Steven M. Collins
The Two Witnesses
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THE TWO WITNESSES
OF THE BOOK OF REVELATION
By Steven M. Collins
- In Revelation 11:1-14, there is a prophecy about two prophets who will emerge on the world scene at the very end of our age. The Bible prophesies that they will wield spiritual powers unprecedented in human history. They will alter the worlds geopolitical situation and astound the nations of the entire world. The Bible calls them the two witnesses. They will issue a final warning from God to all nations as this current age comes to a close just prior to the millennial age to be ruled by Jesus Christ. This article will examine this important prophecy in Revelation 11, which receives surprisingly little attention in modern Christian churches. The two witnesses will affect the lives of everyone on the planet; and its time we learn more about them and what they will do.
Events to Precede Their Ministry:
- Revelation 11:1-2 offers some indication
of the specific events, which will indicate the arrival of the two witnesses is imminent.
The book of Revelation was written by the Apostle John who was told to write in a
book that which he saw in a prophetic vision about events at the end of our age (Revelation
1:1-2, 11, 19). Revelation 11:1-2 records that John was given instructions about
measuring a temple of God. He was not to measure an outer courtyard, which was
given to the Gentiles. The word gentiles comes from the Greek word ethnos which
literally means nations. Revelation 11:2 foretells concerning these nations
the holy city shall they tread under foot for forty two months.
- The holy city must certainly be Jerusalem,
the city in which past temples of God, have been located. That poses a problem because
there is currently no temple of God in Jerusalem. This prophecy strongly implies
that such a temple will be built before the end of this age. However, since John
was told to measure aspects of the temple area, this does bring up another possibility
based on a biblical precedent. In the books of Ezra and Nehemiah, a remnant of the
house of Judah returned from captivity to Jerusalem and began to rebuild some of
the fallen city and repair the temple. Ezra 3:1-6 states that the returning Jews
began offering the burnt offerings of the morning and evening sacrifices even though
the foundation of the temple of the Lord was not yet laid. [Emphasis
- If this precedent repeats itself in the modern world, a modern temple site could be dedicated by the modern Jews/Israelis and morning and evening sacrifices could begin even as the site is measured for temple construction to begin. It is difficult to see how a temple could be built given modern Mideast politics, but some kind of comprehensive political settlement could result in the Jews being able to build a new temple in Jerusalem. It is intriguing that Revelation 11:2 states that the nations will tread under foot the holy city for 42 months. This implies that some entity composed of nations will have some kind of political jurisdiction over the city of Jerusalem at a future time. Modern geopolitical realities indicate that the UN (the United Nations) would likely have a major role in any such multinational settlement. Will a united ethnos (i.e. the United Nations) be the entity which assumes this jurisdiction over at least a part of the city of Jerusalem? If so, this event appears to trigger the arrival of the two witnesses on the world scene for the very next biblical verse after this event announces the Divine calling of the two witnesses.
The Ministry of the Two Witnesses:
- In Revelation 11:3, God states: I will
give power unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophecy [preach] 1260 days, clothed
in sackcloth. The length of the ministry of the two witnesses is 1260 days, which
is the length of 42 thirty-day months. Their ministry apparently occurs during the
same time period allotted for the city of Jerusalem to be trodden under foot by
the nations. If so, the ministry of the two witnesses will last for the same period
of time that the nations have some kind of jurisdiction or control over the city
of Jerusalem. Notice that this 42 month period is also the same period of time allotted
for the prophesied existence of an end-time political entity called the beast (Revelation
- The beast power of Revelation 13 (see
verse 7) will have authority over all the ethnos (the nations), the same ethnos
that will have some control over the city of Jerusalem in Revelation 11:1-2. It
is very likely that the beast of Revelation which rules the ethnos in the end-time
is also the entity acting for the ethnos in assuming some control over Jerusalem
in Revelation 11:1-2 in the end-time. It seems evident that the two 42 month periods
of time mentioned in Revelation 11:2 and 13:5 are describing the same period of time.
If so, the two witnesses will apparently emerge on the world scene just as a beast
power assumes some form of jurisdiction over part of the city of Jerusalem.
- Revelation 11:3 states the two witnesses
will be clothed in sackcloth. The term sackcloth pictures garments of grieving
or mourning (see I Samuel 3:31, Jeremiah 4:8 and many other scriptures). This expression
could mean these two prophets will be (A) clothed in literal sackcloth, (B) be
clothed in a spirit of mourning about the ominous message they are required to
deliver to the world, or (C) both of the above options.
- Jesus Christ also mentioned the ministry of the two witnesses in his Olivet prophecy. In Matthew 24:14, Jesus stated: And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations [the same ethnos cited in Revelation 11], and then shall the end come. [Emphasis added.] This is a parallel prophecy to Revelation 11s prophecy about the two witnesses. The two witnesses will have a global ministry in the end time, and Jesus foretold that a global ministry will come which will witness that the end of this age and the coming of the kingdom of God is at hand. Revelation 11 foretells that when the two witnesses ministry is over, the end of the age quickly comes. Matthew 24 states that when the global witness is over, the end comes. The connection is hard to miss. Matthew 24:14 is a reference to the ministry of the two witnesses.
The Two Olive Trees:
- Revelation 11:4 calls the two witnesses
the two olive trees, and the two candlesticks standing before the God of the earth.
This prophecy indicates that the prophecy about the two witnesses is directly linked
to (or foreshadowed by) a prophecy in Zechariah 3-4 about two individuals called
the two olive trees. Since Revelation 11 links the two witnesses to information
in Zechariah 3-4s prophecy, a digression into Zechariahs prophecy is necessary
to understand more about the two witnesses.
- The prophecy in Zechariah 3-4 gives the
names Joshua and Zerubbabel to the two men called the two olive trees in Zechariah
4:11, and it reveals that they are alive at a time the foundation of this house
(verse 9) has been laid down. Zechariah and Haggai were two prophets who lived
at the time of Ezra and Nehemiah (Ezra 5:1, 6:14), and Zechariahs prophecy about
the two olive trees likens them to two of their actual contemporaries who were
named Joshua and Zerubbabel. Zerubbabel was a political officer and Joshua was a
High Priest at that time (Haggai 1:1, 12). Since the two historic figures called
the two olive trees are referenced in Revelation 11 as types of the two witnesses,
it could indicate that one of the two witnesses will have a political background
while the other witness will have a priestly/ministerial background.
- Zechariah 4:6 states that Zerubbabels
power will flow from Gods Holy Spirit. This is consistent with Revelation 11:3 that
Gods power will energize the two witnesses at the time of their calling. Verse 7
prophesies that a great mountain will become a plain before Zerubbabel. Mountains
are used in prophecies as types of human nations (Isaiah 1:1-4 is one such example).
Zerubbabel will be able to turn a great mountain (a very powerful nation
or alliance of nations) into a plain. In other words, Gods power will be so strong
in Zerubbabel that the military power of mighty nations (or the beast power of
Revelation) will be leveled before Zerubbabel. No human military power will be
able to stand before the Divine power that will flow through the Two Witnesses. Zerubbabel
had been involved in laying the foundation of the house (i.e. an earlier Temple)
in Zechariah 4:9, which may indicate that one of the two witnesses will be involved
with the effort to build a temple of God in Jerusalem in the latter days, and that
these efforts will proceed from a time of very humble beginnings (the day of small
things in Zechariah 4:10). Zerubbabel uses a plummet, a tool used in construction
measurements. This parallels the fact that the two witnesses will emerge at a time
the latter-day temple is being measured (Revelation 11:1-2).
- Zechariah 3 is a prophecy about Joshua,
the other olive tree of this prophecy and a type of the other witness of Revelation
11. Zechariah 3:1 mentions that Joshua was serving as the high priest in Ezras time,
and Joshua is personified as being between an the angel of the Lord and Satan (who
is resisting or opposing him). This Joshua is at a nexus of a battle being
waged between good and bad angels, but the Lord decides the contest in favor of a
good outcome. The Lord rebukes Satan from opposing Joshua any further and then likens
Joshua to a brand plucked from the fire. Joshua is further depicted as being clothed
in filthy garments as he stood before an angel. A brand plucked from the fire
pictures a stick or branch that is in the process of being ignited or burned in a
fire, but which is plucked or rescued from the fire so it is not consumed.
- This Joshua does not emerge unscathed
from the spiritual contest between good and evil angels which has raged around him.
His filthy garments indicate he is in a sinful or personally damaged state when
he is plucked from the fire and rescued by God. In verses 4-5, God removes Joshuas
iniquity and he is figuratively given new, clean garments and a fair miter (the
clothing of a priest). In other words, this individual is cleaned up or restored
so he can perform the duties assigned to him by God. In verses 6-8, an angel gives
Joshua a charge to walk in Gods ways in order to perform the priestly duties assigned
to him. This is not the first time that God has chosen a spiritually-damaged or unfit
individual to serve him in a prophetic capacity. When Isaiah was called to be a prophet,
he protested that he was unworthy because he had unclean lips (Isaiah 6:5), and
the Apostle Paul had previously been an enemy of God when known by his earlier surname
of Saul (Acts 8-9).
- Zechariah 4:11-14 describe Joshua and Zerubbabel not only as the two olive trees, but also as the two anointed ones that stand by the Lord of the whole earth. [Emphasis added.] This strongly parallels the role of the two witnesses of Revelation 11 who will serve as two anointed ones who will wield Divine power in a global ministry in the latter days. The separate descriptions of Joshua and Zerubbabel apparently give us clues about some aspects of the lives of the two people who will be called by God to be the two witnesses in the latter days. If not, why would God tell us in Revelation 11 that the two witnesses are the two olive trees and then give us specific information in Zechariah 3-4 about the two individuals personified in these roles?
The Power of the Two Witnesses:
- Revelation 11:5-6 prophesies that the two
witnesses will wield Divinely-given powers unprecedented in human history. Verse
5 states: 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. [Emphasis added.] This verse describes the miraculous
defensive power the two witnesses will be given. The two witnesses will proclaim
Gods truths to an unbelieving world which does not welcome their message. The warning
message the two witnesses will preach will surely include these elements: (A) the
return of Jesus Christ is imminent, (B) the Divine Government of God will soon replace
all human governments and (C) that mankind needs to repent of its sins and obey the
laws of God. This message will not be popular.
- The governing, multinational entity called
the Beast power will seek to kill the two witnesses and silence their message.
However, for the three and ½ years of their allotted ministry, the two witnesses
will be invulnerable to any human attacks and all human weaponry. The above verse
indicates that an unknown number of attackers will die trying to harm or kill the
two witnesses. Indeed, it states that any man seeking to hurt the two witnesses
must be killed by fire. No human power will be able to stop the ministry of the
two witnesses for three and ½ years.
- Their power was also foretold or foreshadowed
in other prophecies. Zechariah 4:7 prophesied that before Zerubbabel (a type of one
of the two witnesses), a great mountain will become a plain. A marginal reference
in the Open Bible Edition of the King James Version notes that great mountain
could be translated as military power. This indicates that even military forces
sent to destroy the two witnesses will become a plain (i.e. be destroyed).
- Malachi 4:5 prophesies that God will send
Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord
(i.e. the time setting in which the two witnesses will be called). The day of the
Lord is the prophesied period of time at the very climax of this age when the Creator
personally intervenes in human affairs. It is instructive that this prophecy cites
Elijah as a type of this warning message which will occur just prior to the end
of this age. Elijah performed awesome miracles as Gods power flowed through him.
II Kings 1:8-16 relates that an Israelite king sent three separate military contingents
of soldiers to seize Elijah. The first two contingents and their captains were annihilated
by fire (the same method by which the enemies of the two witnesses will be slain).
The third contingent, aware that the two previous military contingents were utterly
destroyed by fire when they tried to seize a prophet of God, approached Elijah with
respect and deference. Because of their different approach (they meekly asked Elijah
to come with them to see the king), they lived. Those who wish to survive encounters
with the two witnesses might keep this example in mind.
- I Kings 18:20-40 records that Elijah called fire down
from heaven to consume a sacrifice during a confrontation with 450 prophets of Baal.
This confrontation ended with Elijah also killing the 450 prophets of Baal.
Military forces sent to seize Elijah were slain by fire. This is precisely
the kind of power that Revelation 11:5 prophesies the two witnesses will wield. It
is apparent that the prophecy in Malachi 4 references the two witnesses in Revelation
11 because both the Elijah to come at the end of this age and the two witnesses
will do the same things.
- The two witnesses will also have offensive
power. Revelation 11:6 prophesies they will have power to shut heaven that
it rain not in the days of their prophecy: and have power over waters to
turn them into blood, and to smite the earth with all plagues as often as they
will. [Emphasis added.] This prophecy states the two witnesses will be
able to miraculously intervene in the weather and elements of the earth to plague
an unrepentant mankind as often as they will. This kind of power has two
biblical precedents. A famous twosome, Moses and Aaron, had very similar power
to plague the worlds dominant power at that time: Pharaohs Egypt. Exodus 7-12
describe the famous smiting of Egypt with a series of plagues which turned water
into blood, and used a variety of natural plagues to afflict Egypt. The plagues climaxed
with the killing of Egypts firstborn all across that nation. Also, Elijah plagued
the sinful kingdom of Israel with a deadly drought for three and ½ years (I Kings
17:1-18:46). Revelation 11 prophesies the two witnesses will have the power to plague
the world with droughts and it is noteworthy that James 5:17 notes that Elijahs
power to do this lasted for three and ½ years, the same period of time prophesied
for the ministry of the two witnesses (Revelation 11:3).
- When the beast power assumes some form
of jurisdiction over at least part of Jerusalem, the leaders who guide this system
will likely think they are on the verge of accomplishing their goal of a world government
under their rule. However, when God empowers the two witnesses, all the plans of
the beast power will be jeopardized (if not outright stopped). The book of Revelation
is a prophecy with much symbolism, inset chapters and overlapping narrations about
end-time events. For example, Revelation 11 is specifically about the two witnesses,
but consider a possible connection to the events described in Revelation 16.
- Revelation 11 prophesies the two witnesses will call down plagues on the earth as often as they will, and one of their plagues will turn water into blood. Revelation 16 describes a series of plagues which are poured out on an unrepentant mankind, and one of them turns water into blood all over the earth (verses 3-6). These plagues are even poured out upon the seat of the beast himself. Obviously, these plagues are poured out during the 42 months of the beasts reign for even the beast himself is a recipient of at least some plagues. If the ministry of the two witnesses parallels the 42 months of the beasts reign and Revelation 11 declares the two witnesses will be plaguing an unrepentant mankind, it follows that Revelation 16 describes some of the plagues which the two witnesses will be calling down from heaven upon mankind during the reign of the beast.
The Two Comings of Elijah:
- Mentioned above was the prophecy of Malachi
4:5-6 that Elijah the prophet would be sent with a warning message before the
coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord. The day of the Lord will not
occur until the very end of this age when Divine intervention occurs and Jesus Christ
returns. However, Jesus Christ himself stated that this prophecy had another, previous
fulfillment. In both Matthew 11:14 and 17:11-12, Jesus declared that John the Baptist
was the Elijah who had come on the scène just prior to Jesus Christs ministry.
Christians need to take this at face value. John the Baptists ministry was an earlier
fulfillment of this prophecy as well. However, it is equally obvious that the day
of the Lord did not occur during or immediately after the ministries of John the
Baptist and Jesus Christ. The obvious conclusion is that Malachi 4s prophecy will
have a dual fulfillment. It should also be pointed out that Jesus words that John
the Baptist (not Elijah) fulfilled a prophecy about Elijah confirms that Malachi
4s prophecy does not mean Elijah himself will be resurrected to reprise his role
as a prophet in the latter days. Just as John the Baptist was not the resurrected
prophet named Elijah, neither of the two witnesses will be the resurrected Elijah
- Interestingly, the two fulfillments of
Malachis prophecy about Elijah foreshadow and predict the nature of each of the
comings of Jesus Christ. Jesus first coming was as the Lamb of God who takes away
the sin of the world (John 1:29). Jesus submitted to his sufferings and death as
submissively as a lamb submitted to its fate as a Passover sacrifice (Exodus 12:1-10).
Jesus did not resist his tormentors even though he had the power to call upon 12
legions of angels to rescue him if he had but asked God the Father to send them
(Matthew 26:53). Jesus fulfilled the prophecies about the suffering Messiah (such
as Isaiah 53) in his first coming in a human body which could be slain like a Passover
Lamb as an atonement for the sins of mankind. Likewise, John the Baptist did no
miracles that we know about and was slain by King Herod simply for telling the truth
about an adulterous relationship involving the rich and powerful (Matthew 14). Notice
that in John the Baptists ministry, Johns ministry directly foreshadowed the nature
of the later ministry and mission of Jesus Christ. Both would suffer like lambs
at the hands of the authorities and they would not resist this treatment.
- The second coming of Christ will be awesome
and powerful. When he fulfills the prophecies about the conquering Messiah at his
second coming (Ezekiel 38:18-39:8, Zechariah 14:1-13, etc.), Jesus will come as a
conquering king who will assume power over all nations. Revelation 19:11-20 prophesies
he will return to make war and the armies of heaven will follow him and kill
a large number of human enemies. Ezekiel 39:2 foretells he will kill 5/6ths of the
people in a great military alliance attacking the nations of the latter-day ten tribes
of Israel and Revelation 14:14-20 prophesies that Jesus Christ and his returning
army will spill an immense amount of blood subduing the earths nations and armies.
A prophecy in Isaiah 66:15-17 about the coming of the Conquering Messiahstates
it bluntly: The slain of the Lord will be many.
- Even as the coming of the first Elijah,
John the Baptist, reflected and foreshadowed the same submissive nature that would
be exhibited by Jesus Christ in his first coming, the coming of the second Elijah,
the two witnesses, will reflect and foreshadow the miraculous, powerful and conquering
nature that will be exhibited by Jesus Christ in his second coming. In each
case the preparatory work of Elijah exhibits the same characteristics to be manifested
by Jesus Christ in both of his comings.
- The two witnesses, as noted above, will
wield miraculous and unprecedented power against the nations of the earth during
their three and ½ year ministry. An unspecified number of people who seek to harm
them will be executed by the Divine power that will flow through them and protect
them (Revelation 11:3-6). Their ministry will give mankind a mere foretaste of what
will happen when Jesus Christ himself returns at the head of an angelic army to annihilate
those who fight against his return. When Jesus Christ returns the second time, no
one will be putting him on a cross again. He will be the one slaughtering his enemies.
At his second coming, the twelve legions of angels (Matthew 26:53) will be unleashed
with lethal consequences for all who oppose Jesus return. Zechariah 14:12 prophesies
that the Lord will smite his enemies with a plague in which the flesh of his enemies
will consume away off their bones before they even have time to fall over in their
deaths. Joel 2:1, another prophecy about the day of the Lord, prophesies that a
heavenly army (like the one depicted in Revelation 19) will be unleashed which is
impervious to weaponry wielded by mere humans (verse 8). These are all parallel prophecies.
- The two witnesses will be the Elijah ministry which fulfills Malachi 4s prophecy about such a ministry just prior to the day of the Lord. Their coming with power and lethal force will be a mere shadow of what Jesus Christs return will be like.
Who Might the Two Witnesses Be?
- This writer claims no Divine revelation
concerning the identities of the people who will be called by God to perform the
roles of the two witnesses in the latter days. Only God knows who he will call to
fulfill these very powerful prophetic roles. However, the Bible has several precedents
about previous twosomes who were called to powerful ministries in the past. It
is possible that examining these earlier prophetic twosomes will give us more clues
regarding who the two witnesses will be.
- Moses and Aaron:
- In the time of the Exodus of the Israelites
from ancient Egypt, God called Moses and Aaron to perform the role of two miracle-working
prophets. This twosome literally plagued the Egyptian empire and its people with
the same kinds of plagues that the two witnesses will call down upon latter-day nations
(compare Revelation 11:5-6 with Exodus 7-12). Moses and Aaron also confronted an
opposing twosome, the Egyptian priests of Jannes and Jambres, who also had some
miracle-working abilities via demonic empowerment (II Timothy 3:8). It is noteworthy
that Paul wrote in II Timothy 3:8 about the confrontation between Jannes and Jambres
against Moses and Aaron as Paul was prophesying about conditions in the latter days,
the time when the two witnesses will be called (II Timothy 3:1).
- The two witnesses will also contend with
an evil twosome in the latter days, called the Beast and False Prophet, who
will be empowered to perform miracles via demonic empowerment in the latter days
(Revelation 13:11-15, 19:19-20). The parallels between Moses and Aaron and the
two witnesses are strong, but they are not perfect comparisons. Jannes and Jambres
were both pagan priests in Egypt and Pharaoh was the secular leader, so Moses and
Aaron were opposed by three historic figures. The two witnesses will be opposed by
a secular leader (the beast) and a religious leader (the false prophet) in the
- Moses and Aaron were both Levites, members of the priestly tribe of the Israelites (Exodus 2:1-10). Exodus 4 records that at the time Moses was called to perform his prophetic ministry, he was so reluctant to accept the calling that God actually became angry with Moses for his reluctance to accept and perform his calling. If past is prologue, this may be a harbinger that one of the two witnesses will only reluctantly accept his commission.
- Does this parallel indicate the two witnesses will be Levites? We do not know. Genesis 49 is a prophecy about the national characteristics of all the tribes of Israel during the latter days, and verses 5-7 prophesies that the Levites will be scattered among the nations of the other tribes of Israel in the latter days. Levi was generally associated with the house of Judah in ancient times, but Genesis 49s prophecy shows that Levites will be scattered widely among the nations of the tribes of Israel in the latter days. While many Levites living amongst the tribe of Judah (modern Jews/Israelis) may be able to know their ancestry, most Levites in all the other tribes will not even know they are Levites. Therefore, it is impossible to know where all the members of this tribe are now located. If the two witnesses prove to be Levites, it is likely that God will have to make known to them their tribe of origin.
- Elijah and Elisha:
- Since Malachi 4:5 specifically cites Elijah
as the typology for the mighty prophetic work which God will energize on the earth
before the day of the Lord, we need to take a very close look at the life and ministry
of Elijah for clues about the two witnesses. Elijah and Elisha were a powerful, miracle-working
twosome called by God during the evil reign of King Ahab and Queen Jezebel over
ancient Israel. While Elijah and Elisha were contemporaries and were sometimes together,
they were often apart from each other and had more of a mentor-protégé relationship
with Elijah doing the initial work and Elisha finishing it.
- As noted above, Elijah called fire down
from heaven and he smote the kingdom of Israel with a three and ½ year drought. This
is exactly the kind of miracle that the two witnesses will be able to perform (Revelation
11:6). Elijah also raised the dead on one occasion (I Kings 17:17-24), parted the
waters of the Jordan River much as Moses parted the waters of the Red Sea during
the Exodus (II Kings 2:8), and rode in a literal, angelic chariot of fire as he
was visibly carried from the presence of Elisha (II Kings 2: 11).
- Elijah was a man of incredible faith who
apparently emerged from complete obscurity with an initial, terrible prophetic pronouncement
in I Kings 17:1: As the Lord God of Israel lives, before whom I stand [serve], there
shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to my word. God backed
him up, proving that Elijah was, indeed, a prophet of God that the nations would
ignore at their peril. We know nothing about Elijahs prior background, but subsequent
events hint at some possibilities. Elijah was remarkably hardened to human suffering,
whether it was his own suffering or the sufferings of others plagued by his pronouncements.
As the drought in the kingdom of Israel stretched into years, the streams dried up,
people and livestock starved to death or died of thirst. Elijah suffered with the
people living in the drought region, even though God miraculously intervened just
enough to keep Elijah himself alive.
- Elijah had said there would be no rain
except by his word. After three and ½ years of extreme suffering all around him,
Elijah still exhibited no need to declare an end to the drought and the famine and
death it caused. As I Kings 18:1 relates, it was God who was moved to have mercy
on the people of Israel, not Elijah. God told Elijah to end the drought. If God had
not essentially said to Elijah Enough is enough, Elijah, it is time to declare an
end to this suffering, who knows how long Elijah would have let the people of Israel
continue to suffer. Elijah appears to have been a man whose background included the
endurance of much personal suffering as he was remarkably unmoved by either his own
suffering or that of the people around him. God may also have intervened to end this
drought after three and ½ years in order to allow it to be a direct precedent to
the three and ½ ministry of the two witnesses in the latter days.
- When the time came to end the drought,
Elijah arranged a contest with the priests of Baal, the false god then worshipped
by most Israelites, to see who could call down fire from heaven upon a burnt offering
(see I Kings 18:20-46). Elijah mocked the prophets of Baal with dripping sarcasm
as they gyrated around the altar and slashed themselves with knives to draw the attentions
of their non-existent god. The King James Version of the Bible doesnt do
justice to Elijahs sarcasm as he mocked them. Ill cite I Kings 18:27 from the Complete
Jewish Bible, translated by David Stern: Around noon Eliyahu [Elijah] began
ridiculing them: Shout louder! After all, hes a god isnt he? Maybe hes daydreaming,
or hes on the potty, or hes away on a trip. Maybe hes asleep, and you need to
wake him up. I actually think even Mr. Stern rendered Elijahs words a bit delicately.
When Elijah mocked Baals prophets with the words Maybe
hes on the potty, I think
Elijahs words would have been even more earthy if they were translated into the
street language of his (or our) time. Elijah was no shrinking violet, and he could
use blunt, crude expressions of speech.
- When Elijahs turn came to call on God
for divine fire, he had the crowd soak the sacrifice three times with four carrels
of water each time. Can you imagine how valuable that water was in a time when no
rain had fallen in three and ½ years? That amounted to 12 barrels of water, one for
each of the tribes of Israel. He may have poured out the entire drinking water supply
brought for the assembled multitude present at that sacrifice. The God of Israel
answered Elijahs prayer and consumed the sacrifice with fire sent from heaven, shocking
the masses into realizing that Elijahs God really was the true and living God. This
shock of the Israelites of Elijahs time aptly foreshadows the shock that modern
evolutionists (and the nations deceived by them) will experience when the miracles
of the two witnesses again proves that there really is a true and living God.
- Elijah then had the crowd forcibly restrain
the 450 prophets of Baal as he personally slew them there. Elijah very likely disemboweled,
decapitated and dismembered the 450 false prophets with a sword in assembly-line
fashion, immune to their screamed pleas for mercy. Readers who have seen certain
movies will be able to visualize specific movie scenes to realize what Elijah did
in killing 450 fellow human beings. Those who have seen the Lord of the Rings movies
will recall the scenes of Aragorn slashing his way through throngs of orcs and uruks.
Those who have seen the recent movie, 300 (about King Leonidas and his Spartans
slaughtering thousands of Persians at Thermopylae) can visualize the kind of bloody
slaughter Elijah did to the 450 prophets of Baal with his sword. The heroic
movie figures of Aragorn and Leonidas did not slaughter people mindlessly for sport
or thrills. They slaughtered evil ones in the name of righteousness and truth. So
will the two witnesses.
- In sending Elijah to be a prophet, God
selected a very tough person! It is instructive that God prophesies that the two
witnesses will be like Elijah when he sends them out on the world scene with, literally,
a license to kill and to plague others as often as they will. The ministry of the
two witnesses will not be associated with the choir music, incense, candles and soft
liturgies people associate with the modern Christian religion. They will be the human
instruments of an angry God who is giving mankind a taste of what is coming at
the hands of Jesus Christ unless the world repents of its sins.
- Elijah was not being cruel when he butchered
450 prophets of Baal. The prophets of Baal were simply reaping what they sowed.
Baal worship included sacrificing little babies to Baal via human sacrifices. In
other words, snuff rituals were part of the sadistic and exceptionally-malignant
religion of Baal worship. The prophets of Baal killed by Elijah were the ones who
had carried out these murderously cruel human sacrifices. Since Malachi 4 prophesies
that Elijah is a model for the warning message at the end of this age and Revelation
11:5-6 prophesies that the two witnesses will kill their enemies and plague the earth
with plagues as often as they will, those who oppose the two witnesses or who have
committed murderous rituals vs. other human beings (abortions and snuff films could
be two such comparable modern evils) may end up as dead as the 450 prophets of Baal
who opposed Elijah.
- After Elijahs confrontation with the priests
of Baal on Mt. Camel (when he called fire down from heaven and personally killed
450 of Baals priests), Elijah seemed to experience a sudden burn out. After being
threatened by Jezebel, he fled to a cave in the Mountain of God perhaps in a state
of personal exhaustion. God speaks with Elijah, telling him that Elisha will assume
the rest of his ministry, but only after Elijah first anoints new kings over Israel
and Syria (see I Kings 19). After doing so, Elijah essentially retired from the
scene, although God did use him later to send a letter pronouncing a curse upon King
Jehoram of Judah (II Chronicles 21:11-20).
- This burn out of Elijah is not dissimilar
to the experiences of other prophets after they were personally involved with spiritual
encounters. Daniel fainted and was sick for days after he had a vision (Daniel 8:27),
Zechariah lost consciousness during his prophetic vision and had to be awakened by
an angel (Zechariah 4:1), Ezekiel had to be helped back to his feet by an angel during
one of his visions (Ezekiel 1:28-2:2), the Apostle John fell as one dead during
his powerful visions (Revelation 1:17), etc. People think that personal encounters
with the spirit world are something desirable to boost their religious faith. The
scriptures indicate that real visions and spiritual encounters are actually other
world-ish and disorienting experiences from which recipients need time to recover.
Elijahs miraculous experiences for three and ½ years capped by his contest with
the prophets of Baal was an unusually prolonged spiritual encounter, so it is understandable
that his strength and energies would be exhausted at the end of this period of time.
Perhaps the two witnesses will be similarly exhausted after their three and ½ year
- Elisha and Elijah were together for a short
time, after which Elisha ministered in Elijahs stead with a double portion of
Elijahs power (II Kings 2:9-11). Elisha also parted the waters of the Jordan River
(II Kings 2:14), raised the dead (II Kings 4), performed a variety of miracles (II
Kings 4:38, 6:1-7), healed deadly diseases (II Kings 5:1-19), blinded a military
force sent to capture him (II Kings 6:13-23), and intervened in the affairs of nations
(II Kings 6:8-12, 8:7-15, 9:1-4. 13:14-20). Even as Revelation 11 prophesies
that anyone who tries to harm the two witnesses will be slain, it was lethal to even
mock Elisha. Some delinquent youths mocked Elisha and they were all wounded or killed
by bears for their disrespect (II Kings 2:23-24). The Spirit of Gods power rested
so mightily upon Elisha that a dead man who was placed into Elishas sepulcher was
resurrected when his corpse touched Elishas bones (Ii Kings 13:21).
- Elijah was called a Tishbite (I Kings
17:1), a reference to his home town of Tishbe, which was located in the territory
of the tribe of Manasseh, one of the birthright tribes descended from Joseph. One
account indicates the Septuagints translators regarded Elijahs home town as being
Jabesh-Gilead, which was also part of Manassehs territory. In either case, the evidence
indicates that Elijah was a Manassehite. I Kings 19:16 states Elisha was the son
of Shaphat of Abelmeholah. Abelmeholah was, according to Harpers Bible Dictionary:
a settlement in the Jordan Valley to the south or southeast of Beth-shean. Its exact
location is disputed
A Bible map places Elishas hometown within the territory
of the tribe of Manasseh, although in Manassehs portion west of the Jordan River.
Elijahs hometown was in Manassehs territory east of the Jordan River.
- If the two witnesses are called according
to this precedent, the two witnesses would be from the latter-day nation linked to
Manasseh (see this authors book, Israel's
Tribes Today, available
at the website, www.bibleblessings.net).
Several writers (including this author) who have researched the migrations of the
tribes of Israel have concluded that the United States of America was founded as
the latter-day nation of Manasseh (see links portion of the above website for the
other authors). There is contemporary logic to this possibility as the United
States is one of the last bastions where the Christian faith has many strong adherents
in the nations of the Western world.
- The Two Sticks Prophecy:
- Ezekiel 37:15-28 contains the two sticks
prophecy. It prophesies that at the time the Messiah returns, ancient King David
will be resurrected to be king over a reunited house of Israel and house of Judah.
These two divisions of the tribes of Israel have been apart from each other since
the united monarchy was divided in the reign of Rehoboam, King Solomons son. This
prophecy confirms that the house of Israel (the northern ten tribes of Israel) and
the house of Judah (the southern tribes headed by the tribe of Judah) will remain
divided and separate until the Messiah unites them at his Coming. Obviously, Christians
see this prophecy as being a prophecy about the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.
- Since this prophecy is specifically for
the time when the end of this age transitions into the Messianic Age (the Millennium
of Revelation 20:1-4), it would fit the typology of the two sticks prophecy if
the two witnesses were called from each of the divided houses of Israel. If this
typology is fulfilled, one of the two witnesses would be from the nations of the
ten tribes of the house of Israel and one would be from the house of Judah. This
allows for the possibility that one could be Christian and the other would be Jewish.
- There is a Jewish tradition which involves
a prophesied twosome: the Messiah ben Joseph and the Messiah ben Judah (or Messiah
ben David). This tradition calls for a son of Joseph and a son of Judah to fulfill
these prophesied roles. A discussion of this tradition can be found in the links
at this Orthodox Jewish website: www.britam.org.
While Ezekiel 37s prophecy does not directly link itself to the two witnesses of
Revelation 11, the possibility that the typology of Ezekiel 37s two sticks prophecy
might be paralleled in the two witnesses selection should also be considered.
- Other Possibilities:
- Since we have the statement of Jesus Christ
that John the Baptist was a forerunner type of the work of the latter day Elijah,
another possibility needs to be considered. Just as Elijah and Elisha had successive
ministries with some overlapping time, John the Baptist and Jesus Christ had similar
ministries. Both John the Baptist and Jesus Christ were Jews from the tribe of Judah. If
this biblical precedent is followed, both of the two witnesses could be from the
tribe of Judah. Also, God is the Creator of all mankind and the New Testament work
of the Apostle Paul shows that salvation was made available to non-Israelite Gentiles
as well as to Israelites (Acts 10:1-35, Acts 11:1, Colossians 3:11 and many others).
What if God decides to call an Israelite and a Gentile to do the work of the two
witnesses? There is another biblical twosome to consider. Paul, a member of the tribe
of Benjamin (Romans 11:1), became a prominent twosome with Barnabas, a Levite (Acts
4:36), for a length of time before they went parted and served God separately (Acts
- God is utterly sovereign, and he will make
whatever choice he wishes to make when choosing the two people who will serve as
the two witnesses. No human will control or pre-determine Gods choice in the matter.
The above discussion is solely for the purpose of examining biblical clues about
the characteristics that may be associated with the two witnesses lives. God will
make his choices evident in due course of time.
- It is clear that if God chooses to act on historical biblical precedents in making his choices re: the two witnesses, he has many options from which to choose. He may even combine some aspects of the above biblical precedents in his ultimate selection. However, Malachi 4s direct linking of Elijah to a prophetic work just prior to the end of this age and Revelation 11s linking the two olive trees of Zechariah 3-4 to the two witnesses require us to give these two precedents especially strong consideration.
Recognizing the Two Witnesses:
- At first the reader might think the two
witnesses will easily be recognized. Indeed, they will be recognized by Gods people
(the saints), regardless of the religious or organizational label upon the individual
saints. However, few people on the earth are true believers in either God or the
Bible. The vast majority of mankind has not read or accepted the Bible so they will
not recognize the two witnesses as being representatives of the Creator God. Revelation
12:9 foretells that Satan will deceive the whole earth, and Revelation 13:7 prophesies
the beast (i.e. the anti-Christ power) will have dominion over all kindreds, and
tongues, and nations. Revelation 11:7-10 prophesies that when the two witnesses
are finally slain by the beast power, the world will make merry and send gifts to
one another. The world will celebrate the deaths of the two witnesses! Clearly,
few will recognize the two witnesses for what they are, and fewer still will stand
- How will one tell the difference between
the two witnesses and the evil and deceptive twosome of the beast and false prophet?
Both will be performing miracles and both twosomes will be prominent on the world
scene. The legitimate two witnesses will be the ones outside the power structure
of the nations; whereas, the beast and false prophet will be inside the
world governing system. The two witnesses will be the ones plaguing the nations for
at least a portion of their three and ½ year ministry. The beast and false prophet
will not plague their own world governing system. The two witnesses will be
proclaiming the laws of God to a world that does not want to obey them. The beast
and false prophet will proclaim a message that requires obedience to the laws of
the beasts earthly system. The two witnesses will be proclaiming the need for repentance.
The beast and false prophet will have a message calling for universal conformity
to their global system. Also, the legitimate two witnesses will be killed by the
evil twosome after a three and ½ year ministry, not vice versa.
The Death of the Two Witnesses:
- At the end of their ministry, the two witnesses
will be slain by the beast and false prophet (Revelation 11:7). Gods representatives
will be slain by the two evil world leaders. Revelation 11:9 prophesies people from
all kindreds, tongues and nations shall see their dead bodies
will undoubtedly be given wall to wall coverage on the worlds broadcast, satellite
and cable TV networks and the internet. It is only possible to fulfill this prophecy
literally if a global televised capacity is in place. That it does exist now is further
evidence that our modern world has entered the latter days when these prophesies
can be fulfilled literally, not allegorically. The two witnesses are aptly named:
the word witnesses come from the same Greek root word for the word martyr.
- Given the immense power that the two witnesses
will wield, it is likely that they will die by choosing not to use their
supernatural powers at the end of their ministry and by laying down their lives voluntarily
in order to fulfill Revelation 9:7s prophecy. Jesus Christ could have called twelve
legions to his rescue with a single word and annihilated the Romans and all his enemies
at Golgotha. He chose not to use his power in order to fulfill Gods Divine
will and prophecies. I think the two witnesses will make a similar choice, because
the satanic power in the beast and false prophet will never be capable of defeating
the power of God flowing through the two witnesses.
- Revelation 11:7-10 states the beast and
false prophet will make war upon the two witnesses and kill them when the two witnesses
3 and ½ year ministry is over. This begs the question: How will people know when
that time is approaching? Will their three and ½ year ministry begin when a temple
is dedicated in Jerusalem, when they perform their first miracle or at some other
time? The Bible doesnt give us a specific statement to recognize the instant when
their ministry begins. The Bible does prophecy they will wield awesome Divine powers,
but will they do that from day one of their ministry or will the miracles start
later on during their ministry? The beast and false prophet will have a very short
and hollow victory. They will be executed by Jesus Christ when he returns and sentences
them to be burnt alive (Revelation 19:11-20). Luke 19:11-27 contains a parable about
how Jesus will reward the saints when he returns to the earth after a long absence.
This parable also foretells in verse 27 that Jesus will also say: those mine enemies,
which would not that I should reign over them, bring them hither and slay them before
me. The beast and false prophet will be the foremost ones so sentenced, but they
will not be alone. Revelation 19:19-21 relates that the political leaders allied
to the beast and false prophet and the armies they command will be killed and their
corpses fed to the animals and birds. Ezekiel 39:1-21 parallels this same intervention
of God, the slaying of mass numbers of those fighting God and the feeding of their
fallen carcasses to the animals and birds.
- Revelation 11:8 foretells the dead bodies
of the two witnesses will not be buried, but will be displayed publicly for three
and ½ days. It is apparent they will die in the city of Jerusalem as it is the city
where our Lord was crucified. Since most people will not be aware of biblical prophecy,
the beast and false prophet will surely proclaim the death of the two witnesses affirms
that they, the beast and false prophet, now rule supreme on the earth. Revelation
11:9-11 indicates that almost everyone on earth will accept their sovereignty and
rule. A few will refuse and they will be fiercely persecuted. The remaining believers
in God will then either be martyred or Divinely protected as the very next chapter,
Revelation 12 explains. Revelation 12:13-17 prophesies that Satan (who energizes
the beast and false prophet) will seek to kill the woman (a type of Gods people);
however, many of Gods people will be miraculously protected for a time, times and
half a time. Some Christians see this as another three and1/2 year period, but I
do not. The word translated time or times does not literally mean years. It
simply means three and half segments of a fixed [period of] time. By itself, this
prophetic phrase could indicate three and ½ years, months, weeks or days. However,
connecting it to the context of Revelation 11s prophecy about the two witnesses
indicates the correct meaning is three and ½ days.
- During the three and ½ years of the two
witnesses ministry, their superior divine power will be sufficient to protect Gods
people on the earth. They can plague anyone who dares to harm Gods people during
their ministry. At the end of their ministry, it will be abundantly evident whether
people are with or against the two witnesses because those with them will not have
been plagued and those resisting them will have been plagued. Those resisting
the two witnesses will grow increasingly hateful toward those people not plagued
by the two witnesses, and their desire for vengeance will be unleashed when the two
witnesses die. Revelation 11:9 prophesies the two witnesses will remain dead for
three and ½ days, and it would be in such a time when their power is removed
from the world that Gods peoples will need Divine protection. Revelation 12:14 prophesies
many will receive that protection for the three and ½ times (i.e. days) that
the two witnesses are dead. Others will not be protected and will be martyred or
persecuted by the beast and the false prophets followers during that three and ½
day period (Revelation 12:17).
- The beast and false prophet will have to
concoct some lies to explain why the two witnesses were able to wield such power
for three and ½ years. The masses will gullibly swallow these lies and will celebrate
the turn of events (Revelation 11:10). Since the two witnesses will be protected
by Divine power from attack and will wield Divine powers for years, perhaps the masses
will be deceived into believing a science fiction explanation for their supernatural
powers. After all, many science fiction films are based on the common theme of the
earths people uniting against an invader from outer space. Jesus, his saints and
his angels will literally be an invading force from the heavens when they come (Matthew
24:27, 30-31, Revelation 19:11-16, compare Isaiah 34:1-4 with Revelation 6:12-14,
etc.). It could be an easy sell to rationalize the two witnesses power by claiming
it was provided by some alien intelligence. All nations will oppose Jesus Christs
army when he returns with his heavenly army a short time later (Revelation 19:19)
so the beast and false prophet will likely deceive the world into thinking that the
death of the two witnesses indicates that the world can now successfully resist the
alien power that energized the two witnesses. Whatever lies and deceptions are
used, those who join the beast and false prophet in fighting Jesus Christs Divine
army when it arrives later will be slain (remember Zechariah 14:12-13, Revelation
19:11-20, Luke 19:27, Ezekiel 39).
- Revelation 11:10 prophesies a great celebration will begin all over the earth after the two witnesses are killed. This global celebration is almost certainly the same time pictured in I Thessalonians 5:2-3 when just prior to the the day of the Lord the world is proclaiming the arrival of a time of peace and safety. I Thessalonians 5:3 reveals that the worlds expectation of a time of peace of safety is short-lived as sudden destruction comes upon the earth and they cannot escape it. Revelation 11, the prophecy about the two witnesses, agrees. The time of celebration which follows the death of the two witnesses swiftly segues into another woe which befalls the earth.
The Resurrection of the Two Witnesses:
- The beast and false prophet refuse to let
the bodies of the two witnesses be buried, likely as a testimony to their victory
over them. It will be easy to air live coverage of their bodies and have live webcams
broadcasting pictures of their corpses to the world. After three and ½ days, Revelation
11:11-12 prophesies that the two witnesses will be resurrected and great fear will
fall on all who see this event. The resurrection of the two witnesses proves that
their ministry was, indeed, empowered by the God of the Bible who resurrects them
according to his prophesied timetable in the Bible. The two witnesses will surely
have been instructing people to wtch for their resurrection three and ½ days after
their death. The world will be shocked when it happens.
- When the two witnesses are resurrected in the full view of their enemies and the world, their worldly mission is over. Revelation 11:13 prophesies that within the same hour that the two witnesses are resurrected, a great earthquake will occur which will ruin a tenth of the city (presumably, Jerusalem) and kill 7000 people. This is not likely to be a slaying of 7000 people at random. God will decide where to send that earthquake so he will be deciding which region of the city suffers 7000 dead (plus an unspecified number of wounded casualties). Perhaps God will send the earthquake upon the region of the city where the beast and false prophet have their headquarters set up. The combined effect of these events will convince many to realize the two witnesses warnings were true, and they will give glory to God.
- This concludes my article about the two
witnesses. There are many other prophetic subjects, and some of them are covered
in my other article in the Prophecy links at this website, www.stevenmcollins.com.
Readers are urged to review them as well for a fuller picture of the events prophesied
to occur at the end of our age.
- How soon will the two witnesses arrive
on the world scene? I do not know, and I doubt any man or woman does know. They will
come at the appropriate time that God wants to send them. We do know that they will
come during the latter days at the end of our age. Many biblical prophesies about
the latter days have been and are being fulfilled in world events all around us.
Consider the following examples.
- Zephaniah 2:1-7 prophesied that Judah
(the Jews) would establish a nation in the old Promised Land prior to the day of
the Lord. That was fulfilled in 1948. Daniel 12:4 prophesied the time of the end
would be characterized by a time when the many would be able to run to and fro.
This was fulfilled with the widespread use of automobiles by the general populations
of many nations in the 20th century. Daniel 12:4 also prophesied the time
of the end would be marked by a knowledge explosion (i.e. knowledge shall be increased).
This prophecy foretells an exponential increase in mankinds knowledge as
the word increase is the same Hebrew word used to describe how the waters increased
to cover the entire earth during the time in Noahs time. This increase became possible
with the invention of the computer, the internet and numerous other aspects of our
high-tech society. This prophecy is being fulfilled before our eyes to a greater
degree every year. Matthew 24:21-22 prophesies a time will come which is so dangerous
that no flesh would be saved on earth unless Jesus Christ returned to intervene
in world events. This prophecy could never literally have been fulfilled until the
invention of the nuclear bomb and its first use in 1945. As nuclear bombs were deployed
to many times the number needed to destroy all life on earth, the circumstances for
fulfilling this prophecy have already been in place for decades.
- The prophecies about the conditions which
will characterize the arrival of the latter days of biblical prophecy were fulfilled,
literally, in the 20th century and especially after 1945. Readers are
referred to my article about Ezekiel 38-39 and World War III in this website, and
to see that the latter-day alliances of world nations are now exactly in the arrangement
prophesied for the latter days. The article on Captivity to Babylon the Great also
shows the prophesied world economic system called Babylon the Great in Revelation
18 is already omnipresent in the world. These many fulfillments of latter day prophesies
confirm that the God who authored and inspired the Bible is fulfilling his prophesies
exactly as he foretold he would. In Isaiah 41:21-26, God challenges everyone to look
at his ability to bring to pass his prophesies as proof that he is real. Psalm 41:1
says: The fool has said in his heart, there is no God. Before the latter days are
concluded, the world will realize what fools the promulgators of evolution were.
- We do not know how much more time we have left before the latter days bring forth the ministry of the two witnesses. The clock is ticking. Their arrival draws near.