Who are the Two Witnesses?
Are these two really Moses and Elijah, or are they a corporate body of the Church? The intent of this chapter is to define their witness as the ultimate witness of the Church at the end of the age, and also to excite the Church about praying for the possibility of being included as part of this witness company. But regardless of who they are and how many there are, there is much to be learned from their ministry that impacts the vision and calling of the entire Church at the end of the age.
And I will grant authority to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for twelve hundred and sixty days, clothed in sackcloth. These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth (Revelation 11:3-4).
Standing before the Lord of the earth identifies them as the Lord’s witnesses, and the voice saying "I will grant authority to my two witnesses" must then be the voice of the Lord. They are the Lord’s witnesses and therefore a part of His Church, regardless of who they are. Their witness is a demonstration of the Church at the end of the age operating in the full power and authority of Jesus Christ. Nevertheless, they are physically overcome by the power of Satan. But, as we have seen, that is the primary call of the saints at the end of the age. The ultimate demonstration of power and authority at the end of the age will be evidenced by the wisdom of the cross of Jesus Christ which crushes Satan underfoot.
Jesus told His disciples that they would be His witnesses when they had received power from the Holy Spirit. Their ministry was then to begin in Jerusalem and extend to all of Judea, to Samaria, and then to the remotest parts of the world. We are in the days of witnessing to the remotest parts of the world. We can only be His witnesses when we receive power from the Holy Spirit, and to the extent we have not received that power, we cannot be His witnesses. At the three and one-half year point of the final seven years of the age, in Revelation Chapter 12:10, there is indication of a great outpouring of power from the Holy Spirit. It is this outpouring of the Spirit that will empower the final thrust of world evangelism and trigger the beginning of the witness period of 1260 days of the two witnesses.
And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, "Now the salvation, and the power, and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren has been thrown down, who accuses them before our God day and night" (Revelation 12:10).
And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world for a witness to all the nations, and then the end shall come (Matthew 24:14).
And I saw another angel flying in midheaven, having an eternal gospel to preach to those who live on the earth, and to every nation and tribe and tongue and people . . . (Revelation 14:6).
I believe Scripture indicates there will be another day of first fruits/Pentecost much like the first day in Acts 2. And I believe as a result, the last three and one-half years of this age are going to be much like Acts 2 only more so. The prophecies of Joel are yet to be fully realized. The evidence of the new day of Pentecost will be the gathering of the first fruits of Revelation 14:4 and the falling of the Holy Spirit in great power and authority as described in Revelation 12:10. The male child is caught up to heaven and the remainder of the wheat harvest, left on earth to ripen until Revelation 14:14, is anointed with great power and authority in order to overcome Satan by the Blood of the Lamb, the word of their testimony, and by loving not their lives unto death. Here, at the three and one-half year point before the end of the age, is the start of the period of witness of the two witnesses in power and authority in demonstration of the Spirit poured out without measure.
I believe that once again all nations, tribes, tongues and peoples may hear the gospel preached in their native tongues without the benefit of translators. The messengers of Revelation 14:6, having the eternal gospel to preach to every nation, tribe, tongue, and people, will be speaking in tongues that all peoples can understand. The shadows of the saints will once again heal the sick. But once again, Ananiases and Sapphiras will drop dead from words out of the mouths of the witnesses of Jesus. Along with great power will come great requirement.
The 1260-day witness period of the two witnesses in power and authority ends with their death at the hands of the beast from the abyss, followed by their resurrection from the dead three and one-half days later. This is the first revelation from the little book of Daniel reopened in the hands of the angel in Revelation 10:2.
"But as for you, Daniel, conceal these words and seal up the book until the end of time; many will go back and forth, and knowledge will increase." Then I, Daniel, looked and behold, two others were standing, one on this bank of the river, and the other on that bank of the river. And one said to the man dressed in linen, who was above the waters of the river, "How long will it be until the end of these wonders?" And I heard the man dressed in linen, who was above the waters of the river, as he raised his right hand and his left toward heaven, and swore by Him who lives forever that it would be for a time, times, and half a time [1260 days or three and one-half years]; and as soon as they finish shattering the power of the holy people, all these events will be completed. As for me, I heard but could not understand; so I said, "My lord, what will be the outcome of these events?" And he said, "Go your way, Daniel, for these words are concealed and sealed up until the end time" (Daniel 12:4-9).
We see in Revelation 11:7 the shattering of the power of at least two holy people at the end of a specific time period of 1260 days. Who are these two ultimate witnesses? Are the holy people of Daniel 12:7 represented here by only two individuals, or are they a corporate group of prophetic saints?
And so when they had come together, they were asking Him, saying, "Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?" He said to them, "It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority; but you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth" (Acts 1:6-8).
This prophecy of Jesus is not applicable to only two individuals, but to the entire body of Christ. We are all to be His witnesses. But are we to be these witnesses?
Moses and Elijah?
There is much interpretation that the two witnesses of Revelation 11 are Moses and Elijah or some other combination of Old Testament saints. But Ephesians 3:9-10 says that it is through the Church of Jesus Christ that God will demonstrate His wisdom to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. Why would the ultimate witness at the end of the age not be the living corporate Church? I am uneasy with the Moses and Elijah interpretation because it establishes a not us but them mentality, when it was to His Church that Jesus said, "You will be My witnesses."
The Lampstands are the Churches
. . . and the seven lampstands are the seven churches (Revelation 1:20).
These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth (Revelation 11:4).
The term lampstand, which also identifies each of the seven churches in Revelation 1:20, is a strong indicator that these two witnesses represent at least some of the Church. They are warred against and physically overcome by the beast during the last three and one-half years of the age, even as the saints are warred against and overcome by the beast during the last three and one-half years of the age. And even as the saints emerge victorious after being overcome, so do these two witnesses emerge victorious from being overcome as they are resurrected to heaven after lying dead for three and one-half days. They serve as a precise fulfillment of the prophecies in Daniel in which the holy and powerful people will be warred against, physically overcome, and yet emerge victorious as recipients of the Kingdom.
Individual or Corporate?
How many olives does an olive tree bear? Olive trees and lampstands suggest more than two individuals. There is also a hint of corporateness in that they are warred against. War is usually fought against more that two individuals.
There is also a suggestion of corporateness in Revelation 11:8-9 which identifies their dead bodies as lying in the street of "the great city" and that "those from the peoples and tribes and tongues and nations will look at their dead bodies . . ."
Bodies or Images of Bodies?
Modern technology allows a ready interpretation of this viewing of their bodies, but the text does not say that peoples and tribes and tongues and nations will look at images of their bodies, as one might expect if they were on world-wide telecast. The term image is used elsewhere in the book regarding the false prophet (who creates an image of the beast), so the use of image here would be appropriate if it were applicable. Could the reason that peoples, tribes, tongues, and nations look upon their bodies, and not upon images of their bodies, be because their bodies are everywhere to be looked upon while lying in the streets of the great cities of Babylon? The margin notes of my study Bible indicate that in some manuscripts, it is their body rather that their bodies that lie in the streets. That opens up the possibility of a body of believers. In the following passage, the woman, the great city of Babylon, is drunk with the blood of the witnesses of Jesus.
. . . and upon her forehead a name was written, a mystery, "BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH." And I saw the woman drunk with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the witnesses of Jesus. And when I saw her, I wondered greatly. And the angel said to me, "Why do you wonder? I shall tell you the mystery of the woman and of the beast that carries her, which has the seven heads and the ten horns . . . And the woman whom you saw is the great city, which reigns over the kings of the earth" (Revelation 17:5-7, 18).
Great City or Holy City?
Jerusalem is referred to as the holy city in Revelation 11:2. The term great city is used consistently throughout the book of Revelation as a reference to the unholy city of Babylon. A simultaneous world-wide killing of Jesus’ witnesses is conceivable because Scripture indicates that multiple images of the beast will have been set up seemingly world-wide that must be worshiped in order to avoid death. The technology to kill vast numbers of people through computer and satellite technology is at hand. However, Satan may not need to rely on the technology of man to accomplish his work. He will not be restricted in his use of power at the end of the age by what man has engineered. Nor will the witnesses of Jesus.
And their dead bodies [body] will lie in the street of the great city which mystically is called Sodom and Egypt, where also their Lord was crucified. And those from the peoples and tribes and tongues and nations will look at their dead bodies [body] for three and a half days, and will not permit their dead bodies to be laid in a tomb (Revelation 11:8-9).
Why doesn’t Scripture just come right out and say that their bodies will lie in the streets of Jerusalem if Jerusalem is where they will lie? I think this terminology opens up the possibility that these streets are other that the streets of Jerusalem. In a spiritual sense, I believe the following Scripture indicates the Blood of Jesus is also found in the great city of Babylon, even though He was crucified in Jerusalem, although technically outside of the city gates.
And in her [the great city of Babylon] was found the blood of prophets and of saints and of ALL who have been slain on the earth (Revelation 18:24).
A Glimpse of the Church having Arrived!
Regardless of who they are and where they will lie, this is a snapshot of the Church operating in the full power and authority of Jesus Christ. These two witnesses are described as doing even greater things than Jesus did, as He said those who believed in Him would do. As difficult as it may be to positively relate these two witnesses to two larger corporate bodies, there are many prophecies to the Church fulfilled by these two --- be they two individuals or corporate. If there are only two individuals who gain this stature, then let each of us who desires the greater gift of prophecy and such a ministry seek to be one of them. If there are more than two, our prayers will still be valid.
What greater prophetic calling exists than to be one of these two witnesses at the end of the age? Should our response be any different whether there are two or two million of them? This is a description of the ultimate destiny of the Church on earth: to walk in the fullness of the power and authority of Jesus Christ, and to lay down our lives as testimony. It is by the Blood of the Lamb, the word of our testimony, and by loving not our lives unto death that we are destined to overcome Satan.
A Corporate One New Man of Jew and Gentile?
The mystery of the overcoming Church, as revealed by Paul in Ephesians Chapters 2 and 3, is that it will be made up of two groups --- Jew and Gentile --- reconciled into one by the cross of Jesus Christ. It is this Church and only this Church that will allow the demonstration of God’s wisdom to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places (Ephesians 3:10). A divided Church or a Church that is not composed of a unity of Jew and Gentile will not allow it.
Therefore, He will give them up until the time when she who is in labor has borne a child. Then the remainder of His brethren will return to the sons of Israel (Micah 5:3).
Whatever this means, it matches the she who bears a child in Revelation Chapter 12 at the three and one-half year point before the end of the age. Perhaps it is at this time that the remainder of His brethren return to the sons of Israel and the two become one new man. Perhaps it is at this time that the two physical witnesses --- Jew and Gentile --- can represent the spiritual one-new-man Church that will allow the demonstration of the wisdom of God to the rulers and authorities during the last three and one-half years of the age. They are physically two, but spiritually one new man.
Two Olive Trees and Two Lampstands
We cannot avoid concluding that the two witnesses represent at least a portion of the Church operating in the full power and authority of Jesus Christ. Israel is referred to in Scripture as a cultivated olive tree, while Gentiles are referred to as a wild olive tree. Together they are reconciled in one body, out of a common root, to God through the cross (Ephesians 2:16). Could this be the model for the two witnesses? Together they stand as two physical olive trees and two lampstands before the Lord demonstrating God’s wisdom through a spiritually united Church to the rulers and authorities during the last three and one-half years of the age.
For if you [Gentiles] were cut off from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and were grafted contrary to nature into a cultivated olive tree [Jew], how much more shall these who are the natural branches be grafted into their own olive tree? (Romans 11:24).
Whether they are two or two million, they represent the finest wine of the end-time Church. As powerful as they are, however, they are not as physically powerful as Satan. Victory at the end of the age will not be decided on the basis of physical power. The race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong, but to God. And His wisdom is the wisdom of the cross. As we choose to embrace the cross in absolute weakness, His wisdom will be demonstrated through us and Satan will be crushed underfoot.
Elijah Who is to Come
I believe these two witnesses do indeed represent Elijah who is to come. They are not a resurrected Elijah, but a corporate body in the spirit and power of Elijah. These are among those upon whom the Lord has poured out His Spirit without measure as described in Revelation 12:10. These are, at least in part, those who will overcome Satan by the Blood of the Lamb, by the word of their testimony, and by loving not their lives unto death. These are, at least in part, the last-days Church operating in the fullness of Jesus’ power and authority. This has to be a description of the finest wine and the greater glory of the latter house. These are the recipients of the deluge of the latter rain that will walk this earth as the greatest witness for Jesus Christ the world has ever seen or ever will see. This is Acts 2 but even more so. These are those that all creation has been waiting to see revealed on earth. This is the fullness of the representation of Jesus Christ living in and through His people.
Them or Us?
I want to move these two witnesses from being them to the realm of possibility of being us. They are the Lord’s witnesses and therefore members of His Church. I don’t believe it will be part of the plan to bring specific Old Testament personalities into the end-times picture. Scripture states that it is through the Church, a corporate body of Jew and Gentile, that God will demonstrate His wisdom to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places at the end of the age. It is upon the rock of the revelation of Jesus Christ that the Church is built. Nor are they the whole Church, because not everyone in the Church is going to be a bondservant and a prophet. There are at least three sub-groupings in the Church separately identified as bondservants, saints, and those who fear God’s name. These are a portion of the Church called to a specific prophetic role, and I suggest they may be more than two unique individuals. I want to leave you with a desire to be one of them, for we are all told to eagerly seek the gift of prophecy.
If there are only two of them, so be it. In any case, they are the definers of the vision for the rest of the Church and establish the nature of the race we are called to run. This is the direction our prayers should take and these are the greater deeds that we should pray to be doing at the end of the age, for the anointing of the Holy Spirit will be poured out upon all flesh according to Scripture. When all is said and done, if we have not, it will have been because we asked not.
The Holy Spirit indicated during a hot and heavy sense of His presence one day, that the anointing available was to the extent of Su Koros, which translates from the Greek to thy measure. Truly the measure available to each of us is thy measure. Let our measures be without measure even as was Jesus’ measure of the fullness of the Holy Spirit. Let us not have not because we asked not. Won’t it be interesting if we find that the number of these witnesses operating in this extent of power and authority was up to us? These are people of choice, as they have been given power and authority to smite the earth with every plague as often as they desire. What do we desire?