CDPCKL · The City of God (Revelation 11:1-6)

The City of God (Revelation 11:1-6)

After Moses led the people of Israel out of their slavery in Egypt, he brought them to Mount Sinai in Arabia, where they camped for a little over a year. 

During that first year of their Exodus, Moses built a tabernacle — a special tent, a mobile temple — according to very specific measurements, designed to be a miniature model of the universe as God sees it: 

It had an inner sanctuary, a central tent closed off from the outside world, where only priests were allowed to enter. That inner sanctuary symbolized God’s throne-room. 

Then there was a large outer court, open to the sky, which only the people of Israel were allowed to enter. That outer court symbolized the earth. 

And then, outside the walls of the outer court, was everything else. And this symbolized how the rest of the universe, the wilderness — the abyss — exists outside the walls of God’s sanctuary, God’s garden. 

And when the tabernacle was complete, the people of Israel began their journey across the desert to their promised homeland. 

But because of the nation’s disobedience, a journey that should have taken just a few weeks turned into forty years — 42 years, to be exact. And during those years they camped in forty different places — 42 different places, to be exact. 

And while God did give his people everything they needed throughout that journey, those 42 years were years of tribulation. And to tell you the truth, most of that first generation did not make it. God tested them with poverty, to see if they would continue to trust him to provide for their needs, but they proved unfaithful: they preferred a steady salary of scraps from Egypt over God’s promises that one day they would eat richly and forever. 

In one particular incident, a group of 250 clan leaders challenged Moses’ leadership. Basically, they were upset because Moses had promised them prosperity in a land of their own, but instead he was leading them in circles. 

In response, Moses held a public election: he would bring a bowl of incense and present it before the LORD; each one of the 250 rebels would bring their own bowls of incense and do the same. And God would choose which man — or men — he wanted as leaders over his people, presumably by miraculously igniting the incense of the chosen individuals. 

Instead, God chose to ignite the individuals themselves: fire came out from the Lord and consumed the 250 men who were offering the incense — while, in the background, the earth opened its mouth and swallowed their families along with everything they owned. So…Moses won the election. Through fire, God proved that Moses was his anointed governor over God’s people. 

Eventually the next generation grew up and entered their promised homeland, and it was just as God had promised: a fertile paradise with more than enough to eat. And the nation did grow prosperous. Eventually they established a capital city on a mountain — Jerusalem — and built a temple there that was a permanent version of the tabernacle, complete with inner sanctuary and outer courtyard. 

But those generations failed the test of prosperity just like the first generation failed the test of poverty: they began fighting over who should be in charge, squabbling over the wealth. The nation split into north and south, ten tribes against two, Israel against Judah. 

Now Judah, in the south, in the territories around Jerusalem, did have a problem with idolatry and false worship. But Israel, in the north, decided they did not have a problem with idolatry at all! They set up a pair of golden cows and worshiped those. 

So God sent a prophet named Elijah to call them to repentance. And the first thing Elijah did was declare a drought: no rain, a famine that lasted three and a half years. 42 months, to be exact. And the whole thing ended with yet another public election through fire that proved Elijah was an anointed prophet of the only true God. 

Still, Israel refused to repent. And so, eventually, God brought a foreign empire down upon them, and those 10 rebellious tribes were scattered among the nations, never to be seen again. 

Unfortunately, Judah was not far behind. Little by little they decided they did not have a problem with idolatry either. God sent prophet after prophet to warn them that they were going to suffer the same fate if they did not repent. But the people just said, “Look, we are prosperous, we are powerful, we are blessed by God! so obviously he must be pleased with us. Besides, God’s temple — God’s holy throne-room — is right here in our capital city, and God is obviously not going to allow some pagan army to come in and defile his throne-room!” 

…they were wrong about that. So, because of their unrepentance, God did bring another foreign empire down upon them. His holy temple was given to the pagans to be defiled and destroyed; his holy city was trampled and burned; and the power of his holy people was broken, scattered among the nations. 

But even during the years in exile, God continued to send prophets to his people. 

First, near the beginning of the exile, a man named Ezekiel had a vision in which he was carried away to a very high mountain where he saw a temple the size of a city built upon the south summit. As he watched, an angel took a measuring stick and took very specific measurements of every part of that massive temple complex: the inner sanctuary, the outer courtyard, even the city and the lands outside. And God explained to Ezekiel that this measuring process symbolized how, one day, a new eternal temple will be completed, a temple that would also be a city, a temple that would be completely marked off as “holy to the LORD”: not just the inner sanctuary, but even the outer courtyard, the city, the mountain itself, and all the lands around it: a sanctuary never to be defiled again. 

Still, despite these promises, those years in exile were years of painful tribulation for God’s people. 

And so, near the end of the exile, another prophet named Daniel began to ask God how much longer his holy city would be trampled by foreigners. He wanted to know how long it would be before the foundation of Ezekiel’s eternal temple would be laid, and then how long it would take for that temple to be completed and measured and dedicated as “holy to the LORD”, along with the city and the mountain and the rest of the earth it sits upon. 

And God answered him through a series of visions. He promised Daniel that the cornerstone of Ezekiel’s eternal temple-city would be laid within the next 490 years. And then he went on to say that the temple would be finished after “a time, times and half a time. When the power of the holy people has been finally broken, all these things will be completed.” And then he said this: “From the time that the daily sacrifice is abolished and the abomination that causes desolation is set up, there will be 1,290 days.” Which is three and a half years, according to the Babylonian calendar. 42 months, to be exact — when corrected to match the Jewish calendar. 

Well, sure enough, God’s people were eventually allowed to go home. The foundation of the next temple was laid in Jerusalem! — and then the Persian Empire revoked their rebuilding permits: the tribulations of God’s people were not yet over. 

The nation fell into discouragement and despair. So God sent a prophet named Zechariah to encourage them with another series of visions. In one vision, Zechariah saw a young man going to measure the walls around the city of Jerusalem. But then an angel appeared and told the young man, “Don’t bother. Soon Jerusalem will be so big it will no longer have walls. So nothing to measure la!” 

Then, in another vision, Zechariah saw a golden lampstand with seven lamps on it. And the lamps were being fed oil directly through pipelines from two living olive trees. In other words: those lamps would never need to be refilled, they would burn forever, fed by those two living trees. 

And God explained to Zechariah that the seven lamp flames symbolized the Spirit of God, who would soon level the mountain of the Persian empire, and put the capstone on the temple in Jerusalem, completing it. Then he explained that the two olive trees symbolized two anointed leaders of God’s people. These were two messiahs, two saviours, Zerubbabel the governor, and Joshua the high priest, through whom God’s Spirit would complete the temple. 

And it happened just as God said. These two anointed leaders had laid the cornerstone of the temple; they also set the capstone in place, less than 49 years later. And sure enough, the great mountain that was the Persian empire collapsed into ruins, conquered by the Greek empire, which was conquered in turn by the Roman empire. 

But gradually it became clear that Zerubbabel’s temple in Jerusalem was not the final fulfillment of Zechariah’s visions, or of Ezekiel’s. The measurements were all wrong, for one thing — it was way too small. And Jerusalem still needed walls; it did not grow so large that it could not be measured or counted. Besides, God’s people were still living in political slavery under the rule of foreign empires! 

And so, during the 490 years that followed, as God’s people grew again in power and prosperity — while also struggling through years of tribulation under foreign power — they read back through the prophecies of Ezekiel, Daniel, Zechariah and others…and they realized that there was still one more temple to come, and one more Messiah: a prophet sent from God who would set the cornerstone of Ezekiel’s eternal temple in place, and then put the capstone in place 1,290 days later. 42 months, to be exact. 

And then the last, eternal age of the world would begin! during which the entire temple, the entire city, the entire mountain, the entire earth — the abyss below and the heavens above — would finally be completely measured out and marked off as “holy to the LORD”, never to be defiled again. 

 

But the 490 years came to an end, and…no new foundation was laid. The Roman empire finally lost patience with the constant Jewish rebellions: their legions came sweeping down from the north, but…no messiah appeared to lead God’s army to victory. Zerubabbel’s temple was defiled and destroyed, the holy city trampled, the survivors scattered among the nations, forbidden by law to return to their homeland. The Romans even changed the name of the territory from “Judea“ to ”Palestine”…and still: no eternal messiah, no eternal temple. 

But some of those Jewish survivors, as they were scattered throughout the Roman empire, carried with them a very strange idea. These survivors called themselves “Christians”. And when people asked what that name means, these Christians would explain that they were named after a man called Jesus Christ, which means “The Anointed Redeemer”. They would explain that this man Jesus was actually a great prophet sent from God to be a merciful king and a merciful high priest over all of God’s people from every nation on earth, so that they would never have to suffer judgement, they would never have to suffer from the torments of demons or Death or any other dark power in the universe. 

And when people said, “Well, if he is a king, where is his capital city, his throne-room? If he is a high priest, where is his temple?” then these Christians would explain that Jesus’ capital city has no walls, because the earth itself is his capital city, the earth itself is his throne-room — actually, the earth is really nothing more than the footstool of his throne. They would explain that Jesus’ temple has no fixed location, no foundation of stone, because Jesus is the living cornerstone, his apostles and prophets the living foundation, and his citizens the living walls, being built up course by course through the generations. And these Christians said that, one day, when every last living stone has been cemented into place, Jesus will return to become the capstone at the very pinnacle of the temple — and then the last eternal age of the world will begin! 

And this turned out to be a very infectious idea. Basically, Christianity went viral. 

True, most Jewish people of that generation rejected Jesus as their anointed leader; just like the generation who had rejected Moses, they were very fixated on politics and prosperity, nationalism and all that. They really wanted Ezekiel’s temple to be a stone temple in Jerusalem so that the whole world could look at it and say, “Ooooo! Aaaaah!” 

However, the pagan people of the Roman empire loved this idea of a spiritual temple and a capital city without walls; they loved this idea that they could be safe from God’s final judgement, and safe from predatory demonic gods like Apollo the Destroyer. 

So, as I’ve said, Christianity went viral. Honestly, the Romans made a strategic mistake by destroying the temple in Jerusalem and scattering the remnants of God’s people: a bit like trying to put out an oil fire on your stove by pouring water on it and splashing the flames all over your kitchen. 

And so, twenty-plus years after the Roman emperors thought they had solved the “Jewish problem” once and for all by destroying Jerusalem, the Roman emperor Domitian looked around and realized that his empire was being set on fire by a new kind of Jew called a “Christian”. And he realized these Christians were actually worse than Jews, because their idea! — this idea that there is an invisible kingdom powerful enough to protect its citizens from gods like Apollo, and from empires like Rome? — well, to an emperor like Domitian, who used the fear of Apollo as his primary weapon to keep his empire under control…he knew this Christian idea would absolutely consume his empire from the inside out if he let it go on! 

So he deliberately targeted Christianity. He set up a system that required every citizen of the empire to burn a pinch of incense in worship before a statue of the emperor, once a year, as a gesture of loyalty to Apollo and to Rome. Those who submitted to this system got their IC renewed. Those who refused got their citizenship revoked, their property confiscated, their lives taken, their families enslaved. 

It seems like such a small thing! But many Christians of that time chose not to burn the incense. They chose statelessness, poverty, and death. They chose loyalty to their invisible King and his invisible city without walls…and they paid for it. Pastors were crucified. Parents were imprisoned; children sold into slavery. Christian worship was driven underground. The power of the holy people was being broken and scattered — and still the Anointed Redeemer did not return to complete his temple and kick off the final Judgement. 

And so, just as Daniel had, Christians began to cry out, “How long must we be trampled and defiled like this?” 

And so, last week, in the Book of Revelation, we saw Jesus commission a prophet named John to answer this question. He gave John an opened scroll, and then told him to explain why this tribulation has come upon Jesus’ Church, and when it is all going to end. 

This is how John begins his explanation: [1] I was given a reed like a measuring rod and was told, “Go and measure the temple of God and the altar, with its worshipers. [2] But exclude the outer court; do not measure it, because it has been given to the Gentiles. They will trample on the holy city for 42 months.” 

Now, if we were not familiar with the Old Testament, we would have no idea what is going on here. But now we are familiar with the Old Testament, so we can see at once that John has just been told to measure the same temple Ezekiel saw in his vision — the temple that is also a city: the final, eternal, spiritual temple of Jesus Christ. 

So John starts with the inner sanctuary, the part that symbolizes God’s throne-room in the heavenly places. This is also the room where only priests are allowed to enter. But since Jesus’ Church is now God’s nation of priests, we realize that the priestly “worshipers” contained within this inner sanctuary are actually ordinary Christians. 

But then John is told not to measure the outer court, the part of the temple that symbolizes the earth, because “the holy city” has been handed over to be trampled by pagans. 

But here is a question: why is the outer court still called “the holy city” if it is being trampled by unholy people? 

Well — if you recall — last week, we saw Jesus himself descend and officially announce his claim over the earth. He declared that there would be no more delay: the old government has fallen, the Opposition has won, and the final cleanup has begun. The fact that some nations have not yet submitted to the new government does not alter the official reality or the inevitable end result. 

Therefore the earth is rightly called “the holy city” even if it is not yet completely holy. 

So…what exactly is going on here, with this measuring one part of the temple but not measuring the other part? 

Well, by measuring the inner sanctuary, John is officially marking that space off as “holy to the Lord”; by measuring its worshipers, John is officially sealing them off as “holy to the Lord”. In other words: the central sanctuary is now complete, it has been sealed off and dedicated as “holy to the Lord”, together with everything it contains. It can never be defiled. 

But the outer court is not yet complete. So it is not measured, it is not marked off as “holy to the Lord”. Which means it is still open to being defiled by outsiders. 

It’s a bit funny to realize this, but Ezekiel actually received a vision of the very end of construction, when the entire temple-city complex was being measured for the last time by its architects, to make sure everything was exactly up to spec: the final inspection, we could say. 

But John’s vision here is actually a vision of the construction still in progress. 

Now: that is interesting. But what does it mean? 

It means that, in one sense, our salvation is completed; while, in another sense, our salvation is still under construction. 

Remember how the inner sanctuary in the Old Testament symbolized God’s heavenly throne-room? Well, this inner sanctuary in John’s vision is God’s heavenly throne-room. This is a vision of the completed sanctuary of the True Church, what we could call the Invisible Church, set at the top of the mountain in Ezekiel’s vision; and it already contains the sealed souls of every single one of God’s children from every age and every nation on this earth. 

This is basically another picture, from another perspective, of the 144,000 that we saw sealed once and for all back in Chapter 7. 

The inner sanctuary here symbolizes the spiritual truth about Jesus’ Church during this age: we are saved. The plagues of darkness and famine and scorpion-locusts and demonic horsemen — the spiritual enemies of God — cannot reach us. 

But the outer court symbolizes the physical truth about Jesus’ Church during this age: we can be trampled by the physical enemies of God, by the human nations of this world. 

In other words: our spirits are sealed up safely in the heavenly places, but our bodies are here, on this earth. The Invisible Church at the top of God’s holy mountain cannot be trampled or defiled, but our visible churches, in the wilderness at the foot of God’s mountain, have been given over to be trampled by the nations for 42 months. 

Now: why is it 42 months? 

Again, this would be a real puzzle if we were not already familiar with the 42 years of Israel’s tribulation in the wilderness, their 42 encampments. But we are familiar now, so we can see at once that these 42 months here are also symbolic for the entire Exodus of Jesus’ Church, as we make our tribulation-filled pilgrimage down through the centuries to our eternal home at the end of time. 

And this whole constellation of ideas we have discovered here is simply repeated and confirmed by the very next verse: 

[3] “And I will appoint my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth.” [4] They are “the two olive trees” and the two lampstands, and “they stand before the Lord of the earth.” 

Once again, because we are already familiar with these images from the Old Testament, we realize that these two witnesses here are somehow related to the governor Zerubabbel and the high priest Joshua in the Book of Zechariah, who were destined to complete the temple in Jerusalem. 

We also realize these two witnesses are both inside God’s presence and outside God’s presence at the same time. 

They are “the two olive trees” and the two lampstands, and “they stand before the Lord of the earth” — so they have been measured and counted and sealed up safely at the top of the mountain along with the souls of all God’s people. 

But they have also been called to prophesy for 1,260 days — 42 months, to be exact — clothed in sackcloth, the cloth of suffering and grief. So they have also been called to experience tribulation at the foot of the mountain as they work to complete the temple of Jesus’ Church on earth. 

So that is also interesting. But who, exactly, are these two witnesses? 

Let’s go on and see if things get any clearer: 

[5] If anyone tries to harm them, fire comes from their mouths and devours their enemies. This is how anyone who wants to harm them must die. [6] They have power to shut up the heavens so that it will not rain during the time they are prophesying; and they have power to turn the waters into blood and to strike the earth with every kind of plague as often as they want. 

So this is where we realize that these two witnesses are also somehow related to Moses and Elijah in the Old Testament. Apparently, just like Moses and Elijah, the preaching of these two witnesses will sometimes result in fires of judgement, plagues of judgement, spiritual droughts in which false gods and demons will be struck down and bound, or released to torment their own worshipers. 

Sooo…these two witnesses are a combination of Zerubbabel, Joshua, Moses, and Elijah! How does that work? 

Well, let’s see: by John’s time, Moses and Elijah had come to represent the entirety of God’s Word: the Law and the Prophets working together to proclaim God’s rule over the earth. In the same way, Zerubbabel and Joshua had come to represent the entirety of God’s nation: kingship and priesthood working together to complete the temple of God during the time of the end. 

So this is where we are supposed to realize that the two witnesses in John’s vision here are not specific individuals, they are deeply and profoundly symbolic. As updated images of Moses and Elijah they represent the entire Word of God. As updated images of the lampstand, they represent the entire Church of God in God’s presence. As updated images of the two olive trees — Zerubbabel and Joshua — they represent the entire Church of God here on earth. 

In other words: we are these two witnesses. We are the kingdom of kings, we are the nation of priests, we are all called to prophesy for 1,260 days — 42 months, to be exact — during which time we have the power to consume our enemies with the Word of God, the power to shut up the sky and bring spiritual famine upon the earth, the power to pollute every source of false spiritual water, the power to pour out plagues of judgement upon the nations of this age! 

 

Wow. 

Okay. 

So…what are we supposed to do with this information? How are we supposed to apply this to our lives? 

Well, here — perhaps — again, a big picture review might be helpful: 

Back in Chapter 6, in the middle of the cycle of the seven seals, we started asking — along with the rest of God’s children — how long the process of redemption and judgement would take. We were given white robes and told to wait until every Christian had been killed. 

Then we experienced an interlude between the sixth and seventh seals, which explained how we got our white robes: by being counted and sealed on the forehead with the blood of God’s Lamb. And we saw ourselves worshiping in God’s presence at the end of time, a great multitude that no one could count, proving that our salvation is secure, the end is already written. 

Then, during the cycle of the seven trumpets, we began to see these images of fire being poured out upon the inhabitants of the earth — fire that came from the golden altar of incense which stands in God’s throne-room, which symbolizes the prayers of all God’s people. We were beginning to see a connection between our prayers and the fires of judgement — the same fires that led to the collapse of empires and widespread spiritual famines: the first six trumpet judgements. 

And now we are experiencing another interlude, this time between the sixth and seventh trumpets. And this interlude is now explaining the connection between our prayers and the fires of judgement. 

The first interlude used the image of counting, this interlude uses the image of measuring, but the meaning is the same: we are sealed up and secure within the inner heavenly sanctuary of God. But now this interlude adds some more information to the picture: it is from the safety of our sanctuary in heaven that our preaching and our prayers are now being poured out like fire upon the holy city of the earth, just as the angel poured out his censer full of coals upon the earth back at the beginning of Chapter 8, just as the angel scattered coals across the holy city of Jerusalem back at the beginning of Ezekiel’s visions in the Old Testament. 

In short: Jesus’ Church has been appointed to prophesy for 1,260 days — which is 42 months, which is three and a half years, which is a time, times, and half a time. That is how long the process of redemption and judgement is going to take. That is how long the time of the end is going to last. And during these 42 months, our preaching and our prayers are actually pouring out the fires of God’s judgement upon the earth: fires that purify those who belong to Christ, and destroy those who do not. 

And this is exactly what Jesus told his disciples was going to happen. He said, “After I have returned to my Father, I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” And in another place he said: “If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” 

Now…I do want to pause here to make something very clear: this is a crazy amount of power. But it is not my personal power. It is not your personal power. This is Christ’s power expressed through his Church. Within the garden of God, within the inner sanctuary of his temple there is peace, prosperity and life; outside there is wilderness, famine and death. Those boundaries are defined by the Church, and we are part of the Church! — but they are not defined by us as individuals… 

I hope that is clear. If it is not, we should definitely discuss it further during Q&A. 

But in the meantime: what are we supposed to do with this information about how much power we have over the nations of the earth? 

Well, to start with, we are supposed to apply this information to the mystery we encountered last week. 

If you recall, last week we realized that God tested his Old Testament people with poverty during their exodus through the wilderness, then tested them with prosperity in their homeland, then tested them again with poverty in exile — the most severe test of all, the one that did not end until their strength was gone. We also realized Jesus’ Church is following this same pattern: first a redemption from slavery, then a rise to prosperity, then a fall back into final tribulation. And we realized that it is, in fact, our own preaching that brings it on! It is our own success in proclaiming God’s Word to the ends of the earth that results in the final rebellion from the ends of the earth. We were wondering why it has to work this way. And we were promised an explanation. 

This is the beginning of that explanation: what we are seeing here, in these verses, is a snapshot of Jesus’ Church during its rise to prosperity. 

John’s measuring of the inner sanctuary shows us that Step One of the pattern is complete: Jesus’ Church has been redeemed from slavery and sealed up safely in God’s presence. So in one sense, our great Exodus through the wilderness is over; we have already arrived in our eternal homeland. And so this ministry of the two witnesses is a picture of how Jesus’ Church is expanding outward in every direction to fill every corner of the earth with the prosperity of God’s Word, growing in strength and influence as we extend life into the wilderness from the safety of our heavenly sanctuary. 

At the same time, John not measuring the outer court shows us that, in another sense, our Exodus is not yet over: as kings and priests we are still here in the wilderness at the foot of God’s mountain, working to complete Jesus’ Church. Which means that the nations can — and will — push back against us. 

This vision helps explain the mystery of how we can be safe and not safe — powerful and powerless, prosperous and poverty-stricken — all the same time. This vision helps explain how it is that God’s people still suffer tribulation during this age even though we have been counted and measured and sealed away safe in God’s inner sanctuary. 

This vision also begins to explain the mystery of the connection between our preaching and the final tribulation. 

Last week we were wondering how it can be that the more we dig wells of living water and plant gardens, the worse the famine gets in the wilderness outside. It was hard for us to understand why people who are dying of thirst would turn down the water that could save their lives. 

Well, this week simply confirms that what is sweet to us can be bitter to others. Water that gives life can also drown. Fire that purifies can also consume. 

Basically, we could say it like this: whenever we preach the Good News we are also preaching an equal-but-opposite Bad News. 

The Good News is that the earth is now under new managment: Jesus is taking over. The Opposition has won! The old government is being dismantled, piece by piece. And anyone who wants to can submit to Jesus’ New Government right now, and begin to enjoy the benefits of that New Government right now. 

What are the benefits? Well, submission to Jesus’ government means citizenship in a city without walls, a city so large that it cannot be measured, a city ruled by a king who can no longer die, a king is going to bring every single power and authority in the universe under his complete control. Submitting to Jesus means joining the winning side of history. 

Furthermore, this is a king who will never rule his citizens as a tyrant. How do we know this? Because, unlike every other king who has ever lived, he did not use his prosperity and power to win more prosperity and power for himself. Instead he gave it all away — even giving up his own life — to ransom his citizens from slavery and death. Through his shed blood, he carried them away to the inner sanctuary where he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence: ‘he will lead them to springs of living water.’ ‘And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.’ 

In short: the Good News is that, if you want to belong to Jesus and live in the garden of God where you will eat and drink as much as you like for all eternity…you can! Actually, it’s super easy, barely even an inconvenience. 

The Bad News is that, if you do not want to belong to Jesus and live in the garden of God…then you won’t. And as a result you will experience a great deal of inconvenience: hunger and thirst and poverty, the burning heat of the sun by day, the chilling torment of demons by night, beginning in this life…and then carrying on for all eternity. 

So in conclusion, friends, the reason our preaching is connected to the fires of judgement and to our final tribulation is this: we are actually tormenting the world with our Gospel, no matter how “nicely” we share it — because our preaching of Jesus’ New Government only serves to remind the unrepentant that they are not in control. We are actually tormenting the world with the peace and prosperity we enjoy in God’s presence, no matter how freely we offer it to others — because our prosperity only serves to remind the unrepentant of their poverty: the fact that true peace and prosperity cannot actually be seized, it can only be received as a gift. 

The painful truth is this: most people would rather die of thirst than submit to Christ in exchange for the waters of life. They would rather die than drink; they would rather kill those who offer them life than continue to live knowing how much they owe. 

So, if you are here today and I am describing you, then please: set aside you pride, come and drink. 

Because, look: you have to submit to some god somewhere. And in the end it will come down to this: you will be ruled by either Apollo, the all-consuming Destroyer, or Jesus the self-sacrificing Redeemer. One of those gods wants to drive you mad with thirst in the desert; the other wants to lead you to the River of Life in an eternal garden. One of those gods wants you to join him in the Abyss of eternal death; the other wants to give you a share in his eternal life. One of those gods hates you; the other one loves you. 

I don’t know what else to say, except that submission to the one will cost you everything; submission to the other will cost you nothing and give you everything. So count the cost, and make your choice. 

And now, for the rest of us who have been measured and sealed within the eternal sanctuary of God’s garden…listen: the Good News of the Kingdom of our Saviour is going viral right now. It is setting fire to the nations of the world, just as it did to the Roman empire. And now that we understand what this Good News is actually doing to the nations, well: now we can understand why, in the days when the seventh angel is about to sound his trumpet, the kings of the earth are going to finally rise up, and band together against the LORD and against his anointed, just like the Roman empire did during Domitian’s time. 

And now we understand that their final rebellion will actually be the crowning proof of our success! 

What is harder for us to understand is why they must win, why they must break the power of the holy people before the end — and this is the mystery that will be accomplished and explained next week, when the seventh trumpet is sounded, so…make sure to come back for that. 

Still: even now we know that the story of Jesus’ Church does not end in defeat. When the power of the holy people has been finally broken, then the last, eternal age of the world will begin, during which the entire temple, the entire city, the entire mountain, the entire earth — the abyss below and the heavens above — will finally be completely measured out and marked off as “holy to the LORD”, never to be defiled again. 

So let’s take our final comfort in that. 

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