January 22, 2016. 8 The Last Word on Witness. Today I had no classes at Redeemer but worked on my History course, summarizing Chapter 4 on the rise of ideologies and isms in the 1800s after the French Revolution. The western world was trying to figure out what had happened and why and where it ought to be going. In some ways, the world was getting to be a better place, but the improvements of the Industrial Revolution also brought great oppression and terrible hardship for many people and nations. What was the witness of Christians in that time? What should be my witness for the remainder of my life? Being a student at Redeemer is one form of witness and I can see some of the effect I’m having on fellow students. But is that the most responsible thing I can do in this moment to be a good witness for God and his gospel?
In the evening, I went to the women’s volleyball match, mostly to see Rebekah play. The Redeemer team won in three straight matches and was surrounded by a gaggle of young girls afterwards, getting their foam mini-soccer balls signed by the players. The game was a witness by the players to young girls coming after them. I also got to meet Rebekah’s parents and make that connection with the past. (I was a youth at church with Rebekah’s grandparents in Acton.) At home, Diane and I watched the movie Black Robe, the story of a Jesuit priest who travelled to St. Marie in mid-northern Ontario to witness to the Huron natives. Following that, I read the chapter “The Last Word on Witness” in Peterson’s Reversed Thunder. (It deals with Revelation 10 and 11.) What I read about witness brought the whole day into focus for me.
The word used in the first Christian century for telling the truth about God was martus, and now a martyr is one who loses their life for telling the truth. All of us are called to be truth-tellers throughout our lives. God spoke the truth to us, and we must listen and give answer. During the silence in heaven, God heard the prayers of his people—that is us Christians—and now he answers. His history-shaping answers are represented by trumpet blasts, the presentation of the gospel. When God’s Word to the world is so powerful, can our weak speech in daily life really be enough? “Yes!” says Revelation; We speak to God in prayer, he speaks his answers in trumpet blasts, and we witness as we speak of God’s work in daily conversations with fellow believers and all others we touch. Our problem is that we are too timid to speak very openly about our relationship with God and what God is doing in the world.
But God gives us angels to encourage us. Angels reveal the invisible. They are given to us to encourage us, not to entertain us; angels are not darling little cupids and we humans do not become angels after we die (despite what some country and pop songs may say). Angels come in two forms in the Bible: In visions such as those of John and Ezekiel and Isaiah, angels appear as mighty and fearsome figures that remind us that we are surrounded by God’s mighty armies. But we humans are called to ordinary witness in daily life and are more likely to meet angels as ordinary humans, such as the three visitors to Abraham. We may not recognize them at first and, says Hebrews 13:2, we may entertain them unawares.
John sees a “strong angel” (that appears three times in Revelation) who shows him a large book: open, unsealed; it represents the full intelligible revelation of God. John asks for and takes a “small booklet” that represents the witness he can bear; he does not have to tell everything, but only what he knows and has seen. John eats the book and it is sweet in his mouth—the Word of God is a delight when we take it in, but it is bitter in his stomach—when he shares that word, he will encounter opposition, rejection, and persecution as did all of God’s Old Testament prophets.
Revelation does not give us any more information or instruction, but imagination, so we can tell the work of God in a living way and courage so we will dare to face danger from the heavenly powers and human opponents. We are surrounded by a cloud of witnesses who encourage us and who are strong and cannot be defeated. John sees two witnesses: Who are they? In the transfiguration of Jesus, there were two witnesses, Moses the lawgiver and Elijah the exemplar prophet; they testified that Jesus was the Messiah. When they returned to heaven, Jesus told Peter, James and John that they three were now the witnesses, though they were to wait until the right time. (Witnessing is not blabbing.) Later, on the road to Emmaus after his resurrection, Jesus met two disciples and showed them from the law and the prophets that the Messiah had to suffer, die, and rise again; these two also became witnesses that Jesus was the Messiah. So the two witnesses in Revelation are the Law of God that tells us what reality is like, and Prophecy which is the application of God’s Word in current and personal history. The Law is revealed truth; Prophecy is the call to live that truth. God’s truth must be embraced in every detail of my life. As Peterson says, “Law tells us how God is involved in our lives. Prophecy tells us how we are involved in God’s life.” God’s truth is evident out there; it must be embraced as the truth in the details of my life.
The two witnesses are killed in the streets of the world and grossly mutilated, but after three and a half days they come to life again; nothing can stop God’s law and prophecy from being active and relevant in the world. May nothing stop my witness either as long as I live: God’s reality and the reality that I follow God must be evident until I die.