We Will Be Protected: The Church Must Walk the Way of the Cross

Editor’s note: This sermon was preached in January of 2020, as Covid-19 was just beginning to spread across the world. In this first part of his apocalyptic sermon, Preacher Yang explains that the mysterious two witnesses of Revelation 11 represent the church. Although the witnesses — i.e., the church — will experience persecution, God is with them. No matter what happens, God will protect his precious people from harm. As we pray this month for Chinese Christians to hold fast to the kingdom, we are reminded that the Lord will guard us and help us to endure. Christians can persevere under difficult situations because we belong to a better kingdom and a better king.

This excerpt has been edited, condensed, and rearranged slightly for clarity and length.


“Then I was given a measuring rod like a staff, and I was told, “Rise and measure the temple of God and the altar and those who worship there, but do not measure the court outside the temple; leave that out, for it is given over to the nations, and they will trample the holy city for forty-two months. And I will grant authority to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth.” Revelation 11:1-3

The Same Thing, More Fully

““When the church goes through persecution, God will protect her.”

Today we are speaking about the church. In the Book of Revelation, there are seven cycles. The climax of each cycle is God’s judgement and God’s reward. Each of these seven cycles concludes with the end of the world.

  • The first cycle – Chapters 1 to 3 talk about the seven churches. In the end, Christ leads each church before the judgement throne of God.

  • The second cycle – The next cycle, chapters 4 to 7, is the Lamb and the seven seals. In the end, people from all tribes, nations and tongues will come before God, who will wipe away their tears.

  • The third cycle – Revelation 8 to 11 talks about the seven trumpets. At the end of the seven trumpets, the kingdom of the Lord will fully come on earth, and he will be king forever and ever. Judgment and reward will also come to the world.

  • The fourth cycle – Chapters 12 to 14 show us the woman and the dragon. By the end of this cycle, the perfect number of 144,000 saints are on Mount Zion. The sickle is thrown down, and judgment comes to earth.

  • The fifth cycle – Chapters 15 to 16 concern the seven bowls of wrath. When the last bowl is poured on earth, we hear the proclamation, “It is finished.”


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  • The sixth cycle – Babylon is fallen. This cycle ends with God’s people married to God and the wedding supper of the Lamb.

  • The seventh cycle – In the last cycle, chapters 20 to 22, Christ has gained eternal victory over Satan the dragon. Christ will come again.

These seven cycles are like a road going up a mountain. Every time the road goes around, you see almost the same thing, but you see it more fully. We must interpret Revelation through what we know about the genre of apocalyptic literature.

In Revelation, numbers represent something. Seven is the number of perfection, and the number 12 belongs to the heavens. The number 144 is 12 times 12, representing the perfection of the Old and New Testament people of God. The meaning of 144,000 is to warn humanity.

The four horsemen are a warning about the disasters which will come to earth from the four directions of north, south, east, and west. When Revelation speaks of “time and time and time and a half,” this represents three and a half. The 1,260 days are also approximately three and a half years. When doubled, this is seven, and represents ongoing salvation history, which is not yet at its end.

““If you are not persecuted on earth, your experience is not normal. The church must go through persecution. ”

The Apostle John did not have the whole New Testament as a reference. He only had the Old Testament, and perhaps some epistles. Because of this, much of his imagery comes from the Old Testament. To interpret Revelation, you must be familiar with the Old Testament.

As we look at this passage verse by verse, we must first understand that the two witnesses in this passage represent the church.

The Church Will Be Protected

When the church goes through persecution, God will protect her.

Verse 1 says a measuring rod was given to John to measure the temple, the altar, and the people who worship there. John wrote Revelation during the rule of Domitian, who called himself God and declared that Christianity was treason. If people refused to say Caesar was lord or to worship him, they were executed. But even in these circumstances, God gave John a promise of protection.

God shows that he cares about the church. John is measuring the temple spoken of in Ezekiel: Revelation is an extension of Ezekiel’s vision. Ezekiel was also ordered to measure the temple, but in Ezekiel’s time, the temple had been destroyed. At the time of John, the Temple had again been destroyed. (John wrote Revelation in 90 A.D., but the Temple was destroyed in 70 A.D.)

In Ezekiel’s vision, the temple is God’s inheritance. Ezekiel is measuring the temple to show that God will protect and revive his worship. When you buy a house, you measure the house, because that is your property. God asked Ezekiel to measure, because God will protect his property. The church is God’s inheritance, and he will not give an inch. He measures those who worship there, because his protection extends to each one of his people.

““Although Gentiles and the world will attack, God will protect his church. Our souls and our hearts will be protected to the end, but this does not mean our flesh will be comfortable. We will be persecuted.”

The second verse says the outer court does not need to be measured, because the outer court is for the Gentiles. Here, the Gentiles are those who antagonize God. Throughout Revelation, John repeatedly insists that the real Jewish people are those who truly believe.

These Gentiles want to trample the temple. This shows that world will persecute and antagonize the church, but this persecution happens in time: in this passage, the time is 42 months. Throughout redemptive history, the church will face endless rounds of persecution. This passage is telling those who read that, if you are not persecuted on earth, your experience is not normal. The church must go through persecution.

Yet although Gentiles and the world will attack, God will protect his church. Our souls and our hearts will be protected to the end, but this does not mean our flesh will be comfortable. We will be persecuted. This is consistent with what Jesus taught, as he said his people will be protected, but the world will hate us. He is sending us out as sheep among wolves. Christ’s witness, the church, will continue to go through persecution. This is the framework of the two witnesses.


Preacher Yang is the pastor of a house church in Xiamen, China. He received his Master of Divinity from Singapore Theological Seminary.

 

FOR PRAYER AND REFLECTION

Pray for Christians actively experiencing persecution to find rest and peace in God’s ultimate protection.

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Further Reading

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The Internal Cross: A Pastoral Letter
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The External Cross: A Pastoral Letter
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Qingdao: How to Pray
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LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT IN CHINA

With rising pressure and persecution in China, there are two challenges imperative for church leaders. The first challenge is for current leaders to love Christ above all else, and not to stray into legalism or love of the world. The second challenge is to raise up the next generation of leaders, who will humbly model Jesus even if current leaders are arrested.

WILL YOU JOIN US IN PRAYING FOR LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT IN CHINA? PRAY FOR:

  1. Current leaders to grow in their daily walks with Christ
  2. Current leaders to shepherd and raise up new leaders
  3. New leaders who love Christ and will model him to the world
  4. New leaders to love and care for the church

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ABOUT LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT

About Shenyang

Shenyang is a city located in northeastern China and is the capital of Liaoning Province. It is known for its rich history and cultural heritage, including the Shenyang Imperial Palace, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Shenyang is also a hub for China’s heavy industry, with companies such as the China First Automobile Group and the Shenyang Aircraft Corporation having their headquarters in the city.

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About Qingdao

Qingdao is a city located in eastern China and is famous for its beaches, beer, and seafood. The city is home to several landmarks, including the Zhanqiao Pier and the Badaguan Scenic Area. Qingdao is also a major port and has a thriving economy, with industries such as electronics, petrochemicals, and machinery.

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About Xiamen

Xiamen is a city located in southeastern China and is a popular tourist destination known for its beautiful coastal scenery, including Gulangyu Island, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The city is also a hub for China’s high-tech industry, with companies such as Huawei and ZTE having research and development centers in Xiamen.

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About Chongqing

Chongqing is a city located in southwestern China and is a major economic center in the region. The city is known for its spicy cuisine, especially its hot pot dishes, and is also famous for the Three Gorges Dam, the world’s largest hydroelectric dam. Chongqing is also home to several historic sites, including the Dazu Rock Carvings, which are UNESCO World Heritage sites.

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About Nanjing

Nanjing is a city located in eastern China and is the capital of Jiangsu Province. It is one of China’s ancient capitals and has a rich cultural history, including the Ming Xiaoling Mausoleum, the Nanjing City Wall, and the Confucius Temple. Nanjing is also a modern city with a thriving economy and is home to several universities, including Nanjing University and Southeast University.

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About Changchun

Changchun is a city located in northeastern China and is the capital of Jilin Province. It is known for its rich cultural heritage and is home to several historical landmarks such as the Puppet Emperor’s Palace and the Jingyuetan National Forest Park. Changchun is also a hub for China’s automotive industry, with several major automobile manufacturers having their headquarters in the city.

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About Guangzhou

Guangzhou, also known as Canton, is a city located in southern China and is the capital of Guangdong Province. It is one of the country’s largest and most prosperous cities, serving as a major transportation and trading hub for the region. Guangzhou is renowned for its modern architecture, including the Canton Tower and the Guangzhou Opera House, as well as its Cantonese cuisine, which is famous for its variety and bold flavors. The city also has a rich history, with landmarks such as the Chen Clan Ancestral Hall, the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall, and the Temple of the Six Banyan Trees. Additionally, Guangzhou hosts the annual Canton Fair, the largest trade fair in China.

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About Kunming

Kunming is a city located in southwest China and is the capital of Yunnan Province. Known as the “City of Eternal Spring” for its mild climate, Kunming is a popular tourist destination due to its natural beauty and cultural diversity. The city is home to several scenic spots, including the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Stone Forest, Dian Lake, and the Western Hills. Kunming is also famous for its unique cuisine, which features a mix of Han, Yi, and Bai ethnic flavors. The city has a rich cultural history, with ancient temples and shrines like the Yuantong Temple and the Golden Temple, and it’s also a hub for Yunnan’s ethnic minority cultures, such as the Yi and Bai peoples.

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About Shenzhen

Shenzhen is a city located in southeastern China and is one of the country’s fastest-growing metropolises. The city is renowned for its thriving tech industry, with companies such as Huawei, Tencent, and DJI having their headquarters in Shenzhen. The city also has a vibrant cultural scene, with numerous museums, art galleries, and parks. Shenzhen is also known for its modern architecture, such as the Ping An Finance Center and the Shenzhen Bay Sports Center. Despite its modernization, Shenzhen also has a rich history and cultural heritage, with landmarks such as the Dapeng Fortress and the Chiwan Tin Hau Temple.

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About Chengdu

Chengdu is a city located in the southwestern region of China, and the capital of Sichuan province. It has a population of over 18 million people, and it is famous for its spicy Sichuan cuisine, laid-back lifestyle, and its cute and cuddly residents – the giant pandas. Chengdu is home to the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, where visitors can observe these adorable creatures in their natural habitat. The city also boasts a rich cultural heritage, with numerous temples, museums, and historical sites scattered throughout its boundaries. Chengdu is a city of contrasts, with ancient traditions coexisting alongside modern developments, making it an intriguing and fascinating destination for visitors to China. 

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About Beijing

Beijing is the capital city of China and one of the most populous cities in the world, with a population of over 21 million people. The city has a rich history that spans over 3,000 years, and it has served as the capital of various dynasties throughout China’s history. Beijing is home to some of the most iconic landmarks in China, including the Great Wall, the Forbidden City, and the Temple of Heaven. The city is also a hub for political, cultural, and educational activities, with numerous universities and research institutions located within its boundaries. Beijing is renowned for its traditional architecture, rich cuisine, and vibrant cultural scene, making it a must-visit destination for travelers to China.

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About Shanghai

Shanghai is a vibrant and dynamic city located on the eastern coast of China. It is the largest city in China and one of the most populous cities in the world, with a population of over 24 million people. Shanghai is a global financial hub and a major center for international trade, with a rich history and culture that spans over 1,000 years. The city is famous for its iconic skyline, which features towering skyscrapers such as the Oriental Pearl Tower and the Shanghai Tower. Shanghai is also home to a diverse culinary scene, world-class museums and art galleries, and numerous shopping districts. It is a city that is constantly evolving and reinventing itself, making it a fascinating destination for visitors from around the world.

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