And I will grant to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy 1,260 days clothed in sackcloth. These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands standing before the Lord of the earth. And if anyone should desire to harm them, fire goes out of their mouth and devours their enemies. And if anyone should desire to harm them, thus it is necessary for him to be killed. These have the power to shut the sky, that no rain shall fall in the days of their prophecy, and they have power over the waters to turn them into blood and to strike the earth with every plague as often as they might desire.
These two witnesses are based off of two Scriptures: Deuteronomy 19:15 and Matthew 18:16. Why are there two? It is incredibly obvious once you realize that in the Law you could not put anyone to death without the testimony of two witnesses. Then, Jesus told His disciples that when two or more are gathered in His name that He is in their midst; whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Here we see these two witnesses as witnesses against the Antichrist and all that follow him, and we find them being that duo to bind and loose as the Lord has decreed. This, of course, does nothing to eliminate these Scriptures of their original context, but only to display the context of Revelation 11.
The presence of the article (“THE two witnesses”) tells us that these two figures were well known. When John speaks of these two men, he is not speaking of some mystery men that will show up on stage, and you or I or someone we know might be “called” to perform this task. Everyone knew who “the two witnesses” are. Tertullian (2nd century) claimed them to be Enoch and Elijah. Verses 5-6 seem to indicate Moses and Elijah (see Matthew 17:3, signifying the Law and the Prophets). What is typically neglected in the debate is Deuteronomy 19:15.
What can be known is that these two men are specific to the time of trampling, and they are not present here any time before it. Some take these to be the Body of Christ as a whole. This cannot be for a couple reasons. First, the Body of Christ is present before the appearing of these two witnesses, and the Body is to be prophetic in nature both past, present, and future. Second, these two men are specific to Jerusalem, as we saw in our last post. This would require that the Body of Christ is specific to Jerusalem, which simply has never, is not, and will never be true. Third, these two men are caught up to heaven before the rapture of the church with the coming of Jesus. They are two literal men, with a literal purpose that only they can fulfill.
This puzzle of who they are is expanded in verse 4. We have an allusion – almost a quotation – from Zechariah 4:2, 3, and 14. In Zechariah, we have the candlestick with seven branches (Zech 4:2, 10). We can also compare this to Revelation 1:20, 4:5, and 5:6. These are the eyes of the Lord that roam throughout the earth (Zech 4:10). In Zech 4:3, 12, and 14, these two olive trees are Joshua and Zerubbabel. Here in Revelation 11:4, the one candlestick is two, and is treated as synonymous with the olive trees. Most likely the “candlestick” is not what John is thinking, but rather the two golden pipes from which the oil flows.
Now, in comparing these two to Joshua and Zerubbabel, what is John attempting to tell us? Joshua was crowned as both priest and king in Zechariah 6:11-13. Zerubbabel was of the lineage of Jehoiachin. In Jeremiah 22:28, this man is decreed as a broken pot, and in verse 30 it is declared that “none of his offspring… will sit on the throne of David or rule anymore in Judah.” Then, in the very next chapter, God begins to express how He will send “the branch” – directly what Joshua is called in Zechariah 6:12 – who is to be the messianic shepherd of His people. Now, it is important to note that Joshua is called one symbolic of men to come, and the branch is distinguished from him in Zechariah 3:8-10.
In Zechariah 4:7 the “destroying mountain” (see Jeremiah 51:25) is said to be destroyed at the hand of Zerubbabel. Here is a key to understanding this enigma. Joshua and Zerubbabel are both somehow messianic patterns. In Haggai 2:23, the Lord declares that the messiah shall come from Zerubbabel, even though Jeremiah had declared none of the offspring of Jehoichin would rule in Judah. Here we see the mercy of God, but we also see a pattern. Joshua was the high priest and wore a crown like the king, and was even called the branch. Zerubbabel was of a cursed lineage, and yet was decreed as the signet ring of God.
Both of these men are in some way types of Christ. However, here in Revelation 11:4, they aren’t being used in this manner. The reason that John is expressing these two olive trees goes back to their immediate functions in their day and age. They were the ones who called for reform. They were the ones who should deliver the people of God from their bondage and iniquity – calling them back unto righteousness. They were the ones leading the charge of building the temple. While all of these are messianic expectancies, neither Joshua nor Zerubbabel were the messiah. And here is our pattern. Moses declared that we should search for a prophet like himself (Deut 18:15). At the end of Deuteronomy (34:10), it is said that there had been no prophet like Moses to rise up. In John 1:21 the Pharisees ask if John the Baptist is “the prophet”.
Malachi had prophesied that before the Day of the Lord God would send Elijah. Here we see these two witnesses being likened to Moses and Elijah in verse 6. What we see in Moses and Elijah is that both of them are a type of Christ, but are not Christ. They are not antichrist, obviously, but merely are not the fulfillment of the messianic expectancy. Thus, we expect that these two men are somehow types and foreshadowing of Christ, and most assuredly they are making way for His appearing, but they are not Jesus.
Revelation 11:5 does cause some difficulty. In 2 Samuel 22:19, fire comes from the Lord’s mouth. Interestingly, these two witnesses have a similar trait to the horses mentioned in 9:17. We can compare 2 Kings 1:10, 12, where Elijah calls down fire upon the fifty men, and Jeremiah 5:14 where God’s word is like a fire and the people like wood who are consumed by that word.
With our final verse, we compare 1 Kings 17:1, Luke 4:25, James 5:17, Exodus 7:17, and 1 Samuel 4:8. The commanding of elements and nature is not something given to everyone. We do not have this ability granted to us for our own whims. God exclusively gave this to Moses and Elijah in their days as witness against the false gods being worshiped. For this we see Exodus 12:12, and in comparison to Elijah we see that Baal was the god over the storms and rain. For Elijah to stop up the heavens would be a direct challenge to the deity of Baal.
Behind these false gods – which are nothing but wood or metal – is a demonic power. Paul would call them the “principalities”. These are the forces that demand worship, and not the carved image itself. During the rule of the Antichrist, it is necessary to note that he establishes a false god at the temple. That false god, as we see in Revelation 13:14-15, is in the image of the beast. Which beast exactly is being spoken of, the wording would tell us that this is a monument unto himself – much like Absolom build an image to himself. The worship, however, we see in 13:4 is ultimately unto the dragon (Satan) and not the beast.
Thus, in these two men having the power over the elements of nature, we are seeing that they are battling against the spiritual forces of darkness. While the whole world is going off to worship this beast, the entirety of that system and homage is being brought into question through the exercising of these miracles. These two men are not merely plaguing the earth. They are plaguing the kingdom of darkness at its heart – the spiritual reality that hides itself in the darkness. These two men blow the whistle upon the false worship and the false signs and wonders by bringing forth the word of God and commanding the very elements that the beast and dragon claim to have power over.
So, when we are dealing with these two witnesses, we are dealing with more than just two men who speak some sort of message in Jerusalem. We’re dealing with the very issue of the Gospel itself. This is the very declaration of the Gospel of the Kingdom, and the manifesting of the wisdom of God unto the principalities and powers, so that no man, woman, or child who is in Jerusalem is without excuse. God is utterly just when He brings destruction, devastation, and death unto they who follow the beast.