What was Zebedee’s wife’s request? How does it relate to the Two Witnesses of Revelation?
According to Matthew 4:21 and Mark 1:19-20, Zebedee was a fisherman, as were his two sons, James and John. Luke 5:10 tells us that all three also worked with Simon (who became the Apostle Peter) in a fishing business partnership. Of course, James and John later became apostles, too.
Just as Jesus gave Simon the new last name “Peter“, Jesus also gave a new last name to the sons of Zebedee, as it is written in Mark 3:16-17. Their new last name was “Boanerges”, which means “the sons of thunder”. Jesus took only Simon, John, and James with Him to several places, such as the Mount of Transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-8; Mark 9:2-8; and Luke 9:28-36) and the Garden of Gethsemane, just prior to His crucifixion (Matthew 26:36-37).
Although Jesus’s disciples (including the sons of Zebedee) ran and hid when Jesus was captured (Matthew 26:55-56), and were in hiding during Jesus’s crucifixion, the mother of the two sons was with Jesus when He died (Matthew 27:56).
Clearly, then, there was a very good relationship between Jesus and Zebedee’s family. It was within the context of this good relationship that the wife of Zebedee made her request.
“20 Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Jesus (along with her sons), worshiping Him, and requesting something from Him.
21 And He said ‘What do you desire?’
She said ‘Say that my two sons will be seated one on Your right, and one on Your left, in Your kingdom!’
22 And answering, Jesus said ‘You don’t understand what you are requesting. Are you able to drink the drink which I am about to drink, and to be baptized with the baptism with which I am being baptized?’
They said to Him, ‘We are able.’
23 And He replied to them, ‘You will indeed be drinking My drink, and will be being baptized with the baptism with which I am being baptized. But to be seated at My right and at My left is not Mine to give, but is for those for whom it has been made ready by My Father.’”
(Note: to say that someone “will be being baptized” means that in the future, the person will be enduring some kind of “baptism” which will not be a short event, but will instead be an ongoing process requiring an extended period of time to complete. The “baptism” to which Jesus refers is a “baptism” in suffering. In this Scripture passage, the words “drink” and “baptism” are used metaphorically.)
This is also recorded in Mark 10:35-40 (though, in the Book of Mark, the fact that the two brothers desired this for themselves is emphasized, and their mother’s involvement is not mentioned).
So Zebedee’s wife’s request is for her two sons to be stationed by Jesus--who is God--in Heaven. Jesus replies that He cannot fulfill that request, and says that it is God the Father’s choice who will have that honor. However, Jesus does not say who His Father has chosen.
This begs an old question: Who will be to the left and right of Jesus in Heaven?
Let’s look again at the Book of Revelation.
“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.”
So the Two Witnesses will be “standing before the God of the Earth.” Does this mean that the Two Witnesses are the ones who stand on the left and right of Jesus in Heaven?
The two Revelation 11:4 phrases “the two olive trees” and “standing before the God of the Earth” are references to chapter 4 of the Book of Zechariah. We will take a closer look at this in Part 4: Zechariah, the Menorah and the Number Seven.
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