Sunday, February 26, 2017

A Review of Revelations--Part 11--The Two Witnesses

"Two witnesses to be unbound"

[Part 1] [Part 2] [Part 3] [Part 4] [Part 5] [Part 6] [Part 7] [Part 8] [Part 9] [Part 10]

       This is a continuation of my series reviewing The Book of Revelation: Things Which Must Shortly Come to Pass by G. Erik Brandt. Today, I will be discussing Chapter 11 of Revelation.

       Chapter 11 reads, in the King James Version:

       1 And there was given me a reed like unto a rod: and the angel stood, saying, Rise, and measure the temple of God, and the altar, and them that worship therein. 
       2 But the court which is without the temple leave out, and measure it not; for it is given unto the Gentiles: and the holy city shall they tread under foot forty and two months. 
      3 And I will give power unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days, clothed in sackcloth. 
      4 These are the two olive trees, and the two candlesticks standing before the God of the earth. 
      5 And if any man will hurt them, fire proceedeth out of their mouth, and devoureth their enemies: and if any man will hurt them, he must in this manner be killed. 
      6 These have power to shut heaven, that it rain not in the days of their prophecy: and have power over waters to turn them to blood, and to smite the earth with all plagues, as often as they will. 
      7 And when they shall have finished their testimony, the beast that ascendeth out of the bottomless pit shall make war against them, and shall overcome them, and kill them. 
      8 And their dead bodies shall lie in the street of the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified. 
      9 And they of the people and kindreds and tongues and nations shall see their dead bodies three days and an half, and shall not suffer their dead bodies to be put in graves. 
     10 And they that dwell upon the earth shall rejoice over them, and make merry, and shall send gifts one to another; because these two prophets tormented them that dwelt on the earth. 
      11 And after three days and an half the Spirit of life from God entered into them, and they stood upon their feet; and great fear fell upon them which saw them. 
      12 And they heard a great voice from heaven saying unto them, Come up hither. And they ascended up to heaven in a cloud; and their enemies beheld them. 
      13 And the same hour was there a great earthquake, and the tenth part of the city fell, and in the earthquake were slain of men seven thousand: and the remnant were affrighted, and gave glory to the God of heaven. 
      14 The second woe is past; and, behold, the third woe cometh quickly. 
      15 And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever. 
      16 And the four and twenty elders, which sat before God on their seats, fell upon their faces, and worshipped God, 
      17 Saying, We give thee thanks, O Lord God Almighty, which art, and wast, and art to come; because thou hast taken to thee thy great power, and hast reigned. 
      18 And the nations were angry, and thy wrath is come, and the time of the dead, that they should be judged, and that thou shouldest give reward unto thy servants the prophets, and to the saints, and them that fear thy name, small and great; and shouldest destroy them which destroy the earth. 
      19 And the temple of God was opened in heaven, and there was seen in his temple the ark of his testament: and there were lightnings, and voices, and thunderings, and an earthquake, and great hail.
       Initially, I would note that we are still discussing the period before the third woe (see verse 14), and the location is Jerusalem (see verse 8). In this chapter, we finish the sidetrack into what is happening in heaven or spiritually, begun in Chapter 10, and pick up the chronological earthly narrative left off in Chapter 9.

       First, to finish up the spiritual:

      John is handed a reed and commanded to measure (i) the temple of God, (ii) the alter, and (iii) those who worship therein. Brandt explains that, historically, a measuring reed was a slender rod generally about 10 feet in length. It was used by surveyors and, when cut to length, became the standard in construction and restoration projects. Brandt suggests that the measuring of the temple, the alter and the worshipers "symbolizes that preserving the faithful during the second woe will require divine intervention." That is, the symbolism is not only that the Lord will be measuring up his faithful as to their righteousness, but He is also laying out boundaries to demarcate the faithful from the worldly.

       Brandt compares the language here to that used in Isaiah 28:17 where the Lord uses the metaphor of a plumb bob to ascertain the straightness of the children of Israel. It suggests that the Lord has established standards that apply to on Earth. (See Isaiah 34:16, discussing the entry of the names of the righteous into the book of the Lord). The implication is that, contrary to what many preach today, the Lord is not going to be "tolerant" or "inclusive" and preserve everyone; there will be standards and those not conforming to those standards will be at peril.

       This is taken up by reference to the temple. As Brandt notes, the temple under Mosaic law was split into several parts: the temple (containing the Holy of Holies), the inner court, and the outer court. Only priests were admitted to the temple (and the High Priest only entered the Holy of Holies once per year); the inner court were limited to people of Israel; but foreigners could be admitted to the outer court. Brandt explains:
One purpose for laying out the temple in this manner was to represent the post-mortal kingdoms of glory. The outer court represented the world or the telestial kingdom where those who make no covenant with God were allowed. The inner court represented the terrestrial kingdom, and the temple itself, the celestial kingdom. Each kingdom has its standards and laws (1 Cor. 15:40-41).
This again serves to support the interpretation that the Lord will establish and enforce standards:
By commanding John to measure the temple, the inner court, and the altar, the angel pronounces the standard or law by which a person may qualify for divine protection in the great conflict. The inner court and the temple represent the terrestrial and celestial laws respectively. The altar symbolizes the great sacrifice, the Atonement, and the sacrifices of the individual. Those whom the Lord preserves in the great conflict, whether physically, spiritually, or both, include individuals whose lives have conformed to the terrestrial or celestial laws. They are often referred to as “honorable”and “just”men and women (D&C 76:50, 75).
Brandt adds:
The standard should come as no surprise, for the same “lines”have been established for all who desire divine preservation during the calamities preceding the Second Coming (D&C 88:85). All other’s, those in the outer court and the proud and wicked, are left to themselves to suffer from the desolations of war, and the famine and pestilence that follows.
       Returning to the earthly, we learn that, apparently following the invasion of Gog and Magog, the armies shall occupy "the Holy City" for forty-two months (3-1/2 years). But during that time, the Lord shall send two prophets.

       Brandt views the two prophets as serving two missions: protecting or defending Israel from the invading armies, because Israel will be unable to defend itself (see Isaiah 51), and defending Jerusalem from invading armies; and, according to Brandt, after their deaths, Jerusalem shall be taken, citing to Zechariah 14:2. However, while this may be correct, that conclusion does not necessarily flow from the words of the text. Just as Christ's mission was to spiritually deliver Israel, not physically free them from Roman rule, so to the text here indicates that the two witnesses will serve the purpose of preaching to the Jews. That is, "[a]s defenders and messengers their mission is to turn the Jews to the true and living God and lead them to believe that their Messiah is Jesus Christ, and not look forward to another Messiah (2 Ne. 25:16)." I would also note that the words of Zechariah, indicating that Jews would remain after Jerusalem was captured, would be consistent with the two witnesses preaching after the taking of the city.

      In any event, Brandt explains the meaning of the two being referred to as olive trees and candlesticks:
John identifies the two prophets as “olive trees”and “candlesticks”who stand as representatives of God. They Lord carry the sustaining oil of the Spirit and bear testimony that the Lord of Heaven has not forsaken them, but has sent light and truth to guide all who will hear and believe. The reference to candlesticks draws meaning from the writings of Zechariah, who spoke of two ancient candlesticks: Joshua, the high priest, and Zerubbabel, the descendant of David, who was the heir to the throne of Israel. These ancient leaders were charged with the responsibility of bringing the exiled Jews out of their captivity in Babylon and building the temple. Like the ancient “candlesticks,”these two modern prophets will be commissioned with the same responsibilities of restoring the gospel blessings among the Jews, and of preparing the way for the building of the millennial temple.
 They will, through the miracles they perform in sealing up the heavens, or calling fire down on their enemies, serve as a testimony of the Lord and his power to both the Jews and the whole world. At the end of their 3-1/2 year mission, the two prophets will be overcome and killed by the armies that have invaded the land. (See also Dan. 7:25). We do not know how they will be killed; only that they will be overcome by the beast--i.e., the anti-Christ.
The fact that their bodies remain in the street without proper burial exemplifies the contemptuous attitude of the invaders toward their fallen foes. Middle Eastern tradition has long required swift and proper burial as a sign of respect for the dead. By leaving the two prophets unburied, neither retrieving nor allowing their retrieval, the brutal-murderers will demonstrate their utter contempt for the two who have caused so much trouble to their efforts to conquer and destroy.
       The joy of the invaders at killing the two prophets will be short lived: “And in that day will I make Jerusalem a burdensome stone for all people: all that burden themselves with it shall be cut in pieces, though all the people of the earth be gathered together against it” (Zech. 12:3). The two prophets will rise from the dead and ascend into heaven. Now the Lord will come to fight for the Jewish people remaining (see Zach. 14:2 and 12:3). There will be a great earthquake, "such as was not since men were upon the earth, so mighty an earthquake, and so great." (Rev. 16:18).
"His feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south” (Zech. 14:4).
The nations of the earth will mourn, and the wicked shall be overcome and consumed. (See D&C 45:48-50).

       According to the Revelation, 1/10 part of the city shall fall, and 7,000 shall die. Brandt suggests that these numbers should not be taken literally, but are figurative: the number 10 represents a full portion, and the number 7 signifies completeness.  At the same time, Gog and his forces will be destroyed; only a fraction of the original army will survive (see Ezek. 39:2), and Gog shall die. The dead will be buried in the valley of Hamon-Gog. (Ezek. 39:11).
But the destruction is not limited to Jerusalem or the surrounding region. For the Lord promises, “I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem”(Zech. 12:9). President Joseph Fielding Smith taught that the great earthquake would encompass the entire earth, “There will be the great earthquake. The earthquake will not be only in Palestine. There will not be merely the separation of the Mount of Olives, to form a valley that the Jews may escape, but the whole earth is going to be shaken.” The quake's reverberations extend globally, affecting the neighboring nations and distant lands. The kingdoms who allied together against Israel will be shaken violently, collapsing buildings in many cities to the ground (Rev. 16:19). Other cities will sink into the sea or be covered by giant waves and “every mountain and island [will be] moved out of their places”(Rev. 6:14).
 Brandt continues:
       Other punishing calamities are sent forth with the great quake. Fire descends upon the land of Magog, where Gog’s evil alliance was celebrated. Storms of punishing hail rain down on those who “dwell carelessly in the isles,”referring to supporters and sympathizers who deemed themselves safe from the conflict because of their distance from Europe, Asia, Africa and the Middle East (Ezek. 39:6). These areas would include the Americas, eastern Asia and the many isles of the sea. These harsh judgments are so far-reaching that no corner of the earth is unaffected. 
       Great lightnings and thunders accompany the tempests and hailstorms with such unimaginable fury and magnitude that they carry away men and destroy the crops of the earth (D&C 29:16; see also: Ezek. 38:22). Some atmospheric storms are of such magnitude that hailstones tumble in the winds until they reach the weight of a “talent”(about 70 lbs) before crashing to the earth (Rev. 16:21). During these terrible events, men’s hearts will fail them and many will run to the mountains into caves and crevices and call upon them to cause the rocks to tumble down and hide them from the fury of the Lord (Moses 7:66; D&C 45:26; Luke 21:26). 
       As the calamities subside and relative calm is restored, the Savior shall speak to the nations “and all the ends of the earth shall hear it,”and the wicked “shall mourn, and they that have laughed shall see their folly”(D&C 45:49, 47-50; see also: D&C 29:15). The Lord’s rebuke will reveal why he has unleashed these horrific natural catastrophes. His words will echo the rebuke given to the children of Lehi after the cataclysmic events on the promised land. Cries throughout the world will rend the air as the survivors mourn their fate. It will be very much like the period after the destruction described in the promised land: And in another place they were heard to cry and mourn, saying: 
O that we had repented before this great and terrible day, and had not killed and stoned the prophets, and cast them out; then would our mothers and our fair daughters, and our children have been spared, and not have been buried up in that great city Moronihah, And thus were the howlings of the people great and terrible”(3 Ne. 8:25). 
The inhabitants of the earth will cry at this sorrowing tragedy because of their loss. But the judgments were sent “that the blood of the prophets and the saints shall not come up any more unto me against them (3 Ne. 9; Rev. 16:6).
        During the earthquake, the Jews remaining in the city will flee toward the Mount of Olives which, as mentioned, will split in two. In the crevice, the survivors will encounter the resurrected Christ, who will show then the prints of the nails in his feet and hands, and lament what their ancestors did to the Christ. (See D&C 45:51-53; Zech. 12:10 and 13:6). But the Lord will comfort them as a mother comforts her child. (See Isa. 66:13).

       Brandt indicates that these Jews that have witnessed the Christ will, in turn, share their testimony to the other surviving Jews upon the earth, and that the House of Judah will be restored, and the Jews will once again become a righteous branch of Israel. (Isa. 60:21).

       And yet this is not yet the end, for the third woe is still to come. It is also important to note that this appearance by Christ is not what we think of the Second Coming--when Christ returns in all his glory. There will yet be much to happen before that:
Judah must return, Jerusalem must be rebuilt, and the temple, and the water come out of the temple and the waters of the Dead Sea be healed. It will take some time to rebuild the walls of the city and of the temple, and all this must be done before the Son of Man will make His appearance. 

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