Revelation 11 is somewhat infamous for its mention of two witnesses who will issue plagues and destroy people with fire from their mouths. In addition, in vv.1-2 we get the mention of a temple and the trampling of its outer court and the “holy city.” What is this all referring to? Is it referring to a future, rebuilt temple in Jerusalem, and two literal witnesses in the “end times”? Or is this, as I will argue, symbolism of the church?
“Where the preaching of repentance, with judgments alone as evidence, had failed (Rev 11:6; cf. Rev 8:2-9:21), when fulfilled in witness to the point of death (11:7-10), participating in Jesus’ witness and victory through and over death (11:12), the prophetic ministry of the church will effect the conversion of the nations to God (11:13). This is the heart of the revelation contained in the scroll (10:1-11), the heart of Revelation’s message: that the church redeemed from all nations is called to suffering witness which, by virtue of its participation in Jesus’ sacrificial witness, can bring the nations to repentance of idolatry and conversion to the true God. In this way–as Jesus’ witness is extended universally in the life and death, as well as the preaching of the church–God’s kingdom can come to the nations as salvation, rather than judgement.” — Richard Bauckham
There’s an ironic similarity between (1) “the social gospel” — reducing the gospel and Christian mission to advancing social justice — and (2) “Christian nationalism” — hitching the Christian mission to the church having/maintaining cultural dominance.
Christian cultural and social impact, of course, I believe are good, and flow out of the Christian mission.
But interestingly/ironically, these two socially and politically polar opposite viewpoints — (1) “the social gospel” and (2) “Christian nationalism” — err seemingly in the same way: they misplace the center of the church’s mission with a usurping concern over their social presence.
To the “social gospel” we say, Yes, social justice is a biblical imperative, and its outworking is entailed in Christian mission. But social justice is not itself the gospel, nor should it be equated with biblical “salvation.”
To the “Christian nationalist” we say again, impact on society is admirable. But it’s not the end-all-be-all. Our witness comes first. Cultural domination is not our mission. And when we conceive of it as such, we can find ourselves pursuing it at the expense of our witness.
In short, both (again, ironically) make cultural and social impact paramount at the expense of the soteriological center of our mission.
And ironically both chastise the other for doing what they themselves do: equating their mission with the pursuit of a particular political vision, either the Left’s in the case of the “social gospel,” or the Right’s in the case of “Christian nationalism.”
They’re polar opposite on the political spectrum. But underneath, they share the same warp and woof.
In this one-day Training Seminar lead, we examined some of the core framework, analytics, and ideologies that serve much of our culture’s current political and social justice engagement. The aim is to look at these things from a Biblical perspective with the goal of better equipping ourselves to navigate the climate in which we live.
Due to the unfortunate volatile and seemingly unproductive nature of current public discourse around these matters, I have decided not to make this material open to the public. However, if you would like to request a copy of my notes for this Training Seminar, you can email my church here.