The two witnesses in Revelation are the two olive trees mentioned in Zechariah 4. (Wikimedia Commons)

This week, we come to Revelation 11:3-6 and two of the most interesting characters in the Bible:

"And I will grant power to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for one thousand two hundred and sixty days, clothed in sackcloth" (Rev. 11:3).

These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth.

And if anyone wants to harm them, fire flows out of their mouth and devours their enemies; so if anyone wants to harm them, he must be killed in this way.

These have the power to shut up the sky, so that rain will not fall during the days of their prophesying; and they have power over the waters to turn them into blood and to strike the earth with every plague, as often as they desire.

Like the rest of the Book of Revelation, there is much speculation about who these two witnesses are. Bruce Wilkinson told me that he thought these were Enoch and Elijah. This is one of the most common assumptions, and this makes sense, as these are the only two recorded in Scripture to not have died. The Scripture is clear that it is appointed to every man to die once. Then again, we have multitudes that seemingly will not die because of the rapture.

Interestingly, many biblical scholars and theologians throughout the church age have believed these two witnesses to be the Old and New Testaments. When I first read this, I was dubious, but the more I studied the position, the more sense it made. I still have not concluded this to be the case, but it has enough merit to consider. Here is a brief explanation of this school of thought.

These two have the power to shut the sky and strike the earth with plagues. There are other ways that what is written about these two could be applied to the Old and New Testaments. So we will consider this:

When they have finished their testimony, the beast that ascends from the bottomless pit will wage war against them and overcome them and kill them. 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. Those from every people and tribe and tongue and nation will see their dead bodies for three and a half days, and will not allow their dead bodies to be put in graves. Those who dwell on the earth will rejoice over them and make merry and send gifts to one another, because these two prophets tormented those who dwell on the earth.

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. Then they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, "Come up here!" And they ascended to heaven in a cloud, while their enemies watched them.

At that same hour there was a great earthquake, and a tenth of the city fell. Seven thousand men were killed in the earthquake, and the remnant were frightened and gave glory to the God of heaven.

The second woe is past. Listen, the third woe is coming quickly (Rev. 11:7-14).

To continue the reason for why many thought that these are the Testaments, it was written that these two would "prophesy in sackcloth for forty-two months," or 1,260 days. As we covered previously, this prophetic perspective is linked to the historical period where an imperial decree established the papacy. During that time it was against the law for anyone but an authorized priest to read the Bible, and for much of that time it was capital punishment. Certainly it looked as if the Scriptures themselves were prophesying from a humble position to which few paid attention.

During the French Renaissance, which in some ways was consummated in the French Revolution, there was a period of several years, which could have been three and a half years, when it seemed that the entire focus was to destroy the Bible and eradicate it from the earth. It seemed that the Bible was so discredited and scorned that its influence on the earth had ended and it was dead in the streets. Then almost as suddenly, the forces of the Reformation regrouped. There was a worldwide movement to recover esteem for the Bible as God's Word. It could well have seemed that these two witnesses, the Old and New Testaments, had indeed been raised from the dead and were elevated to a place high above the earth with greater power.

This brief exploration of this position does not do justice to it, but this was the general and popular understanding of the fulfillment of this text throughout the Reformation and until the 1844 Advent Movement, when it began to be taught that all of Revelation was about the future. Again, I am presenting it here because this position is hardly known in modern eschatology. It carries about as much merit to it as the other speculations about these two witnesses, especially since so many hold to the belief that the two olive trees of Zechariah are the Old and New Testaments. Regardless, it can be helpful to consider all the schools of thought. To date, I have not seen any that one could be dogmatic about, and therefore I think wisdom requires that we remain open to who or what these two witnesses are.

Rick Joyner is the founder and executive director of MorningStar Ministries and Heritage International Ministries and is the senior pastor of MorningStar Fellowship Church. He is the author of more than 40 books, including The Final QuestA Prophetic History, and Church History. He is also the president of The OAK Initiative, an interdenominational movement that is mobilizing thousands of Christians to be engaged in the great issues of our times, being the salt and light that they are called to be.

This article originally appeared at morningstarministries.org.

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