The death of Jesus Christ was treated as a great victory by His enemies: but His resurrection changed everything. The preceding verses to today's passage (Revelation 11:7-10) describe how Antichrist authorities will persecute God's people and gloat over the elimination of those who proclaim Jesus to be Lord of all. But after those gruesome scenes there is a remarkable change. The unburied bodies of martyred believers left on public display will be given new life, terrifying the onlookers. The physical resurrection of God's prophets will be evidence that truth cannot be killed, that the Lord of Truth cannot be defied and that Jesus is King. This event will be a fresh reminder to the sceptical world that the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ still has the power to give life to the dead. Like the vision of the valley of dry bones, given to Ezekiel, the dead became alive through the Spirit/breath of God (Ezekiel 37:10-11).
In the same way that Peter, James and John heard God's voice from heaven when Jesus was transfigured (2 Peter 1:17), now the unbelieving frightened crowd hear God's command, to His prophetic witnesses, to ascend to heaven. Like Jesus, they went up through the air into a cloud until they were hidden from sight (Acts 1:9). But then the drama was not over. In his vision, John saw that there was a great earthquake, killing seven thousand people as 10 per cent of the city's buildings collapsed.
Those who survived started to praise God: the city was in awe of His power. It had been the same when the sailors threw Jonah into the raging sea and immediately it became calm (Jonah 1:15-16); and later when the king and people of Nineveh repented (Jonah 3:5). But like the Ninevites, the awareness of God's Sovereign authority was short-lived as the rest of the vision will reveal. Although praise is stimulated when we appreciate the awesome power, mercy and grace of the Lord, it is obedience that cements a relationship of discipleship with the Lord. As in the parable of the sower, spiritual fruitfulness is inhibited by distraction from God's Word, worldly cares and worries, and the pressures of temptation and testing (Luke 8:11-14).
We cannot tell how this part of the Revelation will be fulfilled, but it has been given to us to reassure us that God watches over the way of the righteous but the way of the wicked will perish (Psalm 1:6). Even the death of God's people is not the end of them or their witness. Tertullian (155-240 AD) said that the blood of the Martyrs is the seed of the church, But the resurrection of the dead is unmistakably God's sign of authority over life; even when unbelievers deny His acts of judgement (Luke 13:1-5). But the message of Revelation is not only to expect God to vindicate His people, but also that we must be tuned for patience endurance and faithfulness (Revelation 13:10). Tough times will come but the Lord will save and keep, sustain and deliver, vindicate and honour all those who love Him with all their heart. That is the challenge for every 'today' until Jesus returns.
© Dr Paul Adams