Chapter Eleven Bankruptcy

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Here in the United States, the two words “Chapter Eleven” are usually associated with debt, insolvency, and bankruptcy. The eleventh chapter of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code provides a means of debt reorganization under court supervision. A Chapter Eleven Bankruptcy becomes an unhappy legal necessity when a corporation or an individual has debt that cannot be met. No one wants to go through the considerable trouble of a Chapter Eleven Bankruptcy. It is always best avoided. But sometimes it has to happen. Sometimes it becomes inevitable. When creditors come knocking and the bills go unpaid, a Chapter Eleven Bankruptcy sometimes becomes unavoidable and necessary. A Chapter Eleven Bankruptcy is unwelcome, unpleasant, and undesirable — except if it ends well. And every once in a while, it does end well.  

Now let’s turn from Chapter Eleven of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code to Chapter Eleven of the Book of Revelation. It ought to be said up front that one major similarity exists between the two Chapter Elevens: yuckiness. They’re both rather unpleasant eventualities. Both Chapters Eleven are very, very undesirable. Like Chapter Eleven of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code, Chapter Eleven of Revelation involves a lot of hardship, humiliation, and hostility. For faithful Christians, Chapter Eleven of Revelation is no fun. But it ends quite well.     

Welcome to Chapter Eleven of the Book of Revelation. Welcome to an uncertain future. Expect a bumpy ride. Our immediate future will likely be a dystopian nightmare. Chapter Eleven brings us past the present day and into a dismal future.

In Chapter Eleven you will read about Two Martyrs. The English translation you read will almost certainly say “two witnesses.” Your translation is not wrong; it just fails to catch the nuance of martyrdom that is there. The original Greek word is actually martyr. And in Chapter Eleven, the two witnesses are more than just witnesses. They physically die. They are killed. They are killed for their testimony. They are martyrs. 

Some interpreters will say that the Two Martyrs will be Moses and Elijah. Those interpreters are slightly right and mostly wrong. The Two Martyrs will be prophets like Moses and Elijah. But Moses and Elijah will not be the Two Martyrs. The text never says they will be. Instead, the two martyrs are much more immediate. You and I will potentially be the Two Martyrs. Yes, you may be a martyr. And I may be a martyr. Reconcile yourself to that possibility right now. We are supposed to count the cost. It could well cost you your life. Jesus made that very clear when he called his disciples to take up their cross and follow him. He was serious. 

The Two Martyr-Witnesses: Jewish and Gentile Believers

I forewarned you. This is not a pleasant chapter, at least not up front.

Someone somewhere is asking how I see all this in Chapter Eleven. How do I come to these conclusions? Why do I settle upon this interpretation?

As I mentioned in my last blog-cast, Chapter Eleven presents a number of symbols from the very first verse. It mixes a lot of seemingly strange metaphors. And yet for someone familiar with the Bible, these are easily recognizable metaphors. Most of the metaphors presented in Chapter Eleven are used elsewhere in the Bible as metaphors for just one thing: the Church Universal. We are being presented with a symbolic, metaphorical collage of the Church. 

In the end, when the Two Witnesses are finished with their testimony, the ascendant Beast from the Abyss will make war on them, conquer them, and kill them (see Revelation 11:7). The Beast from the Abyss will bring about their elimination. The Two Witnesses will be slain in the Public Square. Their corpse (singular) will be under close watch. Their corpses (plural) will be left unburied. Their opponents will celebrate their demise, albeit only briefly.

On one hand, this can be understood to mean that the Two Witnesses will be physically killed. On the other hand, it can be understood to mean that the Two Witnesses will be politically or economically eliminated. I mean that the Two Witnesses will be forcibly silenced or otherwise rendered incapacitated. Based on what has happened historically, I think that both types of killing will occur. Not every Christian will be physically killed, but some will. And those who are not physically killed will be incapacitated through social or economic means. The Church will be silenced, sidelined, and persecuted immediately before Christ returns. Yes, I do know in some places this is happening right now. I just think that the scale and the intensity will increase immediately before the Church is resurrected and rescued. When he taught about the events at the end of the age, Jesus instructed his disciples to pray that they have the strength to escape all these things (see Luke 21:36). It is no mistake that his words were recorded in scripture for later generations. We likewise are supposed to pray that we have the strength to escape or endure all these things. 

This is the gist of the first ten verses of Chapter Eleven. This is the ugly part of the chapter. Much happier events are soon to occur. But for now, those happier events must wait. 

Many interpretive questions linger. I did not cover everything in the first ten verses. I know that. I am leaving a lot of questions unanswered. I mean to answer more questions sometime soon. But I wanted to cover the essential message of the first half of Chapter Eleven first. I intend to work through more of the details in upcoming blog-casts.    

Everything Written Here Is…

Monday, April 20th, 2020

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Everything you read here is indubitably awesome.

Yes, that’s right. It’s undeniably, irrefutably, in-doo-buh-tah-blee AWESOME, squared. Maybe even cubed. Awesome times itself and again.

Someone sent me a text. Someone very helpfully said that my last post was slightly less than understandable. It could have been, should have been shorter. Perhaps I should get to the point quicker. Too much yada, yada. Readers might lose interest. I would not want that; would I?

Someone said that. Someone knows who he is.

I suppose. I suppose someone made a good point. And I should heed that good point.

So today I will try to keep it short and simple. How am I doing, so far?

In Revelation 11:1-14, the protagonist is the Church. The antagonist is the Beast who rises from the abyss. The Beast conquers and kills the Church in the public square; but after a few days the Church is resurrected and brought to heaven in a cloud. Again, the Beast from the abyss conquers and kills the Church; but shortly thereafter the Church is resurrected and brought to heaven in a cloud.

Some of you reading this post or the previous post will not be convinced that the Church is actually the protagonist in this chapter, so I feel the need to try and convince you. I think it’s important that I convince you, because I think we are seeing at least partial fulfillment of this passage in our day. It is happening now. The Church is being attacked. The Church is being conquered. The Church is being killed and left mute and lifeless in the public square. We are living in a day and time of intensifying attacks and persecution. It is in the news, all too frequently. Need I cite some examples? North Korea comes to mind. China comes to mind. But there are more subtle examples, too, much closer to home.

However, if you miss the multi-faceted referential symbolism of Revelation 11 (not to mention the referential symbolism of the rest of the book), you will not be able to connect the dots. You will not make the correct connections. You will not recognize that what it describes is, at least to some extent, occurring right now. It’s happening now, now, now — not later.

The key is to accept my contention that this must be understood as referential symbolism. You need to let go of the literal impulse. No, it’s not literal. It’s referential. And it’s symbolism. In this short section, the Church is depicted symbolically four or five different ways. First, the Church is the Temple of God (an Old Testament reference). Then the Church’s boundaries are expanded slightly to become the Holy City (another Old Testament reference). Then it morphs into God’s Two Witnesses (a New Testament reference), who are also Two Olive Trees, and also Two Lampstands (an Old Testament Reference). Though four or five symbols are used, the primary symbol and reference for the Church here is the Two Witnesses. These witnesses are attacked, conquered, killed, and resurrected, then exalted. That is what happens. We can expect it. It should not take us by surprise.

I tried to explain the symbolism and point out some of the references in my previous post entitled The Two Witnesses. But that post is a bit wordy, convoluted, and tires the reader. So I’ll just ask you to provisionally consider the possibility that I’m not wrong.

If I’m not wrong, it means that you should be on your toes. If I’m not wrong, it means that you should be making the most of these days, as witnesses for Christ. If I’m not wrong, it means that you should be counting the cost, because it is very costly for our brothers and sisters in Christ in many locations.

Yes, I know: scare mongers have thought the same thing for years and years, centuries and centuries. “The End is Near. The End is Near. The End is Near.” Over and over. But no, it never really was near. So why should anyone listen if I cry wolf yet again?

Quite Possibly.

Well, to start, someday someone will be right. Someday, the end actually will be near. Jesus said so. Paul said so. The Book of Revelation says so. If you take the authority of the Bible seriously, then you have to be open to the possibility that someday the end will be near. It’s gonna happen.

Beyond that, I’ll borrow a very contemporary analogy. We are facing a global pandemic. When I say that, I want you to think both of the Coronavirus and the persecution of faithful Christians. Just like the spread of the Coronavirus (which was once just a seemingly far-off epidemic), so the persecution of devout, confessing Christians is increasing worldwide. Persecution has become a global plague, an international affair. While we might not yet be at the point where persecution is coordinated and executed by a single political entity (that is, a final Antichrist or Beast from the abyss), it could come more quickly than we expect. It could foreseeably happen in the near future. Just know that intense and coordinated political persecution of Christians is already happening in many countries. The more widespread and coordinated it becomes, the closer we are to the actual end. That’s how I read Revelation 11. Please consider the possibility that I might not be wrong.