The Two Witnesses of Revelation
The Bible tells us that in the end times, during the seven-year time period known as the Tribulation, God will send two witnesses with supernatural powers to prophesy to the world.
These two witnesses are the ones Jesus referred to when he told James, John, and their mother "I have no right to say who will sit on the thrones next to mine. My Father has prepared those places for the ones He has chosen" Matthew 20:23 (NLT).
For 1,260 days, these two witnesses will prophesy to the world, and despite a plethora of enemies, no one will be able to harm them. During that time, they will have the power to end rainfall, turn the rivers and oceans to blood, and send every kind of plague upon the earth.
Revelation Chapter 11 gives us our first and only glimpse of these two prophets:
"And I will give power to my two witnesses, and they will be clothed in sackcloth and will prophesy during those 1,260 days. These two prophets are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of all the earth. If anyone tries to harm them, fire flashes from the mouths of the prophets and consumes their enemies. This is how anyone who tries to harm them must die. They have power to shut the skies so that no rain will fall for as long as they prophesy. And they have the power to turn the rivers and oceans into blood, and to send every kind of plague upon the earth as often as they wish." Revelation 11:3-6 (NLT)
So who are these men God has blessed with such amazing power?
Many speculations have been made, and we will not know for certain until the two witnesses actually arrive on the world scene. However, strong evidence exists to believe that these two witnesses will be Elijah and Moses.
1) Malachi's Prophecy: The very last words of the Old Testament concern God's coming Day of Judgment, and they issue a warning:
"Look, I am sending you the prophet Elijah before the great and dreadful day of the Lord arrives. His preaching will turn the hearts of parents to their children, and the hearts of children to their parents. Otherwise, I will come and strike the land with a curse." Malachi 4:5-6 (NLT)
Some people believe this prophecy was fulfilled by John the Baptist, but John was specifically asked if he was Elijah, and his reply was "No" John 1:21.
Furthermore, this prophecy states that Elijah will appear before the "great and dreadful day of the Lord arrives," which is a still future event that will be fulfilled by the Glorious Appearing of Christ.
Therefore, it's more than reasonable to expect that the prophet Elijah will be one of the two witnesses of Revelation 11.
2) The Transfiguration: In the Book of Matthew, we read of the event commonly known as the transfiguration. This is when Jesus was suddenly transfigured "so that His face shone like the sun, and His clothing became dazzling white" Matthew 17:2 (NLT). Moses and Elijah appear alongside Jesus and begin talking with Him.
This event is witnessed by the same disciples referenced earlier, James and John, who asked to sit in places of honor to the right and the left of the Lord in His kingdom.
The transfiguration seems to highlight both the present and future importance of Moses and Elijah in God's Kingdom, and it can be interpreted as strong evidence that they are "the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of all the earth."
3) Similar Powers: The powers of the two witnesses in Revelation 11 directly correlate with the powers God provided Moses and Elijah in the Old Testament. Elijah is the only Old Testament prophet who called down fire to consume God's enemies (2 Kings 1:8-14). He also prophesied that it would not rain for three and a half years, the biblical equivalent of 1,260 days. In similar fashion, Moses was given the power to unleash plagues on Egypt and to turn the Nile red with blood. As a result, it seems reasonable to believe that if these same men are the two witnesses of Revelation 11, they will hold the same God-given powers.
Regardless of the identity of the two witnesses, it is clear that they will appear during the tribulation to prophesy on God's behalf. However, once they complete their testimony, the devil will be given the power to kill them:
"When they complete their testimony, the beast that comes up out of the bottomless pit will declare war against them. He will conquer them and kill them. And their bodies will lie in the main street of Jerusalem, the city which is called 'Sodom' and 'Egypt,' the city where their Lord was crucified. And for three and a half days, all peoples, tribes, languages, and nations will come to stare at their bodies. No one will be allowed to bury them. All the people who belong to this world will give presents to each other to celebrate the death of the two prophets who had tormented them." Revelation 11:7-10 (NLT)
The "beast that comes up out of the bottomless pit" is the fallen angel Lucifer, who indwells the person of the Antichrist and his diabolical kingdom. Because the world will have degenerated into complete evil by this time (as evidenced by the linking of Jerusalem with Sodom and Egypt), the Antichrist and his followers will hate the pronouncements of the two witnesses. The deaths of these two prophets of God will be celebrated worldwide, even to the point that gifts are given in honor of the occasion. Out of disdain for the witnesses, the people will refuse them a proper burial, and their bodies will lie in the street for three and a half days while the entire population of the world stares at them.
This last detail has been fertile ground for modern speculations, with many Christians believing that, for the first time in history, this prophecy can be fulfilled through satellite coverage on CNN or MSNBC. But although the ability to view any area of the planet via cable TV news networks is a present day reality, this prophecy can not yet be fulfilled. The verse specifically says "all peoples, tribes, languages, and nations" will stare at their bodies, not "some of" the peoples, tribes, languages, and nations.
The technology capable of bringing this event to fruition is still unavailable to much of the world's population. However, in the years to come, the cost of this technology will significantly decrease in proportion to its power, providing much of the Third World with access it currently lacks. This decrease in cost, ultimately the result of molecular manufacturing, will allow for the ubiquitous use of high-bandwidth video feeds on cell phones, PDAs, and other handheld devices.
The development of molecular manufacturing (MM) will make poverty as we know it a thing of the past. Humanity will still be divided into rich and poor, but today's rich will envy the poor of a society with exponential general purpose molecular manufacturing, where even the most destitute of citizens is in possession of extremely powerful, high-bandwidth networking devices.
Moreover, the exponential advance of technology will allow for the creation of virtual reality realms that will enable the end user to "experience" live events in another location.
As a result, for the first time in history, it will be possible for the entire world to simultaneously view or "be present at" a particular geographical location, just as Revelation 11 predicts. This fact alone is strong evidence that ours is the generation in which Christ will return.
"But after three and a half days, the spirit of life from God entered them, and they stood up! And terror struck all who were staring at them. Then a loud voice shouted from heaven, 'Come up here!' And they rose to heaven in a cloud as their enemies watched. And in the same hour there was a terrible earthquake that destroyed a tenth of the city. Seven thousand people died in that earthquake. And everyone who did not die was terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven." Revelation 11:11-13 (NLT)
Just as Jesus Christ rose from the dead after three days and three nights, so will His two witnesses be resurrected after three and a half days. The Book of Revelation tells us that terror will strike all those who are staring at them, which means that terror will strike all the people of the world, because verse 9 tells us that the people of the world will stare at them for three and a half days.
The resurrection and subsequent ascension of these two witnesses will be final confirmation that they were true men of God. The world will have a hard time, even in an age of astounding technological wonder, explaining how these two performed such a miraculous feat. This will result in more than just a terrified population; we learn that everyone who does not die in the resulting earthquake will "give glory to the God of heaven."
Thus, we are brought full circle in studying the purpose of the two witnesses and the tribulation itself. The purpose is to provide people with evidence of God?s glory, so that by believing in Jesus Christ, they may experience a blissful eternity in His presence. For "no eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him." 1 Corinthians 2:9 (NLT)
Britt Gillette is the founder of End Times Bible Prophecy and the author of Coming To Jesus and Signs Of The Second Coming. Receive his book 7 Signs of the End Times for FREE when you sign up for his monthly newsletter.
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