Witnessing in Revelation

The role of witnessing is one of the key themes throughout the entire Apocalypse. For John, witnessing is directly connected to suffering and perseverance (Rev. 1:9; 6:9; 12:11; 17; 20:4). One reason for this is because the exodus motif plays a major part in the structure of Revelation.[1] Witnessing is also part of being a faithful disciple of Jesus because he is “the faithful witness” and “firstborn of the dead” who “made us to be a kingdom, priests to His God and Father…” (1:5–6). Jesus is the example that Christians must follow; he overcame through the cross and his resurrection (1:5) and thus believers follow the same pattern (11:7–12; 12:11). Therefore, witnessing through persecution forms one of the paradigmatic elements of the Apocalypse.

To accomplish the task that the Church has been called to complete through their witness Jesus has provided the power of the Spirit (1:10–12; 11:3–6; cf. Acts 2). Waddell rightly points this aspect out in connection with Zechariah 4 within Revelation 11.[2] He quotes Bauckham with affirmation saying that “as they stand before the Lord of the earth, the witnesses (i.e. lampstands) shine with the light of the Spirit.”[3] He then goes on to say that this passage shares “a common echo from Zechariah 4:1–13, the images of the seven spirits and the two witnesses are linked together.[4] The point of the symbolism in Zechariah was that God was in charge of their mission, and he would make sure that they completed their task. In fact, God gave them the message that it was “not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts” (Zech. 4:6). Consequently, John uses the symbolism of Zechariah 4 to show the Church that God, through the power of his Holy Spirit, is protecting them and will destroy their enemies. Through this symbolism, John confirms the presence of the Spirit in their mission (see Acts 2). It is therefore clear in this passage that John has in view the Church of the eschaton; the eschatological Church is marked by the power of the Spirit working fully in her midst to empower her to preach the good news of Jesus Christ to the world (Acts 1:8; 2:4; 2:16-21).

Waddell holds that the witnesses act of prophesying is to be equated with witnessing because of the synonymous nature of the two terms and the link between the “eyes of the Lord” (Rev. 5:6) and the Spirit with the witnesses in 11 and Zechariah 4.[5] This link he aptly points out as proof of the empowerment of the Spirit for witness. However, the strongest link which Waddell points out seems to be the connection between the pericope in Zechariah and the statement that the mission would be completed “not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts” (Zech. 4:6).[6] This link seems even stronger when connected with the empowerment in Acts 2, the exodus motif, and the fact that Jeremiah 5:14 states that the word of God, spoken by the prophet, consumes ungodly people like fire consumes wood (cf. Rev. 1:16; 2:12, 16; 9:17-19; 12:15-16; 16:13; 19:15, 21).[7]Therefore the task of the witnessing Church in Revelation is a dualistic role of prophetic witness empowered by the Spirit to bring an offer of salvation and a message of judgment. The Church represented in the Apocalypse is emphatically Pentecostal.

[1]. In Exodus, the children of Israel remain in the land while Moses, God’s witness, prophesies before Pharaoh. In turn, God punishes the Egyptians for not listening to his witness through plagues matching those in Revelation. Instead of heeding the word of God, Pharaoh and the Egyptians punish the Hebrews who they blame for God’s wrath. The Exodus finally takes place after God’s most severe judgment upon the Egyptians occurs.

 [2]. Waddell, The Spirit of the Book of Revelation, 177–178.  

 [3]. Bauckham, The Climax of Prophecy, 165.  

 [4]. Waddell, The Spirit, 177.   

 [5]. Ibid, 171; 177.

[6]. Ibid, 178.

[7]. Brighton, Theological Exposition, 296.


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