The Witness In the Midst of Conflict

Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament prophetic book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ, and more specifically, begins with the first verse of the eleventh chapter, and continues through to the fourth verse of the twelfth chapter. In the eleventh chapter of the prophetic book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ we find the apostle John being given a reed which was like unto a rod. The purpose of his being given this reed would be revealed when the angel stood before him and instructed him, “Rise, and measure the temple of God, and the altar, and them that worship therein. But the court which is without the temple leave out, and measure it not; for it is given unto the Gentiles: and the holy city shall they tread under for forty and two months” (Revelation 11:1-2). The eleventh chapter of this prophetic book opens with the measuring of the Temple of God, as well as the altar, and those that worshipped therein. Despite the altar, the Temple, and the people being measured, it was revealed unto the apostle John that the court which is without the Temple should be left out, and should not be measured, for it was given unto the Gentiles. The angel which spoke unto the apostle John would go on to reveal that the holy city shall be tread under foot forty and two months, and that the court which is without the Temple was given unto the Gentiles. WHEN THE COURT IS GIVEN UNTO GENTILES AND THE CITY IS TRAMPLED UNDERFOOT! This is actually quite interesting when you consider it, for there were two specific times during the history of the Jewish people when the city of Jerusalem was invaded, and when the Temple itself was invaded by enemies and adversaries. The first was during the reign of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon when he—along with the Chaldean army—invaded the land of Judah, laid siege to the city of Jerusalem, and once a breach had been made in the wall of the city, the entire army marched straight up into the city, burned all the houses and palaces with fire, and even destroyed the Temple of the living God. The second was during the time of the Roman Empire when the entire Roman army would enter into the beautiful land and would even invade the holy city of Jerusalem. It would be the Roman Tenth Legion that would completely destroy the Temple of God by burning it to the ground with fire.

When we come to the eleventh chapter of the prophetic book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ we discover once more the city of Jerusalem being trodden underfoot, and the outer court of the Temple being given unto the Gentiles. It would be the inner court and the Holy of holies that would be reserved and set apart for the purposes of the Almighty God, yet the outer court would be given to the Gentiles, and the city would. Be trampled underfoot by the enemies and adversaries of God’s people. I can’t help but find within this passage of Scripture a powerful prophetic picture of what has taken place throughout history, as the court of the house of the Lord—that Place where the people of God gathered together to worship the living God—was given to the Gentiles. I can’t help but get the strong and powerful sense that even in this generation we are not only witnessing the court of the house of the Lord being given unto Gentiles, but we also witness the inheritance of the people of God being trampled underfoot. WHEN THE SANCTUARY IS GIVEN TO THE GENTILES AND THE CITY IS TRAMPLED UNDERFOOT!

When I consider what is written and recorded in the eleventh chapter of the prophetic book of the Revelation, I can’t help but be reminded of an account that is found in the Old Testament book of Ezra. In the ninth chapter of this Old Testament book we read of a very specific act of the people that needed to be addressed and corrected. If you begin reading with the first verse of the ninth chapter you will read of that which took place among the people of God after they had returned from their captivity and exile. “Now when these things were done, the princes came to me, saying, The people of Israel, and the priests, and the Levites, have not separated themselves from the people of the land, doing according to their abominations, even of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Jebusites, the Ammonites, the Moabites, the Egyptians, and the Amorites. For they have taken of their daughters for themselves, and for their sons: so that the holy seed have mingled themselves with the people of those lands: yea, the hand of the princes and rulers hath been chief in this trespass. And when I heard this thing, I rent my garment and my mantle, and plucked off the hair of my head and off my beard, and sat down astonied. Then were assembled unto me every one that trembled at the words of the God of Israel, because of the transgression of those that had been carried away; and I sat astonied unto the evening sacrifice. And at the everting sacrifice I arose up from my heaviness; and having rent my garment and my mantle, I fell upon my knees, and spread out my hands unto the Lord my God” (Ezra 9:1-5).

The remaining portion of the ninth chapter describes Ezra’s prayer unto the Lord his God in intercession and repentance on behalf of the people of God who had given themselves over to the defiling of themselves through strange marriage. When you come to the tenth chapter of this same book you will find the outcome of Ezra’s prayer: “Now when Ezara had prayed, and when he had confessed, weeping and casting himself down before the house of God, there assembled unto him out of Israel a very great congregation of men and women and children: for the people wept very sore. And Shechaniah the son of Jehiel, one of the sons of Elam, answered and said unto Ezra, We have trespassed against our God, and have taken strange wives of the people of the land: yet now there is hope in Israel concerning this thing. Now therefore let us make a covenant with our God to put away all the wives, and such as are born of them, according to the counsel of my lord, and of those that ramble at the commandment of our God; and let it be done according to the law. Arise; for this matter belongeth unto thee:> we also will New with thee: be of good courage, and do it. Then arose Ezra, and made the chief priests, the Levites, and all Israel, to swear that they should o according to this word. And they sware. Then Ezra rose up from before the house of God, and went into the chamber of Johanan the son of Eliashib: and when he came thither, he did eat no bread, nor drink water: for he mourned because of the transgression of them that had been carried away. And they made proclamation throughout Judah and Jerusalem unto all the children of the captivity, that they s Gould gather themselves together unto Jerusalem; and that whosoever would not come within three days, according to the counsel of the princes and the elders, all his substance should be forfeited, and himself separated from the congregation of those that had been carried away” (Ezra 10:1-8).

As you continue reading this passage of Scripture you will find that there’s more to this account that needs to be considered: “Then all the men of Judah and Benjamin gathered themselves together unto Jerusalem within three days. It was the ninth month, on the twentieth day of the month; and all the people sat in the street of the house of God, trembling because of this matter, and for the great rain. And Ezra the priest stood up, and said unto them, Ye have transgressed, and have taken strange wives, to increase the trespass of Israel. Now therefore make confession unto the Lord God of your fathers, and do His pleasure: and separate yourselves from the people of the land, and from the strange wives. Then all the congregation answered and said with a loud voice, As thou hast said, so much we do. But the people are many, and it is a time of much rain, and were are not able to stand without, neither is this a work one day or two: for we are many that have transgressed in this thing. Let now our rulers of all the congregation stand, and let all them which have taken strange wives in our cities come at appointed times, and with them the elders of every city, and the judges thereof, until the fierce wrath of our God for this matter be turned from us. Only Jonathan the son of Asahel and Jahziah the son of Tikvah were employed about this matter: and Meshullam and Shabbathai the Levite helped them. And the children of the captivity did so. And Ezra the priest, with certain chief of the fathers, after the house of their fathers, and all of them by their names, were separated and sat down in the first day of the tenth month to examine the matter. And they made an end with all the men that had taken strange wives by the first day of the month” (Ezra 10:-9-17).

There is a particular passage that is found in the thirteenth and final chapter of the Old Testament prophetic book of Nehemiah that helps further lay the foundation for what we find and read in the eleventh chapter of the prophetic book of the Revelation of Jesus the Christ. “On that day they read in the book of Moses in the audience of the people; and therein was found written, that the Ammonite and the Moabite should not come into the congregation of God for ever; because they met not the children of Israel with bread and with water, but hired Balaam against them, and the should curse them: howbeit our God turned the curse into a blessing. Now it came to pass, when they had heard the law, that they separated from Israel all the mixed multitude” (Nehemiah 13:1-3).

What we read in this particular passage is actually directly linked and connected to the words and warning the Lord issued unto the children of Israel through His servant Moses. If you journey back to the twenty-third chapter of the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy, you will quickly uncover the words and instruction the Lord gave concerning the admission of any stranger and foreigner into the sanctuary and courts of the Lord God of Israel. “He that is wounded in the Songer’s, or hath his privy member cut off, shall not enter into the congregation of the Lord. A bastard shall not enter into the congregation of the Lord; even to his tenth generation shall he not enter into the congregation of the Lord. An Ammonite or Moabite shall not enter into the congregation of the Lord; even to their tenth generation shall they not enter into the congregation of the Lord for ever: because they met you not with bread and with water in the way, when ye came forth out of Egypt; and because they hired against thee Balaam the son of Bear of Pethor of Mesopotamia, to curse thee. Nevertheless the Lord thy God turned the curse into a blessing unto thee, because the Lord thy God loved thee. Thou shalt not abhor an Edomite; for he is thy brother: thou shalt not ashore an Egyptian; because thou wast a stranger in his land. The children that are begotten of them shall enter into the congregation of the Lord in their third generation” (Deuteronomy 23:1-8).

There is actually a tremendous amount of truth and application that is found in this particular passage of Scripture—particularly in reference to the abhorring of an Edomite, and the abhorring of an Egyptian. The Lord of hosts—through His servant Moses—instructed the children of Israel to never abhor an Edomite, for the Edomites were descendants of Esau who was the twin brother of Jacob. Moreover, the children of Israel were instructed not to abhor an Egyptian, for they were strangers in the land of the Egyptians. Two key concepts that are found in this passage of Scripture are that of brotherhood and familial connection, as well as the concept of one’s past and remembering where they came from. IN addition to instruction regarding restricting admission into the congregation of the Lord, the children of Israel were also instructed to never abhor an Egyptians, for they were once strangers within their land. Essentially, what the children of Israel were instructed to do was to never forget the fact that they were slaves and in bondage within the land of Egypt, and they were never to treat an Egyptian differently than they would themselves, for they were once strangers in the land of bondage and slavery. STRANGERS IN THE LAND OF SLAVERY AND BONDAGE! With these words the Lord was instructing the children of Israel to never forget where they had come from—to never forget the fact that they were strangers and foreigners in the land of slavery and bondage. There was also a point when the children of Israel would be strangers and foreigners in the land of captivity and exile, for the Lord had caused them to be carried away captive by the Chaldean army. DO NOT DESPISE THY BROTHER! DO NOT FORGET WHERE THOU CAME FROM! These are two tremendous questions which we as the people of God need to ask ourselves and allow us to be confronted on, for we must always understand if we are somehow despising and abhorring our brother. Moreover, we must ask ourselves if we are somehow forgetting and not remembering where we came from—failing to remember the fact that we were strangers and foreigners in the land of slavery and bondage. It’s actually quite interesting to consider out past, and to think that our past can actually stand as a sign and guidepost on how we are to live our lives and conduct ourselves in this particular generation. It’s worth noting and mentioning that the children of Israel could never abhor, despise or even exclude an Egyptian, or an Edomite, for one represented their past, and the other represented the familial connection that existed between them. Through Moses the Lord instructed Israel (Jacob) to never despite Edom (Esau), thus preserving the bond of brotherhood between these two nations. How absolutely incredible and powerful it is to consider the fact that the Lord was not willing to allow the children of Israel to forget where they came from, what they had been through, or to even forget the bond of brotherhood.

GUARDING THE SANCTUARY! If there is one reality that is so powerful and prevalent when reading the twenty-third chapter of the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy—especially when reading the book of Nehemiah—it’s the very real need to guard the sanctuary of the Lord. The Lord was extremely specific regarding those who were not permitted to enter into the sanctuary which was found among the children of Israel. The phrase “shall not enter into the congregation of the Lord” is used five times within the first three verses of this chapter, thus indicating the tremendous need for the children of Israel to guard that which entered the courts of the Lord. Perhaps the single greatest question I can’t help but consider when reading this passage is whether or not we are guarding the sanctuary of the Lord among us. Before I attempt to take this any further, it’s necessary and imperative to understand that what I am speaking of is not exclusion in terms of profiling those who are able to enter into the sanctuary of the Lord. I do not believe for one moment the Lord has called us to a place of profiling those who aren’t disciples and followers of Jesus Christ, and automatically disqualify them from entering into the sanctuary of God. We would love to profile rapists, murderers, pedophiles, homosexuals, transgenders, child molesters, and automatically determine that they are somehow unable to enter into the sanctuary of the Lord. The truth of the matter is that if you read the four gospels which outline and describe the life and ministry of Jesus the Christ, you will find that He was often criticized and ridiculed for eating, associating and fellowshipping with tax collectors, sinners, and prostitutes. There was one occasion when Jesus was criticized by the religious community of His generation because of eating with tax collectors and sinners. There was another occasion when Simon, who was a Pharisee, criticized Jesus for allowing a woman to anoint His feet with her tears, wipe them with her hair, and break open an alabaster jar full of costly perfume. I absolutely love that Jesus was publicly criticized for associating with tax collectors, sinners, prostitutes, and even lepers who were considered unclean according to the law of Moses, for it reveals the powerful reality that we cannot, we dare not, we must not allow ourselves to be given over to profiling and exclusion when it comes to the house of the Lord. We dare not, we must not restrict the sanctuary of the Lord from those who come with a willing heart and an open mind to receive something from the Lord of hosts.

I do not believe for one moment that when the Lord instructed the children of Israel to guard the sanctuary of the Lord and to not allow specific things into the sanctuary, He was instructing them to profile and exclude all races, all tongues, all peoples, etc. It was the Ammonite and the Moabite who were prohibited from entering into the congregation of the Lord, because they did not meet the children of Israel with bread and with water in the way. Instead of meeting the children of Israel in the wilderness with provision, they hired against the children of Israel Balaam the son of Bear of Pethor of Mesopotamia to curse them. We find this reality described and even expressed in the Old Testament book of Nehemiah for the children of Israel had given themselves in marriage to Moabites and Ammonites, which the Lord had strictly prohibited them from doing according to and through the law of Moses. The children of Israel were given specific instruction to guard the congregation of the Lord, and the sanctuary of the Lord, and during the days of Ezra and Nehemiah, there were certain among them who had failed and completely neglected to do so. GUARDING THE CONGREGATION AND GUARDING THE SANCTUARY! In these Last Days I am convinced that we as the saints of God desperately need to guard the congregation—guard the people and saints of God—as well as guard the sanctuary of the Lord. We are commissioned with the enormous task of not only guarding the assembly and congregation of the people of God, but we have also been commission to guard and protect the sanctuary of the Lord. What we must recognize and realize is that we cannot guard one without and apart from the other. As certainly as much guard the congregation of the Lord in the earth, we must also guard the sanctuary of the Lord as well. We must diligently strive to ensure that there is absolutely nothing that can defile, pollute and corrupt the congregation and the assembly of the Lord. This reality is actually quite interesting, for there were two times when the Lord deliberately and intentionally allowed the courts of His sanctuary to be defiled, and even destroyed. It was the Lord of hosts who deliberately allowed the courts of the Temple to be trampled, and the Temple itself to be destroyed with fire by the Babylonians during the days of Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Zephaniah and Daniel. It was the Lord of hosts who deliberately and intentionally allowed the courts of the Lord to be trampled during the days of the apostles, and to ultimately be destroyed by fire. This is quite interesting when you consider both realities in light of what we read in the New Testament prophetic book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ concerning the city being trampled underfoot and the courts of the sanctuary of the Lord being given unto the Gentiles.

If you continue reading the eleventh chapter of the prophetic book of the Revelation, you will discover that even though the court of the Temple of God was given unto the Gentiles, the Lord still had a powerful witness within and upon the earth. Despite the fact the holy city was trampled underfoot, the Lord still had a powerful witness upon the earth. As you continue reading this passage you will find that during the time when the city would be trampled and the courts would be given unto the Gentiles, the Lord would have two witnesses whom He personally would raise up. “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. And if any man will hurt them, fire proceedeth out of their mouth, and devoureth their enemies: and any man will hurt them, he must in this manner be killed. These have power to shut heaven, that it rain not in the days of their prophecy: and have power over waters to turn them to blood, and to smite the earth with all plagues, as often as they will” (Revelation 11:3-6). For three and a half years the Lord would have a witness upon the earth, as there would be two specific individuals who would prophesy according to the word of the Lord in the midst of the city of Jerusalem. Even though the court of the Temple of the Lord would be given unto the Gentiles, and even though the city would be trampled underfoot, the Lord would not be without a witness upon the earth. There has been much speculation concerning who these two witnesses actually are. There are some who believe these witnesses are Moses and Elijah, for both men appeared with Jesus when He was transfigured before Peter, James and John atop the mountain. Moreover, Moses and Elijah essentially represent the Law and the Prophets within the Old Testament, so it would be fitting to have the Law and the Prophets present during these three and a half years. There are others who believe these two witnesses to be Elijah and Enoch, for these two men were the only two men who walked the earth and yet never experienced death. Pause and consider that for a moment, for Jesus Himself experienced death, and despite the fact that he was raised from the dead, Lazarus also experienced death. These two men were the only two men in all of Scripture to not experience death and to be translated by the true and living God.

I am convinced that it doesn’t matter who these two witnesses actually are, for the most important reality that surrounds the presence of these two witnesses is that they represent the powerful reality that during these three and a half years—which coincidentally is the same length of time Jesus’ earthly ministry lasted—the Lord of hosts would have a witness upon the earth. This witness would also have directly connected and associated with it very specific capabilities according to the power and might of the Lord. The apostle John reveals how these men would be given power to prophesy for three and a half years, clothed in sackcloth, and that fire would come forth out of their mouth if any man would hurt them. The enemies of these men which rose up against them would immediately be devoured, and if any man would hurt them, that man must be hurt according to this manner. What’s more, is these men were given power to shut heaven that it rain not in the days of their prophecy. Moreover, these men have power over waters to turn them to blood, to smite the earth with all plagues as often as they will. These men would be raised up during and for a very specific time during the tribulation. The Lord would not be without a witness upon the earth—despite the fact that the Gentiles would be given the court of the Temple of the Lord. The Lord of hosts would have a witness upon the earth, as there would be two individuals who would be dressed in sackcloth, and would prophesy for one thousand two-hundred and sixty days, or three and a half years. The Lord would call men and women unto Himself, and would do so with the prophetic witness of these two men who would have their word and ministry confirmed with signs, wonders, and judgments upon the earth. Furthermore, these men would live under and with the divine protection of the Lord during these three and a half years. It would be at the end of the three and a half years that the beast which ascended out of the bottomless pit would make war against them, and would overcome and kill them. Even though their bodies would lie in the street for three days, the Spirit of life from God would enter them, and raise them up upon their feet. Immediately after they rose upon their feet, they would hear a great voice from heaven swaying unto them, Come up hither, and they would would ascend up to heaven in a cloud as their enemies beheld them.

WAR AGAINST THE WITNESSES! WAR AGAINST THE SEED! WAR AGAINST THE SAINTS! As you study the prophetic book of Daniel, as well as the prophetic book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ, you will encounter the reality that the beast or antichrist not only made war against the saints of God, but the beast would also make war against these two witnesses as well. In addition to the judgment(s) of the Lord that would be found within the tribulation, there would also be the war of the beast against the saints of God, and against the two witnesses of the Lord. This is in addition to what we read in the twelfth chapter of same prophetic book concerning the dragon, for when the dragon realized that the earth helped the woman by opening its mouth to swallow the water that proceeded from his mouth, he sought to make war with and war against her seed. This type of language causes me to wonder just who the saints of God will be during the tribulation if the antichrist can and will make war against them. There seems to be some indication as to who these saints are in the seventh chapter when the apostle John sees a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindred, and people, and tongues, which stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands. The apostle John was asked “What are these which are arrayed in white robes? And whence came they? The apostle John did not know who this multitude was, and it was revealed unto him that “these are they which came out of the great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. There seems to be a strong indication that there is and there will be a great number and multitude of saints that will come out of the great tribulation, and it will be unto these saints who will stand before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and have palm trees in their hands.Even now the spirit of antichrist is at work within and upon the earth and is making war against the saints, much like the spirit of the antichrist was at work within the Babylonian Empire as Hananiah, Mishael Azariah and Daniel were all targeted because of their service unto and before the Lord. The spirit of the antichrist was present and at work in the midst of the Roman Empire, for the Romans heavenly persecuted the saints and believers of the early Church. If there is one thing we must understand when reading this, it’s the powerful call to endurance in these Last Days, and especially during days of tribulation, sorrow, trouble, anguish suffering that are being and will be experienced upon the earth.

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