God's Word is light on the hill,
a sheltering tree with wide-spreading
Survey history and you will
that the health of the
rises and falls with
convictions about the Bible
When the church knows and believes that the
Bible is God’s Word,
it grows as strong as Hercules.
It becomes a light on the hill,
a sheltering tree with wide-spreading branches.
When the church is confused about
its light grows dim, its branches wither.
It becomes more of a danger than a help.
In Revelation 8-9
the first six trumpets sounded. The seventh trumpet
will not sound until chapter 11.
In Revelation 10 we stop and reflect on something vital: the
character of God’s
spoken and written revelation.
Revelation 10 reveals to us six facts about God’s word that when known
and believed will strengthen and enliven the church:
1. Jesus Christ is the author of God’s Word.
Then I saw another mighty angel
coming down from heaven,
wrapped in a cloud,
with a rainbow over his head,
and his face was like the sun,
and his legs like pillars of fire.
He had a little scroll open in his hand.
And he set his right foot on the sea,
and his left foot on the land, and called out with a loud voice,
like a lion roaring.
When he called out,
the seven thunders sounded.
Basically, angelos means
he manifests undeniably Christ-like attributes.
First, he is wrapped and robed in a cloud,
just like the LORD in the Old Testament.
Jesus said that he would return like that for
in fulfillment of
“But I tell you,
from now on you will see the
Son of Man seated at the right hand
of Power and coming on the
clouds of heaven.”
Second, his head is crowned with a
the sign of the Noahic Covenant
of mercy when the LORD pledged never again
to destroy the world by flood
has already shown us Jesus--
the Lamb who was Slain--
and encircled by the
Third, his face shines like the sun.
Revelation 1:16 showed
Jesus like this, and on the Mount of Transfiguration
Peter, James, and John saw
: “And he was transfigured before them, and his
face shone like the sun, and his clothes became
white as light”
Fourth, his feet (podes can refer either to feet or legs)
are like fire.
Revelation 1:15 showed Jesus with
feet “like burnished bronze,
refined in a furnace.”
His feet are the solid opposite of the feet of clay of Nebuchadnezzar’s statue, which represented ephemeral world empires
Fifth, he holds a biblaridion,
a little scroll or book
(“Bible” comes from biblion, which was in turn derived from the Phoenician city Byblos, well known as the port through which Egyptian papyrus was imported into Palestine.)
For now, we note that in Revelation a
scroll usually represents God’s decree for history.
We will return to this little scroll in a moment.
Sixth, he plants his right foot on the oceans, and his left foot on the land. This is the Creator of heaven and earth, who stands over and transcends his creation.
It recalls Jesus striding over the raging waters
of the Sea of Galilee
like he owned it.
Indeed, he created and owns and rules the universe.
Seventh, he gave “a
voice, like a
This is the invincible voice of the
Lion of Judah,
creation into being
The author of the little scroll, and all of God’s revelation, whether spoken through his prophets of the Old Testament, or his apostles of the New, is Jesus Christ.
“All Scripture is theopneustos”, said Paul (2 Tim. 3:16);
“breathed out by God.”
Every word and syllable and letter of the Bible comes out of the mouth of Jesus Christ.
2. God’s Word is Jesus’ powerful voice.
Revelation 10:3-4 [He]
called out with a loud voice,
like a lion roaring.
When he called out, the seven
And when the seven thunders had sounded,
I was about to write...
Here we expand on verses 3-4. Last year the mighty cruise ship MS Queen Elizabeth, 300 metres long and weighing 92,000 tons, docked in Hobart. I happened to be on the wharf at its departure, when it gave a triple blast on its horn. It was like the deep bass rumble of a very large cathedral pipe organ, but quantumly louder, easily the loudest man-made sound I’ve heard, and felt. The blast bounced off Mount Wellington and echoed and resounded around the city for a remarkably long time.
Jesus’ Word is echoed by “seven thunders.”
Again and again the Gospels let us hear the mighty power of Jesus’ voice:
- Jesus spoke sternly to a demon-possessed man: “‘Be quiet! Come out of him!’ The evil spirit shook the man violently and came out of him with a shriek” (Mark 1:25-26).
- Jesus “rebuked the wind and said to the waves, ‘Quiet! Be still!’ Then the wind died down and it was completely calm” (Mark 4:39).
- Jesus spoke to Lazarus’s corpse, four days dead and decomposing: “‘Lazarus, come out!’ The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face” (John 11:43-44).
- When soldiers came to arrest him in the Garden of Gethsemane, “They were carrying torches, lanterns and weapons. Jesus… asked them, ‘Who is it you want?’ ‘Jesus of Nazareth,’ they replied. ‘I am he.’ … When Jesus said, ‘I am he,’ they drew back and fell to the ground” (John 18:3-6). His word brought them to their knees.
bears all the power of Christ its author.
So when it is read and taught in our churches
Spirit is at work,
something extraordinary happens:
But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or outsider enters,
he is convicted by all,
he is called to account by all,
the secrets of his heart are disclosed, and so,
falling on his face, he will worship
God and declare that God is really among you.
(1 Cor. 14:24-25)
is the saving word of Jesus,
which breaks hard hearts,
opens blind eyes, and brings about the new birth,
repentance, and faith in him.
For God, who said, “
Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts
to give the light
of the knowledge of the
glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
(2 Cor. 4:6)
3. God’s Word doesn’t tell us everything. Revelation 10:4
And when the seven thunders had sounded, I
was about to write,
but I heard a voice from heaven saying,
“Seal up what the seven thunders
have said, and do not
write it down.”
Jesus’ seven letters to the church were dictated, written down, and read out loud in the churches (Rev. 2-3). The effects of the broken seven seals were likewise written down (5-8.) And the effects of the
seven trumpet blasts were written down (8-11.)
The seven thunders were
to be written down.
This is a disturbing reminder that God’s Word
does not tell us everything.
It certainly tells us enough, as the Westminster Confession of Faith reminds us:
The whole counsel of God, concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man’s salvation, faith, and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit, or traditions of men. (WCF 1.6)
God has not told us everything about everything. He has not told us the day and hour of Christ’s return. He does not tell us what is going to appear in the news tomorrow, let alone in a thousand or a million year’s time.
God knows what is going to happen. His Son has spoken and the thunders have echoed. He is LORD of history and sovereignly decrees and writes history. However,
“The secret things belong to the
Lord our God,
but the things that are revealed
belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all
the words of this law.” (Deut. 29:29)
He has not told us everything,
but we can certainly trust
that all history has and will be
the outworking of his
good and perfect
4. The promises of God’s Word will stand.
And the angel whom I saw standing on the sea and on the land
raised his right hand to heaven
and swore by him who lives forever and ever,
who created heaven and what is in it,
the earth and what is in it,
and the sea and what is in it, that there would be no more delay,
but that in the days
sounded by the seventh angel,
mystery of God would be fulfilled,
just as he announced to
servants the prophets.
Picture this awesome and solemn scene:
The messenger, Jesus Christ,
astride land and sea,
raises his right hand to heaven.
We can see that hand reaching right
into heaven itself.
He raises his hand to
swear an oath by the Eternal
Creator, his Father.
This recalls Hebrews 6:13:
For when God made a promise to Abraham, since he had
no one greater by whom to swear,
he swore by himself.
What does Christ swear in
That “the mystery of God would be
just as he announced to his
servants the prophets.”
In the New Testament
refers to something
hidden that will be revealed.
Christ swears that all of God’s
plans and purposes,
those previously announced to his prophets but
not yet fulfilled and seen,
will be unfolded and seen
in his good
Not a single
promise of God’s Word will fail.
Not a single announcement of a future event will
“All flesh is like grass
and all its glory like the flower of grass
The grass withers,
and the flower falls,
but the word of the Lord remains forever.”
(1 Pet. 1:24-25)
5. God’s Word is not easy to digest.
Then the voice
that I had heard from
heaven spoke to me again,
"Go, take the scroll that is open
in the hand
of the angel who is standing on the
sea and on the land.”
So I went to the angel and told him to give me the little scroll. And he said to me, “Take and eat it; it will make your stomach bitter, but in your mouth it will be sweet as honey.”
And I took the little
scroll from the hand of the angel and ate it.
sweet as honey in my mouth,
but when I
had eaten it my stomach was
This recalls Ezekiel’s vision. Ezekiel ate the scroll
of God’s Word (Ezek. 3:3),
and like baklava, “it was as sweet as honey in my mouth.”
It was a hopeful message for the
Babylonian exiles, a
But God also told Ezekiel that many would refuse to listen:
“But the house of Israel will
willing to listen to you,
for they are not willing to listen to me: because all the house of Israel have a hard forehead and a stubborn heart.” (Ezek. 3:7)
This prediction quickly banished the scroll’s sweetness,
The Spirit lifted me up and took me away,
and I went in bitterness in the heat of my spirit,
the hand of the Lord being strong upon me. (Ezek. 3:14)
Nothing has changed.
God’s Word is sweet; it holds out forgiveness,
reconciliation, and life.
But the bitter fact is, rebellious humanity does not want to know.
We harden ourselves against his
Only the Holy Spirit can bring us to receive it with joy.
6. God’s Word speaks to all people.
And I was told,
“You must again prophesy about many peoples
and nations languages and kings.”
For years, aged 16-20, I read a chapter a day from my Mum’s Living Bible. But I knew I wasn’t a Christian. I read the Bible like an interloper, “listening in” to what God was telling those Christians.
How wrong I was.
Jesus is not the God of the Christians.
He is Creator and God and LORD of all peoples,
for all time.
When he speaks, he speaks as
Sovereign of the universe.
Everyone must hear and heed the
voice of their Creator and King.
So the Bible
is not the book of the Christians,
but the book of humanity.
that it be
proclaimed to “all the world”
The book of Revelation concerns not just the present and future
but of the entire human race.
Blessed is the one who reads aloud the
words of this prophecy,
are those who hear, and who
keep what is written in it,
time is near
. (Rev. 1:3)
If churches rise or fall
according to their convictions
so does the well-being of every Christian. Take these six lessons to heart.
Then devote yourself to Scripture. Read it yourself. Join a Bible study. Be at church. Listen to Him.
What power has God given to the church?
This question is addressed in Revelation 11.
Revelation 11 tells us about the power and the task
God has given to his church.
The vision John
receives reveals the power and the
task that God has given to his church,
as well as the manner in which that
power is expressed.
This is crucial for us in that it not only directs us
we should live as the church and informs
us on the nature of church power,
but it strengthens us as this power is largely
invisible to the eye,
especially the world’s eye.
“And I will grant authority to my
two witnesses, and they will prophesy
for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth.”
These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands
that stand before the Lord of the earth.
And if anyone would harm them, fire pours from their mouth and consumes their foes. If anyone would harm them, this is how he is doomed to be killed.
They have the power to shut the sky, that no rain
may 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 kind of plague, as often as they desire.” (Rev. 11:3-6)
Since the beginning of chapter 10, our
Lord has revealed himself as the
conquering faithful witness in the
gorgeous majesty of the
Angel of the Lord.
And as the prophetic Glory-Angel,
commissioned John in his image.
Dramatized in the taking and eating
of the scroll
John was commissioned
as the apostolic witness to preach the gospel
to all people,
even amid the trampling of the Gentiles.
John had the bittersweet message
and experience of preaching the gospel
in a fallen world and a mixed church.
In chapter 11 this vision progresses to focus more
specifically on the
The movement of chapters 10 and 11 carries us from
Christ to John to the church.
The two witnesses are symbolic of the
The giving of authority and prophesying to the two witnesses in Revelation 11:3 matches John’s taking the scroll and call to prophesy in the previous chapter. Yet, the doubling of the witness is symbolic of the whole church.
According to the Old Testament law, a charge had to be established by at least two witnesses: “Only on the evidence of two witnesses or of three witnesses shall a charge be established” (Deut. 19:15). The two witnesses symbolize the church’s legally valid testimony.
then, is a witnessing community
being called to preach God’s truth and
The church testifies that the Triune God
only God of heaven and earth and
that Jesus is the only
Savior and King.
announces the truth
of not belonging to this world, but to the
Lord both body and soul.
The 1,260 days of Revelation 11 is another perspective
of the same period of time in Daniel 12.“
And I will grant authority to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth.”
Note the duration of their prophetic witness—it lasts 1,260 days. Based on a 30-day month, this is equivalent to 3 ½ years or 42 months. This time length refers to the same period of a time, times, and half a time from Daniel 12, which refers to the church age (between the rising of Christ and the resurrection of the wise ones).
The 42 months of trampling is the same period as the 1,260 days of testimony—the church age. Thus, in Revelation 11:3 the two witnesses symbolize the church with its great commission identity set between the first and second comings of Christ.
The two olive trees and two lampstands are connected to Zechariah 4.
These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth. (Rev. 11:4)
More is revealed about the church
in verse 4.
The two witnesses are said to be the
two olive trees and two lampstands,
and this comparison is dependent
upon the vision in Zechariah 4 with its
two olive trees and lamp.
The lamp there was the menorah,
and it was
of ancient times
burned oil similar to our oil lamps,
but they used olive oil.
In Zechariah, the two olive trees next to the menorah provide a constant flow of oil so that the menorah light would not go out. Like a battery that never needs recharging, the menorah had an endless supply of fuel.
The church is pictured here
as Spirit-filled in order to testify to
What is the significance of this in Zechariah? The Lord tells us in Zechariah 4:6, “This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit.”
The light of the menorah
points to God’s true word as it shines through
and the ever-abundant flow of oil
points to the perfect and sufficient
work of the
This is the imagery that John is using, with the number of lamps being doubled to fit the
The church is pictured here as Spirit-filled
in order to testify to God’s truth.
Being empowered by the all-sufficient Spirit of God,
the church shines forth the light
of God’s true word.
Being built up in and on the Light of the world, the church testifies to the Light.
Now in Zechariah 4, the light-giving menorah fed by the olive trees is particularly a picture of God’s word to Zerubbabel, the Davidic governor who would lay the foundation of the temple. This Zerubbabel, then, prophetically pictured the person and work of Christ. Christ even acknowledged this fulfillment when he said in John 8:12, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness but will have the light of life.”
Jesus Christ is the One
True Light of the world.
He laid the foundation
God’s temple people
own death and resurrection,
and all who
come to him in faith are founded
upon him. Therefore,
being built up
in and on the Light of the world,
the church testifies to the Light.
The Light of Christ shines through us
as his temple people.
The two witnesses
are covenant prosecutors giving legally
And if anyone would harm them, fire pours from their
mouth and consumes their foes. If anyone would harm them,
this is how he is doomed to be killed.
What is the effect of the ministry of these two witnesses?
What role and power does the church’s menorah-testimony have?
What is demonstrated by where the
two witnesses stand
they are able to do?
First, the two menorahs stand before the Lord of the earth (Rev. 11:4). This is a legal and judicial stance. The title “Lord of the earth” highlights God as the Sovereign Judge; to stand before him is to be his witnesses, his prosecutors. Their legally valid testimony becomes the basis for the Lord’s judgment.
Second, we learn in verse 5 what the witnesses can do to those who desire to harm them. To harm the witnesses is to reject their message in hatred and hostility so as to desire their end. And what happens to such rejecters? “Fire pours from their mouth and consumes their foes.”
The “fire” from the mouth of the witnesses refers to the power and effect of the word.
This is not fire from heaven but from the mouth of the two.
This is not literal fire or a physical burning. Rather, fire from the mouth is like the sword issuing forth from the mouth of the Son of Man. It refers to the power and effect of the word.
This imagery is found when the Lord speaks to Jeremiah about his prophetic ministry, as he says in Jeremiah 5:14, “Behold, I am making my words in your mouth a fire, and this people wood, and the fire shall consume them.” This fire refers to the judging and condemning effect of the prophetic word.
So also, for those who reject the testimony of the two witnesses, the church’s preaching condemns and judges them unto death. Their testimony convicts; it leaves the rejecter guilty and under the curse of eternal fire.
The two plagues recall the ministries of Elijah and Moses, the two great Old Testament prophets.
They have the power to shut the sky, that no rain may 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 kind of plague, as often as they desire. (Rev. 11:6)
These two plagues recall the ministries of Elijah and Moses, the two great Old Testament prophets. It was Elijah who shut the heavens so that no rain fell on Israel for three-and-one-half years; and it was Moses who turned the waters of the Nile to blood. Both of these plagues were done because Israel/Egypt refused to heed God’s word; they were curses that sealed Israel/Egypt for judgment.
So also the prophetic power of the church places those who reject the light of the Lord under a curse, sealing them for judgment. Again, the church does not literally stop rain or turn water into blood; rather, the Old Testament prophetic ministries are pictures of what the church does spiritually, though very much real.
Indeed, the two witnesses’ ability to strike the earth with plagues matches the overall imagery and purpose of the trumpet cycle (Rev. 8:2-11:19). God executed the trumpet plagues, tied to the Exodus plagues, on the unbelieving world in answer to the prayers of his people.
Just as Moses and Elijah prayed to execute the plagues, so also when the church prays for justice and relief from persecutors the Lord answers with the trumpet plagues, which keep the earth dwellers in their unrepentant and so sealed for judgment.
Now that the Last Adam has come, the world is judged
particularly by their relationship to him.
For the unbelieving world and the apostate church, the two witnesses have the role of covenant prosecutors. The witness ministry of the church prosecutes the covenant wherein the world is judged. And by what standard is the world judged? They are judged under the broken covenant of works in Adam as it is revealed in nature and in our conscience.
Yet, a dimension has been added now that Christ has come. Listen to what Paul says in Acts 17: 30-31:
The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.
The world lies condemned under the first Adam, but now that the Last Adam has come, the world is judged particularly by their relationship to him. Note what our Lord says in John 3:19-20:
“And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their deeds were evil.”
The church’s prophetic witness concerning Christ is the basis for the eternal condemnation of the unrepentant.
The church prosecutes the covenant wherein the world will be judged—its menorah testimony will be the legal testimony that establishes the charge against the unbelieving earth dwellers. This is the point of the “life for life, eye for eye” justice found in verse 5. Just as the unrepentant rejecters seek to destroy the spiritual life of the two witnesses, so they will be consumed by the fire that brings spiritual death.
This standard of justice belongs only to the Last and Final Day, when the Lord will repay the unbelievers according to their deeds. The church does not and cannot use physical force or violence now. Yet, for those who refuse to repent, the church’s prophetic witness concerning Christ is the basis for their eternal condemnation.
In these last days, it becomes clear how carefully we should heed the discipline and ministry of the church.
From this picture of the church and its God given power in these last days, it becomes clear how carefully we should heed the discipline and ministry of the church. Indeed, the church pictured here as the two menorah witnesses is a dramatic demonstration of the keys that Jesus gave to his church in Matthew 16:19:
“I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”
Here Christ says that whatever the church binds on earth is bound in heaven and whatever is loosed on earth is loosed in heaven. This means the Lord records as legally binding the testimony of the church. He heeds the church’s true testimony. It is to the creeds and confessions (as they are consistent with Scripture) the church has confessed in unity for centuries that we should believe and submit.
True, the church does err and only the Scriptures are inspired; nonetheless, we should never be flippant or lighthearted towards the testimony of the church. Our normal demeanor and stance should be one of respect, humility, and carefulness. For the Lord has placed his church before him as his two prophetic witnesses by whose testimony concerning Christ he will judge the world.
The primary purpose of the church’s menorah testimony is not to serve judgment but to serve redemptive grace of God in Christ.
Now, as you can see, Revelation depicts the identity and power of the church here particularly in terms of judgment. And this is because the context is focusing on the effect the church’s witness has on those who reject its word and seek to harm the two witnesses. The unbelieving Gentiles’ trampling of the holy city is the canvas upon which the two witnesses are painted. Yet, we should not take this to mean that the only or even primary role of the church’s mission is judgment. Rather, the primary purpose of the church’s menorah testimony is to serve the redemptive grace of God in Christ.
This is exposed in two ways here, first, by what the two witnesses are wearing. They are clothed in sackcloth, which is the typical prophetic garb. It is what Elijah and John the Baptist wore. But there is a reason for this.
Sackcloth is the garment of mourning and repentance. To put on sackcloth was a sign of repentance—that one was guilty of sin and so mournful for one’s sin and the coming judgment that one deserved. The ministry of the two witnesses is one of repentance—the free offer of forgiveness if one will repent of one’s sins. Judgment has its place, but the main force is that there is deliverance from judgment.
To repent is to be absolved from guilt—free from condemnation. The church proclaims the grace of Jesus Christ, by which we are forgiven, cleansed from sin and delivered from judgment. There is no condemnation or wrath for those who are repentant in Christ through faith.
Through the menorah testimony of the church, you are delivered from darkness and ushered into the Light of Life.
Secondly, these sackcloth-adorned witnesses bear the menorah light. They belong to the true Light of the World, Jesus Christ himself. Jesus is the Truth and Light of the Living God that brings life to all who believe in him. As Jesus said of himself,
“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12)
Through the ministry of the church, the Lord grants you the very life of Christ, the Holy Spirit who lives in you. The Spirit of Christ nourishes you with all of Christ’s benefits and God’s grace and mercy so that you can live by faith and please God.
Through the menorah testimony of the church, you are delivered from darkness and ushered into the Light of Life, Truth, and Grace. You are made living stones in God’s heavenly temple. This is the primary purpose of the church’s prophetic witness in these last days—in the “today” of salvation
(2 Cor. 6:2).
God granted the church this menorah and sackcloth ministry.
Therefore, the call to be part of the church’s menorah light and to heed its prophetic witness is not burdensome but a joy. God granted the church this menorah and sackcloth ministry primarily to give you the salvation of Christ and to assure and comfort you in that salvation.
Indeed, as we experience more and more of the bitterness of being “trampled underfoot by the Gentiles” (Luke 21:24), we grow weary and discouraged. Evil and wickedness abound in the world. Immorality and false teaching continue to take root in the church. The saints are persecuted and treated as the wicked should be. We commit sins after years of being in the faith, and we wonder, “Can Christ really forgive me for this? I am too sinful; surely I am outside the purview of God’s grace.”
But among all this bitterness, the Lord reminds us that his witnessing church stands before him. The Lord’s word, full of light, shines through his servants so that what is bound on earth is so bound in heaven. Remember what the Lord said in John 20:21-23,
“Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you….Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”
The two olive tree menorah witnesses
present the great commission
identity of the church.
The message we preach
the cross of our Lord.
The life we live is the life of Christ.
It is the Spirit of the Resurrected
who fills up and empowers
us and recreates us into the image of
Christ as faithful witness.
Yes, this is our identity as the body of Christ.
This is who we are
what we are called to do.
tree menorah witnesses
the great commission
identity of the church
empowered by the Lord
his light-giving Spirit.
Prepare the Way of the Lord