Continuing our stroll through Revelation, we come to the point where we are introduced to two witnesses that are empowered by the LORD to serve with supernatural power and protection during the first half of the seven-year tribulation period.
Revelation 11:1–2 “And there was given me a reed like unto a rod: and the angel stood, saying, Rise, and measure the temple of God, and the altar, and them that worship therein. But the court which is without the temple leave out, and measure it not; for it is given unto the Gentiles: and the holy city shall they tread under foot forty and two months.”
John is given a measuring stick and told to measure the temple of God, the altar and those that worship there. The fact that John is told to measure certain things seems to indicate that these items, or what they represent, are treasured by the LORD. The temple was first established to represent God’s presence among His people, His desire to fellowship with them. The altar represents the great sacrifice that He was willing to make to redeem those He loves from sin. The worshippers represent those that have chosen to accept His sacrifice on their behalf and who desire intimate fellowship with Him. Though the physical temple will be desecrated and the sacrifice of Jesus scorned by the Antichrist and those that follow Him, those that worship Him will emerge victorious when He returns to establish His earthly kingdom and build a new and glorious temple.
John was specifically instructed not to measure the outer court because it had been given to the Gentiles for 42 months—3.5 years, the last half of the tribulation period. It’s like John is being told that although the Gentiles will be in control for that period of time, Jesus will preserve that which is holy and separate to Him—including the worshippers. This seems to infer that Israel is in control during the first 3.5 years, since the antichrist takes control the second 3.5 years. This understanding is supported by the prophet Daniel.
Daniel 9:27 “And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease….”
Reminder: one week = seven years
Once the temple is rebuilt, it will be a place of worship to God once again during the first 3.5 years. This will be a time of opportunity for the Jews to turn back to God in faith. After the first 3.5 years Antichrist will step in to desecrate the holy place. Paul talks about this in his letter to the Thessalonians.
2 Thessalonians 2:3–4 “Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God.”
Revelation 11:3 “And I will give power unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days, clothed in sackcloth.”
Note that the angel identifies the two witnesses as representing Him; I believe this identifies the mighty angel as Jesus. The whole purpose of these witnesses is to witness to the truth of God’s word and the salvation that is available to all through Jesus. They will not be politically correct. They will identify sin and man’s need for deliverance from that sin. Their message will cause people to hate them and desire to get rid of them.
Revelation 11:4-6 “These are the two olive trees, and the two candlesticks standing before the God of the earth. And if any man will hurt them, fire proceedeth out of their mouth, and devoureth their enemies: and if any man will hurt them, he must in this manner be killed. These have power to shut heaven, that it rain not in the days of their prophecy: and have power over waters to turn them to blood, and to smite the earth with all plagues, as often as they will.”
The two witnesses are identified as “the two olive trees and the two candlesticks” that stand before God. I believe these are the same to olive trees spoken of by the prophet Zechariah.
Zechariah 4:2-3 & 11-14 “And said unto me, What seest thou? And I said, I have looked, and behold a candlestick all of gold, with a bowl upon the top of it, and his seven lamps thereon, and seven pipes to the seven lamps, which are upon the top thereof: And two olive trees by it, one upon the right side of the bowl, and the other upon the left side thereof….Then answered I, and said unto him, What are these two olive trees upon the right side of the candlestick and upon the left side thereof? And I answered again, and said unto him, What be these two olive branches which through the two golden pipes empty the golden oil out of themselves? And he answered me and said, Knowest thou not what these be? And I said, No, my lord. Then said he, These are the two anointed ones, that stand by the Lord of the whole earth.”
In Zechariah the immediate application would seem to be to Joshua and Zerubbabel, but I am sure that the primary application is to these two future witnesses to “the whole earth.” Just as Joshua and Zerubbabel were standing as God’s spirit-filled representatives to Judah at the time of Zechariah’s ministry, these two witnesses will be standing as God’s spirit-filled representatives to the whole earth during the first part of that tribulation period. I believe the Spirit will be ministering on earth during the tribulation or 70th week, just as He did during the first 69 weeks of that time prophesied by Daniel.
That we are talking about two special individuals is clear from the context of the passage. The word for witness includes the implication of being a martyr—which will be true of them as we find out in the following verses. They will prophesy (foretell and tell forth) the truth of God for 1,260 days or 3.5 years (v3). They will wear the traditional “sackcloth” identified with the Old Testament prophets.
Since they are not specifically identified by Jesus, we can only speculate as to their identity. I used to believe that it would be Enoch and Elijah since they are the two men that scripture reveals never saw physical death. Scripture tells us in Hebrews 9:27 that “it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment.” This is, of course, excluding the generation that will “not sleep” as identified by Paul.
1Corinthians 15:51 “Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed….”
However, I believe the writer to the Hebrews provides further insight.
Hebrews 11:5 “By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God.”
Remember, Enoch was not a Jew. God’s primary focus during the 70th week is upon the people of Israel. It makes better sense that the witnesses in Jerusalem be Jewish. I believe that Enoch is a type of the raptured body of believers who are rescued from the outpouring of God’s wrath that will occur basically concurrent with the tribulation period.
We are told in Malachi that Elijah will be sent before the Lord Jesus returns, and I believe that identifies him as one of the witnesses.
Malachi 4:5 “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD.”
I tend to agree with many others that believe that the other witness will be Moses because the powers demonstrated by these two men are very similar to those that Moses and Elijah demonstrated during their time as prophets. The fact that they appeared with Jesus when the three disciples were allowed to witness the glorified Jesus also seems to set them apart as special servants of God.
(to be continued…)