The Identity of the Two Witnesses
It is most important that we accurately discern the identity these two witnesses in Revelation 11. If I am correct regarding this disclosure, all the verses of Rev 11 will come together perfectly in support of this interpretation. The witnesses appear first in verse three of Revelation 11 where we read:
And I will give power unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days, clothed in sackcloth.
There have been many suppositions as to just who these two persons are. Some have said Enoch and Elijah; some Elijah and Moses; and others possibly Zerubbabel and Joshua. These possibilities have been offered based on a literal interpretation of this Revelation passage.
My interpretation is allegorical rather than literal with the allegorical type being defined by the Bible itself. Numbers are interpreted according to their spiritual meaning rather than their strict numerical value. I would like to offer the following reasons for my understanding about the identity of these two witnesses.
The first thing I did in researching was to find every scripture in the Bible with the word “witness” in it. There were two persons who stood out as being most identified as witnesses. These were John the Baptist and the Holy Spirit.
There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe (John 1:6, 7).
The Holy Spirit
But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me (John 15:26).
As I pondered this, it occurred to me that it was John the Baptist who prepared the way for the first coming of Christ. It would be appropriate for a John the Baptist type ministry to prepare the way for the second coming of Christ. I could see several similarities. Also the witnesses minister similarly to the way Elijah ministered and John the Baptist was compared to Elijah by Jesus (Matt 11:14; 17:11, 12).
Later on in Revelation the beast kills the two witnesses. Obviously the Holy Spirit cannot be killed, and John Baptist already died so he couldn’t be killed either. My answer to this is that the two witnesses represent a great ministry that will go forth in the end times. It is the ministry that will be killed and then resurrected not the individuals themselves.
If we truly understand God’s ways, then we know that the principle of death and resurrection is necessary in any life, individual or corporate, if it is to be God-infused. Only a person who is dead to self can be trusted by God not to misuse his power. I believe this is why we see such a lack of God’s power in most churches today. People are too full of self to be entrusted with God’s power. It would only corrupt them and wind up being misused.
Moses was a man whose ministry went into death and then resurrection. He thought he would rescue the Hebrews when he was a prince of Egypt and killed an Egyptian man who was abusing a Hebrew. God removed him from this position…a position that for all appearances looked like the perfect place for a deliverer to be. But God’s ways are not our ways. God removed him from his position and took him into the wilderness for forty years where he was greatly humbled. After this preparation, God had a man he could use because Moses knew he could do nothing apart from God. God delivered the Hebrews his way and it was done with a demonstration of his great power and glory through a man who put no trust in himself but only moved at God’s direction under God’s authority. No man would receive credit for what only God could do.
God does not need for Moses or any other biblical figure to come back to earth to do another great ministry. God only needs humble vessels who have been willing to spend time on the backside of the desert with God being divested of self to such an extent that God can use them even as he used Moses.
Just as individual Christians need to die to self, so do corporate Christian bodies. The strongest church is usually a church that has suffered difficulties that to all appearances killed it, but it rose up out of the ashes to become a strong church. The church historically began with great manifestations of God’s power. The church weakened and went through the centuries referred to as the Dark Ages when Catholicism reigned and the true light of Christ remained alive in only a relatively small remnant. With the Reformation, the church began to rise again out of the ashes. Ultimately the church of the end times will have greater power than the First Century church but only after the death and resurrection of the historical church has been fully accomplished.
Seeing this principle of death and resurrection in the individual lives of biblical characters, in history and in lives of persons living today, it seems quite in keeping with God’s ways for the ministry of the two witnesses to also follow this principle. This is why I believe the ministry of the two witnesses is killed, not the witnesses themselves.
In interpreting Revelation we need to remember that it is an allegory. In allegory certain individual biblical characters often represent groups of people who have similar characteristics or a similar call. For example, it is not unusual to think of Moses as representing a present day ministry that saves people out of the world (Egypt) and helps them through the difficulties of their lives (wilderness wanderings). A Joshua type ministry today is one that brings people into maturity and helps them enter into the fullness of Christ (cross over Jordan into the Promised Land).
The literal interpretations of the two witnesses most frequently offered raise many questions. Why would God have to bring people back from the dead to do the work of the two witnesses when he has many Christians alive on earth now who are willing vessels waiting to do whatever ministry the Lord desires? How could just two men minister to the billions of people in all the nations on the planet? Why would God allow his witnesses to be killed if they had already died once and it is appointed to man once to die?
It is true that Elijah and Enoch had different exits from this earth but still that raises many questions such as: How would men who had lived in pre-modern times deal with seeing airplanes, automobiles, cell phones, computers and all the electrical devices we now take for granted? How could they minister to people whose lives and culture are based on the history of all those who have preceded them for thousands of years? Perhaps we think of major biblical characters as having special abilities that people today don’t possess rather than understanding they were just vessels that the Holy Spirit worked through to accomplish his purposes on earth.
It is important to consider what Jesus said about John the Baptist: “And if ye will receive it, this is Elias, which was for to come” (Matt 11:14). Jesus was saying here that the same anointing and Spirit were upon John that had been on Elijah. To say that Elijah had literally come back to earth in John would reinforce the false concept of reincarnation. We need to understand that it is no different in these end times. It is the anointing upon the witnesses that is important, not who the persons are in and of themselves. They are human vessels who have chosen to totally submit their will to the will of the Father to do whatever he directs.
Now I want to put this together with Malachi 4 where the Lord tells us that the great and dreadful day of the Lord will not come until Elijah comes. We know that Elijah did come in the ministry of John the Baptist but there are two things cited in Malachi 4 that definitely point to this happening again in the present modern age in which we live. Let’s look first at Malachi 4:1:
For, behold, the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the LORD of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch.
There are two ways of interpreting this…literally and figuratively…and both are accurate. First the literal interpretation: This has to be speaking about nuclear holocaust. Not only do we face the threat of almost sure nuclear war but also the radioactive damage that comes from nuclear power plant accidents. I won’t go into this in detail here because I do so towards the end of this book, but suffice it to say much of our world is even now burning like an oven because of nuclear radiation. There are large portions of our planet being made uninhabitable right now because of the greed and wickedness of evil men who control others.
With radiation poisoning a person literally burns up from the inside out. The cells of the body are agitated by the radiation causing the atoms in the cells to move more rapidly and heat up. Cells break and the agitated atoms move out to damage other cells. There is no known way to stop it. “At extremely high doses, radiation causes cell death, through a process called thermalization, which basically cooks a cell from the inside out” (wiseGEEK).
This is what is described in Malachi 4:1. This is what it means to burn as an oven. If you are not convinced, consider the last words of this verse: “that it shall leave them neither root nor branch.” Root would refer to heredity which has everything to do with our DNA. In radiation poisoning, the DNA strands are damaged irreparably thus leaving us with no root. There will be no branch on the family tree because radiation damage causes sterility. If children are born, they are often severely deformed. Once the DNA is damaged, there will be no repairing it in future generations even if there are any. The Chernobyl nuclear power plant disaster caused over a million cancer deaths and many deformed babies. You can find the truth, complete with pictures, on the Internet. We have been lied to.
And now for my spiritual interpretation of Malachi 4:1: In these end times in all of us who love and serve Jesus, God is going to burn up our sin nature with all its pride leaving it neither root nor branch. When God does this, it will be completely gone. This is one of the rewards reserved for the church of the end times. When the carnal nature is gone, there will be no sickness and we will walk in victory over all our enemies as prophesied in the next two verses in Malachi 4:
But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings; and ye shall go forth, and grow up as calves of the stall. And ye shall tread down the wicked; for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet in the day that I shall do this, saith the LORD of hosts (Mal 4:2, 3).
In the last two verses of Malachi 4 the Lord promises,
I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD. And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse (Mal 4:5, 6).
“Today, one-third of American children – a total of 15 million – are being raised without a father” (Andersen). This has a profound effect on the lives of these children making it difficult for them to have a relationship with God the Father or to find any anchor for their life. Children raised without a father or strong father-figure are much more likely to get involved in crime, drug abuse, immorality, low academic performance, and suffer from depression, rage, and suicidal tendencies. Truly this is a symptom of the times in which we live and there is a desperate need for a powerful move of God to rectify the damage done in the lives of adults and children alike who have suffered this deprivation.
Based on all the above, I believe the two witnesses are this John the Baptist Company of believers and the Holy Spirit…an indefinite number of people filled with the Holy Spirit who will minister powerfully to the church of the end times. Every verse in the rest of this chapter falls perfectly in line with this interpretation to reveal the particulars about this ministry.
God has been quietly preparing this group of people unbeknownst to the world or even the church at large. They are like the stones that were prepared underground for Solomon’s temple:
And the house, when it was in building, was built of stone made ready before it was brought thither: so that there was neither hammer nor ax nor any tool of iron heard in the house, while it was in building (1 Kings 6:7).
These ministers have been in the wilderness with God where every motive, thought and action has been judged by God. Only those who are dead to self will be allowed to be in this august group of ministers. God will only entrust his great power and anointing to those who will use it exclusively at his leading. This will require total surrender and death to self and the world. Their love and devotion to Jesus will allow him to manifest himself through them. This ministry will prepare the church to be the pure, spotless bride that Jesus is coming for. The same standards that have been required of the John the Baptist Company will also be required of every believer who desires to be the bride.
Now that we understand who the two witnesses are, we can begin our study with verse one of Revelation 11.
[This is from the first chapter of my book, The Two Witnesses Prepare the Bride.]