“Then I was given a reed like a measuring rod. And the angel stood, saying, ‘Rise and measure the temple of God, the altar, and those who worship there. But leave out the court which is outside the temple, and do not measure it, for it has been given to the Gentiles. And they will tread the holy city underfoot for forty-two months. And I will give power to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy one thousand two hundred and sixty days, clothed in sackcloth.’ “
“These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands standing before the God of the earth. And if anyone wants to harm them, fire proceeds from their mouth and devours their enemies. And if anyone wants to harm them, he must be killed in this manner. These have power to shut heaven, so that no rain falls in the days of their prophecy; and they have power over waters to turn them to blood, and to strike the earth with all plagues, as often as they desire.”
“When they finish their testimony, the beast that ascends out of the bottomless pit will make war against them, overcome them, and kill them. And their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified. Then those from the peoples, tribes, tongues, and nations will see their dead bodies three-and-a-half days, and not allow their dead bodies to be put into graves. And those who dwell on the earth will rejoice over them, make merry, and send gifts to one another, because these two prophets tormented those who dwell on the earth.”
“Now after the three-and-a-half days the breath of life from God entered them, and they stood on their feet, and great fear fell on those who saw them. And they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, ‘Come up here.’ And they ascended to heaven in a cloud, and their enemies saw them.” – Revelation 11:1-12 NKJV
Who Are the Two Witnesses?
Many people have speculated about the identities of the two witnesses. I’m not sure which, if any, of these speculations are accurate. Having studied these different interpretations, I have come up with a speculation of my own. I don’t proclaim that this is any more than that, my own speculation. But for what it is worth, I am giving you what is my opinion. I base this opinion on my own study of the scriptures.
Some possibilities spoken of in the Church are these. (Note: I capitalized “Church” to indicate the universal church, the family of Jesus Christ. I’m not speaking about any particular local congregation or denomination.) Some have said that the two are Enoch and Elijah. Others say that they are Moses and Elijah. Let’s look at these two and see if there is reason to believe these theories.
Enoch and Elijah
The scriptural basis for these two men put forward is Hebrews 9:27, 28. “And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment, so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation.” – Hebrews 9:27-28 NKJV. Because all men die once, some theologians speculate Enoch and Elijah are the two witnesses. Neither of them died an earthly death.
Here is something you should know about Enoch. “And Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him.” – Genesis 5:24 NKJV. So God appointed men to die. Yet it seems like that Enoch escaped this fate because rather than dying, “God took him.”
In the same way, Elijah didn’t get to heaven like the rest of us do. Instead of dying, God took Elijah into heaven aboard a fiery chariot. Here’s the story of his passing: “Then it happened, as they (Elijah and Elisha) continued on and talked, that suddenly a chariot of fire appeared with horses of fire, and separated the two of them; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven.” – 2 Kings 2:11 NKJV.
So the idea is that since these two men escaped bodily death here on earth. Because of this, they will have come back before the Lord returns and get a second chance to die. The passage in Revelation 11 says that the witnesses will die by the hand of the beast, the Antichrist. However, you have to ask yourself the question, “Did these men really escaped death in their first life on earth?”
God placed Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden. When he did, he gave them this charge, “but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” – Genesis 2:17 NKJV.
When the serpent later tempted Eve, he challenged God’s word to the man and woman. “Then the serpent said to the woman, ‘You will not surely die.’ ” – Genesis 3:4 NKJV. And it seems to the casual reader that the man and woman surely did survive their transgression. They not only survived “the day that you eat of it” but they lived on for years, hundreds of years, and had sons and daughters after that fateful day.
But let me assure you that God’s word is true and Adam and Eve did die that day. You must understand that there is more than one kind of death. Even though their bodies lived on, their spirits, part of what reflected God’s image in them, did die. Adam and Eve passed this spiritual death on to their children. Only faith and hope in God’s grace restores spiritual life. Enoch and Elijah didn’t face death bodily like the rest of us. However, they are still under the penalty of spiritual death. “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” – Romans 3:23 NKJV. “For the wages of sin is death” – Romans 6:23 NKJV, edited. They suffered spiritual death and God had to be spiritually revive them.
Moses and Elijah
Another popular belief about the two witnesses are Moses and Elijah. Moses is the representative of the law in Jewish culture and Elijah represents the prophets. People who believe this idea cite this verse: “But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets,” – Romans 3:21 NKJV. The Law and the Prophets are witnesses that there is now a righteousness apart from the law. Perhaps, God will send the two representatives of these two as witnesses in the final days.
Advocates of this idea also note that these two appeared with Jesus prior to his death. Maybe Jesus assigned this task for the last days to them at this meeting. Unfortunately, we aren’t privy to the conversation that went on atop that mountain. Anything said among the trio is speculation. I would imagine their conversation pertained to the culmination of Jesus’ first coming. It probablyhad little to do with his second appearance.
Another indication that the witnesses be Moses and Elijah are their abilities. “And if anyone wants to harm them, fire proceeds from their mouth and devours their enemies. And if anyone wants to harm them, he must be killed in this manner. These have power to shut heaven, so that no rain falls in the days of their prophecy; and they have power over waters to turn them to blood, and to strike the earth with all plagues, as often as they desire.” – Revelation 11:5-6 NKJV. Just like Elijah, they will have the ability to call fire from heaven to devour their enemies. They can shut the heavens so no rain falls. Just like Moses, they will have the power to turn water into blood and strike the earth with plagues.
A New Theory of the Two Witnesses
The book of Revelation tells you who the witnesses will be. In the fourth verse of Chapter 11, it tells you, “These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands standing before the God of the earth.” This explanation, however, is unsatisfying as it merely leads to another question. “Who are the two olive trees and the two lampstands?” When interpreting apocalyptic scriptures, follow this one rule, especially in the book of Revelation. See if scriptures uses similar language elsewhere in the Bible. Fortunately for you, you can cross-reference Rev. 4:11 with another passage from the Old Testament.
“Now the angel who talked with me came back and wakened me, as a man who is wakened out of his sleep. And he said to me, ‘What do you see?’ So I said, ‘I am looking, and there is a lampstand of solid gold with a bowl on top of it, and on the stand seven lamps with seven pipes to the seven lamps. Two olive trees are by it, one at the right of the bowl and the other at its left.’ So I answered and spoke to the angel who talked with me, saying, ‘What are these, my lord?’ ”
“Then the angel who talked with me answered and said to me, ‘Do you not know what these are?’ ”
“And I said, ‘No, my lord.’ ”
“So he answered and said to me: ‘This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: “Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,” Says the LORD of hosts. “Who are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you shall become a plain! And he shall bring forth the capstone With shouts of ‘Grace, grace to it!” ’ ”
“Moreover the word of the LORD came to me, saying: ‘The hands of Zerubbabel Have laid the foundation of this temple; His hands shall also finish it. Then you will know That the LORD of hosts has sent Me to you. For who has despised the day of small things? For these seven rejoice to see The plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel. They are the eyes of the LORD, Which scan to and fro throughout the whole earth.’ ”
“Then I answered and said to him, ‘What are these two olive trees–at the right of the lampstand and at its left?’ And I further answered and said to him, ‘What are these two olive branches that drip into the receptacles of the two gold pipes from which the golden oil drains?’ ”
“Then he answered me and said, ‘Do you not know what these are?’ ”
“And I said, ‘No, my lord.’ ”
“So he said, ‘These are the two anointed ones, who stand beside the Lord of the whole earth.’ ” — Zechariah 4:1-14 NKJV.
This is obviously a parallel passage to Revelation 11. But how do the two relate and what can you glean by looking at the two together? My first impression is that this passage and the 11th chapter of Revelation are about building the temple. Zechariah 4 is about the second temple. Revelation 11 is about the third temple.
But since you are looking for the identity of the two witnesses, this comes at the end of the chapter. Verse 14 tells you, “These are the two anointed ones, who stand beside the Lord of the whole earth.” This verse doesn’t help much, but keep looking for clues and building your case.
The Two Anointed Ones
Who are the two anointed ones who stand beside the Lord of the whole earth? In several places in the book of Revelation, you see the throne of God and around the throne are twenty-four elders. The number twenty-four doesn’t seem to have any specific significant elsewhere in scripture, but the number twelve certainly does. The Old Testament over and over tells you that twelve tribes or the descendants of the twelve sons of Jacob, represent the nation of Israel.
In the New Testament, we see the twelve apostles that the Lord chose. Notice what Jesus says about them. “So Jesus said to them, “Assuredly I say to you, that in the regeneration, when the Son of Man sits on the throne of His glory, you who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” – Matthew 19:28 NKJV. It appears that twelve of the thrones are the twelve apostles. The other twelve are the sons of Israel.
Take note that in the new Jerusalem, these two groups are present. “And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God, having the glory of God. Her light was like a most precious stone, like a jasper stone, clear as crystal. Also she had a great and high wall with twelve gates, and twelve angels at the gates, and names written on them, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel: three gates on the east, three gates on the north, three gates on the south, and three gates on the west. Now the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.” – Revelation 21:10-14 NKJV.
A possible interpretation is that we enter into salvation through the Jews. “You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews.” – John 4:22 NKJV. However, the foundation for our salvation is Jesus Christ, born of the Jews. “For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, you are God’s building. According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it. For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” – 1 Corinthians 3:9-11 NKJV.
The church is the bride and body of Jesus Christ, built on the testimony of the apostles. “On this rock I will build My church” Matthew 16:18 NKJV, edited. “Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.” – Ephesians 2:19-22 NKJV.
Scripture does not specially identify these elders. But I believe them to represent two distinct groups. First, the twelve apostles representing the church. Also, the twelve sons of Israel representing the Jewish people. Notice they are dressed in white (Isa. 1:18; Rev. 3: 5,18; 7:9; 19:14) meaning that the blood of the lamb, Jesus, has cleansed their sins. And they are wearing crowns, (1 Cor. 9:25; 2 Tim, 4:8; Jas. 1:12; 1 Pet. 5:4) the rewards for faithful service to the Lord.
The Two Olive Trees
When the Lord speaks of Israel, he often referred to her as an olive tree or a fig tree, a fruit-bearing tree. Take this verse for example: “The LORD called your name, Green Olive Tree, Lovely and of Good Fruit. With the noise of a great tumult He has kindled fire on it, And its branches are broken.” – Jeremiah 11:16 NKJV.
To take these twenty-four elders and pair them down to two olive trees, look at Romans 11.
“For I speak to you Gentiles; inasmuch as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry, if by any means I may provoke to jealousy those who are my flesh and save some of them. For if their being cast away is the reconciling of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?”
“For if the firstfruit is holy, the lump is also holy; and if the root is holy, so are the branches. And if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive tree, were grafted in among them, and with them became a partaker of the root and fatness of the olive tree, do not boast against the branches. But if you do boast, remember that you do not support the root, but the root supports you.”
“You will say then, ‘Branches were broken off that I might be grafted in.’ Well said. Because of unbelief they were broken off, and you stand by faith. Do not be haughty, but fear. For if God did not spare the natural branches, He may not spare you either. Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness. Otherwise you also will be cut off. And they also, if they do not continue in unbelief, will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again. For if you were cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and were grafted contrary to nature into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these, who are natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree? For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in.” – Romans 11:13-25 NKJV.
Paul identifies the nation of Israel as a cultivated olive tree. However, because of their stiff-necked rejection and failure to follow God, he breaks off their branches and grafts them into a wild olive tree who Paul identifies as the Gentiles. If you’re keeping count, that’s one cultivated olive tree and one wild olive tree – two olive trees.
Paul tells us that a remnant of Israel still remains. “And so all Israel will be saved.” Paul isn’t saying that everybody in Israel will be saved, but that God has a remnant that are elect. And the true Israel will turn to him in the final days. “But it is not that the word of God has taken no effect. For they are not all Israel who are of Israel,” – Romans 9:6 NKJV.
The Two Lampstands
Not only are the two witnesses the two olive trees, but they are also two lampstands.
When John begins the vision of Revelation, he is told plainly. “The mystery of the seven stars which you saw in My right hand, and the seven golden lampstands: The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands which you saw are the seven churches.” – Revelation 1:20 NKJV. The lampstands here are specifically the seven churches of Asia who the Lord will address in chapters two and three. However, by extension, we can say that lampstands represent the church in general.
The reason I think the Lord uses this metaphor is that lampstands contain or hold the fire. The fire represents the Holy Spirit. Likewise, it is through the church that the Holy Spirit is manifest. The Holy Spirit dwells in the hearts of true believers. He is seen through the work of the church, or at least should be. So the two witnesses are to be the manifestation of the Holy Spirit to the world.
The Two Witnesses Revealed
So this is the conclusion. The Old Testament refers to the tabernacle as the tabernacle of witness and the tabernacle of the testimony. (Num. 17:7,8; 2 Ch. 24:6; Num. 10:11) and the ark inside the tabernacle is the ark of the testimony (Exo. 25:16-22; 40:3; Num. 7:89; Jos. 4:16). At one point, God said the prophets were witnesses. “I have also spoken by the prophets, And have multiplied visions; I have given symbols through the witness of the prophets.” – Hosea 12:10 NKJV. God established the nation of Israel to be a witness to the Gentiles of his righteousness.
Isaiah tells us plainly. “ ‘You are My witnesses,’ says the LORD, ‘And My servant whom I have chosen, That you may know and believe Me, And understand that I am He. Before Me there was no God formed, Nor shall there be after Me. I, even I, am the LORD, And besides Me there is no savior. I have declared and saved, I have proclaimed, And there was no foreign god among you; Therefore you are My witnesses,’ Says the LORD, ‘that I am God.’ ” – Isaiah 43:10-12 NKJV.
God also declared that the apostles and through them the church would be witnesses. “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” – Acts 1:8 NKJV.
I believe in the last days, The Jews will build the third temple. After the Antichrist sets up the abomination that causes desolation in the temple, two groups will rise to oppose him and speak against him. The first witness will be a group of Jewish believers in Yeshua that will stand in the inner court and declare that this man is not the messiah that the world believes him to be.
The second witness will be a group of Christians that stand in the outer court, the court of the Gentiles. They will agree with their Messianic Jewish brothers.
These two will continue their protests, the words that come from their mouths will be like fire. “Therefore thus says the LORD God of hosts: ‘Because you speak this word, Behold, I will make My words in your mouth fire, And this people wood, And it shall devour them.’ ” – Jeremiah 5:14 NKJV. And “But when they arrest you and deliver you up, do not worry beforehand, or premeditate what you will speak. But whatever is given you in that hour, speak that; for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit.” – Mark 13:11 NKJV.
These two groups will be in the courts of temple for three and a half years. They will have the power of the Spirit to perform many signs and wonders.
Finally, the forces of the Antichrist will try to silence them. When they refuse to be silent, he will kill them leaving their bodies lying in the temple courts and in the streets surrounding it. After three and a half days, Jesus calls them to meet him in the clouds and then those believers who are alive and remain will changed in the twinkling of an eye and go with them. Then the Lord will return with his angels and his saints to set up his kingdom on the earth.
Note: This study is based almost in its entirety on a movie produced by Jarren Lewis titled, God’s Power is Coming! (The Two Witnesses Movie). You can see this movie at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fE81HrKxHoo. I do not advocate everything in this movie, but if you watch this movie, you will see a lot of similarities and Jarren is the one that got me started on this study.