In the recent months, we've been noticing a profound focus in the book of Revelation on Jesus Christ and the comfort it provides to persecuted saints. It's not merely a source of intrigue for our curiosity; rather, it serves as a key for the present-day church. It reveals that Jesus Christ holds sovereignty over the entire globe, guiding the church, influencing worldly governments, and overseeing all affairs. His control is comprehensive.
However, as we widen our perspective globally, we can't overlook the harsh reality that on Christmas 2023, over 140 Nigerian Christians fell victim to violence by Muslim extremists in Africa. Unfortunately, such stories are not isolated incidents. For anyone attentive to the world's events over the past 2,000 years, this is a recurring struggle faced by Christians worldwide. The intensity of persecution varies, but it's a widespread challenge.
For those in Nigeria, grappling with such atrocities, how are the remaining congregants supposed to process this? How should families and friends reflect on events that now mark the pages of Christian history? As God's people cry out, questioning the duration of such bloodshed, God responds.
This is precisely why God provides us with the book of Revelation. It's a book meant to clarify who God is, what he's doing, and, most importantly, to empower us to stand firm in our faith amid persecution.
Whether facing persecution akin to our brothers and sisters in Africa or dealing with localized challenges, the questions persist:
- How do we maintain trust in Christ and cling to him?
- How can our faith be fortified as we continue proclaiming the Word of Christ, anticipating his return and the fulfillment of his promises?
- What are we meant to do, and how should the church think?
I believe Revelation chapter 11 delves into precisely these questions.
As we've journeyed through Revelation, God has been revealing himself and his actions to the seven churches, guiding them through various cycles from Christ's resurrection to his return. In Revelation 11, we find ourselves in the second cycle, marked by seven trumpets warning of imminent judgment, reminiscent of Jericho.
The church, symbolized as the bride of Christ, endures amidst persecution. Tertullian's words come to mind: "The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church." Despite numerous declarations of the church's demise, it continues to resurrect. Chapter 11 exemplifies this perseverance!
While many consider Revelation 11 the most challenging chapter due to its mysterious details, it remains clear in its message and application. A cautionary note reminds us not to get lost in the intricacies and miss the primary message. Revelation is not a picture book!
Here's my summary of Revelation 11: God will build his church through his Word and messengers, even in the face of persecution. This echoes the overarching message from Acts onward—that Jesus is constructing his church, and despite the challenges, it will prevail because God's Word, proclaimed by his messengers, will not return void (Isaiah 55!).
3 Viewpoints on Revelation 11
Now, let's revisit these interpretations, highlighting the three I consider the most reasonable approaches to interpreting this section of Scripture.
Firstly, there's the perspective that views the events described in Revelation 11 as having occurred in the past, specifically before 70 AD when Rome destroyed the temple. According to this view, these are accounts of two prophets in Revelation 11 who spoke and performed miracles during that era.
The second interpretation suggests a future scenario where a temple will be reconstructed in Jerusalem. In this vision, tthe wo distinct prophets who emerge set the stage for events yet to unfold. Their uniqueness is particularly emphasized, adding complexity to the narrative.
The third approach (of which I am taking) aligns with the overarching method we've applied throughout the Book of Revelation – interpreting it (mainly) symbolically. In this viewpoint, the events and characters are seen as symbolic representations in apocalyptic literature. The book is perceived as a visual narrative, with John witnessing a vision where symbols convey overarching themes. This interpretation says that the described events are (mainly) figurative of the entire church age, spanning from the resurrection of Christ to his eventual return.
I'll delve deeper into this perspective as we progress in our study. And I'll acknowledge other viewpoints, ensuring we grasp the central idea: God is constructing his church through his Word and messengers despite the looming persecution against it.
Pray for us as we continue on in this book of great promise!