THE 2 WITNESSES OF REVELATION  


 

THE TWO WITNESSES OF REVELATION 11

Just as there was a herald for the arrival of the Messiah at His first advent, there will be one for the second advent. But at the second advent there will be two heralds.

The first herald will be a resuscitated Elijah.
Malachi 3:1a predicts the coming of the first advent herald who was John the dipper.

"Behold, I am going to send My messenger,
and he will clear the way before Me."

This is clear from Mark 1:2 where Mal. 3:1 is quoted in reference to John. Isaiah 40:3 is also quoted as fulfilled in John. This is confirmed at Mat. 3:1-3,

"for this is the one referred to by Isaiah the Prophet. ."

Malachi 3:1b continues,

"And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to His temple;"

This indicates that the arrival of Messiah will occur in close proximity to the ministry of the herald. Now although, this second part of the verse is never quoted in the New Testament, it is probable that we can find a preliminary fulfillment in the abrupt manner in which Jesus presented Himself to the nation of Israel during His ministry. He did indeed "come suddenly to His temple," as suggested - -

1. At the beginning of His ministry: John 2:13-22

2. At the conclusion of His ministry: Mat. 21:12-13

 

However, based on the text following Malachi 3:1b, the direct fulfillment of this phrase, "The Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to His temple," refers to the arrival of the Messiah at the Day of the LORD. Verses 1-3 continue, "that is, the Messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight, behold, He is coming, says Yahweh of the armies."

"But who can endure the day of His coming?
And who can stand when He appears?
For He is like a refiner's fire and launderer's soap.
And He will sit as a smelter and purifier of silver,"

 

This did not happen at the first advent of the Messiah, but it is at the 2nd advent when He comes to pour out the wrath of the Godhead upon the kingdom of the beast and to purify the world so that He might bring into His earthly kingdom "the wheat" of Jews and Gentiles who become believers between the rapture and Armageddon.

Now back to the first advent arrival of the Messiah we discover that the nation, did not recognize either -

1. The herald: Mat. 21:32

2. Or the Messiah: Mat. 19:44

 

They did of course know about the prophecy but rejected its application to John and Jesus. Jesus however clarified it to them at Mat. 11:7-15.
Here, He associates John's ministry with the prophecy concerning Elijah at verse 14,

"and if you care to accept it, he himself was Elijah who is to come."

But that association is based on similarity of ministry and not equation.
He is exhorting them to recognize the difference between the first and second comings of the Messiah, "he who has ears, let him hear," (verse 15) and trust in Jesus as the Messiah.

Gabriel shows this association in his message to Zacharias, John's father at Luke 1:16-17.
And Zacharias himself, later taught it as recorded at Luke 1:76-77.

 

Malachi records another prophecy of a herald for the Messiah.

Malachi 4:5 says,

"Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet
before the coming of the great and terrible Day of the Lord."

However, John was not the fulfillment of Malachi 4:5-6. Jesus makes two statements at Mat. 17:11-12, to clarify this.

V. 11, "Elijah is coming."

This is still future and refers to the arrival of Elijah as a herald to the Messiah's second advent.

V. 12, "But I say to you that Elijah has already come."

This refers to John's ministry, "in the spirit and power of Elijah," but does not, indeed, cannot fulfill Mal. 4:5-6.

 

What then of the future coming of Elijah?

As already indicated, that coming will be directly related to the coming of the Day of the Lord. There is an event recorded at Matthew 16:27 through 17:8 which is crucial for understanding the future coming of Elijah.

At Mat. 16:27, Jesus says,

"For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels,
and will then recompense every man according to his deeds."

This statement correlated with all that has been taught to God's people up until this time, refers to the Day of the Lord return of the Messiah.
It is at this time that He will

1. Deliver His elect from their affliction: Mat. 10:21-23

2. Evaluate their deeds. Mat. 16:27

3. Administrate divine justice on those left in the world. Ezek. 30:3

4. And establish his earthly reign. Daniel 7:14, 22

 

He then tells the disciples a very strange thing at verse 28.

"There are some standing here who will not taste of (physical) death
until they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom."

The term, "coming in His kingdom," refers to the second advent presence of Jesus in resurrection glory to establish His 1000 year reign upon the earth.

This strange prediction is fulfilled 6 days later when He takes Peter, James and John up onto a mountain and appears to them in the manner He will appear at His second coming. This is recorded at Mat. 17:1-8. We know that this fulfills the words of Jesus at Mat. 16:28 because Peter tells us so at 2 Peter 1:16-18.

Verse 16,

"For we did not follow cleverly devised fables
when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ,
but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty."

 

At Matthew 17:2, it says that Jesus was "transformed" before them.
He appeared the way He will look in his resurrection glory which is called, "the body of His glory," at Philip. 3:21.

Then Moses and Elijah appeared with Jesus, "in glory," according to Luke 9:31. "In glory," refers to their radiance in association with Christ's glory. Neither Moses or Elijah have a resurrection body, so that is not in view. But they did not appear in their "old" bodies either. There is evidence that the soul has a visible appearance that resembles the "image" of the physical body that was its "house" while on earth (Luke 16:23; 1 Sam. 28:10-14)

How the disciples knew it was Moses and Elijah is not indicated and there is no point in trying to figure it out. Obviously, there was a valid identification made.

They were also carrying on a conversation with Jesus about "His departure which He was about to accomplish in Jerusalem (Luke 9:31)." That departure refers to the sacrifice on the cross and the subsequent resurrection and exit from the earth via His ascension 40 days after the resurrection. The conversation also probably entailed everything that would result from that sacrifice and looked forward to His return at the Day of the Lord which God "will make known at His own time (1 Tim. 6:15)."

Based on the appearance of these two men here with Jesus in a foreshadowing of His second coming, we can conclude that Moses is also a herald of that coming. There is no prediction of this for Moses as there is for Elijah, but because of the association presented here, it seems best to conclude that the two of them function together in the capacity spoken of in reference to Elijah at Malachi 4:6, "And he will restore the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers."

But how can either of these men come back and minister on the earth?

First, it is no trick for God to bring back to life one who has died. Abraham's understanding of this is quoted for us at Heb. 11:19, "having concluded that God is able to raise up even the dead." And Lazarus is a prime example of this (John 11:17-44). But of course, Lazarus was only 4 days dead and we are speaking of those who have been dead for many centuries.

Actually, this is no problem if God has preserved and protected the physical bodies of those involved. Probably no problem even if the bodies had been incinerated, but we do have specific information that the body of Moses was protected (Jude 9). It is quite interesting that only three people in the entire history of Mankind went through physical death apart from the normal mechanics; Enoch (Heb. 11:5), Moses (Deut. 34:5-7), and Elijah (2 Kings 2:11-12).

Furthermore we have specific information concerning the protection of the body of Moses after his soul left. Jude verse 9 tells us that Michael the Archangel was given the responsibility to place the body of Moses in a place for safe keeping and preservation to await its role in the last days. The soul of course, went to paradise in hades (Luke 16:22) as did all Old Testament believers at death, including Enoch and Elijah. None of these men either received a resurrection body, or ascended into heaven.

Jesus is the only one to have received a resurrection body and no one else will until the Day of the Lord return of Jesus (1 Cor. 15:20-23). In addition, no one had ascended into heaven prior to the resurrection and ascension of Jesus (John 3:13), at which time He took to heaven all Old Testament believers who resided in Hades (Eph. 4:8-9).

In view of God's preservation of the body of Moses, it is easy to see the same preservation assigned to Elijah's body. Thus, it is totally possible for these two men to be resuscitated at the end time to fulfill the ministry foreshadowed at the Mount of Transfiguration; the ministry of Elijah prophesied to occur prior to the coming of the Day of the Lord as recorded at Malachi 4:5-6. There is no need for the body of Enoch to be protected and preserved since there is not even a hint of a future role for him. It is suggested that his body was simply "buried" by God to await resurrection at the Day of the Lord return of Jesus.

Now, can we find fulfillment of this prophesied ministry in an end times context? I am suggesting that the two witnesses of Rev. 11 fulfill this prophecy. The two witnesses of Rev. 11:3-7, are not only testifying about the things of God to the whole world (Rev. 11:9-10), but minister specifically BEFORE and after the arrival of the Day of the Lord.

Furthermore, when describing these two witnesses, they are characterized by actions which are Biblically and traditionally associated with Moses and Elijah.

Rev. 11:6,

"These have the authority to shut up the sky,
in order that rain may not fall during the days of their prophesying;
and they have authority over the waters to turn them into blood,
and to smite the earth with every plague as often as they desire."

It has been suggested that this verse indicates that the two witnesses are omnipresent, since they seem to have jurisdiction over the whole earth. However, this does not say that they are "present" everywhere, but that they have "authority" (exousia) to smite the earth. This simply indicates that where ever they are, they have the authority and power to administrate divine judgment over the ones who persecute them. And even if their ministry is limited to Israel (which is quite possible) they have authority to "reach" to anywhere on the earth to defend their cause. Indeed, verses 9-10 indicate that their jurisdiction extends worldwide, but it does not require an omnipresence idea.

When their ministry is completed, the beast will "make war with them, and overcome them and kill them," (Verse7).

It has been suggested that the term, "make war" indicates a massive campaign against a "group" or "corporate body" rather than against two individuals. The reasoning is that the word, "polemos," which is used here, refers to a whole series of battles rather than a "limited" campaign. However the word polemos is used for a "single isolated engagement" in the NT at Rev. 19:19; 1 Cor. 14:8 and Luke 14:31. Not to mention the several times in the LXX: 3 Kingdoms (1 Kings) 22:34; 1 Mac. 4:13; 10:78.

Furthermore, even if the word usage were restricted to a "large" campaign, that would not mitigate against someone waging a "detailed" and drawn out campaign of aggression against an individual or two or a whole group. The same construction is used at Rev. 13:7 and 12:17 for making war with believers in general but the use of polemos does not mitigate against these two witnesses being two actual people.

As a result of this "warfare" waged against the two witnesses, they will be killed by the beast and their bodies will lie in a street of Jerusalem for 3 1/2 days. The city in view here is called "the great city" and although Jerusalem is never called "great" elsewhere, That need not be a problem, for it is indeed "allegorically" designated as Sodom (Isaiah 1:9-10; 3:9; Jer. 23:14; Ezek. 16:46, 49). And it is indeed, the city where, the Lord was crucified. Someone has argued against this referring to Jerusalem because Jesus was actually crucified "outside" the city rather than in it. However, this reference does not state that Jesus was crucified IN Jerusalem, but simply AT Jerusalem. Nothing is violated by understanding the idea of "where" as designating the general geographical location.

After the bodies lie in the street for 3 1/2 days, they will be resuscitated again and then ascend "back" to heaven to take their place with the other martyrs of the beast who will be resurrected at the beginning of Messiah's earthly kingdom according to Rev. 20:4b.

It is true that if these two men are the two witnesses, then they will "miss out" on the resurrection of the elect which takes place at the Day of the Lord. But this is a sacrifice I would guess they are willing to make in order to participate in this very special aspect of God's plan of providing a final evangelistic outreach to the world prior to Armageddon.

Another issue is the disposition of their physical bodies. They physically ascend out of the sight of the people on earth, just like Elijah did in the Old Testament, but their bodies are not "resurrected" and do not go into heaven. The phrase, "into heaven," at verse 12 simply indicates going up into the sky, as has been shown elsewhere. The bodies would be taken somewhere and protected by God (just like He did with Moses the first time), and their souls would return to heaven to await the resurrection of the Day of the Lord martyrs.

Someone might reject this application to the two witnesses for the very reason that Moses and Elijah would not be included with Israel at the resurrection, but God can and has made many exceptions to His plan as the years have gone by and this is not a hurdle that concerns me.

It has been suggested that these two witnesses are other than two individuals. From the perspective of the "Golden Rule of Interpretation," this option is not viable.

GOLDEN RULE OF INTERPRETATION

When the plain sense of scripture makes common sense,
seek no other sense; therefore, take every word at its primary,
ordinary, usual, literal meaning unless the facts of the immediate context,
studied in the light of related passages and axiomatic and fundamental truths,
indicate clearly otherwise.

 

Although there is an abundance of symbolism employed in the book of The Revelation, there is no clear or even implied indication that the characteristics ascribed to these two witnesses, should be taken in any other way than "ordinary, usual, literal."

1. Clothed in sackcloth - v. 3

2. Dead bodies in the street - v. 8

(the fact that the word "BODY" is singular instead of plural, does not mitigate against the idea that these are two individuals. The plural designation is preserved by the use of the plural pronoun, "their." We must not try to understand "number" in Greek grammar from the perspective of English grammar but according to Greek usage. It is quite normal to use a singular word and indicate its plurality by using a plural pronoun.)

3. Not permit their dead bodies to be laid in a tomb - v. 9

4. Stood on their feet - v. 11

5. Even the fact that "they will prophesy" - v. 3

 

It is therefore unacceptable from my perspective that these two witnesses "symbolize" ANY thing other than two literal individuals. Suggestions such as the church, Israel, the word, the Spirit, or anything else are totally inadequate and violate the "individualistic" flavor employed in describing them.

The three symbolic factors ascribed to these witnesses must be viewed as subordinate to the identification of them as two individuals.

The first two symbols assigned to these witnesses are the "lampstand" and the "olive tree."

The olive tree ALWAYS speaks of oil. Oil primarily was used to "anoint" someone when they had a specific job to do. Sometimes "oil" speaks of the Holy Spirit, so this factor must be considered. The best example of this symbolism is found at Zech. 4:2-14 where we see the two leaders of restored Israel, Zerubbabel and Joshua, in about 520 BC.

V. 11 asks, what are these 2 olive trees?

and v. 14, the answer: these are the two "sons of oil" (which designates them as "anointed ones") who are standing by the Lord of the whole earth. That is, they are anointed with a specific job to do in ministering to the nation of Israel.

It is also significant that we have a lampstand and 7 lamps here which speak of some aspect of Divine provision as indicated at v.6, "not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit."

Is it not most likely then, that the lampstand speaks of "witness" via the power of the Holy Spirit? And that it is used that way in connection with the 7 churches also (for notice at Rev. 2:5, "I will remove your lampstand out of its place, unless you repent." Ie, their witness will be removed, perhaps the church even destroyed)?

The lampstand then, simply reflects the idea that all believers are to be "lights of (to) the world," (Philip. 2:15; Mat. 5:14-16) and fulfill their responsibility as ambassadors for Christ. These two witnesses just have a very specialized ministry as heralds to the 2nd coming of the Messiah and catalysts for bringing the nation of Israel back into a right relationship with God (Mal. 4:6) as they "prophesy" right up to the very end of the 70th week.

 

Thus - the 2 witnesses are:

1. Anointed (commissioned) by God to testify for 1260 days.

2. Specially provisioned to be "lights to the world."

 

The second symbolic factor concerning these witnesses is the term, "Fire from the mouth."

Verse 5,

"And if anyone desires to harm them,
fire proceeds out of their mouth and devours their enemies;"

 

This is adequately explained by John F. Walvoord in his commentary on Revelation, page 180.

"Verses 5 and 6 record the miraculous powers given to the two witnesses. Anyone who attempts to hurt them will be destroyed by fire proceeding our of their mouths. This is at once a judgment of God upon their enemies and a means of protection of the two witnesses, so that on one can lay a hand on them. A parallel is found in the prophetic ministry of Elijah, who on two occasions called fire from heaven upon the company of fifty soldiers sent to arrest him. . . (2 Kings 1). In a similar way, the enemies of Moses were destroyed (Num. 16:35)."

 

Concerning the suggestion that Enoch is one of the two witnesses, it need only be pointed out that the presence of Moses and Elijah with Jesus at the Mount of Transfiguration (Mat. 17) in a 2nd coming context, gives Moses "the nod" in choosing between the two; as well as the miracle activities ascribed to them at Rev. 11:6.

In conclusion, let me say that the identification of these two witnesses "before the fact" is not important and certainly not a reason for contention. I simply feel that when all the pertinent passages are considered and correlated, Moses and Elijah come forth strong and clear as the two witnesses of Revelation chapter 11.


Your comments and questions are always welcome!

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İRon Wallace, http://www.biblefragrances.com. Anyone is free to reproduce this material and distribute it,
but it may not be sold under any circumstances whatsoever without the author's consent.

 

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