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The Visions of Revelation; the 12th vision

Updated on February 12, 2013

The twelfth vision; the two witnesses,

Rev. 11:3-13

And I will give power unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days, clothed in sackcloth. 4 These are the two olive trees, and the two candlesticks standing before the God of the earth. 5 And if any man will hurt them, fire proceedeth out of their mouth, and devoureth their enemies: and if any man will hurt them, he must in this manner be killed. 6 These have power to shut heaven, that it rain not in the days of their prophecy: and have power over waters to turn them to blood, and to smite the earth with all plagues, as often as they will.
7 And when they shall have finished their testimony, the beast that ascendeth out of the bottomless pit shall make war against them, and shall overcome them, and kill them. 8 And their dead bodies shall lie in the street of the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified. 9 And they of the people and kindreds and tongues and nations shall see their dead bodies three days and an half, and shall not suffer their dead bodies to be put in graves. 10 And they that dwell upon the earth shall rejoice over them, and make merry, and shall send gifts one to another; because these two prophets tormented them that dwelt on the earth. 11 And after three days and an half the Spirit of life from God entered into them, and they stood upon their feet; and great fear fell upon them which saw them. 12 And they heard a great voice from heaven saying unto them, Come up hither. And they ascended up to heaven in a cloud; and their enemies beheld them. 13 And the same hour was there a great earthquake, and the tenth part of the city fell, and in the earthquake were slain of men seven thousand: and the remnant were affrighted, and gave glory to the God of heaven.

Many tend to link the concluding events of the previous vision (i.e. the trampling down of the outer court of the temple) with the activities of the two witnesses that are the central characters of this vision. While the length of time in the two visions is the same, three and one half years, there is no other reason to link the two as occurring concurrently. While there is no definite break in the story flow of the vision, John simply ends his speaking about the trampling down by the Gentiles of the outer court of the temple and begins to speak about these two witnesses. However as we shall see the visions John is experiencing has brought him about two thousand years into the future and this vision is relating to end time events.

The two witnesses

There has been a lot of speculation as to the identity of these two witnesses, ranging everywhere from them being Elijah and Moses, somehow brought back to life, to well-known members of different religious bodies. However if we continue to allow the Bible to explain itself we will learn the identity of these two.

Before we attempt to determine the identity of these witnesses let us first determine what the power is that these witnesses are given. A more accurate rendering of the verse is “And I will give unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days, clothed in sackcloth.[1] The need for the word ‘power’ is implied and was added to bring sense to the translated verse, it could also have been rendered as ‘power’, ‘privilege’, ‘embolden’ or ‘authorize’. It should be noted that the verse implies that these witnesses will already be present when this occurs. The verse says that God will give to his witnesses, not that he would send his witnesses. Also while it says that they will prophesy for a specific length of time this does not mean they will be predicting future events as one tends to think when they hear of someone prophesying. The implication is that they would speak of God’s truths, witnessing through their faith in other words.

But one may wonder why they are needed to witness. To achieve this we need to learn what the Bible says about witnesses;

At the mouth of two witnesses, or three witnesses, shall he that is worthy of death be put to death; but at the mouth of one witness he shall not be put to death…One witness shall not rise up against a man for any iniquity, or for any sin, in any sin that he sinneth: at the mouth of two witnesses, or at the mouth of three witnesses, shall the matter be established.

(Deut. 17:6; 19:15)

Whoso killeth any person, the murderer shall be put to death by the mouth of witnesses: but one witness shall not testify against any person to cause him to die.

(Num. 35:30)

This policy is reaffirmed in the New Testament;

But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.

(Matt. 18:16)

This is the third time I am coming to you. In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established.

(II Cor. 13:1)

So what are these witnesses needed for in this end time drama? Remember that the Day of the Lord is when God punishes the sinners in the world for their sins; he executes his judgment upon them (Is. 34:8; Jer. 46:10; Obadiah 1:15; John 12:48; Acts 17:31; Rom. 2:5,16; II Peter 2:7; II Tim. 4:1). As we have seen the Biblical practice clearly dictates that no one may be convicted of a crime unless there are at least two witnesses testifying to the act. But some may argue that they have not committed any crimes, at least none they rate the death penalty. However if we turn to the Bible we find that we are all under the death penalty;

Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness

I John 3:4

For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;

Romans 3:23

For there is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not.

Ecclesiastes 7:20

If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his wordis not in us.

1 John 1:10

What else can we glean from the verses about these witnesses? We read that they will be clothed in sackcloth (vs. 3). One may wonder if the fact they are clothed in sackcloth has any significance and the Bible tells us there are reasons why one wears sackcloth. In fact the Bible relates that there are two different reasons one wore sackcloth. One reason was it was a sign of repentance:

For this gird you with sackcloth, lament and howl: for the fierce anger of the LORD is not turned back from us.

(Jer. 4:8)

O daughter of my people, gird thee with sackcloth, and wallow thyself in ashes: make thee mourning, as for an only son, most bitter lamentation: for the spoiler shall suddenly come upon us.

(Jer. 6:26)

And Jonah began to enter into the city a day's journey, and he cried, and said, Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown. 5 So the people of Nineveh believed God, and proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them even to the least of them. 6 For word came unto the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, and he laid his robe from him, and covered him with sackcloth, and sat in ashes.
7 And he caused it to be proclaimed and published through Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles, saying, Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste any thing: let them not feed, nor drink water: 8 But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily unto God: yea, let them turn every one from his evil way, and from the violence that is in their hands. 9 Who can tell if God will turn and repent, and turn away from his fierce anger, that we perish not? 10 And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil, that he had said that he would do unto them; and he did it not.

(Jonah 3:4-10)

Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works, which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.

(Mat. 11:21)

Another reason was that it was a sign of mourning;

And Jacob rent his clothes, and put sackcloth upon his loins, and mourned for his son many days.

(Gen. 37:34)

And in that day did the Lord GOD of hosts call to weeping, and to mourning, and to baldness, and to girding with sackcloth:

(Isaiah 22:12)

O daughter of my people, gird thee with sackcloth, and wallow thyself in ashes: make thee mourning, as for an only son, most bitter lamentation: for the spoiler shall suddenly come upon us.

(Jer. 6:26)

While John does not preclude the act of people repenting and turning to God until later, during the last acts of punishment that God deals out, and so some of these witnesses may be in an act of repentance the most logical explanation is that these witnesses are in an act of mourning. That they are in a state of mourning, or at least that the followers of Christ are directed to be mourning, is confirmed in the Book of Joel;

For a nation is come up upon my land, strong, and without number, whose teeth are the teeth of a lion, and he hath the cheek teeth of a great lion.[2] 7 - He hath laid my vine waste, and barked my fig tree: he hath made it clean bare, and cast it away; the branches thereof are made white. 8 - Lament like a virgin girded with sackcloth for the husband of her youth.[3] 9 - The meat offering[4] and the drink offering is cut off from the house of the LORD; the priests, the LORD'S ministers, mourn. 10 - The field is wasted, the land mourneth; for the corn is wasted: the new wine is dried up, the oil languisheth. 11 - Be ye ashamed, O ye husbandmen; howl, O ye vinedressers, for the wheat and for the barley; because the harvest of the field is perished. 12 - The vine is dried up, and the fig tree languisheth; the pomegranate tree, the palm tree also, and the apple tree, even all the trees of the field, are withered: because joy is withered away from the sons of men. 13 - Gird yourselves, and lament, ye priests: howl, ye ministers of the altar: come, lie all night in sackcloth, ye ministers of my God: for the meat offering and the drink offering is withholden from the house of your God. 14 - Sanctify ye a fast, call a solemn assembly, gather the elders and all the inhabitants of the land into the house of the LORD your God, and cry unto the LORD, 15 - Alas for the day! for the day of the LORD is at hand, and as a destruction from the Almighty shall it come. 16 - Is not the meat cut off before our eyes, yea, joy and gladness from the house of our God? 17 - The seed is rotten under their clods, the garners are laid desolate, the barns are broken down; for the corn is withered. 18 - How do the beasts groan! the herds of cattle are perplexed, because they have no pasture; yea, the flocks of sheep are made desolate. 19 - O LORD, to thee will I cry: for the fire hath devoured the pastures of the wilderness, and the flame hath burned all the trees of the field. 20 - The beasts of the field cry also unto thee: for the rivers of waters are dried up, and the fire hath devoured the pastures of the wilderness.

1 - Blow ye the trumpet in Zion, and sound an alarm in my holy mountain: let all the inhabitants of the land tremble: for the day of the LORD cometh, for it is nigh at hand; 2 - A day of darkness and of gloominess, a day of clouds and of thick darkness, as the morning spread upon the mountains: a great people and a strong; there hath not been ever the like, neither shall be any more after it, even to the years of many generations. 3 - A fire devoureth before them; and behind them a flame burneth: the land is as the garden of Eden before them, and behind them a desolate wilderness; yea, and nothing shall escape them. 4 - The appearance of them is as the appearance of horses; and as horsemen, so shall they run.[5] 5 - Like the noise of chariots on the tops of mountains shall they leap, like the noise of a flame of fire that devoureth the stubble, as a strong people set in battle array. 6 - Before their face the people shall be much pained: all faces shall gather blackness. 7 - They shall run like mighty men; they shall climb the wall like men of war; and they shall march every one on his ways, and they shall not break their ranks: 8 - Neither shall one thrust another; they shall walk every one in his path: and when they fall upon the sword, they shall not be wounded. 9 - They shall run to and fro in the city; they shall run upon the wall, they shall climb up upon the houses; they shall enter in at the windows like a thief. 10 - The earth shall quake before them; the heavens shall tremble: the sun and the moon shall be dark, and the stars shall withdraw their shining: 11 - And the LORD shall utter his voice before his army: for his camp is very great: for he is strong that executeth his word: for the day of the LORD is great and very terrible; and who can abide it? 12 - Therefore also now, saith the LORD, turn ye even to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning: 13 - And rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the LORD your God: for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil.

(Joel 1:6-2:13 emphasis added)

The identity of these witnesses is provided in the verses talking about the witnesses. In verse four we are told about the witnesses that “These are the two olive trees, and the two candlesticks standing before the God of the earth”. We find these two symbols used together first in the Book of Zechariah, where we read:

…the angel that talked with me came again, and waked me, as a man that is wakened out of his sleep, 2 And said unto me, What seest thou? And I said, I have looked, and behold a candlestick all of gold, with a bowl upon the top of it, and his seven lamps thereon, and seven pipes to the seven lamps, which are upon the top thereof:
3 And two olive trees by it, one upon the right side of the bowl, and the other upon the left side thereof….11 I, and said unto him, What are these two olive trees upon the right side of the candlestick and upon the left side thereof? 12 And I answered again, and said unto him, What be these two olive branches which through the two golden pipes empty the golden oil out of themselves? 13 And he answered me and said, Knowest thou not what these be? And I said, No, my lord. 14 Then said he, These are the two anointed ones
[6], that stand by the Lord of the whole earth.

(Zec. 4:1-3, 11-14)

While Zechariah tells of there being just one lamp stand and John describes two this is not an inconsistency as we shall see. Unfortunately, other then telling us that they are the anointed ones, the angel does not provide any further information regarding the identity of these anointed ones. We find this identification in the Book of Jeremiah;

The LORD called thy name, A green olive tree, fair, and of goodly fruit: with the noise of a great tumult he hath kindled fire upon it, and the branches of it are broken.
17 For the LORD of hosts, that planted thee
the house of Israel and of the house of Judah…

(Jer. 11:16-17)

So we see that God specifically named Israel “a green olive tree” so does this mean that the witnesses mentioned is the nation of Israel? A brief aside is in order, when we speak of the nation of Israel unless otherwise noted we are not speaking of the modern day country named Israel, but the ancient country known as Israel; the nation that was composed of thirteen tribes. We shall speak more about these tribes below.

Is there any Biblical proof that the witnesses spoken of in Revelation is Israel? We find such proof in the Book of Isaiah;

1 But now thus saith the LORD that created thee, O Jacob, and he that formed thee, O Israel, Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine. 9 Let all the nations be gathered together, and let the people be assembled: who among them can declare this, and show us former things? let them bring forth their witnesses, that they may be justified: or let them hear, and say, It is truth. 10 Ye are my witnesses, saith the LORD, and my servant whom I have chosen: that ye may know and believe me, and understand that I am he: before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me. 11 I, even I, am the LORD; and beside me there is no saviour. 12 I have declared, and have saved, and I have showed, when there was no strange god among you: therefore ye are my witnesses, saith the LORD, that I am God….1 Yet now hear, O Jacob my servant; and Israel, whom I have chosen… 8 Fear ye not, neither be afraid: have not I told thee from that time, and have declared it? ye are even my witnesses. Is there a God beside me? yea, there is no God; I know not any.

(Isaiah 43: 1, 9-12; 44:1, 8 emphasis added)

So Isaiah is clearly telling us that Israel was chosen by God to be his witness that there is no other God. As we shall see in later visions in Revelation an end time world figure will either openly declare himself or will imply that he is God. So these witnesses shall testify against his blasphemy.

But what about the fact that there is mention of two olive trees and two candle stands where we just learned that Israel was chosen by God to be his witness, is there another witness that God has also selected? The answer is a definite no and if we look we will see that there is no contradiction when we say that God selected only Israel to be his witness and yet we see reference to two witnesses.

To solve this apparent dilemma we must turn to the history books for the answer. Initially the nation of Israel was composed of thirteen tribes, descendents of the thirteen sons of Israel

Now the sons of Jacob were twelve: 23 The sons of Leah; Reuben, Jacob's firstborn, and Simeon, and Levi, and Judah, and Issachar, and Zebulun: 24 The sons of Rachel; Joseph, and Benjamin: 25 And the sons of Bilhah, Rachel's handmaid; Dan, and Naphtali: 26 And the sons of Zilpah, Leah's handmaid; Gad, and Asher: these are the sons of Jacob, which were born to him in Padanaram…

1 And it came to pass after these things, that one told Joseph, Behold, thy father is sick: and he took with him his two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim. 2 And one told Jacob, and said, Behold, thy son Joseph cometh unto thee: and Israel strengthened himself, and sat upon the bed. 3 And Jacob said unto Joseph, God Almighty appeared unto me at Luz in the land of Canaan, and blessed me, 4 And said unto me, Behold, I will make thee fruitful, and multiply thee, and I will make of thee a multitude of people; and will give this land to thy seed after thee for an everlasting possession. 5 And now thy two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, which were born unto thee in the land of Egypt before I came unto thee into Egypt, are mine; as Reuben and Simeon, they shall be mine. 6 And thy issue, which thou begettest after them, shall be thine, and shall be called after the name of their brethren in their inheritance.

(Gen. 35:22-26; 48:1-6)

The House of Israel

In 940 BC, after the death of King Solomon, the nation of Israel split into two different countries (I Kings 12 and II Chronicles 10). The northern ten tribes consisting of the tribes of Ephraim, Manasseh, Reuben, Gad, Asher, Naphtali, Simeon, Issachar, Zebulun, and Dan (I Kings 11:31, 35). After they had split from the southern tribes, consisting of Judah and Benjamin (I Kings 12:21; II Chr. 11:12) and a little later the tribe of Levi rejoined them (II Chr. 11:13-14). The northern tribes was called the House of Israel, but moved their capitol to Samaria; hence it is sometimes called Samaria in the Bible. The southern tribes became known as the House of Judah and kept their capitol at Jerusalem.

Eventually the House of Israel was invaded and conquered by the Assyrians. After conquering the House of Israel the Assyrian king removed the Israelites from their homeland and forced them to relocate to other lands; he also transported other captured people and placed them in the land formerly occupied by the House of Israel. Over time the location and identity of the tribes of the House of Israel was lost and they are known today as the lost ten tribes of Israel. We shall look into these missing tribes shortly.

So we see how while the nation of Israel was chosen to be God’s witness that there are actually two witnesses since Israel split into two separate nations; the House of Israel and the House of Judah. But how can the northern ten tribes (i.e. the House of Israel) be a witness for God if they have vanished? While they have apparently vanished from historian’s sight they haven’t from God’s.

A brief review of the punishment God placed upon of the House of Israel will help us to understand. We find this described in the Book of Hosea. The prophet Hosea prophesied decades before the fall of the House of Israel; while he addressed both the House of Israel and Judah most of his prophecy was aimed toward Israel. To portray Israel’s sins he (Hosea) is commanded to take a prostitute as a wife (Hose 1:2) and he does as commanded (vs. 3). She becomes pregnant and has a son and Hosea is directed to;

Call his name Jezreel; for yet a little while, and I will avenge the blood of Jezreel upon the house of Jehu, and will cause to cease the kingdom of the house of Israel

(Hosea 1:4)

Sometime later Hosea’s wife becomes pregnant again (vs. 6) and has a daughter and Hosea is commanded to;

Call her name Loruhamah: for I will no more have mercy upon the house of Israel; but I will utterly take them away. 7 But I will have mercy upon the house of Judah, and will save them by the LORD their God, and will not save them by bow, nor by sword, nor by battle, by horses, nor by horsemen.

(vs. 6-7)

A short time after this Hosea’s wife becomes pregnant once more and she has a second son (vs. 8). When this child is born Hosea is told;…Call his name Loammi: for ye are not my people, and I will not be your God.

(vs. 9)[7]

Yet while the House of Israel has disappeared from our view and is considered ‘lost’ God has not lost sight of them;For, lo, I will command, and I will sift the house of Israel among all nations, like as corn is sifted in a sieve, yet shall not the least grain fall upon the earth.

(Amos 9: 9)

Also we are told that the descendents of the ten tribes have forgotten their true identity;

My people hath been lost sheep: their shepherds have caused them to go astray, they have turned them away on the mountains: they have gone from mountain to hill, they have forgotten their restingplace.

(Jeremiah 50: 6)

So the descendents of the House of Israel have lost the knowledge of their ancestry and consider themselves as Gentile; of non-Israeli heritage. But as we shall see God will still use them as witnesses even though they are ignorant of their true ancestry. Consider writings from Paul;

1 I say then, Hath God cast away his people? God forbid. For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. 2 God hath not cast away his people which he foreknew… Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for; but the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded 8 (According as it is written, God hath given them the spirit of slumber, eyes that they should not see, and ears that they should not hear;) unto this day…16 For if the firstfruit be holy, the lump is also holy: and if the root be holy, so are the branches.17 And if some of the branches be broken off, and thou, being a wild olive tree, wert grafted in among them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree; 18 Boast not against the branches. But if thou boast, thou bearest not the root, but the root thee. 19 Thou wilt say then, The branches were broken off, that I might be grafted in. 20 Well; because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not highminded, but fear:21 For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee. 22 Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off. 23 And they also, if they abide not still in unbelief, shall be grafted in: for God is able to graft them in again. 24 For if thou wert cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and wert grafted contrary to nature into a good olive tree: how much more shall these, which be the natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree? 25 For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in. 26 And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: 27 For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins.

(Rom. 11:1-2, 7-8, 16-27)

Paul refers to the ‘gentile’ descendents of the House of Israel as a wild olive tree and notice where he says that God has given them a spirit of slumber. He reiterates this point a little later where he mentions the blindness that has happened to Israel. These ‘gentile’ Israelis are the branches that are being grafted in, while the broken ones are those Jews that rejected Christ as the Messiah. Paul also states that this blindness will continue until the ‘fullness of the Gentiles’ comes in. Is this fullness ever mentioned elsewhere in the Bible so we might get an idea of how this will happen?

The fullness of the gentiles

We find the answer in Genesis where we read that as Israel is dying Joseph has brought his two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim, to him;

14 And Israel putteth out his right hand, and placeth it upon the head of Ephraim, who is the younger, and his left hand upon the head of Manasseh; he hath guided his hands wisely, for Manasseh is the first-born. 15 And he blesseth Joseph, and saith, 'God, before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked habitually: God who is feeding me from my being unto this day: 16 the Messenger who is redeeming me from all evil doth bless the youths, and my name is called upon them, and the name of my fathers Abraham and Isaac; and they increase into a multitude in the midst of the land.' 17 And Joseph seeth that his father setteth his right hand on the head of Ephraim, and it is wrong in his eyes, and he supporteth the hand of his father to turn it aside from off the head of Ephraim to the head of Manasseh; 18 and Joseph saith unto his father, 'Not so, my father, for this is the first-born; set thy right hand on his head.' 19 And his father refuseth, and saith, 'I have known, my son, I have known; he also becometh a people, and he also is great, and yet, his young brother is greater than he, and his seed is the fulness of the nations;'

(Gen 48:14-19 Young's Literal Translation)

The phrase rendered as ‘fulness of the nations’ in Hebrew is ‘melo hagoyim’ however this phrase can also be rendered as ‘the fullness of the Gentiles.’[8] Earlier in his letter to the church in Rome, Paul refers to the prophecy in Hosea (Hosea 1:10-11);

…that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory, 24 Even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles? 25 As he saith also in Osee, I will call them my people, which were not my people; and her beloved, which was not beloved. 26 And it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people; there shall they be called the children of the living God.

(Rom. 9:23-26)

While the prophecy Paul is citing is referring to the eventual return of the whole nation of Israel to the Promised Land, an event that occurs after Christ returns[9], so unless Paul completely misunderstood this prophecy the only other conclusion is that the Gentiles he is referring to are actually descendents of the House of Israel.

God’s chosen people

One must understand that during the Old Testament time God was working with the physical nation of Israel, but in the New Testament era he is working with a spiritual Israel. The nation of Israel still exists but in a slightly different form; essentially a nation without a country.[10] This concept that Israel is now seen in a spiritual context is supported when we examine the two golden lamp stands that John saw. The Bible has shown us the symbolism of the two olive trees representing the nation of Israel (i.e. consisting of both the House of Israel and Judah); one cultivated and the other wild and we shall learn later why one is considered cultivated and the other wild. Recall that we are shown how the seven lamps in the first vision represent the seven churches in Asia (Rev. 1:20) and how we are told that the two golden lamp stands refer to the witnesses. Turning to the candle stands that John mentions we find an explanation of how candle stands are symbols of God’s chosen people.

The Greek word that is translated as church is ‘ekklesiai’ and it may surprise some but the word does not refer to a building or any kind of structure. Instead the word means;

1) a gathering of citizens called out from their homes into some public place, an assembly

a) an assembly of the people convened at the public place of the council for the purpose of deliberating

b) the assembly of the Israelites

c) any gathering or throng of men assembled by chance, tumultuously[11]

The Greek word that we get church from means a collection of people that have been called out; it corresponds to the congregation of the Old Testament e.g. "This is he who was in the congregation in the wilderness with the angel who spoke to him at Mount Sinai, and with our fathers" (Acts 7:38 RSV). This status of being called out is exactly the position of those within God’s congregation; they have been called out of this world;

…because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world,

(John 15:19)

Much as the nation of Israel was called out but in a physical sense;

But the LORD hath taken you, and brought you forth out of the iron furnace, even out of Egypt, to be unto him a people of inheritance, as ye are this day.

(Deut. 4:20)

Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD:

(Jer. 31:32)

“Congregation,” “meeting” or “assembly” are most often used to translate the original Hebrew words of the Old Testament, pronounced mo-aw-daw, ay-daw and kaw-hawl which were used primarily to describe the Israelites in a sense of a gathering of the Lord's holy people;

"They set out from Elim, and all the congregation ay-daw of the people of Israel came to the wilderness of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after they had departed from the land of Egypt."

(Exodus 16:1 RSV)

In the Greek version of the Hebrew Old Testament, ay-daw was translated as sunagoge (from which comes the English word synagogue), and kaw-hawl was translated as ekklesia. Earlier, synagogue was a term used collectively for the Israelite people, while ekklesia was used for the church, the “called out ones.”

But there has been a change in the relationship between God and Israel, his chosen people, from physical to spiritual. This change in the nature of the relationship was predicated and we are told has happened;

And I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within you; and I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them an heart of flesh:

(Ezek. 11:19)

Forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart.

(II Cor. 3:3)

Recall that God said to the children of Israel;

5 Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine:
6 And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel.

(Ex. 19:5-6 emphasis added)

We find these same words being addressed to the New Testament church;

5 Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. 6 Wherefore also it is contained in the scripture, Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded. 7 Unto you therefore which believe he is precious: but unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner, 8 And a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed. 9 But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should show forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light:

(I Peter 2:5-9 emphasis added)

Lastly regarding the identity of these witnesses recall the 144,000; they were all from the tribes of Israel. So we see that these witnesses are descended from the nation of Israel, but they may not all fully realize this ancestry. However they will all be ‘witnessing’ that God is the Almighty and there are no other Gods besides him. It should be noted that while we have seen that the two witnesses are not two individuals there is Biblical evidence that suggests that they may operate as two. It is common in the New Testament era that disciples were sent out in pairs (Mark 6:7; Luke 10:1; John 20:12; Acts 1:10, 3:2, 9:38, 19:22)

The power of the witnesses

The vision next tells us that while these witnesses are testifying for God they are imbued with supernatural powers. Some have postulated that these witnesses are protected from harm by God granting them supernatural powers; the ability to stop the rain, to turn water into blood, to strike the earth with plagues and to send fire to consume their enemies. But that may not be completely accurate. Yes they posses these God-given super powers, but a careful look at the verses will indicate they are not totally immune from harm.

In verses five and six we find the listing of the powers God will grant them and it starts out mentioning their power to spew forth fire and consume their enemies. However careful read the fifth verse;

And if any man will hurt them, fire proceedeth out of their mouth, and devoureth their enemies: and if any man will hurt them, he must in this manner be killed.

First it says that if anyone tries to harm them that fire will proceed out of their mouths and consume them. However the second half of the verse says that if anyone harms them that they must die in the same manner. So while these witnesses will have some very strong and spectacular forces to protect themselves with they are still mortal. While not implicitly stated we know that God will insure that they will be able to achieve their ordained mission.

The death of the witnesses

We are told the length of their end-time mission, a thousand two hundred and threescore days, 42 months or3 ½ years if one uses a lunar month. This also reveals to us how long the final events of the Great Tribulation will continue; from the releasing of the two hundred million strong demonic horsemen (Rev. 9:15) to the conclusion of the witnesses testimony will be three and a half years. First, however, there is a lot that will happen at the conclusion of their testimony and second there is still a lot of things that will occur. Actually at the conclusion of the witnesses testimony as we shall see the Day of the Lord truly begins.

The Greek word that is rendered in English as witnesses is ‘martusin’; the English word ‘martyr’ comes from the singular form of this word. While they will certainly fulfill their task as witnesses in the legal sense they will also fulfill the modern meaning of the word; they will die for their belief. We are told that “the beast that ascendeth out of the bottomless pit shall make war against them”; while this is the first time the phrase ‘the beast’ is used we have already been introduced to this creature or rather the power behind it. Notice that it is the beast that ascends out of the bottomless pit; i.e. the abyss[12]. This beast will play a central role in the coming visions as shall see.

John tells us that the beast will “make war against them” which reinforces the belief that the witnesses are much more than just two individuals. The wording implies a prolonged and concentrated effort against a group of people. But we are told that when they have finished their testimony the beast is allowed to overcome them and kill them.

According to John these witnesses will have caused such misery upon the sinners of the world that a global holiday is declared (vs. 9-10). Besides murdering the witnesses further indignity is piled upon them after their deaths; their bodies are left unburied and this was the ultimate disgrace in Biblical times and in some cultures still is. Referring to their deaths and ignominy we find confirmation that we are speaking of more than two individuals;

And the slain of the LORD shall be at that day from one end of the earth even unto the other end of the earth: they shall not be lamented, neither gathered, nor buried; they shall be dung upon the ground.

(Jer. 25:33)

The great city

John tells us that the bodies of the witnesses will be “in the street of the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified” (vs. 8). There has been a fair amount of speculation as to the identity of this city; ignoring the Biblical evidence that will identify it. Actually the verse plainly tells us that the city is where “our Lord was crucified” and anyone with one iota of knowledge about the Bible knows this was Jerusalem[13]. However to support the obvious let us turn to the Bible for this confirmation;

I have seen also in the prophets of Jerusalem an horrible thing: they commit adultery, and walk in lies: they strengthen also the hands of evildoers, that none doth return from his wickedness: they are all of them unto me as Sodom, and the inhabitants thereof as Gomorrah.

(Jer. 23:14)

1 Again the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, 2 Son of man, cause Jerusalem to know her abominations…46 And thine elder sister is Samaria, she and her daughters that dwell at thy left hand: and thy younger sister, that dwelleth at thy right hand, is Sodom and her daughters…48 As I live, saith the Lord GOD, Sodom thy sister hath not done, she nor her daughters, as thou hast done, thou and thy daughters. 49 Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fulness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her and in her daughters, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy. 50 And they were haughty, and committed abomination before me: therefore I took them away as I saw good. 51 Neither hath Samaria committed half of thy sins; but thou hast multiplied thine abominations more than they, and hast justified thy sisters in all thine abominations which thou hast done. 52 Thou also, which hast judged thy sisters, bear thine own shame for thy sins that thou hast committed more abominable than they: they are more righteous than thou: yea, be thou confounded also, and bear thy shame, in that thou hast justified thy sisters. 53 When I shall bring again their captivity, the captivity of Sodom and her daughters, and the captivity of Samaria and her daughters, then will I bring again the captivity of thy captives in the midst of them:
(Ezekiel 16:1-2, 46, 48-53)

To quell any doubt that Ezekiel is speaking of Jerusalem we turn to Micah where we find;

They build up Zion with blood, and Jerusalem with iniquity.

(Micah 3:10)

Some claim that the events of Revelation have already been fulfilled citing the spread of Islam and also the spread of the Turkish empire during the Medieval period, but in regards to the martyrdom of the witnesses John’s account of the scope of the reaction to their death negates a historical fulfillment. After the witnesses are murdered John tells of how “And they of the people and kindreds and tongues and nations shall see their dead bodies three days and an half, and shall not suffer their dead bodies to be put in graves.10 And they that dwell upon the earth shall rejoice over them, and make merry, and shall send gifts one to another” (vs. 9-10). Notice it speaks of a worldwide celebration and that people of many nations and tongues will see their bodies; it does not speak of just the people living in Jerusalem and/or the surrounding areas, but people around the world shall view them. This indicates an instantaneous and worldwide media capable of reporting events around the globe; like what now exists and has not ever existed before.

However this world-wide celebration is short-lived, three and a half days to be exact. John reports that three and a half days after the Beast slays them, one day for every years they witnessed for God throughout the cities of the world, they are resurrected. And in a very dramatic way;

And after three days and an half the Spirit of life from God entered into them, and they stood upon their feet; and great fear fell upon them which saw them.
12 And they heard a great voice from heaven saying unto them, Come up hither. And they ascended up to heaven in a cloud; and their enemies beheld them.

(vs. 11-12)

As other Scriptures show this spectacular event occurs at the sounding of the Last Trump, when Christ returns;

And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.

(Matt. 24:31)

In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.

(I Cor. 15:52)

For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:

(I Thess. 4:6)

The vision concludes with John telling of a great earthquake that devastates Jerusalem and as we shall see this earthquake is felt worldwide. John tells us that this earthquake destroys a tenth of the city and some 7,000 are killed. Other scripture provide more information as to exactly when this earthquake will occur and more about the effects of it;

3 Then shall the LORD go forth, and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle. 4 And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south.

(Zech 14:3-4)

References to this great earthquake appear in other visions in Revelation, which tend to serve as place markers so we can locate the event in the stream of events depicted in the Book of Revelation.

Amid these death and destruction the vision ends on a somewhat positive note in it tells how those that are still alive in Jerusalem, after seeing everything they just had, are frightened and “gave glory to the God of heaven” (vs. 13).[14]


[1] In fact that is how the verse is rendered in the American Standard Version

[2] See Rev 9:8

[3] See Rev. 11:3

[4] Easton's Bible Dictionary -- (Hebrews minhah), originally a gift of any kind. This Hebrew word came latterly to denote an "unbloody" sacrifice, as opposed to a "bloody" sacrifice. A "drink-offering" generally accompanied it. The law regarding it is given in Leviticus 2 and 6:14-23. It was a recognition of the sovereignty of God and of his bounty in giving all earthly blessings (I Chronicles 29:10-14; Deuteronomy 16:5-11). It was an offering which took for granted and was based on the offering for sin. It followed the sacrifice of blood. It was presented every day with the burnt-offering (Exodus 29:40, 41), and consisted of flour or of cakes prepared in a special way with oil and frankincense.

[5] See Rev. 9:16-17

[6] A more literal translation would be ‘sons of the oil”.

[7] The meaning of the three children’s names is also insightful; Jezreel =. "God sows", Lo-Ruhamah =. "no mercy", and Lo-Ammi =."no people".

[8] Huie, Bryan; The Two Witnesses of Revelation; July 22, 2000

[9] For a more detailed look at these post end time events see

[10] See II Corn. 5:20Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God.

[11] Strong's G1577 - ekklēsia

[12] Rev. 9:11

[13] Actually Jesus was crucified outside of Jerusalem.

[14] This fright and glory being given to God may be referred to in Zechariah 12:10 And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn.


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    • MarieAlana1 profile image

      Marie Alana 

      5 years ago from Ohio

      Wow! This is very interesting. I think this hub would be great as several different devotions that split up the hub.


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