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The Witness of Jesus in Revelation

August 5, 2012

The witness of Jesus in the book of Revelation is full of warning for the churches. While Jesus’ witness reveals the idolatry and immorality of the world, his words focus on the idolatry and immorality of the churches. This is most clear in the first three chapters of Revelation, which feature the risen Jesus warning five of the seven churches to repent.

When John sees the fiery face of Jesus in Rev. 1:16, a sharp two-edged sword comes from his mouth; in 2:16, Jesus tells the church of Pergamum if they do not repent he will come soon and fight against them with the sword of his mouth. This witness of Jesus comes first through this written testimony of John; and it will come soon through further confrontational words through John (or another true prophet); it’s a war of words between true prophets and false prophets.

In Rev. 19:10, the writer John and his “brothers” all share in the witness (or testimony) of Jesus. Then the angel identifies this witness: “for the witness of Jesus is the Spirit of prophecy.” This two-edged sword of Jesus and the Spirit speaking the word of God to the churches is illustrated in the seven prophetic oracles of Rev. 2-3; each oracle begins with Jesus speaking to a certain church, and ends with exhortation to hear what the Spirit says to the churches.

The two (true) witnesses of 11:3-4 are depicted as two olive trees and two lampstands (the earlier symbol for the churches). Their witness includes fire coming from their mouths that destroys their enemies (11:5). Fire in Revelation is especially linked with the seven spirits of God before the throne (in 4:5), who are sent out to all the earth by the Lamb (in 5:6). These seven spirits are the fullness of the sevenfold Spirit who speaks seven messages to the seven churches. Thus when the heavenly Lamb or seven angels send fire from heaven to earth in later visions, fire that destroys “trees” (among other things), the reader should understand: this symbolism is about the risen Jesus continuing to speak through the Spirit by means of good “trees,” warning and condemning the evil of bad “trees” in the churches and on the earth.

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