J. Grant Swank, Jr.
The Two Witnesses
I I was given a reed like a measuring rod and was told, “ and measure the temple of God and the altar, and count the worshipers there.”
Jesus commands John the Beloved , recipient of this heavenly vision, that he, John, was to do some measuring, that is, some deciphering of happenings focused on the next Temple.
2 “But exclude the outer court; do not measure it, because it has been given to the Gentiles. They will trample on the holy city for 42 months.”
Jesus informs John that Gentile pagans will have their diabolical way in Jerusalem for the last half (42 months divided by 12 equals three-and-a-half years) of the about-seven year Tribulation period, the latter closing out the Church Age. Age began with the First Coming of Christ. The Church Age will conclude with the Second Coming of Christ.
The “trampling” includes the AntiChrist desecrating the next Temple to be constructed as well as laying low by his armies’ might the city of Jerusalem.
3 “And I will give power to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth.”
The number of days, that is, 1,260, equals three-and-a-half years, realizing that in the first century a year equaled 360, not 365, days. Changes in the calendar have yielded an additional 5 days since the first century. These 1,260 days are the first three-and-a-half years of the Tribulation, the “days of vengeance,” to use Jesus’ terminology.
The Tribulation’s first half then is given as 1,260 days and the second half is given as 42 months, both totaling a 7-year period. However, the Tribulation Period will be shortened somewhat for the believers’ sake, according to Jesus’ predications in Matthew 24. In other words, the last month of the second half — the 42nd month — will not be a complete month. Christ’s return will interrupt it — the day and hour known only to the Father — sometime during that 42nd month.
The two witnesses are not mentioned specifically by name. Therefore, their identity is open to speculation. Some believe them to be Moses and Elijah. Moses represents the Law. Elijah represents the prophets. Moses and Elijah appeared with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration. They then appeared in their ‘soul bodies’ since they had left planet Earth for heaven. Also, in the last book of the Old Testament, Malachi, Moses and Elijah are mentioned in the context of End Times.
These two preacher witnesses give forth the gospel message. However, they and their preaching are rejected by the evil world, therefore, they are symbolically pictured in this vision as clothed in “sackcloth.” Sackcloth is the garb of those in mourning, those distressed and grieving. Moses and Elijah, returning to tell the world of its need to repent, will be welcomed by the sinners’ hostility. The preachers will grieve because of the hard heartedness of the global community.
4 “These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth.” See Zechariah 4:3, 11-14.
5 “If anyone tries to harm them, fire comes from their mouths and devours their enemies.”
This is how anyone who wants to harm the two preachers must die. The witnesses’ speech will appear as flames of fire. Their speech will be powerful enough to slay the enemies of the gospel.
In parallel, consider how New Testament apostle Peter informed Ananias and Sapphira that they lied against the Holy Spirit. With that, Peter’s forceful, truthful words resulted in both exposed liars immediately falling dead to the ground.
6 “These men have power to shut up the sky so that it will not rain during the time they are prophesying; and they have power to turn the waters into blood and to strike the earth with every kind of plague as often as they want.”
Elijah was able, via divine powers, to keep the skies from raining for three-and-a-half years. Moses was able, via divine powers, to turn water into blood and bring about other miracles, experienced as plagues for the Egyptians who rebelled against Moses’ message concerning Jehovah, the true God.
7 “Now when they have finished their testimony, the beast that comes up from the Abyss will attack them, and overpower and kill them.”
After three-and-a-half years, that is, 1,260 days in first century counting of a year’s duration, “the beast” will confront the witnesses. That creature is usually interpreted by biblical scholars as the demon-possessed AntiChrist political ruler. The AntiChrist will flash upon history’s stage as appearing from “the Abyss.” The AntiChrist will attack the two witnesses and kill them, though no mortal prior to that time will have been able to harm or murder the two witnesses.
8 “Their bodies will lie in the street of the great city, which is figuratively called and Egypt, where also their Lord was crucified.”
The AntiChrist will not permit the witnesses’ corpses to be buried. Instead, he will want those dead bodies to lie in Jerusalem’s street for the entire world to witness that he had the power to kill them. No doubt worldwide media will give coverage to that murder scene.
9 “For three and a half days men from every people, tribe, language and nation will gaze on their bodies and refuse them burial. 10 The inhabitants of the earth will gloat over them and will celebrate by sending each other gifts, because these two prophets had tormented those who live on the earth.”
For three-and-a-half days worldlings will celebrate the deaths of God’s preachers. The unsaved will be ecstatic that finally God’s preachers have been silenced so that the evangelistic sermons won’t ring any longer in their unrepentant ears. Actually, a global holiday will be set aside for partying and gift giving in order to weld the worldings together in jubilation over God’s men being slaughtered.
11 “But after the three and a half days a breath of life from God entered them, and they stood on their feet, and terror struck those who saw them.”
The two witnesses come back to life, that is, they are resurrected, after three-and-a-half days. The world is stunned, in utter shock. God’s two preachers have returned; worldwide media will give coverage to that miracle. Anger and surprise will combine to bring the unsaved to an unbelievable rage.
12 “Then they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, ‘Come up here.’ And they went up to heaven in a cloud, while their enemies looked on.”
God’s two witnesses will then hear heaven’s call to return to eternal life abode. They will ascend from the planet’s surface, disappearing into the atmosphere. The unsaved will see them disappearing before their eyes. No doubt worldwide media coverage will attend that event, too.
13 “At that very hour there was a severe earthquake and a tenth of the city collapsed. Seven thousand people were killed in the earthquake, and the survivors were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven.”
Earthquakes are prevalent today. Another one is described as occurring when the two witnesses leave Earth for heaven, having accomplished their mission of preaching repentance to a grossly sinful world population.
The quake will yield a tenth of Jerusalem destroyed. Seven thousand citizens will die in the quake.
Those who do not die will marvel, “terrified.” With this there is an encouraging note: Those who are “terrified” by the quake start to glorify God of heaven, not the gods of the occult, , and Earth religions.
No one glorifies God unless ones comes into saving grace. Those outside saving grace are not in tune with glorification. Therefore, biblical scholars conclude that these who glorify the true God have become redeemed; therefore, the righteous remnant enlarges by these new converts.
14 “The second woe has passed; the third woe is coming soon.”
The three woes are mentioned in Revelation 8:13: “Then I looked, and I heard an eagle crying with a loud voice, as it flew in midheaven, ‘Woe, woe, woe to those who dwell on the Earth, at the blast of the other trumpets which the three angels are about to blow!’” (RSV).
The first woe is Revelation 9:1-12. The second woe is Revelation 9:12-11:14. The third woe is Revelation 12:12.
15 The seventh angel sounded his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, which said: “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign for ever and ever.”
There is exceedingly much praise to God because of the faithful witness of the two preachers. There is also glory given to God that the two preachers have made it safely back home to heaven. The ecstasy also accents the coming return of Christ, the second person of the Trinity, who will rule for the millennium upon the planet. That will be when the “kingdom of the world” will become “the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ.” That reign will be forever in that it will continue into the New Heaven and New Earth upon the closure of the millennium and the dissolving of the planet.
16 And the twenty-four elders, who were seated on their thrones before God, fell on their faces and worshiped God, 17 saying: “We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty, the One who is and who was, because you have taken your great power and have begun to reign.”
The twenty-four elders are mentioned earlier in Revelation as representing the saved of the Old Testament period and the saved of the New Testament period: 12 elders standing for the twelve tribes of Israel and 12 elders standing for the twelve apostles.
These saved of all time are pictured in the vision as enthroned in heaven before deity. They fall on their faces in humility before Creator God. They exclaim in praise with thanksgiving for the all-powerfulness of the God of revelation. After all, He is the one who overpowers the devil, AntiChrist and False Prophet of the Tribulation Period so as to establish the Son, Christ, upon His millennial throne.
18 “The nations were angry; and your wrath has come. The time has come for judging the dead, and for rewarding your servants the prophets and your saints and those who reverence your name, both small and great– and for destroying those who destroy the earth.”
The wordlings continue in their rage because they won’t repent, even coming to salvation when deity’s anger has been expressly exhibited in their midst. Therefore, judgment is near. The Great Accounting is close at hand, that is, coinciding with the Second Coming of Christ.
There will be two dimensions to that judgment: the judgment of condemnation for the damned and the judgment of commendation for the saved — “your saints and those who reverence your name both small and great.”
19 Then God's temple in heaven was opened, and within his temple was seen the ark of his covenant. And there came flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, an earthquake and a great hailstorm.
John then envisions the fantastic display of heaven’s temple — the ark of the covenant, flashes of lightning and thunder claps as well as another earthquake with hailstones.