Part 7 of "Unsealed By the Lamb: Revelation Through the Lamb and His Love"
The way that God knows us is by two things:
1) We accept and love His Son
2) We love Him by loving one another
"The Father Himself loves you because you have loved Me and have believed that I came from God." (Jn.16:27)
"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of Mine, you did for Me.'" (Matt.25:40)
MEASURED BY CHRIST AND HIS LOVE
"I was given a reed like a measuring rod and was told, 'Go and measure the temple of God and the altar, and count the worshipers there.'" (Rev.11:1)
Before God judges the world, He first measures His temple, which is His body, the church (1 Cor.3:16-17). Before He sets the plumb line to the world, He sets the plumb line to His people, counting those who worship Him in Spirit and truth (Jn.4:23-24)—
"It is time for judgment to begin with the family of God... it begins with us."
God does this because He loves us and wants us to be saved—
"When we are judged by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be condemned with the world." (1 Cor.11:32)
"The Lord disciplines those He loves... Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in His holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace." (Heb.12:6-11)
God's heart for us is not condemnation, but a plea for us to repent and turn to Him. He wants us to accept His Son's righteousness alone, the free gift of the water of life (Rev.22:17). And, He wants us to accept His love for our fellow people, our neighbors and our enemies—without His love, we don't know Him and those who see us can't see Him in us (1 Jn.4:8, Jas.2:14-17).
ABOVE ALL ELSE
"And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to Myself." (Jn.12:32)
"By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another." (Jn.13:35)
Jesus said that above all else, people would know Him by what He did on the Cross, and by His agape love in us. These two witnesses not only draw people to Christ, but they also make others hate Christ and His people:
"You will be hated by all nations because of Me. At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other... the love [agape] of most will grow cold, but he who stands firm [in agape love] to the end will be saved." (Mt.24:9-13)
His people testify that faith in His righteousness alone is the only way, and they stand firm to the end in His agape love. When many leave the faith to follow their own righteousness, and when the agape love of most who had professed Him grows cold, at that very time when so many let go of Him and His love, God sends His witnesses to testify to all nations.
A HEAVENLY KINGDOM, THEREFORE...
"And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations." (Mt.24:14)
When wars and wickedness increase in the world, when 'the beast' seems to have miraculously re-appeared with God's favor to possess its ancient inheritance, when 'the False Prophet' points to honoring the beast as the way to please God (instead of keeping His command of agape love), the two witnesses preach a testimony of a different character:
"Here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come." (Heb.13:14)
"Jerusalem...is in slavery with her children. But the Jerusalem that is above is free, and she is our mother." (Gal.4:25-26)
"Set your hearts on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory." (Col.3:2-3)
The first witness testifies to Christ and the imperishable, eternal inheritance we have in Him (1 Pet.1:3-4). Our kingdom not on earth but is kept for us above. Therefore we do not fight as the world fights (2 Cor.10:3-4), for our struggle is not against flesh and blood (Eph.6:12), for as Jesus said:
"My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would have been fighting so that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But My kingdom is not from the world." (Jn.18:36)
The gospel of the kingdom of Christ is in direct contrast to 'the beast' warring against nations striving to become what it once was, and it is also in direct contrast to the False Prophet's interpretation that honoring the beast's nation is the way to be favored by God (or cursed by Him if we do not honor the beast).
OVERCOMING THE DRAGON AND BEAST
The dragon (Satan) seeks to make war with those who hold to the gospel and to Christ's agape love (Rev.12:17) because it is faith in the Lamb which overcomes him, and obeying the Lamb's command of agape love overcomes evil:
"They overcame [the dragon] by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death." (Rev.12:11)
"Do not repay anyone evil for evil... Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: 'It is mine to avenge; I will repay,'says the Lord. On the contrary: 'If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.' Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." (Rom.12:17-21)
Likewise, 'the beast' and the 'False Prophet' hate the two witnesses because their testimony is blasphemy to their claim that God's chosen dwelling place is the beast's nation. The two witnesses testify to the gospel of the kingdom of heaven—that our inheritance and home is above instead of below; they put the Heavenly Jerusalem above the earthly. The beast and False Prophet see the two witnesses as siding against them with their enemies—they are seen as being the cause of the 'sword' (wars) that seemed to fatally wound to the beast in the past.
In sight of the dragon, the beast and the False Prophet, Christ does not call His people to anything different than He has always called them: Just as the church began, so now His call is to rest in His righteousness and abide in His agape love—to patiently endure in Him and keep following His commands (Rev.12:17,13:10).
"If you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in His steps. 'He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in His mouth.' When they hurled their insults at Him, He did not retaliate; when He suffered, He made no threats. Instead, He entrusted himself to Him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by His wounds you have been healed. For you were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls." (1 Pet.2:20-25)
We were going astray, but Christ loved us and bore our sins on Himself so that we could live. In the same way, He is calling us to receive His heart for those who are going astray—even among those who may be hating us or persecuting us. He is calling us to refuse to retaliate against them but rather to suffer for the sake of their healing—so that they might see and turn to Him just as we who were going astray turned to Him.
We only need to rest in the Lamb and live in His love. This is why it is not necessary for all believers to understand the meaning of each part of Revelation. The book of prophecy points to the two witnesses—the testimony of the Lamb and His command of agape love—which have already been revealed. Understanding the meanings of the imagery in Revelation does not add to or require anything beyond Christ crucified and His commands. Those who simply believe in Him and love those who He loves—it is they who overcome the world:
"Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves His child as well. This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out His commands. This is love for God: to obey His commands. And His commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only He who believes that Jesus is the Son of God." (1 Jn.5:1-5)
BITTER IN THE STOMACH
We often feel that we as Christians are persecuted simply because we tell the world of its sin, because we speak "the hard truth." Yet are we persecuted, as Peter said, because we are not retaliating? Are we filled with so much love for our 'enemies' that we pray for God to forgive them as Christ prayed for us on the Cross, and as Stephen did when he was being stoned? As we are wounded, are we praying for the healing of those who are hurting us?
When the two witnesses of Revelation 11 'prophesy' and give their testimony, they are "clothed in sackcloth" (11:3). As we hold onto faith in Him and stand firm in His agape love, and as we give our testimony of these two witnesses, God calls us to put on "sackcloth"—the garments of mourning and repentance—to intercede for those who hear us and stand with them in repenting to God:
"Put on sackcloth, O priests, and mourn;
wail, you who minister before the altar.
Come, spend the night in sackcloth,
you who minister before my God...
'Even now,' declares the Lord,
'return to Me with all your heart,
with fasting and weeping and mourning.'
Rend your heart and not your garments.
Return to the Lord your God,
for He is gracious and compassionate,
slow to anger and abounding in love."
(Joel 1:13, 2:12-13)
God is love; it is the foundation of who He is. We know this because He sent His Son—the Lamb—to die for those who did not yet love Him. Will we join Him in bearing His heart for those who are being led astray? Will we let Him pierce our hearts with His love for them? Will we step out in repentance ourselves to help others find the way to repentance?
When John first ate the scroll the angel gave him, it tasted sweet as honey. But when it went deeper—when he felt it in his gut—it became bitter. Prophesying to "many peoples, nations, languages and kings" is not God calling us to point our fingers at those who 'have it wrong'. Instead He is calling us to weep with Him out of His great love for them, and to be willing to suffer for the sake of those who are going astray—even for the sake of our enemies.
Part 8: The Bittersweet Scroll