In our last lesson, we talked about the seven trumpets of Revelation. We skipped over the arrival of the two witnesses so we could discuss them more in-depth this week. Please visit www.rebootreligion.com for previous lessons. Fair warning: I have several years worth of blog posts on there. So, if you are only looking for these lessons they should be fairly easy to locate in the recent article lists.
“And I will grant authority to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth.” Revelation 11:3
Not much is said in Revelation about the two witnesses. Their ministry takes place during the second woe and their ministry is described in Revelation 11:1-14. There are several theories on the identity of the two witnesses:
- Symbolic of a convicting testimony. Not literally two people. Based on Deuteronomy 19:15.
- Two real, literal, but unknown men.
- Enoch and Elijah – Two Bible figures who were taken to Heaven without experiencing death.
- Moses and Elijah – Moses instead of Enoch because of his ability to bring plagues.
- Symbolic of martyrs
- Symbolic of jews and gentiles united as one church body. (two lamp stands and two olive trees)
- One person who is a jewish pope (based on description written in singular in scripture)
- Husband and wife prophets (based on singular description and Biblical marriage)
In verse 4, the two witnesses are described as two olive trees and two lamp stands. As we have studied before, these descriptions have significance. What are the olive trees? What are the lamp stands?
In Zechariah 4, the olive trees are shown standing by a lamp stand supplying it with oil. Two branches from those trees are described as the two anointed ones who stand by the Lord (v. 14). In scripture, olive trees have been symbolic of Israel and the church (Jeremiah 11:16-17 and Romans 11:17-27). We have already seen that lamp stands represent the church. Some say, therefore, that the olive trees may represent the law and the prophets. Others suggest they represent the Old Testament and the New Testament. The two witnesses (evangelists) are fed by scripture and truth.
The two witnesses are described as being able to strike down their enemies with fire from their mouths. This is not a Godzilla movie, so what does fire from the mouth represent?
In our Acts study from a few years ago, we saw tongues of fire associated with Pentecost and, in general, fire from the mouth has been associated with powerful preaching and prophecy—traits specifically attributed to the two witnesses. In Acts, people are said to be struck to the heart (soul) by the powerful preaching and truth spoken by Peter. So, rather than blowing fire like Godzilla, or Gene Simmons, preaching here could be interpreted to physically destroy their enemies with the power of God’s truth.
Therefore, this is what the LORD God of Heaven’s Armies says: “Because the people are talking like this, my messages will flame out of your mouth and burn the people like kindling wood. – Jeremiah 5:15
The ministry of the two witnesses lasts for 42 months, or 1260 days (the Jewish calendar only has 30 days in a month). This is often related by to the prophecy of Daniel’s 70 weeks, which you can read about in Daniel chapter 9.
The beast (antichrist) wages war against the two witnesses and kills them after their testimony is complete. Their bodies are left to rot in the streets—in the city that symbolizes Egypt and Sodom where Jesus was crucified— for three days while the fallen world cheers and watches. Scripture tells us that people actually give each other presents to celebrate their deaths.
“But after the three and a half days a breath of life from God entered them, and they stood up on their feet, and great fear fell on 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, and their enemies watched them. And at that hour there was a great earthquake, and a tenth of the city fell. Seven thousand people were killed in the earthquake, and the rest were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven.” Revelation 11:11-13
After this, the Bible tells us that the second woe has passed and the third is coming. The 7th trumpet blows and the second coming takes place. See how these things overlap?
“and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already.” 1 John 4:3
So far, we have only tangentially talked about the beast and the antichrist. However, we have just read that they are active and kill the witnesses. During the first half of the seven years, he is coming to power with a promise of peace. Many say that the temple in Jerusalem is rebuilt during the first three years of the tribulation period because of his peace treaty.
Who, or what, is the antichrist? Some say he is a man from a revived Roman empire. Others say he is a middle eastern ruler. Through the years, many have claimed the Pope to be the antichrist. John, above, speaks of a spirit of antichrist implying that there will be many who embrace a false teaching and are against Jesus. Paul, in 2 Thessalonians 2, speaks of a man of sin, a liar and deceiver. Daniel goes into depth describing him.
Scripturally, beast refers to kingdoms, specifically gentile kingdoms. While we personify the antichrist, he will likely be a man (ruler) and also a government system.
When we get to chapter 13 of Revelation, we will read more about this manifestation of evil and cross reference with the book of Daniel.