Revelation 11

Chapter eleven continues the break in the judgment timeline as John was told about the coming of two unique witnesses. (There is nothing in chapter eleven to indicate that he saw them in a vision but was rather told about them.) These two witnesses will “prophesy for 1,260 days” (Revelation 11:3). This period is also referred two as 42 months (Revelation 11:2) and “a time, times, and half a time” (Daniel 7:25; 12:7; Revelation 12:6, 14), which refers to the second half of the Tribulation in each case. This makes a strong support for the two witnesses preaching during that time as well, although this is often debated.

The identity of the two witnesses is never given and has undergone wide speculation. The most common guesses often include Elijah for four reasons: 1) he appeared with Jesus during his transfiguration (Matthew 17:3); 2) the miracles the two witnesses will do resemble Elijah’s miracles; 3) Malachi prophesied that Elijah would appear “before the great and terrible day of the Lord” (Malachi 4:5); and 4) Elijah did not die, but was raptured alive (2 Kings 2:11). Because of the Transfiguration account, Moses is sometimes suggested as the second witness, as is Elisha (making the duo Elijah and Elisha) and Enoch (because only he and Elijah are recorded to have not died, Genesis 5:24). A second major suggestion is Zerubbabel and Joshua from Zechariah 3-4, because they are called “the two olive trees and the two lampstands” (Revelation 11:4; cf. Zechariah 4:3, 11, 14). Because they will be killed and resurrected, perhaps the best option is that they will be two people from that time (possibly two of the 144,000) rather than an ancient Hebrew prophet who has already died.

During the time of their prophecy, no one will have the power to stop these witnesses, including the Beast. However, at the determined time, the Beast will kill them, and the entire world will celebrate their demise, leaving their bodies in the streets of Jerusalem for all to see and mock. After three and a half days, however, they will be physically resurrected and ascend to Heaven in sight of the whole world. This, plus an earthquake, will point people again to God.

The final section in Revelation 11:15-19 reveal the seventh trumpet. Rather than a judgment like the first six, the seventh trumpet is similar to the worship of chapter 5 and the multitude of chapter 7. In all three cases, the onlookers said that the end was at hand. Any more judgments that come after this (e.g., the bowls/vials) must happen very quickly.

Luke 7

Chapter seven continues Jesus’ ministry in Galilee during the early part of his ministry (approximately the first year). This selection includes four incidents, each of which demonstrates Jesus’ compassion on those around him. First, like Matthew, Luke recorded Jesus’ healing of a centurion’s servant. The healing at a distance would especially interest Doctor Luke, but the focus on Gentiles is also important. Based on the Roman commander’s statement, Jesus marveled at the man’s simple faith, a faith that was noticeably missing among the Jewish people.

The second event is unique to Luke, the touching story of a widow’s only son who died, leaving her alone. Luke never mentioned the cause of death, only that Jesus “saw her [and] he had compassion for her” (7:13). He brought the young man back to life, bringing joy to the widow and the community.

The third event was a conversation between John the Baptizer and Jesus. Although Luke did not mention it, Matthew records that this happened after John had been imprisoned (Matthew 11:2). Given the circumstances, he asked if Jesus was really who John thought he was. Jesus’ response was not to scold John for his disbelief or condescendingly teach him; he simply said, “What have you seen that would prove I’m not? Go with what you know to be true.” Jesus, then, used the opportunity to explain to the crowd who John really was – the prophet who would announce the Messiah (Malachi 3:1) – and scolded them for demonizing John and not believing him.

Finally, Luke gave the account of the woman who anointed Jesus’ feet. All four gospels give a similar account with varying details. In Luke, the woman was called “a sinner” (7:37), the owner of the home was a Pharisee named Simon (7:36, 44), and it happened while Jesus was ministering in Galilee (northern Israel). Jesus’ response was to forgive the woman’s sins. The other three gospels (Matthew 26:6; Mark 14:3; John 12:1) place the event in Bethany (southern Israel), a week before his crucifixion. Simon (a common name) was a leper, not a Pharisee. The woman is not called a sinner, and her sins were not forgiven. Instead, Jesus considered this a preview of preparing his body for burial. As we have noted before, similar details should cause us to read carefully, not assume the events are the same and that the differences are contradictions in the text.

Luke 3

Chapter three continues Luke’s parallel between John and Jesus. In the first two chapters we find the angelic announcements of the two, followed by their births, circumcisions / namings, and a brief account of their boyhoods. John’s story always came first, then Jesus’. Now, in chapter three, we find the beginning of their respective ministries. Again, Luke’s pattern continues first with John, then Jesus.

Unlike the other writers, Luke offered a couple of broad timeframes to identify the beginning of their ministries. John began before Jesus, since Jesus was baptized by John then sent into the wilderness (chapter four) before officially beginning to preach. Thus, Luke dated John’s ministry (3:1-3) but only mentioned Jesus’ approximate age (3:23). Luke used the timelines of six rulers to narrow down the year: Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate, Herod, Philip, Lysanias, and Annas/Caiaphas (3:1-2), though only “the fifteenth year of Tiberius Caesar” is precise. John began to minister at some point in A.D. 29 and baptized Jesus later that year, probably during the summer or fall, when Jesus would have been 32 years old. “About 30 years old” (3:23) is an accurate approximation. 1

As Malachi prophesied (4:5-6) and Gabriel promised (Luke 1:16-17), John’s message had one main theme: the Messiah is coming so prepare your hearts. Baptism was (and still is) a frequently-used method to identify oneself with a prophet’s message, so John baptized many people who repented of their sin in light of Messiah’s imminent arrival. It is interesting that one of the natural results of their clean hearts was the desire to do good works. John did not offer good works in place of repentance for sin but as further proof of repentance. Baptism is a single event, but good works are to be a believer’s lifestyle.

Luke ended this section with what seems to be an unimportant afterthought. Matthew began his story with Jesus’ heritage. Why would Luke include it buried after his baptism? There are at least two reasons.

First, whereas Matthew focused on Jesus’ Jewish and royal line (promoting Abraham and David), Luke focused on his human line, which came solely through Mary. Although Mary is not named here, this is her family tree. Joseph became “the son of Heli” (or “Eli”) by marrying Heli’s daughter; Joseph’s father was Jacob (Matthew 1:16).

Second, Luke traced Jesus all the way back to Adam, the direct creation of God, to encompass the entire human race. This emphasizes that Jesus was more than just Jewish. Jesus’ temptations, ministry, and sufferings would all affect him to the core of his humanity, and his work would be for all humans, not just the Jews. As we will see, Gentiles will receive much more attention in Luke than the other gospels, and Jesus’ humanity – especially his weaknesses and sympathies – will be on full display. Luke placed the genealogy precisely at this point to remind us that Jesus was as human as those he came to save.

Notes:

  1. Jesus’ first Passover after his baptism, recorded in John 2:12-25, would have been in the spring of A.D. 30, following his 33rd birthday.

    Harold Hoehner gives a thorough treatment of the dates for John’s and Jesus’ births, ministries, and deaths in his book, Chronological Aspects of the Life of Christ. All dates offered here are based on Hoehner’s research and conclusions.