Jul 25, 2017

Who Are The Two Witnesses? V

In the previous posting we began to critically look at the leading commentators and how they interpret the words of Rev. 10:11, spoken to John, that said "you must prophesy again before many peoples, and nations, and tongues, and kings." As noted, the vast majority of commentators do not see that prophecy concerning John as unfulfilled, and as applicable to the future, during the time of the great tribulation. Having reviewed Seiss, we will now look at some of the other leading commentaries to see what is their interpretation and then judge them.

Gill, for whom I have the greatest respect for his biblical interpretations, wrote in his commentary:

"thou must prophesy again before many people, and nations, and tongues, and kings; which is to be understood not of John's preaching again to many people, and nations, after his return from his exile at Patmos, as he had done before his banishment thither; and much less of his prophesying along with Enoch and Elias, towards the end of the world, grounded upon two fabulous notions, the one that Enoch and Elias will appear in person before the coming of Christ, and the other, that John died not, but is still alive somewhere, and will continue till Christ's second coming; but rather of his delivering more prophecies out of the open little book; not "before", as we render it, but either "concerning" many people, nations, tongues, and kings, as the Syriac version renders it: or "against" them, that is, those people, multitudes, nations, and tongues, over which the whore of Babylon reigns, or has reigned, and the ten kings, and kings of the earth she rules over, Revelation 17:12. Moreover, this may not so much design John's prophesying in person, as the prophesying of the witnesses or ministers of the word in the several periods of time, whom John personated and represented; and of whom mention is made in the next chapter, to which this seems to be a transition."

Gill is to be praised for his interpretation because he at least 1) has John himself doing the fresh prophesying, and 2) has John prophesying the second time in the same manner as he had formerly, "before his banishment," and 3) does not give a strange definition to the word "prophesy" as did Seiss, and 4) interprets the prophesying of John literally and in its normal sense, and 5) does not see the fulfillment of John's future prophesying as fulfilled by his writing the remainder of the Apocalypse or by his writing the Gospel bearing his name, and 6) sees it as speaking of John personally appearing, after his exile on Patmos, before the various peoples named to prophesy to them. However, he also says some things that need to be discarded.

First, notice that Gill does not speak with absolute certainty in regard to his interpretation. He says, after giving the view he accepts, "this may not so much design John's prophesying in person." Yet, he has already stated that he believes that the words "you must prophesy again" do in fact design John personally prophesying. He allows that it may be that John, as Seiss believed, is a representative man, and that the words "you must prophesy again" may be applicable to all "witnesses or ministers of the word in the several periods of time." But, why even think that such is a possible interpretation? Is the one he chose not closer to the truth?

Again, we must wonder why anyone would even think of saying "this may not so much design John's prophesying in person"? Why would anyone want to even consider such an interpretation? Is there some great violation to language to make it apply to John alone? Is there some teaching of the bible that such an interpretation would call into question? Further, Gill has already given his approval to seeing it as referring to John's personal prophesying after his banishment. So, why give that as the interpretation and then cast doubt on it by his subsequent remarks? It is clear to me that Gill's first inclination to take the prophesy literally and as applicable to John alone is the correct one. The only thing wrong with the view he favors lies in its failure to see that John did not prophesy after his banishment, in Ephesus, and certainly not to the groups mentioned, but awaits a yet future fulfillment.

It is also to be regretted that Gill disallowed the view I hold and which is surely the correct one. He rejected that view but gave no reasons for doing so. He said it was "much less" possible that the words "you must prophesy again" could refer to "his prophesying along with Enoch and Elias, towards the end of the world." But, why not? It would have been good for Dr. Gill to have told us why. Next, he says the view that says that the two witnesses are literally two former prophets, the popular view, and one taught by the church fathers, is one of "two fabulous notions." Not only is it a fabulous notion to Gill to believe that the two prophets are literally two men, possibly Enoch and Elijah, but he also believes it to be a fabulous notion to believe "that John died not, but is still alive somewhere, and will continue till Christ's second coming." But again, why? If he can believe that Enoch and Elijah went to heaven without dying, why can't he believe the same about John? It does not make sense for him to accept the former but not the possibility of the latter.

Further, Gill does not even believe that the coming two witnesses refer to two individuals, or to a limited period of time, to forty two months. He thinks that the two witnesses refers to ministers of the gospel. But, such a view is totally untenable and unworthy of such a man as Dr. Gill. All ministers are not prophets, nor do they prophesy in sackcloth, nor are they all killed by Antichrist, etc.

Now let us notice what Albert Barnes wrote in his "Notes on the Bible."

"The meaning is, that, as a consequence of becoming possessed of the little volume and its contents, he would be called to proclaim divine truth, or to make the message of God known to mankind. The direct address is to John himself; but it is evidently not to be understood of him personally. He is represented as seeing the angel; as hearkening to his voice; as listening to the solemn oath which he took; as receiving and eating the volume; and then as prophesying to many people; but the reference is undoubtedly to the far-distant future."

Notice that Barnes is, like other commentators, resistant to seeing the words "you must prophesy again" as being strictly intended for John alone. He admits that the words are indeed a "direct address to John alone," but says "it is evidently not to be understood of him personally." And, for heaven's sake, why not to John alone? Why is that view of the matter so fought against? Why oppose it when it is the most obvious meaning? The only thing worthy in the remarks by Barnes are these words - "but the reference is undoubtedly to the far-distant future."

Next, let us look at what the Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges says about the text.

"Thou must prophesy again. Some try to make out that there is here a new commission given to the Apostle, and that in the remainder of the book there are higher mysteries than in the foregoing part. But it is surely simpler to take it as a personal warning to the Apostle himself; he was to see the end of all things in vision, but his own earthly work and duties were not at an end. He had already “prophesied before many peoples and nations and tongues and kings” (whether Nero or Domitian was the last of these): and he would have to do the same “again.”"

This commentary is correct as far as it goes. But, it calls for more comment, for more information. The words "you must prophesy again" are not a "warning" to the apostle, but were themselves a prophesy of his future role as a prophet. At least this commentary sees the words "you must prophesy again" as addressed and intended for "the Apostle himself," which is something most commentaries are stubborn to accept. This commentary does intimate that the "new commission" to prophesy has its fulfillment in "the remainder of the book" that John will write. Several commentators take this view, as I have said. John's prior prophesy would, by this view, take in his visions and communications leading up to Revelation 10: 11, while his latter prophesying would take in his visions from that point to the close of the writing of the Apocalypse. But, this view is totally untenable. By such an interpretation, the Angel could have said "you must prophesy again" several times throughout the scenes of the Apocalypse. By this view every new vision could be called a "prophesying again."

From the Pulpit Commentary we have these comments:

"Thou must prophesy again. Thou retest, because it is laid upon thee by God's command. It is to be done again, because the seer has already to some extent set forth God's will in the earlier part of the book; and he is now required to proceed with the delivery of his message. "Prophesy" (as in Revelation 11:3) has rather its literal than its derived meaning. It is the telling forth of God's purposes, and may refer to past as well as present or future events. The sentence refers to the announcements made in the following part of the Apocalypse (vide infra). Bede and others take it to mean the Gospel of St. John, which was, perhaps, afterwards composed (see Introduction). Victorinus thinks it points to the period of St. John's return from Patmos to Ephesus, where the Apocalypse may have been published."

Here again we find another commentator who sees the fulfillment of the words "you must prophesy again" in what John sees and writes in the remainder of the Apocalypse, after Rev. 10: 11. Such an interpretation says that the words "you must prophesy again" as basically meaning "keep on" prophesying. In fact, many of those commentators who interpret the words as meaning such will use such words. In the above commentary the words are interpreted to mean "proceed with the delivery of his message." But, this is almost ridiculous. The one closest to the truth is Victorinus who at least has John, and John alone, fulfilling the prophecy by personally prophesying after his release from banishment. Remember that Gill favored this view. But, the problem with this view is that John did not prophesy before such a vast multitude as the text describes. He did not prophesy before "many peoples, and nations, and tongues, and kings" at Ephesus, even if the legend is true about his preaching in Ephesus after his release from banishment at Patmos. It is perhaps because of this problem that many commentators want to translate the Greek word "epi," translated "before" in the KJV, as "concerning" or "about." By such a translation John is not viewed as prophesying "before" or "to" the peoples described, but is prophesying about them, that is, the subject of his prophesying are the peoples mentioned. But, the word "before" is no doubt the correct word and I will have more to say about that later.

In Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament we have these comments:

"The verb ‘to prophesy’ is used only twice in the Apocalypse, here and of the two witnesses at chap. Revelation 11:3." 

Well, that ought to be a clue! The commentary continues:

"In the latter case it cannot be confined to the proclamation of the visions of this book, and neither in like manner can it now be so. When, therefore, the Seer is told that he must ‘prophesy,’ the meaning does not appear to be that he must declare the contents of the little book to an audience the various parts of which are immediately enumerated. The meaning rather is that he must go on uttering to the world his general testimony to the truth of God, and so preparing the world for its self-chosen fate. In other words, the Seer in this verse is less the apocalyptic revealer than the minister of Divine truth in general, the type and pattern of all the preaching of the New Testament Dispensation."

This commentary at least is correct to criticize those other commentaries which think that the words "you must prophesy again" to have reference to John's writing of the remainder of the Book of Revelation. But, the error in this commentary is that the words "you must prophesy again" simply mean you must "go on uttering." Like the former commentary that said that the words simply meant to "proceed on," this one simply uses similar words, saying the words mean "go on uttering." But, again, this is unworthy of a commentator.

George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary says:

"Thou must prophesy again: we may understand what still follows in this Apocalypse, or his gospel written afterwards, or his preaching and instructing the Asiatic Churches. (Witham)"

In a few words, this commentary summarizes two of the leading views of commentators. One view says that the prophesying again has its fulfillment in John completing the recording of the Apocalypse or the rest of his apostolic writings. The other view says that the words were fulfilled when John spoke to the Asiatic Churches after his release from Patmos.

I must say that many of the commentaries that I consulted do not even comment on these pregnant words ("you must prophesy again") but skip right over them. But, it is better not to offer any comments upon the text, if one does not comprehend them, than to put forth the kind of commentary we have examined.

Before, Against, or Concerning?

Next, before closing this chapter, let us discuss whether the Greek preposition "epi" should be translated as "concerning" or "about." I believe that the better translation is either "before" or "against." This preposition is variously translated in the NT, as we will see. What does the preposition epi mean in our text? "Before"? "On" or "Upon"? "Against"? "Over"?

According to Strong the preposition, in the KJV, is translated as follows:

on (196x), in (120x), upon (159x), unto (41x), to (41x), miscellaneous (339x).

In Strong's "Outline of Biblical Usage" he gives these three main categories:
upon, on, at, by, before
of position, on, at, by, over, against
to, over, on, at, across, against

We know that the basic meaning of "epi" is "upon" or "on." And, of course, it is possible that "on" or "upon" may connote "concerning" or "about." We use the English equivalent prepositions (on and upon) in much the same way. One may say "I am going to talk on/upon" such and such a topic and we mean "I am going to talk concerning or about" that topic. That is possible. And, it is not to be denied that it may be possible that the Apocalyptic Angel is telling John that he must prophesy again "concerning" nations, concerning "tongues," concerning "peoples," concerning "kings." But, based upon the context, this translation is not tenable. Before I discuss the reasons why it is not to be accepted, and the words "before" or "against" are better suited for the context, let us note some passages where "epi" is used and at how it is translated in the authorized version.

"ye shall be brought before governors" (Matt. 10:18)

"shall rise up against [their] parents" (Matt. 10:21)

"as against a thief" (Matt. 26:55)

"ye shall be brought before rulers" (Mark 13:9)

"And if Satan cast out Satan, he is divided against himself" (Matt, 12:26)

"Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unjust, and not before the saints?...But brother goeth to law with brother, and that before the unbelievers." (I Cor. 6:1,6)

If one does a word search on the word "prophesy" he will see that the word "against" is used quite frequently. An example of such is in Ezekiel 11: 4 - "prophesy against them, prophesy, O son of man." This is far more frequent than the words "prophesy concerning them." However, we do have an example of that in this instance - "Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of (epi) you..." (Matt. 15:7) Here clearly "epi" does mean "concerning." God does give prophesies that are both "against" people and are "concerning" people.

Of course, the prophesying and witnessing of the Two Witnesses will be "before" the whole world, before nations, peoples, tongues, and kings. It will also be "against" the world as the text of Revelation chapter eleven, dealing with the career of the two prophets, shows. It will also be "concerning" the world. The question is this however - when did the apostle John prophesy before, against, or concerning such an audience? When did he do it the first time and when will he, or did he, do it "again"?

Jul 24, 2017

Who Are The Two Witnesses? IV

In the previous posting the highest proof that the Apostle John was to be one of the two witnesses or prophets of Revelation chapter eleven came from the last verse of chapter ten where the Angel, the Lord Jesus Christ, said to John - "you must prophesy again." It was argued that this has not been fulfilled, but waits fulfillment in the future, at the time when John, along with the prophet Elijah, prophesies from Jerusalem for forty two months clothed in sackcloth. At the close of that posting I summarized the various views of commentators regarding the fulfillment of those words. According to them, when did John "prophesy again before many peoples, and nations, and tongues, and kings"? In this posting I will begin to cite the commentators who promote those views and to critique each one. Since I have been citing from J. A. Seiss, I will begin with his comments. He wrote (emphasis mine):

"The first thing in the process of this taking possession of the redeemed inheritance is indicated in the change made in the attitude of John. Having beheld the Angel, he is withdrawn from the position of a mere seer and made an actor. A voice from heaven directs him to take the document from the Angel’s hand, to eat it, and so to make it his own by incorporating it with his very being; whilst it is further announced to him: “Thou must prophesy again upon peoples, and nations, and tongues, and kings many.” What did this mean? John is not the only one who is to obtain the title to the inheritance. All the meek have it promised to them. Every true Christian is to share it. When the blessed God comes to give it to His redeemed ones, there will be many besides John to receive it. In what capacity then are we to contemplate this calling of John to take, eat, and have vested in him the title-deed to the inheritance? Certainly not in his individual capacity; for then none are ever to inherit but himself, as in him that title finds final lodgment."

I find it ironic that Seiss, who is so insistent upon interpreting the bible, including the Apocalypse, literally, and in taking words in their usual or most basic sense without metaphor or allegory, here deviates from that method of interpretation. Where does he get his authority for not taking the words "you must prophesy again" in their most common ordinary sense, as being applicable to the person of John himself? He does not think that those words apply to John personally, but only as he is a representative or symbol of a larger group. He says that John, in eating the scroll, "is withdrawn from the position of a mere seer and made an actor." Why this insistence? Ought there not to be good reason for making John into a symbol of some larger group, rather than seeing him as being addressed as an individual, and the prophesy relating to him as what relates strictly to him? Seiss says that in John's eating the book and in his prophesying again that "we are to contemplate this...not in his individual capacity." And, his reasoning? "For then," he says, "none are ever to inherit but himself." But, that is only true if 1) we agree that the eating of the little book signifies gaining possession of the earth as an inheritance, and therefore what belongs not to John alone, and 2) if the prophesying again, like obtaining possession of the earth, is also what belongs to all the redeemed. Though in the former case John may act not only for himself, but for all the elect, yet he certainly does not do so in the latter case.

Further, if Christ is addressing John as representing all the redeemed, then the words "you must prophesy again before many peoples, and nations, and tongues, and kings" is applicable to every child of God. The consequences of such an interpretation are absurd. When will king David prophesy again? When will I? Further, not all God's people have prophesied the first time, even once. So, how can they do it "again"?

Seiss continued:

"It is a very common thing, in the delivery of sacred prophecies, for the individual prophet to act in himself what is meant to be understood of those whom he represents. “As remarked long since by Irenaeus, the ancient prophets fulfilled their office of predicting, not merely in the verbal delivery of predictions, but by themselves seeing, hearing, or acting out the things in type, which were afterwards to be seen, heard, or acted out by others in reality — and this whether in real life, or perchance in vision. In all which cases they were to be considered, as they are called in Isaiah and in Zechariah, mophthim,” that is, figurative or representative persons.” And such a representative is St. John in the case before us. He acts the part in the apocalyptic scenes which pertains to the whole body to which he belongs. What is given him in the vision is to be understood as given them, and what he does and experiences is to be understood as done and experienced by them, when the vision becomes reality."

Even if we allow that an "individual prophet" sometimes acts as a representative, so that what is said to him or what he is commanded to do applies not to him alone, it is certainly not the case in Rev. 10: 11 in regard to applying the words "you must prophesy again" to others besides the apostle. As observed already, it is not possible to apply the words "you must prophesy again" to all the redeemed. Further, what warrant does the learned Seiss have for saying that John is a "figurative" person in regards to the words "you must prophesy again"? Again, I say that this is out of habit for Seiss, who often ridiculed figurative interpretations of the Apocalypse. The words spoken to John should be understood as applicable to John alone, UNLESS there is some reason not to do so. That is in accordance with sound hermeneutics. Again, there is no way that we can make the words "you must prophesy again" as applicable to "the whole body" of the saints.

Seiss continued:

"Nor can we be in any doubt as to the persons of whom he is thus the representative. He is an Apostle, and hence a divinely constituted representative of the Church. He is in heaven at the time, and so a representative of the Church thus shown to be in heaven at the time the vision is fulfilled, that is, of the resurrected, translated, and glorified saints. To the whole body of redeemed ones are we therefore to understand this giving of the title-deed of the inheritance to be; in whom also it forever after inheres."

That may indeed be true in John's act of taking and eating the little book, but I hardly see how admitting such gives warrant for making John a figurative or representative man in the words "you must prophesy again." To admit of the one case does not warrant doing so in the latter. Besides, even in John's eating the little book, it still has primary reference to John, and his eating of it is what helps prepare and qualify him for his future mission of "prophesying again" before the whole world as one of the two great prophets who appear at the start of the great tribulation.

Seiss continued:

"But as John receives and eats the little book as the representative of glorified saints, it is as the self-same representative of the self-same saints, that it is said to him: “Thou must prophesy again,” and that it is further commanded him to “Rise and measure the temple of God, and the altar, and those who worship in it.” And if so, then we have the key to the whole case, and there breaks in upon us a glorious light for the right interpretation of this otherwise very difficult passage."

Again, what Seiss here says is just not what one would ordinarily come to believe about the words "you must prophesy again." Further, why does Seiss think that the words must not apply to John alone? What harm is there in taking the words in their common sense? It seems to me that the harm comes in applying the words "you must prophesy again" to every Christian. Such a view forces one to 1) show where every Christian has been a prophet and have prophesied once, and 2) show when and how every Christian will prophesy again in the future.

I certainly do agree with Seiss that the command to John to "rise and measure" is a "key to the whole case," but I certainly do not believe that it is a further proof that the words "you must prophesy again" are applicable to all Christians. Rather, I see it as further proof that the prophesy is applicable to John alone. To John alone we have three "key" statements made. First, the words "take the little book and eat it." Second, "you must prophesy again." Third, "rise and measure the temple of God..." Seiss thinks that each of these commands are as much said to every saint as they were said to John. I think that is wholly unwarranted and begets many absurdities. Also, it violates the literal and normal way of interpreting the words of Scripture, something that Seiss does not generally do himself and concerning which he often warns against.

Actually, the command to John to eat the little book and to measure the temple, altar, and worshippers, is both connected with his coming to prophesy again during the days of judgment as one of the two witnesses.

Seiss continued:

"To prophesy is not simply to foretell future events; but to exercise the functions of a witness for God. In the verses following, the Two Witnesses get their name from their work, and that work is called prophesying." 

Exactly so! The two witnesses work will be to "prophesy," just the very thing that the Lord has just told John that he will do once again! Notice also he admits that it is "in the verses following" the words spoken to John ("you must prophesy again") that there is the foretelling of the prophesying of the two witnesses. Is that not a clue to us? That the fulfillment of the words spoken to John about his prophesying again are connected with the prophesying of the two witnesses?

Seiss continued:

"To declare the will and purpose of God, or to act as His ambassador and mouthpiece, is to fill the office of a prophet. Aaron was to be Moses’ prophet, which is explained to mean that he should be a spokesman and a mouth for Moses. And so, to be the agent or instrument through which God utters Himself to men, whatever may be the nature or the subject of the utterance, is to prophesy. Such witnesses and mouth-pieces Jehovah has always upon earth. The whole Church is such a witness and prophet. In and through it the word of God ever sounds, and the mind and purpose of God ring out into the ears of the world; and even principalities and powers in the heavenly places are being instructed by the Church. Every individual Christian is a confessor of the true God, in whose confession the will and purpose of God in Christ Jesus is testified and proclaimed. No one can become or continue a faithful Christian without this. In so far, then, every genuine Christian is a real prophet. Through him God speaks continually. His whole career on earth as a Christian confessor is a continuous prophesying against the wickedness of the world, of the necessity of godliness, and of the way of salvation in Christ." 

"The whole church is such a witness and prophet"? "Every Christian is a real prophet"? Again, anyone who is familiar with Seiss and have read his complete work on the Book of Revelation, have to be bewildered by such a statement. These statements by Seiss are totally without foundation. Who can believe that every Christian is a prophet? Who can think that a Christian's witnessing to others about the gospel and his confessing Christ is "prophesying"?

Seiss continued:

"But even after the saints have gone from this world, they are still not yet done prophesying. As here said to John, they must prophesy again. After they have been “caught up together to meet the Lord in the air,” and have “put on immortality,” and the day of judgment has progressed to the second woe-trumpet, the Mighty Redeemer having delivered to them the recovered deed to the inheritance, new commissions issue; and from being mere spectators of the ongoing judgment, they become actors in its administrations, and once more assume the office of witnesses for God. And what is involved in this prophesying again, together with its attendants and results, it is the object and intent of this chapter to set before us. Let us, therefore, approach it with due reverence and prayerfulness."

The saints will all "prophesy again" after they are "gone from this world"? When a person reads the words spoken to John that says "you must prophesy again," he thinks that they are to be taken as being addressed to every Christian? And what is it that forces Seiss to interpret the words in such a manner? Is there some grave and dangerous consequences to Christian doctrine to think that the words were intended for John alone?

Since this review of Seiss has taken much space, we will save our investigation of other commentators on the words in dispute till the next posting.

Jul 23, 2017

Extempore & Sing Song Preaching

Many old timer groups of Baptists, including old Regular Baptists, Hardshell or "Primitive" Baptists, etc., especially in rural Appalachia, believe it is "taboo" to preach with notes, or from a pre-planned outline. These believe in complete extempore preaching. There is a philosophy of preaching behind this. It is the belief that a message that is God given will be impressed upon the preacher, or put into his mind somehow, once he begins reading a text or portion of scripture. Further, the evidence that a preacher is "blessed" to preach, given "liberty" to preach, will be judged to a large degree on how excited he becomes, or how fast he will preach, and whether he can get into that "sing song" mode of speaking, where there is some rhythm or cadence to the words spoken. Invariably, in this style of preaching, there is generally the rhythmic sucking of air and the "uhs" and "ahs" between breaths. Forgive me, but I just don't understand this thinking.

I understand that this idea goes way back. Daniel Parker, the notorious founder of several sects of Baptists, including the Hardshells, was known for believing that he was often "inspired" by God with his messages, and that God was the one who gave him his unction to speak to the uplifting of the emotions of the people.

Now, I am certainly not opposed to emotional preaching. Nor am I against speaking extemporaneously at times. But, I do not think preaching with notes must hinder that. Further, I don't think that all the responsibility for good preaching is on the Lord's shoulders. If it were, we could blame him if preaching was not edifying. A failed sermon could be because God didn't bless. That is the normal thinking that people have who have accepted this ideology about preaching. It seems to me that the success of preaching is to a large degree the responsibility of the preacher, and he is the one to be blamed when he fails to edify.

Further, I just don't see how people can be taught well in sing song type preaching. Oftentimes, among groups where such preaching is popular, the preacher reads the text, and then completely leaves it and begins to spew out from his mouth whatever thoughts he has about spiritual things.

Don't get me wrong. I enjoy lively singing. I enjoy seeing raised hands and hearing shouts of praise. I enjoy hearing the "amens" and "hallelujahs." I enjoy seeing the saints of God getting happy. But, I also like hearing good teachers give solid expositions of the word. I think there are ways to preach where we teach, given sound expositions, and lift the emotions. I don't think one has to exclude the other. But, to be too emotional is not good. Likewise, to be too stoic in giving expositions and teaching doctrine is also not good. Balance between these two needs is an art and a science. God give us preachers who are skilled to be balanced in this regard.

Hardshells need to quit thinking that a preacher preaching with outlines or notes is a bugaboo and a hindrance to teaching and preaching.

Jul 22, 2017

Who Are The "Two Witnesses"? III

The view that holds that the Apostle John is one of the "two witnesses" who will "prophesy" in Jerusalem for 1260 days, during "the great tribulation" and worldwide "hour of trial," while "clothed in sackcloth," is not generally accepted. It is believed only by a minority. Yet, the truth is not always to be found with the majority.

There are a number of bible interpretations in which I have found that the majority of scholars, bible commentators, and Christian students of the word, were in error. Some of these I have previously written about. For instance, I do not believe that the "weak brothers" mentioned in the first epistle to the Corinthians and in the epistle to the Romans are Christians, as most believe. I rather believe they are pagans, or polytheists, and find it bewildering that most interpreters of those texts are blind to that obvious fact. If anyone wants to read what I have written on this topic, just look into the archives of this blog for December 2010 through January 2011.

Another example is in regard to what is meant in the new testament concerning "adoption" (Greek huiothesia). The majority holds that the new testament teaches that God adopts children into his family in addition to birthing them. Yet, this is a grave mistake by the majority, and on this I have also written much, demonstrating the falsity of this view. See the archives for August through December 2016.

I have already affirmed my belief, along with the majority in this case, that Elijah is to be one of these two witnesses. I reject the idea that Moses or Enoch will be the other who joins Elijah in the time of the end to do what the two witnesses are appointed to do. I have given some reason for rejecting these two men as being the other to join Elijah and will perhaps, after this posting, give other reasons for rejecting those two men as one of the two. At this time I would like to give the reasons why I, along with a minority of others, see the Apostle John as being the one who will join with Elijah to fulfill the Apocalyptic promise of Revelation chapter eleven.

The Case For The Apostle John

There are several reasons why the Apostle John is to be identified as one of the two witness prophets of the Revelation prophecy. I believe a much stronger case can be made for John than can be made for either Enoch or Moses, or for any other. I believe that there is almost as much evidence for him as there was shown to be for Elijah the Tishbite. Further, it is surprising to me that this view is in fact a minority view, given the evidence for it.

I believe that we are living in the time of the end and that things are happening so rapidly. Soon Babylon will be rebuilt and become the economic capital of the world. Soon, the end time political realignment of the nations will be completed and we will have that long expected world government so much warned about in scripture, and which Antichrist will assume the lead over with the ten kings, mentioned by Daniel the prophet and by John in the Apocalypse.

We are living on the verge of the opening of the seals of the book, as described in the Apocalypse. We are on the verge of that time foretold by the Lord when

"there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; Men's hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken." (Luke 21:25-26 kjv)

You Must Prophesy Again

"And the voice which I heard from heaven spake unto me again, and said, Go and take the little book which is open in the hand of the angel which standeth upon the sea and upon the earth. And I went unto the angel, and said unto him, Give me the little book. And he said unto me, Take it, and eat it up; and it shall make thy belly bitter, but it shall be in thy mouth sweet as honey. And I took the little book out of the angel's hand, and ate it up; and it was in my mouth sweet as honey: and as soon as I had eaten it, my belly was bitter. And he said unto me, Thou must prophesy again before many peoples, and nations, and tongues, and kings." (Rev. 10: 8-11 kjv)

These verses clearly demonstrate that John is to be one of the two prophet witnesses. The proof of it is right there in plain sight. The angel, who is doubtless Christ, says to John "you must prophesy again." And, such fresh prophesying will be "before many peoples, and nations, and tongues, and kings." If the prophesying of the two witnesses does not fulfill this prophesy regarding John, then what is the meaning? What do those who reject John as being one of the two witnesses say about this clear prophesy concerning John's future? How and when did John prophesy "again"? Why is there widespread opposition from interpreting these words in the common ordinary sense? Why, even among those who promote the literal interpretation of the bible, and of the Book of Revelation, deviate from that rule and want to interpret the words "you must prophesy again" in a non-literal and uncommon way? Can it not be said of the two witnesses, if they be either Elijah, Enoch, or Moses, that they will "prophesy again"?

It seems so obvious that John will "prophesy again" as one of the two witness prophets that it is bewildering that so many miss it, or refuse to believe it. Why is it so hard to believe that the prophesying again of the apostle is literal and to be fulfilled in the time of the great tribulation? To accept one of the several explanations given by commentators, who do not believe John is one of the two prophets, requires one to understand the words and the language of the angelic prophesy concerning John in an abnormal manner.

To "prophesy" means to "utter" new revelation divinely given. How then can it be made to mean to write? Or, to simply preach or testify? Further, why deny what is intended by the word "again"? Whatever kind of "prophesying" John was to do in the future, after the angelic commissioning, it must be of the same kind as that which was done at the first. Further, how can anyone apply the prophesy to any other than to John? When the Angel says "you (John) must prophesy again," how can we say that by "you" that the Angel intends someone other than John?

Further, look at the context and the flow of the verses. "You must prophesy again...And there was given me a reed like unto a rod: and the angel stood, saying, Rise, and measure the temple of God, and the altar, and them that worship therein. And I will give power unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days, clothed in sackcloth." It was John who was told that he must prophesy again and it was he who was immediately given the rod by which to measure the temple. Besides answering the question - "when did John prophesy again," we must answer this one - "when did John measure the temple, altar, and the worshippers"? Doubtless he will do this during those 42 months.

I realize that the Angel goes from speaking to John in the first person to speaking of the two witnesses in the third person. The Angel could have said "And I will give power unto you (John) and to another with you," but this is nevertheless what is intended. In such a case John would have been still addressed in the first person while "to another" would have been in the third person.

It just seems clear that the one who is told that he must prophesy again, and is given the reed and the commission to measure, is to be one of the two witnesses or prophets. What do the two witnesses do? And, what is their character? Do they not measure (judge) the temple, the altar, and the worshippers? Do they not prophesy? Are they not given power and authority? Yes, and this is exactly what is true of the apostle John.

Before I cite from some of the leading commentaries to see what are the various interpretations of the prophesy about John "prophesying again," let me summarize those views.

1) One view, a minority one, is the view I hold, which says that the prophesy is to be taken literally, in its most obvious sense, that John is to personally prophesy with his mouth at some point after receiving his visions regarding the Apocalypse. Among those who hold to this view, there are yet two differing views; a) those who say John, after his exile on Patmos, and after writing the Apocalypse, came to Ephesus in Asia Minor and preached or prophesied, b) those who say, like I do, that John will appear in the time of the great tribulation and personally preach and prophesy again.

2) Another view says that the prophesy is fulfilled in what John sees and records in the remainder of the visions, in what is recorded in Revelation chapters eleven through twenty two. In this view, John is to prophesy by means of writing, and not through speaking. Further, this view considers his previous prophesying to consist either a) in his prophesying from the time of Pentecost till his removal to Patmos, or b) in his prophesying in writing Revelation chapter one through eleven.

3) Another view affirms that the prophesy of John's "prophesying again" is fulfilled in his writing either the entire Apocalypse or his Gospel and then sending it out to the world.

4) Another view affirms that John is a representative man, representing all the saved, and so the prophesy about him "prophesying again" is fulfilled in the whole body of the redeemed prophesying.

In the next posting I will analyze each of these views and give what some of the leading commentaries say. As these are cited, we will see which one of the above views is being promoted. We will then look at other evidence that supports the view that John will prophesy again as the future measurer of the temple and as one of these two great prophets.

I think the burden of proof is on those who reject John as being one of the two witnesses to disprove it. There is a prima facie case for John literally and personally prophesying again as one of the two witnesses.

Jul 20, 2017

Who Are The "Two Witnesses"? II

That Elijah is to be one of the two witnesses is generally acknowledged, at least by those who believe the "two witnesses" are to be interpreted as being individuals, and not as symbols of institutions or groups. But, the second of the two witnesses is not so commonly agreed upon. Some believe that the second of the two will be Enoch. Some believe he will be Moses. But, as stated in our first installment, I believe these to be wrong and that the evidence is rather clear that the other will be the Apostle John. Let me first give some introductory remarks on Revelation chapter eleven by J. A. Seiss, from his well known book "The Apocalypse," and then we will give the evidence he presents for Elijah being one of the two last prophets as foretold in Revelation chapter eleven.

J. A. Seiss, in his commentary of the Book of Revelation, in "The Apocalypse," lays out a good case for Elijah being one of the two witnesses. His book is available on the Internet here. I do not, of course, agree with everything in it. Particularly I disagree with his advocacy of the "pre-tribulation rapture theory," and his attempt to impose that theory on the Book of Revelation. Nevertheless I find his exegesis of Revelation generally very sound.

Before I cite what Seiss says about the prophet Elijah being one of the Two Witnesses, let me first cite what he had to say in his beginning commentary for the eleventh chapter of the Book of Revelation. Seiss wrote in chapter twenty two of his book these words (emphasis mine):

"WE here come upon ground which has been very trying to expositors—the great battleground of conflicting systems, and the burial-ground of many a fond conceit and learned fancy. Alford has given it as his opinion that the chapter on which we now enter “is undoubtedly one of the most difficult in the whole Apocalypse.” On all the prevalent theories for interpreting this Book, he is certainly right in this opinion, and the difficulties of which he complains must remain till those theories are abandoned, and another departure taken."

"If we were to take a description of a horse-mill, and insist on expounding it as a description of a mill-horse, no matter what qualifications we might bring to the task, we would find ourselves continually beset with difficulties and embarrassments which we never could fully overcome. And just so it is with nearly all our commentaries on the Apocalypse. It is not learning, ability, research or ingenuity that is at fault, but an underlying misapprehension of the nature and intention of the record. It is a description of one thing, and they are all the while trying to make it quite another thing. It is an account of the wonders of “The Lord’s Day” — the day of Judgment, and they propose to explain it of “man’s day” — the day of the present dispensation. God gave it as “The Apocalypse of Jesus Christ,” and they seek to interpret it as an apocalypse of human history. This is the great trouble. Nor is it to be wondered that the skin of the lion will not fit the ass, and that the ears of the inferior animal will stick out notwithstanding the most ingenious efforts to cover them."

Well, amen to that! About the fact that the events of the Book of Revelation have to do with "The Lord's Day," and with the "day of judgment," I will have more to say later. But, make no mistake about it, the appearing of the two witness prophets is in conjunction with judgment upon the world in that time called the "hour of trial" and tribulation that is destined to come "upon all the world," upon all those who dwell on the earth.

Seiss continues:

"It would, indeed, be affectation to pretend that there are no difficulties in the way of a satisfactory exposition of this Book, but I am well persuaded that the most of those encountered by our commentators, and which hinder thinking readers from seriously embracing their theories, are imported by themselves, in the primary mistake which wrests the record from its own proper subject, and applies it to another which is at best only remotely and inchoately embraced. Let it be fixed and settled that we here have to do with the scenes of miracle and judgment, and that this chapter relates to those grand and mysterious administrations by which Christ is to take possession of the earth and clear it of usurpers and enemies, and the way is open to understand all, so far as it is possible to comprehend such wonders beforehand."

Again, amen! Further, we may very well be on the verge of this unique period of time! Now, let me skip down in the commentary to the place where Seiss deals directly with the identity of the Two Witnesses. In commenting upon verses 3-4 he writes:

"WHOEVER these witnesses may be, they are the most extraordinary of whom there is any account. Many martyrs perish under the Beast (see Revelation 13:15, 20:4), but none of them receive a tithe of the notice given to these two. Antichrist himself, in all his despicable preeminence and vast dominions does not more conspicuously stand out on the record than they. Nay, in all the earth there are none to cope with him but them. He tramples the world beneath his feet, and they alone are more formidable against him than all other men besides. And this one simple fact is itself sufficient to shake and overthrow forever many of the modern attempts to identify them...These Witnesses are not presented to John in vision. They are described to him by the glorious Angel, who is the Lord Jesus Himself. The account we have of them is not John’s account, as in most other instances in this book, but it is Christ’s account, given in Christ’s own words. But few interpreters have remarked this, though a striking feature of the case, which shows that we here have to do with something altogether extraordinary and special."

These are excellent preliminary remarks. Now let us look at his particular commentary on what is said of these Two Witnesses and how he identifies one of them as the prophet Elijah.

Wrote Seiss:

"These Witnesses are two in number δυσὶν μάρτυσίν. This duality is three times repeated, and is an essential part of the record. As stated by Afford, “no interpretation can be right which does not retain and bring out this dualism.” Why two, we do not fully know. Both the law and the Gospel calls for two witnesses to establish important truth. (Deuteronomy 17:6; Matthew 18:16.) God generally sets his heralds and witnesses in pairs, as Moses and Aaron, Caleb and Joshua, Zerubbabel and Jeshua, Peter and John, the twelve and the seventy, “two by two.” And in the trying circumstances here described, two could better uphold and console each other than one, without companionship."

Again, Seiss says:

"These witnesses are persons. Primasius says, though somewhat equivocally, “The Two Witnesses represent the Two Testaments preached by the Christian Church to the world,” and Bede, and Bishop Andrews, and Melchior, and Affelman, and Croly, and Wordsworth, and some others, have taken this view. But it is altogether a mistaken view, necessitated by the embarrassment occasioned by wrong conceptions of the Apocalypse, rejected by the overwhelming majority of interpreters ancient and modern, and utterly irreconcilable with the text. It is not true that the Old and New Testaments are preached to the world only 1260 days, or years, and then end their testimony; — that they are arrayed in sackcloth all the days they are preached; — that fire issues out of their mouths and kills those who will to injure them; — that there is no rain upon the earth during the days of their prophesying, — that they have power over waters to convert them into blood, or at will to smite the earth with plagues; — that they are capable of being killed by man; — or that indignity can be offered them, being dead, by refusing to allow them to be put into a sepulchre. Yet all these things are affirmed of these Witnesses. Nor is either the Old or the New Testament ever called a μάρτυς (martyr - SG) Ten times do we find this word in the New Testament, and in every other place but this, no one questions that it denotes persons. In more than fifty places in the Old Testament, the corresponding Hebrew word denotes persons only. These Witnesses prophesy. This is the work of a person. More than one hundred times does this word προφήτης (prophēteuō-prophesy - SG) occur in the Bible, and never, except once by metonymy, but of persons. These Witnesses wear clothing of sackcloth, of which we read much in the Scriptures, but always of persons. They work miracles and execute judgments, but nothing of the sort is ever predicted of anything but personal agents. Not without the greatest violence to language and fact, therefore, can we regard these Witnesses as other than real persons. The conclusion may be very damaging to some men’s cherished theories, but the integrity of God’s word requires it, and it is impossible to escape it with any just regard to the laws of language and the nature of things."

The fact is, there is no way that these two witness prophets can be interpreted to represent impersonal entities. The things said of these two prophets will not allow such. When I was with the Hardshell Baptists, many of them would affirm that the two witnesses represent "the church and the ministry." But, to try to make the things said of the two witnesses to fit these two groups is not possible, yea, even absurd. You cannot kill the church and the ministry. The church and the ministry do not prophesy, do not call fire down on their enemies, do not clothe themselves in sackcloth, etc. As Seiss said, "not without the greatest violence to language and fact can we regard these Witnesses as other than real persons." That should be an obvious fact to all. Only those who bring preconceived ideas to the text with the intent of making the text conform to those ideas would disagree.

Seiss wrote:

"These witnesses are individuals. No reader of the account, having no preconceived theory to defend, would ever think of taking them for bodies, or successions of people. All the early fathers, from whom we have any testimony on the subject, regarded them as two individual men. Two distinct and conspicuous bodies of witnesses for Christ, all prophesying in sackcloth through 1260 years, or even days, and all dying martyrs, as here represented, expositors have searched in vain to find in the history of the Christian ages. Such bodies of men, with such powers, and with such a history, have never existed. Modern writers have flattered themselves that they have found successions of people scattered through the middle ages, whom they would have us accept as The Two Witnesses of the text; but they have been obliged to purchase their conclusions at the expense of explaining away every distinct feature of the record, doing violence to the facts of history, and super-exalting almost every species of obscure and even heretical sects and sectarists as God’s only acknowledged prophets. This is by far too great a cost at which to accept a theory, which, even if true, would be totally unworthy of a place in so solemn and momentous a book as this Apocalypse. Good and able men have satisfied themselves with it; but, on the same principles of interpretation, there is not a chapter in the Bible, nor a doctrine of our holy religion, which could not be totally explained away."

Very well said! The very truth! I could not have said it better! It deserves little comment. This is why I like Seiss. He is very express and clear, hitting the proverbial nail on the head.

Seiss says next:

"...as these Two Witnesses die subsequent to their prophesying, we are driven to search for some saints in heaven, who never have died."

It is a common belief that the "two witnesses" must be Enoch and Elijah because these two saints did not die. This is why Seiss says what he does here. But, I do not know that such must be a criteria in deciding who is, and who is not, one of these two prophets. Those who believe that Moses is one of the two witnesses would not agree with such a criteria. Moses died, and if he is one of the two, then the criteria is proven false. Besides, there is no text that gives such a criteria in regard to their identity. However, if I am right, and the apostle John is one of the two prophets, along with Elijah, then a good case can be made that John fits such a criteria, as we will see later when we discuss the possibility of John being one of the two. Seiss, and others, assume that Enoch and Elijah are the only two saints who have not suffered physical death. But, as we will see, there is a good foundation for the belief that the apostle John has not died.

Wrote Seiss:

"Nor will our search be a fruitless one. The Scriptures tell of two noted prophets, who have now been thousands of years in heaven, and who, for aught we know to the contrary, are just as capable of death and resurrection as ever; especially if God has so arranged and intended. Need I say more plainly to whom I allude? They are so marvellously distinguished in the Scriptures from all others of the race, that it is at once suggested to the Christian mind who they are. They were, and still are, God’s preeminent witnesses. They were God’s most noted prophets while they sojourned upon earth, and, in the manner of their removal from among men, they are the only witnesses of the kind that God ever gave. One of them lived on the other side of the flood, “and was not, for God took him.” The other was a Jew, of the degenerate times of Ahab and Jezebel, who “went up by a whirlwind into heaven.” The one is ENOCH, the seventh from Adam; the other is ELIJAH, the Tishbite."

The only things to add here are two facts that I have already stated. First, there is no text that says that the two witness prophets have never died. Many infer it from the words of Hebrews 9: 27 which says "it is appointed unto man once to die." It is reasoned that these two witnesses must be two saints who have never died, for if it were otherwise, then it would be affirmed that the two witnesses died twice. But, this is not sound reasoning. First, because all those raised to life in the old testament, and those resurrected during the ministry of Christ, and by the apostles, all died again. They died twice. Therefore the Heb. 9:27 verse does not deny that some men will die more than once. Second, not every saint will even die once. Those who are "alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord" will not die even once. (See I Thess. 4:13-18 & I Cor. 15: 51-58)

Proof That Elijah Is One Of The Two

Seiss wrote:

"Turning back to the ancient prophets, we find this word: “Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold he shall come, saith the Lord of hosts. But who may abide the day of His coming? And who shall stand when he appeareth? for he is like a refiner’s fire, and like fuller’s soap: and he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness. Then shall the offering of Judah and Jerusalem be pleasant unto the Lord, as in the days of old, and as in former years. And I will come near to you in judgment For, behold, the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the Lord of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch...BEHOLD, I WILL SEND YOU ELIJAH THE PROPHET [the Septuagint, Arabic, and old Latin versions read ‘Elijah the Tishbite’] before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord: and he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.” (Malachi 3, 4.)...This is God’s own word — the closing word of the Old Testament. It names Elijah the prophet, even Elijah the Tishbite, and says that God will send him again upon earth, to minister among men as the forerunner of the great and terrible day of the Lord — the day of the final overthrow of all the hosts of the wicked."

The question for us is whether the coming of Elijah relates only to the first coming of Christ and whether John the Baptist fulfilled in toto the prophesy. Of course, just as there are two comings of Christ, so there are two comings of Elijah, as Seiss will affirm. Further, the Malachi passage cannot all be made to apply to the first coming of Christ alone. In fact, it primarily refers to the second coming of Christ. It is generally conceded by Bible scholars that the prophets of the OT did not clearly understand that Messiah would come two times, and often spoke as if all Messiah's work would be the result of one coming. Sometimes, even in one Messianic prophecy, there are things predicted that were not all fulfilled in the first coming, having some of the prophecy fulfilled in the first coming, and some in the second coming.

Wrote Seiss:

"Here, then, we would seem to come upon solid Scriptural ground. If Elijah means Elijah, and the great and terrible day of the Lord is the day of Christ’s final coming in judicial majesty to crush out Satan and his seed, there is no alternative left to believers in God’s word, but to receive the doctrine that Elijah is to come again to prophesy and execute works of judgment upon earth, and just in that period of time to which the Apocalypse assigns these Two Witnesses. Whatever else may be compassed by the prediction, and in whatever narrower circles it may have been fulfilled, if words are not utterly deceitful, and certainty can at all be predicated of God’s very specific promises, this prophecy cannot be considered fulfilled or accomplished in the past, nor until Elijah the Tishbite, in propria persona, returns again to the earth."

Again, Seiss states the case clearly. Elijah will return as a precursor to the second coming of Christ, and the prophecy of the two witnesses is the fulfillment of it.

Wrote Seiss:

"On the mount of Christ’s glorious Transfiguration Elijah appeared. The disciples saw him and knew him. And, as they were coming down from the mount, they asked the Master about this very point, alleging the doctrine of the scribes that “Elias must first come.” And He answered and said unto them: “ELIAS TRULY SHALL FIRST COME, AND RESTORE ALL THINGS.” (Matthew 17:11.) This passage is decisive. “The great Interpreter of prophecy gives right to that interpretation of the prophetic word which the scribes maintained,” says Trench. It cannot refer to John the Baptist, for John was then dead, while every part of it specifically relates to the future. “Elias truly shall come, and shall restore all things.” Besides, the restoration or “restitution of all things” (ἀποκαταστάσεως πάντων), in the which it is affirmed that the coming Elias is to take part, is specifically referred by the Apostle Peter to the time of Christ’s second coming. (Acts 3:19.) In all its terms and relations, therefore, we are compelled to accept this solemn declaration of the Saviour as looking to the future, and meant to set forth what yet awaited fulfilment. John the Baptist is here out of the question, unless indeed he is to come again. Dr. Stier has rightly said: “Whoever, in this answer of Christ, would explain away the manifest and striking confirmation of the fact that a coming of Elias was yet to take place, must do great violence to the words, and will never be able to restrain the future of their form and import so as to be applicable to John the Baptist.”

I certainly do agree with Seiss that "this passage is decisive." Jesus said "Elias truly shall first come and restore all things."

Wrote Seiss:

"But, it may be asked, Did not Christ say in the same connection, that Elias had come already, leaving it to be understood that He spoke of John the Baptist? The answer is, Yes; but in a way entirely distinct from the declaration we have just been considering. Elsewhere also he says of John: “If ye will receive [it, him, or something else] this is Elias, which was for to come.” (Matthew 11:14.) This proves that there is a sense in which John the Baptist was Elias, but certainly not such a sense as that in which the Jews were expecting Elias, nor yet such a sense as that in which He declared, after John was dead: “Elias truly shall first come and restore all things.” John was not the literal Elias. This we are compelled to admit, or else he did not tell the truth; for when the priests and Levites asked him, “Art thou Elias? “he answered, “I AM NOT.” (John 1:21.) And this clear and positive denial is further sustained by the facts

(1) that he did not restore all things as was predicted of Elias, and
(2) that the great and terrible day, which was to be ushered in immediately upon the finishing of the Elijah ministry, did not succeed the ministry of John, but is even yet future.

Again, Seiss argues the case well. John the Baptist was not the literal Elijah, and yet he fulfilled one aspect of the prophecy. In the person of the Baptist Elijah did come. Yet, not as literally as he will come just prior to the arrival of Christ.

Wrote Seiss:

"Whilst, therefore, there is a sense of much importance in which John was Elias, there is another, more literal, and equally important sense, in which he was not Elias, and in which Elias is still to be expected, according to the Saviour's own word."

"There was a twofold ministry embraced in the ancient promise to send Elijah, just as there was a twofold advent in the predictions concerning the Messiah. In neither case did the Old Testament clearly distinguish between these two, but viewed them both as if they were but one. And as the two Messiah-comings are widely separated in time, though belonging to one and the same work, so there are two Elijah-comings, equally separated in time, and equally comprehended in the predictions. Hence, John, as the forerunner of Christ in the first advent, was Elias, that is, he filled the Elijah place, operated in the Elijah spirit and energy, did for that occasion the Elijah work, and so far fulfilled the Elijah promise. As the angel said of him before he was born, he went before Christ “in the spirit and power of Elias” (Luke 1:15-17); which implies that he was not Elias himself. The Saviour could, therefore, truly say of him while living, “If ye will receive it, this is Elias which was for to come, “and so likewise after he was dead,” Elias is come already, and they knew him not, but have done unto him whatsoever they listed.” John the Baptist operated in the spirit and energy of Elias, and performed the Elijah mission for the first advent, and so far “was Elias,” but, according to the word of the angel, only the virtual, and not the literal Elias. He could accordingly answer the Jews, who had in mind the literal Elias, that he was not Elias, while yet, in another respect, he was Elias. In him the prediction in Malachi concerning the sending of Elijah had a true and real fulfilment, but only a partial, germinant, preliminary fulfilment, whilst the highest and ultimate fulfilment respects another advent of the Messiah, and the coming of the literal Elijah as the herald of it."

Again, Seiss is "right on." After forty five years of studying this matter, I am fully convinced of the truth as he has here expressed it. Elijah will clearly be one of the two latter day prophets as spoken of in Revelation chapter eleven.

Wrote Seiss:

"Such also is the view which the fathers took of the matter, and so they held and taught on the subject with great unanimity.

Justin Martyr says, “If Scripture compels you to admit two advents, shall we not allow that the word of God has proclaimed that Elijah shall be the precursor of the great and terrible day, that is, of His second advent? Accordingly our Lord in His teachings proclaimed that this very thing would take place, saying, that Elijah would also come. And we know that this shall take place when our Lord Jesus Christ shall come in glory from heaven; whose first manifestation the Spirit of God who was in Elijah preceded as herald in John.”

At this point Seiss cites more of the church fathers who affirm the same truth.

Wrote Seiss:

"And so likewise it was expected and believed, by both Jews and Christians, that the returned Elijah would be accompanied by some other great prophet of the olden time, who was almost uniformly believed to be Enoch."

But, as we will see in the next several installments in this series, Seiss is wrong on Enoch. But, he is not alone. It is the majority view that the two witnesses will be Elijah and Enoch. But, I firmly believe the second of the two witnesses will be the apostle John. The truth is not always held by the majority.

Jul 19, 2017

Who Are The "Two Witnesses"?

Who are the "two witnesses" (prophets) of Revelation chapter eleven? I believe firmly that they are Elijah of the old testament, and the "beloved disciple," the apostle John of the new testament.

That Elijah is judged to be one of the two is almost universally accepted by those who accept the view that the "two witnesses" are individuals, as opposed to those who would make them mere symbols of things or groups. The latter view, I believe, is totally absurd. Yet, it was a common view among the Hardshell Baptists with whom I was a minister in my youth.

In this series I will be proving my thesis, demonstrating that the "two witnesses" are Elijah and John. In doing this I will first cite from the verses in the Apocalypse that are most important to examine in this discussion. I begin in chapter 10, because the verses that end chapter 10 are important for understanding the verses that begin chapter 11. Of course, in the original writing of the apostle John, there were no chapters and verses. And, sometimes chapter and verse divisions were not made in the best way. Clearly, the last verse of chapter 10 should have been put into chapter 11, so that we would read those two verses as follows:

"And he said unto me, Thou must prophesy again before many peoples, and nations, and tongues, and kings. And there was given me a reed like unto a rod: and the angel stood, saying (to me), Rise, and measure the temple of God, and the altar, and them that worship therein."

In these verses I have highlighted the pronouns because it is important to see how the words are addressed to John and concern John's commissioning for the work described. John is to "prophesy again" and he is to "rise and measure the temple of God, and the altar, and them that worship therein." Now, let us give the whole text to be examined. (I have again highlighted the pronouns)

"And the voice which I heard from heaven spake unto me again, and said, Go and take the little book which is open in the hand of the angel which standeth upon the sea and upon the earth. And I went unto the angel, and said unto him, Give me the little book. And he said unto me, Take it, and eat it up; and it shall make thy belly bitter, but it shall be in thy mouth sweet as honey. And I took the little book out of the angel's hand, and ate it up; and it was in my mouth sweet as honey: and as soon as I had eaten it, my belly was bitter. And he said unto me, Thou must prophesy again before many peoples, and nations, and tongues, and kings. And there was given me a reed like unto a rod: and the angel stood, saying, Rise, and measure the temple of God, and the altar, and them that worship therein. But the court which is without the temple leave out, and measure it not; for it is given unto the Gentiles: and the holy city shall they tread under foot forty and two months. And I will give power unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days, clothed in sackcloth. These are the two olive trees, and the two candlesticks standing before the God of the earth. And if any man will hurt them, fire proceedeth out of their mouth, and devoureth their enemies: and if any man will hurt them, he must in this manner be killed. These have power to shut heaven, that it rain not in the days of their prophecy: and have power over waters to turn them to blood, and to smite the earth with all plagues, as often as they will. And when they shall have finished their testimony, the beast that ascendeth out of the bottomless pit shall make war against them, and shall overcome them, and kill them. And their dead bodies shall lie in the street of the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified. And they of the people and kindreds and tongues and nations shall see their dead bodies three days and an half, and shall not suffer their dead bodies to be put in graves. And they that dwell upon the earth shall rejoice over them, and make merry, and shall send gifts one to another; because these two prophets tormented them that dwelt on the earth. And after three days and an half the spirit of life from God entered into them, and they stood upon their feet; and great fear fell upon them which saw them. And they heard a great voice from heaven saying unto them, Come up hither. And they ascended up to heaven in a cloud; and their enemies beheld them." (Rev. 10: 8-11 through 11: 1-12 kjv)

Being a "Futurist" in regard to my interpretation of "The Apocalypse" (or Book of Revelation), I see this prophecy as being yet unfulfilled, connecting it with the time of the Lord's return and to that period of time known as "The Great Tribulation." By most definitions,

"Futurism derives from the consistent application of literal hermeneutics, the Golden Rule of Interpretation, across the entire body of Scripture, including the book of Revelation. Contrary to the claims of many of its critics, it is not an a priori view which is imposed on the text. As evidenced by the testimony of the early Church, futurism is the most natural result of a plain reading of the text and the way that most unbiased readers would understand the book on their first reading.

Futurism gets its label from its refusal to see unfulfilled passages as having been fulfilled by approximately similar events in the past. Hence, it holds that many of the events in the book of Revelation await future fulfillment." (from article at biblestudytools.com - see here - emphasis mine)

Thus, the appearing of the "two witnesses" has not yet occurred. The events described in these verses (Rev. chapters 10 & 11) have not yet happened. They will happen in conjunction with the coming again of Christ, in the day of the Lord's return, in the time of what is called "The Great Tribulation."

The Great Tribulation

"For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be." (Matt. 24:21 kjv)

"And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest. And he said to me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb." (Rev. 7:14 kjv)

"Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth." (Rev. 3: 10 kjv)

"Alas! for that day is great, so that none is like it: it is even the time of Jacob's trouble; but he shall be saved out of it." (Jer. 30: 7 kjv)

In regard to Rev. 7: 14, Vincent says:

Out of great tribulation (ἐκ τῆς θλίψεως τῆς μεγάλης). Lit., out of the tribulation, the great (tribulation). Rev., properly, gives the force of the article, "the great."

"The Great Tribulation" takes in seven years of time, divided into two halves of 42 months each or 1260 days each. In our opening text, there is one mention of these halves. Many connect this seven year period with the "seventieth week" of Daniel's prophecy of the "seventy weeks." (See Dan. 9: 24-27) It is in this time period that the "two witnesses" make their appearance on earth and prophesy from the city of Jerusalem. Their time of prophesying and judging is to be 1260 days as stated in the text. They will be hated by the wicked world and the world will love the Antichrist for ridding them of those two tormentors.

Concerning the prophecy of "the hour of temptation" (kjv) that is "to come upon all the word" in order "to try them which dwell upon the earth," I wish to say a few things.

"Temptation" is probably not the best word to translate the Greek word πειρασμός peirasmos. "Trial" is probably much better. According to Strong the Greek word means "an experiment, attempt, trial, proving."

The word "hour" is also probably not a good translation for it often denotes a sixty minute period of time and this is not the meaning in this text, although it does sometimes mean that in the scriptures. The word comes from the Greek word ὥρα hōra and more properly means a time or season, and is often so translated. It is from this Greek word that we get our English word "hour." So, by "the hour of trial" we should think of "the time of trial," and the seven years of "the great tribulation" correspond to it. It is in the great tribulation and during this time of worldwide trial that the two witnesses, Elijah and John, appear on the earth and begin their Apocalyptic ministry.

No Pre-Trib Rapture

I have numerous writings in this blog and elsewhere fully disproving the idea of a rapture occurring before the great tribulation or time of world trial. Rev. 3: 10 clearly does not uphold the pre-trib view. The text promises that the faithful will be "kept out of" it, and the language cannot mean "kept from it" as if they are never "in" it. In Meyer's NT Commentary he writes (emphasis mine):

In the words κἀγώ σε τηρήσω ἐκ τῆς ὥρας, κ.τ.λ., the church at Philadelphia is not promised that it shall be preserved from the hour of trial, i.e., that it shall not meet with sufferings full of trial, but in accordance with the presentation of the Apoc., that the troubles before the coming of the Lord will befall all believers, who of course are sealed, lest by the temptation in the troubles they may fall; and in accordance with the corresponding expression τηρ. ἐκ, in distinction from ΤΗΡ. ἈΠΌ, the church at Philadelphia, since it has already maintained victorious patience, is also to be delivered by his confirming grace from the universal distress impending before the coming of the Lord.

Vincent in his word studies says:

From the hour (ἐκ). The preposition implies, not a keeping from temptation, but a keeping in temptation, as the result of which they shall be delivered out of its power. Compare John 17:15.

The Greek preposition "ek" literally means "out of," or "out from among." But, how can one saved or kept "out" of what he was never "in"? The same argument holds true with the passage about "the great tribulation." The text says "these are they which came out of great tribulation." But, how can one come "out of" that which he is not "in"? Those who come out of the great tribulation are Christians. Ergo, they must be in it.

In the remaining postings in this series we will

1) Show that Elijah is clearly one of the two witnesses
2) Show that John the apostle is clearly the other of the two witnesses
3) Show that neither Moses nor Enoch are of the two
4) Discuss the career of the two witnesses
5) Discuss the Apocalypse

Jul 9, 2017

Elders Leaving The Hardshells

Since I started blogging on Hardshellism (2008) several "Primitive Baptist" elders have left the Hardshells. One of them, Elder Kevin Fralick, edits one of my other blogs, The Old Baptist Test, a blog dedicated to refuting the heresies of the Hardshells and defending the real old Baptist teachings. Since then others have also left the Hardshells. Many of them have written and stated that our writings had been of great help to them. Two such elders have recently left and I posted two write ups about it. Elder Jeremy Sarber, who was pastoring full time for a "Primitive Baptist" church here in North Carolina, left and I wrote about it under the title Hardshells Lose Another. Also, just in the past few weeks, Elder Stephen Emmons of Texas also left and I wrote about it under the title Hardshells Lose Another Again. God bless these dear brothers! Pray for them as they try to serve the Lord.