The Two Witnesses

MY TWO WITNESSES (11:3-6). Do the two witnesses prophesy in the first or second half of the Tribulation Period? As in the days of Noah (Hebrews 11:7) and throughout history, God warns and condemns the objects of His impending wrath through these two witnesses. The Mighty Angel of chapter ten is still speaking and He describes them as “My two witnesses,” a powerful proof for identifying this angel is Christ. They are empowered to prophesy for 1,260 days, which is 42 months or three and one half years.

Who are the two witnesses? They are identified as the two olive trees and two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth. Lampstands signified those who are saved (Revelation 1:20) and olive trees stand for God’s covenant people, Israel (Romans 11:17-24). Hence, Christ’s two witnesses are saved Jews. Idealists hold the two represent the Church and Israel.

In Zechariah’s vision of the gold lampstand and the two olive trees (Zechariah 4:1-6, 10-14), the two olive trees represent Joshua., the priestly leader, and Zerubbabel, the civic leader. The golden lampstand signifies they are two Spirit-filled Jewish leaders. Both were instrumental in rebuilding the Temple after the Babylonian captivity. Zerubbabel laid the foundation and finished it (Zechariah 4:9) and Joshua would represent the people before Yahweh. Their Spirit-filled preaching of Haggai and Zechariah motivated the leaders and people to rebuild the Temple. Zechariah’s vision has both near and distant future fulfillments.

The two olive trees and two lampstands are lights before the powers of darkness. They are clothed in sackcloth a sign of mourning and penitence (Joel 1:13) and the distress of these days. Sackcloth is the prophet’s garment of lament for his people. The two witnesses stand before the Lord on the earth to open the eyes of Israel to Christ.

Two witness is required for a legal testimony (Numbers 35:30; Deuteronomy 19:15); that is why Christ sent out His disciples two by two.

Calling the Twelve to him, he sent them out two by two and gave them authority over evil {Greek unclean} spirits (Mark 6:7)

After this the Lord appointed seventy-two {some manuscripts seventy; also in verse 17} others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go (Luke 10:1).

There were two angelic witnesses at the tomb of Jesus (Luke 24:4-7) and at His ascension into heaven (Acts 1:9-11). However, these two cannot be angels since they are killed by the Antichrist. There were two witnesses at Christ’s transfiguration (Matthew 17:3; Mark 9:4): Moses, representing Christ fulfillment of the Law, and Elijah, His fulfillment of the Prophets.

The earlier writers identified the two witnesses as Moses and Elijah since they performed similar miracles to the two witnesses.

These men have power to shut up the sky so that it will not rain during the time they are prophesying; and they have power to turn the waters into blood and to strike the earth with every kind of plague as often as they want (Revelation 11:6; cf. Exodus 7:19; 1 Kings 17:1-7; 18:1; 2 Kings 1:8-12).

Moses was buried by God (Deuteronomy 34:5-6; Jude 9) and Elijah was translated into heaven (2 Kings 2:11). If Moses were one of the two, he would have to die a second time!

Modern writers identify the two witnesses as Enoch and Elijah. However, one cannot argue that the two witnesses are Enoch and Elijah since neither died and must fulfill what is written in Hebrews 9:27: “Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment.” Why? Because those alive in Christ, who are raptured will never die! Additionally, the two witnesses cannot be two of the 144,000 Israelite witnesses since none of this group will die either.

A stronger argument can be made for one of the witnesses being Elijah:

See, I will send you the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day of the LORD comes. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers; or else I will come and strike the land with a curse” (Malachi 4:5-6; cf. Matthew 11:14; Luke 1:17).

So who are the two witnesses? Wait and see! All we know about them is recorded here; they are persons, prophets, powerful, persecuted, preserved but finally killed, resurrected and raptured. The fire that proceeds from their mouths and devours most likely is literal fire. It at least represents divine protection so they cannot be harmed until their ministry is completed.

THE BEAST FROM THE ABYSS (11:7). Now when they have finished their testimony, the Beast that comes up from the Abyss will attack them, and overpower and kill them.

Historicists see the Beast as papal decrees of the Lateran Councils of A.D. 1179 and 1227 that denied Christian burial.

Preterists view the Beast as various historical enemies of the Church.

Idealists visualize the Beast to be powers that seek to silence the witness of the Church.

Futurists identify the Beast from the Abyss as the same as the Beast out of the sea (13:1), who attempts to be the world dictator, the Antichrist. The Beast out of the land is the false religious leader of the last days (13:11).

Christ’s two witnesses will be so effective on earth that everyone will know of them because of their supernatural powers, but many will refuse to repent (Revelation 9:21). It is clear from what Jesus said and Israel’s unbelief after His death and resurrection that miracles lead more to condemnation than to repentance.

A wicked and adulterous generation looks for a miraculous sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah (Mark 16:4).

DEATH, RESURRECTION, ASCENSION OF THE TWO WITNESSES (11:7-12). Notice that when they have finished their testimony, the beast that comes up from the Abyss will attack them, and overpower and kill them. The Antichrist could not harm them before God was finished with them on earth.

At the end of 1,260 days, the Beast occupies Jerusalem, the great city, which is figuratively called Sodom and Egypt, where also their Lord was crucified. Sodom and Egypt signifies that Jerusalem has filled its cup of iniquity for God’s wrath. Sodom’s sexual immorality was destroyed with fire and brimstone; Egypt’s idolatry was overpowered with Ten Plagues from Yahweh. Moral and religious decay go together!

Idealists identify the great city as the world in rebellion against God, not literal Jerusalem.

For three and a half days, men from every people, tribe, language and nation will gaze on their bodies and refuse them burial. Before satellites, television and internet, this prophecy seemed impossible. Obviously, the Beast is capitalizing on their deaths.

Jesus foretold that the end times would be like the days of Noah and their celebration manifests “how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time” (Genesis 6:5). Their celebration is an antitype of Christmas, but their joy turns to terror.

But after the three and a half days a breath of life from God entered them, and they stood on their feet, and terror struck those who saw them. Then they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, “Come up here.” And they went up to heaven in a cloud, while their enemies looked on (Revelation 11:12).

Those who hold to a Mid-Tribulation Rapture of the Church place it here, seeing the two witnesses’ resurrection and ascension as symbolic of the Church being caught up to heaven. If the two witnesses are Moses and Elijah, they might picture the bodily resurrection and ascension of the OT saints at this time; and possibly the martyred Tribulation saints as well. At this point, Amillennialists envision the Church meeting Christ in the air as He returns to destroy the present heavens and earth.

Historicists hold that Martin Luther nailed his Ninety-five Thesis to the Wittenberg church door on October 31, 1517, precisely three years and 180 days (one half of a 360-day year) from the Fifth Lateran Council on May 5, 1514, and thus, the Reformation church stood to its feet.

A SEVERE EARTHQUAKE AND REVIVAL (11:13). At that very hour, there was a severe earthquake and a tenth of the city collapsed. Seven thousand people were killed in the earthquake, and the survivors were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven. The earthquake could signify the opening graves of OT saints or martyred Tribulation saints (cf. Matthew 28:2).

The seven thousand might imply the full and complete destruction of the hardhearted in Jerusalem prior to the conversion of Israel. In 586 B.C., the opposite happened when God removed the righteous by death prior to His judgment (Isaiah 57:1-2). A reversal of the Rapture takes place at the end of the Tribulation (Matthew 24:40-41). Those left behind enter the Millennial Kingdom.

Historicists hold the severe earthquake symbolizes the political convulsion that rocked Europe after the Reformation.

Preterists associated the severe earthquake with the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70.

Idealists see the severe earthquake as the very eve of the final judgment, being the same as the great earthquake under the seventh bowl at the end of Daniel’s Seventy Seven (Revelation 16:17-21).

Futurists literally see a severe earthquake in Jerusalem that results in multitudes giving glory to the God of heaven. This glory is a realization that Christ is Lord, not the Antichrist. It is reasonable this verse pictures the conversion of all Israel at the middle of the Tribulation Period. This could be the final event before Israel’s eyes are opened to see Christ, whom they have pierced (Zechariah 12:10-13:9; Romans 11:25-27).

Now the promises of the New Covenant are fulfilled (Deuteronomy 30:6; Isaiah 59:20-21; Jeremiah 31:31-34; Ezekiel 36:24-27; 39:29; Joel 2:28-32) as God answers the prophet’s prayer on behalf of Israel: “In wrath remember mercy” (Habakkuk 3:2).

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