Fearless Witness: Part 2- A Renewed Prophetic Vision for Restoration
In prayer recently I started to see something new about the relationship between the Lion and the Lamb in Revelation. On the outside the person for whom I was praying looked like a lamb, but inside her was the roaring Lion. This insight started to turn my perception of prophecy on its head. The Lord was speaking to me about prophets as agents of security imparting fearless witness to the Church as a prophetic Body. Given the Aussie context, I have pretty much suffered the worst that people could do to me e.g. eviction from congregational life, accusation of being a satanic false prophet, a thief, womaniser and so on. This paper tries to articulate new insights into the value of these experiences for the Church.
Perspectives on Prophecy: Old and New
Old Testament prophets have a fearsome reputation. Even today prophets thought to be in the tradition of John the Baptist are considered to be “scary”; I have experienced this reaction many times. This false perception of the harsh character of prophecy (cf. Luke1:78) has contributed to a swing in the other direction. Prophetic ministries today rarely reprimand prevailing structures of hierarchy, control and authoritarianism, let alone loose doctrine. We are in days like those when Amos was rebuked by a local priest, ““O seer, go, flee away to the land of Judah, and eat bread there, and prophesy there, but never again prophesy at Bethel, for it is the king’s sanctuary, and it is a temple of the kingdom.”” (Amos 7:12-13 ESV). Israelite prophets paid by the king’s court were deeply compromised for they feared man more than God (Ezek 22:25; Mic 3:5, 11). Only an exclusive fear of the LORD can impart the wisdom and insight that produces fearless witness (Prov 9:10).
Even Jesus seemed unable to deal with the depth of the problem of fearing others. John’s Gospel speaks repeatedly of those who inwardly believed Jesus to be Messiah but refrained from open testimony “for fear of the Jews”; rejection, scorn and threatened expulsion from synagogues shut people’s mouths (7:13; 12:41-43; 19:38; 20:19). Such silence proved “they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God.” (John 12:43 cf. 5:44 ESV). As in Jesus’ day, contemporary prophetic ministries have exchanged the glory of God alone for the glory of Churchly rewards (cf. Rom 1:22-23). This may soon change.
The Lamb Roars
The climax of prophetic vision in this age is the appearance of the heavenly “Lion of the tribe of Judah…a Lamb standing, as slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth.” (Rev 5:5-6). This is a vision of Christ’s absolute universal sovereignty. In a later passage that recapitulates many of the central features of this image, John sees a “mighty angel” who calls out “like a lion roaring” and commissions him to “prophesy again” in a way that will bring inner anguish (Rev 10:1-11). Within the structure of Revelation the Lion roars as a Lamb with particular intensity through the suffering of the prophets (Rev 11:7-10; 16:6; 18:24 cf. 2 Ki 9:7; Luke 11:50). This is the witness “even unto death” which overcomes the power of Satan through sharing in the victory of the blood of the slain-risen Lamb (12:11).
Jesus purposefully sets prophets in the midst of the Church to image his victory by their fearless witness through suffering. The prophet who stands against all political and ecclesiastical powers without being intimidated by civil punishment, social exclusion or excommunication is a sign that the Lamb is reigning over all circumstances, however painful. Mature prophets are “sheep in the midst of wolves” who can “bear witness” without anxiety over consequences (Matt 10:16ff.). Suffering prophets lead the Church in its vocation to live “as sheep to be slaughtered” (Rom 8:36) who in the Spirit share in the worshipping life around the sovereign slaughtered Lamb in heaven. This is an image against which the principalities and powers are helpless (Eph 3:10). Deep inside this mystery is the way of salvation, as Paul says, “I ask you not to lose heart over what I am suffering for you, which is your glory.” (Eph 3:13). The Lamb roars through suffering and faithful prophetic witness whose fearless testimony imparts a great sense of security to the wider Church; “he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear what can man do to me?”” (Heb 13:6). The practical implications of fearlessness for effective evangelism are immense.
We are on the Lion’s side of the roar
The seer of Revelation watches the heavenly Lamb release war, famine and pestilence on the earth (Rev 6:1ff.). These catastrophes were part of the Lamb’s judgements, but the prophet is standing with the Lamb in his mighty strength and outpoured wrath (Eph 1:19-23; Rev 6:16). This insight of being one with the Judge brought fearlessness to the early church in the face of persecution and “natural disasters”. When successive epidemics swept the Roman Empire pagan priests evacuated the cities as quickly as the general population, the fearless prophetic church however remained behind to care for the ill and dying. Overcome by such courageous witness multitudes turned to Christ. Today’s plagues may be quite different: depression, obesity, anxiety, fear of financial loss, family breakdown etc., but a fearless Church will be just as potent in pointing others to the victory of the Lamb.
Releasing the Lion in You
The glory which belongs to Jesus is released most fully in the Church when each of the “five-fold ministries” are working in their proper order (Eph 3:20-21; 4:10-16). If apostles are overall strategists, prophets impart fearlessness to the people of God that primes them to receive the inspiration and impartation of the evangelist for outreach and mission. The secret to releasing the power of the Lion in you is to embrace the Lamb who roars with invincible authority in the midst of suffering. This is the infallible direction for the victorious progress of the kingdom of God through which many will be saved.
Prophets are neither unpredictable scary people best avoided nor men and women held captive by the need to please churchly powers. The strange fearlessness of a full-grown prophet, however rare, is an extraordinary gift to equip the whole Church in its prophetic vocation to pass through great tribulation in a way that witnesses to the triumph of the cross and leads others to follow Jesus (Acts 14:22; Rev 7:14; 11:13). Prophets are a wonderful source of security for all the people of God today. This surprising realisation is surely a sign that Christ is moving his people into expressions of maturity which will have a wonderful and lasting impact on a world that lives in constant fear (Eph 4:13; Heb 2:15). May God give each of us grace to share in this amazing ministry (Rev 19:10).
 R. Stark, The Rise of Christianity, Harper, 1997; especially chapter 4.