Two Witnesses

Revelation 11:1-14 
1Then I was given a measuring rod like a staff, and I was told, “Rise and measure the temple of God and the altar and those who worship there,
2but do not measure the court outside the temple; leave that out, for it is given over to the nations, and they will trample the holy city for forty-two months.
3And I will grant authority to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth.”
4These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth.
5And if anyone would harm them, fire pours from their mouth and consumes their foes. If anyone would harm them, this is how he is doomed to be killed.
6They have the power to shut the sky, that no rain may fall during the days of their prophesying, and they have power over the waters to turn them into blood and to strike the earth with every kind of plague, as often as they desire.
7And when they have finished their testimony, the beast that rises from the bottomless pit will make war on them and conquer them and kill them,
8and their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city that symbolically is called Sodom and Egypt, where their Lord was crucified.
9For three and a half days some from the peoples and tribes and languages and nations will gaze at their dead bodies and refuse to let them be placed in a tomb,
10and those who dwell on the earth will rejoice over them and make merry and exchange presents, because these two prophets had been a torment to those who dwell on the earth.
11But after the three and a half days a breath of life from God entered them, and they stood up on their feet, and great fear fell on those who saw them.
12Then they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, “Come up here!” And they went up to heaven in a cloud, and their enemies watched them.
13And at that hour there was a great earthquake, and a tenth of the city fell. Seven thousand people were killed in the earthquake, and the rest were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven.
14The second woe has passed; behold, the third woe is soon to come.

As our journey with John through the Revelation continues we now see his role change from witness to the visions to active participant in the proceedings. In chapter 10 he was given a scroll to eat (the message of the Gospel to be digested and shared with the world) and now in chapter 11 he is told to measure the Temple. He is given a measuring rod (a cane) and told to measure the inner court while disregarding the outer court.  As we read these words we need to bear in mind the goal and purpose of Christ; He wants us to spread His Gospel message as the Church and He promises us His protection as we do this work. That is the focus of both of these chapters.

John is instructed not to measure the outer court and the reason for that is explained. It will be “trampled” for 3½ years. This is a figurative way to announce that the world will be ravaged from Christ’s ascension until His Second Coming; and God will not protect the earth from this judgment because it serves the purpose making people aware of His power and presence. The specificity of 3½ years is not literal. This number is used in various forms (3½ years, 1,260 days, 42 months) through the Bible to signify that the events described with happen in God’s timing and when His work has reached completion. (In some cases, though, it is a literal 3½ years, such as the drought spoken into existence through the power of God by Elijah.)

Then arrives on the scene the two witnesses. While much has been made of exactly who these two guys are, it really doesn’t matter. Most of the evidence points to them being representative of Moses and Elijah. Ultimately they represent the Church and her witness to the world.

“It is not so important to press the identification of the two witnesses as Moses and Elijah. Indeed, Moses and Elijah only serve as models for the two witnesses, who in turn are symbols of the entire church in her mission of witnessing to Christ. Though it seems that Moses and Elijah best fit the description of the two witnesses and likely came to the mind of John, the two witnesses are not actually Moses and Elijah, nor any other OT prophets. For in the same way that John the Baptist was in spirit that Elijah who was foretold, so now these two prophetic witnesses are in the spirit of Moses and Elijah as they symbolize the church. For the church carries out that prophetic ministry in that same spirit of Moses and Elijah, which spirit is now symbolized by the two witnesses. The church is symbolized by two witnesses most likely because of Deuteronomy 19:15, which prescribes that for a testimony to be received it must be established by two or three witnesses.”
Brighton, L. A. (1999). Revelation (p. 294). St. Louis, MO: Concordia Pub. House.
Deuteronomy 19:15
A single witness shall not suffice against a person for any crime or for any wrong in connection with any offense that he has committed. Only on the evidence of two witnesses or of three witnesses shall a charge be established.

The imagery of verse 4 (from our reading today) harkens back to Zechariah 4. I will leave you to read that and ferret out the similarities, for there are many. Suffice it to say, these two witnesses are empowered by God, protected by God, and faithful to their task. They represent the whole Church throughout the time from Christ’s ascension to his return. We will look further at their story tomorrow.

Zechariah 4:1-14
1And the angel who talked with me came again and woke me, like a man who is awakened out of his sleep.
2And he said to me, “What do you see?” I said, “I see, and behold, a lampstand all of gold, with a bowl on the top of it, and seven lamps on it, with seven lips on each of the lamps that are on the top of it.
3And there are two olive trees by it, one on the right of the bowl and the other on its left.”
4And I said to the angel who talked with me, “What are these, my lord?”
5Then the angel who talked with me answered and said to me, “Do you not know what these are?” I said, “No, my lord.”
6Then he said to me, “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts.
7Who are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you shall become a plain. And he shall bring forward the top stone amid shouts of ‘Grace, grace to it!’ ”
8Then the word of the Lord came to me, saying,
9“The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house; his hands shall also complete it. Then you will know that the Lord of hosts has sent me to you.
10For whoever has despised the day of small things shall rejoice, and shall see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel.
“These seven are the eyes of the Lord, which range through the whole earth.”
11Then I said to him, “What are these two olive trees on the right and the left of the lampstand?”
12And a second time I answered and said to him, “What are these two branches of the olive trees, which are beside the two golden pipes from which the golden oil is poured out?”
13He said to me, “Do you not know what these are?” I said, “No, my lord.”
14Then he said, “These are the two anointed ones who stand by the Lord of the whole earth.”