The Two Witnesses
Revelation 11 v 1-14
1 I was given a reed like a measuring rod and was told, “Go and measure the temple of God and the altar, with its worshipers. 2 But exclude the outer court; do not measure it, because it has been given to the Gentiles. They will trample on the holy city for 42 months.
3 And I will appoint my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth.” 4 They are “the two olive trees” and the two lampstands, and “they stand before the Lord of the earth.”
5 If anyone tries to harm them, fire comes from their mouths and devours their enemies. This is how anyone who wants to harm them must die. 6 These men have power to shut up the heavens so that it will not rain during the time they are prophesying; and they have power to turn the waters into blood and to strike the earth with every kind of plague as often as they want.
7 Now when they have finished their testimony, the beast that comes up from the Abyss will attack them, and overpower and kill them. 8 Their bodies will lie in the public square of the great city—which is figuratively called Sodom and Egypt—where also their Lord was crucified.
9 For three and a half days some from every people, tribe, language and nation will gaze on their bodies and refuse them burial. 10 The inhabitants of the earth will gloat over them and will celebrate by sending each other gifts, because these two prophets had tormented those who live on the earth.
11 But after the three and a half days the breath of life from God entered them, and they stood on their feet, and terror struck 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, while their enemies looked on.
13 At that very hour there was a severe earthquake and a tenth of the city collapsed. Seven thousand people were killed in the earthquake, and the survivors were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven.
14 The second woe has passed; the third woe is coming soon.
Who are the two witnesses?
It is supposed by many that the two witnesses are Moses and Elijah and there is a strong case for this view.
Rev 11 v 4
4 They are “the two olive trees” and the two lampstands, and “they stand before the Lord of the earth.”
This is a direct reference to Zechariah 4 v 2-3;
He asked me, “What do you see?” I answered, “I see a solid gold lampstand with a bowl at the top and seven lamps on it, with seven channels to the lamps.
3 Also there are two olive trees by it, one on the right of the bowl and the other on its left.”
At the outset of this discussion I would point out that the lampstand represents the church. Revelation 1 v 20 sets the context for this discussion; it states that the seven lampstands are the seven churches.
We are taking the dispensational view that these seven churches - although literal at the time - are also symbolic of the ages of human history that fall between the time of Christ's departure to heaven and his imminent return.
The church or lampstand is supplied with oil - the Holy Spirit - and has the distinct purpose of giving light to the world.
The olive trees would supply the oil to keep the lamp burning. And so, during the tribulation, these witnesses would keep the light of this lampstand burning during the darkest hour on earth.
Matthew 17 v 1-9
1 After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves.
2 There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. 3 Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus.
4 Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.”
5 While he was still speaking, a bright cloud covered them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!” 6 When the disciples heard this, they fell facedown to the ground, terrified.
7 But Jesus came and touched them. “Get up,” he said. “Don’t be afraid.”8 When they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus. 9 As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus instructed them, “Don’t tell anyone what you have seen, until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”
Matthew 5 v 17
The Fulfilment of the Law
17 “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.
Moses represented the Law and Elijah represented the Prophets. The Law and the Prophets were God’s means of communication to Israel and to the world during the Old Testament.
In the New Testament, Christ came to fulfil the Law and the Prophets.
Enoch and Elijah didn’t die
Hebrews 9 v 27
“Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgement.”
On the basis of this Scripture some would argue that everyone must die once. They cite the fact that Enoch (pre-flood) and Elijah (post-flood) didn’t die and so they might come back to earth as the two witnesses and die. Revelation 7 v 11 “...overpower and kill them.”
Romans 5 v 12-14
12 Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned— 13 To be sure, sin was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not taken into account where there is no law.
14 Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who is a pattern of the one to come.
While this view appears to have some merit; we need to consider the fact that there are quite a number of references to people in the bible who died more than once.
The unnamed man who fell into Elisha’s grave – 2 Kings 13
The ruler’s daughter – Matthew 9
Lazarus – John 11
Many holy people – Matthew 27
Dorcas – Acts 9
Eutychus – Acts 20
These individuals all died and were subsequently miraculously raised from the dead and would eventually die again. It must be noted; they did all die!
The fact that they all died twice might suggest that we should not take Hebrews 9 v 27 to literally mean that people only die once (or must die once); perhaps it is a generalisation stating the fact that everyone dies and therefore, these individuals must be treated as exceptions to the rule.
Millions of Christians will never die
1 Thessalonians 4 v 13-18
The coming of the Lord
13 Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope.
14 For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.
15 According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep.
16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.
17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.
There is another group of people who will never die; hundreds of millions in fact. According to the above Scripture; believers who are alive on earth when the Lord Jesus returns at the rapture will be transformed in body and transported to heaven without experiencing death. What a prospect!
The words of Hebrews 9 v 27 will certainly not apply to this group of privileged saints.
Enoch & Elijah
As an aside; It is interesting to point out that Enoch was the only man who escaped death in the pre-flood age and Elijah was the only man who escaped death in the post-flood age. These were both in Old Testament times and might well be representative of God's mercy.
The New Testament parallel will happen at the Rapture when millions of Christians escape death. We could say that in every age of humanity God has his trophies of grace!
Should we rule out Elijah?
Matthew 17 v 10-13
10 The disciples asked him, “Why then do the teachers of the law say that Elijah must come first?”
11 Jesus replied, “To be sure, Elijah comes and will restore all things. 12 But I tell you, Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him, but have done to him everything they wished. In the same way the Son of Man is going to suffer at their hands.”
13 Then the disciples understood that he was talking to them about John the Baptist.
While John the Baptist came in the spirit and power of Elijah; we should not deduce from this passage of Scripture that Elijah appeared as John the Baptist and subsequently died; that would imply reincarnation, and that is an erroneous suggestion.
2 Kings 2 outlines how Elisha succeeded Elijah and how he inherited a double portion of the spirit of Elijah.
John the Baptist came in the spirit and power of Elijah, he was not Elijah reincarnated! Elijah remains a strong candidate as one of these two witnesses.
Luke 1 v 17 is conclusive, ”And he will go on before the Lord in the spirit and power of Elijah...”
The setting for the two witnesses
It is important to remind ourselves of the context and setting on earth when these two witnesses appear. It is a scene of worldwide human rebellion against God during the first three and a half years of the tribulation.
This is reminiscent of the circumstances during the pre-flood time of Enoch and it would make his reappearance on earth of some significance as he would be God’s representative of the judgement that took place during the flood.
This was a time when there was no Law of Moses and no structure of Prophets, Priests and Kings. Men did as they pleased with no regard for God.
History repeats itself and Enoch could be a mighty reminder to mankind of the forgotten age when the earth faced the shattering judgement of God in the flood. In the future, another form of judgement will be unleashed on the earth during the tribulation.
It is also worthy of note that during Enoch’s lifetime, demonic activity was rampant and virtually unrestrained. This level of demonic activity will be repeated during the tribulation as Satan takes control of mankind through the influence of the beast and the false prophet.
The case for Enoch
Genesis 5 v 24
“Enoch walked with God; then he was no more, because God took him away.”
Although according to Romans 5, sin reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses; Enoch didn’t die. Does this mean that he has to reappear on earth and die in the future?
If Enoch is not going to appear on earth as one of the two witnesses, we simply must deduce that God has granted him the same exemption from the sting of death as the millions of saints at the Rapture;
“Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” - 1 Corinthians 15 v 55.
Indeed Enoch, if this is so, would be a pre-flood type of the saints at the Rapture.
The case for Moses or Elijah
If Enoch is the representative of the forgotten pre-flood age, it follows that either Moses or Elijah would represent the post-flood age and be representative of the time of the Law and the Prophets; an age when God communicated with mankind through Prophets, Priests and Kings.
Actually, there is no conclusion; where Scripture remains inconclusive, so must we. Therefore we can only suggest the most widely held view as follows:
Moses and Elijah
This view is based on the representation of the Law and the Prophets which were fulfilled in Christ.
It is also supported by the appearance of Moses and Elijah with Jesus on the mountain at the transfiguration.
Elijah didn’t die; he was transported to heaven in a chariot of fire. Moses was buried by God and his grave has never been identified.
Moses is associated with God’s judgement on Pharaoh as displayed in the signs and wonders of the Ten Plagues. He is also associated with the giving of the Law and the Tabernacle and was the instrument that God used when Israel crossed the Red Sea.
The Ten Plagues are revisited during the Tribulation period and are expressed in similar judgments.
Elijah was used by God to pronounce judgement in the form of shutting up the heavens when there was no rain for three and a half years. Do you see the connection to the Tribulation period?
He was also God’s voice to a disobedient monarchy. He also participated in the sign of the waters of the Jordan being stopped to enable crossing it.
Both Moses and Elijah have previous experience of signs and wonders being performed on earth.
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