Looking Above A Series on The Revelation of Christ Revelation 11:5-6 “That Word Above All Earthly Powers”

Will the Protestant church survive? Will the Reformed church endure?

We have not the high liturgy of Rome: we have no rosaries, no mass, no candles, nor pope.  With- out these things will the Protestant church survive? Will the Reformed church endure?

We have not the gifts of the charismatics: no speaking in tongues, faith healings, holy laughter, nor new revelation.  Without these things will the Protestant church survive? Will the Re- formed church endure?

We have not the charisma of a Crystal Cathedral: no large professional choir, no multimillion dollar facilities and grounds, no magnetic and charming leadership.  We do not preach the power of positive thinking.  Without these things will the Protestant church survive? Will the Reformed church endure?

Throughout the great interlude of Revelation 10:1–11:14 the Church is in view. We have already seen that the true Church, which clings to Christ, is being separated from the false church, which does not cling to Christ (11:1-2). That separation is effected through the ministry of the two witnesses, namely the offices of the minister of the Word and the elder (11:3-4). God has chosen to work through the ministry of the two witnesses (the office of the ministry of the Word and the office of elder) to build His Church. Christ builds His Church not by the high liturgy of Rome, but by proclamation and rule. Christ builds His Church not by the gifts of tongues, faith healings, and holy laughter, but by proclamation and rule. Christ builds His Church not by the charisma of its leadership, but by proclamation and rule. Christ builds His Church not by earthly success with large numbers, but by proclamation and rule.

Do you long for the high liturgy of Rome, finding yourself dissatis fied with the simplicity of Protestant worship? Do you long for the Pentecostal gifts of tongues, healings, and laughter, finding yourself dissatisfied with the Word and sacraments in the Reformed church? Do you long for a charismatic leadership, finding yourself dissatisfied with the office of the minister of the Word and the office of the elder? Do you long for earthly success with large numbers, finding yourself dissatisfied with a small assembly? Do you lose heart with the Protestant church? Do you scoff at the apparent weakness of the Reformed church?  Then you do well to consider again the words of the Apostle in 2 Corinthians 4: “Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we do not lose heart. But we have renounced the hidden things of shame, not walking in craftiness nor handling the word of God deceitfully, but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God. But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them. For we do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your bondservants for Jesus’ sake. For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us” (2 Corinthians 4:1-7).

The power of the church of Jesus Christ does not rest in man; the power of the church of Jesus Christ rests in God and in His Word. That is where Revelation 11:5-6 directs us. Revelation 11:5-6 directs us to the power of the Word of God—that Word above all earthly powers.

Two Old Testament Figures

The power of the Word of God is seen in the Old Testament figures of Moses and Elijah, upon whom verses 5-6 are based. Our attention is first directed to Moses: “And if anyone wants to harm them, fire proceeds from their mouth and devours their enemies” (11:5a). Do you remember Numbers 16, and the story of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram? Do you remember their rebellion? “They rose up before Moses with some of the children of Israel, two hundred and fifty leaders of the congregation, representatives of the congregation, men of renown. They gathered together against Moses and Aaron, and said to them, ‘You take too much upon yourselves, for all the congregation is holy, every one of them, and the Lord is among them. Why then do you exalt yourselves above the assembly of the Lord?’” (Numbers 16:2-3). Who are you Moses, that you would be prince over us? Who are you, Moses, that you would be ruler over us? Korah, Dathan, Abiram, and 250 men with them, attacked the ruler of God’s people! Do you remember the result? The earth was opened up to swallow alive Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, along with their households and all their goods. Fire then came out from the Lord and consumed the 250 men who were with them.

“And if anyone wants to harm them, fire proceeds from their mouth and devours their enemies”

We move from Moses to Elijah in 11:5b, “And if anyone wants to harm them, he must be killed in this manner.” Do you remember 2 Kings 1, and the story of wicked king Ahaziah who sought to inquire of Baal Zebub, the false god of Ekron? Do you remember how Elijah intercepted the messengers of Ahaziah, telling them that Ahaziah would die? Do you re member how Ahaziah twice sent a captain of fifty with his fifty men to inquire of Elijah? Do you remember how Elijah twice called down fire from heaven to consume the enemies of God? Do you remember how Elijah finally did go to Ahaziah and told him he would die? Do you remember the result? “So Ahaziah died according to the word of the Lord which Elijah had spoken” (2 Kings 1:17).

“And if anyone wants to harm them, fire proceeds from their mouth and devours their enemies” (11:5a).

We move from Moses to Elijah in 11:5b, “And if anyone wants to harm them, he must be killed in this manner.” Do you remember 2 Kings 1, and the story of wicked king Ahaziah who sought to inquire of Baal Zebub, the false god of Ekron? Do you remember how Elijah intercepted the messengers of Ahaziah, telling them that Ahaziah would die? Do you re member how Ahaziah twice sent a captain of fifty with his fifty men to inquire of Elijah? Do you remember how Elijah twice called down fire from heaven to consume the enemies of God? Do you remember how Elijah finally did go to Ahaziah and told him he would die? Do you remember the result? “So Ahaziah died according to the word of the Lord which Elijah had spoken” (2 Kings 1:17).

“And if anyone wants to harm them, he must be killed in this manner” (11:5b).

Elijah is again set before us in 11:6a, “These have power to shut heaven, so that no rain falls in the days of their prophecy.” Do you remember 1 Kings 17, where Elijah the Tishbite appears on the scene and says to Ahab, “As the Lord God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, except at my word”? Do you remember the result? For three and half years, there was no rain on the earth.

“These have power to shut heaven, so that no rain falls in the days of their prophecy” (11:6a).

We move, finally, from Elijah back to Moses in 11:6b, “and they have power over waters to turn them to blood, and to strike the earth with all plagues, as often as they desire.” Do you remember Exodus 7-12? Do you remember the plagues which God sent upon Pharaoh and Egypt through his servant Moses? Do you remember how the water turned to blood? Do you remember the frogs? Do you remember the lice? Do you remember the flies? Do you remember the death of the livestock? Do you remember the boils? Do you remember the hail? Do you remember the locusts? Do you remember the darkness? Do you remember the death of the firstborn?
“They have power over waters to turn them to blood, and to strike the earth with all plagues, as often as they desire” (11:6b).

Two New Testament Figures What are we to make of all this?

Once again we see the two offices of the minister of the Word and of the Elder set before us. Who was Moses, but a prince of the people, a ruler of the people? What is an elder, but a prince of the people of God, a ruler of the people of God? Who was Elijah but a mouthpiece of God to the people? What is a minister, but a mouthpiece of God to the people? The two offices are once again set before us in order to show us the power of the Word of God—the power of the Word of God in the office of the minister of the Word, and the power of the Word of God in the office of the elder.

The power of God’s Word is great. The Word of God is effectual: it brings about the salvation of the elect, even as it brings about the condemnation of the reprobate. You might read the Third and Fourth Heads of Doctrine in the Canons of Dort, Articles 6-12. The same Word of God is effectual in bringing salvation for the elect and condemnation for the reprobate, and that through the “keys of the kingdom”: the preaching of the Word (exercised in the ministry of the word), and church discipline (exercised in the rule of the elders).
But then, let me remind you that we are dealing here in Revelation 11 not so much with the Word bringing salvation to the Church and condemnation to the world, though it certainly does that; we are dealing here with the Word bringing salvation to the true Church and condemnation to the false church.

To be more specific still, we are dealing here in Revelation 11:5-6, with the attacks of the false church upon the offices of the minister of the Word and of the elder. The passage speaks about those wanting to harm the two witnesses. The passage speaks about those wanting to harm the office of the minister of the Word and the office of the elder. Here is the warning of Revelation 11:56: those who would attack the office of the minister of the Word are themselves judged by the ministry of the Word. Those who would attack the office of the elder are themselves judged by the office of the elder.

God Himself has laid down the ordering of the church. God Himself has laid down the ministry of the Church. God Himself has laid down the proclamation and rule of the Church. God Himself has laid down the offices of the minister of the Word and of the elder. Would you dare attack the offices which God Himself has ordained? Would you dare attack the mouthpiece of God in the ministry of the Word? Would you dare attack the supremacy of Christ seen in the office of the elder?

Woe to those who would attack! Their judgment is spoken of here in Revelation 11. God takes the government of His Church very seriously. He treats the offices of the church with the utmost seriousness and regard. We must do so as well. Those who hold the offices of minister of the Word or elder must humbly go before God daily, confessing that they are not sufficient in and of themselves, but that their sufficiency comes from God alone—daily it must be their prayer that Christ would be glorified in and through them. Those who are members of the congregation must likewise hold these offices in the highest regard—not because of the men who occupy them, but because they are the offices that God has ordained. God has laid down for us the pattern for the ordering of the church: proclamation and rule, ministers of the word, and elders of the people. These offices deal with the Word of God, and that Word is above all earthly powers.

Will the Protestant church survive? Will the Reformed church endure?

We may not have the liturgy of Rome, we may not have the charismatic gifts of the Pentecostals, we may not have the charismatic leadership of the Crystal cathedral, we may not have the numbers of Willow Creek. We may be a small assembly, we may appear insignificant and unimpressive, but present with this assembly, and that through the offices of the minister of the Word and the elder, is a power that is above all earthly powers, even the power of the Word of God.

Will the Protestant church survive? Will the Reformed church endure? You better believe it!

Revelation 11:5-6 is God’s promise to the church that she will endure.

That Word above all earthly powers—no thanks to them—abideth;
The Spirit and the gifts are ours, through Him who with us sideth.
Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also;
The body they may kill, God’s truth abideth still,
His kingdom is forever.

Rev. Brian Vos is the pastor of the Trinity United Reformed Church in Caledonia, Michigan.






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