|Inside the Book of Revelation
The Two Witnesses
Revelation 10:1 through 11:19 The progression of prophetic events in Revelation is temporarily interrupted after the sixth angel blows his trumpet (the second "woe") (Rev. 9:13-21). Revelation now gives us two inset chapters. They bring the reader up to date on a very important happening during the last days. That landmark event is the final and most powerful stage in the preaching of the gospel — the good news of the coming kingdom of God — to the world.
In chapter 10, a voice from heaven tells John to take an open book out of the hand of an angel. It instructs him to eat this small, bittersweet volume. The leaves are honey to his taste, signifying that the judgments and plan of God are just and righteous' But the digested book causes bitter distress to his stomach. This implies that the world would neither accept God's judgments nor his call to repentance.
Thus, proclaiming the saving gospel would lead to persecution and, sometimes, to the death of God's servants. Yet John is told to preach the good news in spite of the possible repercussions. His commission is: "You must prophesy again about many peoples, nations, tongues and kings" (Rev. 10:11). Prophetically, the two witnesses of Revelation 11 accomplish that same task in the last days.
In vision, John hears an angelic spokesman say the following about these two individuals: "I will give power to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy one thousand two hundred and sixty days" (Rev. 11:3). If we allow a prophetic year to have 12 months of 30 days each, the two witnesses would be carrying out their warning message for 3 1/2 years.
During their witness, the holy city — Jerusalem — is under the sway of foreign armies. The time of this control is stated as being 42 months (Rev. 13:5). With 12 months equaling a year, this would also give us 3 1/2 years.
God must protect his people during this time or they will suffer intense persecution. This period of protection, we are told, lasts for "a time and times and half a time" (Rev. 12:14),If a "time" equals one year, we again have a period of 3 1/2 years: a time + (two) times + half a time.
The supernatural power of God accompanies the preaching of the two witnesses. John writes, "These have power to shut heaven, 8o 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" (Rev. 11:6).
The two witnesses must exhort people to repent and obey God — They will not be well received either by the citizens of the world or the controlling political — religious authority. Their fate is evident.
The two witnesses will be martyred: "The beast that ascends out of the bottomless pit will make war against them, overcome them, and kill them" (Rev. 11:7). For the first time in Revelation we formally meet the major earthly adversary and foe of the Church in the last days. It is "the beast."
The dead bodies of the martyred two witnesses lie for 3r/z days in the streets "of the great city... where also our Lord was crucified" (Rev. 11:8). That's an obvious reference to Jerusalem — a city then, as now, at the center of the world's attention. Jerusalem is here figuratively called "Sodom" and "Egypt." This identifies the city as a place of sin, from God's viewpoint. (See Isaiah 1:10, where Jerusalem is called Sodom.)
There are several references in Revelation to another "great city," called "Babylon, the great" (Rev. 16:19; 17:5). The political — religious power of one "great city," Babylon, kills the two witnesses in the other "great city."
In the crisis at the close of this age, invaders from outside the Middle East will dominate the city of Jerusalem. However, it is to become the future city of God from whence true religion originates (Isaiah 2:3). By contrast, God will permanently obliterate the seat of false religion — Babylon the great (Isaiah 47:1-11).
The nations declare a universal holiday when they learn that the two "tormentors of the world" are dead. The world applauds the death of the two witnesses. They "rejoice over them, make merry, and send gifts to one another." That's because the hated two witnesses had "tormented" the world by speaking God's truth and bringing plagues on the earth (Rev. 11:6, 10). The people of the world, however, are about to experience the surprise of their lives.
Resurrection of Righteous Dead "But, wait! The impossible is happening," onlookers in Jerusalem say. People are astonished at what they see. The two corpses are suddenly coming back to life. The bodies are stirring — the two witnesses are alive once again!
They stand on their feet and hear a loud voice, saying, "Come up here." They rise into the sky in a cloud, and their enemies see them (Rev. 11:12). Pictured here is none other than the event immediately preceding the resurrection of the righteous dead. It occurs at the seventh and last trump — the next prophetic event Revelation describes (Rev. 11:15).
It is the time during which the righteous dead receive eternal life. The apostle Paul wrote of that time: "The Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first" (I Thessalonians 4:16).
In his epistle to the Corinthians, the apostle Paul said the resurrection of the dead would occur: "In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound and the dead will be raised incorruptible" (I Corinthians 15:52, italics added).
The preaching of the gospel by two witnesses ends just 3 1/2 days before that seventh and last trumpet sounds. It announces the pouring out of the final plagues on mankind and the coming of the Messiah. Jesus referred to this event also; "This gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world" — certainly fulfilled in major part by the two witnesses in great power — "as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come" (Matthew 24:14).
The two witnesses are apparently modeled after Moses and Elijah. They perform signs similar to what Moses and Elijah performed in their day (compare verses 5 and 6 with I Kings 17:1; II Kings 1:10; Exodus 7:14-21).
The Apocalypse also identifies the two witnesses as two olive trees and the two lamp stands before the Lord (Rev. 11:4). Compare this designation with Zechariah's vision of the two olive trees. They are called "the two anointed ones, who stand beside the Lord of the whole earth" (Zechariah 4:3, 11, 14). Not much else can be said about the identity of these two individuals. As you read this their recorded period of prophesying is yet future.
To keep us moving with the flow of world events as they are vividly described, John inserts a chronological marker in Revelation 11. It connects us directly to the final verse in chapter nine. "Then the seventh angel sounded: And there were loud voices in heaven, saying, 'The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!"' (Rev. 11:15). This is the time when the existing age of man's government comes crashing down.
The supernatural power of God will accompany and confirm the preaching of the two witnesses. The Messiah takes over political and religious power. His "wrath has come" (Rev. 11:18). The resurrection of the righteous dead occurs. The 24 heavenly elders announce "that You [Christ] should reward Your servants the prophets and the saints, and those who fear Your name, small and great" (Rev. 11:18).
The book of Revelation, however, is not quite ready to describe the final intervention of Jesus in world affairs. We now look at the political and religious powers dominating the world during the "last days" and their war against God's people.