The Two Witnesses

Revelation 11:3-6
The End Times

In my last post, we began to explore Revelation 11 by examining verses 1-2 dealing with The Temple Measured.  In this post, we examine Revelation 11:3-6 dealing with the Two Witnesses.  [I must confess that this is one on my favorite passages in the Bible.  The Good Guys get to zap the bad guys.]

‘“Also, I will give power to my two witnesses; and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, dressed in sackcloth.” 4 These are the two olive trees and the two menorahs standing before the Lord of the earth. 5 If anyone tries to do them harm, fire comes out of their mouth and consumes their enemies — yes, if anyone tries to harm them, that is how he must die. 6 They have the authority to shut up the sky so that no rain falls during the period of their prophesying; also, they have the authority to turn the waters into blood and to strike the earth with every kind of plague as often as they want.” ~ Revelation 11:3-6 (CJB)

The two witnesses’ prophesy in sackcloth during the same period that the Jerusalem will be trampled by the nations. They are identified as the two olive trees and the two menorahs as in Zechariah’s vision in Zechariah 4:1-14.

Who are the two witnesses?

Many historical, biblical figures have been mentioned. Some would say Sha’ul and Kefa, whose bodies at that time lay in the city of Rome. Others see them as the true church, which will bear witness to Yeshua throughout the Church age. The most common theories are that the witnesses are Elijah and Enoch or Elijah and Moses. In Malachi 3:1 and 4:5 we see a particular prophecy that suggests that Elijah will be sent “before the coming of the great and terrible Day of Adonai.” In one sense, this was fulfilled in John the Baptist (Matthew 11:13-14), but it may be that there is another fulfillment in the future. It is also interesting to note that Elijah did not die a physical death but was taken up into heaven in a fiery chariot (2 Kings 9-11). Elijah was a prophet to Israel. Many believe Moses to be the other witness along with Elijah. He appeared with Elijah during the Transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-8), and his body was protected by God (Jude 9). Enoch is a candidate for being one of the two witnesses because, like Elijah, he did not die but was taken up by God.

While the identity of the witnesses is a matter that is unclear at present, in time, it will become apparent. The heart of the matter is that God will provide witnesses ~ prophets who speak on His behalf, even during the most terrible time the earth will ever see.

God will provide divine protection for the witnesses during the 1,260 days (3½ years) during which they will prophesy. There will be many who will hate them and reject their warning messages. Those who try to harm them will be devoured by fire that comes from the witnesses’ mouths. The witnesses will also have the power to create a drought (like Elijah), turn water to blood, and start any plague (like Moses).

The city of Jerusalem has been trampled down by the nations from the time of the Babylonian captivity until 1948. This situation will continue will undoubtedly continue until the close of the Tribulation. Yeshua said, “Some will fall by the edge of the sword, others will be carried into all the countries of the Goyim, and Yerushalayim will be trampled down by the Goyim until the age of the Goyim has run its course.” ~ Luke 21:24 (CJB)

A Layman’s Commentary has produced a chart that looks at the 1,260 days in Daniel, Matthew, and Revelation.  Click here for the chart.

David Stern offers some interesting commentary on this passage: [1]

So then, who are the two witnesses? Often, they are said to be Moses and Elijah, since these appeared with Yeshua at the Transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-8). The problem with this understanding is that the witnesses must die (v. 7), and human beings die only once (Hebrews 9:27).

The case for Elijah is a good one. He has not yet died (2 Kings 2:1, 9-12), he is expected to return before the Messiah comes (Malachi 3:23-24(4:5-6)), and he has already shut up the sky, so that no rain falls (1 Kings 17:1, 18:42-45; Luke 4:25; James 5:17-18).

While Moses did turn the waters into blood and strike the earth with every kind of plague (Exodus 7:17-12:30; 1 Samuel 4:8), Scripture says that he died, so that he cannot die again. Nevertheless, Jewish tradition is not satisfied to let him rest in peace. To prove he is still alive one Talmudic rabbi used the principle of interpretation called g’zerah shavah. The term means “analogy” (literally, “equal decision”) and operates by inferring that if a word has a particular meaning in one passage of Scripture, it must have the same meaning in a second passage. (The rabbis saw that this technique could easily be misused to reach conclusions contrary to Scripture and therefore prohibited its further use; only the instances cited by the early interpreters are recognized.)

In any case, perhaps only because Moses’ death was unusual (Deuteronomy 34:5-6; Jude 9), there is a popular belief that he and Elijah will return.

Besides Elijah, only one person has been taken into heaven without dying ~ Enoch (Genesis 5:21-24; Hebrews 11:5). Both lived before 500 BCE, and both were prophets. Since they have never died, they can yet undergo the death of v. 7. If the two witnesses are two literal persons and we are not dealing with a figurative expression, I (Stern) nominates Enoch and Elijah. [I agree with him and others as noted below.]

Fire comes out of their mouth and consumes their enemies. At Jeremiah 5:14, the prophet addresses Israel: “Therefore thus says Adonai, God of the armies of heaven: ‘Because you speak this word, I will make my words fire in your mouth, and this people wood, and it will consume them.'” See also 2 Kings 1:10, 12; Luke 9:54.

Special Comparative Note on Chapter 11:3-6 [2]

Historicist Approach:

Historicists believe that the Two Witnesses are symbolic of the long line of Believers during the 1,260 years of the papacy before the Reformation. On the fire and the rain, they refer to Jeremiah 5:14 and Deuteronomy 32:2 & Isaiah 55:10ff. The plagues are the calamities that fell upon the papacy from time to time when the true Believers were persecuted.

Preterist Approach:

Russell states that this passage represents “one of the most difficult problems contained in Scripture, and one that has exercised, we may even say baffled, the research and ingenuity of critics and commentators up to the present hour.” As to the identity of the two, Preterists waffle between Joshua and  Zerubbabel (Zechariah 4:11-14); Moses and Elijah; and, James and Kefa.

Futurist Approach:

Most Futurists believe that the Two Witnesses appear in the second half of the seven-year Tribulation.  As to their identity, most Futurists opine that they are Moses and Elijah or Enoch and Elijah.

Idealist Approach:

Idealists believe that the Two Witnesses are symbolic of the church throughout history.  They rely on the scriptural imperative that it takes two witnesses to prove a case (John 8:17; Deuteronomy 17”6. 19:15; Matthew 18:16).  Clothed in sackcloth represents a message of repentance.  As to their identity, they align with the Preterists.

In my next post, we will explore Revelation 11:7-10 dealing with The Death of the Two Witnesses.

Click here for PDF version.

[1] Jewish New Testament Commentary.

[2] Material in this post is taken from “Revelation: Four Views, Revised & Updated” by Steve Gregg. Notations in brackets, if any, are my comments.

3 Replies to “The Two Witnesses”

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: