The Witness of the Church

Plenty of confusion exists when it comes to understanding the book of Revelation so I thought I would pull a few helpful notes to illustrate that it needn’t be. Take for example the unfortunate misunderstanding of the use of “candlestick” in Revelation 11. The popular view would have you believe that two physical witnesses will be in Jerusalem at some future time, candidates most often mentioned for the position are Elijah and Enoch. Instlampead of injecting our own opinion into the Revelation 11 let us retreat to scripture and allow scripture to speak for itself:

The mystery of the seven stars which thou sawest in my right hand, and the seven golden candlesticks. The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches: and the seven candlesticks which thou sawest are the seven churches. (Rev 1:12-20)

If the candlesticks in Revelation 1 are a symbol of the churches why would they be limited to two physical men in Revelation 11? I’m all for furthering our theological understanding with modern works, and it is the job of the church to engage society in every generation, but we should not forget the work already completed for us.

Some helpful notes on the Candlesticks from the People’s New Testament Commentary by Barton Johnson.

Candlestick – A symbol of a church, which should be a light in the world. The seven golden candlesticks are the seven churches. A symbol of any light-giving agency.

I saw seven golden candlesticks. The first things seen when he turned to see whence the voice came were the seven golden candlesticks, which symbolized the churches (Rev_1:20).

The mystery of the seven stars. The Lord himself at once explains what the seven stars and seven candlesticks symbolize. The seven candlesticks represent the churches, or organizations appointed to “let their light shine” and become “the light of the world.”

And the seven stars are the angels of the churches. These were, I think, the evangelists of the churches.

Now back to my quesiton, if the candlesticks in Revelation 1 are a symbol of the churches why would they be limited to two physical men in Revelation 11? Simply, they cannot be limited to a two individuals but represent the witness of the church during the 1260 days time period.

And I will give power unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days, clothed in sackcloth. These are the two olive trees, and the two candlesticks standing before the God of the earth. (Rev 11:3-4)

Revelation 11 makes much more sense if it represents the witness of the church rather than two individual witnesses as Barton Johnson notes;

The olive tree was the source of the oil used to provide for the candlesticks. The candlesticks, burning the oil, gave forth light. The symbols imply that during this period of 1260 days God shall have two agencies, bearing divine witness, which shall give forth light to men. These agencies shall be filled and sustained by the Spirit.

I pray this was helpful.

jm

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10 thoughts on “The Witness of the Church

  1. As always B.W. Bullinger is an interesting read (on chapter 11) here in his book or Commentary On Revelation, originally published as The Apocalypse. And as always his interpretation is literal, and he does not just reiterate other men’s views per se. Though he is quite definitely Premillennial and Pre-tribulational on the so-called “Rapture”, or “our gathering together to Him.” (Note, I am Post-trib myself)

    He should remember too, that Bullinger was a direct descendant of the great Swiss Reformer Heinrich Bullinger. And even if we don’t agree with EWB on Revelation 11, and the whole of his prophetic teaching, he is always worth the reading, since he always held to the highest place and authority of Holy Scripture. And he was of course a Low Church Evangelical Anglican!

    • See btw Bullinger’s chapter’s 10 and 11 in his book on Revelation: The Third Vision “In Heaven” (11: 15-19) The Sounding Of The Seventh Trumpet (pages 369-382) ; with 11:19, The Third Vision “on Earth” (pages 383-384). Major to his biblical and interpretative position!

      • I just read it, thank you. His commentary normally sits unused on my bookshelf but I might start using it more often.

      • Sadly Bullinger outlived both of his son’s, as too his wife! Neither son appeared to follow Christianity closely. I have two son’s myself, and they both seem to be nominal Christians, not godless, but just not close. But both are just young men still. My oldest (24) teaches military history at a military college in greater London. They are good men, as goes by todays standard however. But both millennials! And me an old baby-boomer, my wife an x generationer! 😉

      • I can be pretty tough on my children as well, wanting the best for them and all that. As a father, the single most important thing (I have attempted to do) is point them to Christ and lead them by example.

  2. Pingback: The Two Witnesses | Feileadh Mor

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