Unlikely Witnesses

Not long ago I was scrolling down the endless stream of Grumpy Cat, conspiracy theories, and Obama drama on my Facebook news feed when I came upon a post that stopped me cold: “This Should Go Well: Westboro Baptist Church Says It’s Going To Iraq To Protest ISIS.” I don’t share/repost very often these days and when I do, I end up deleting about half of those posts within a few hours. But when I saw this headline–which at first glance seemed crazy enough to be true–I hit the share button, thinking of something cute to say about what an interesting confrontation that would be, even though such a confrontation would almost certainly end with the deaths of every Westboro-er at the hands of ISIS.

I hate to admit it, but for a moment there, I experienced a disturbing flicker of glee at the thought of it, like when one considers the prospects of an alligator fighting with a giant anaconda; what an epic conflict it would be. The world would watch such a contest with a gleeful intensity that would make mine seem positively morose. Just as I was about to type in my clever comment on the link before posting it, a bible verse flashed into my memory, concerning the Two Witnesses in Revelation 11:1-:13 (also described as “The Second Woe):

And when they [the two witnesses] have finished their testimony, the beast that rises from the bottomless pit will make war on them and conquer them and kill them, and their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city that symbolically is called Sodom and Egypt, where their Lord was crucified. For three and a half days some from the peoples and tribes and languages and nations will gaze at their dead bodies and refuse to let them be placed in a tomb, and those who dwell on the earth will rejoice over them and make merry and exchange presents, because these two prophets had been a torment to those who dwell on the earth.” (Revelation 11:7-10 ESV)

There aren’t many people in this country more hated right now than the members of Westboro Baptist Church; many Christians have little good to say about them because of their abrasive, in-your-face methods which don’t dovetail well with those of mainstream churches. Their picketing of soldiers’ funerals with signs saying “Thank God for Dead Soldiers” have done little to endear grassroots America, but have brought together unlikely groups such as churches, veterans, motorcycle gangs, and lawmakers in unity of purpose to exclude Westboro from those funerals. Few would weep, and many would rejoice if they did go to Iraq to confront ISIS, and paid with their lives. I dare say there would be much gloating and celebrating. I doubt anybody would hasten to remove their bodies, but I don’t find it hard to believe that people might even send gifts–or clever Facebook posts–to celebrate.

Now I’m not saying that God’s two witnesses are going to come from Westboro, but I did have a moment of clarion understanding of how that moment might play out when somebody universally hated by the world finally meets their end. I could see them televising the dead bodies for three days in the streets of Jerusalem in joy and relief after three and a half years of their plagues. I could see humanity united in “Happy Dead Witnesses Day” celebrations and the exchange of greetings and gifts. I could see churches joining in the merriment.

I believe that the signs in Revelation will not be as they have been popularly interpreted in the 20th century, a la the Left Behind series. I believe they will likely be mundane events, except for the stunning perfection with which they match prophecies 2000 years old. So when I see things like a lens flare in Tahrir Square, Egypt that looks oddly like a ghostly rider on a pale green horse*, I pause for a minute to evaluate it. When I see a story (even though it later fell through) that Westboro is going to the Levant to confront ISIS, I pause.

Time is short. I believe we may be witnessing the rise of the Beast–the Antichrist and his empire–right now. Wiser men than I have sounded the alarm that Erdogan of Turkey is reviving the evil Ottoman Empire, and that he is the final Antichrist. But that is something for another post.

* at about 1:21 into the video