Sometimes when I sit to write these lessons I am so overwhelmed by the enormity of what I said ‘yes’ to that I just have to drop my head and remind myself that the Lord will teach it through me. Y’all this is hard stuff to communicate.
I completely forgot to give you the Revelation 11 drawing by Lisa to download and print a couple of weeks ago, so here it is. And by the way, there are two pages rather than our usual one pager.
Today we are going to camp on one verse in Revelation 11, but it is a verse that is pregnant with material to ponder. Let’s take a look at verse 3.
And I will grant authority to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1260 days, clothed in sackcloth.
I think the immediate question should be this: Who are the two witnesses? Is it possible to even know their identity?
Great question. So glad you asked, although I will disclose that scholars are divided on the answers, as is the case in so much of The Revelation.
From what I can read, there are about seven generally discussed ideas for the identity of the two witnesses. I am going to list them, along with any other pertinent biblical references, and give you my thumbs up or thumbs down on each. Not that my thumbs mean much of anything!
The Church who has a responsibility to witness to the world.
The Church of Jesus Christ does have a responsibility to witness to the world, however there is no mention of the church since Revelation 3. The church’s job is not to be destructive, but redemptive. In addition, physical descriptions such as what they do and their clothing are given for these witnesses which leads me to give a THUMBS DOWN to this identity.
An historical figure or group.
This, too, would be a hard sell, so THUMBS DOWN.
The Old and New Testaments, or perhaps the Law and the Prophets
Again, there is a definite physical description of these witnesses and we are told that the witnesses are eventually martyred, so THUMBS DOWN.
Zerubbabel, a civic leader, and Joshua, the high priest from Zechariah 4
This is loosely based on the similarities between the descriptions in Zechariah 4 and Revelation 11 of the witnesses. They are described as two olive trees and two lampstands in Revelation, but two olive trees and a seven-branched lampstand in Zechariah. No other similarities seem to exist to me, so THUMBS DOWN.
Enoch and Elijah – Genesis 5:24 and 2 Kings 2:11
These two men did not experience death the way the rest of us do. Enoch walked with God and was no more, while Elijah was taken in a whirlwind. These two witnesses will be martyred and experience a death and a resurrection. This sets them up as loose possibilities, in my mind, for being the two witnesses, but again, I give this a THUMBS DOWN.
Moses and Elijah
This identification is the most popular one and makes really good sense to me. Allow me to give you some commentary from The New American Commentary – Revelation for your pondering pleasure. (See link to order this commentary below.)
The rationale for such identification is that Moses and Elijah represent the Law and the Prophets, one of the major ways by which the Hebrew canon was divided. The Law and the Prophets witnessed to Christ, and hence Moses and Elijah would be representative of those who have borne witness to Christ across the ages. Additionally, the transfiguration narrative (Matthew 17) provides a previous appearance of the two witnessing that Christ is the fulfillment of both the Law and the Prophets and conceivably even indicating the two different kinds of circumstances that exist for the transfer of the saints to glory: Moses prefigures those who die in the Lord, and Elijah represents those who are taken immediately into heaven at the return of Christ. However, the most convincing argument resides in the nature of the work of the witnesses. Like Elijah, they shut up the sky so that it does not rain; like Moses, they turn the waters into blood and strike the earth with other kinds of plagues as often as they wish. (emphasis, mine)
I’m giving this one a THUMBS UP, but also remembering that God doesn’t have to work in ways that make sense to humans. Therefore,
It is impossible and unnecessary to identify the witnesses, leaving us to focus on their tasks rather than their identity.
Important side note: The word ‘witness’ comes from the Greek word martus, from which we glean our word ‘martyr’.
Okay, it is your turn. Which of these identities for the two witnesses makes the most sense to you?
We will visit with these two dudes again next week.
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