GEORGE Methodist Church
2nd June 2018
8am and 10am
Last week I shared with you that chapters 8 and 9 have a powerful theme on prayer and now chapters 10, 11 and 12 have a theme of witnesses and what I would like to call Withnessing. The evil of the world is overcome by the blood of the Lamb Jesus and the word of their testimony. Rev 12:11.To tell your story has a profound impact on the world. The council chambers and having an opportunity to get everyone to pray as I got down on my knees.
I think that the most important point of the next three chapters is to identify the power of witnessing. There are so many different ways of doing this, but I would suggest that the most powerful way is more of a withnessing than a witnessing. It is coming alongside of another person and walking with them, helping them and then maybe finding that they ask you a question about why you would be so kind or loving or merciful. It is leading people to a place where they feel safe to ask questions about life that are not easy to answer. It’s the ability to sacrifice your own agenda for the sake of another. The Comrades Marathon happens next Sunday 9th June and it’s a long journey from Durban to Maritzburg (90km).
The Comrades Marathon owes its beginnings to the vision of one man, World War I veteran Vic Clapham. After the outbreak of the Great War 1914-1918, Clapham signed up with the 8th South African Infantry which marched 1700 miles through East Africa.
After witnessing the hardship, and death of his comrades he wanted to create a memorial to the suffering they had gone through and the lives lost. And more importantly to that which left a most lasting impression on him: the camaraderie that he experienced despite such deprivations.
Clapham approached the League of Comrades of the Great War for support of his dream, to stage a race between the cities of Pietermaritzburg and Durban, a fitting setting for a memorial of physical and endurance and stamina. After his application was refused in 1919 and 1920, finally in 1921 the League relented and the Comrades Marathon was born on a loan of 1 pound for expenses that Mr Clapham had to repay.
The first Comrades Marathon took place on 24th May 1921, Empire Day, starting outside the City Hall in Pietermaritzburg with 34 runners. It has continued since then every year with the exception of the war years 1941-1945, with the direction alternating each year between Pietermaritzburg and Durban, the so called up & down runs. Today the race boasts a field capped at 18 000 runners.
Having endured 11 of these marathons 6 up and 5 down, I am so grateful to the many withnesses who came alongside of me to encourage motivate and support. The scriptures speak about those who encourage from the side too who are so important (Hebrews 12:1,2 surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses let us run the race marked out for us with perseverance.)
Psalm 40: 9 and 10
I proclaim your saving acts in the great assembly;
I do not seal my lips, Lord,as you know.
I do not hide your righteousness in my heart;
I speak of your faithfulness and your saving help.
I do not conceal your love and your faithfulness
from the great assembly.
We are called to speak out for Jesus Christ even if it menas that it may not be well received. John finds himself in this part of Revelation having to eat a small scroll :
This chapter is brief, introducing an interlude between the sixth and seventh trumpet judgments. The interlude consists of two main events. Here in chapter 10, John sees a “mighty angel” and is instructed to symbolically eat a little scroll. At the beginning of chapter 11, John is tasked with measuring parts of the temple and provided with further information.
This chapter begins by describing a “mighty angel.” He holds in his hand a “little scroll,” distinct from the scroll of God’s judgment described in chapter 5. The “mighty angel” is the archangel Michael who calls out and the result is the sound of “seven thunders” (Revelation 10:1–3).
What follows is a rare instance where God explicitly instructs someone—John, in this case—not to reveal what He has seen and heard. Whatever message was contained in the voice of the seven thunders, that information is not to be included in John’s writing. This is an important reminder: that God alone knows everything which is occurring. We are not meant to know all things, and we cannot claim to know all things—either about the end times, or any other subject (Revelation 10:4).
This passage also reminds us that God, in the present day, is restraining the influence of evil (2 Thessalonians 2:7) and holding back on judgment (Revelation 7:1–3). He exhibits patience for the sake of our salvation (2 Peter 3:9). At some point, however, God will no longer hold back. There will be no more delay, and the catastrophes will happen according to their own “natural” timeline. God’s merciful restriction of evil, and loving hindrance of judgment, will end (Revelation 10:5–7).
John is then given a highly symbolic order: to eat the small scroll being held by the mighty angel. This echoes a similar instruction given to the prophet Ezekiel (Ezekiel 2—3). The initial acceptance of God’s word is “sweet,” knowing it is communication from God. And, the ultimate message is one of reconciliation and peace. However, humankind’s process of reaching that peace involves judgment, mayhem, and death. This is the “bitterness” of preaching a “sweet” gospel to the world. As part of that bitter obligation, John is required to continue to deliver prophecy about many different things (Revelation 10:8–11)
Chapter 11. This chapter introduces two prophets referred to as the “two witnesses.” Their message, supernatural power, death, and resurrection are dramatic moments in the story. Their influence precedes the end of the trumpet judgments, and sets the stage for the final series: the seven “bowls”.
John is first given a measuring device and told to measure the temple, altar, and worshippers. Measuring, in that era, was symbolic of ownership. Only those who had rights to something—land, a building, or people—were allowed to measure them. As part of this task, John is told that the outer court of the temple is not to be measured. This area, occupied by “the nations,” which is a term for Gentiles.(Revelation 11:1–2).
God next introduces two un-identified “witnesses” who stand in Jerusalem and proclaim Him. Obviously, at this time, that message will not be well-received. However, the men are supernaturally protected. Everyone who tries to hurt them is obliterated by fire from the witnesses’ own mouths. (Revelation 11:3–6).
Finally, these two men will be murdered by “the beast that rises from the bottomless pit.” Most interpreters believe this is the same “beast” described in Revelation chapter 13, also referred to as the Antichrist. To the unbelieving world, this will seem like a major victory—their leader will have defeated those claiming to speak for God. The world will be so overjoyed at this triumph that they will celebrate and exchange gifts, while leaving the bodies to rot in the streets. Thanks to modern technology, it’s entirely possible that people across the entire world can see these events happen in real time (Revelation 11:7–10).
After three and a half days, however, the joy of the world will turn into shock and horror. God will resurrect the two witnesses in full view of the world. Announced by a voice, and carried by a cloud, they will be taken into heaven. At the same time, a massive earthquake will strike Jerusalem, destroying a tenth of the city and killing seven thousand. Those who survive will not honor God deliberately, but their fearful reactions will demonstrate His glory (Revelation 11:11–13).
Earlier, those reading Revelation were warned about certain “woes” yet to come. The first and second of these were the fifth and sixth trumpet judgments, respectively. These were far worse than the terrible trumpet judgments that came before. The third woe will be inaugurated with the seventh trumpet. Just as the seven trumpet judgments were all part of the seventh seal, the seventh trumpet will contain individual events, know as the “bowl judgments.” In the meantime, as the seventh trumpet sounds, heaven praises God for His righteous judgment on evil (Revelation 11:14–19).
Rev 12: 11 They overcame him by the blood of the lamb and the word of their testimony.
I think then that we can gather from John’s vision that witnessing is not always going to be easy and to recognise that many have and still are sacrificing their lives for the sake of telling people about Jesus. Many stand up against fierce opposition to speak out against injustice or the harming of the earth. We are called to tell people about Jesus and His love for the world even if it might mean that we are unpopular, but be careful to witness in such a way that you put people off the very love of Jesus by being judgmental or condemnatory. We have an obligation to love, serve and disciple in a Jesus way coming alongside of others as a withness. I pray that we will go out from this service and get alongside of others who are on the journey of life supporting loving and caring for them like Jesus would. Remember to continue to pray for the Comrades marathon runners as they prepare to run 90 km next Sunday.