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Bible verses about Two Witnesses as Prophets
(From Forerunner Commentary)

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)


 

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 11:4

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 11:6

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 11:10

"Those who dwell on the earth" is a formulaic expression in the book of Revelation, and it simply means those who want nothing to do with God, the worldly. Maybe the easiest way to define it would be simply "the carnal," "the fleshly." Colossians 3:1-2 shows the opposite of this:

If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.

There is a definite distinction between those who are godly, who seek heavenly or godly things, and "those who dwell on the earth," who seek earthly things. The latter are those who have no higher spiritual desire in life. They are perfectly happy here with their lives on the earth. Anyone who wants to tell them about the truth of God just gets the cold shoulder. They have their minds set on things of the earth.

Revelation 11:10 contains a set of three verbs—"rejoice," "make merry," and "send" gifts. The sense is that these carnal people will be joyful and celebrate and make a holiday out of the news of the witnesses' deaths by sending gifts to each other. All of this action that they take grows out of a sense of relief that their problems have been solved now that the witnesses lay dead. "Happy days are here again," in other words.

They will be so happy that these witnesses, who have been thorns in their sides, have been defeated—been killed—that they will put on a wild celebration, maybe for the whole three days. They will be ecstatic that these men who tormented them (as they think of it) are finally removed from the scene and out of their hair. Now, their supposed "heaven on earth" can continue. But it is a false "heaven on earth"—it is actually the abyss on earth, but they do not realize it because they have been thoroughly deceived.

The word "tormented" is the same one found in Revelation 20:10:

The devil, who deceived them, was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and the false prophet were. And they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.

Satan and his demons will indeed be tormented. What the Two Witnesses do to the people of the earth at that time will not be torment, but that is how it will feel to these carnal people. The strongest meaning of this word in Greek means "torture." On the other end of the word's spectrum of definitions, it can mean "vex," a kind of irritation. It can also mean "harass," "distress," or "question," as in the sense of "interrogate under duress."

Perhaps the most interesting of the definitions of this word is "test." The two prophets will test these carnal people, and they will fail miserably. They will think the tests are torture and stubbornly refuse to change. We can easily see this in their actions: They will rejoice at the witnesses' deaths.

Notice that the Two Witnesses are called "two prophets." They are not called apostles or ministers. They are called prophets specifically because that is the essence of their work. They do a prophetic type of work rather than an apostolic type of work. The two overlap at points, but God emphasizes the prophetic one here.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The Two Witnesses (Part 7)


 

 




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