December 4, 2011

Monday after the Second Sunday of Advent

Lectionary

Morning - Ps.33, Is. 8, Mk. 2:23-3:6
Evening - Ps. 42, 43, Is9:1-17, Rev. 11

Commentary
Revelation 11

Chapters 4-10 have shown God punishing the persecutor of the Church. The comments have attempted to show that the chapters have pointed to and described the conquest of Jerusalem by the Roman army in 70 A.D. Chapter 11 concludes the prophecy about Jerusalem. It begins with a command to measure the Temple, which is a prelude to its destruction predicted by Christ in Matthew 24:2 (see also Amos 7:7-9).

There are two witnesses killed in the city, which are identified as two candlesticks standing before God (11:3-4). This image comes from Zechariah 4, where the two lights are supernaturally enabled to accomplish their work in Jerusalem. They represent, both in Zechariah and Revelation, the civil and religious authorities in Israel, each serving God in their respective fields. As John writes this prophecy, corruption has ruined the Jerusalem Temple and government, and, instead of being enabled by God to accomplish their work, their corruption becomes so complete they cease to perform their tasks. Thus, the two pillars of Jerusalem wither and "die," and their corpses lie in the streets unmourned and unburied. In their places, anarchy and apostasy reign, and the people of the "holy city" (11:2) are plunged into deadly chaos and internal strife.

Verse 8 is important because it identifies the city in which the two witnesses die. Some people are confused because the city is called Sodom and Egypt, but this confusion is easily dispelled when we see that these names describe the spiritual condition of the city by comparing it to Sodom and Egypt in Old Testament times when these places opposed God and persecuted His people. The city is identified as the place where our Lord was crucified, Jerusalem
Rather than mourning over the corruption and death of Biblical religion and government, the people celebrate. Verse 10 says they "rejoice and make merry." Why? Because when the Church and state functioned properly they testified that the deeds of the people were evil. Now that they are "dead" the wicked think there is no more restraint on their sin. They are free to plunge to the depths of wickedness with no one to reprove them and no law to restrain them. Meanwhile, the prophets are raised from the dead and taken into Heaven, symbolic of God's blessing on true religion and good government. The earthquake is the chaos that ensued after the fall of faith and government in Jerusalem, but at least some turn to God in the crisis (11:13).

The chapter closes with a hymn of praise from voices in Heaven, probably the martyrs (11:15). Their song gives thanks to God because He has taken Jerusalem, which had become another one of the kingdoms of the world, and subjugated it under Him. It is not a city of Biblical faith by any means, but it is under God by being under His judgment. In this way all kingdoms and people will come under the rule of Christ; some as redeemed to glory, others to judgment. Either way, He will rule all, and the destruction of Jerusalem shows that He has already begun to reign.

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