You can listen to the devotion here.
In the Name of the Father, and (+) of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Then I was given a measuring rod like a staff, and I was told, “Rise and measure the temple of God and the altar and those who worship there, 2 but do not measure the court outside the temple; leave that out, for it is given over to the nations, and they will trample the holy city for forty-two months. 3 And I will grant authority to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth.”
4 These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth. 5 And if anyone would harm them, fire pours from their mouth and consumes their foes. If anyone would harm them, this is how he is doomed to be killed. 6 They have the power to shut the sky, that no rain may fall during the days of their prophesying, and they have power over the waters to turn them into blood and to strike the earth with every kind of plague, as often as they desire. 7 And when they have finished their testimony, the beast that rises from the bottomless pit will make war on them and conquer them and kill them, 8 and their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city that symbolically is called Sodom and Egypt, where their Lord was crucified. 9 For three and a half days some from the peoples and tribes and languages and nations will gaze at their dead bodies and refuse to let them be placed in a tomb, 10 and those who dwell on the earth will rejoice over them and make merry and exchange presents, because these two prophets had been a torment to those who dwell on the earth. 11 But after the three and a half days a breath of life from God entered them, and they stood up on their feet, and great fear fell on those who saw them. 12 Then they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, “Come up here!” And they went up to heaven in a cloud, and their enemies watched them. 13 And at that hour there was a great earthquake, and a tenth of the city fell. Seven thousand people were killed in the earthquake, and the rest were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven.
14 The second woe has passed; behold, the third woe is soon to come.
Revelation uses a lot of imagery to teach the church. Revelation 11 is no different, and the focus is that the church will suffer greatly in this world. God will protect His church and yet Christians will suffer persecution and even death. But in the end, they have victory because Christ is victorious.
There is a lot going on in this chapter, but it helps if you understand that both the temple and the two witnesses are a picture of the church.
This temple is the church where God dwells with His people in Word and Sacrament. This is how the church is sustained even in the face of persecution, suffering, and even death. The church will suffer and suffer greatly but it will not ultimately be defeated.
This is the same thing we see with the two witnesses. The two witnesses are representative of the church’s preaching and teaching ministry, that is its prophetic witness to the world. The church calls the world to repentance and proclaims Christ crucified for them.
The two witnesses are even killed in this section. At times the witness of the church will be silenced in an area for a time (and the world will even celebrate this!), but then the church is raised up in that place again just as we see the two witnesses raised up.
The end of the chapter shows the end of all things and the great joy that God’s children will have on that day. The ark of the covenant makes an appearance at the close of the chapter because it is a symbol of God’s presence and shows that His presence and fellowship is possible because of the atonement of Christ. This presence is found today in the church as we gather around Word and Sacrament – the very place where Christ has promised to be for you and your salvation!
Martin Luther has some helpful insights into what it means for the church to suffer under the cross. He calls this suffering the seventh mark of the church: "Seventh, the holy Christian people are externally recognized by the holy possession of the sacred cross. They must endure every misfortune and persecution, all kinds of trials and evil from the devil, the world, and the flesh (as the Lord’s Prayer indicates) by inward sadness, timidity, fear, outward poverty, contempt, illness, and weakness, in order to become like their head, Christ. And the only reason they must suffer is that they steadfastly adhere to Christ and God’s word, enduring this for the sake of Christ, Matthew 5 [:11], “Blessed are you when men persecute you on my account.” Wherever you see or hear this, you may know that the holy Christian church is there, as Christ says in Matthew 5 [:11–12], “Blessed are you when men revile you and utter all kinds of evil against you on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven.”…This too is a holy possession whereby the Holy Spirit not only sanctifies his people, but also blesses them."
These sufferings are actually a blessing that we can rejoice in because we know that Christ is with us using all these things for the good of His Church.
Lord God, heavenly Father, we thank You, that through Your Son Jesus Christ You have sown Your holy word among us: We pray that You will prepare our hearts by Your Holy Spirit, that we may diligently and reverently hear Your word, keep it in good hearts, and bring forth fruit with patience; and that we may not incline to sin, but subdue it by Your power, and in all persecutions comfort ourselves with Your grace and continual help, through Your beloved Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.
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