Recently I sat through a “teaching” on Revelation 11, and everything pastor spoke about was a type or symbol of something else, primarily the Church. He even defined the two witnesses as the church and told us how their death for three and one half days represents our completeness and migration into eternity. My grandpa taught me a southern phrase I think appropriately describes this sermon, Hog Wash.
That being said, let's tear it apart and see what we get.
Revelation 11:3-12 ESV And I will grant authority to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth." (4) These are the two olive trees and the two lamp stands that stand before the Lord of the earth. (5) And if anyone would harm them, fire pours from their mouth and consumes their foes. If anyone would harm them, this is how he is doomed to be killed. (6) They have the power to shut the sky, that no rain may fall during the days of their prophesying, and they have power over the waters to turn them into blood and to strike the earth with every kind of plague, as often as they desire. (7) And when they have finished their testimony, the beast that rises from the bottomless pit will make war on them and conquer them and kill them, (8) and their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city that symbolically is called Sodom and Egypt, where their Lord was crucified. (9) For three and a half days some from the peoples and tribes and languages and nations will gaze at their dead bodies and refuse to let them be placed in a tomb, (10) and those who dwell on the earth will rejoice over them and make merry and exchange presents, because these two prophets had been a torment to those who dwell on the earth. (11) 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. (12) 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.
I work on the principle that the bible is essentially a Jewish book, therefore I have to apply a Jewish understanding to grasp what is going on. It is not that difficult, it is just that we either do not teach people that, or we function under the false premise that God has replaced Israel.
Matthew records Jesus as saying:
Matthew 5:17 ESV "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.
If anything, the Mosaic law was fulfilled, therefore complete. Sin was paid for in the cross and death of Jesus Christ. Life burst forth anew as Jesus rose from the dead. With the Mosaic law out of the picture, what is left? The Abrahamic covenant, God's promise to Israel; the promise made to Abraham and his seed after him. We have been made heirs to that promise through our faith in Jesus Christ.
Romans 4:13-16 MKJV For the promise that he should be the heir of the world was not to Abraham or to his seed through the Law, but through the righteousness of faith. (14) For if they of the Law are heirs, faith is made void and the promise is made of no effect; (15) because the Law works out wrath, for where no law is, there is no transgression. (16) Therefore it is of faith so that it might be according to grace; for the promise to be made sure to all the seed, not only to that which is of the Law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all
I do not know exactly where the idea came from, but something inspired me to consider that these two witnesses (prophets) show up at the beginning of the time of judgment; the seven-year period known as the time of Jacob's troubles. Why do I feel that way? The KJV gives me a clue in that they added a clarifying word, which we find in italics.
Revelation 11:3 KJV And I will give power unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days, clothed in sackcloth.
There it is, the word power, however the Greek does not give us that word. What then does it give us? The Greek word didōmi which also means to grant or bestow.
Now you have to ask, what is God bestowing on these two guys, and why? We see the things that God bestows in terms of power and effect, but I do not want go into that now.
As to the identity of the two witnesses:
I strongly suspect that we are talking about Elijah and Enoch for they are the only two that we understand to not have died while upon the earth. Some try to make a claim for Moses, but we have scripture indicating that Satan was contending for the body of Moses. You don't contend for something that does not exist, therefore I firmly believe that Moses died.
Jude 1:9 KJV Yet Michael the archangel, when contending with the devil he disputed about the body of Moses, durst not bring against him a railing accusation, but said, The Lord rebuke thee.
As to the arrival time of these two witnesses:
Things we know for certain:
- They prophecy 1260 days; that is 3 and 1/2 years.The time of judgment lasts 7 years, so there is a half way point.
- They slay those that would try to hurt them with fire that comes out of their mouths, and they have power over the earth in many ways; a predominant aspect is the control over the rain. This is hugely significant as the Muslim Jesus (Isa) does the same thing, but apparently not until these two are dead and gone. (This is a get real moment here. Do you believe that God will tolerate mimicry at this point in time? While it is possible, it is not probable. Therefore I do not think that a false prophet with the impact this guy has, will be doing his magic show while the two witnesses are alive on earth.)
Revelation 11:5-6 KJV And if any man will hurt them, fire proceeds out of their mouth, and devours their enemies: and if any man will hurt them, he must in this manner be killed. (6) These have power to shut heaven, that it rain not in the days of their prophecy: and have power over waters to turn them to blood, and to smite the earth with all plagues, as often as they will.
Their power and abilities take on a different dimension when you contrast them against the Islamic Jesus – the false prophet. He will be calling down fire as well, and the other hugely significant thing will be that he will cause it to rain. Why is that important? Because God's witnesses, have stopped the rain, at their will.
Take note also of the term “witnesses.” Are we not witnesses? As witnesses, what are we witnesses to? The life and power that is in Jesus Christ. So, these two witnesses will be doing the same thing. You should have begun to grasp something by this point, and that is that Satan has paralleled God with his deceptive imagery and personalities; this Islamic Jesus is no different.
As witnesses, these two are a demonstration of the power of God available to the believer in Christ Jesus. Yes, you understood me correctly. How do I know this? Look at what the prophet Joel had to say about the “believer” in the last days.
Joel 2:28-29 ESV "And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions. (29) Even on the male and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit.
If you consider yourself an astute student of the bible, then you would have read the context of this verse. Having done that, you now understand that Joel is prophesying about the last days of earth - the time during the seven-year period. And yet, Peter, stood addressing the crowd on the day of Pentecost, saying:
Acts 2:16-21 LITV But this is that which has been spoken by the prophet Joel, (17) "And it shall be" in the last days, God says, "I will pour from My Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy;" "and your young men shall see visions," "and your old men shall dream dreams;" (18) "and also I will pour out My Spirit on My slaves and slave women in those days," and they shall prophesy. (19) "And I will give wonders in the heaven above," and miraculous signs "on the earth below, blood and fire and vapor of smoke. (20) The sun will be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the" "coming of the great and glorious" "day of the Lord." (21) "And it shall be that everyone who shall call on the name of the Lord will be saved."
Verses 19 and 20 do not really apply to us, except that these are indicators that we are in the time period being focused upon. If you have paid attention, those signs are here and have been for a while. As a side note: The last blood moon, that we will see in this lifetime, will come on the same day as the Jewish New Year, on September 14, 2015.
Since the Apostle Peter declared through the Holy Spirit, that the prophecy of Joel is fulfilled, doesn't that mean that we should be living in the authority of that prophecy? Absolutely. Do we? No. But we were talking about the two witnesses weren't we. At least, these two witnesses, are doing what Joel spoke of.
In several of my posts I have indicated, as though speaking to those left behind, that they should pay attention to the two witnesses. Why would that make any sense? Because with the church gone from the earth, the only ones left on earth would be those that were previously led astray, deceived, or were false teachers. They may not be best person to look to as you try to find a mentor. Barring EMP blasts, it seems that there will 24 hour coverage of the two witnesses. This is especially significant, as Islamic extremists will be trying to kill them. It has, as of this date 05/25/15 become clear that every major network is quickly turning their hearts in sympathy toward Islam and against believers in Jesus Christ.
Daniel 11:32 KJV ... but the people that do know their God shall be strong, and do exploits.
What do exploits look like? Consider some of the events of Daniel writings. Thrown to the lions they did not touch Daniel. And yet, having been pulled out and his accusers thrown in, the accusers were eaten before they hit the ground. Daniel's Hebrew brethren refused to bow to the idol statue of Nebuchadnezzar. The entire thing was a set up to kill them off. The fire was so hot that it killed the men throwing them in, and yet the flames only burned the ropes and did not as much as leave the smell of smoke on their clothes. A fourth man joined them in the fire, and it is generally understood that this was Jesus. Since these two witnesses are prophets, it should be known that Elijah called fire down from heaven. You have power because of the Holy Spirit, and you still have the name of Jesus. There is much power in that name. Those who work on behalf of the enemy will be trying to kill, but those that know their God shall be strong and do exploits. Find a bible and learn of Samson, Jeptha, Gideon, Deborah, and the prophets. Open your mouth boldly; what is the worst that can happen?
- “when they shall have finished their testimony,” they will be killed by the beast (This is probably one of the points of confusion for this is another beast, also known as the false prophet)
Revelation 11:7 KJV And when they shall have finished their testimony, the beast that ascends out of the bottomless pit shall make war against them, and shall overcome them, and kill them.
God has finished with them, they have done their job. Jesus walked this earth for about the same length of time, and he was dead about that length too. Rather symbolic isn't it?
If they have the power to burn up anyone that tries to them, then it might be appropriate to have them also function as a defense system while the temple is being built (I am just speculating.) And with their time on earth accomplished this could easily coordinate with the false prophet desecrating the temple.
- After lying in the streets three and one half days they arise and God calls them home.
Revelation 11:11 KJV And after three days and an half the Spirit of life from God entered into them, and they stood upon their feet; and great fear fell upon them which saw them.
Because scripture tells us that the Saints of this time period rise up and do amazing things in the name of the Lord it seems to imply a freedom, but considering all that is obviously coming, the only freedom would be the freedom you express fearlessly.
Joel 2:28-32 KJV And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions: (29) And also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my spirit. (30) And I will shew wonders in the heavens and in the earth, blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke. (31) The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and the terrible day of the LORD come. (32) And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the LORD shall be delivered: for in mount Zion and in Jerusalem shall be deliverance, as the LORD hath said, and in the remnant whom the LORD shall call.
Then the logical assumption is that there is something or someone who demonstrates what this power looks like. Look around you, can you find this level of belief in God’s power flowing through a human, anywhere. Not likely. Therefore I think it is safe to think that the two witnesses show up immediately.
A second motivation for believing that their arrival is immediate. The beast that comes up fights against them and overtakes them, killing them. The common usage of the term beast poses problems for those not paying attention. This is clearly a second beast personification, and carries multiple names; the false prophet being one of the them, the Antichrist is another.
If the first beast, a Muslim, is busy declaring peace then several other things have to be happening:
The temple gets rebuilt. There is no way that every Muslim will stand idly by while that happens. This may have a role in the fire that comes out of the mouths of the two witnesses. At the moment the Muslims have control of the temple mount area and actively persist in preventing Jews to go there. Clearly that would have to change, but not without some protest.
The second beast, the Muslim Jesus, takes a dominant policing role in Islam. The Islamic prophecies show him fighting against a person they call the Dijal, (their version of a false prophet.) Of course anyone outside of Islam, speaking authoritatively, would or could have that title. Because of the timing of Antichrist's unveiling and that he desecrates the newly built temple, indicates that the two witnesses are no longer here on earth, because he killed them at the half-way point.
One can make the assumptions about whether the prophets show up at the beginning, the middle, or somewhere between. Let's try to avoid that and look at what we know. Let's also try avoid statements that convey a difficulty in understanding because I am here to tell you that God meant for this book to be understood.