The Two Witnesses (T.F. Torrance on Revelation 11)

This post is dedicated to the estimated 90,000 Christians that were martyred in 2016 and who “conquered by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death” (Revelation 12:11).

Then I was given a measuring rod like a staff, and I was told, “Rise and measure the temple of God and the altar and those who worship there, but do not measure the court outside the temple; leave that out, for it is given over to the nations, and they will trample the holy city for forty-two months. And I will grant authority to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth.”…And when they have finished their testimony, the beast that rises from the bottomless pit will make war on them and conquer them and kill them, and their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city that symbolically is called Sodom and Egypt, where their Lord was crucified…and those who dwell on the earth will rejoice over them and make merry and exchange presents, because these two prophets had been a torment to those who dwell on the earth. But after the three and a half days a breath of life from God entered them, and they stood up on their feet, and great fear fell on those who saw them. Then they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, “Come up here!” And they went up to heaven in a cloud, and their enemies watched them. And at that hour there was a great earthquake, and a tenth of the city fell. Seven thousand people were killed in the earthquake, and the rest were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven. [Revelation 11:1-3, 7-9, 10-13]

(The following sermon excerpt comes from T.F. Torrance, 1959. The Apocalypse Today. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, pp.70-72)

The Apostle’s vision goes on to show how much the world hates the Truth, for the Word of God is a torment to them. It disturbs them in every aspect of their life. When the Christian Church bears faithful witness to God, there is no department in human life that does not feel its penetrating challenge, no region of human experience that is not disturbed and two-prophets-van-dyckdoes not suffer upheaval. True it is that the Word of God is always a Word of salvation and peace, but so long as the world is unrepentant, the Word of God can only be a torment to it…

John seems to envisage a time when the outer courts of the Church’s witness will be trodden under foot by unbelievers and the Church, itself ravaged and harrowed, will be shrunken to measurable proportions. Its worshippers will be able to live and bear witness only in sackcloth. But that may be the moment of the Church’s supreme power over mankind, for the power of the Church’s proclamation lies in her repentance…[T]he Church which is prepared to eat wormwood, to clothe herself in sackcloth for the sins of the world, and the more terrible sins of the Church…will have power to shut and open heaven to release fountains of living water for all who will to drink. It will have power to send forth the mighty Word of God, to pull down strongholds, and to cast down every imagination that exalts itself against the knowledge of God…

Such a penitent Church, with her prayer kindled by the fire of God, with the mighty Word of God in her mouth, will seize such a grip upon the world that at last the great dragon will be roused from his abysmal lair and seek to destroy her as he tried to destroy her Lord…[Yet] they who suffer with Christ shall reign with Him, and they who share the fellowship of His sufferings shall know the power of His resurrection. For the Church that worships Jesus Christ, the crucified, risen and ascended, there is no other way than the way of the Cross in penitence and humiliation. It is the way to the glory of the God of Heaven and to supreme joy for all mankind.

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