Who Are The Two Witnesses?

The Two Witnesses
In Revelation 11, we meet the two witnesses:

Revelation 11:3 & 4 And I will give power to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth.” These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth.

Who are these striking individuals? Let’s look at some of the pros and cons of the most common identifications.

Joshua and Zerubbabel

Pros

    • This would be the literal, natural meaning – they are referred to as “men” who prophesy and work wonders.
    • In the Greek, the use of the article with the “two witnesses” leans toward the identification of them as individuals.
    • The description of olive trees and lampstands in Zechariah 4 are definitely the background for the two witnesses in Revelation 11 and, in Zechariah, they seem to be a picture of faithful Joshua and Zerubbabel.

Cons

    • Hebrews 9 says it’s appointed once for man to die and then the judgment.

Moses and Elijah
Pros

    • This would be the literal, natural meaning – they are referred to as “men” who prophesy and work wonders.
    • In the Greek, the use of the article with the “two witnesses” leans toward the identification of them as individuals.
    • The judgments they inflict are like those of Moses and Elijah.
    • Malachi says that Elijah would come “before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.”
    • They are both related to the transfiguration of Christ in Matthew 17.

Cons

    • Hebrews 9 says it’s appointed once for man to die and then the judgment.
    • John the Baptist already fulfilled the Malachi prophecy concerning Elijah’s coming.

Elijah and Enoch
Pros

    • This would be the literal, natural meaning – they are referred to as “men” who prophesy and work wonders.
    • In the Greek, the use of the article with the “two witnesses” leans toward the identification of them as individuals.
    • Hebrews 9 says it’s appointed once for man to die and then the judgment, but Elijah was carried away in a fiery chariot and Enoch was “translated.”
    • Malachi says that Elijah would come “before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.”
    • The early church was consistent in identifying the witnesses as Elijah and Enoch.
    • There is some support for these two in apocryphal works.

Cons

    • Hebrews 9 says it’s appointed once for man to die and then the judgment.
    • John the Baptist already fulfilled the Malachi prophecy concerning Elijah’s coming.

Symbolic of the faithful, witnessing church
Pros

    • The church, after the resurrection, goes out “in the spirit and power of Elijah” and John the Baptist, whose word was “like a lamp that was burning and shining.”
    • Churches in Revelation 2 & 3 are called lampstands.
    • In Daniel 7, the beast is a kingdom that makes war on the saints, defeating them, not two individuals. The same thing happens here.
    • “The witnesses” are seen throughout the world. They never act as individuals, but are always together.
    • The olive trees and the lampstands represent the prophetic and priestly functions of Christians in the world
    • When Jeremiah spoke the words to Israel, they were fire that consumed the people like wood.

Cons

    • The literal, natural meaning would be “men” who prophesy and work wonders.
    • In the Greek, the use of the article with the “two witnesses” leans toward the identification of them as individuals.
    • The description is too detailed to provide the broad description necessary for a corporate identification.
    • Not all Christians suffer martyrdom.

James and Peter witnessing before the fall of Jerusalem in 70AD or Peter and Paul
Pros

    • This would be the literal, natural meaning – they are referred to as “men” who prophesy and work wonders.
    • In the Greek, the use of the article with the “two witnesses” leans toward the identification of them as individuals.
    • Peter and James testified mightily of Jesus before judgment came upon Jerusalem and the Temple, working mighty wonders and converting many.
    • When Jeremiah spoke the word to Israel, they were fire that consumed the people like wood.

Cons

    • It is hard to reconcile James and Peter to the witnesses’ activities, especially their resurrection after three days.
    • The punishments and judgments of the two witnesses seem more appropriate during the great tribulation.

Other identifications throughout Church history

    • The witness of Israel and the Church
    • Israel and the Word of God as witnesses
    • A blending of the symbolic and the specific, two actual evangelists sent to Israel for their conversion in the last days
    • The personification or actual representatives of civil and religious authority
    • The true church during the 1260 years of the papacy
    • The Law and the Prophets
    • The Law and the Gospel

One Comment

  1. Vest said:

    My reply on Tshsmom post “MY CANDIDATE.
    Most probably it is because we all are, other wise we with all the answers would be doing their job and being disliked as much as those we dislike now.
    Too bad that all the people who know how to run a country are busy driving taxicabs and cutting hair.

    July 6, 2008
    Reply

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