What is the testimony of Jesus Christ?
The study of this verse begins earlier re1217a.
"And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ." (Rev. 12:17)
Before we continue our study of this verse which is the climax in the story of the woman's conflict with the dragon, I'd like to mention a little of my personal background. As you may have guessed, my church fellowship is with the Seventh-day Adventists. In the same breath I'd like to remind you that I'm not just copying the "party line," although I consider it basically sound. I am plowing the soil of God's Word and finding more jewels. Whatever I believe must be in harmony with the totality of the inspired word.
Our verse is significant for Adventists and they/we usually have a simple explanation. I have found it to be valid but the roots of the verse go deeper in Scripture. First, however, let's look at the simple explanation by reading another verse:
"And I fell at his feet to worship him. And he said unto me, See thou do it not: I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren that have the testimony of Jesus: worship God: for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy." (Rev. 19:10).
So it is the Spirit who guides or inspires prophecy. The end-time people of God will have the Spirit of prophecy. The Holy Spirit inspired all of the Scriptures which are for God's people of all times, so our verse implies the gift of prophecy (Rom. 12:6) in a special sense.
A deeper explanation
Now let's approach this last critical phrase of our verse looking carefully at all the angles. Thank you for your patience. Above we looked at the first of two characteristics of the remnant (keeping the commandments of God). I hope I didn't give the wrong idea of the relationship between the law and grace. Paul helps me out in Rom. 3:31. Now we look at the other characteristic: "the testimony of Jesus Christ."
"The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John: Who bare record of the word of God, and of the testimony of Jesus Christ, and of all things that he saw." (Rev. 1:1, 2; also see verse 9)
Okay, the "spirit of prophecy" is Jesus' testimony in the book of Revelation itself. Is this His only testimony? No, for example: "For Jesus himself testified, that a prophet hath no honour in his own country." (John 4:44; also see 13:21). That makes sense. He testified while on earth. Notice the parallel construction in Rev. 1:1, 2, quoted above. John bore record to two sources of testimony. The word of God is what God tells us. Therefore the testimony of Jesus Christ is the testimony by Him.
Can "the testimony of Jesus" be testimony
The Greek allows for either "by Jesus Christ" or "about Jesus Christ" in Rev. 12:17. I have argued for "by him." In the writings of John, the terms "witness about" or "witness to" always include the Greek word peri which is evident in the translations. For example, John 1:7 "to bear witness to the light" (martureo + peri); John 5:31, "If I bear witness to myself," (martureo + peri); 1 John 5:9, "He has born witness to his Son" (martureo + peri). Our text does not include peri so means "testimony by Jesus" and not the testimony of Christians about Him.
How does Jesus testify to us?
Do you remember what Jesus promised to send when He went away? "But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me:" (John 15:26)
"I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you." (John 16:12-14)
So the testimony of the Holy
Spirit is the testimony of Jesus Christ because Christ sent Him and because
He testifies only about Christ or the things of Christ. Let's turn back
"And I fell at his feet to worship him. And he said unto me, See thou do it not: I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren that have the testimony of Jesus: worship God: for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit [or "breath"] of prophecy." (Rev. 19:10). See on this verse.
"All scripture is given by inspiration [or "breathing"] of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:" (2 Tim. 3:16)
"For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost." (1 Peter 1:21)
A text using a term similar to "the spirit of prophecy" is 1 Cor. 12:8-10. There the Holy Spirit gives the gift of prophecy. The gift is exercised by prophets 1 Cor. 12:28; Eph. 4:11.
In summary the Holy Spirit,
as the representative of Jesus, inspired the prophets with His testimony.
Next we will explore how these concepts relate to the remnant of the woman's
seed. How marvelous that Jesus communicates with us through the Holy Spirit
and through the gift of the holy Scriptures!
God tells His secrets
"And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ." (Rev. 12:17)
We have been looking at the last mentioned characteristic of the remnant, the testimony of Jesus Christ. Here's a question you may have thought of: Haven't people always had the testimony of Jesus? Yes. Through the Scriptures, and earlier by the witness of the patriarchs, they always have, but our verse wouldn't give this information in identifying the remnant of the woman's seed if it were not a distinguishing characteristic. Is there another way to "have" the testimony of Jesus? People have always had the testimony given to previous generations, but at times have not had a contemporary prophet. You remember Isaiah's statement that any message claiming truth or information should be tested by two sources, "the law and the testimony." The law was the established sacred writings his time — the books of Moses. The testimony was partly his own. I believe that the remnant pictured here have the "spirit of prophecy" for their own time. Let's see if this makes sense. As mentioned, sometimes there has been no current prophet. In those cases, the people have had no living witnesses to preach restraint from wickedness. See pr2918.
The time gap between the writing
of the book of Malachi and the birth of Jesus is thought to be over 400
years. There were apparently no true prophets during that period. No sacred
messages from that time exist. It was a time of particular darkness. Isaiah
described this darkness which preceded the light of the Redeemer.
"And the Redeemer shall come to Zion, and unto them that turn from transgression in Jacob, saith the Lord. . . . . Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee. For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but the Lord shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee." (Isa. 59:20; 60:1, 2)
When God is about to do something
His people need to know about He sends the prophetic voice. "Surely the
Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants
the prophets." (Amos 3:7)
Before He destroyed the earth with a flood He sent Enoch and Noah. When He called His people out of Egypt He sent Moses. Before the captivity, He sent Jeremiah and Ezekiel. At Jesus' birth He sent Simeon and Anna lu0234-6 in addition to the heavenly choir and the wise men. Before His ministry began He sent John the Baptist lu0728.
Reason for prophecy
Certainly before the millennium while Satan is bound and the great time of trouble and the coming of Christ in glory, we may expect that God would again send the prophetic voice. In fact this is predicted in Malachi: "Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord." (Mal. 4:5)
When Jesus explained how John
the Baptist fulfilled this prophecy, He first indicated a future fulfillment.
"And his disciples asked him, saying, Why then say the scribes that Elias [Elijah] must first come? And Jesus answered and said unto them, Elias truly shall first come [future], and restore all things. But I say unto you, That Elias is come already, and they knew him not. . . . Then the disciples understood that he spake unto them of John the Baptist." (Matt. 17:10-13)
The "great and dreadful day
of the Lord" described in Malachi I believe is just before us. Then ".
. . the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall
melt with fervent heat. . . . (2 Peter 3:10)" The event will come "as a
thief in the night" (same verse). In preparation for this time the prophetic
voice, like the voice of Elijah sounded by John the Baptist, will be heard
again. In our chapter Jesus revealed that the remnant of the woman's seed,
those who would face the angry dragon in war, would have "the testimony
of Jesus Christ."
Our world is increasingly corrupt. Some years ago we witnessed the great scandal of Watergate. I was shocked. My government had been basically trustworthy in the tradition of Abraham Lincoln. Sadly what we see today as almost routine in government, business, and other areas tempts us to ask, why all the fuss about President Nixon. He ordered people to break into the offices of his political opponents, then lied about it. We are fast slipping into deep darkness. "Even so come Lord Jesus." (Rev. 22:20)
I expect you are already guessing how I see the Adventists in this picture of the remnant, but we are not ready for this conclusion, and I certainly don't expect you to let me tell you what to believe. The Holy Spirit, through the Scriptures, will be our guide.
Could there be true prophets in our day?
We have answered this question above but need to look at a verse in Revelation which may indicate otherwise. "For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book." (Rev. 22:18, 19)
As a principle, every true
prophet has added to the body of written truth which Moses initiated. Also,
John was writing about his own book, not the Bible of which it later became
a part. Adding to the text and subtracting from it would be wrong. Any
change would be wrong. This is what the horn power of Daniel
7:25 tried to do.
Could a modern prophet then add a new book to the Bible? No, but not because of the warning we just looked at. The sixty-six books of the Bible are the established Word of God by which we may test all other ideas and claims to truth. This is the reason we see two witnesses instead of one in Revelation 11. We covered this in the first chapter. I suggest you read the comments there. Rev. 1:2.
The dubious character of the apocrypha casts a bad light on all of the Bible if they are thought to be part of it. Perhaps the creation of this need to separate truth from error was behind the reason they were added by the church of the medieval ages. They taught that common people were not to interpret (or even read) the Bible.
"And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:" (Eph. 4:11-13).
So the church, the body of
Christ, will need these gifts, including prophecy, as long as we need perfecting
of the saints and growth unto the measure of Christ.
Next we need to ask what a prophet is and how we know true prophets from false ones.
Even so come Lord Jesus.
Prophet, true or false
"And the dragon . . . went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ." (Rev. 12:17)
is a prophet? First, most prophets these days (true or false) are
not called prophets. A prophet is someone who brings, or pretends to bring,
messages or truth from God (Judges
6:8; 2 Chron.
24:17-19). This would not include those who simply preach the Word.
In terms of our key verse a prophet is someone claiming to bear the testimony
of Jesus Christ. So how do we judge?
"For there shall arise false christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect." (Matt. 24:24)
From this verse we know something
about false prophets who arise before the coming of the Son of Man (v.
27). They will exhibit miracles (cf. 2
Thess. 2:8, 9) and be very convincing. How can we know the true from
"Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. . . . Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them. Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I [Jesus] profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity." (Matt. 7:15-23)
This passage confirms that
prophets may work miracles. They will use the name of the Lord.
The false prophets will not enter into the kingdom. The passage tells us
who will. If you didn't notice, I'll let you read it again. The test is
for prophets and for us, too. It's a mark of identification for those who
will enter into the kingdom — a mark, not the method. The mark is a sign
of the method which is grace. Did you notice that this mark is the same
as the first of the two characteristics of the final remnant? And as already
mentioned the true gift of prophecy is the other. I'll let you stop to
compare. Both passages are quoted above.
One important way to recognize false and true prophets is by comparing to the prophets identified in the Scriptures. For example, do true prophets live sinless lives? Okay, we can't answer simply yes or no.
Zecharias, the father of John the Baptist, doubted the message of the angel (Luke 1:19, 20) and was unable to speak until the child was named according to the command of the angel. Then he prophesied about his son and about the Messiah (verses 59-79). David is an obvious example of a sinner. Yet he gave us many important messages from God. He was a man after God's heart (Acts 13:22) while speaking for God but clearly not during the time of his affair. If the statement applied during David's period of lust, what would that tell us about God's heart? Thus we are reminded of the test we have just discussed of doing the will of the Father — bearing good fruit.
Would a true prophet
ever say something that was incorrect?
"And it came to pass, when the king sat in his house, and the LORD had given him rest round about from all his enemies; That the king said unto Nathan the prophet, See now, I dwell in an house of cedar, but the ark of God dwelleth within curtains. And Nathan said to the king, Go, do all that is in thine heart [build a permanent temple]; for the LORD is with thee. And it came to pass that night, that the word of the LORD came unto Nathan, saying, Go and tell my servant David, Thus saith the LORD, Shalt thou build me an house for me to dwell in? [The answer was, no. His son would do it.]" (2 Sam. 7)
Nathan was God's prophet but, for some reason, he said the wrong thing. The Lord then showed him the right thing to say and he told David. The prophecy of Jonah is another example. He preached that Nineveh would be destroyed because of their sins (Jonah 3). God had said so, but the destruction did depend on their behavior. Jonah hadn't planned on that so he was angry with God because the destruction he preached about didn't occur. Actually Nineveh was destroyed much later (Zeph. 2:13).
Do prophets ever
copy words written by someone else?
This is an important question because our society has changed in what has been considered right and wrong in this area. If you compare the books of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, you will find many phrases and sentences which had to have been copied. We may infer from the first words in the book of Luke that he gathered information from others.
To say that a true prophet would not say something that had not been said by someone else would imply that God did not help other people understand truth. Of course not everyone who understands has been called by God to be a prophet — one especially chosen as His tool of communication.
Do prophets predict
Certainly John whose book we are studying did but many prophets give only or mostly counsel from the Lord. John the Baptist is an example.
"Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world." (1 John 4:1)
So how do we know?
Paul was a prophet. We know that but the people of his day didn't. They needed to take the divine counsel just quoted from John. When the people from Berea heard him, what did they do? Also ez3333.
"These [at Berea] were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so." (Acts 17:11)
"To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them." (Isa. 8:20)
We can know that God does not change (Mal. 3:6). His word stands forever sure (Ps. 119:89). So it is a safe standard for anyone today who would claim to have a message from God. Paul wrote, "But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed." (Gal. 1:8)
For now, I rest my case without going into more detail about all my personal convictions. God's word is the authority. We know we can trust His Spirit to guide us into all truth.
Is this really
Someone wrote to me asking whether a specific church or denomination was the remnant of the woman's seed. It's a good question that requires more than a yes or a no. I shared with him another verse which identifies the remnant and discussed the topic a little more. Any church or group can claim to be this remnant. I invite you to continue to pray that God would lead you. For more of my personal convictions, click "next page" below.
My conclusions about a modern prophet
Praise God for the unchangeable character of His word and for the certainty of His promises!