The Acts of Moses, Elijah and the Two Witnesses

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Your Bible reveals there will be two witnesses in the end time who will turn the world upside down, testifying for Christ against sin and sinners. Some of the miracles they will perform will parallel those of Moses and Elijah. There’s an enlightening lesson in these similarities.

The two witnesses in Revelation:11:3 are enigmatic to many. Some view them as a return of Moses and Elijah, while others see them as the Church or martyrs of the Church, or even a return of Peter and Paul or Enoch and Elijah. Some think they are simply two prophets, two groups or two principles ( The Expositor's Bible Commentary, 1981, Vol. 12, p. 504).

God describes these two witnesses as representative of two olive trees and two lamps or lampstands that stand before the God of the earth (Revelation:11:3-4).

Each of God's symbols of them is significant and communicates to the reader characteristics of God and His two representatives. Christ sent His disciples out two by two. Witnessing is giving testimony. Olive trees refer to God's Spirit and, by extension, God's truth (compare John:4:23-24). Lamps give light to a dark world. Putting together all of these symbols in the context of Revelation 11, God's two witnesses give testimony of how God's Spirit gives light to and illuminates humanity in a darkened world (Matthew:5:14-16; Hebrews:6:4-5; John:1:4-9; Isaiah:9:2).

These two witnesses are closely connected to the two olive trees and the two lampstands of Zechariah's vision. There, God indicates a primary allusion to Joshua and Zerubbabel, who are also said to serve the Lord of all the earth (Zechariah:4:1-6, 10-14). They are, in some ways, types of the two witnesses.

The two witnesses of Revelation 11 warn Babylon the great one last time, as human instruments of God have always done through the ages.

It's all about Babylon

The book of Revelation, in general, addresses the progression of and, in particular, the consummation of mankind's failings brought on by the corruptive influences of Babylon the great. That's a great overall key to Revelation, if one stands back from the various seals, trumpets and plagues and observes its underlying theme and purpose. Revelation shows two great polar opposites: mankind's self-destructive way of life and God's constructive way of life. Knowing this great key helps one to better understand the catastrophes prophesied in this unique book.

Remarkably, in the book of Revelation there is a guarantee that God will stop humanity from destroying itself, through Christ Jesus' intervention and sovereignty (Revelation:11:18; 19:11-21).

As God's representatives, the two witnesses will conduct themselves, at least in part, in the ways of Moses and Elijah.

Moses and the two witnesses

Moses is sometimes described as a lawgiver. He was called by God to deliver His laws to Israel (Malachi:4:4).

God also used Moses as Israel's physical leader, a type of deliverer and a representative of God (Exodus:4:16). God used him to confront the king of Egypt and demand that Pharaoh let His people go. When Pharaoh refused, God performed miraculous deeds through Moses. The 10 plagues are now legendary acts that God conducted to make His point of freeing His people from sin and sinners: "Let my people go" (Exodus:5:1).

In the New Testament, Jesus was transfigured and appeared in vision along with both Moses and Elijah (Matthew:17:1-5). Here God made the point to show that Jesus was much greater than Moses and Elijah: "Hear Him!" (verse 5).

The prophet Malachi addressed both Moses' and Elijah's service. "Remember the Law of Moses, My servant, which I commanded him in Horeb for all Israel, with the statutes and judgments. Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord" (Malachi:4:4-5).

The two witnesses of Revelation 11 perform miraculous acts similar to those Moses did, especially by bringing plagues on those who would not heed God's demands. "And they have power over waters to turn them to blood, and to strike the earth with all plagues, as often as they desire" (Revelation:11:6; compare this with Moses in Exodus:7:17-21). God is consistent.

Elijah and the two witnesses

Elijah is often considered the most important prophet of the Old Testament, and with good reason (Malachi:4:5). He was a no-nonsense, direct-to-the-point prophet who simply laid it all on the line. His antagonists could not kill him (2 Kings:2:11).

Elijah prayed and God shut up the heavens for 3 1/2 years (1 Kings:17:1; James:5:17). God also devoured with fire those who commanded Elijah to appear before King Ahaziah (2 Kings:1:10).

The two witnesses of Revelation 11 replicate Elijah's miracles against those who refuse God's will. They will also have the power to stop any rainfall for 3 1/2 years (Revelation:11:3, 5-6). Whenever they are threatened, fire will proceed from their mouths to devour their enemies, a symbol of God's judgment (Hebrews:12:29).

Two witnesses act as did Moses and Elijah

For 3 1/2 years God will warn all mankind, especially the warring nations and their tyrannical leaders, of their evil ways through His representatives, the two witnesses. God loves all human beings because He created them to one day have the opportunity to repent, be converted and become children of God (2 Peter:3:9; 2 Corinthians:6:18). Yet He will judge the recalcitrant with a rod of iron (Revelation:2:27). Sometimes this is the only way mankind will be receptive enough to listen to and learn from God (Malachi:3:5-6).

The book of Revelation reveals how God will both warn and punish Babylon (Revelation 17), the False Prophet and the Beast (Revelation 19). The False Prophet and the Beast will set themselves to kill the two witnesses, which they will do at the end of the two witnesses' testimony (Revelation:11:7). After 3 1/2 days they will be resurrected to life (Revelation:11:11-12).

There are undeniable similarities between the two witnesses and Moses and Elijah:

"'And I will give power to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy one thousand two hundred and sixty days, clothed in sackcloth.' These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands standing before the God of the earth. 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. 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" (Revelation:11:3-6).

God's punishment of sinners is timeless

God's testimonies and judgments against sinners never change. This is a significant lesson and loving instruction from God.

When God delivered a captive Israel from Egypt through Moses, God used Moses to demand that Pharaoh release Israel. With each demand came a consequence. Ultimately, God leveled Egypt with 10 great plagues in order to convince Pharaoh to let His people go.

God used the great and dedicated prophet Elijah to warn Israel to mend its sinning ways against God. When the king did not comply, Elijah was given the power to prophesy that Israel would have no rain (1 Kings:17:1). When Elijah was challenged by the king's demand that he come down from a hill to answer to his army, Elijah responded that if he were indeed a man of God, then let fire come down and devour the squad of 50 men. After the first two squads were burned up, the third officer was much more respectful (2 Kings:1:12-14).

God is indeed patient. He waits for Babylon's "golden cup full of abominations and the filthiness of her fornication" (Revelation:17:4) to fill all the way to the top. Then He steps in, for if He didn't, humankind would destroy itself (Matthew:24:22). Christ will "destroy those who [attempt to] destroy the earth" (Revelation:11:18).

Plagues, drought and fire get attention

The two end-time witnesses will have the power to provide plagues, drought and fire as testimonies and judgments against all sinners who would try to destroy them and mankind. These will help open the eyes and ears of the spiritually blind and deaf.

The acts of the two witnesses are as the acts of Moses and Elijah. They show that God remains the same when acting against sin and sinners, to show Himself strong and loving in reconciling mankind to God. Christ is our Savior, not our destroyer; destroying people is what Satan does.

God will not allow humanity to self-destruct; He will save and deliver us, giving all human beings their one opportunity to know God and live His way of peace and prosperity (Hebrews:8:10-12; Isaiah:11:1-10). WNP


Betty's picture

(My first comment here, so a friendly hello to everyone from the Netherlands)

In the Biblical system of law, a minimum of two witnesses were called upon in law suits concerning false religion and/or murder. Will this be part of the future two witnesses 'brief'? Will the Tribulation involve a case brought before the senior law court of the Throne of God involving false religion on a major scale (False Prophet) and murder (the saints)? Will the Day of the Lord be the final judgment on the earth in this particular case, to judge all who stood by and approved of the crimes committed?

And will God's sentence be carried out by His representative Zerubbabel (signet ring a sign of authority)? Any thoughts anyone?

Steven Britt

Steven Britt's picture

Hi Betty,

The ideas you've presented are interesting food-for-thought. We know that the two witnesses will preach openly for 3.5 years, and I find it more likely that their testimony will be directed towards proclaiming the supremacy of the Father and His Christ in direct opposition to the worship of the false prophet and the beast that will be going on at that time. In particular, scripture mentions that the beast will go after the witnesses because of their testimony (Revelation 11:7). Compare this to Revelation 12:17, where it says that the beast will go after the remnant of the church, who are identified as those who "keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ." Daniel 7:24-25 and 2 Thessalonians 2:3-8 support the idea that the world-ruling government and religion will turn people away from God's commandments and exalt the man of sin above "all that is called God," and this person is also called the "lawless one" because he has no regard for God's laws. It seems to me that the witnesses will be primarily making their case to the people living at the time so that they can repent.

As far as Zerubbabel is concerned, my interpretation is that he will be given authority in the Kingdom among the other saints of God who are made "kings and priests" of various levels of authority (Revelation 20:4, Ezekiel 37:24, Matthew 19:28). I don't see why the signet ring would correspond to carrying out judgment in particular.

There is certainly nothing wrong with speculating on these things as long as we stay grounded in what can be proven from scripture. Thanks for sharing your neat perspective!

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