“But after three and a half days, God breathed life into them, and they stood up! Terror struck all who were staring at them. Then a loud voice from heaven called to the two prophets, “Come up here!” And they rose to heaven in a cloud as their enemies watched. At the same time there was a terrible earthquake that destroyed a tenth of the city. Seven thousand people died in that earthquake, and everyone else was terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven. The second terror is past, but look, the third terror is coming quickly.”
Revelation 11:11-14 NLT
Can you imagine the scene? Two dead bodies lying in Main Street, Jerusalem. The world’s media would have been represented, video cameras rolling, interviews with the locals continuing. There would have been some conjecture about what should now be done with the corpses. But God had a plan. He solved the worldly problem by resurrecting the two witnesses, and they stood up. Can you imagine the ensuing chaos? The account talks about terror gripping the observers. It was the stuff of nightmares. No plot in a zombie film could match what would happen that day.
Then a loud voice from Heaven addressed the two resurrected prophets. Three, easy to understand, words. “Come up here!”. Said with a loud Heavenly voice that everyone could hear. But the terror the people felt was compounded because the prophets were surrounded by a cloud and ascended to Heaven before their very eyes. There was no dispute. This was no optical or magical illusion. This was happening in broad daylight. And while they were staring at this scene before them, the whole place shook with an earthquake so fierce, so terrible, that a tenth of the city was destroyed, and seven thousand people with it.
The next piece of John’s narrative is interesting. The remaining terrified people “gave glory to the God of heaven”. To give glory to someone, perhaps for a significant sporting event, means that their achievement has been acknowledged. As I write this, the English Women’s Football Team is glorying in their win over Germany in the Women’s World Cup. But to give glory to God is much more than that. The phrase “give glory to God” was an old Jewish oath, inviting the person giving it to tell the truth before God. We see this is John 9:24 after Jesus healed the blind man, “A second time they summoned the man who had been blind. ‘Give glory to God by telling the truth,’ they said. ‘We know this man is a sinner.’” But that wasn’t what was happening here. People on earth had just witnessed two prophets give uncomfortable messages about the future for a period of three and half years. Then, to their initial relief, the devil killed them in an act of war. The people thought their troubles were now over. No more rivers turning to blood, or lengthy periods of drought. No more fire pouring from the prophets’ mouths, burning up any who opposed them. Two corpses lying in the street. But the next events – resurrection, ascension, earthquakes and destruction – finally convinced them that God was behind all this and they had no option other than give Him the glory for what had happened. But did they finally repent and turn from their wicked ways?
Do we pilgrims give God the glory for all He has done for us? Sadly, we have a tendency to take our many blessings too much for granted. Do we thank Him enough for the food on our tables, the air we breath, or our health? Do we take for granted our salvation through Jesus’s sacrifice for us. But when things are not quite what we would like, do we, like Paul, always have a thankful attitude, regardless of the circumstances in which we find ourselves? Or do we grumble? In 1 Thessalonians 5:18, Paul wrote, “Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” He also wrote in Philippians 4:12-13, “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” In everything we are about today, we mustn’t forget to give God the glory for all the great things He has done. And, like Habakkuk, if things don’t go our ways, and we fall upon hard times, we are full of joyful praise, glorying God anyway. We read in Habakkuk 3:17-18, “Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vines; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, yet I will rejoice in the Lord ! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation!“
Dear Father God. Please forgive us for forgetting to thank and praise You enough. And please forgive us for those times when we grumble and complain. You have truly done great things in our lives and we give You all the glory today. Amen.