3] And I will give power unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and sixty days, clothed in sackcloth.
4] These are the two olive trees, and the two lampstands standing before the God of the earth. 5] And if any anyone wants to hurt them, fire proceeds from their mouth and devours their enemies. And if anyone wants to harm them, he must be killed in this manner. 6] These have power to shut heaven, so that no rain falls in the days of their prophecy; and they have power over waters to turn them to blood, and to strike the earth with all plagues, as often as they desire.
7] When they finish their testimony, the beast that ascends out of the bottomless pit will make war against them, overcome them, and kill them. 8] And their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified. 9] Then those from the peoples, tribes, tongues, and nations will see their dead bodies three-and-a-half days, and will not allow their dead bodies to be put into graves. 10] And those who dwell on the earth will rejoice over them, make merry, and send gifts to one another, because these two prophets tormented those who dwell on the earth.
11] Now after the three-and-a-half days the breath of life from God entered them, and they stood on their feet, and great fear fell on those who saw them. 12] And they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, “Come up here.” And they ascended to heaven in a cloud, and their enemies saw them. 13] In the same hour there was a great earthquake, and a tenth of the city fell. In the earthquake seven thousand people were killed, and the rest were afraid and gave glory to the God of heaven.
14] The second woe is past. Behold, the third woe is coming quickly. (NKJV)
There are several things of interest in these verses.
1. The ministry of the witnesses, vs. 3-6.
First, there are two of them. This is in agreement with Deuteronomy 19:15, which says, by the mouth of two or three witnesses the matter shall be established.
Second, they have unusual power, being able to bring drought or to turn water into blood. These abilities have led some to believe that these two witnesses are Moses, cf. Exodus 7:20, 21, and Elijah, cf. 1 Kings 17:1, though they are never actually named.
What these powers do tell us is that this is a different time than the “church age,” that is, our own age or culture. Cf. Luke 9:51-55, where the Lord rebuked His disciples for wanting to bring such judgment down on a Samaritan village which rejected Him. Because it failed to make that distinction, history is filled with examples of “the church” doing things it never had the right to do. The church was never given civil authority, that is, that it was the “power on the throne.” When it assumed that role, it ceased to be a true church and began to persecute those actually were. The Reformers could never have envisioned or embraced such a concept as “the separation of church and state.” To their time and thinking, the church was the state.
Of course, the modern view isn’t any better, where the church is to be completely isolated from the state, and there’s no room in “the state” for “religious” thinking. What the so-called anti-establishment clause in our Constitution means is that there will never be an “official” Church of the United States, as there is an official or “established” church in other countries. It does not, repeat, not, mean that there is to be no Christian influence in our government at all. I know that the Founding Fathers weren’t necessarily “Christian” in a Biblical sense. Washington was a Unitarian. Jefferson was a Deist and cut out large portions of the Old Testament which he found offensive. This is known as “the Jefferson Bible.” Ben Franklin’s greatest desire was for a society formed on the basis of reason. I wonder what he would think of our society. Nevertheless, these men had a respect for the Word of God that is sorely lacking in our culture. When the Scripture was banned from public life, decay and depravity set it, resulting in what we see all around us today. Many of these things were unthinkable in my youth. We are truly reaping what we have sown.
One thing of interest isn’t actually there. Verse 3 quotes God as saying, “I will give power to My two witnesses.” In the original language, the verse reads, “and I will give to My two witnesses, and they shall prophesy….” There is no word for “power”. So what is it that God is going “to give” to His servants, His “witnesses”? I think it’s open. Not to what we want, but what we need to do the job God has for us, whatever that may be. He will give to the witnesses in Revelation 11 what they need, and He will give to you and me what we need to serve Him.
Finally, we’re told that the witnesses’ ministry will last 1260 days, v. 3. This comes out to three-and-a-half years. I believe this will be during the first part of “the seventieth week,” what we know as “The Tribulation Period.” I believe that it’s the first part because their murder gives rise to a man called “the beast,” and the time of persecution where Jerusalem is trodden underfoot for forty-two months. Remember the seven-year covenant or treaty we wrote of in an earlier post. I wouldn’t be surprised if part of the witness’ ministry is to denounce that treaty and to point people to the true God.
2. The martyrdom of the witnesses, vs. 7-10.
Here we’re specifically told that “the beast” kills them. It’s what clinches his rise to power, cf. Revelation 13:4. The world rejoices over this murder and now it’s time to celebrate!
Earlier commentators envisioned people making special trips to see the dead bodies of the witnesses, with special trains and excursions. The advent of television changed that, so that people around the world could see all this in the comfort of their own living rooms. Now, of course, with the ubiquitous cellphone, nearly everybody who’s there can take pictures and send them to their friends.
There will be a world-wide sigh of relief and joy that “these two bigots who dared to speak out against our wonderful leader have finally been silenced.”
3. The Miracle of the Witnesses, vs. 11-13.
For three days, the rejoicing and celebrating continues. I wouldn’t be surprised if there will be vendors selling “I was there” T-shirts and souvenirs. In the middle of the fourth day, suddenly, the dead bodies come to life and stand up! Wow! That’s not supposed to happen! I can imagine the stunned silence. Hilarity is replaced by great fear. Then a voice, a loud voice, saying to the two men, “Come up here,” and the world sees them ascend in a cloud into heaven, like their Master did before them.
That’s not all. Almost immediately, there is a great earthquake, which kills seven thousand people. This results in people giving glory to the God of heaven. This doesn’t mean that they were saved or any such thing. It simply means that they couldn’t deny what happened. At the same time, neither would they receive what really happened. Cf. Acts 3, 4, and the healing of a man born unable to walk. When Peter and John were arrested and brought before the authorities for this healing, the man standing there with them made it impossible for them to deny that a miracle been performed. Did this cause them to bow to the Lord Jesus? Read their own words from Acts 4:14, And seeing the man who had been healed standing with them, they could say nothing against it. But these leaders, who couldn’t deny the truth, v. 15, would not receive it either, and forbade the disciples from further talking about the Lord Jesus, v. 17.
We have lots of people today talking about and looking for miracles. Large ministries have been build around the “performing” of them. But by themselves, miracles mean nothing, especially if those who witness the miracles remain unchanged. A momentary excitement means nothing by itself.
4. The “Meaning” of the Witnesses, v. 14.
Their ministry is called “the second woe.” This simply means that one more stroke has been taken toward the ultimate defeat and destruction of evil, and the third and final “woe” is coming quickly. The seventh angel is about to sound.