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

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