Last weekend, the Atlanta Journal Constitution reported that an annual counter-terrorism summit for the military will simulate a zombie attack. Just in time for Halloween, the plan calls for hundreds of zombie actors to hold a VIP hostage and keep the good guys busy with menacing moans and groans.
Although no one really believes that a zombie takeover is imminent, there is a growing belief that if the military can stand up to a zombie take-over then it can handle almost any natural disaster, pandemic included.
This unusual turn in a rising pop culture movement is not surprising. Zombies have made a comeback in recent years in shows like The Walking Dead, and it is a welcome distraction from all the vampires that have hit the big screen of late. Next thing you know, people will be looking for zombies in the Bible. It’s already common knowledge that the wheel-within-a-wheel that Ezekiel saw in the sky might be a UFO.
Which brings me to the point of my article, as tongue-in-cheek as it is: Are those two witnesses in Revelation zombies (Rev. 11:1-13)?
Astute Bible students know what I’m talking about. In the middle of a vision Jesus gave to John on the island of Patmos, God revealed that two witnesses will have the power and authority to “prophesy” for over a thousand days. Like John the Baptist, they wear sackcloth; like Moses they usher plagues and peril.
The beast, ever the enemy of God’s people in the vision, wars against the witnesses and kills them. From there, the vision unfolds like a western. The witnesses remain dead in the streets of Jerusalem for three and one-half days. No one honors them with a proper burial; and, after a time, God breathes new life into them. They raise from the dead at the amazement of onlookers.
That sounds like a zombie apocalypse to me, but unlike the lifeless drones that haunt Atlanta in the fictitious world Walking Dead, these two witnesses bear testimony to the power of God.
In fact, the witnesses are witnesses in life and in death. In life, they declare God’s judgment and impending reign. The beast may be powerful, but God is still in charge. In death, they provide an opportunity for God to prove that death does not have the final say. The gift of resurrection isn’t for Christ alone; all who believe in the Risen Lamb will share in that new, life-giving breath.
The two witnesses do indeed haunt the beast after their resurrection. It’s their death that leads from one “woe” (read: judgment) to the next, and their witness inspires a hymn in which the angels sing of God’s eternal reign in heaven and on earth: “The Kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord” (11:15).
Whereas God was the one “who was, who is, and who is to come” in the earliest chapters of Revelation, the two witnesses are catalysts of the advent in which God becomes the one “who was and who is.” God is no longer the one who “will come,” because God comes to earth after those two witnesses fly away to glory.
The two witnesses also bear testimony to another important aspect of what God is up to in the world: the power of the proclamation of Christ. The Bible says that their authority is as “fire” that “pours forth from their mouth” (11:5). Proclamation of Christ is more than words and fancy rhetoric; sermons amount to more than well-organized speeches.
Whenever any of us bear witness to the power of God, the reality of Christ’s resurrection, and the fact that even in the face of elections God is still in charge, we are declaring God’s eternal reign. Persecution may follow, but if we are as faithful as those two witnesses, we too will rise with Christ. It’s either that, or we could just moan and groan like lifeless ghouls.