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36 | Some bad news about the end times?

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Hey, before I start this podcast, I want to give an advisory warning. Not the PG – or rated R or Mature type of warning, but a warning this podcast may involve some bad news about the end times, so proceed with caution.

Hi my name is Dean Smith and in this podcast I want to share with you my theory on whom I think the two end time witnesses or prophets that are mentioned in the Book of Revelation might be. Revelation is a prophetic vision given the Apostle John of events that be taking place in the end times leading up to the Second Coming of Christ.

He writes specifically about the appearance of two witnesses:

And I will grant authority to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth.”

Revelation 11:3 ESV

In addition, they will perform great miracles during this period of time. Now, there has been a lot of speculation on whom these two witnesses might be.

I have a theory and I might even know their names.

I suspect most people won’t agree with me, and I am not going to be adamant I am right. This is just a theory. And to be honest since the book of Revelation was purposefully written in symbolic language, in many instances it won’t become apparent about what the Apostle John is talking about until it happens.

As I have mentioned in previous podcasts, I was saved in a Jesus’ people church in the early seventies. It was a hippy church, where I joke that everyone had long hair, even the girls.

It grew out of powerful moving of the Holy Spirit on the long-haired, free love, drug taking, hippies in California. Chuck Smith, the pastor of Calvary Chapel, in Costa Mesa California was one of the key figures in this movement.

As part of this outpouring we witnessed a free-wheeling use of the spiritual gifts in these churches that led to a lot of strange things happening.

I remember during one my church’s service that was held in the basement of a local Bible store, a young woman who no one had ever seen before stood up in the middle of the service and prophesied that she had been called to be a prophet to the city and I guess our church.

And I even know of a couple people who believed that God had called them to be one of the two-end time’s witnesses mentioned in the Book of Revelation.

And one of them even moved to Israel to prepare the way for his revealing. I have no idea what happened to him.

So who were these two end-times prophets?

In the account described in Revelation 11, John says for a period of 1,260 days, the two witnesses will be given special authority and will display great power and miracles.

At the end of this period, a beast will rise up out of the abyss and kill these two witnesses and for a very short period of time, three and a half days, their bodies will lie dead in the street.

When that happens, people will be celebrating. In fact, John says that some will treat it like Christmas and hand out gifts to each other as part of this celebration.

But at the end of three and a half days, God will breathe on these two witnesses, and they will rise from the dead and it will cause terror to fall upon the people who were celebrating.

The question that has puzzled end-time scholars is who are these two witnesses?

Some suggest Moses and Elijah, because both of them are seen talking to Jesus at the transfiguration (Matthew 17:3-4).

Another possible combination is Enoch and Elijah, because the Bible says that neither of those two men experienced physical death and were taken to heaven before they died (Genesis 5:23-24; 2 Kings 2:11).

Others believe they are two yet to be revealed prophetic witnesses. Whoever they are, most believe they are two uniquely called prophets anointed to be a voice for God in the end times.

Now when I got saved in the early 70s, there was a strong emphasis on the second coming of Christ. Many believed Christ’s return was imminent and a lot of this centered on the restoration of Israel as a nation in 1948 which is an important sign post of Christ’s second coming.

But when it didn’t happen right away, the enthusiasm for it sort of waned.

But interest in the end times has been revived recently. But is this a repeat of the seventies’ scenario? I can’t be adamant that Christ’s return is imminent, but there is one significant difference between what I saw happening in the seventies and I see happening today.

And that difference is that we are seeing a definite upswing in persecution of Christians that wasn’t happening in the early seventies. And in the Book of Revelation one of the significant characteristics of the end times was persecution. People were dying because of their faith in Christ.

And that is happening today.

On December 6, 2019, Christians travelling on a bus in Kenya on a trip from Nairobi to Madera were stopped by a group of Islamic extremists. People were separated into two groups based on whether they could recite the Islamic Shabada. Nine Christians were killed in the attack.

Two Christian pastors in Ethiopia were also beheaded in December when a mob stormed their home in a rural community just outside the capital city of Addis Abada. The English newspaper, The Guardian, even wrote an article on the persecution of Christians in the Middle East stating it was verging on a genocide.

Along with this China is arresting Christians, setting up re-education camps popularized by Mao Zedong and bulldozing churches and Breitbart reported that the persecution of Christians in India jumped 57% in 2019 over the previous year.

Though Christians in North America are not experiencing the same degree of persecution, they are now under repeated attack in the public square and on social media.

But here is the curious thing, Christians aren’t alone.

Along with this there has been an uptake in persecution of Jews as well.  Many believe the two people who were involved in a recent two-hour shoot out with police at a Jewish market in Jersey City, USA purposefully chose the market because of antisemitic comments allegedly found on one of the killer’s social media accounts.

Six people died including three orthodox Jews, a police officer and the two suspects.

The Jerusalem Post reports on the same day of the Jewish market attack on December 10, 2019, a young Jewish man was beaten unconscious while on a train in Paris when two people overheard him speaking in Hebrew on his phone.

A year earlier in (October 2018), a gunman stormed the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania during a morning service killing 11 people and wounding seven.

The murderer had posted anti-Semitic comments on social media prior to the attack.

 Is it just a coincidence that the persecution of Christians and anti Semitic attacks are both on the rise at the same time?

I don’t think so.

Because I wonder if the two witnesses in the Book of Revelation are in fact Israel and the Church. And curiously, I am not alone in this view. Many of the Bible commentators from the 1700s and 1800s, such as Mathew Henry, believed these two witnesses were Israel and the church.

So what caused the change in thinking?

That took place in the 1800s when a Plymouth Brethren pastor by the name of John Darby came up with a new theory of the end times. He promoted the idea of a pre-trib rapture that had never been heard of before.

He believed Christians would be raptured out of the world before the start of the end-times revealed in the Apostle John’s vision. If that was the case, then the church could not be one of the end time prophets because the believers would not be on earth.

As Darby’s version of the end-times flooded the church, the ideas promoted by the older commentators were basically dismissed.

I mean who wouldn’t want to believe this. The end-times was promising plagues, wars, devastating asteroid hits, massive earthquakes, volcanoes and a nuclear apocalyptic war to finish it all off. And the pre-trib rapture promised believers a way to escape all this. Who wouldn’t want to believe that?

So what are the arguments in favor of these two witnesses being Israel and the church, meaning the church will go through the end-times?

First John uses the term witness to describe the two and the Bible talks about both the Church and Israel being witnesses of God on the earth.

When addressing the Jews, in Isaiah 43:10, God told Israel: “You are My witnesses.”

Then just prior to His ascension to heaven in Acts 1:8, Jesus continued that theme telling his disciples that they would be the Lord’s witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea and the outermost parts of the earth:

Secondly John then uses two other symbols to describe these witnesses — olive trees and lamp stands:

These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth.

Revelation 11:4 NASV

And in Romans 11, Paul used an analogy of two olive trees to describe the relationship between Israel and the church. Israel was a tame olive tree representing the Kingdom of God and the gentiles were a wild olive tree whose branches were grafted into the tame olive tree when they believed in Jesus. Those Jews who did not believe in Jesus were considered dead branches and broken off the tame olive tree.

Paul adds though many Jews rejected Christ, there was a time coming when the Jews would embrace Jesus as their Messiah in mass and be grafted back into the tame olive tree. I wonder if we are seeing the first fruits of this in the dramatic growth of the Messianic Jew movement.

For the second analogy, John refers to the two witnesses as a lamp stand. In his letter to the seven churches found in the first couple of chapters of Revelation, the Apostle John very clearly refers to the church as lamp stands (Revelation 1:20). And though there is no clear reference to Israel being called a lamp stand, the Menorah, the seven-candle lamp stand used in the Temple is perhaps the most iconic symbol of Judaism today.

In closing, as we look at this description in Revelation 11, God gives both witnesses a time to flourish. They will be moving in power and anointing. It is time of extraordinary power. They will have the power to shut down the rain. Angels are even moving on their behalf and striking down their enemies.

But then the beast will make war with the two, and they will be killed. The Bible says the whole world will see them lying dead in the streets (Revelation 11:7-10).

But if this is a reference to Israel and the church, how will they be killed?

Well I am not exactly sure.

If this interpretation is right, at some point there will come a time, when the existence of Bible-believing churches as we know it will abruptly come to an end.

It could happen with these churches losing their charitable status and with church property being taxed or being forced to close if they don’t embrace certain ideologies.

But there is a day coming when the church will be shuttered. The phrase “will make war with them” (v 7) suggests a prolonged battle implying it may not happen all at once.

John says for three and a half days, the two witnesses will lie dead in the street. Though both may look like they are down, the Bible says that God will revive them.

This revival will be so great it will strike fear in the hearts of those who killed them (Revelation 11:11).

The church in its outward form may disappear, but as it has done for so many times in the past when persecuted, the church goes underground where it begins growing in power and purity.  

This is exactly what happened to the church in China when the communists persecuted the Christians. A Pew Forum survey conducted in 2011 estimated that there are 67 million Christians in China. And reports are coming in that the fastest growing church in the world is found in Iran, where believers are also facing heavy persecution.

And John says God will blow His Holy Spirit upon the church and people will be shocked, even terrified, by its sudden explosive growth.

The bad news is I think the pre-trib rapture is a fake promise. It is easy believism, who wouldn’t want to escape. But I believe the church will go through the tribulation and believers, especially in North America, we need to start toughening up.

The good news is that God and His Holy Spirit will be there to help believers go through this.


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