Isaiah 41 & Revelation 11

Isaiah 41

    Listen to me in silence, O coastlands;
        let the peoples renew their strength;
    let them approach, then let them speak;
        let us together draw near for judgment.
    Who stirred up one from the east
        whom victory meets at every step?
    He gives up nations before him,
        so that he tramples kings underfoot;
    he makes them like dust with his sword,
        like driven stubble with his bow.
    He pursues them and passes on safely,
        by paths his feet have not trod.
    Who has performed and done this,
        calling the generations from the beginning?
    I, the LORD, the first,
        and with the last; I am he.
    The coastlands have seen and are afraid;
        the ends of the earth tremble;
        they have drawn near and come.
    Everyone helps his neighbor
        and says to his brother, “Be strong!”
    The craftsman strengthens the goldsmith,
        and he who smooths with the hammer him who strikes the anvil,
    saying of the soldering, “It is good”;
        and they strengthen it with nails so that it cannot be moved.
    But you, Israel, my servant,
        Jacob, whom I have chosen,
        the offspring of Abraham, my friend;
    you whom I took from the ends of the earth,
        and called from its farthest corners,
    saying to you, “You are my servant,
        I have chosen you and not cast you off”;
    fear not, for I am with you;
        be not dismayed, for I am your God;
    I will strengthen you, I will help you,
        I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
    Behold, all who are incensed against you
        shall be put to shame and confounded;
    those who strive against you
        shall be as nothing and shall perish.
    You shall seek those who contend with you,
        but you shall not find them;
    those who war against you
        shall be as nothing at all.
    For I, the LORD your God,
        hold your right hand;
    it is I who say to you, “Fear not,
        I am the one who helps you.”
    Fear not, you worm Jacob,
        you men of Israel!
    I am the one who helps you, declares the LORD;
        your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel.
    Behold, I make of you a threshing sledge,
        new, sharp, and having teeth;
    you shall thresh the mountains and crush them,
        and you shall make the hills like chaff;
    you shall winnow them, and the wind shall carry them away,
        and the tempest shall scatter them.
    And you shall rejoice in the LORD;
        in the Holy One of Israel you shall glory.
    When the poor and needy seek water,
        and there is none,
        and their tongue is parched with thirst,
    I the LORD will answer them;
        I the God of Israel will not forsake them.
    I will open rivers on the bare heights,
        and fountains in the midst of the valleys.
    I will make the wilderness a pool of water,
        and the dry land springs of water.
    I will put in the wilderness the cedar,
        the acacia, the myrtle, and the olive.
    I will set in the desert the cypress,
        the plane and the pine together,
    that they may see and know,
        may consider and understand together,
    that the hand of the LORD has done this,
        the Holy One of Israel has created it.
        Set forth your case, says the LORD;
        bring your proofs, says the King of Jacob.
    Let them bring them, and tell us
        what is to happen.
    Tell us the former things, what they are,
        that we may consider them,
    that we may know their outcome;
        or declare to us the things to come.
    Tell us what is to come hereafter,
        that we may know that you are gods;
    do good, or do harm,
        that we may be dismayed and terrified.
    Behold, you are nothing,
        and your work is less than nothing;
        an abomination is he who chooses you.
    I stirred up one from the north, and he has come,
        from the rising of the sun, and he shall call upon my name;
    he shall trample on rulers as on mortar,
        as the potter treads clay.
    Who declared it from the beginning, that we might know,
        and beforehand, that we might say, “He is right”?
    There was none who declared it, none who proclaimed,
        none who heard your words.
    I was the first to say to Zion, “Behold, here they are!”
        and I give to Jerusalem a herald of good news.
    But when I look, there is no one;
        among these there is no counselor
        who, when I ask, gives an answer.
    Behold, they are all a delusion;
        their works are nothing;
        their metal images are empty wind.

(Isaiah 41 ESV)

Revelation 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.”

    These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth. And if anyone would harm them, fire pours from their mouth and consumes their foes. If anyone would harm them, this is how he is doomed to be killed. They have the power to shut the sky, that no rain may fall during the days of their prophesying, and they have power over the waters to turn them into blood and to strike the earth with every kind of plague, as often as they desire. 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. For three and a half days some from the peoples and tribes and languages and nations will gaze at their dead bodies and refuse to let them be placed in a tomb, 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.

    The second woe has passed; behold, the third woe is soon to come.

    Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever.” And the twenty-four elders who sit on their thrones before God fell on their faces and worshiped God, saying,

    “We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty,
        who is and who was,
    for you have taken your great power
        and begun to reign.
    The nations raged,
        but your wrath came,
        and the time for the dead to be judged,
    and for rewarding your servants, the prophets and saints,
        and those who fear your name,
        both small and great,
    and for destroying the destroyers of the earth.”
        Then God's temple in heaven was opened, and the ark of his covenant was seen within his temple. There were flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, an earthquake, and heavy hail.

(Revelation 11 ESV)

Revelation 11: John describes two witnesses who are granted the authority to prophecy for 1,260 days (42 months), but he also describes these witnesses as olive trees and lampstands. This is most likely a reference to the faithful church as a whole serving as a prophetic witness to Christ during this present time between the two comings of Christ. Just as the Israelites experienced 42 encampments in the wilderness (Numbers 33), the church’s "wilderness experience" between the two comings of Christ is described as a period of 42 months. It is our responsibility here and now to serve as the faithful witnesses of Christ no matter what it may cost us until that Day He returns.

The Book of Revelation is continually describing the great suffering that the church will endure between the two comings of Christ, but it does so in a way that continues to point to the great hope that we have in this suffering. As we read what happens to the two witnesses (the church), we might be encouraged by the pattern that we see closely associating the church to its Christ.

As John describes this vision, proclamation of the truth results in Satanic opposition and persecution of the two witnesses. This leads to their violent death in the city where Christ was crucified. The world looks on and celebrates such persecution, but then the two witnesses are resurrected and vindicated for their faithful witness by ascending to heaven in a cloud. The pattern is plain before us. As Christ was rejected, resurrected and now reigns in heaven, may we find hope in the midst of our suffering that we too will be rejected, resurrected and reign with Christ in the New Heaven and New Earth.