In the iconic movie, The Princess Bride, the central character, Wesley, (the good guy), is tortured unjustly until it appears he dies. When his friends find him, they take him to Miracle Max to ask if he can be brought back to life. Played brilliantly by Billy Crystal, Max tells them Wesley isn’t dead but is only mostly dead. He then proceeds to use billows made for a fireplace on Wesley. In the end, he recovers from his condition so that he might attempt to rescue his one true love.
Revelation 11 has some real similarities to the story I’ve just reiterated. The Lord gives John the Revelation, where he sees two witnesses clothed in sackcloth ready to prophesy over Jerusalem. By the unction of the Holy Spirit, they were calling people to repent of living (like those from Sodom and Gomorrah of old) for themselves. They were equipped with power from on high to confirm their words came from God and not from themselves.
After they delivered their message for the designated time, a beast from the bottomless pit arose to make war, conquer, and kill them. They were then to be left in the streets dead for three and a half days, while the ones they had prophesied against would pass by and laugh as they gazed at their dead bodies. It would appear they were in the same condition as Wesley when his friends found him. Without a miracle, there was no hope for their recovery.
Thankfully, the story doesn’t end there. At the end of the three and a half days, God breathes into them the breath of life. They stand up on their feet to the amazement of all those who had earlier mocked them. God then called the two witnesses to join Him in heaven as their enemies watched them ascend. After this, a great earthquake killed a tenth of the city. As a result of all of these things, many were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven.
Now it is tempting to try to assign too much explanation to what John sees in Revelation. We can get lost in the details. For example: Who are the two witnesses? or What do the three and a half days mean? We should instead find themes in the book which the strong imagery supports. In this case, we should remember the sacrificial death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus. Jesus promised His followers would suffer as He did in this world.
Throughout the ages, people, from the Apostles to leaders today, have suffered persecution and many have been martyred for their faith. However, that is not the end of the story! For the child of God, “to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord” (2 Cor. 5:8). Even though the enemy might try to snuff us out, when we die, we also live! God also promises a day when those who are dead in Christ will rise and meet Jesus in the air to be joined by those who are still living (I Thess. 4:16). We “will be changed in the twinkling of an eye” (I Cor. 15:52) and we will be like Jesus.