So in the first chapter of the book of Job, the main character of the book (Job) loses everything. His family is killed, his crops and resources and houses are destroyed, it’s the worst chapter of loss in the whole Bible. And then along comes Job’s friends. They have a certain view of God that may sound familiar to some of us. God blesses those who are good, and curses those who are bad. Everyone knows that…so Job ‘s friend want him to fess up. What exactly have you been doing to deserve this?
But God will have none of it. He let’s the so called friends talk trash for a while, but in the end He has the final word and it is nothing like those who pretended to speak on his behalf.
So we’ve been talking about Revelation for a few blog posts, and last week Revelation was talking about the surprising Lamb of God bringing victory. But that’s only half the surprise. The other side of it is how the Lamb does it.
In Revelation 11, there is a series of bizarre symbols that John sees. He’s told to go measure the Temple in Heaven, as if John in the Bob Vila of the Apocalypse. And while John is busy working on renovations he sees the outer courts of the Temple, and 2 witnesses. They are protected by Heaven, and no one can mess with them while they are preaching about God’s power. God will send plagues and fire from heaven on their behalf. He will turn waters into blood at their commands.
And then God doesn’t protect them anymore.
They are attacked by the beast (in a time when beast meant something to Christians…think Roman Coliseum) They are killed gruesomely and their bodies lay in the public square for everyone to see. They will be a spectacle for everyone to see and to mock. These fools thought that God could protect them, but they turned about do dead wrong. But then…
God gives new life to their very dead bodes. It says, “The breath of life from God entered them and they stood on their feet and terror struck those who saw them.”
I love that image. Here are the bullies standing over their victims. This is what happens when you mess with Rome, or try to change the status quo. You pick on someone with a bigger stick and their bound to use it on you. That’s the way that the world works. Or at least the way it used to. Because now it seems the tables have turned. Because they are struck with terror and the martyrs are struck with resurrection.
And then the very next thing Revelation talks about is this:
“Now the Kingdom of the world has become the Kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah, and He will reign forever and ever.” It is the the triumph of Heaven and it’s in the exact same chapter, in the exact same section as the murder of the witnesses.
Now this section of Revelation is cryptic, but if you are a Church reading it in 1st century Rome you don’t want John to be any clearer. I think is John is talking now about the way that the Triumph of God works out in the world. See John is talking in the first part of the chapter about the way that Jesus followers have and will suffer, and then he starts talking about the Triumph of God over the Kingdoms of this world.
And then you realize John is actually talking about the same thing in both.
Since Jesus first hit the scene of human history, He was perplexing. He had to speak in parables about the Kingdom of God because we didn’t have categories for the kind of Kingdom Jesus was talking about. Since Lamech in Genesis 4, we have been building a certain kind of Kingdom over and over again, sure, they all have different names but they are really the same. But the Kingdom of God isn’t like that.
This is why when Peter tries talking Jesus out of going to the cross, and it’s why Jesus says get behind me Satan. Because Peter is talking with the voice of the Beast, Jesus is trying to convince him of the way of the Lamb.
N.T. Wright points out that Church History bears witness to the effectiveness of Revelation’s truth. The most effective season of growth the Church has ever seen was the first 3 centuries. This was when the blood of Christians became the seeds of Christianity. We saw the most heinous acts of violence committed toward the most loving people. It was evil and dark and bloody, and the church grew and grew and grew.
It’s easy to pick on Job’s friends today, but we should do so knowing there is a chance that a little bit of their ideas are in all of us. Nobody wants to think that God is going to allow good people to suffer, but the reality is that God did exactly that Himself.
See I was wrong. The darkest chapter in the Bible isn’t the first chapter of Job. It’s Matthew 26, and John 19, It’s Luke 22, Mark 15…and Revelation 11.
Because it’s here we see the witnesses of God succeed by laying down their lives, where the plagues have failed.
This is the great reversal of the Universe. At the Cross something fundamentally changed with the way things can work. The Cross is not just how God saves His people, it’s how His people can go about bringing that salvation to the rest of the world. Not by adding to, but by participating in.
The church preaches Christ the best while crucified.
It’s when we see the Triumphal king meet the Suffering Lamb, and we realize that they are the same person.
So take heart Job. Your friends are wrong. It’s not that God is doing this to you, but it might be that God is hoping to do something through you.
And after death there is a resurrection.