“And I fell at his feet to worship him. But he said to me, “See that you do not do that! I am your fellow servant, and of your brethren who have the testimony of Jesus. Worship God! For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” (Rev 19:10)
The key word here is testimony: martyria, meaning evidence given, record, report, testimony, witness. The testimony of Jesus is the evidence if His reality. Those who have the testimony of Jesus are those who testify to the truth of who He is. When Jesus left the disciples at the mount of ascension He said “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8) The word He used, although in a different grammatical form, is the same: the witness is the one who gives evidence. The term “martyr” has come to mean one who physically lays down his life for Christ in the ultimate sacrifice that is evidence of the strength of their faith, but the original Greek is broader in its meaning, and it applies to every Christian: we are all called to lay down our lives on a daily basis, and, through the power that we have received from the Holy Spirit, to give testimony to the reality of Jesus. But I think there is an important connection between our call to witness, and the testimony of Jesus that the angel spoke about to John.
Jesus said to the Jews (John 5:30): “I can of Myself do nothing. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me. If I bear witness (martyrio) of Myself, My witness is not true.”
Jesus said that his testimony had no validity if He just talked about Himself. Referring to the law (Deut 19:15), He said: “It is also written in your law that the testimony of two men is true. I am One who bears witness of Myself, and the Father who sent Me bears witness of Me.” (John 8: 17-18). When Jesus promises the disciples that the power of the Holy Spirit would come on them and they would be His witnesses, He was saying that the signs and wonders that followed their ministry as the Lord worked with them (Mark 16:20) were not just a bonus to their preaching, but were the necessary ‘second witness’ that proved that their testimony was true.
“There is another who bears witness of Me, and I know that the witness which He witnesses of Me is true. You have sent to John, and he has borne witness to the truth. Yet I do not receive testimony from man, but I say these things that you may be saved… But I have a greater witness than John’s; for the works which the Father has given Me to finish—the very works that I do—bear witness (martyreō) of Me, that the Father has sent Me. And the Father Himself, who sent Me, has testified of Me.”(John 5: 32-34, 36-37)
Jesus speaks “that you may be saved.” It is the words of Jesus that bring salvation. Only He has “the words of eternal life (John 6:68). But for Jesus’ words to be proven true the “testimony of man” is not sufficient: the works done in His name by the power of the Holy Spirit are what bring the witness of the Father. The truth about Jesus, the proof of His reality, has to come from the Spirit of God, not the spirit of man; so when the Father bears witness of Him through the Holy Spirit, He can speak and bring salvation.
“He who believes in the Son of God has the witness (martyria) in himself; he who does not believe God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed the testimony that God has given of His Son. And this is the testimony (martyria): that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.” (1 John 5: 10-11)
The testimony of Jesus that every believer has within himself is that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. But I don’t think that the scriptures encourage us just to tell people about Jesus and move on, or that quoting His words alone will bring eternal life. The testimony only has weight when there are at least two witnesses: the disciple speaking in His name, and the Holy Spirit confirming the disciple’s words and transforming the testimony of man into the testimony of Jesus. It is only through the revelation of Jesus that anyone can receive eternal life. I think our words are of little or no effect – and can even push people away from Jesus instead of drawing them to Him – unless the Lord, the Holy Spirit, is working with us to reveal Jesus. We need Him to be leading us in our conversations, and who to have them with; and to be revealing His love for the people we are talking to, often through gifts of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit of prophesy – the essence, the breath, the pneuma – is always the revelation of Jesus, confirmed through the Holy Spirit, speaking words of salvation. The angel tells John what we must do to walk in it:
“Worship God! For the testimony of Jesus is the Spirit of Prophesy”
The spirit of prophesy isn’t the gift of prophesy, the ministry or the office of the prophet. It’s the very heart of what prophesy is, the God-life that flows in it. The key to walking in this is worship. This isn’t just singing songs: it’s worship in spirit and truth. I think worshipping in spirit in the context of the church service is allowing the Holy Spirit to lead us, to make room for His ministry and be led by Him into the presence of God. But that is only one half of the story, because we need to be worshipping in truth as well. And we aren’t worshipping in truth if we are not obeying Him by loving each other, and we’re not loving others if we are on our own agendas. To be worshippers we have to be continually checking our agendas. Am I on God’s agenda, or my own?
David prayed: “Search me, O God, and know my heart: Try me, and know my thoughts; And see if there be any wicked way in me, And lead me in the way everlasting.” (Psalm 139: 23-24: ) David only knew the Old Covenant Ark of the Testimony, but he looked forward prophetically to the testimony of Jesus and revealed it throughout his psalms. Just as the Old Covenant Ark carried the testimony of the Law, we, the church, are the Ark of the New Covenant, and we are the carriers of the Testimony of Jesus. If we pray David’s prayer on a daily basis (at least!) we give God permission to examine our hearts and minds for hidden self-centred agendas, and our worship will begin to reveal the truth of who He is.
Here are just a couple of those “wicked ways” to be going on with. Paul writes to Timothy: “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Tim 2:15). Approval. Am I looking for God’s approval, of Man’s? Do I want to give my testimony because I want people to hear my dramatic story, or because the Holy Spirit is going to work with me to reveal Jesus? Only the last one is the testimony of Jesus: the first is the testimony of man, which He doesn’t receive. And secondly: “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind” (2 Tim 1:7) Is everything I am saying and doing grounded in God’s power, His love, and the realities of salvation – or is there fear lurking somewhere in the woodwork? Fear hides in surprising places, and nothing prompted by hidden fear will bear good fruit. We all need to allow the Holy Spirit to flush it out of our lives, because it will keep us off God’s agenda.
I think we are like water channels that can get silted up: the deeper the silt, the shallower the water. If as individuals and churches we want to see the Spirit of prophesy bring the testimony of Jesus into people’s lives, we need to worship in Spirit and in truth: we need deep to be calling to deep (Ps 42:7), which means praying those verses from Psalm 139 every day to keep dredging the silt out of our lives.