Who are ‘My two witnesses’ In Revelation 11?
There has been much speculation over the centuries about the identity of ‘My two witnesses’ in Revelation 11.3. How can we discover their identity?
In my previous Blog I explained that there is a Bible Reading Plan in the Bible itself, and this Reading Plan is based on The Triennial Cycle used in Israel in Temple times. The Triennial Cycle Readings consist of a weekly Torah ‘portion’, a Haftarah ‘portion’, and a Psalm.
The Haftarah ‘portion’, from the Prophets, was selected on its connection to the Torah ‘portion’. This connection was based on the Word and Phrase Associations between the portions will gave a simple indication, or hint, to the subject or theme.
These Word and Phrase Associations are found by noting the same word used usually in the first two verses of the Torah and Haftarah portions. For example:
Genesis 12.1 - Torah portion:
Now the LORD had said to Abram: ‘Get out of your country, from your family and from your father’s house, to a land that I will show you.
Joshua 24.3 - Haftarah portion:
Then I took your father Abraham from the other side of the River, led him throughout all the land of Canaan, …..
The Word Association of ‘land’ in these verses indicates that the subject or theme of the Torah portion is the Promised Land.
Apart from providing a connecting link between the weekly Triennial Cycle ‘portions’, Word and Phrase Associations are the method by which the Bible commentates on itself.
For example, in Luke 19.10 Jesus said: The Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost
There are clear Word and Phrase Associations with Ezekiel 34 in the underlined words in verses 11 and 16:
34.11 I Myself will search for My sheep and seek them out.
34.16 I will seek what was lost and bring back what was driven
But there is more to the commentary than the initial Word and Phrase Association. It was the custom in the first century to use these Associations to point to the whole passage in which they occur, not just to the specific verses.
Whilst His comment in Luke 19.10 is very encouraging for Zacchaeus, Jesus had a much wider point to make. He is giving a hint to the whole of Ezekiel chapter 34 in which there are 3 Prophecies which describe the ‘bad’ shepherds, and what the LORD proposes to do about them:
1. 34.2-3 Thus says the Lord GOD to the shepherds: ‘Woe to the shepherds of Israel who feed themselves! …You eat the fat and clothe yourselves with the wool; you slaughter the fatlings, but you do not feed the flock.…..
2. 34.10-11 Therefore, you shepherds, hear the Word of the LORD:…Behold, I am against the shepherds, and … I will cause them to cease feeding the sheep, and the shepherds shall feed themselves no more; …
3. 34.20-23 Therefore thus says the Lord GOD to them: ‘Behold, I Myself will judge between the fat and the lean sheep. .. I will save My flock, and they shall no longer be a prey; ….I will establish one shepherd over them, and he shall feed them; …
His listeners were aware of this custom of using a single verse Phrase to refer to a whole passage in the Old Testament….and they knew their Scriptures well. They must have found His words to Zacchaeus very uncomfortable!
This process of Word and Phrase Association helps us to identify ‘My two witnesses’ . I have numbered, and highlighted in red, 8 Word and Phrase Associations in Revelation 11.2-13:
I will give power to My two witnesses, and they will prophesy one thousand two hundred and sixty days,
clothed in sackcloth. These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands standing before the God of the earth. And if anyone wants to harm them,
1. fire proceeds from their mouth and devours their enemies. And if anyone wants to harm them, he must be killed in this manner. These
2. have power to shut heaven, so that no rain falls in the days of their prophecy; and they
3. have power over waters to turn them to blood, and
4. to strike the earth with all plagues, as often as they desire.
When they finish their testimony, the beast that ascends out of the bottomless pit will
5. make war against them, overcome them, and kill them. And their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our LORD was crucified. Then those from the peoples, tribes, tongues, and nations will see their dead bodies three and a half days, and not allow their dead bodies to be put into graves. And those who dwell on the earth will rejoice over them, make merry, and send gifts to one another, because
6. these two prophets tormented those who dwell on the earth. Now after the three and a half days
7. the breath of life from God entered them, and they stood on their feet, and great fear fell on those who saw them. And they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, ‘Come up here.’ And they
8. ascended to heaven in a cloud, and their enemies saw them.
We can match the above 8 highlighted Words and Phrases with the following references in 1 & 2 Kings:
1: 2Kings1.9-12: The king sent to him a captain of fifty with his fifty men. .. Elijah said to the captain of fifty, ‘If I am a man of God, then let fire come down from heaven and consume you …’ And fire came down from heaven.. Then the king sent another captain of fifty … and the fire of God came down from heaven and consumed him and his fifty.
2: 1Kings 17.1: Elijah the Tishbite, of the inhabitants of Gilead, said to Ahab, ‘The LORD God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, except at my word.’
3: 2Kings 3.16-25: Elisha said, ‘Thus says the LORD: ‘Make this valley full of ditches….Now it happened in the morning, … the land was filled with water. When … the Moabites saw the water on the other side as red as blood.
4. 2Kings 8.1-6: Elisha spoke to the woman … saying, ‘Arise and go, you and your household, and stay wherever you can; for the LORD has called for a famine, … will come upon the land for seven years.’
5: 2Kings 6.8-14: Now the king of Syria was making war against Israel; So the king of Syria said, ‘Go and see where Elisha is, that I may send and get him.’…Therefore he sent horses and chariots and a great army there
6: 1Kings 18:1,17: The Word of the LORD came to Elijah, in the third year, saying, ‘Go to Ahab, and I will send rain on the earth……When Ahab saw Elijah, he said to him, ‘Is that you, O tormentor of Israel?’
7: 2Kings 13.20-21: … they put the man in the tomb of Elisha; and when the man was let down and touched the bones of Elisha, he revived and stood on his feet.
8: 2Kings 2.11-12: Suddenly a chariot of fire with horses of fire separated the two of them; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven. Elisha saw and cried out, ‘My father, my father, the chariot of Israel and its horsemen!’
The evidence of the Word and Phrase Associations points to the identity of Elijah and Elisha as ‘My two witnesses’.