Remember back when the word “literally” meant literally? We used to use the word as a way of explaining the exact way in which something happened, but now dictionaries have changed the meaning because we all use it to embellish things that never really happened. That’s a pretty drastic change of definition, but culture has shifted it that way.

The Greek word martys is kind of like that. In English we translate this word as witness, which is a person who can testify to having seen something. In the Bible’s case, a martys often bears witness to Jesus as God’s chosen and anointed one. He is the Son of God, the salvation of God, and the king of the cosmos.

But in the Book of Revelation the word martys is coupled with an unpleasant theme: death. For in ancient times, to bear witness to Jesus as King meant to put your life on the line, evolving the word martys into another English word: martyr. Indeed, John reminds us that Jesus himself was a “faithful martys,” so the logic follows that if we are also to be faithful martys-es we might expect the same martyr treatment. And so as Jesus becomes a witness to God, so we become a witness to Jesus, and so we all, like Jesus, might find ourselves martyred. Contrary to an American Christianity thats always concerned with its rights to protect itself, John saw Christianity as a faith that naturally put itself in danger of having their own human rights violated.

But John also saw Jesus as a “faithful witness” in another way, for he pulls this title out of an old messianic Psalm. In that passage, the moon is called a “faithful witness,” because it’s always dependable and always there day in and day out, forever. Now that Jesus the Martyr has been resurrected into a non-perishable everlasting body, Jesus may now witness in the same infinite way as the moon. And even if we become Christian martyrs ourselves, Jesus ensures us that our faithful witness shall be rewarded with the same kind of non-perishable everlasting bodies.

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