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.
Revelation 11: 3-4
I long for the Lord’s return as does every disciple of Christ in heaven and on earth. So in anticipation we labor to understand John’s visions in the book of Revelation, visions that are couched in poetic form, heavy with imagery, rife with symbolism, and characterized by repetition. Truly, the eyes of our mind have to be opened by the Spirit of Christ to understand the Scriptures as once He did for the disciples before His ascension to show, as He said, “that everything written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled” (Luke 14: 44-45).
If we understand that Revelation was given to us so that we may see the end of all things as being Christ’s final victory over death, the devil, and the world, we will see it is as a joyful summons to “Lift up your hearts!” a sursum corda, to rejoice in what Jesus has achieved and will achieve in the coming of His kingdom, and the new heavens and the new earth.
The images from Revelation 11 appear random but are fraught with meaning and I have written about the entire passage in “The Two Witnesses.” What I left out was a closer look at how the imagery of the two olive trees and two lampstands complement the image of the two witnesses and how wonderfully rich they are.
If as I’ve shown previously the two witnesses symbolize the church as we go out into the world to proclaim the gospel, we go in the power of the Holy Spirit and in our knowledge of Scripture. The latter may seem superfluous to some. After all, if we are filled with the Spirit of God and His inner testimony, why do we need the “second-hand” testimony of His word? But the newly resurrected Jesus Himself, standing before His amazed disciples in person, inviting them to touch and see that He was indeed not a ghost but flesh and blood, also “opened their minds to understand the Scriptures” as Luke points out. The testimony of the Scriptures – God’s word by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit – is necessary both prophetically and historically which is why the apostles always referred back to them in their sermons and in their letters to the churches.
Like “two lampstands” the church that is composed of sons and daughters of God who rely absolutely on the foundation of Holy Scriptures provides illumination both to themselves and the world, a means of the latter’s salvation or damnation. Like “two olive trees” the church rooted in the soil of God’s word grows and bears fruit for God’s kingdom to His glory. We cannot bear good and true witness to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ without being enlightened by its testimony.
As individuals, we look to Scripture for wisdom, knowledge, and understanding on the ways of God, to plumb the depths of His will for us as we become more like Christ. Where else on earth do we see Christ more clearly than in the light of the Spirit-breathed words of the Bible?
And when we flourish like olive trees in the house of the Lord, is it not because we are fed by the Spirit through the words of Scripture written for our benefit?
For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.
As the metaphorical language of Revelation 11 displays, through the ages the world has risen to slay the witness of the church, to snuff out its light, and to destroy its life. And despite persecutions and sufferings in each new generation, the church has outlasted its enemies and risen up with renewed vigor and life to proclaim the gospel of Christ Jesus to the world.
So let us hold fast to God’s word to breathe life to our witness,
… for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, … but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, and which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel ….”
2 Timothy 1: 7-10
2 Timothy 3: 14-17
But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.