To learn about the Two Witnesses, we begin with what the Bible says
about the Two Witnesses in Revelation. Specifically, we look at the Book
of Revelation 11:3-13.
“3 ’And I will give my two witnesses, and they will prophesy 1,260 days, wearing clothing made from sacks.
4 They are the two olive trees, and the two candlesticks, standing before the God of the Earth.’
5 If anyone is willing to hurt them, fire comes out of their mouth and consumes their enemies; if any man is willing to hurt them, he must be killed in this way.
6 They have the power to lock the sky so that it doesn’t rain during the days of their prophesying; and they have power over bodies of water to turn them into blood, and to hit the Earth with every disaster as often as they wish.
7 When they finish their witnessing, the beast that comes up from the abyss will fight against them, and will defeat them and kill them.
8 Their corpses will be on the square of the great city, which (metaphorically) is “Sodom” and “Egypt”, where our Lord was also crucified.
9 People from every race, tribe, language and nation will see their corpses for three and a half days, but they will not allow the dead bodies to be buried.
Those that live on Earth will rejoice over them, and celebrate, and
send gifts to each other, because these two prophets tormented the
11 But after three and a half days, the breath of life from God comes into them, and they stand on their feet; and terror falls on the people who see them.
And they hear a loud voice from Heaven, saying to them, ’anabete hode’
[note: these are the original Greek words; the translation in English is
‘Come up here!’] And they go up to Heaven in a cloud while their
13 In the same hour, there is a large magnitude earthquake, and a tenth of the city collapses. The names of those killed by the earthquake number seven thousand; and the rest become afraid, and give glory to the God of Heaven.”
There are many things to say about this passage. I want to talk about some of them on other pages of this site, but there are some things I’d like to talk about here, on this page.
First, notice that the length of time that these Two Witnesses will prophesy is “1,260 days”. In ancient times, a year was commonly counted as 360 days (30 days per month x 12 months = 360 days). So 1,260 days would be three and a half years. From this, the “three and a half days” between when the witnesses die and when they come to life again would be one day for each year that they prophesy.
Next, Revelation 11:8 is really interesting. For one thing, we see that the Two Witnesses are killed in “the square”, which apparently is some large, open area of the city where many people can gather together to see them. Another thing to notice is that the “great city” is Jerusalem, since it is the city “where our Lord [Jesus] was also crucified”.
It is also very important that the verse says the city “(metaphorically) is ‘Sodom’ and ‘Egypt’”. Many translators have translated the original Greek word here, “pneumatikos”, as “spiritually”, which is reasonable. However, the sense of “spirit” which was intended by the author is that of “essence”. Hence, we could also correctly translate this phrase as “(essentially) is ‘Sodom’ and ‘Egypt’”; that is, in its essence, the city is the same as Sodom and Egypt.
But to say that the city, in its essence, is the same as Sodom and Egypt, is (by the definition of metaphor) to say that the city “(metaphorically) is ‘Sodom’ and ‘Egypt’”. Therefore, for clarity’s sake, I have translated the word in this way. People may confuse “spiritually” with some religious sense (this is a passage from the Bible, after all); and they may confuse “essentially” with “necessarily” (as when we say that “it is essential” that something be done). “Metaphorically”, however, seems to clearly convey the intended meaning.
There are many people who say Revelation is almost entirely metaphorical, and that nothing definite can be understood from the book for this reason. However, if the author intended for this writing to be almost entirely metaphorical, then there would be no need to point out that the city is only metaphorically “Sodom” and “Egypt”. Therefore, the explicit use of metaphor in Revelation 11:8 indicates that the author of Revelation intended most of the book to be NON-metaphorical.
Finally, please note that the Two Witnesses wear “clothing made from sacks”. These “sacks” are the sort of bags in which grain, potatoes, and similar agricultural products are shipped and stored. The fact that these prophets wear such clothes indicates that they are probably extremely poor. The Two Witnesses will be living their lives in the same way as the prophets of ancient times, just as Paul described in Hebrews 11:37-38, which says:
“37 They were stoned to death; they were cut into pieces with saws; were tortured, were killed with swords. They came in sheepskins and goatskins, poor, being wounded and mistreated;
38 of whom the world was unworthy...”
Also, just like the old-time prophets, the Two Witnesses have miraculous power, and miracles abound in their lives. But these are not prophets of the past, but of the future. So we know from this passage that God is definitely NOT done with miracles. God is still a God of miracles, just as He was in the past, and just as He will be, in the future. God truly is “the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 11:8).
While I’m on this point, I want to quote the Bible a bit more, to make the situation regarding miracles very clear.
Sometimes Christians can think something like “In ancient times, there were miracles. But that was for that time. Miracles aren’t for today.“ But in the time of Jesus’s first coming to Earth, people were also very doubtful of miracles, too. Miracles were NOT considered any more believable then they are now. In fact, in Matthew 13:58, we find that there were places where Jesus “…didn’t do many miracles there because of their unbelief”.
But even though people didn’t believe in miracles, Jesus DID perform miracles, in those places where the people DID believe. And the Two Witnesses will perform miracles, too. Miracles are NOT “dead”.
As King Solomon wrote, in Ecclesiastes 3:14-15:
know that, whatever God does, it will exist forever. Nothing can be
added to it, and nothing can be taken away from it. And God does this so
that people will revere Him.
15 That which has been, is now; that which is to be, has been already; and God requires that which is past.”
Next, let’s consider the question of Part 2: Why TWO Witnesses?
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