need of a savior before transformation can take place.
b. Think of the many Pharisees and others who saw Jesus perform miracles and still did not believe ... faith is not always born from miracles, it is born from the Word of God. "Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God." Rom. 10:17 (KJV)
4. For 3 ½ years these people heard the truth from God's witnesses, they observed God's supernatural power to protect these witnesses, they saw God's power by miracles done by their command ... such things as plagues and the heaven's shut up with no rain ... and finally they see God raise two dead men who had been dead for over 3 days and translate them to heaven ... and still they don't believe!
a. What does it take for you to believe?
b. Do you only glorify God but fail to yield your life to Him?
c. Is God real in your life?
B. Great Predicament 11:14
1. In spite of all these things there is still more coming ... without positive results yet!
a. This is only the end of the second woe ... the third is about to strike.
b. There is every indication that those who have hardened their hearts already will not change even after another round of God's prodding.
2. 7 years of AntiChrist's ruling has not yet caused sinners to turn to God, what a sad reality!
3. The good news however is this: Though Satan and his servants have tried for 7 years to destroy God's plans and take over the planet they are about to be finished!
a. AntiChrist and Satan have not been able to destroy God's Word or the light of the Gospel!
ILLUS:There isn't enough darkness in all the world to put out a single candle. -- Croft M. Pentz, The Complete Book of Zingers (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1990).
b. Satan will fail ... so why follow a failure!?
4. The final woe will come quickly since this is now already at the end of the 7 years of tribulation ... it will be the third and final woe, and God will usher in an age of righteousness.
a. Why not be part of God's plan and instead of Satan's?
b. Today you have a choice, the Gospel or your sins, choose well! Do you hear His call on your life?
CONCLUSION: God's calling on His servants never change ... preach the Gospel to every creature! Even when they world becomes the darkest God will raise up witnesses to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Only after they had finished the task did God call these 2 witnesses home. Are you a witness for Christ?