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Bible verses about Two Witnesses
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Deuteronomy 13:1-5

The first factor added here is that God recognizes that false prophets, through the power of Satan, can accomplish signs and wonders. The magicians of Egypt imitate Moses' staff-into-a-serpent miracle before Pharaoh (Exodus 7:8-12). The end-time False Prophet will do similar signs as the Two Witnesses, causing most of the world's population to worship the Beast (Revelation 13:11-15). Paul warns in II Corinthians 11:13-15 that Satan's servants are clever counterfeits of Christ's. Signs, wonders, and miracles, then, are not conclusive proof that a prophet is from God.

The second factor Deuteronomy 13 adds is our need to recognize the spiritual message accompanying the prophet's signs and predictions. This is the essence of the apostle John's admonition, "Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world" (I John 4:1). No matter how impressive or accurate a prophet's miracles or prophecies, his credibility hangs on whether he leads people toward or away from God.

The following questions, then, must all be answered before we judge a person as a true or false prophet:

1. Does he claim to prophesy in God's name or in a false god's name?
2. Do his prophecies come to pass?
3. Does he do signs and wonders?
4. Does he teach the truth based on God's Word?

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Was Herbert Armstrong a False Prophet?


 

1 Kings 18:17

Revelation 11:10 says that the Two Witnesses will torment the people of the earth, which is why the world will celebrate when these prophets are finally killed. Here, Elijah was thought of in the same way, as a "troubler" of Israel.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The Two Witnesses (Part 6)


 

1 Kings 18:22-24

What Elijah set up on Mount Carmel is a sign to show who is the true God. Only the true God would be able to bring fire down from heaven and burn up this sacrifice, which had been placed on water-soaked wood. This passage describes a contest between the God of Israel and Baal to determine which is the true God.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The Two Witnesses (Part 6)


 

1 Kings 18:40

What Elijah does in I Kings 18:40 is reminscent of the Two Witnesses—with the power of life and death over any who would go against the true God and against them. Evidently, it was probably on the false prophets' minds all along to kill Elijah. They had killed all the other prophets of God, so that only Elijah was left. And, considering how human beings normally think, they probably thought they would allow Elijah to perform his little act, and after he failed, they would show the people of Israel that he was a "false prophet" and kill him.

This may be very similar to what will happen in the end time. The powers that be will give the Two Witnesses audience to "perform" before the world, they will give them leave to do their "little tricks," and as in Elijah's day, it will come back to bite them because our God is the true God.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The Two Witnesses (Part 6)


 

Isaiah 40:1-10

This may also be part of the message of the Two Witnesses. They will preach comfort to Jerusalem—that the end is about to come, that she's been repaid for her sins, but a time is coming that will be far better for her. They will also prepare the way of the Lord, an obvious aspect of their ministry. In addition, they will proclaim that the Day of the Lord is coming, a time when all flesh is grass—when many will be simply wiped out for their sins. They will also preach a message to the church, leading its part in bringing good tidings of the coming Kingdom of God and giving them encouragement to do it with strength and boldness in Judah (evidently where most of them are at this late date). Finally, of course, they will boldly announce the return of Jesus Christ and the establishment of His government.

This passage, in a way, encapsulates the witness or the testimony of the Two Witnesses—to the world and to the church. Theirs will be true evidence that brings a conviction. One could say that the Two Witnesses are the two star witnesses of an end-time trial in which God judges that the world must be punished, that He must send His Son back, and that His must rule mankind. The Two Witnesses will give their evidence, and God will pass judgment.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The Two Witnesses (Part 3)


 

Ezekiel 3:14-15

When Ezekiel was finally back among the captives, he felt a great bitterness. He calls it, "the heat of my spirit." The New King James margin has at this point, "the anger of my spirit."

This heated or angry bitterness equates to a kind of zeal. God's revelation is actually its basis because what went down into his stomach and revealed or opened up a great deal of truth to him was from God. It has given him a perspective that no one else has—a unique view on the world, on the way things should be, and on all the truth of God. It brings him sadness, a kind of mourning, because of the crooked way of humanity.

Remember that the angel went about looking for those who sighed and cried over the abominations of the earth (Ezekiel 9:3-4). That is a deep sadness, a grieving over what is going on—along with a realization of one's powerlessness to change it. The people who sigh and cry see so many people going the wrong way and making their lives a total waste, and they find themselves unable to make any sort of beneficial change for them.

This zeal also contains a kind of astonishment, as verse 15 attests. Ezekiel was astonished for an entire seven days—a whole week! Trying to figure out just what was going on, he was dumbfounded. Probably part of it was that he had been given this commission, and he was asking, "Why me, Lord?" But he was also astonished by the understanding that he had been given and at what God was doing.

Finally, there is his anger. Somebody like Ezekiel would be angry because nothing was being done. It is the flipside of his sadness. He was angry that his people would not repent. He was likely thinking, "Come on, people. Listen! If you would only listen to God, things would turn around for you."

So the prophet shows a zeal to help people to change, but also a sadness that they probably will not. He also exhibits a total amazement over the fact that God is actually going to work all this out.

What Ezekiel displays is a weird emotion, but it is understandable why all of its facets are brought down to the one word: bitterness. There is little, if any, happiness and joy involved. It is the kind of mood where we say today, with a shake of the head, "Man, this is bad." It is an emotion on the very edge of downright pessimism.

What it does, though, is drive the prophet to do his work—because he is the only one, it seems, who can do it. Truly, he is, because God has chosen him in particular to do it. He may have picked somebody else, but He had prepared this particular individual for the job. And given a dose of that bitterness, the prophet is glavanized to get the job done.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The Two Witnesses (Part 2)


 

Amos 3:7

He is not out to trick us or to trip us up. Our beloved friend and elder brother Jesus Christ echoes this to His disciples: "No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you" (John 15:15).

We can have confidence in God's promise that He will not do anything significant concerning His people without informing us first in a clear, orderly, and understandable manner. If and when He chooses to send a special end-time leader to His people—whether he be a prophet, an apostle, or one of the two witnesses (Revelation 11)—God will make sure we are able to recognize the man as His true servant.

Staff
The Prophet


 

Habakkuk 1:5-7

This prophecy concerns the economic, political, and military machinations that will occur as the end approaches, but these maneuvers end with the return of Christ. Many parallel prophecies are fulfilled during the same period, for instance, the appearance of the Two Witnesses and their work. Even God declares that what He is going to bring to pass will be astounding, partly because it runs counter to what most believe could happen. Nonetheless, God will have His Two Witnesses expounding upon these prophecies and warning all who are willing to listen that a new world order is being ushered in through the tumultuous, worldwide events of the end-time "Axial Period."

It will not be the "New World Order" of human dreams, but Christ will return and continue to develop this new, God-devised revolution. The Babylonian image, which has governed and influenced the world since the sixth century BC, will be smashed on its feet, but the entire system will fragment into millions of pieces and be blown away into the dustbin of history, replaced by the Kingdom of God.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Prophecy and the Sixth-Century Axial Period


 

Zechariah 4:1

This is interesting in terms of Matthew 25 and the Ten Virgins, who were asleep. The angel comes and has to waken the prophet out of sleep. Could there be some sort of a parallel? Perhaps. Yet, at this point, the prophet himself had to be awoken out of sleep. Maybe it is a key to the timing of the revelation of the Two Witnesses and the other events of the end time.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The Two Witnesses (Part 4)


 

Zechariah 4:7

"Grace, grace" - In the Hebrew, this is literally "favor, favor." Perhaps more literally, it should be rendered "beauty, beauty." In the Psalms, there is a concept called "the beauty of holiness" (see Psalm 29:2; 96:9; 110:3), which is connected to this "grace, grace." However, this instance is a reiteration of what is said in verse 6, that it is only by God's gifts and favor that the work will be accomplished.

The Hebrew language repeats itself a great deal—putting ideas in a slightly different way, in parallel, so that we can understand just how things are to be understood. What this means is that it is by God's grace—by His Spirit, by His favor, by His gifts, that the Temple will be completed and ready for God to inhabit. Zerubbabel should not fear anything. It will be done through God's help.

However, we have to link this with the lamps around the central pillar, which is the passage's main theme. The prophecy goes beyond Zerubbabel to the New Testament church—specifically, down to the end-time church. The passage progresses toward the Two Witnesses—the two anointed ones—at the end of this chapter. And much like Revelation 10 and 11, it starts out with an early work and ends with their worldwide work. The early work has to do with completing the Temple, and the later work has to do with a witness for God before the whole world.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The Two Witnesses (Part 4)


 

Zechariah 4:8-10

This is a second interpretation of the first five verses, but not a different one. We have a preliminary interpretation in verses 6-7, and in verses 8-10 we are presented additional information and interpretation of the seven lamps.

The interpretation in verses 6-7 concentrated on "by My Spirit," making sure we get first things first. God, by His Spirit, will be behind all of this; it will be done by grace. We must understand this as priority one when we consider the work of the Two Witnesses. They are servants, and they follow the lead of God's Spirit. That is how their work will be done. That is their mind as well; they will not take credit for what they accomplish. They will know that it is done by God's Spirit.

Verses 8-10 shows that God really has Christ in mind (more than Zerubbabel, who was just a type). We always have to look at things like this and realize that there are types of Christ in them. Zerubbabel—though he is a type of one of the Two Witnesses—is really a type of the true Savior, Jesus Christ. Christ is the true King, and we can never keep Him out of these things.

Christ is building a spiritual temple, and He finishes what He starts. We can paraphrase verse 9 as, "The hands of Jesus Christ have laid the foundation of this temple; His hands shall also finish it." We could go back even as far as Creation and recognize that He was the One who created everything. He started the process that will end in salvation. He will complete the job and bring God's purpose to pass. As far as laying the foundation goes, He did that in Old Testament times, or we could bring it forward as when He gave Himself as a sacrifice for our sins to establish our relationship with God the Father. No matter where we see the starting point of the spiritual Temple in history, He will complete it.

Philippians 1:6 says He who has started a good work in you will finish it. He will complete it. Zerubbabel's completion of the physical Temple in 515 BC is just a sign, if you will, that Christ will finish the spiritual one.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The Two Witnesses (Part 4)


 

Zechariah 4:10

"For who has despised the day of small things?" No one who understands God and what He is working out looks down on the times when only insignificant things seem to be accomplished. Those who understand what God is doing know that the day of small things must take place before the big things can happen.

This is primarily an encouragement to the Two Witnesses. Their work will appear as nothing to begin with. Nevertheless, they will not despise it because they know that small things must happen before bigger things can take place, the things that will really put them on the map during the final 3½ years. But the small things that happen before that time—in measuring the altar, the Temple, and the worshippers (Revelation 11:1)—will set the stage for their major work.

It is important to realize—from the historical point of view—that even when this Temple was finished, the people moaned about it: "This is nothing like Solomon's Temple!" It seemed a small thing in itself, and it was. It was just a bare representation of the original Temple that David built through Solomon. Nevertheless, it was necessary. The small things that happened back then—the Jews returning from exile with a great many of the Levites and the priests, building the Temple, putting a wall around the city, and eventually colonizing most of the old land of Israel (particularly around the Sea of Galilee)—made the birth and ministry of Jesus Christ possible. He had to have a Temple to come to.

So, all these small things that happened with this tiny number of people who came back from Babylon, and all the work that they did over a hundred years or so, prepared the way for the very "big thing" of the first advent of Jesus Christ (meaning His entire life, His ministry, His death, and His resurrection). Without the small things, that big thing would never have happened.

God was preparing for the big thing through the small things, and He does that all the time. Thus, any faithful person will not despise the times when only small things are happening, because they mean that big things are coming and that they should prepare themselves for them.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The Two Witnesses (Part 4)


 

Zechariah 4:11-14

When these verses are combined with the information regarding the Two Witnesses in Revelation 11, it is clear the olive trees feeding the lampstand with oil, empowering it to give light, are the Two Witnesses feeding the entire church. If we are indeed nearing the time for God to raise up the Two Witnesses, then we should expect first one, then the other to come to the attention of the church. A spiritual unity will develop as church members voluntarily submit themselves to be fed and led by the Two Witnesses.

If we know what to look for, because we are familiar with the patterns God has revealed to us, it will put us into the position to see God regathering and reforming the church from the destructive calamity that He put it in for its good. He is actively creating whatever it takes to save His people from their sins.

John W. Ritenbaugh
God's Sovereignty and the Church's Condition (Part Two)


 

Zechariah 4:14

The angel says they "stand beside the Lord of the whole earth." This is a neat way of saying that they serve God—whether as priests, prophets, ministers, or apostles (Deuteronomy 10:8; 18-6-7; I Kings 17:1; 18:15; II Kings 3:14; 5:16; Jeremiah 15:19). Not only are they ministering to or serving God, but they are also called to bless His name—or to bless in His name, which is a little bit different. All things considered, they are conduits for Him, doing His work on earth. They do things in His name at His command.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The Two Witnesses (Part 5)


 

Matthew 8:28-34

Jesus stayed in Gadara only for a few hours, but during that time, He came across two demon-possessed men (Matthew 8:28-34; Mark 5:1-20; Luke 8:26-40). Although Matthew's account mentions two men, and Mark and Luke record only one, no contradiction exists between them. The simple explanation is that one of the men, acting as their spokesman, was more prominent and aggressive, and thus more noticeable than the other. Perhaps Matthew, directing his gospel toward Jews, emphasized their number, knowing the legal weight of two witnesses (Deuteronomy 17:6; 19:15).

Martin G. Collins
The Miracles of Jesus Christ: Two Demon-Possessed Men Healed (Part One)


 

Matthew 18:16

Jesus quotes this principle of appropriate judgment from Deuteronomy 19:15.

How do we go about this? We find another church member, or two if necessary, and we ask them to become involved. They should be members who are not gossip-mongers and whose word is reliable. An unbiased person is best in many ways. However, on the other hand, it is wise to have a person who to some extent agrees about the offense. Perhaps he has been offended in a similar way by the same offender in the past.

This is where it can become tricky. Be very careful! Do not be hasty! It should not be our intention to start a war over this. Nor do we want to split the "protective island" of our congregation into two opposing camps. Neither do we want to be accused of gossip.

At the very beginning of the first step, we should have advised the offender that we were bringing this to him in accordance with Jesus' instructions in Matthew 18. If Step Number One does not work, then we should tell him again that, according to Jesus' command, we need to take it to Step Number Two, and that we wish to involve another person or persons. Be gentle! Be diplomatic!

Now, what if the offender refuses to resolve the problem even when we, the offended, are backed by our "two witnesses"? That is when we must involve "the church." (Matthew 18:17)

Staff
Islands and Offenses


 

Matthew 24:14

The church believed in recent years that the ministry of Herbert Armstrong fulfilled this verse, but subsequent events force us to modify our understanding.

It is certain that the end did not come immediately upon the death of Herbert Armstrong. On the other hand, he indeed preached the gospel of the Kingdom of God around the world as it had not been proclaimed since the first century. Though he technically did not witness before every nation, the preaching and literature of the church of God blanketed the globe in a way never done before.

In the context of Matthew 24, however, the timing of this great work of preaching the gospel is wrong if it applies strictly to the ministry of Herbert Armstrong. In the paragraph running between verses 4 and 14, this statement appears at the end of the context, after the opening of the fifth seal (verse 9; see Revelation 6:9-11). Thus, verse 14 seems to indicate a ministry active during the Great Tribulation, the subject Jesus expands on in verses 15-28.

What ministry is active on a worldwide scale during the Great Tribulation? None other than the Two Witnesses! From the summary of that ministry in Revelation 11, we can easily see that God empowers them during the 3½ years of the Tribulation (verse 3). Their ministry is called a "testimony" (verse 7), the same Greek word translated as "witness" in Matthew 24:14. When the Beast finally kills them in Jerusalem, everyone on earth rejoices (Revelation 11:10), indicating that the witnesses' work is worldwide. And three and a half days after their deaths, Christ returns and the age ends (verses 11-13; Zechariah 14:3-5).

Mr. Armstrong would probably be the first to admit this. When he told the church near the end of his life that the preaching of the gospel had been done, he could not have been ignorant of the work of the Two Witnesses. It is clear he meant that he had finished the work God raised him to do. That work revived the truth of God in many areas and prepared the way for the ministry of the Two Witnesses. However, we should see his ministry only as a type or precursor to the even greater work that will be done during the Great Tribulation.

Matthew 24:14 is indeed a definite sign of the end. It applies specifically to the very last days before Christ's second coming when God will give the world a final warning through the mouth of two witnesses (see II Corinthians 13:1; Deuteronomy 17:6).

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Are These the Last Days? (Part 1)


 

Matthew 25:10-13

While the foolish are busy trying to get their spiritual lives in order at the last minute, Christ comes to take the wise, and the doors to the marriage feast are shut (Matthew 25:10-13). Only those virgins who have a regular supply of oil and combine it with the lamp of God, the Bible, can hear the true voice of their Shepherd calling to them through His true ministers, including the Two Witnesses. The foolish virgins, representing many ministers too, will at first scoff at these two men and ignore their warnings. But when the Two Witnesses begin performing miracles, the foolish virgins will start to wake from their deep sleep; they will begin to repent and ask God for His Spirit.

God the Father has the authority and Jesus Christ has paid the price to enable us to have oil in our vessels. Everyone called by God must pay a price, obedience to God, to receive His Holy Spirit (Acts 5:32). This means we must repent and overcome sin on a daily basis.

Staff
Y2K: You-2-the-Kingdom


 

2 Corinthians 13:1-2

One witness shall not rise against a man concerning any iniquity or any sin that he commits; by the mouth of two or three witnesses the matter shall be established.

So reads the law regarding witnesses, as recorded in Deuteronomy 19:15.

In II Corinthians 13, the apostle Paul puts an intriguing twist on this law. Here, two or three witnesses are not different people, but different trips. The "two or three witnesses" are successive trips he made to Corinth. Each separate trip—or more correctly, his teaching during each separate trip—stands as a witness against those who fail to receive correction. Paul's various visits to Corinth provide several witnesses against those who continue to sin.

Notice II Corinthians 13:1-2 from the Berkeley Version:

This is my third visit to you. "In the mouth of two or three witnesses every statement shall be confirmed." I said, while previously there on my second visit, and I say it before my arrival while still absent, to those who kept on in their old sins and to all the rest, that when I come once more I shall not spare.

The message is the witness. Paul understood that, over time, one person can provide a number of witnesses. One person, several witnesses! This understanding has an important application for those of us who labor in the twilight of "this present evil age" (Galatians 1:4). In part, that application is this: The Messiah is to preach the Good News—the gospel—of His Father's Kingdom in two visits; His message will take the form of two separate witnesses. We commonly call them His two ministries or His first and second comings.

His first visit—or witness—took place nearly 2,000 years ago. Christ introduced it one Sabbath day by reading Isaiah 61:1-2 in Nazareth's synagogue. His Galilean audience

were filled with wrath, and rose up and thrust Him out of the city; and they led Him to the brow of the hill on which their city was built, that they might throw Him down over the cliff. (Luke 4:28-29)

History repeats itself. When Christ soon stands to read Isaiah 61:2-3, many, unable to recognize Him as their Messiah, will respond as did the Galileans. At Christ's second "visit," His second witness, many will again be "filled with wrath" and seek to destroy Him (Revelation 19:19).

Charles Whitaker
Recognizing the Second Witness


 

Philippians 3:13-14

This is the temper of patience. It enables a person to plod determinedly on. It may not be spectacular, but such a person will go on toward perfection. This quality will have to be part of the makeup of the Two Witnesses. God has clearly prophesied of three-and-a-half years of their lives being filled with great confrontation, persecution, and at its end a shamefully undeserved and public death!

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fruit of the Spirit: Patience


 

Revelation 6:9

After Christ opens the fifth seal, the apostle John sees "under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the testimony which they held" (verse 9). No galloping horses or deadly riders appear in this seal, and their absence immediately sets this one apart from the previous four. There is no inviting, "Come and see," or expectant, "And I looked, and behold," but just a plain narrative describing his vision. In fact, the tone is so matter-of-fact as to be somber, befitting its subject.

The first striking detail is "the altar" with the definite article. That it is not further defined suggests that it has already been mentioned or that the reader is expected to know what it is. However, this verse contains the first mention of an altar in the book of Revelation. An altar is mentioned an additional seven times in the book, and in six of them, it refers to the golden incense altar that stands before the throne of God in heaven (see Revelation 8:3-5; 9:13; 14:18; 16:7). The only exception to this appears in Revelation 11:1, in which John is told to "measure the temple of God, the altar, and those who worship there," seeming to refer to evaluating the church, its ministers, and its worship in preparation for the work of the Two Witnesses. The "altar" of Revelation 6:9, with the prayerful souls of martyrs under it, conforms to the rule, not the exception.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The Fifth Seal (Part One)


 

Revelation 6:16-17

God quotes two statements of these sixth-seal cavemen. The first is a command to mountains and rocks. The second is a question. What do their words tell us? What does their silence tell us?

The first sentence is a somewhat illogical command for the "mountains and rocks" to fall on them.

» In making this statement, the cavemen demonstrate at least some correct understanding of the Source of their difficulties. They recognize two Beings as the cause: "Him who sits on the throne" and "the Lamb." This is remarkable in itself, since, to this point, they have seen neither Being.

» The cavemen call one of these two Beings "the Lamb." Admittedly, they do not equate the Lamb with Christ, but the inference is clear that they understand the Lamb to be Christ, the Word of God. Incidentally, John makes 26 references to Christ as the Lamb in the book of Revelation.

» Further, the cavemen understand that these two powerful Beings are angry. In assigning a cause to their difficulties, they utterly shun the voice of the secularist or the atheist. They do not, for example, blame nature on their troubles. They do not assert, "It's just a cycle. Nature will clean up the air and water, and everything will be okay soon." Rather, they squarely identify the cause of their present problems to be the wrath of the Father and Christ.

» Even more interesting is their silence concerning the Holy Spirit. In their dire straits, where their lifestyles have so dramatically changed and their lives are in clear-and-present danger, they make no reference to the Holy Spirit as a separate Person of the Godhead. This suggests that they have abandoned Trinitarian doctrine—remarkable considering the cornerstone status nominal Christianity has historically accorded to it. We are left to speculate why they make no reference to the Trinity at this time.

Their second sentence is a question rather than a statement or command. In stating that "the great day of His wrath has come," they recognize that their situation is special; theirs are extraordinary times. They rightly realize that they can no more defer the effects of God's ire than they can blame those effects on nature. Their reference to "the great day of His wrath" indicates an at least superficial realization that they are facing the Day of the Lord. In asking, "Who can stand?" they recognize that they are powerless to defend themselves against the wrath of these two God-Beings.

In short, the window of these people's minds opens up to a substantially different landscape than what currently exists in our world. Consider how many individuals whom we would today classify as "the kings of the earth, the great men" would refer to Christ as "the Lamb"? How many "rich men, the commanders, the mighty men" know about the prophesied Day of the Lord?

Comparatively few. Perhaps some in America's Bible Belt might use this terminology, but most individuals in the wider society, the secularized, cosmopolitan mess we call the Western World, would find these concepts alien to their thinking. Moreover, most of those who are familiar with the concepts of Christ as the Lamb or the Day of the Lord also fervently believe in the Trinity—something our latter-day cavemen do not allude to at all.

What is happening here? God has actually begun to transform the religious landscape of these cave-dwellers as surely as He has commenced to terraform the planet's physical landscape. These people have listened to the Two Witnesses' preaching, beginning at the time of the fifth seal. God's Word does not return to Him void (Isaiah 55:11); these erstwhile movers and shakers have heeded, to an extent. As a result, they have a more complete—though far from perfect—understanding of God and His purposes. And they run for the hills!

Charles Whitaker
Post-Historic Cave-Dwellers


 

Revelation 7:3-8

Some contend that there are two groups of 144,000, one in Revelation 14, the other in chapter 7. Apparently, the idea is that the ones in chapter 7 are physical Israelites that are the seed of physical government for the Millennium, and the 144,000 in chapter 14 are the bride, the firstfruits, the elect of God.

First, we must ask why God would see a need for physical rulers when He has prepared 144,000 humans-turned-spirit beings to rule as kings and priests? Isaiah 30:21 shows that they will be visible and audible to humans.

We can ascertain the truth of the matter simply by defining the "sealing" of those in Revelation 7. We will see that sealing has to do with protecting and setting aside for special use.

In II Corinthians 1:22, Paul describes himself and the spiritual Israelites, the church, as being "sealed . . . and given . . . the spirit in our hearts as a deposit" (see also II Corinthians 5:5). In a real estate transaction, earnest or "sincerity and serious intent" money is put down ahead of time. If the buyer fails to finish the purchase, he loses the money. Spiritually, God gives us "earnest money" in the form of the Holy Spirit. He buys, redeems, or purchases us with Christ?s blood, which seals us or designates us as His. The Holy Spirit and the mind of Christ in us are the evidence of this, recognizable to Him and others. God completes the transaction when He returns and changes us into spirit as members of the God Family and co-heirs with Christ (John 3:6; I Corinthians 15:42-55).

Ephesians 1:13-14 combines sealing, as in Revelation 7, with redemption, a characteristic of the 144,000 of Revelation 14:

In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, which is the guarantee [earnest, KJV, NKJV margin] of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.

Here, "sealed," "earnest," "redemption," and "purchase" are all included in one passage, showing they are inseparable! There is only one group of 144,000!

Ephesians 4:30 makes the same connection, showing we are "sealed [protected, set aside or apart] for the day of redemption" by the Holy Spirit. Hebrews 9:11-15 shows the redemption from our sins is of Christ so that we can "receive the promise of eternal inheritance," which occurs at the return of Christ (Luke 21:27-28).

The time element of Revelation 7 is the sixth seal and the day of Christ?s wrath (Revelation 6:12-17). The angels are instructed to hold back opening the seventh seal and seven last plagues until the sealing of the 144,000 is complete (Revelation 7:1-3). The last two to be sealed, set aside, given the final stamp of approval may be the Two Witnesses, who die only three-and-a-half days before Christ returns. God resurrects them to meet Christ in the air with the 143,998 others who form the bride and government of Christ, the mother for the rest of humanity, who will then have the opportunity for salvation in their order.

The sealing is not just physical protection of 144,000 physical Israelites. The Bible clearly defines sealing as being of the Holy Spirit of promise toward inheritance of the promises. This includes the patriarchs and all true Christians right until Christ returns. Notice they are called "the servants of our God" (Revelation 7:3). God does not use this term lightly in the Bible. Could we legitimately classify 144,000 people who had just endured the Tribulation because of sin, barely surviving and not yet converted, "servants of our God?"

Those who survive into the Millennium will be humbled and ready to become converted, not already converted and ready to rule. That opportunity is reserved for those who have already proved themselves worthy to rule, servants of God, the firstfruits.

Why are they numbered by tribe? Because the apostles rule over the twelve tribes (Matthew 19:28), and as we see in Revelation 21, twelve is the governmental number of the bride. Whether we are physically of Judah, Gad, Asher, or whatever tribe is not important. Very likely, God places us spiritually in those tribes as He organizes His government.

We know this because the twelve apostles were not all physically from the tribes they will rule! They were apparently mostly of Judah, Levi, or Benjamin. Since there were several sets of brothers among the Twelve, it is impossible that all twelve tribes could physically be represented, so Christ will place them over whichever tribe He chooses. He will do the same with us.

Staff
Who Are the 144,000?


 

Revelation 10:3-4

The Seven Thunders are definitely heard before the seventh angel sounds. Even within the sequence of chapter 10 (a inset), the Seven Thunders will occur before Revelation 11:15. The Two Witnesses do not begin preaching until chapter 11, so the Seven Thunders sound before the Two Witnesses begin to preach.

The events of chapters 10 and 11 must occur absolutely before the seventh trumpet sounds—they even begin and end before the fifth seal, well before the seventh trumpet, which is the last part of the seventh seal. This helps us understand what the Seven Thunders are.

Chapter 11 begins before the Tribulation and the Day of the Lord. Given that Chapter 10 is part of the same context, the Seven Thunders conclude before John, the type of the Two Witnesses "must prophesy again." What we see at the beginning of chapter 10 is God's message—the gospel of the Kingdom of God—being given to mankind in seven sequential blasts!

If the Thunders had pealed all at once, John would not have been able to count them, but he distinctly hears seven of them. The events of chapter 10 blend right into Revelation 2-3: The Seven Thunders are the messages of the Seven Churches!

John was told not to write them, not because their message was a secret, but because it is already written—in Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, etc. To give it again would have been redundant. The giving of the message must be finished before John "must prophesy again"—that is, before the Two Witnesses preach during the Tribulation and the Day of the Lord.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Revelation 10 and the Laodicean Church


 

Revelation 10:11

Within the context of this chapter, it does not seem like John ever prophesies. However, within the time limits of the context, he did prophesy. Prophesy here does not mean "to foretell" but "to speak under inspiration"—of God—to preach!

Notice Revelation 11:1: "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.'"

Chapters 10 and 11 are one prophecy. The Seven Thunders have something to do with John, who is receiving the revelation. They also have something to do with the Two Witnesses. The Seven Thunders will sound, and they will all finish their sounding before the Two Witnesses and before the seventh seal's seventh trumpet.

When will John preach again? We know that the Two Witnesses will preach after the time of this verse. We can be certain that John himself will not preach. He was almost a hundred years old by the time Christ gave him the book of Revelation, and he was about ready to die. The ones who will "prophesy again" are the Two Witnesses and at a much later time. They will be antitypes of John. They will preach again what has previously been preached.

Who did the prophesying? The Seven Thunders did! They said the things John was not allowed write. What nickname did Jesus give to John and his brother James? "The Sons of Thunder" (Mark 3:17)! What did James and John preach? The gospel of the Kingdom of God! Jesus tells John to "prophesy again," but he will not literally do so any more than John the Baptist was literally Elijah! John the Baptist came in the spirit and power of Elijah, an antitype of Elijah. The Two Witnesses will be antitypes of John and James—"the Sons of Thunder!"

John W. Ritenbaugh
Revelation 10 and the Laodicean Church


 

Revelation 11:1-19

Revelation 11 is inset material. The only possible period of time when the Two Witnesses could testify is during the three and a half years that precede Christ's return—the time of the Tribulation and the Day of the Lord.

Most of this period of time has already been covered by chapters 6 (the fifth and sixth seals) and 8-9 (the trumpet plagues). Chapter 11 clarifies what has already occurred in the narrative, answering how people can possibly be converted during the Tribulation and the Day of the Lord. The answer is that they are hearing a message thundered by the Two Witnesses! Revelation 7:9-17 suggests that by their preaching, an innumerable multitude will be converted.

The information is given in a digression—an inset chapter— from the main story flow. Inset chapters clarify what is happening within the time sequence.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Revelation 10 and the Laodicean Church


 

Revelation 11:1-5

In Revelation 11, during the Great Tribulation and the Day of the Lord, John describes the Two Witnesses as having God-given power to witness and, if need be, call fire down from heaven to destroy their enemies. While they preach God's last warning to the human and demonic powers of earth just before the final Trumpet sounds, God gives them supernatural protection.

Before the start of their 3½-year commission, the Two Witnesses will already have been witnessing by their example and through their preaching. They will already be producing good works. God will inspire them to utter a specific message directed at the descendants of Israel and the rest of the world, indicting the world of sin.

Revelation 11:3 says:

And I will give power to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy one thousand two hundred and sixty days, clothed in sackcloth.

The word "power" is not in the Greek text, which simply reads, "I will give to my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy. . . ." Paraphrased, God says, "I will grant to My Two Witnesses the right or power of prophesying during the time specified." Translators must add a word like "power," "privilege," "opportunity," or "boldness" to complete the sense in English.

The meaning is not that God would send two witnesses to prophesy, but that they are existing witnesses who receive additional gifts and powers. During that time God will give them the privilege and the strength to proclaim the truth that they will be commissioned to communicate as His "witnesses" to mankind.

The phrase "and they will prophecy" does not necessarily mean that they would predict future events, but that they would proclaim the truth as God had revealed it. The indication here is that the Two Witnesses would publicly preach or maintain the truth before the world.

God promises protection to those who obey Him, provided it is His will. Some of the faithful are given the spiritual strength to be martyred, and others are protected from such unpleasantness. God decides for His own purpose how He wants us to represent Him. Revelation 11:5 describes part of God's witness protection program, "If anyone wants to harm [the Two Witnesses], fire proceeds from their mouth and devours their enemies." Christ is reliable and true. Not a hair of our head is affected without His approval.

Martin G. Collins
'You Are My Witnesses...'


 

Revelation 11:1

Measuring is "judging against a standard." When we measure a thing, we take something with a fixed proportion - like a length or a weight that is known or standardized - and we compare it to whatever we are trying to quantify or measure. We see how it measures up: how long it is, how wide it is, how tall it is, how heavy it is, etc. We can also see if it fits a pattern or a template that is necessary for the item to do its part. In our case, one can see if he is fit for the Kingdom of God.

"For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God" (I Peter 4:17). We are being measured, judged, against a standard. "The house of God" is another way of saying "the temple of God," the phrase used here. Judgment begins at the house of God, and the Two Witnesses are given the responsibility of measuring the Temple of God. The two verses are saying basically the same thing. Note, the Two Witnesses are not actually doing the judging - Christ is, for that is His job. The Two Witnesses' responsibility is to explain the basis for the measurements. In other words, it is their job to show what the standard is, to let people know what they should be measuring up to.

Their job is similar to Amos' vision of the plumb line (Amos 7:7). The plumb line can be said to be slightly different because it is used to measure verticality - to see whether something is standing up straight, or to use a more "religious" term, to see if it is "upright." A plumb line is a weight suspended on a string. When it stops swaying like a pendulum, the string is perfectly vertical. When a workman puts it next to something like a wall or post that needs to be vertical, he can tell whether his wall or post is out of plumb or not.

That idea is present here in Revelation 11:1. How close do we meet the standard? How upright are we? How fit are we for the Kingdom of God? Finding the answers to these questions is part of the Two Witnesses' job. Remember that the work of the church is essentially done by this time. This preaching of the standard is a work that the ministry of the church has been given to do in every time, but maybe not to this extent. In any event, the Two Witnesses, at this time of the end, are the only ones able to do this job in a major way.

It is possible that this part of their ministry begins, however, before the Seven Thunders cease. In fact, it is a pretty good bet that they will already be involved in ministry before the Tribulation begins. Then God will say, "Okay, now it's time for you to do your real job." They will then begin their prophesied ministry, which will be quite intense.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The Two Witnesses (Part 2)


 

Revelation 11:1

"The temple of God" is simply a common symbol of the church. However, it is interesting that, here, it is not the Temple in its general sense. Christ uses an interesting word for it: naon. The naon is not the whole Temple but just the holy place, also called the sanctuary, where the priests are allowed to enter and offer incense on the incense altar, where they brought the shewbread to place the table, where the menorah was lit before God. This is the specific place that Jesus points out to measure—the sanctuary of the Temple. It excludes the courts that are outside. In verse 2, Jesus specifically says to leave them out.

Thus, He is speaking of the inner sanctuary—not the Most Holy Place, where God's throne, represented by the Ark of the Covenant, is, but the room just outside the veil—where the priests are allowed to come in and do their work. This room represents the true church, the wheat (as opposed to the tares), the elect. Christ is directing our eyes away from any hangers-on, mixed multitudes, tares, or anyone else among the church. He is speaking of the inner core—those who are truly called and converted. In addition, He is speaking generally, not individually. He means the whole true church, as in "the body of Christ."

Paul uses this same term, calling it "the holy temple in the Lord" (Ephesians 2:19-22) rather than "the temple of God"—but it is the same idea. Paul calls us "the temple of the living God" in II Corinthians 6:16.

The Two Witnesses are told here to measure the church (the called, the elect) in general—the entire true church, the body of Christ.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The Two Witnesses (Part 2)


 

Revelation 11:1

Jesus also instructs the Two Witnesses to measure "those who worship there." This seems to repeat the Temple symbolism (referring to the church in general), but it does not. This phrase specifically targets the individual Christian. It is not just the whole church that needs to be measured but the individual Christian—the individual worshipper—also needs to be measured. A Christian will not ride anybody else's or the church's coattails into the Kingdom of God. Everyone has to be measured by the preaching, the message of the Two Witnesses. Some people do not like this word in this context, but this verse teaches that each one of us individually has to qualify—measure up—for our place in God's Kingdom.

The Temple, then, symbolizes the whole body of Christ, while the worshippers are individual Christians. What God is showing here is that He is concerned not just for the church as a whole but for the individual. Under the Old Covenant, remember, only the priests could enter the sanctuary—not the common Israelite. Now we can enter into, not only the Holy Place, but also the Most Holy Place (also called the Holy of Holies). However, we had better make sure, just like those in the Levitical system, that we are "clean" spiritually—those who were allowed to enter the sanctuary had to be perfectly clean physically to do so. In the type, they had to be "measured" against a standard (in this case, of cleanliness) before they could come there and perform their worship or their duty.

It is not enough to clean the church as a body; each individual within the church must also be cleaned. Some matters have to be engaged on a macro scales, and others on a micro scale. So, God has His overall purpose, and He has His individual purpose. He will ensure that everything is perfectly pure before Him. Both of these categories will be measured, corrected, and made to work properly.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The Two Witnesses (Part 2)


 

Revelation 11:3

This verse actually reads, "I will give to these witnesses of Me." He does not say that He merely possesses them, that is, that they are His witnesses. Instead, He says that they witness "of Me." They point everybody in the world to Jesus Christ and thus on to God the Father. It is their job to witness of Him.

The whole Old Testament points to Jesus Christ, and the New Testament tells His story. So the entire Bible is also a witness of Jesus Christ and therefore of God the Father. In a sense, everything comes down to witnessing of Jesus Christ. What are we called? "Christians." Our whole lives should be totally focused on showing or manifesting Jesus Christ in us. These Two Witnesses are pinnacles of that among men. They will witness of God for 3½ years, in the face of the entire world.

It is interesting how these Two Witnesses correlate with Jesus Christ Himself. We could say that, individually, they will be images or representations of Jesus Christ. God has called us all to be transformed into the image of Jesus Christ, and these Two Witnesses—these two prophets—will show the world in themselves what this means. Their witness will be so true, it will be as if they are two "Christs" walking the earth. Perhaps this is exaggerating things a bit, but it is indeed one of the ways in which a person witnesses, which is why these two prophets are so important.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The Two Witnesses (Part 1)


 

Revelation 11:3

There is a general expectation among God's people that the Two Witnesses will begin to prophesy soon, if only because we anticipate Christ's return in the near future. Obviously, the two events are linked in the flow of prophecy. Revelation 11:3 plainly states that the Two Witnesses' ministry of testimony is confined to the "one thousand two hundred and sixty days"—three and a half years—of the Great Tribulation. They are martyred by the Beast three and a half days before the first resurrection, when they are raised to join Him in the air with the other firstfruits of God's Kingdom (verses 11-12; I Thessalonians 4:15-17).

If this is so, then the timing of their work for God is set and known. No two people will officially be "the Two Witnesses" before this time. Therefore, if the Great Tribulation has not begun—if the holy city has not come under the dominion of the Gentiles (Revelation 11:2)—then the Two Witnesses have not officially begun to prophesy. Until then, according to the silence of the Scriptures, they will be essentially anonymous servants of God.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
God's Two Witnesses


 

Revelation 11:3-12

The primary texts on the Two Witnesses are Revelation 11 and Zechariah 4. What does not fit the facts and implications of these two prophetic passages we can discard as highly speculative and not worth serious consideration except in dismissal. Some people have asserted truly wild ideas about these two prophets, but we will see that they derive from their own imaginations rather than from the Bible.

First, the Two Witnesses will not be crazed, unstable individuals. Nothing in the Bible—much less these two passages—suggests that God ever uses people of unsound minds to accomplish a major work for Him. The apostle Paul tells us that God's Spirit in us is not "of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind" (II Timothy 1:7). While some of God's prophets had personal problems and were commanded to do some strange things to get God's point across in symbolic ways—Ezekiel comes to mind—they were far from being lunatics. They were different from the world around them because they believed God and did His will, but they were quite sane and rational.

Second, they will not be anything other than men. We can take this on two levels. Some have suggested that the Two Witnesses are entities like the Old and New Testaments, Israel and the church, the Jews and the Gentiles, or even the Philadelphia and Laodicean eras of the church! However, Revelation 11 is quite clear that the Two Witnesses are "prophets" (verse 10), that they can be killed (verse 7), that they have bodies (verses 8-9), and that the breath of life enters them upon resurrection (verse 11). The literal meaning of these details is the best interpretation, leading to the conclusion that they are people, not things.

The other level is gender, a touchy subject in these inclusive times. Many have tried to hold the door open for a woman to fill the role of one of the Two Witnesses, but the language in the primary passages is overwhelmingly masculine (except where the natural gender of the languages demands it). Additionally, the pronouns are consistently masculine plural, as is the word "prophets" in Revelation 11:10.

Although it can be argued that the masculine is the Greek default gender for groups of mixed gender, the biblical pattern reveals that it is far more likely that God would choose two men to shoulder the burden of this final work. In addition, the allusions to types within the two primary passages are to men: Moses, Elijah, Joshua, and Zerubbabel. This is not to say that a woman could not do this work, but that the preponderance of Scripture argues against God choosing a woman to do it.

Third, the Two Witnesses will not be resurrected saints from the past, such as the aforementioned Moses and Elijah or perhaps Enoch. These three are often cited as candidates because the Bible describes their deaths so mysteriously, as if they are not really dead but in heaven waiting for God to send them back as His witnesses in the end time. There is no indication in the primary passages even to suggest this. So much time has passed since their lifetimes that it is ridiculous to think that anyone on earth today would even know who they are!

Besides, Hebrews 9:27 and the rest of New Testament theology, as well as God's consistent patterns, challenge this view. Except for Jesus, all the dead await the resurrection. In addition, God has never used a servant in two separate times. Jesus Himself tells us, "If they do not hear Moses and the prophets [in Scripture], neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead" (Luke 16:31).

Fourth, and finally, they will be neither unconverted nor recently converted people. In other words, they will be baptized members of God's church and probably ordained ministers. Again, God's pattern in working to bring His plan to fruition reveals that the Two Witnesses will come from among His people, just as the prophets came from Israel and the apostles were chosen from among His disciples. The apostle Paul may seem to be a glaring exception to this rule, but even he was required to undergo a three-year period of instruction before he was sent out to fulfill his expansive calling (see Galatians 1:16-18). Due to their mission's magnitude, the Two Witnesses will likewise be prepared for it over an extended period beforehand.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
God's Two Witnesses


 

Revelation 11:3

The angel is obviously speaking for God—they are not the angel's witnesses but God's! We should note the use of the English possessive "My," which suggests both personal ownership and affiliation.

However, the Greek reads more literally, ". . . the two witnesses of me." While this rendering also imparts the idea of possession, it adds a vital element: that the Two Witnesses testify about God Himself. They are God's direct representatives in the crucial last years of man's civilization. And they represent Him, not just in words, but in everything they do during their prophetic ministry.

In other words, these two men are not run-of-the-mill Christians by any means! Not a single word of censure is aimed at them in either Revelation 11 or Zechariah 4. They will be model Christians, followers of Christ and His righteousness to such a degree that when the people of this world observe them, they will see human reproductions of the life of Christ. In much the same way as Jesus represented the Father during His physical life, so will the witnesses represent Jesus during the Great Tribulation and the Day of the Lord (see John 14:9). While they will not be perfect, they will be men of godly character and virtue.

It is no wonder, then, that they attract the wrath of Satan and the Beast, as well as the hatred of the whole world! Just as Jesus was opposed, mocked, persecuted, and finally killed, so will these men draw the fire of the anti-Christ, end-time population of earth. Thus, Christ endues His two prophets with power to preach, to plague, and to defend themselves against harm (Revelation 11:5). In order to survive their mission during a time of Noachian-type violence, God will give them the tools and protection to reveal Him for a final time as a witness before Christ intervenes in world affairs.

Therefore, we should not be looking necessarily for great signs and wonders being done by two prophets, as that activity will likely be confined to the final three and a half years. By that point, it will be obvious to the enlightened who they are. As Revelation 11:9-10 suggests, by the time they are finished with their work, the whole world will know who they are.

Instead, at this time we need to be looking for Christ-like servants who are fulfilling the type of the two olive trees—feeding the churches through their Holy Spirit-inspired works—and who are focused on "measur[ing] the temple of God, the altar, and those who worship there" (Revelation 11:1). They will be intensely laboring to achieve the equipping of the saints (Ephesians 4:12) for the terrifying days to come and the return of Christ.

Who the Two Witnesses are has not yet been revealed, and how long we have to go before the time of their appearance no one knows. However, in looking for them, we need to concentrate on what Scripture reveals so that we might properly identify them. Ecclesiastes 3:11 in the Moffatt version declares how God works in these matters: "He assigned each [thing] to its proper time, but for the mind of man he has appointed mystery, that man may never fathom God's own purpose from beginning to end." God will make them known when their time has come. So, wait and watch!

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
God's Two Witnesses


 

Revelation 11:3-12

Notice the anthropomorphic language—all the descriptions of human traits and behaviors—of this passage. In verse 3, for instance, the Two Witnesses are clothed in sackcloth. How could this apply to two parts of a book? Most of our Bibles are "clothed," if you will, in leather bindings or cardboard and cloth covers. It takes quite a bit of mental gymnastics to see how one can fit this type of terminology into the idea of the Two Witnesses being the two books of the Old and New Testaments. A person must symbolize away nearly the entire description of them.

Also notice verse 6: "They have power . . . to strike the earth with any plague as often as they wish" (The New Testament in Modern English by J.B. Phillips). In other words, these Two Witnesses have the power of volition, or will. They can make decisions, and they can execute them within the scope of the power God has given them. The Old and New Testaments are not animate beings with minds of their own, and as such, those two collections of books cannot express volition. They cannot make decisions, nor can they execute decisions in this sense.

In verse 7, the Two Witnesses die, and they are described as having bodies that lie in the streets of Jerusalem. Admittedly, we can refer symbolically to the death of an idea. We can describe the end of an era as a kind of death and so forth. However, death in this passage does not appear to be metaphoric because God speaks of their bodies lying in the street and remaining unburied. This type of language is not amenable at all to understanding the Two Witnesses as the Old and New Testaments.

Then notice verse 11: "The breath of life from God came into them" (The New Testament by Richmond Lattimore). Are there any known instances of God breathing life into books? The idea of them being the Old and New Testament becomes even more ridiculous when we realize that the Two Witnesses then stand on their feet—this is a real resurrection—and they are translated to heaven!

In verse 10, John actually uses the word "prophets." In Greeks, it is the word prophetes (Strong's 4396), which appears about eighty times in Scripture. This word is always rendered in the King James Version as "prophet" or "prophets." For instance, Jesus uses the word in Matthew 13:57: "A prophet is not without honor except in his own country." There is not one instance where this Greek word refers to the Scriptures; it always refers to a person or to people.

A great deal of other evidence exists as well. For example, Revelation 11:3 tells us that God empowers His Two Witnesses for a limited period of time, 1,260 days. But does God ever set a time limit on the power of His Scriptures? God does not, in fact, set a time limit on the power that He gives His Word. Notice Isaiah 55:10-11:

For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven, and do not return there, but water the earth, and make it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.

God is saying through an analogy here that, throughout the span of history—or as Solomon would say, "under the sun" (Ecclesiastes 1:3, 9, 14, etc.)—rain has always worked to produce food for mankind. In like manner throughout that same span of time, throughout all of history under the sun, God's Word has been effective to carry out His purpose. Isaiah 55 places no limitation of 1,260 days or any other. Therefore, Revelation 11:3 cannot refer to a limited period of time when God empowers the Old and New Testaments to be effective because God's Word is always effective.

Let us not belabor the point. A careful textual analysis makes it clear that the preponderance of the language of this passage points to the Two Witnesses being individuals, not collections of books.

Charles Whitaker
Who the Two Witnesses Are Not


 

Revelation 11:4

This verse gives the biblical identification of the Two Witnesses, and it is quite interesting. It is inserted here as if we should know who these Two Witnesses are already. They are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before God. It is as if Jesus is saying, "Don't you read your Bible? Haven't you read Zechariah 4?" Obviously, that is what He is referring to—specifically Zechariah 4:14, where almost the exact same thing is written. In answer to Zechariah's question, the angel says:

These are the two anointed ones, who stand beside the Lord of the whole earth. (Zechariah 4:14)

One could say, "Well, I'll just go to Zechariah 4 and find out who these two characters are." However, that is where it becomes tricky because Zechariah 4 is in no way easy to figure out.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The Two Witnesses (Part 3)


 

Revelation 11:4

If one has any knowledge of the Old Testament, it is plain that this verse points directly to Zechariah 4:14. It is not quite a paraphrase of it, not quite a quotation of it, but it makes a clear reference to it. This is where matters begin to get tricky because Zechariah 4 is not an easy chapter to interpret.

Some commentators say that the Two Witnesses are not men, that they are types of Zerubbabel and Joshua. That is, Zerubbabel represents the state (as he was governor) and Joshua represents religion, the church (as he was high priest). So they say that this means that one representative of the church and one of the state will somehow make a witness for God.

However, for several reasons, it just does not make any sense to think that the Two Witnesses could be anything other than people. For instance, Revelation 11:10 calls them "these two prophets." We think of prophets or prophetesses as men or women—human beings. So the Two Witnesses must be men. Zechariah calls them "anointed ones." We consider "anointed ones" to be consecrated human servants of God, which would mean men.

Revelation 11:7 says that the Two Witnesses will be killed, and verse 8 describes their dead bodies lying in the street—meaning that they have bodies. Although Paul speaks of the church of God as the Body of Christ, the Bible is silent concerning the state being or having a body. Verse 11 prophesies that the Two Witnesses will be resurrected. Will God resurrect a corrupt human state? Hardly.

It is clear that Revelation 11 is describing the work of real people here. The most natural reading and interpretation of this passage is that the Two Witnesses are exactly as the Bible describes them—as two human beings (prophets) with physical bodies, given the power to perform miracles and make this witness for God.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The Two Witnesses (Part 4)


 

Revelation 11:4

This verse tells us that these two are the two olive trees and the two lampstands "standing before the God of the earth." Why are they described as "the two lampstands"? Timing is vital to understanding this. Revelation 10 and 11 are internally chronological. At this time, the seven thunders have ceased, and the Two Witnesses have been raised up. They are the sole effort God has going as far as witnessing, preaching, and proclaiming His way on the earth.

What does a lamp do? It gives light (Matthew 5:14-16). What are the Two Witnesses doing at this time? Revelation 11:4 says that they are the two lampstands that stand before the God of the whole earth. What are they doing? They are lighting the whole house, as it says in Matthew 5. What is the house? Who comprises the house of God? The church! The two olive trees put their oil in the reservoir, and it feeds the whole church - to do what? To make light! At this time, though, the church is hidden in a Place of Safety, and not even Satan can get to them, as far as we know. We know that certainly no men can get to them.

So, we could say that the church's light is at that time under a basket. Who is left to be light to the world? The Two Witnesses! They are, at this point, the two lampstands. All the eyes of the world will be drawn toward these two prophets. They are the only ones that will be doing good works at that time; they are the only ones that will be publicly glorifying God in heaven.

That is why they are called the two lampstands. They are the only ones remaining to shine spiritually during Jacob's trouble and the Day of the Lord. They will be, in effect, raising Cain all over the world. The whole world hates them, and they will rejoice when these two are dead - because they cannot stand the fact that these two shine so brightly for God.

At this point, the seven churches are out of the picture, so the lampstands cannot represent churches. They picture these two bright lights for God. Not only will they be supplying the church with oil, but they will also be shining brightly as witnesses to the world as a result of the good works that they do.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The Two Witnesses (Part 5)


 

Revelation 11:4

Jesus, through the angel speaking to the apostle John, identifies who the Two Witnesses are. To the unenlightened, this sounds like little more than further symbolic claptrap. However, to those who use God's Spirit, which imparts the mind of Christ to His disciples (I Corinthians 2:16), it is a lighted, flashing arrow pointing back to the prophecy found in Zechariah 4.

Zechariah 4:14, in summing up the prophecy, parallels Revelation 11:4: "So [the angel] said, 'These [olive trees] are the two anointed ones, who stand beside the Lord of the whole earth." Clearly, the Two Witnesses and their work are revealed in the two olive trees, but understanding this heavily symbolic description takes some effort.

In Zechariah 4:2, the angel describes a strange golden lampstand, somewhat like a menorah—a seven-branched candelabra—but with a large bowl on top. This lampstand features a central pole, on top of which is the bowl, and from it, perhaps in seven different directions, extend seven arms or branches, each ending in a lamp. Further, seven pipes or tubes run to each of the seven lamps from the large bowl on top. Verse 3 informs us that the two olive trees stand to the right and left of the bowl.

A similar vision is given to the apostle John in Revelation 1:12-13. In it, the resurrected Jesus Christ replaces the central pole, and the seven lampstands are arrayed around Him, much like the seven lamps. Christ Himself interprets the vision, saying that the seven lampstands are the seven churches (verse 20). However, in this vision, the olive trees are not to be found—they appear separately in Revelation 11. Here, the bowl, too, is missing.

Zechariah has no idea what he is seeing, so he asks for clarification. Through the angel, God gives His answer: "This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: 'Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,' says the Lord of hosts" (Zechariah 4:6). Zerubbabel, a type of Christ, had been given the work of building the Temple after the Jews returned from exile in Babylon. God's answer to Zechariah is that His work is done through His Spirit.

Applying this to the vision, we are to see that the oil that drains from the bowl into the seven lamps represents God's Spirit manifested in works (I Corinthians 12:7-11). We never see the Holy Spirit, since it is invisible to the eye, but we see the works done through it (John 3:8).

On this aspect of the prophecy of Zechariah 4, the Kiel and Delitzsch commentary asserts: "Oil . . . is used in the Scriptures as a symbol of the Spirit of God, not in its transcendent essence, but so far as it works in the world, and is indwelling in the church." Simply put, oil signifies God's Spirit in its visible works rather than in its pure form.

Jesus declares an important principle in John 6:63, "The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life." One of the primary vehicles of the work of God's Spirit is words—spoken or written. The Bible is inspired by God's Spirit (II Timothy 3:16; II Peter 1:21), and it is a composition of words—God's words, prophets' words, and apostles' words. In the same way, the primary job of an anointed servant of God is to speak or write words to convict people of God's truth. In the speaking or writing of words, he witnesses for God and accomplishes a work.

In the case of the Two Witnesses, the two anointed ones, this connection becomes critical. Zechariah 4:12 literally reads, "What are the two olive clusters which through the two golden pipes empty out of themselves the golden oil?" It is an illustration of the olive trees emptying oil into the bowl! How can these two men—prophets though they are—supply the seven churches with oil? Because the oil is not God's Spirit in pure form but Spirit-inspired works, probably in the form of words—teaching, instruction.

If this is so, the Two Witnesses provide a massive amount of spiritual instruction to the seven churches just before the end.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
God's Two Witnesses


 

Revelation 11:6

Like Revelation 11:4-5, verse 6 has obvious references to the Old Testament. The first miracle—no rain falling in the days of their prophecy—refers specifically to Elijah's 3½ year drought (I Kings 17-18). The second—waters turning to blood—is an obvious reference to the first plague that Moses brought upon Egypt (Exodus 7:14-25). This seems to be a return to the way God's servants worked before Jesus Christ came—specifically focusing on Elijah's and Moses' works.

The word "power" appears three times in the description of the Two Witnesses, once in Revelation 11:3 and twice in verse 6. When somebody says, "These have power," we think in terms of energy or force or strength to do something. However, the implication of "power" here is authority. God gives them the authority, or the right, to cause these things to happen. In a way, they are given carte blanche to do what needs to be done.

In studying the lives of Elijah, Moses, and others of the prophets, we do not often see them going to God and saying, "Now, what should I do at this point? God, you know our enemies are coming, and I'm not sure what I should do." No, they just do whatever needs to be done. In II Kings 1, when the groups of fifty men and their captains come upon Elijah, the prophet was not sitting there and praying at the top of a hill, saying, "Oh, they're getting close. God, tell me what to do." He just called for fire from heaven and destroyed them. So, the Two Witnesses are given much the same authority at the time of the end. These two will have been trained and prepared by God to such an extent that they will know what to do. They will call upon God, and He will answer with power.

We do not find Jesus, for that matter, beseeching God for instruction about what to do. If someone came to Him for healing, He healed him. If someone needed a demon cast out, He cast out the demon. Once one has God's Spirit—and is in line with God's will—then these decisions are easier to make because, as Paul says in I Corinthians 2:16, "We have the mind of Christ." As we grow, we develop more of that mind of Christ, and we should be able to make decisions as Christ would make them.

So these Two Witnesses will be very much like Christ. They are witnesses of Him, as it says in the literal translation of verse 3. They are, in a way, some of the best representatives of Jesus Christ and His character that will have ever walked this earth. They will act like Christ as much as any two men can, and people in the world will see these two people as like Christ—and eventually treat them as they treated Christ.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The Two Witnesses (Part 6)


 

Revelation 11:6

Although the Two Witnesses can do other miracles, two particular curses are highlighted here: lack of rain and water turned to blood. When looking at the Old Testament record where these same curses are present, we see them in context with idolatry, not knowing the true God, and the need for forgiveness. These are subjects that the world needs to hear about, and these miracles will be used to illustrate them.

These miracles show just how far the world is from God and why the judgment of Christ as He returns must happen. Remember, these men are witnesses, sent to warn the world, to give them the knowledge they need to understand what is happening, so that they are without excuse before God's throne when they are finally judged. The Witnesses tell them—by these signs, as well as through words—that they are utterly rebellious against God. They tell the world's people that they do not know Him and that they need to know Him—and quick! The Witnesses provide evidence to prove the people to be utterly defiled and sentenced to death unless they make some drastic changes.

It is a very scary scenario. The Witnesses are given carte blanche authority to do whatever is necessary to get these points across. The three years of their ministry will not be fun times, especially if they must make curses like this happen around the world with any frequency.

It is also notable that both of these plagues concern water, which is a symbol of the Holy Spirit. One curse points to a lack of water, and the other is the defiling of it. In a way, these signs show the spiritual state of mankind. They either reject God totally—corresponding to the lack of rain—or they twist and defile what they know of His truth, turning it into an abomination—symbolized by the water turned to blood. Water is present, but it is defiled.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The Two Witnesses (Part 6)


 

Revelation 11:9

"Those from the peoples, tribes, tongues, and nations will see their dead bodies." This really confused commentators up until about 1940 or 1950, because they did not understand how the whole world would be able to see dead bodies in Jerusalem. So, scratching their heads, they thought of it as a mystery. Now we know: Television makes it possible for us to see anything that happens anywhere on earth. With the modern technological advancements over the last half century or so, we have a better grasp on how Bible prophecy will be fulfilled.

The next matter is the phrase "not allow." They do not allow the Two Witnesses' dead bodies to be put into graves, which is the ultimate in disrespect and desecration. Amos 2:1 shows how much God is against this sort of thing, which is why this detail is mentioned in Revelation 11. Amos is summarizing God's judgments on the nations surrounding Israel and Judah:

Thus says the LORD: "For three transgressions of Moab, and for four, I will not turn away its punishment [meaning, I will punish], because he [the king of Moab] burned the bones of the king of Edom to lime." (Amos 2:1)

The Moabite king evidently exhumed the dead body. Then, in the sight of the defeated Edomites, he burned the bones of one of their kings. To defile the dead is so heinous a crime that God says, "Just for that, I'm going to come and wipe you out." It was a terrible thing for a nation to perpetrate against the king of another nation—despite his being dead for perhaps many years. God is very much against this sort of desecration.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The Two Witnesses (Part 7)


 

Revelation 11:15-18

This last - seventh - trumpet announces the coming of Christ, the establishment of God's Kingdom, the judgment upon the nations, and the rewarding of the saints. They occur simultaneously!

The last trumpet sounds when Christ returns, not 3½ years before! If we compare verses 11-13 (the resurrection of the Two Witnesses) with verse 19, the "great earthquake" ties the resurrection of the saints with the beginning of the Kingdom (see also Revelation 16:18). In addition, an angel tells John in Revelation 10:7 that when "the seventh angel . . . is about to sound, the mystery of God would be finished." There will be no more mystery about man becoming God when the saints are resurrected or changed to eternal spirit beings!

Matthew 24:30-31 also verifies this scenario, showing that the trumpet sounds to send the angels to gather the elect from all over the earth to meet Him upon His return. To clinch the argument, verse 29 very plainly says, "Immediately after the tribulation of those days. . ."! Isaiah 27:12-13, Joel 2:1-11 and Zechariah 14:3-5, 9 also confirm these events.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Caught Up in the Rapture


 

 




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