The world will soon be turned upside down. Fire, beasts, war, earthquakes and plagues are prophesied to come to our earth. The book of Revelation says that at the heart of these events are two witnesses.
What can we know about these two? What is their purpose and how is it accomplished? Most importantly, how does it affect your life?
Stay tuned to Beyond Today as we examine "Who Are the Two Witnesses?"
In the not too distant future, your Bible says that two individuals will take the witness stand on the world scene. They seem peculiar and puzzling to many. Even commentators have found scripture about the two witnesses difficult to interpret. Are they two actual people who prophesy before the return of Jesus, or are they mere symbols? Who are the two witnesses?
To answer the question, let's go to the Book. It's found in Revelation 11 where astounding occurrences are described.
As litigation opens in the courthouse of our world, it's the beginning of the Great Tribulation—Jesus Himself described it as an awful time of such terrible trouble that there has never been anything like it before.
It's a dangerous world of rebellion against God and persecution of His people. The time frame is just before Jesus Christ returns to this earth as King of kings.
Now God is not blind to injustice in our world. Among other things, God says that "because the oppression of the weak and the groaning of the needy,"that He "will now arise..."and He'll "protect them from those who malign them" (Psalm12:5, NIV). He promises to be a father to the fatherless, a defender of the widows (Psalm:68:5).
This is when the prophetic courtroom is called to order and the spotlight shines on these two individuals. Notice Revelation:11:3, "And I will give power to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy one thousand two hundred and sixty days, clothed in sackcloth."
To begin, let's focus on the term "witness."In the original Greek language, the word is martus , and it means "one called to give testimony in a court of law." So in a sense, these are two witnesses for the prosecution—testifying for the courtroom of God.
They're not bringing a personal court case; they're bringing God's indictment against all that opposes Him.
Have you ever wondered why one witness isn't enough? Why two? Think about it this way: We live in contentious world. You can't even watch the news without accusations flying. It seems everywhere: groundless, unfounded claims. We've come to expect it. But it's not that way with God. God takes the act of accusing very, very seriously.
The Psalms say "He shall judge the world in righteousness, and He shall administer judgment for the peoples in uprightness" (Psalm:9:7-8). So when God prosecutes a case and comes to judgment—it's just, it's fair and the verdict—indisputable.
That's why God verifies the evidence by the testimony of more than one. In Deuteronomy:19:15 God decreed, "...by the mouth of two or three witnesses the matter shall be established."No wonder there are two witnesses! In the same way that Jesus verified His ministry by sending the disciples out two by two (Mark:6:7), God will show beyond a reasonable doubt, by these two, that this world is guilty as charged.
The charges will stick. The crimes committed include slander, deception, wickedness and murder just to name a few. Revelation:13:6 says "...he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God..." You see, Satan and his system are "drunk with the blood of the saints and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus" (Revelation:17:6). This complaint that's on the docket is not only against Satan, but also includes the entire political system of the world and the majority of humanity who delight in the destruction of God's servants (Revelation:11:10).
Now let's notice the credentials of the witnesses in this case. Revelation:11:4 gives us some insight. It says, "These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands standing before the God of the earth."Verse 10 calls them "these two prophets."
So the two witnesses are identified with two olive trees and two lampstands. What does that symbolism mean? It should remind us of when God's people were taken captive into Babylon. It was then that Zechariah the prophet was used by God to reveal a great deal about end-time events. More than 500 years before Christ, Zechariah helps lead them to rebuild Jerusalem and the Temple, which Babylon had destroyed.
Now in a dream, he sees a solid gold lampstand with a bowl at the top. On each side of the bowl were two olive trees with two branches dripping oil that can be burned to give light (Zechariah:4:2-3). Zechariah is told their identity: "These are the two who are anointed [appointed] to serve the Lord of all the earth" (Zechariah:4:14). Sounds like Revelation, doesn't it?
Even today the oil of the olive tree is known for its golden purity. It was used in anointing or ordaining God's priests. Here in the temple lamp, it's the source. It's the source of the fuel. This is symbolic of the Spirit of God. By the power of God's Spirit—the source—God's people are set apart to serve Him. They're to illuminate the truth.
Now putting this together in the context of Revelation 11, God's two witnesses give testimony of how God's Spirit gives light to humanity in a dark world (Matthew:5:14-16). So the olive trees and the lampstands represent two special servants, who are appointed by God and given power that flows from God's Holy Spirit to witness to the truth.
Now here's what Jesus said, "While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light" (John:12:36). You see the two witnesses are compared to two lampstands, two sons of light, shining brightly in a dismal world.
Now there's another remarkable connection in Revelation:11:5: "And if anyone wants to harm them, fire proceeds from their mouth and devours their enemies. And if anyone wants to harm them, he must be killed in this manner."
Talk about power! The two witnesses come in the power of both Moses and Elijah. Both of these great prophets connect God's powerful acts in history to the end time witnesses. They will perform miraculous acts like Elijah and like Moses.
Now remember when God's prophet Elijah confronted the false prophets in 2 Kings:1:10? He said, "If I am a man of God, then let fire come down from heaven and consume you and your fifty men." And what happened? "And fire came down from heaven and consumed him and his fifty."
Now in Numbers 16 it also happened with Moses. When the people gathered together against Moses, God's anointed leader—that's what Moses was—not only did the earth open up and swallow the opposers, but verse 35 tells us that "fire came out from the LORD and consumed the two hundred and fifty men."
Now that's an amazing parallel isn't it? The two witnesses replicate Elijah and Moses' miracles against those who refuse God's will, against those who do not worship God, against those that don't have regard for God's value and at the same time, protecting truth and His people.
So the testimony doesn't stop here. This time there will be no adjournment.
It's a reminder that prophecy is an important part of the Bible. It's God's inspired revelation to mankind. So as we look at the work of the two witnesses today, God reveals Himself. He reveals His plan for humanity and what the future holds.
But it's vital to put all the prophecy pieces together. We'd like to help you with our free booklet, You Can Understand Bible Prophecy .
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No doubt the knowledge of prophecy is interesting. It's exciting! But it can also provide you with the details of God's wonderful plan for all. Don't let it remain a puzzle. Our booklet will help you to accurately understand prophecy.
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Here's your opportunity to learn more about the return of Jesus Christ and what it means. You won't want to miss one of these free seminars, so you can understand the significance of the Kingdom of God. It's important because you'll learn about what most people and even what most churches don't comprehend: that's the original message of Jesus Christ and the difference it can make for you today.
So go to BeyondToday.tv and look for the "Kingdom of God Bible Seminars" link and find a seminar near you and register to attend.
You'll find that prophecy is not merely a series of unrelated predictions randomly scattered throughout the Bible. Prophecy has structure. It fits together. There's a purpose and meaning behind its evidence. It should mean something to you and your life. How will it affect you?
Now that brings us back to the two witnesses of Revelation 11. As these two make God's legal case against this evil world, the actions of the two witnesses are like those of Moses and Elijah. And there's more than just fire consuming the enemy.
Notice Revelation:11:6, "These have power to shut heaven, so that no rain falls in the days of their prophecy; and they have power over waters to turn them to blood, and to strike the earth with all plagues, as often as they desire."
Remember the story of Elijah? During the evil reign of King Ahab and Queen Jezebel, "Elijah...prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months"(James:5:17). Imagine that. No rain for 1,260 days! Now in this same way, the testimony of the two witnesses, God will get this world's attention and warn all mankind.
So the prosecution continues against the oppressive leaders, against this evil political system and the immoral people through God's representatives, as they continue to take the stand.
So next, the witnesses are once again compared to Moses. He was a deliverer. He was God's leader. He was God's representative. So are the two witnesses. Moses was used to confront Pharaoh and demand that the king of Egypt let His people go. The two witnesses, they're used to confront Satan and his system to let the people go.
Pharaoh refused, so through Moses, God performed phenomenal things. The most famous? Probably the 10 plagues, beginning with turning the waters into blood. And in the same way, the two witnesses impeach this world with plagues, with drought, with fire as testimony against all who are in rebellion against God Almighty.
And there's a reason behind it. The purpose is to help open the eyes and ears of a spiritually blind and deaf world. Before God's sentence is executed, the witnesses live in honor to God and they give a grave warning. What a reminder that Christ is our Savior, not our destroyer. Destroying people? That's what Satan does.
So in Revelation:11:7 it says, "When they finish their testimony, the beast that ascends out of the bottomless pit will make war against them, overcome them, and kill them. And their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified. Then those from the peoples, tribes, tongues, and nations will see their dead bodies three-and-a-half days, and not allow their dead bodies to be put into graves. And those who dwell on the earth will rejoice over them, make merry, and send gifts to one another, because these two prophets tormented those who dwell on the earth."
The facts of the case have been presented and the Beast hates God's witnesses. The peoples, tribes, tongues and nations are represented by what is called the Beast. In other parts of the book of Revelation, the Beast is labeled as an evil political system, modern Babylon, as well as a wicked leader and a false prophet.
These are the ones to be indicted. They have set their will not to worship God. So in angry defiance, because they have no defense, they continue their rebellion against His authority. Mankind has become so perverted that they celebrate the death of all that is good.
But the case is not closed yet. To demonstrate that there's no reasonable doubt, God does something spectacular.
Look at verse 11 "Now after the three-and-a-half days the breath of life from God entered them, and they stood on their feet, and great fear fell on those who saw them."God raises them from the dead!
No wonder they're fearful. They're eyewitnesses to the proof that these two were speaking the truth of God for the last 3½ years! The time has finally come. There'll be no continuance, no acquittal. The case is decided. Satan and his followers and his system are convicted.
That brings it home. Are you decided? There's a powerful message for all of us in these passages.
God is also speaking to each of us through the testimony of the two witnesses. Just as God has future responsibilities for these two servants, He also has a job for you. No matter the surroundings, no matter the situation, no matter how troubling the times, your life must be an honor to God.
Since God's judgment against sin never changes, we need to hear that testimony and unlike the Beast, we must listen to that warning and repent. Turn to God, learn His way and put it into practice in your life. Like the lampstands—be sure to shine His light.
Like the two witnesses, when you feel you're up against the whole world, remember God's promise: "'I will never leave you nor forsake you.' So we may boldly say, 'The LORD is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?'" (Hebrews:13:5-6).
You see God promises to save and deliver you. So whether God's words are for the two witnesses or for you, there is only one-way forward: "Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit, says the LORD of hosts" (Zechariah:4:6).
Now there's so much more to learn about the who, what and where of Bible prophecy. Up next, we'll discuss the why. Why are the two witnesses important to your life? And what can we know about the actual identity of the witnesses?
But first, I'd like to help you in your studies by offering you The Good News magazine .
The Good News will help you understand what the Bible teaches about prophecy, and it will inform you about key events currently moving us toward this moment when the two witnesses arrive. But it also contains so much more; including guidance on marriage, family, how to manage your finances, and why it's important to have a relationship with your Creator.
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Now when you think of prophecies that lie ahead, especially about the two witnesses, how will they affect you?
Our Beyond Today panel discussion is next. So joining me now are fellow hosts of the program, Darris McNeely and Gary Petty.
Well we've been talking about who are the two witnesses? That's the title of the program today. And so, people may be wondering, can I know the identity of those two witnesses?
So what's important is that God knows who they are, when they will be revealed because they are His witnesses. He says they are my witnesses.
How do we know? If we are going to know at some point and we don't know now, how will that work?
When we look at the Bible, all it tells us is that these two witnesses come on the scene 3½ years before Jesus Christ returns. So, what they're doing before that point we don't know, but their worldwide ministry is 3½ years before Jesus Christ. So when we see two men that are doing the miracles that these men are doing, then we know who they are, but until that point...
And so when you begin to think about it, doesn't that just have to bring us to the point to say these are real people? This isn't just a symbol. This isn't just a metaphor, because a lot of people, a lot of biblical scholars think it's just a symbol or it's just a metaphor.
I think what really helps in understanding that is going back to Revelation and looking at the description of their deaths. Because it says that there are two of them. It says that they are killed. It says that their bodies lie in the street and it says that they are resurrected. So we have a description there of an actual event so, that alone really zeros in on, these are two actual individuals that come on the scene. They do the work of God and there is a point where they are killed and for 3 1/2 days they lay in the street and then they're resurrected.
It's easy when people don't want to deal with some of the hard issues of the Bible, and especially the book of Revelation, to assign it to metaphor. Really, there's a scripture at the end of the Revelation that says he who adds to or takes away from the words of this book, it pronounces a curse upon them. You don't want to take away from the meaning of the book of Revelation by really just relegating it to metaphor, symbolism completely and nothing literal to be understood at all, which is what happens with a lot of people and unfortunately, even a lot of religious people.
They could be theologians, scholars of the Bible, dismiss the book or Revelation because they do not understand it and they relegate it to metaphor. And that is a mistake because the issues that, especially this subject of the two witnesses are talking about, are hard issues of judgment, God's judgment upon the world. And individuals, as individuals we don't like to really consider a finality of God's judgment and the ramifications of that for our life today.
And there's really nothing wrong when you look at what it's saying, to realize that some of this is symbolic, but there is a reality behind it.
And so it fits together...
Right and when you look through the book of Revelation, it becomes obvious what is symbolic and what isn't. The four horsemen actually symbol events, but the events are described.
And they're real events!
Darris and Gary:
And they're real events!
They're very real events.
And so they're going to happen.
And I think part of what makes it interesting is that what God describes here in Revelation 11 takes us back and reminds us of Elijah. It reminds us of Moses. Real characters, real people who did real things for God's people in the past and so, I think it becomes clear that way, doesn't it? In a sense...
... to help us believe that this is a true thing that's going to happen.
Moses, you have Moses and Elijah there as the examples. Moses stands as this towering figure in the Bible and the story of Israel, and really the story of mankind. He was a genius that God used to not only deliver Israel, but to set the foundation of Holy Scripture through the first five books of the Bible. And it was back, it was to that event Elijah even turned the people of Israel at that day, wanting to turn them back to the covenants, the way of life that Moses was used as an instrument to ratify upon the people of Israel. And so...
Ten Commandments, right?
The Ten Commandments and the covenant. Elijah wanted to turn the hearts of the people back to that covenant that they made, their fathers made with their spiritual Father. And so they fit perfectly with what the two witnesses are talking about in terms of a witness upon the world for this infidelity to God and not wanting to keep God in their knowledge.
Well when you look at Moses, and you look at Elijah and you look at the two witnesses, they're, much of that work is the same. I mean Moses and Elijah went to kings. Moses and Elijah, there was judgment brought upon people from God that they proclaimed and then God carried out. So these two witnesses are coming in the power, in the spirit of Moses and Elijah.
Okay these things are going to happen, why do I have to worry about it? How does it impact me? Why does God give us these phenomenal prophecies and what am I supposed to do about it?
To cause us to live better.
Not to scare us half to death.
No, it's to draw us to Him and to make us realize that life is serious. There are consequences for our actions. There is a judgment coming. God is a god of judgment. He is a righteous, merciful judge. The two witnesses are called to witness against humanity for that. And the lesson for us today is to understand the implications of judgment upon us, and turn our heart back to God and avoid those judgments and to come under the grace of God. That's really the most important thing to understand from the two witnesses.
I think it's a fantastic thing when we can do something about it now. It doesn't' have to take us by surprise. And so we want to help you to understand some of these events that are coming. Remember our free offers. They're designed to help you as you study. You Can Understand Bible Prophecy will help you sort out the symbolism and the reality of prophecy.
And don't forget your free subscription to The Good News magazine. Each issue will help you grow in understanding God's purpose for you in practical articles that will make a difference in your life.
Here's how you can get your booklet and subscription: you can read it online at BeyondToday.tv, download it, or request your own hard-copy. Or you can call us toll free: 1-888-886-8632 and request both publications.
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So go to BeyondToday.tv and look for the "Kingdom of God Bible Seminars" link and register to attend.
Now while we don't know the personal identity of the two witnesses, we do know that when God calls them to testify in His Court and when they finish that case, there will be absolutely no doubt, they'll be no debate, no argument—It will be time to sentence a world that has defied God. It will be a death sentence to man's government.
God will bring justice, by His promise, by His judgment and finally, finally the solution to sin and death will be evident and the reign of God's Kingdom on earth will begin.
The prophecy of the two witnesses remind us that God is always standing by His Word and His promise. He will stand by you in your times of personal challenge. So look for and respond to His guidance in your life.
Thanks for joining us today. Don't forget our free offers and be sure to tell your family and friends about us. Tune in again next week, at this same time, for another edition of Beyond Today and join us in praying, "Thy Kingdom come."
For Beyond Today I'm Steve Myers. Thanks for watching.