#28 The Most Difficult Chapter Part II
The last time we were in the book of Revelation we looked at the measuring of the Temple. We saw that the court of the temple was given to the gentiles to be trodden underfoot for 42 months or 3 ½ years or 1260 days. And today we come to verse 3 and the subject of the two witnesses. Again there has been much speculation. Are they real people? Are they merely symbols that represent the witness of the church? Let’s get into it and see.
The passage reads thus: “And I will give power to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy one thousand two hundred and sixty days, some have postulated that these 1260 days are really years and that in 1860 all these things would come to a head. But what are they doing but attempting to name the day and the hour!
The witnesses are clothed in sackcloth.” A picture of mourning is being portrayed here. These men will be hated by the very people they are trying to help. But they will stand firm in the truth for God is able to make them stand. 4 These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands standing before the God of the earth. 5 And if anyone wants to harm them, fire proceeds from their mouth and devours their enemies. And if anyone wants to harm them, he must be killed in this manner. 6 These have power to shut heaven, so that no rain falls in the days of their prophecy; and they have power over waters to turn them to blood, and to strike the earth with all plagues, as often as they desire.
The first question: who are the two witnesses? There are those who would say that it isn’t really two but a small number of witnesses that is referred to here. But the Greek word “Duo” means two! This would suggest two people. What does the law of God say concerning witnesses?
Here are a few passages concerning witnesses. (De 17:6) At the mouth of two witnesses, or three witnesses, shall he that is worthy of death be put to death; but at the mouth of one witness he shall not be put to death. (De 19:15) One witness shall not rise up against a man for any iniquity, or for any sin, in any sin that he sinneth: at the mouth of two witnesses, or at the mouth of three witnesses, shall the matter be established.
(Mt 18:16) But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. (Heb 10:28) He that despised Moses’ law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: According to the biblical pattern there are two witnesses speaking against the kingdom of the Antichrist and against the world of willful, lost sinners who will not come to Jesus that they might have life!
Who are they? Some say that they are the Old and New Testaments. But how can the antichrist kill the scriptures and make them lie in the street so that people will see their dead bodies? I don’t think this is accurate.
In the book of Zechariah there is a reference to the two witnesses and there they specifically speak of Joshua the high Priest and Zerubbabel, the then governor of Judah. (Zech 4:11-14) “Then answered I, and said unto him, What are these two olive trees upon the right side of the candlestick and upon the left side thereof? 12 And I answered again, and said unto him, What be these two olive branches which through the two golden pipes empty the golden oil out of themselves? 13 And he answered me and said, Knowest thou not what these be? And I said, No, my lord. 14 Then said he, These are the two anointed ones, that stand by the Lord of the whole earth.
Now these men (Joshua and Zerubbabel) are pictures of the two witnesses of the book of Revelation who bear the same testimony…4 These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands standing before the God of the earth.. These witnesses have been sent specifically to call men to repentance, to preach the truth of God and to bear witness to the evil of the world.
Consider a few of the ideas then that men have had concerning the identity of the two witnesses. Some have thought them to be Enoch and Elijah, who, both passed from this life without dying. Others would have them the two sorts of gospel churches, one of made up of Gentiles, the other of Jews proselytized to the Christian faith.
Then there are those who believe that two of the Reformers will be back. Other candidates for the office are Moses and Aaron, Caleb and Joshua, Elijah and Elisha, Zerubbabel and Joshua, Abraham and Lot, Ezra and Nehemiah, Haggai and Zechariah, Paul and Barnabas, Peter and John etc. And I’m sure the list goes on and on. People take the signs the witnesses perform and come up with Moses and Elijah. Moses, by the power of God turned the Nile to blood and smote Egypt with all manner of plagues. And Elijah, by the same means, proclaimed that it would not rain and called fire down upon his enemies. One pastor speculating that this is Elijah said, “It would seem that Elijah will be up to his old tricks.” I find that very childish and demeaning to God who was working through these men to glorify Himself.
Such thinking reminds me of the situation in John 6 when the Jews said in verse 30, “They said therefore unto him, What sign shewest thou then, that we may see, and believe thee? What dost thou work? 31 Our fathers did eat manna in the desert; as it is written, He gave them bread from heaven to eat. Now in their minds it was Moses who brought the Manna. But Jesus said 32 Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Moses gave you not that bread from heaven; but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven.
What we are seeing is God at work. And what’s more, we are not told who these men are. We are only told that they are God’s two witnesses who are about the Father’s business. They are bringing honor and glory to God and presenting salvation to men. And like all of God’s ministers they have an appointed task and an appointed time frame in which they will do His work.
And 7 When they finish their testimony, the beast that ascends out of the bottomless pit will make war against them, overcome them, and kill them. They cannot be hurt until God removes His hand of protection. Job and his family could not be touched until God removed the hedge of protection. Then and only then could Satan touch them.
In the same way the divine wall of protection surrounded the two witnesses until the appointed day. And then the beast killed them. But I do not believe these will fear death. They will not fear those who can kill the body and then have nothing more they can do. They only fear the Lord and they know that this is merely part of the whole.
The people of the world will rejoice while the people of God will mourn. And notice what it says. 8 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.
Where, according to the scriptures does all of this take place? It is in Jerusalem. Jesus was taken outside the city and crucified there. It is called Sodom and Egypt for obvious reasons. Sodom was a pit of sin, a den of iniquity. There all manner of evil was practiced until the stench of their wickedness reached heaven. Egypt is synonymous with the world. Now in an earlier lesson I spoke of the Jews wanting to rebuild their temple. I believe that there are those who want to worship God but as they want to, according to their law.
Then there are those who want another temple. The prestige of such an edifice would be great. Remember that Herod’s temple was considered one of the Seven Wonders of the World. Also we must take into consideration the fact that no matter how noble they may be, no matter how sincere they are, they are sincerely wrong. They have rejected God’s Messiah having rather chosen to believe that unbelievable lie that the soldiers spread concerning the disciples and the theft of Jesus’ body. And they will reinstitute the sacrificial system of works for all the people.
That is if God allows them to rebuild the Temple. They are preparing the articles of the temple and training men to perform sacrifices. They even have an archeologist who says that the old Temple was actually to the side of the Dome of the Rock and so there is room for the Temple and ‘can’t we all just get along?” But while men’s hearts prepare their ways, God directs their steps. So we will see all this if we are alive when all of this goes down.
Given the antichristian mindset of the Jewish people, it will stand to reason that when these two witnesses begin to preach Jesus, the Jews will rail against them and try to kill them. What follows are plagues and fire and other un-pleasantries.
This is why Jerusalem is known as Sodom and Egypt. In (Isa 1:10) God, through His prophet Isaiah said “Hear the word of the LORD, ye rulers of Sodom; give ear unto the law of our God, ye people of Gomorrah.” He was speaking to the Jews. They have embraced the world. The title of sodomite fits the Jews completely. They have rejected God for a religion of their own making. Like all other religions they will try to work their way to God through their sacrifices and obedience to the law despise the fact that by the works of the law no flesh will be justified and if you try to keep the law and stumble on one part, you are guilty of all.
But they will not care for they believe they know the way. They believe they have a plan, though they rejected God’s revealed will. And so they are ripe for deception. The antichrist will come in his own name and they will receive him with open arms. And they will fight for the antichrist against these two witnesses for they believe in the agenda of the antichrist but they hate and reject the truth of God. And they will believe they are doing God’ s service!
When the witnesses are killed they will rejoice and celebrate. Notice verse 9 Then those from the peoples, tribes, tongues, and nations (this speaks of the whole world) will see their dead bodies three-and-a-half days, and out of hate and vengeance and downright nastiness, they will not allow their dead bodies to be put into graves. This shows the dishonor and contempt with which the faithful servants of God would be treated.
Not only were they hated while they lived, but also after they were dead. To illustrate the blackness of the worldly heart and the depths to which it is able to sink, consider verse 10 “And those who dwell on the earth will rejoice over them, make merry, and send gifts to one another, because these two prophets tormented those who dwell on the earth. That is sick. “Hey those two guys are dead, have a cigar.” To celebrate death is perverted. But this will be a time in which death is honored, worshipped, praised.
Think of the impunity in which children kill each other today. They pull guns and knives and murder each other for the sheer pleasure of the kill. They are like sport hunters, hungry for blood. They are only happy when someone is writhing in agony. Think of Mardi Gras. It is a celebration of death. What’s more it is a period of riotous living before the Lenten season of self denial where ones works atone for sin. In Mexico they have the ‘Day of the Dead’. This is sickness and evil and perversion but it is only a glimpse of what lies ahead.
So here we see the world celebrating the deaths of these “enemies of progress” if you will. For three and a half days this party will continue! Everyone will believe that they are free of oppression now that these voices of righteousness have been silenced.
But then something happens. 11 Now after the three-and-a-half days the breath of life from God entered them, and they stood on their feet, and great fear fell on those who saw them.
Suddenly the party will be over! Suddenly everything they were celebrating will come screeching to a halt. Those two pesky, hated preachers of righteousness will be alive again. In place of riotous celebrating there will be fear and trembling, awe and terror.
Not only this, but they will hear a Voice! It will be the voice of God Almighty, the God they have rejected for the kingdom and agenda of antichrist and rituals. Verse 12 says “And they (the people of the world) heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, (the two witnesses) “Come up here.” And they ascended to heaven in a cloud, and their enemies saw them.
What horror must grip the hearts of these sinners! The beast kills these men; the people rejoice and I would imagine they would be praising the beast for his power over the witnesses. They are in the midst of a riotous celebration of death and then the objects of their celebration stand up alive again. God speaks in their hearing and the witnesses rise to heaven before their very eyes.
13 In the same hour the Greek word ho-rah meaning literally at the same time…there was a great earthquake, and a tenth of the city fell. God spoke, the men arose to heaven and an earthquake destroyed a tenth of the city. And “In the earthquake seven thousand people were killed,” but here again is mercy. Only a tenth of the city fell. Only a portion of the population was killed. God could have wiped out the whole place and made a clean sweep of His threshing floor. Instead He had mercy and demonstrated only a portion of His power over His creation.
Notice the reaction of the people of the world… and the rest were afraid and gave glory to the God of heaven. Now don’t read too much into the idea of giving glory to God. Remember that Nebuchadnezzar, before he was dealt with personally by God had done the same. Even wicked Ahab “repented” for a short time. But he never walked away from Baal.
It could mean that they turned to the Lord but it could also mean that they were like Pharaoh “I have sinned” but never changed. There are only two considerations here: either they repented of their sins and turned to God or they were momentarily swayed by the events of the moment and would soon turn to their wicked ways again. But God isn’t finished yet! 14 The second woe is past. Behold, the third woe is coming quickly.
I remember a song from the 60’s called “Eve Of Destruction.” And that is the brink upon which this world is tottering. All the things that man trusts in are nothing more than the thin air. The schemes of sinful man will no more support them before a Holy God than a spider’s web would stop a falling rock. The day of destruction is drawing nearer each moment. Our message to those we love must be “Repent for the kingdom of Heaven is at hand!” Turn away from your sins and call upon Jesus Christ for forgiveness and salvation before it’s too late!
One day all of this will be gone. On the appointed Day Jesus will return and then it will be all over. We see a picture of this in the subsequent verses 15 “Then the seventh angel sounded: And there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!” 16 And the twenty-four elders who sat before God on their thrones fell on their faces and worshiped God, 17 saying: “We give You thanks, O Lord God Almighty, The One who is and who was and who is to come, because You have taken Your great power and reigned. 18The nations were angry, and Your wrath has come, and the time of the dead, that they should be judged, and that You should reward Your servants the prophets and the saints, and those who fear Your name, small and great, and should destroy those who destroy the earth.” 19 Then the temple of God was opened in heaven, and the ark of His covenant was seen in His temple. And there were lightnings, noises, thunderings, an earthquake, and great hail.
“Life was filled with guns and war and everyone was trampled on the floor.
I wish we’d all been ready.
Children died. The days grew cold. A piece of bread could buy a bag of gold.
I wish we’d all been ready.
There’s no time to change your mind. The Son has come and you’ve been left behind.”
Let us pray that our loved ones will not be left behind. Let us pray and labor to plant the seeds of truth in their hearts and plead the Lord of the Harvest to water those seeds of truth for only He can cause the increase. Knowing the cost, let us be witnesses of the truth for the glory of God, no matter what!