Who are the historical
Jackson Snyder Bible
Prophecy and Sacred Name
|Revelation 7:2-4,9-17 (text)
Is there Something Wrong with All Saints Day?
All Saints' is a very special Sunday in which we remember great men and women of the Bible like Abraham, Sarah, Moses, Deborah, Ruth, David, Elijah, Peter and Paul and praise Yahweh for their examples. In addition to all the saints of Scripture, the Gospel Age is replete with faithful Christian witnesses that we also like to honor, some well known (like John Wesley or Francis Asbury), but the great majority are known only to a few. We also remember the saints of the less distant past, including those who have fallen asleep in Messiah in recent years. Thus All Saints' Day can be an especially personal celebration as each of us recalls loved ones whose faith has inspired us. Finally, we glorify Yahweh not just for the faithfulness of the saints but also for His faithfulness to the saints. Sainthood is bestowed upon us through the cleansing blood of Jesus. All believers then, those still struggling on earth along with those who rest in heaven, are members of the Living Body of Messiah, the Communion of Saints. Therefore on All Saints we sing to the glory of all the Just Ones of Jesus in the wonderful hymn, For All the Saints (UMH 711).
COLLECT: Almighty Yahweh, you have knit together your elect in one communion and fellowship in the mystical body of your Son Yahshua our Savior: Give us grace so to follow your blessed set-apart ones in all virtuous and righteous living, that we may come to those ineffable joys that you have prepared for those who truly love you. Amen.
The Two Witnesses
Todays lectionary reading from Revelation takes us to one of the hottest topics in popular Christianity the two witnesses of the end-times. I say this is of interest primarily because of the Left Behind series of books thats taken the world by storm in the last five years. Theres never been a time when folks have been so interested in what Bible symbolism represents for their personal futures.
The two witnesses are present throughout the Scriptures. But the most familiar passage about them is from Revelation 11.
1. I was given a measuring rod like a staff, and I was told: Rise and measure the temple of Elohim and the altar and those who worship there, 2. but do not measure the court outside the temple for it is given over to the nations and they will trample the holy city for forty-two months. 3. And I will grant my two witnesses power to prophesy for one thousand two hundred and sixty days, clothed in sackcloth.
The passage goes on to say that these witnesses preach powerfully and smite the world with plagues; they are eventually assassinated by the government, but rise from the dead and ascend skyward while those who killed them watch their triumph.
One of the great Bible mysteries is identifying these two witnesses. Some say theyre Enoch and Elijah, since these guys never died in Bible lore. Others say theyll be raised from the mold of Elijah for such a time as this. But despite all the fiction, the two witnesses are really easy to identify. The first chapter of Revelation begins to uncloak them. By Revelation11:4, the witnesses are referred to as lampstands, a term defined in Revelation 1:20 as an assemblies of believers or churches. So the two witnesses are two congregations that, in the end, become one.
Witness Number One
The first assembly, those who hold to the Word of Yahweh, consists of believers from the tribes of Israel, disbursed all over the world. Their number, 144,000, is symbolic 12 tribes x 12 apostles x 1000, a number that symbolizes a small group by today's standards = 144,000. Yet this small group of witnesses is in the privileged position of accompanying Yahshua wherever he goes. Later in Revelation (in 14:1), the 144,000 descend with him to Mount Zion, which is Jerusalem. We prayed for the peace of Jerusalem two Sundays ago. These witnesses bring that peace, for the names of both Yahweh and Yahshua are seen inscribed upon their foreheads! They are the chosen from all of Israel; the lost sheep are found and restored in the latter days and sealed by the sacred name. Do you see why that name is so important today? Certainly, you do!
A couple of Jehovahs Witness ladies stopped by Thursday. I asked them, Who are the 144,000 of Revelation 7:4? They said the 144,000 are the most faithful Jehovah Witnesses. Of course, thats an exclusive belief, but not uncommon. Other groups also think theyre chosen few the four and no more the twenty and thats plenty. So I pointed out that, in the Bible, the 144,000 were described as Israelites, tribe by tribe. Then I asked, If the Jehovah Witnesses are Israelites and Yahweh commanded Israelites to keep the Sabbath forever (meaning the seventh day Exodus 31:13), then why do the Jehovahs Witnesses profane the Sabbath by working on that day? No straight answer was forthcoming from these dear ladies.
I prefer to believe that these 144,000 who are sealed with the sacred name are just exactly as the Scripture describes tribes of Israel --scattered, mixed in among the nations, representative of all Israel for all time. My interpretation of the 144,000 isnt popular with the Left Behind crowd. However, John Wesley confirms this viewpoint in his Notes on the New Testament, so thats almost as good. After all, didnt St. Paul write, all Israel will be saved in Romans 11:26? Yes he did. And these tribes of Israelites include three tribes known today as Jews. Though we dont where they all are (except for the Jews), Yahweh knows, for theyre his, and he knows everything! Though theyre probably not Jehovahs Witnesses, theyre assuredly Yahwehs Witnesses! You might even be an Israelite ... yourself (John 1: 47)! Anyway, well understand it better by and by, wont we?
Witness Number Two
The second witness is also easy to identify. This witness is not a small ethnic group of Israelites like the first; rather, this witness is a gigantic multitude; behold! Theyre from every nation, ethnic variety, language, and theyre clothed in linen, the ancient vestment of ministers who dared enter the Holy of Holies to utter the sacred name. The second witness / assembly is the priesthood of believers! They wave palm branches before the throne of their mighty King, the slain Lamb, alive now and powerful, the shepherds crook in one hand, the iron stave in the other, and the two-edged sword flashing from his mouth! What's the cry of this multitude of saints? Salvation! Salvation! Our salvation is of our god and of his Lamb! Amen! Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our god forever and ever! Amen!" Does the cry for salvation sound familiar to you? It should salvation is the testimony of Jesus. Yahshua, Jesus Hebrew name, means salvation! Isnt that exactly what were trying to find here? And many do find salvation here! Have you?
So then, who are members of this mighty host, this second witness? The angel explains,
These have made their robes white in the blood of the Lamb, having overcome through the great tribulation (Rev 7:14).
They've held on to the Testimony of Jesus to the end and finished their course. They are the overcomers of the world.
Don't be fooled by the Left Behind crowd that claims this Great Tribulation is off in the future, a global ordeal that we may or may not live to see. I dont think thats the case. I believe that the Great Tribulation is your life as a believer; for all of life, struggling to achieve and maintain salvation, wrestling with the devil or some persecutor, fighting some diabolical disease -- all of life is the great tribulation your tribulation.
You who go through it may testify to it.
The victory cry of salvation heralds forth from the mouths of the saved because, through their lives, they've worked out their salvation in fear and trembling, and they have nothing to fear now. They've taken the narrow way; washed in the blood of sanctifying holiness; endured the derisive laughter of their insincere friends, the poverty of their stations, the persecution of their adversaries. And now, having fought to the finish, they claim their reward:
Revelation 7:16. They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more 17. For the Lamb will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water; and Yahweh will wipe away every tear."
No wonder the multitude rejoices and sings the song of salvation! Are you in this great band of saints today?
Get As High As You Can
John Wesley has some pithy words for slothful saints. In regard to their reward, he admonishes,
Let not any slothful one say, If I get to heaven at all, I will be content: such a one may let heaven go altogether. In worldly things, men are ambitious to get as high as they can. Christians have a far more noble ambition. The difference between the very highest and the lowest state in the world is nothing to the smallest difference between the degrees of glory. But who has time to think of this? Who is at all concerned about it?
Friends, this is exactly why we still recognize All Saints. We take time to consider our own hope for salvation. We make time to realize that the two witnesses are supposed to be us. We cut time -- just a little chunk -- to acknowledge our own place within the great society we call The Kingdom of Yahweh. We recognize that sainthood is not merely a title bestowed by some pope, a designation by some ecclesiastical authority or a name on a church roll book. Heaven forbid! We acknowledge our sainthood to consist in the fact that we are redeemed by the sacrifice of the Lamb of G-d and are washed clean in his shed blood. And today again we commune with the saints and witnesses of all ages in the sacrament that was created by Jesus to bring us all together as one, in one place, in one body, be we living or asleep, going on now or gone on before, awaiting resurrection. The blood of Jesus makes the two witnesses one. His hands hold them both as one. His high priestly prayer of John 17 is answered and they are one. (When you make the two into one ... then you will enter the Kingdom, Thomas 22.) We are his witnesses and, indeed, we are one. Hallelujah!
Where is the Blood?
I hope youll not forget what Bishop Adlers description of the blood of Jesus. He once said (something like this),
We wonder where the blood of Chr-st is today. We call upon the blood to protect us from the evil one; we claim the blood for our healing. Its as though his blood were floating around in the sky, like a bird or a cloud. We dont expect to actually see it, yet we call on it. Yet let me remind you [says the Bishop] that his blood is very real, accessible and comprehensible. His blood, as powerful as it is, remains available every time the wine is blessed and placed upon the Communion table. For it is here we find the real blood of Chr-st. Didnt he make that clear when he said, For my blood is drink indeed. He who drinks my blood communes in me, and I in him (John 6: 55,56).
Friends, when I heard Bishop Adlers words for the first time, the concept of oneness through the blood became crystal clear. The blood of Jesus is not floating out there someplace, its right here, and its here by his grace to bring us into unity as his witnesses.
The Powerful Conclusion
So probably the most powerful conclusion of identifying ourselves among the two witnesses and celebrating the Communion in the course of an All Saints worship service is that we join in with every believer that ever lived in mystical unity. That means that we abide in Jesus and his disciples when we who are Yahwehs Witnesses come together in Communion. That means that we meet up with the great men and women of all ages who completed the course, even sacrificing their lives, so that we might be free to commune thus. That means that we kneel in the presence of the great Christian founders of our nation, from pilgrims to presidents to preachers to paupers, believers that made a difference and are making a difference. That means that we approach the altar rail with those ancient relatives who loved us enough to pray for us before they even knew us. My friend, your saintly mother is here; so is the godly pastor that you loved as a child; your own children are here too, be they in the flesh or passed entirely into the spirit.
blest communion, fellowship divine,
Probably the most powerful conclusion of All Saints Sunday November 3, 2002 is that we, you and I, are here together in this tiny chapel for the holy purpose of uniting one with the other. And though we will undoubtedly commune together again, you and I, this particular and holy moment will pass and be gone for good. Lets make this moment into, as Wesley suggests, one of the highest degrees of glory during these, our earthly, days. Then lets cherish it, now and forever, ye saints of our elohim.