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© by Rich Kelsey.  All rights reserved.  No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any way by any means—electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording, or otherwise—without the prior permission of the copyright holder, except as provided by U.S. copyright law.  ISBN 1-57921-526-2 Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 2002115819

RICH KELSEY

THE MIDNIGHT HOUR

 

Chapter Nine
LAMPSTANDS,
OLIVE TREES, AND
WITNESSES


The book of Daniel and the book of Revelation were written in symbolism so futuristic that previous generations have never fully understood them. Daniel parallels Revelation in many respects; its final chapters go into great detail concerning Antichrist. Daniel saw visions and was told to record them, much like John, who penned Revelation. And just like John, Daniel was unsure what his visions were about. Daniel said,

"I heard, but I did not understand. So I asked, 'My lord, what will the outcome of all this be?' He replied, 'Go your way, Daniel, because the words are closed up and sealed until the time of the end'" (Dan. 12:8–9).

As we see the time of the end approaching, the symbolism in these books is becoming clear. The Spirit of God is teaching us:

"He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches" (Rev. 2:7).

The Holy Spirit is calling us into a deeper knowledge of the prophetic word. However, there are those who are fighting this instruction by staunchly adhering to end-time doctrines established in the last century. Many Bible-professing Christians are sure there is no need to adjust their theology—but what if this is not the case? In this chapter I will present strong reasons to show that certain aspects of our popular, yet dated, eschatology need to be revised.

Now is the time to look into Revelation's hidden mystery and see it appear as clear as water:

"But in the days when the seventh angel is about to sound his trumpet, the mystery of God will be accomplished" (Rev. 10:7).

Please note, a mystery was mentioned. This mystery has to do with what God promised his servants through the prophets—an early resurrection from among the dead and eternal life for the faithful. We see this same mystery mentioned in a well-known and accepted Rapture text:

"Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed—in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed" (1 Cor. 15:51–52).

Understanding Revelation's mystery is simple. Just connect the two mysteries in our texts, then add the qualifying factor that puts it all together:

"The seventh angel sounded his trumpet" (Rev. 11:15).

Now let's go back a few verses and see what happened right before that seventh trumpet sounded. The very thing God promised his servants came to pass with the words

"Come up here";

that's what a loud voice from heaven cried out as

"they went up to heaven in a cloud" (Rev. 11:12).

People have missed the significance of this passage for years because they have failed to understand who Revelation's two witnesses are.

 

Two Witnesses—What They Are and What They Are Not

First of all we should consider that the word usage in Revelation is figurative, leaving open the possibility that Revelation's "two witnesses" might be symbolic of something other than two literal men or women. Revelation itself tells us who the two witnesses are,

"These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth" (Rev. 11:4).

Earlier in the same book, Jesus was seen standing in the middle of seven golden lampstands. Was Christ standing among seven men?

Not according to Scripture, where it reads,

"The seven lampstands are the seven churches" (Rev. 1:20).

Understanding that in Revelation 1 Jesus was seen standing among lampstands, which represent churches, in chapter 11 of the same book, it's only reasonable to surmise that lampstands would still represent churches. Of the seven churches Jesus addressed in Revelation's letters to the churches, the last two were the church of Philadelphia and the church of Laodicea. Christ praised the first church and gave a strong warning to the second. These assemblies existed at the time John was penning Revelation. Yet they are symbolic of the men, women, and children who will be alive at the end of this age.

 

Olive Trees in the Book of Romans

The two witnesses of Revelation 11 are also called two olive trees. The Apostle Paul explained in a letter to the Romans that the descendants of Israel, which are likened to a natural olive tree in Scripture, have now had a wild olive shoot spliced in—which represents the Gentile or non-Jewish believers. Paul was no doubt addressing this subject because many of the faithful in Rome were of non-Jewish heritage. Paul wrote,

"Some of the branches have been broken off, and you, though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root" (Rom. 11:17).

That tree represented the nation of Israel. In this dispensation, all nations have been grafted into the symbolic tree that God planted and Christ cultivated. Olive trees throughout Scripture represent God's people. Churches contain people from both the original lineage of Israel and also from less noble descendants.

Some ministers and authors teach that Moses and Elijah will be resurrected from their graves and that they are the two witnesses/prophets of Revelation. However, let's consider that millions of people still living at the end of time who answer the call of God to abstain from Antichrist's mark and become witnesses for Christ may fit Revelation's illustration of prophets/witnesses.

 

A Witness for Christ

Speaking of the nation of Israel, God stated,

"You are my witnesses" (Isa. 43:12).

In the New Testament, Jesus said,

"And you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth" (Acts 1:8).

Understanding that Revelation's two witnesses may represent a worldwide assembly of men, women, and children of both Jewish and non-Jewish descent who profess Jesus to be the Christ is the key to unlocking Revelation's mystery—because it's the two witnesses/prophets who ascend up to heaven in a cloud, when the angel speaks the command,

"Come up here." (Rev. 11:12)

Yet much of orthodox theology scoffs at the idea of the church still being on earth deep into the days of Revelation's prophecies! Probably the greatest reason people believe that the Rapture will occur long before the plagues of Revelation fall is due to a misunderstanding of Revelation's symbolic language. While studying end-time theology, I've noticed that many theologians have their entire eschatology thoroughly established through reading the words of Christ and the apostles long before they research Revelation. To further complicate things, by the time they do peruse Revelation's pages, their doctrinal positions have gained enough weight to steamroll over Revelation's meaning. Any illustration that appears to run contradictory to their established eschatology is simply reinterpreted.

The problem with this approach to biblical study is that it's exactly opposite from where one should begin. People should start with Revelation because it's the framework upon which every piece of end-time prophecy hangs. When Revelation's structure is used as a pattern, prophetic Scripture comes into harmony.

Trumpets Are Given

We see in Rev. 8:1–2,

"When he opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour. And I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and to them were given seven trumpets."

Let's consider these verses and this depiction of the angels receiving seven trumpets, paying attention to Revelation's time frame. Among the most popular theories of Revelation's time frame is that the tribulation lasts seven years, with the Rapture occurring at the same time, or shortly before Revelation's first seal is opened. Yet the trumpets aren't given to the angels until the seventh seal is opened, which for all practical purposes must be years later.

 

The Last Trumpet

"For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever" (1 Thess. 4:16–17).

In this text, which is the hallmark of all Rapture texts, a trumpet call is mentioned. When we examine a well-trusted parallel account of the Rapture, we discover that the trumpet spoken of in our Thessalonians text is called the last trumpet. It is written:

"We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed—in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed" (1 Cor. 15:51–52).

There's no question that this last trumpet is connected to the Rapture of the church, consisting of both living and dead Christians, because this is spelled out. Yet Bible teachers over the years have rejected the idea that this last trumpet in 1 Corinthians and the last trumpet to sound in Revelation are the same trumpet. Because the implications of a seventh-trumpet Rapture are staggering. If it were true, that would mean Christians would still be on earth deep into Revelation's plagues.

This would also mean we would be living on earth during most of Antichrist's reign. Many books on end-time events teach that Antichrist will be revealed to Christians right before the Rapture. In other words, we will know who he is, but we will be caught up before he rules the world. All of those who are certain they will be snatched from this earth seven years before Armageddon may suffer great disappointment if they are not. Many could fall from the faith entirely, not being prepared to face persecution.

Surely God has a path for his elect to follow, but it's not always an easy one. Look at what Christ went through during the crucifixion, and the Scriptures affirm that Jesus is our example. When Jesus prayed,

"May this cup be taken from me,"(Matt. 26:39)

our Father's will was for Christ to go through that suffering. Speaking of Jesus again, the Scriptures read,

"He learned obedience from what he suffered."(Heb. 5:8)

Our Father's will is for us to learn obedience also:

"Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ."1 Peter 4:12-13)

We shouldn't rule out the possibility that Christians may suffer persecution under the coming Antichrist system, especially when there is strong Scriptural evidence indicating that Christians will still be on earth when Antichrist is in the world:

1. "And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony for Jesus and because of the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or his image and had not received his mark on their foreheads or their hands" (Rev. 20:4).

This group of faithful believers had delivered a testimony; this same word testimony is used to portray the actions of the two witnesses:

2. "Now when they have finished their testimony, the beast that comes up from the Abyss will attack them, and overpower and kill them" (Rev. 11:7).

This word testimony is also used to describe the actions of Christians in Rev. 12:11, where it is written,

3. "They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death."

In any legal proceeding, the purpose of the witness is to deliver a testimony. This word testimony means "to witness in a legal sense." There's another general word for testimony the Apostle John could have used that was not a legal term. God inspired John to record the legal term because all of creation is in a legal battle over a mortgage scroll. Our witness is a binding legal testimony that will be reviewed before the great white throne judgment of the Most High.

Revelation's two witnesses die for the testimony they deliver, but not every Christian dies. In Revelation the church is seen from different perspectives—two witnesses are only one facet of her character.

 

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pre-wrath rapture, pre wrath doctrine