SAY WHAT? (What is the passage saying?)
- This chapter opens with John being told to measure the temple. Revelation contains many references and symbols from the Old Testament. This measuring of the temple is reminiscent of a scene we find with the Old Testament prophet Ezekiel.)
- In the second verse the worshippers of God are "measured," but there are some who are not to be counted and instead are excluded to the outer court. This seems to represent people who claimed to love, believe in, and worship God, but that was not the true condition of their hearts.
- The two witnesses that we meet in verse 3 seem reminiscent of two of Israel's prophets from the Old Testament:
- Elijah, who in 1 Kings 17 “shut up the sky” so that Israel experienced a crushing drought.
- Moses, who in Exodus 7-11 struck Egypt with plagues.
- It doesn't really matter to us whether these witnesses are the actual prophets or just similar to them. Either way, they share the same mission: to proclaim God’s word.
- The great city where they were telling people about God “is figuratively called Sodom and Egypt, where also their Lord was crucified.” In the rest of the bible Sodom represents great sinfulness that God is forced to judge, and Egypt symbolizes slavery from which God rescued his people. Perhaps here naming these cities highlights the spiritual condition of humanity - because of our sin, we live in slavery. (For more on this, see Romans 6.)
- We see in this chapter that people who live in opposition to God may have a time where they feel like they can gloat, but in the end God will be victorious and what is right will be clear to all.
- There are different time periods mentioned in verses 2, 3, and 14 of this chapter. We don't know how literal or figurative these numbers are, or what amount of time they may symbolize.
- The chapter ends with another glimpse of worship in heaven. In this section there is a temple with an "ark of his covenant." In the Old Testament there was an ark of the covenant which provided a visible assurance that God was with his people and would keep his covenant with them. Here we see great power emanating from the ark, as displayed by the lightning, thunder, earthquake and hailstorm.
SO WHAT? (What are the underlying principles?)
- The bible says that when we sin we become slaves to sin. We are in bondage to what we do, and on our own can't escape. But God, in his love, offers us a way out. We need to take that way out. Sin may seem appealing, and people may even revel in it for a time, but the life God has for us is better, and in the end we will want to be on his side.
- In this chapter we get just a hint of the idea that there are people who seem to believe in and worship God (for instance, they go to church) but who really don't. Jesus taught this many times. In the end, God will not judge by outward appearances, but by our hearts. If our hearts are not really for God, we will not fool him by pretending.
NOW WHAT? (How will you personally apply this passage?)
- Are there sins you feel trapped in? Have you tried to stop, but can't do it? God can set you free. Ask him for help, and build habits into your life (like bible study and prayer) to help you connect with and get strength from him on a daily basis.
- How is your heart towards God? If you have a sense that you may be going through the motions, perhaps in an attempt to impress, rather than really having a heart for him, talk to him about that. Confess it, and ask him to give you faith and passion for him.