Thought for the Day by Anna Bland (All Hallows’)
Our readings today are the second half of Daniel 8 and the first half of Revelation 11. They are both quite difficult to understand and I very much related to what Daniel said at the end of this Chapter 8: ‘I was appalled by the vision; it was beyond understanding’!
The passage from Revelation tells of the author measuring the temple, except the outer court which ‘has been given to the Gentiles’. It links back to our other reading for today where Daniel predicts the end-times. It also tells of two witnesses who will prophesy for 1,250 days and have the power to bring much misery to the earth: plagues, fire and no rain. They are killed by the beast from the abyss and left in the street for three and a half days, while representatives “from every people, tribe, language and nation will gaze on their bodies and refuse them burial.” This makes clear the universality of the prophetic witness.
The core message of this passage is about the inner and outer workings of the church; that when the great persecution comes, the church will outwardly look destroyed but the inner heart of it will remain intact. The real church is what is going on in the hearts and souls of those who follow Jesus and work for love, justice and truth. This could feel very relevant for us today in the UK where many churches are shrinking and we could become obsessed with counting how many attend.
We are called to be witnesses to who God is and what God has to say to us. The prophets spoke truth to the world in their time as we are called to do today, but as we see in this passage speaking truth does not come without risk. However, on a more hopeful note nine tenths of the city were saved through the prophets (Rev 11:13) which is a reversal of the arithmetic of Old Testament passages where the minority were saved (Isa 6:13, Am 5:3, 1 Kings 19:18). This links into the core message of Revelation which hangs on the importance of the role of Jesus who changed our relationship with God: from a God of judgement to a message of salvation. By sharing in Jesus’ sacrificial role as a suffering servant the true church in our hearts can come to the world with the offer of salvation rather than judgement.