The Ministry of the Two Witnesses
“11 I was given a reed like a measuring rod and was told, “Go and measure the temple of God and the altar, with its worshipers. 2 But exclude the outer court; do not measure it, because it has been given to the Gentiles. They will trample on the holy city for 42 months. 3 And I will appoint my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth.” 4 They are “the two olive trees” and the two lampstands, and “they stand before the Lord of the earth.” 5 If anyone tries to harm them, fire comes from their mouths and devours their enemies. This is how anyone who wants to harm them must die. 6 They have power to shut up the heavens so that it will not rain during the time they are prophesying; and they have power to turn the waters into blood and to strike the earth with every kind of plague as often as they want. Revelation 11:1-6 NIV
As we begin Revelation 11, we join John as he is views Jerusalem in the first half of the Tribulation. Israel is worshipping at its restored Temple that was built under the protection of the anti-Christ. The first temple, built by Solomon was destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 B.C. The second temple, begun in 535 B.C. and completed in 516 B.C. was destroyed by the Romans in 70 A.D. The third temple will be built either during the Tribulation, or shortly before it begins. Israel’s temple plays an important part in several end-times prophesies of the Tribulation. Since we know the anti-Christ desecrates the temple halfway through the Tribulation, we know that it must be rebuilt first.
It seems like the two witnesses will be preaching during the first half of the Tribulation from the Temple. At the middle of the Tribulation, we discover the anti-Christ breaks his covenant and takes possession of the Temple area.
“27 He will confirm a covenant with many for one ‘seven.’ In the middle of the ‘seven’ he will put an end to sacrifice and offering. And at the temple he will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on him.” Daniel 9:27 NIV
“3 Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction. 4 He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God.” 1 Thessalonians 2:3-4 NIV
The anti-Christ will then set himself up as a god and bring about the “abomination of desolation.” Bible scholars suggest that both Daniel and Jesus predicted this.
“15 “So when you see standing in the holy place ‘the abomination that causes desolation,’ spoken of through the prophet Daniel—let the reader understand.” Matthew 24:!5 NIV
John was instructed to measure the temple. His measuring the temple is a symbolic of the Lord’s ownership, protection, and preservation of it (as seen in Ezekiel 40-41 and Zechariah 4-5).
The two witnesses minister during the first half of the Tribulation (Revelation 11:3). Jerusalem is then overrun by the Gentiles for the forty-two months, the last half of the Tribulation (three and one half years).
The purpose of the two witnesses are to:
1 – They Declare Repentance.
“3 And I will appoint my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth.” Revelation 11:3 NIV
The Scripture says they will prophesy for 1,260 days (three and one half years) despite being antagonized by the world. They preach and demonstrate repentance as evidenced by their being clothed in sackcloth. The two witnesses are called prophets (in verse 6 and 10).
Some suggest that because they are referred to as “the two lampstands” in Revelation 11:4, that the two witnesses are not individuals, but actually churches. We learned in Revelation 1 that the lampstands are symbolic of the church. Other Bible scholars point out that the ancient Greek language uses the verb referring to two males – suggesting the two witnesses are actually men. Whomever they are, they are appointed by God and they declare repentance. First, they declare repentance, and second they…
2 – They Display God’s Work.
“4 They are “the two olive trees” and the two lampstands” Revelation 11:4 NIV
The two witnesses will show God’s power to the unbelieving Jews and Gentiles. Verse 4 tells us the two witnesses have a unique, continual empowering from the Holy Spirit. Many will be saved through their ministry.
In the book of Zechariah, oil lamps are filled directly from olive trees which pipe oil to the lamps.
“2 He asked me, “What do you see?”
I answered, “I see a solid gold lampstand with a bowl at the top and seven lamps on it, with seven channels to the lamps. 3 Also there are two olive trees by it, one on the right of the bowl and the other on its left.” Zechariah 4:2-3 NIV
“14 So he said, “These are the two who are anointed to[a] serve the Lord of all the earth.” Zechariah 4:14 NIV
This is a picture of a continual, abundant supply of oil – which is symbolic of a continual, abundant supply of the Holy Spirit.
3 – They Dispense God’s judgment.
“5 If anyone tries to harm them, fire comes from their mouths and devours their enemies. This is how anyone who wants to harm them must die. 6 They have power to shut up the heavens so that it will not rain during the time they are prophesying; and they have power to turn the waters into blood and to strike the earth with every kind of plague as often as they want.” Revelation 11:5-6 NIV
The two witnesses will also perform miracles that dispense God’s judgment. They have the ability to call down fire from the Heavens and to bring drought as Elijah did (1 Kings 17:1, and 2 Kings 1:1-12). They also have the power to turn water into blood like Moses did during his ministry in Exodus 7:14-16.
Since Malachi the prophet promised that the Prophet Elijah would return to minister again, some use this verse to suggest Elijah is one of the witnesses.
“5 “See, I will send the prophet Elijah to you before that great and dreadful day of the Lord comes. 6 He will turn the hearts of the parents to their children, and the hearts of the children to their parents; or else I will come and strike the land with total destruction.” Malachi 4:5-6 NIV
Others speculate that the two witnesses are Elijah and Enoch as they are the only two people in the Bible who didn’t die but were taken to Heaven alive. Whomever they are, one thing is for sure. They show us that God’s servants are invincible until their ministry is completed.
Holy Spirit I pray the spirit of the two witnesses to be upon us as the church today. I pray for a spirit of boldness and courage to declare repentance to a lost world, to display God’s work in a skeptical world, and to dispense God’s judgment to an unrepentant people.
Ty Tamasaka is an author who hold a Master of Arts Degree from Pacific Rim Christian University in Christian Ministry He is a Bible teacher who loves to encourage people to enjoy Jesus’ grace and extend His Kingdom. Ty just released his new book Starting Fresh: Following Jesus on the Adventure of a Lifetime in addition to More than a Conqueror: 5 Pathways to Personal Revival.