Hello everybody and welcome in to episode #347 of the Bible 2021 podcast. We are reading Revelation 11 today and our focus is on What is the Identity of the Two Witnesses of Revelation? What Worldwide Holiday Involves Celebration and Gift Giving? We are a daily 10ish minute podcast, where we will dig in to the truth of the Word of God by reading one Bible chapter a day and discussing it. Welcome to new listeners in Neembucu, Paraguay, Kampala, Uganda, Bavaria, Germany, London, United Kingdom, Gujarat, India, Nova Scotia, Canada, Zurich, Switzerland, New York, New York, Dallas, Texas, Birmingham, Alabama, Atlanta, Georgia, Monterey, California, Los Angeles, California, Abilene, Texas, Bakersfield, California, Omaha, Nebraska, Augusta, Georgia, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Dayton, Ohio and New Orleans, Louisiana. Our goal is to encourage DAILY Bible reading, so you can jump in at any time and join with us. We want to invite as many people as possible to join us in daily Bible reading, so help spread the word and share the podcast! Don’t forget about our web-page, Bible2021.com – contact page, show notes, transcript and more– Click here for our Bible 2021 reading plan\
Here’s a great Bible trivia question for Christmas season: What worldwide holiday in the future will involve great celebrations and the exchanges of gifts worldwide? No, not Christmas, but how about Death of the Two Witnesses Day! Haven’t heard of it? I’m not surprised, because it hasn’t happened yet, but John prophesies in Revelation that in the future, there will be two witnesses who come on the Earth and will prophesy for 3.5 years AND will pronounce judgments on the earth like droughts, plagues and water pollution. As you might imagine, many people on Earth will hate them, and some will try to kill them, but they have power to overcome their enemies with fire. Here’s what Revelation says about them:
3 I will grant my two witnesses authority to prophesy for 1,260 days, dressed in sackcloth.” 4 These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth. 5 If anyone wants to harm them, fire comes from their mouths and consumes their enemies; if anyone wants to harm them, he must be killed in this way. 6 They have authority to close up the sky so that it does not rain during the days of their prophecy. They also have power over the waters to turn them into blood and to strike the earth with every plague whenever they want. Revelation 11:3-6
These prophets will be so reviled, in fact, that when they are killed, this will kick off a spontaneous holiday of celebration, according to vss. 7-10:
7 When they finish their testimony, the beast that comes up out of the abyss will make war on them, conquer them, and kill them. 8 Their dead bodies will lie in the main street of the great city, which figuratively is called Sodom and Egypt, where also their Lord was crucified. 9 And some of the peoples, tribes, languages, and nations will view their bodies for three and a half days and not permit their bodies to be put into a tomb. 10 Those who live on the earth will gloat over them and celebrate and send gifts to one another because these two prophets had tormented those who live on the earth. Revelation 11:7-10
And that, of course, brings up the big question: WHO are these two witnesses? What are the identities of the two witnesses? Well, bad news – the Bible doesn’t tell us, but there are clues. Let’s go ahead and read the passage, and you see if you can hear any clues, then we will discuss.
Now you might see why Revelation was one of my favorite Bible books as a youngling – never a dull moment. I sure didn’t understand it, but boy oh boy was it exciting. How literal should we take the book of Revelation? That’s a great question – there is obviously a great amount of figurative language in the book, as evidenced by vs. 8 when John tells us that the city where the witnesses die is figuratively called Sodom and Egypt, but is obviously Jerusalem. To be frank, I believe part of Revelation is figurative/symbolic and part is literal, and I rarely know exactly where to draw that line. I do believe, if I have to speculate, that the two witnesses are literally two people that will come at some point in the future. So – WHO are they? Guesses have abounded over the years: Moses, John the Baptist, Elijah, Enoch, etc. Fortunately, we have some clues. They are vague and difficult to interpret rightly, but they are clues nonetheless. Our first clue comes in vs. 4, and it is obviously intended to be a clue:
4 These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth.
Almost certainly, this clue points to Zechariah chapter 4:
The angel who was speaking with me then returned and roused me as one awakened out of sleep. 2 He asked me, “What do you see?”I replied, “I see a solid gold lampstand with a bowl at the top. The lampstand also has seven lamps at the top with seven spouts for each of the lamps. 3 There are also two olive trees beside it, one on the right of the bowl and the other on its left.”….11 I asked him, “What are the two olive trees on the right and left of the lampstand?” 12 And I questioned him further, “What are the two streams of the olive trees, from which the golden oil is pouring through the two golden conduits?” 13 Then he inquired of me, “Don’t you know what these are?” “No, my lord,” I replied.14 “These are the two anointed ones,” he said, “who stand by the Lord of the whole earth.”
Zechariah 4:1-3 and 11-14
The two witnesses are the two anointed ones who stand by the Lord of the whole earth. (compare that with Revelation 11:4) Great – mystery solved…oh wait, actually we haven’t solved anything yet, but maybe we are on track. It appears – maybe! – that the two anointed ones that Zechariah 4 is discussing could be Joshua son of Jehozadak and Zerubbabel. Joshua was a high priest, and Zerubbabel a governmental leader who led the people in the rebuilding of the temple after the Jewish exile. I should also note that Joshua/Yeshua has the same Hebrew name as Jesus/Yeshua, and this might be significant.
We have a couple of other clues also.
6 They have authority to close up the sky so that it does not rain during the days of their prophecy. They also have power over the waters to turn them into blood and to strike the earth with every plague whenever they want.
Closing up the sky so that it doesn’t rain sure seems reminiscent of Elijah and plagues and turning water to blood reminds one of Moses. Surely this is intentional also, and is one of the reasons that many people think that the two witnesses will be Moses and Elijah. (Another point in favor of this view is the transfiguration, in which Jesus met with Moses and Elijah while He was transfigured.)
Probably the leading theory as to the identity of the two witnesses is Moses and Elijah. Probably the second most prevalent theory is Elijah and Enoch, and that pair because neither Enoch or Elijah appear to die, but were instead taken up by the Lord. This is important, because Hebrews 9:27 notes that it is, “appointed unto man to die once.” and apparently Elijah and Enoch, having never died, could be the Two Witnesses who will get their “appointed” deaths in the future. Maybe.
Ultimately, I believe that the two witnesses will NOT be Moses and Elijah or Elijah and Enoch, or even Joshua and Zerubbabel. This is due to the fact that Revelation 11 very clearly refers to multiple Scriptures in giving us clues to the identity of the two witnesses which lead to more than two people. Some of the clues point to Joshua and Zerubbabel, some to Moses and Elijah, and I believe this is very intentional. John is telling us that NEITHER of these pairs will be the two witnesses, but the two witnesses will be like them. I believe it is likely then that the two witnesses will be similar to a John the Baptist situation in that JTB came in the spirit and power of Elijah, but was not himself Elijah. The two witnesses could come in the spirit and power of Moses/Elijah (etc) but not be literally incarnations of those two people. It is also worth noting, as a further clue, that Moses and Zerubbabel were both political leaders of the people and Elijah and Joshua the high priest were both religious leaders of the people. This might be an inconsequential coincidence, but it could also be a clue and point to the possibility that one of the witnesses could be a civil leader and one could be a spiritual leader.
Well, we haven’t fully solved the mystery, but considering this is one of the most enduring mysteries of christendom, I suppose it is arrogance to think we’d have a shot at it.
Bible Memory passage for the month of December: Revelation 5:12, “They said with a loud voice: Worthy is the Lamb who was slaughtered to receive power and riches and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and blessing!”
Happy by Mike Leite https://soundcloud.com/mikeleite
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