By Fr. Felix (African Times Guest Writer)

A Reading from the Book of the Apocalypse

(11:4-12). The scroll tasted sweet in the

prophet’s mouth, but it turned his stomach sour,

as he is to prophesy ruin and devastation to the

nations before the triumph of the Lamb.

It is the task of the two olive trees or two lamps

to be the witnesses of this prophecy, since two

witnesses are required for valid testimony. The

portrayal as olive-trees is a reference to

Zechariah 4.3, who so portrays the two leaders

and hopes of Israel at the time of the return

from the exile.

They will prophesy for three-and-a-half years,

which is half the perfect number of seven years,

so a radically incomplete period of time. As a

confirmation of their witness as prophets they

will be able to do the works done by Moses

(turning water into blood and striking their

opponents with plagues) and Elijah (withholding

rain and consuming enemies with fire). Rather

than identifying the two directly as Moses and

Elijah, this is only identifying them as prophets

in general.

In the paradigm city of degeneracy and violence,

symbolically named as Sodom and Gomorrah,

they will be killed, like so many of the witnesses

to the Christian message. ‘The great city’

elsewhere in this Book is Rome, the archetype

of everything evil. So, although the Lord was in

fact crucified in Jerusalem, symbolically

Jerusalem has now lost its significance and

Rome has symbolically taken its place.

But  the greatest wonder of all – the witnesses

will come to life again. This is already a

promise of the resurrection of Christians. The

two witnesses are, therefore, symbolic of the

whole Christian witness to an unbelieving

world. This passage is an introduction to the

second half of the book, the persecution and

triumph of the Church among the nations.

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