Monday, 8 February 2021
And if anyone wants to harm them, fire proceeds from their mouth and devours their enemies. And if anyone wants to harm them, he must be killed in this manner. Revelation 11:5
This is referring to the two witnesses introduced in verse 11:3. It has already been established that their purpose is to prophesy. While prophesying, they are “clothed in sackcloth.” As noted, this indicates a sign of mourning and woe. Wearing such garments is to show great distress and humility before God. It is also as a petition that even though destruction is deserved, there is a hope for mercy (see Jonah 3:5, e.g.). In the case of these two, they are in sackcloth on behalf of the people they are speaking to.
However, preaching a call to “repentance or judgment” – as is seen in Scripture and in the world today – is not a popular thing among those who revel in their wickedness. Because of this, there are those who will always fight against those who preach it. This will be the case with these two witnesses, and John next notes, “And if anyone wants to harm them, fire proceeds from their mouth and devours their enemies.”
The question here is, “Is this literal fire, or something else?” It is true that Elijah called down fire on those who came to him –
“So Elijah answered and said to the captain of fifty, ‘If I am a man of God, then let fire come down from heaven and consume you and your fifty men.” And fire came down from heaven and consumed him and his fifty.’” 2 Kings 1:10
In this, Elijah called down fire, and fire from heaven consumed the men. However, this verse in Revelation says this fire came not from heaven, but from their mouths. Unless their breath is really bad, even explosive, it seems hard to imagine literal fire is what is spoken of here. Rather, the answer to the question appears to be resolved in the words of Jeremiah –
“’Is not My word like a fire?’ says the Lord,
‘And like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces?’” Jeremiah 23:29
And again –
“They have lied about the Lord,
And said, ‘It is not He.
Neither will evil come upon us,
Nor shall we see sword or famine.
13 And the prophets become wind,
For the word is not in them.
Thus shall it be done to them.’
14 Therefore thus says the Lord God of hosts:
‘Because you speak this word,
Behold, I will make My words in your mouth fire,
And this people wood,
And it shall devour them.’” Jeremiah 5:12-14
The word of the Lord, which is what these men are conveying through prophesying, is directly equated to fire. And the effects of the word of the Lord can then be equated to the effects of fire. For example –
“For thus says the Lord: ‘Behold, I will make you a terror to yourself and to all your friends; and they shall fall by the sword of their enemies, and your eyes shall see it. I will give all Judah into the hand of the king of Babylon, and he shall carry them captive to Babylon and slay them with the sword. 5 Moreover I will deliver all the wealth of this city, all its produce, and all its precious things; all the treasures of the kings of Judah I will give into the hand of their enemies, who will plunder them, seize them, and carry them to Babylon. 6 And you, Pashhur, and all who dwell in your house, shall go into captivity. You shall go to Babylon, and there you shall die, and be buried there, you and all your friends, to whom you have prophesied lies.’” Jeremiah 20:4-6
“Then the prophet Jeremiah said to Hananiah the prophet, ‘Hear now, Hananiah, the Lord has not sent you, but you make this people trust in a lie. 16 Therefore thus says the Lord: ‘Behold, I will cast you from the face of the earth. This year you shall die, because you have taught rebellion against the Lord.’
17 So Hananiah the prophet died the same year in the seventh month.” Jeremiah 28:15-17
Jeremiah also prophesied against groups of people, pronouncing upon them the judgment of the Lord. When the judgment was spoken forth, it was also accomplished. Therefore, there is no reason to not accept this “fire” spoken of in Revelation as a metaphor for the word of the Lord as spoken by these prophets. With this being the case, John then repeats the thought, saying, “And if anyone wants to harm them, he must be killed in this manner.”
The repetition of the thought indicates the certainty of the matter. What is conveyed is certain, and it shall certainly come to pass. Those coming to harm these prophets are people with their own false testimony, and also naysayers who say that God isn’t judging the world at all. They will come against these two in order to trap them in their own words, but Jesus has already given a promise to those who speak on His behalf in times such as this –
“Now when they bring you to the synagogues and magistrates and authorities, do not worry about how or what you should answer, or what you should say. 12 For the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.” Luke 12:11, 12
Because this is the case, the “fire” of the Holy Spirit’s utterances is far more likely than real flames.
Life application: The words of the Lord are a consuming fire, particularly when they proclaim judgment. They burn away impurity, they refine those who are repentant, and they consume those who are not. In Isaiah, it says –
“Heaven is My throne,
And earth is My footstool.
Where is the house that you will build Me?
And where is the place of My rest?
2 For all those things My hand has made,
And all those things exist,”
Says the Lord.
“But on this one will I look:
On him who is poor and of a contrite spirit,
And who trembles at My word.” Isaiah 66:1, 2
When you read the word of God, do you tremble at what you read? Are you understanding this word is a word of judgment and condemnation, or a word of grace and life? The way that it comes to a person is based upon how they treat it. If the heart is humble, it will lead to grace and life. If the heart is hard, it will judge and it will condemn. Be sure to accept the gospel as the saving grace it is presented as. Do not turn away from it! Instead, soften your heart and turn to God through JESUS!
Lord, just as Your words are a consuming fire when disregarded, they are also a fire in the hearts of those who love You. Let us never quench the fire that burns inside of us by withholding Your truth from others. Instead, give us the desire and ability to boldly proclaim Your truth to the people of the world. Amen.