I, John, heard a voice from heaven speak to me:
Here are my two witnesses:
These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands
that stand before the Lord of the earth.
If anyone wants to harm them, fire comes out of their mouths
and devours their enemies.
In this way, anyone wanting to harm them is sure to be slain.
They have the power to close up the sky
so that no rain can fall during the time of their prophesying.
They also have power to turn water into blood
and to afflict the earth with any plague as often as they wish.
When they have finished their testimony,
the beast that comes up from the abyss
will wage war against them and conquer them and kill them.
Their corpses will lie in the main street of the great city,
which has the symbolic names ‘Sodom’ and ‘Egypt,’
where indeed their Lord was crucified.
Those from every people, tribe, tongue, and nation
will gaze on their corpses for three and a half days,
and they will not allow their corpses to be buried.
The inhabitants of the earth will gloat over them
and be glad and exchange gifts
because these two prophets tormented the inhabitants of the earth.
But after the three and a half days,
a breath of life from God entered them.
When they stood on their feet, great fear fell on those who saw them.
Then they heard a loud voice from heaven say to them, “Come up here.”
So they went up to heaven in a cloud as their enemies looked on.
Some Sadducees, those who deny that there is a resurrection,
came forward and put this question to Jesus, saying,
“Teacher, Moses wrote for us,
If someone’s brother dies leaving a wife but no child,
his brother must take the wife
and raise up descendants for his brother.
Now there were seven brothers;
the first married a woman but died childless.
Then the second and the third married her,
and likewise all the seven died childless.
Finally the woman also died.
Now at the resurrection whose wife will that woman be?
For all seven had been married to her.”
Jesus said to them,
“The children of this age marry and remarry;
but those who are deemed worthy to attain to the coming age
and to the resurrection of the dead
neither marry nor are given in marriage.
They can no longer die,
for they are like angels;
and they are the children of God
because they are the ones who will rise.
That the dead will rise
even Moses made known in the passage about the bush,
when he called ‘Lord’
the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob;
and he is not God of the dead, but of the living,
for to him all are alive.”
Some of the scribes said in reply,
“Teacher, you have answered well.”
And they no longer dared to ask him anything.
Written by: Fr. Anthony Dinh M. Tien, O.P.
I. THEME: The resurrection and the eternal life
The question, “Are there the resurrection and the eternal life?” must be the key and the important question of our life. If people believe in the resurrection and the eternal life, they shall know how to live their present life in order to attain the eternal life. If they don’t believe in them, they shall concentrate only on this life, how to enjoy this life to the fullest because death is the end of everything.
The revelation of the resurrection and the eternal life, though were revealed in the Old Testament but weren’t clearly explained. Most Jewish people of the Old Testament believed happiness is only confined in this life; those who keep God’s law shall be blessed with material gains, a long life and many descendants. The beliefs in the resurrection and the eternal life were mentioned late, about the second century B.C, in the Book of Daniel and the Second Book of Maccabees. When Christ incarnated, he clearly revealed these things and God’s plan of salvation for people in the Gospel. These are the contents of Christ’s Good New.
Today readings concentrate on this question. In the first reading, the Book of Revelation revealed the fate of two important witnesses of the Old Testament, Moses and Elijah. The Jewish tradition believes these two prophets didn’t die; they shall return before the Messiah’s coming. In the Gospel, the Sadducees used the Mosaic law to prove that there is no resurrection. Jesus answered their question and corrected their false understanding.
1/ Reading I: “After the three and a half days, a breath of life from God entered them and they walked.”
1.1/ The two olive trees: This may be the most difficult passage in the Book of Revelation because it involves many different sources and has many conflicted opinions. Based on the author’s description of the two witnesses (vv. 5, 6 and 12), we can recognize the two witnesses are Moses who represents for the law and Elijah who represents for the prophets. The Jewish tradition (Deut 18:15 and Mal 3:22-24) believes they aren’t dead and shall return to preach repentance before the Day of God.
– In today passage, they were described as “the two olive trees and the two lampstands” (Cf. Zech 4:1-14): They represent for the whole people of God, the Church, to be living and eternal witnesses for people (Acts 1:8). The faithful must always live in God’s presence and serve Him by their witnessing life.
– “If anyone wants to harm them, fire comes out of their mouths and devours their enemies. In this way, anyone wanting to harm them is sure to be slain.” The prophet Elijah invoked fire from heaven to destroy his enemies (Cf. 2 Kgs 1:10ff.). The prophets killed their enemies by the fire of God’s word which they preached (Jer 5:14, Sir 48:3).
– “They have the power to close up the sky so that no rain can fall during the time of their prophesying. They also have power to turn water into blood and to afflict the earth with any plague as often as they wish.” The prophet Elijah commanded the door of heaven to close, and no rain and dew shall fall for three years (1 Kgs 17:1). Moses commanded all Egyptian rivers to turn into blood (Exo 7:17-21).
– “When they have finished their testimony, the beast that comes up from the abyss will wage war against them and conquer them and kill them”: The beast is Satan and his companions. Elijah is John Baptist who was killed by king Herode.
– “Their corpses will lie in the main street of the great city, which has the symbolic names “Sodom” and “Egypt,” where indeed their Lord was crucified”: Sodom represents for immorality (Isa 1:9, Eze 16:46) and Egypt for slavery (Exo 13:14; 20:2). The place where their Lord was crucified is Jerusalem.
– “Those from every people, tribe, tongue, and nation will gaze on their corpses for three and a half days, and they will not allow their corpses to be buried.” To deny the dead from being buried is the most despicable treatment (Psa 79:2f, Jer 8:2, 16:4, 2 Mac 5:10).
– “The inhabitants of the earth will gloat over them and be glad and exchange gifts because these two prophets tormented the inhabitants of the earth”: The world doesn’t like God’s witnesses, they are joyful to see their dead.
1.2/ The two prophets were resurrected and went up to heaven: The author reported their resurrection as follows, “But after the three and a half days, a breath of life from God entered them. When they stood on their feet, great fear fell on those who saw them. Then they heard a loud voice from heaven say to them, “Come up here.” So they went up to heaven in a cloud as their enemies looked on.” People live because of God’s breath and when they are resurrected, is also because of God’s breath. These two witnesses went up to heaven to enjoy their eternal and happy life with God.
2/ Gospel: Is there the resurrection or not?
2.1/ The difficult question of the Sadducees is used to demonstrate there is no resurrection: This group believes only in Moses’ laws and not in the resurrection. This is the reason they came to Jesus and presented their question: “Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies, having a wife but no children, the man must take the wife and raise up children for his brother (Deut 25:5). Now there were seven brothers; the first took a wife, and died without children; and the second and the third took her, and likewise all seven left no children and died. Afterward the woman also died. In the resurrection, therefore, whose wife will the woman be? For the seven had her as wife.” Their question though is based on the law, but not what is really happened in life.
2.2/ Jesus’ answer: He separated out their two questions: the relationship between husband and wife and the resurrection. He also corrected their faith.
(1) The relationship between husband and wife: Jesus said: “The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage; but those who are accounted worthy to attain to that age and to the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage.” To get marry is only happened in this world, all are brothers and sisters in the life to come. People have no need to get marry in the heaven as the Muslims believe.
(2) The resurrection and the eternal life: “For they cannot die any more, because they are equal to angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection.”
(3) Jesus used their law to correct their faith: “But that the dead are raised, even Moses showed, in the passage about the bush (Exo 3:1-6), where he calls the Lord the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. Now he is not God of the dead, but of the living; for all live to him.” If the Sadducees believed “God is the Lord of the living,” they must believe their forefathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are still living. In other words, they must believe in the resurrection.
III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:
– We must firmly believe what we confess in the profession of faith every Sunday: “I believe in the resurrection of the dead and the everlasting life. Amen.”
– The foundation of these beliefs is Christ’s resurrection and glorious ascension. He promises to us that if we suffer and die with him we shall also be resurrected and live forever with him.
– We must let these beliefs guide our life and should live in a way that is worthy of the eternal life.