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