The Vindication of the Two Witnesses

Revelation 11:11-14
The End Times

In my last post, we explored Revelation 11:7-10 dealing with the execution of the Two Witnesses.  In this post, we examine their Vindication.

“But after the three-and-a-half days a breath of life from God entered them, they stood up on their feet, and great fear fell on those who saw them. 12 Then the two heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, “Come up here!” And they went up into heaven in a cloud, while their enemies watched them. 13 In that hour there was a great earthquake, and a tenth of the city collapsed. Seven thousand people were killed in the earthquake, and the rest were awestruck and gave glory to the God of heaven. 14 The second woe has passed; see, the third woe is coming quickly.” ~ Revelation 11:11-14 (CJB)

After 3½ days (notice the similarity to Yeshua’s time in the tomb), God will breathe life into them. I’ve tried to wrap my mind around yet another resurrection scene to no avail. Their resurrection will bring terror to the earth. Shortly after they come to life, they will be called up to heaven and ascend in a cloud while the world watches (note the similarity with Acts 1:9 and Revelation 4:1). A violent earthquake that kills 7,000 people will follow the ascension of the witnesses.

But after the three-and-a-half days a breath of life from God entered them, they stood up on their feet, and great fear fell on those who saw them. 12 Then the two heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, “Come up here!” And they went up into heaven in a cloud, while their enemies watched them. Can you imagine this scene? All the major television networks and news channels throughout the world are there; their cameras are running, and suddenly, these men come alive! A voice from heaven is heard proclaiming Come up here. The two witnesses then ascend into the sky. Wouldn’t it be something to hear our worldly news commentators trying to explain this electrifying event to an unbelieving world? Think about that; it won’t be Fake News!

The Word of Adonai is powerful (Isaiah 55:10-11; Hebrews 1:3) and indestructible (Isaiah 40:8; 1 Kefa 1:23-25); it cannot be silenced by killing those who speak it.

Mid-tribulationists base much of their view on these verses. They believe that the church is raptured after three and a half years of the Tribulation, at the sounding of the seventh trumpet (which occurs in 11:15; see also 1 Corinthians 15:52). According to this view, the church will face persecution for the first three and a half years of the seven-year Tribulation period (Daniel 7:25; 9:27). In the second half of the Tribulation, the Anti-Messiah and those who chose to follow him will be the target of God’s wrath. Mid-tribulationists also believe that the book of Revelation is chronological so that this rapture will occur halfway through the years of tribulation.

The pre-tribulationists take the voice from heaven in 4:1 telling Yochanan to come up here to be a reference to the rapture of the believers. Mid-tribulationists see the Two Witnesses as representing the believers being raptured at the midpoint of the Tribulation, calling the two witnesses to come up. That they go up to heaven in a cloud compares to 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17, “For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a rousing cry, with a call from one of the ruling angels, and with God’s shofar; those who died united with the Messiah will be the first to rise; then we who are left still alive will be caught up with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air; and thus we will always be with the Lord.” In a sense, Malachi 4:5 will be fulfilled again: “Look, I will send to you Eliyahu the prophet before the coming of the great  nd terrible Day of Adonai.” The first time, Yochanan the Immerser fulfilled Malachi’s prophecy as the forerunner of the first coming of the Messiah; in this case, it is satisfied again as another like Elijah is a forerunner of the second coming of the Messiah.

They went up to heaven in a cloud, not only like Yeshua (Acts 1:9-11) but also, according to Josephus, like Moshe. Notice how Josephus deals with the contrary witness of Deuteronomy 34:5-6:

“As [Moshe] was going to embrace El’azar [the Cohen HaGadol] and Y’hoshua [bin-Nun], while he was still talking with them, all of a sudden a cloud stood over him, and he disappeared in a certain valley ~ although he wrote in the holy books that he died. This he did out of fear that people might say that because of his extraordinary virtue he went to God.” (Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews 4:8:48) [1]

In that hour there was a great earthquake, and a tenth of the city collapsed. Seven thousand people were killed in the earthquake, and the rest were awestruck and gave glory to the God of heaven. Great joy has been exchanged for great fear as God brings judgment upon the populace of Jerusalem. A tenth of the city is destroyed; 7,000 people are killed; no doubt thousands will experience injury to some degree. The remnant in fear, not faith, turns to give glory to God. A great earthquake occurred when the sixth seal was opened (Revelation 6:12), and there will be a greater one when the seventh vial is poured out (Revelation 16:18-20).

An earthquake is a frequent form of judgment in the Last Days (Revelation 6:12, 8:5, 11:19, 16:18; Ezekiel 38:19-20). The result, for the survivors, is nothing less than salvation, the fulfillment of God’s promise through Sha’ul that all Israel will be saved (Romans 11:26a). Jews ask for signs (1 Corinthians 1:22). At Matthew 16:1-4, the P’rushim asked Yeshua for a sign, but he promised none except the sign of Jonah, whose being vomited from the stomach of the fish is a type of resurrection. The Two Witnesses’ resurrection and ascension, along with the simultaneous earthquake (in that hour), are correctly understood by the Jewish people as signs from God ~ the rest were awestruck.

Even while grieved at the death of 7,000 people, they handled their pain in God’s way (2 Corinthians 7:10) ~ it led them to repentance so that they gave glory to the God of heaven. Throughout the book of Revelation, only those in a right relationship with God give him glory (Revelation 1:6; 4:9, 11; 5:12-13; 7:12; 15:4; 19:1, 7). Conversely, those who are not in a right relationship with God glorify themselves (Revelation 18:7) instead of God (Revelation 14:7, 16:9) ~ compare the hardened pagans of Romans 1:21: “Although they know who God is, they do not glorify him as God or thank him.” This mass repentance breaks the back of the Jewish national establishment’s centuries-long opposition to the Gospel. May it come speedily, in our days.

The second woe has passed; see, the third woe is coming quickly.  The flying eagle had warned of three woes to come upon the earth (Revelation 8:13). The first woe was recorded in 9:1-12; the second woe in 9:13-21 and 11:1-13. The third woe is coming quickly. Most likely, Revelation 11:18 hints at the third woe which will include the battle of Armageddon ~ the final battle between God and Satan. This will begin when the angel sounds the Seventh Shofar.

Special Comparative Note on Chapter 11:7-10 [2]

Historicist Approach:

Historicists see the three-and-a-half days as three and one-half years from May 5, 1514, the date that the Fifth Lateran Council declared that there was an end of resistance to Papal rule until October 31, 1517 [500 years ago this year] when Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the Wittenberg church.  They also see the Reformation as a resurrection of the true church.  The great earthquake is a reference to the political upheaval that rocked Europe during the Reformation. The seven thousand killed represented provinces or countries that broke away from Rome, including Holland, Zealand, Utrecht, Friesland, Groningen, Overyssel, and Guilderland.

Preterist Approach:

Clifton associates the death and resurrection of the Two Witnesses with the death of Yeshua Himself.  Preterists associate the great earthquake with the fall of Jerusalem.

Futurist Approach:

Futurists take the literal view of the resurrection and ascension. They are divided over the effect of the great earthquake indicating anywhere from none, some or a significant number of the remnant of Jews will come to faith as a result.

Idealist Approach:

Idealists view the resurrection and ascension symbolically fulfilled in connection with Yeshua’s Second Coming. The great earthquake is symbolic of the alarming happenings on the eve of the final judgment.

In my next post, we will explore Revelation 11:15-19 dealing with The Seventh Shofar.

Click here for PDF version.

[1] Jewish New Testament Commentary by David Stern.

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

The Death of the Two Witnesses

Revelation 11:7-10
The End Times

In my last post, we explored Revelation 11:3-6 dealing with the Two Witnesses.  In this post, we examine Revelation 11:7-10 dealing with their execution.

“When they finish their witnessing, the beast coming up out of the Abyss will fight against them, overcome them and kill them; 8 and their dead bodies will lie in the main street of the great city whose name, to reflect its spiritual condition, is “S’dom” and “Egypt” — the city where their Lord was executed on a stake. 9 Some from the nations, tribes, languages, and peoples see their bodies for three-and-a-half days and do not permit the corpses to be placed in a tomb. 10 The people living in the Land rejoice over them, they celebrate and send each other gifts, because these two prophets tormented them so.  ~ Revelation 11:7-10 (CJB)

After the 1,260 days, the beast from the Abyss will attack and kill them in the same city where Yeshua was crucified. This is the first time that the beast is mentioned in Revelation. We will discuss the identity of the beast and abyss momentarily.

The bodies of the witnesses will lie in the streets for three and one-half days, and some from the nations, tribes, languages, and peoples see their bodies …do not permit the corpses to be placed in a tomb.  Today’s global communications could easily make it possible for every person around the world to see the witnesses’ dead bodies. People will be celebrating their death.

When they finish their witnessing, the beast coming up out of the Abyss will fight against them, overcome them and kill them.  Notice carefully that divine protection was with the two witnesses until they finish their witnessing. God watches over and protects His children if they are doing the work He called them to do. What might appear from our vantage point as God cutting off a life prematurely, might, from God’s point of view, simply be the individuals have completed the function on this earth for which God placed them.

And their dead bodies will lie in the main street of the great city whose name, to reflect its spiritual condition, is “S’dom” and “Egypt” — the city where their Lord was executed on a stake. There is no question but that the city referred to is Jerusalem. However, it is depicted as “S’dom” and “Egypt.”  S’dom is where sexual sin and misuse of people were rife (Genesis 19). Egypt is where false religion, hatred of the one true God and antisemitism flourished (Exodus 1-15).

Some from the nations, tribes, languages, and peoples see their bodies for three-and-a-half days and do not permit the corpses to be placed in a tomb. 10 The people living in the Land rejoice over them, they celebrate and send each other gifts, because these two prophets tormented them so. The Gentiles are so hostile to God, His Word and His Prophets that they prevent the burial of the two witnesses whose bodies lie exposed in the main street of Jerusalem to dogs and flies, and, more importantly, to shame.

The people living in the Land refers here not to the pagans of the earth, as elsewhere in Revelation, but to Jews residing in Israel. Yochanan foresees a time when Jewish opposition to the Gospel is intensified by the appearance of these two prophets. From the point of view of Believers, they evangelize the non-Messianic Jews of the Land, testifying to Yeshua and proclaiming the Good News. But the non-Messianic Jews’ evaluation is that the two prophets tormented them. For this reason, they not only reject the witnesses’ message but, instead of sitting shiv’ah (Yochanan 11:19-20), they celebrate and send each other gifts ~ like the Jews of Shushan after slaying Haman’s sons (Esther 9:22). The difference, of course, is that Haman and his sons were truly oppressors, whereas the Messiah’s witnesses offer deliverance.

The Beast and the Abyss

Since this is the first mention of the beast in Revelation, we need to look at who or what this might be.  Yochanan has previously identified the beast in 1 Yochanan 2:18-19 as the Anti-Messiah.  He goes on to describe the beast in more detail in Revelation 13:1-18.  This is the first of thirty-six references to this person in this book. He is also mentioned in other places in the Bible. Daniel described the Beast as a little horn, who would speak arrogantly (Daniel 7:8-27). The Anti-Messiah would blasphemously set himself against God by persecuting Believers and defiling the Lord’s holy place (Daniel 9:27; 11:20-39). Yeshua also predicted a sacrilegious figure who would terrorize God’s people (Mark 13:14, 20). Sha’ul wrote of a man of lawlessness who would seek to dethrone God and use Satan’s power to deceive people (2 Thessalonians 2:3-4, 9-10). Yochanan is the only biblical writer to use the term Anti-Messiah,” described as an opponent of the Messiah (1 Yochanan 2:18, 22; 4:3; 2 Yochanan 7).

This Beast comes up from the Abyss, which represents the satanic underworld (see also Revelation17:8). The Abyss, or bottomless pit, was the place from which the demonic locusts had come to attack the people on the earth (9:1-12). The Anti-Messiah is the epitome of the evil perversions and wickedness that are present in every age. This is a foreshadowing – later, the Beast will be called up out of the Abyss (the sea, 13:1).

Special Comparative Note on Chapter 11:7-10 [1]

Historicist Approach:

Recall that Historicists believe that the witnesses were symbolic of the true church and pointed to the beginning of the intensive effort by Pope Innocent III in the twelfth century to exterminate every trace of resistance to papal authority.  Papal decree denied Christian burial for heretics.

Preterist Approach:

Preterists, like Idealists, don’t have much to say about this passage.

Futurist Approach:

Most Futurists believe the beast is the Anti-Messiah. They note that he has no power over the Two Witnesses until they complete their mission of preaching repentance.

Idealist Approach:

See note above for Preterists.

In my next post, we will explore Revelation 11:11-14 dealing with The Vindication of the Two Witnesses.

Click here for PDF version.

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

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.