Daniel's prophecies introduce the mysterious time period of the
"time, times, and a half," in Daniel 12:7. This is identified with
three and a half years, and it is expressed in various ways, and can be
understood by referring to the prophecy of the 70 weeks of the 9th
chapter, and to part of the 70th week in that prophecy.
The same time period is mentioned in some of the prophecies of Revelation. The equivalent in days or months occurs in Revelation 11:2-3. In verse 2 it is "forty and two months," and in verse 3 it is "a thousand two hundred and sixty days." These time periods both refer to Daniel's "time, times, and a half."
The correct interpretation of this period of time is a key to understanding prophecies such as this prophecy about the two witnesses, described in Revelation 11:1-13, which otherwise remains locked up or sealed. As interpreted below, this prophecy presents the divine perspective on the two witnesses of God, which remain in the world, one of which represents the scriptures, and the other representing the Spirit of God.
The prophecy outlines, in symbol, the history, and purpose of the holy scriptures in the world, and the Spirit. These are identified within the New Testament as "two witnesses," which testify to Christ and to the truth in the world.
Daniel's time period of a time, times and a half or three and a half years is identified with the last half of the final "week" in the prophecy about the 70 Weeks, in Daniel 9. This final week is a figurative period of seven years. It is during this "week" that Christ "confirms the covenant with many," as stated in Daniel 9:27. The first half of this prophetic "week" was the three and a half year ministry of Christ on the earth in the first century. The second half of the final "week" is symbolic, and represents the entire period of the Church.
The final three and a half years, also referred to as a period of 1,260 days, and as forty two months, or any other reference to a time period associated with the number "three and a half," may be taken as a figure or symbol of the period in which the scriptures and the Holy Spirit are in the world, from the coming of the Holy Spirit to the Church in the first century, on the day of Pentecost, after the crucifixion of Christ, to the return of Christ to the earth. The phrase can also refer to a portion of this period.
The scriptures have a crucial role in this period. Along with the Spirit of God, they bear witness to Christ. Their significance and history is clearly a suitable topic for biblical prophecy.
John was given a reed like a rod, and was told to measure the temple. The reed or measuring stick was compared with a rod because it was to be a means of correction. This measuring reed was the prophecy he set forth in this chapter, and in the chapters following. It was intended for discipline. For a Christian, the correction and guidance God provides in his word is a comfort. If we recognize the truth conveyed by the prophecy, it will correct us, but it will also comfort the Saints, to receive an accurate description of the state of the Church, because such a description reveals that Christ is in control, and things are working out according to His plan. David wrote: "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me." (Psalm 23:4)
John was told to measure the temple [Revelation 11:1-2]; not the physical temple in Jerusalem, but the spiritual temple, the Church. To "measure" is to describe, and that is what the prophecy in this chapter does. It describes the role of the scriptures and the Holy Spirit in the Church in symbolic terms. The message contained in the prophecy is learned by interpretation of its symbolic language. To measure the temple means, in this prophecy, describe the Church. But the court outside the temple was to be excluded. That is, the prophecy applies to Christians only, and is not intended for correction of unbelievers.
The Apostle Peter refers to Christians as "lively stones" built up as a spiritual house, with Christ the chief cornerstone. He wrote: "Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ." (1 Peter 2:5)
Similarly, Paul wrote to the Corinthian Christians: "Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?" (1 Corinthians 3:16) Paul wrote to the Ephesians: "Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God; And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit." (Ephesians 2:19-22) These scriptures show plainly that the temple is a symbol or figure of the Church.
John was also told to measure the altar. In Revelation 8:3 the altar in heaven is mentioned in connection with the prayers of the saints. The phrase, "them that worship therein" must refer to the saints. Peter said Christians are to offer up "spiritual sacrifices," consisting of prayers of thanksgiving, praise, and good works, and the altar mentioned in the prophecy could be a figure of these. In Hebrews we read: "Through him, then, let us continually lay on the altar a sacrifice of praise to God, namely, the utterance of lips that give thanks to His Name. And do not forget to be kind and liberal; for with sacrifices of that sort God is greatly pleased." (Hebrews 13:15-16, Weymouth translation.)
The description of the state of the Church in this prophecy is one which reveals the great needs of the Church in our age. There is a need for all Christians to consider the state of the Church in the present age, so they can effectively pray that God would revive and heal it by revealing His truth. If Daniel's prayer about the desolate state of the city of Jerusalem, which consisted of heaps of stones and rubble, could lead to the revelations recorded in Daniel chapter 9, how much more would the earnest prayers of the saints today, and their concern about the overall state of the Church, the people for whom Christ gave his life, move God to send forth His Spirit? But few Christians today have the vision to even comprehend what the Church is. The prophecies of Revelation 11-12 provide insight into this important question.
The holy city mentioned in verse 2 is another figure of the Church. It was to be trodden under foot for 42 months. This indicates the saints were to be subjected to others. There is a parallel between this scripture and Daniel 7:21. This prophecy does not refer to the nations taking control of the literal city of Jerusalem, for three and a half years, although Christ referred to the city of Jerusalem being trodden down by the nations "until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled." (Luke 21:24) It refers to Jerusalem as a figure of the Church. Paul uses the expression "Jerusalem which is above" in Galatians 4:25 to represent the Church. The Church, according to this prophecy, has been trodden down, dominated by unbelievers. The court outside the temple represents the world. The Gentiles mentioned in the prophecy are a figure of the world, or unbelievers.
The prophecy speaks of two witnesses since two is the number of witness. The law of Moses required that more than one witness was needed for a man to be sentenced to death for murder or idolatry. Christ counselled his disciples to take along two or three witnesses when settling a dispute: "Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. 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." (Matthew 18:15-16)
The two witnesses are identified as two olive trees, and two candlesticks, which is similar to the vision described in Zechariah 4. In this prophecy, two olive trees stood one on each side of a golden candlestick. On top was a bowl, and pipes led from the bowl to seven lamps. Two olive branches provided golden oil through two golden pipes, the oil being the fuel for the candlestick. The olive trees were the source of the oil, which provided light when it was burned in the candlestick.
In scripture, light represents truth and understanding. Proverbs 6:23 says: "For the commandment is a lamp; and the law is a light..." Psalm 119:105 says: "Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path." Many other scriptures use light and a lamp as a symbol of truth and insight. In Psalm 119:130 we read, "The entrance of thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding to the simple." The two witnesses are called two candlesticks because they are the source of light and truth in the world.
Zechariah 4:14 says the two olive trees are "the two anointed ones, that stand by the Lord of the whole earth." Adam was given dominion over the earth, at Creation. The Lord of the whole earth, then, is man. The anointing refers to the Spirit of God. In the Garden of Eden, God planted the tree of life, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. (Genesis 2:9) The two olive trees of prophecy can be identified with the two trees God had planted in the Garden of Eden, which figure prominently in God's purpose for the destiny of man. They represent the truth God has revealed in His Word, and the Spirit of God which is available to man.
The book of Zechariah was written at the time of the rebuilding of God's temple. The prophecies show the role of the scriptures and the Holy Spirit in the construction of God's spiritual temple, the Church. When Zechariah asked the meaning of the vision of the two olive trees beside the golden candlestick, the angel mentioned the word of God, and the Spirit of God. He answered: "This is the word of the Lord unto Zerubbabel, saying, Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord of hosts." (Verse 6) The olive trees represented the word of God, and the Spirit of God.
The light produced by the candlesticks is a symbol of truth and understanding. The olive trees in Revelation 11 along with the two candlesticks, represent the scriptures, and the Holy Spirit which was given to the Church. In Zechariah's prophecy, only one candlestick is mentioned. John may have spoken of two candlesticks because the scriptures today consist of the Old and New Testaments. Both bear witness to Christ.
In the first chapter of John's gospel, Christ is identified with the Word, and He is called "the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world." (John 1:9) In verse 5, we read, "And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not."
Can we really know that Revelation chapter 11 is meant to be interpreted, and is not to be taken literally? How can we be sure it has to be understood figuratively? One reason is because it is prophecy. The book of Revelation is full of symbolic language. It cannot refer to two Christians, or any two humans, since fire came from their mouth, and killed their opponents. They "smite the earth with plagues." There are no Christians who can, or should behave in such a fashion. It is not language which should be taken literally. The mouth of man was not designed to project fire! Christians do not have a mandate to take vengeance on those who would do them wrong. Christ said we should "turn the other cheek."
The identification of the two witnesses is not merely a matter of guessing. Christ identifies two things which would testify of him: the scriptures, and the Spirit. The first is found in John 5:39. Christ said to the Jews, "Search the scriptures, for in them you think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me." One who testifies is a witness.
John recorded Christ's promise to his disciples that the Spirit would come: "I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you." (John 14:17) Jesus referred to the Holy Spirit as the other witness. He said, "But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me: and ye shall also bear witness, because ye have been with me from the beginning." (John 15:26-27)
There are several indications the two witnesses are identified with Moses and Elijah, who are figures of the Bible and the Holy Spirit. Like Moses, the witnesses called down plagues, and they turned waters to blood. Like Elijah, they held back rain.
Moses wrote of a future prophet who was to appear in Israel: "The LORD thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall harken." (Deuteronomy 18:15) This was fulfilled in Christ. Also Elijah was predicted to come, and "turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to the fathers." Both Moses and Elijah were mentioned in the final few verses of Malachi.
A future coming of the prophet Elijah, before the "day of the Lord," was promised in the Old Testament prophecies. The prophecy of Revelation 11 explains what this means. The words of scripture have been available since Old Testament times. They were completed when the New Testament was compiled by the Apostles. The "spirit of Elijah" is same Spirit of God which was given to the Church on the day of Pentecost, 31 A.D. The Spirit inspired the writers of the New Testament. It has remained with the saints until now. It will be with the Church till the end of the world. It was to lead the saints to "all truth."
The two witnesses are depicted as clothed in sackcloth, representing humility. Sackcloth, when used as clothing, is a means of expression. It is not particularly attractive, and is seldom worn. Similarly, the scriptures are not widely believed or understood. The truth in the scripture has been presented in symbolic language, as with the parables of Jesus. This was not to make the message plain, but to conceal it from the world, and preserve it.
Moses and Elijah represent the scriptures, and the Spirit of God. Moses led the children of Israel out of Egypt, and throughout all their wanderings in the wilderness. So the scriptures and the Holy Spirit lead the saints out of this world, and the bondage of sin. Egypt is a figure of the world in prophecy. They guide the saints in the wilderness of this present life, in which we are being prepared to enter a "promised land." The wilderness represents the present partial spiritual understanding that the saints have in this life. As the people of Israel collected the manna, and ate it, the saints are nourished spiritually by the words of the scriptures. We receive the Holy Spirit from Christ, typified by the people of Israel drinking water from the rock in the wilderness.
Moses compared his words to rain: "My doctrine shall drop as the rain, my speech shall distil as the dew, as the small rain upon the tender herb, and as the showers upon the grass" (Deuteronomy 32:2).
Elijah was unique among the Old Testament prophets. He had the Spirit of God, typified by the "still small voice," which came after the earthquake, wind, and fire. (1 Kings 19:12) Elijah seems to represent the Spirit of God especially. He prayed that there would be no rain in Israel for a period of three years and six months. He told the Israelite king Ahab, "As the Lord liveth, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to my word." (1 Kings 17:1)
In the prophecy of the two witnesses, the Spirit and the scriptures have "shut heaven" and caused the cessation of prophetic revelation and other "signs" to the Church. At least it is not evident nearly so much as in the early first century church. There are no dramatic miracles occurring today, for example, such as those performed by the apostles. This has been true since the days of the apostles in the first century.
The "rain" is a symbol of the outpouring of God's spirit. The word of God comes to us only through the scripture, not the book of Mormon or the Koran or St. Augustine or any other source. None of the early church fathers, or any Christians today, have the authority of the scriptures.
The writing of scripture has ceased, since the New Testament scriptures were compiled in the days of the Apostles. Although the Apostles had prophetic revelations, no such inspired writings have been afforded to the Church since. Scripture is the only source of revelation to the Church, and much of it has not yet been understood. Why would God give new revelations, when we have not understood what he has already revealed?
If any man would hurt the two witnesses, fire proceeded from their mouth, and devoured their enemies, a figure of the words of scripture which warn of the judgment in store for the enemies of the truth. Jeremiah 5:14 says: "I will make the words in thy mouth fire, and this people wood, and it shall devour them." The fire from the mouth of the two witnesses is a figure of the words of scripture that describe the fate of their enemies. Jesus especially warned against speaking evil of the Holy Spirit. He said to the Pharisees who suggested he was casting out demons by the power of Satan: "Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but blasphemy against the Holy Spirit shall not be forgiven unto men. And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come." (Matthew 12:31-32)
The fire represents the fire of future judgment, when offenders will be killed by fire. Jesus said of this judgement that is to come: "The son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; and shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth." (Matthew 13:41-42)
The first of the ten plagues pronounced upon Egypt by Moses was turning the waters to blood. The waters of the Nile, and streams and pools in the land were turned to blood.
The scriptures speak of God as "the fountain of living waters." (Jeremiah 2:13) Isaiah wrote, "With joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation." (Isaiah 12:3) Jesus said to the woman of Samaria, who came to draw water from Jacob's well, "Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again: But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life." (John 4:13-14) And when Jesus was at the feast of tabernacles in Jerusalem, he said: "If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Spirit was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.)" (John 7:37-39)
Clearly, the waters are identified with God's Spirit. The power of
the two witnesses to turn the water to blood seems like a dramatic
sign, as that was one of the plagues sent when Moses stood before
Pharaoh; the waters of the rivers in Egypt became blood. But nothing
like that has occurred in the history of the church. There is another
account in the OT of waters appearing like blood, to the enemies of
Israel, in the days of Elisha.
In 2 Kings 3, there is an account of a battle in which the outcome hinged on people mistaking water for blood. The kings of Israel, Judah and Edom went out into the wilderness with their armies in order to punish the king of Moab, who had stopped paying tribute to the Israelite king. But they ran short of water. So they called for the prophet Elisha.
Elisha advised them to make ditches in the valley. During the night, the ditches filled up with water. In the morning the Moabite army looked over the valley, and the reflection of the red sky on the water appeared to them like pools of blood.
2 Kings 3:21-23
And when all the Moabites heard that the kings were come up to fight against them, they gathered all that were able to put on armour, and upward, and stood in the border.
And they rose up early in the morning, and the sun shone upon the water, and the Moabites saw the water on the other side as red as blood:
And they said, This is blood: the kings are surely slain, and they have smitten one another: now therefore, Moab, to the spoil.
Assuming there had been a battle, the Moabites approached the camp of the Israelites, expecting to find them wasted, but instead were slaughtered themselves.
Atheists and skeptics, who reject the gospel, are much like those unfortunate Moabites, who mistook water for blood. They view the truths of the gospel which Christians accept, as notions unfit for human consumption! The gospel, which is as cool, clean, fresh drinking water to believers, is as distasteful as blood to them. Several facts make the scriptures unpalatable for people in the modern age, such as the stories of bloody battles of conquest by the Israelite armies when they took possession of the promised land, the flawed cosmology in Genesis, and the flood of Noah, for example.
I suggest the flawed cosmology likely resulted from changes introduced into the OT, initiated by the hellenistic king Antiochus IV, in the 2nd century BC. The intent was to make the scriptures conform to the geocentric cosmology of the Greeks.
Another stumblingblock for many is that the scriptures record miracles and prophecies. A literal approach to passages in the Bible that are poetic, and symbolic, contributes to this perception of the gospel as unpalatable, like blood. Thus, many view the Bible, and the message of the gospel, not as refreshing, life-giving water, but as blood that they cannot bring themselves to drink!
This could be what is pictured by a prophecy about the 2 witnesses. Jesus identified the Spirit of God and the scriptures as two things which testify of him, and one who testifies is a witness. Jesus referred to the gospel as "living water" (John 4:10). This is the water that has seemed more like blood to many. Like the Moabites, who were Israel's enemies they "see blood," but it is an illusion. What is really there is water.
The two witnesses have the power to "smite the earth with all plagues, as often as they will." This kind of power can only belong to God. It cannot reasonably apply to any two men. It is a reference to the prophecies of sripture. Just as the plagues announced by Moses came upon Egypt, the events foretold in sripture will come to pass.
The sriptures have been printed in almost every language and dialect, and are distributed around the world. But to many people, they seem to have little relevance to modern life. The history in the bible, the stories of the creation, Adam and Eve, and the Noachian flood, seem like myths. Miracles that are related in the New Testament are disbelieved, and it appears such things do not happen today. The prophecies of the Bible are obscure. To the ordinary person, the Bible is a dead book. It has only historical interest.
This is all spelled out symbolically by the description of the war with the beast from the bottomless pit, (Satan) which overcame the two witnesses, and killed them. Satan has made war against the scriptures, and caused Christians to doubt. His efforts to deceive men have succeeded. The attitude of many Christians to the sriptures has become not much different to that of the world.
The war between Satan and the two witnesses is about the authority and reliability of the sriptures, and our faith in them. It is fought in the minds of people, rather than physical warfare. Paul wrote: "For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places." (Ephesians 6:12) In this war, the two witnesses were overcome.
This explanation of the prophecy of the war between the beast from the abyss and the two witnesses is supported by comments of Howard Rand in his book "Study in Revelation." He wrote: 
The power of the Witnesses is in the testimony of the Word and the Spirit. So long as men believed and accepted the Word, Satan was powerless to overcome the Witnesses or silence their testimony. It was necessary in his new plan of attack that the Word be brought into disrepute. Men must be made to doubt its message and accuracy.
The rise of modern science and materialism has been a major factor in this war against the Bible. This was recognized by C.A.L. Totten in 1890, in his description of the effect of the biblical criticism that overwhelmed seminaries and other educational institutions in the last century. His comments were cited by Rand:
Most religious people are literally afraid to investigate the Bible, and well they may be if the canons of the 'Higher Criticsm' are to guide their study. Most of the laity consider it to be beyond their sphere, and so far as 'Moses and the Prophets' are concerned, even the clergy almost entirely neglect them. We readily grant that Sin, Repentance, and the Gospel of a Saviour are the vital 'end' of apostolic work. Nevertheless we hold that Christ and the Resurrection cannot be successfully preached in this age upon the undermined foundation left by the Higher Critics. It is well for them if they can hold their own souls within the fold: we question it; but be this as it may, it is the rest of men that are the ones whom Christ desires to save, and they have logic left, and cannot be savingly reached by any other means than a logical exegisis of the whole Bible, and a satisfactory explanation of its inspiration as such, upon the basis that it is 'the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.' For, not though one rose from the dead will men believe, unless they likewise are taught to believe implicitly, and are made to understand, 'Moses and the Prophets.'
It is the Bible that Atheists and Infidels attack - the Old Testament chiefly - for they are logical, and perceive that if the foundation goes, the superstructure cannot stand, no matter how eloquently it can be clothed in Agnostic sermons. Hence this Old Testament is our one and only bulwark of defense. It will not do to preach Christ and deny Moses. It will not do to doubt the universality of the Flood, and ask men to accept a Saviour who alludes to it! ...If the story of Eden and the Deluge, of Jerico and Joshua, are myths, or fables, and not literal facts, then, to the still rational mind, all that follows them is equally so, and faith, lost in those who foretold His advant, can never be savingly and logically found again in Christ and His apostles.
Here is the Bible's evaluation of much of the biblical scholarship in religious books and periodicals and seminaries and universities in the world today: it has "killed" the two witnesses, the scriptures and the Spirit! Many Christian people have vague and confused ideas about the message of salvation contained in scripture. It is not difficult to see how this war has been waged. Along with many discoveries of modern science, belief in the Bible has waned. The biblical criticism of the last century, acceptance of long ages of historical geology and the theory of evolution among Christians are examples of the battles in this war. Science and modern scholarship have been used to blind people to the truth of the sriptures. Gradually, faith and scripture have been cast aside, even in many churches.
The dead bodies of the two witnesses lie in the street of a great city, called "Sodom" and "Egypt." This "great city" is a symbolic reference to the world. Christ was crucified outside Jerusalem, as required by the law. (Hebrews 13:12) The city of Jerusalem is a symbol of the Church, and the reference to the place of Christ's crucifixion represents the world. Modern society in any city or country is called spiritually Sodom and Egypt. It is the worldly society that Christians are called out of, like the Israelites were freed from Egypt, and Lot was rescued from Sodom.
Many interpreters have identified the "city where our Lord was crucified" as referring to Jerusalem, but this ignores the symbolic significance of Christ's death occurring outside the city. The great city John refers to is later on identified with Babylon, as a type of this world. Rand has also recognized this:
The reference to "Where also our Lord was crucified" has led many students astray as they immediately think of the city of Jerusalem, or the land of Palestine. In doing so they have overlooked the fact that the Great City is none other than the mystical city which John later names Babylon.
The "dead bodies" of the two witnesses is a figure representing Bibles which are readily available in our society, but are not read, believed or understood. This figure may also apply to those Christian institutions readily found in the world today, which are called "dead bodies" in the prophecy because the Holy Spirit of God is not present!
The Bible and its message appears to be useless and unimportant to many people today. There are "three days and a half" in which these corpses are seen in the world, in the "street," or in public. The three days an a half means a part of the present age in which the Church remains in the world, before Christ returns.
People of various nations, languages, and races of the world are acquainted with the Bible, and with Christians. Bibles are a persistent best seller. Most people have a Bible or two in their home. Most people know a few Christians, too. Although discredited, Bibles are kept around, and people who profess belief in Christ are tolerated. They "do not suffer their dead bodies to be put in graves."
The phrase "And they of the people and kindreds and tongues and nations" in verse 9 refers to people of every nation and tribe and language who have been exposed to the Bible and Christianity. This verse shows the Bible would be distributed worldwide, and translated into every language.
Many people today consider themselves "liberated" from the teachings of scripture. The virtuous living it requires is viewed as outdated. The constraints on behaviour that previous generations endured, which seemed to cause so much "torment," are gone. Many have devoted themselves to just having a good time, and making merry, since they are no longer worried about what the Bible says, or God's purpose for their lives. Reports and jokes which depict the Bible as untrue, and the church corrupt or inept, are circulated in the world today with glee. The decline in the influence and authority of Christian teachings and of the Bible is a cause for rejoicing, because "these two prophets tormented them that dwelt on the earth." (Revelation 11:10)
A similar explanation was supported by Rand. He wrote:
Since modernism has overcome the Witnesses and brought their message into disrepute, the ridicule and contempt for the things for which they stood and to which they testified have been evidenced on every hand. This statement is borne out in that the warnings of the past from the mouth of the Witnesses are no more heeded, and there is great rejoicing because of the passing of old beliefs. The Bible is considered as folklore and fable and no longer needed or heeded as the Word of God, while the Holy Spirit is entirely ignored.
Rand's explanation of the death of the two witnesses seems to be in harmony with the prophecy, and with the history of the Bible and God's Spirit in this present century. Rand anticipated the "death" and the subsequent "resurrection" of the two witnesses in the twentieth century. The "three days and a half" is a symbolic period of indefinite duration. It would indicate a period which is a fraction of the symbolic 1,260 days also mentioned in the prophecy. Rand wrote:
What is to happen that will revive the power of the Witnesses, enabling them to testify with an authority that will again bring men under conviction? It is certain that whatever produces this will have effectively destroyed the doctrinal teachings that the Bible is folklore and fable. It will completely answer the higher critic and destroy the arguments of all the modernists.
According to the prophecy of the revival of the two witnesses, a dramatic "great rain" may be ahead for the Church. In the story of Elijah on Mount Carmel, found in 1 Kings 18, rain is sent from above, in abundance. The "rain", since it comes from above, represents the Holy Spirit of God. Similarly, a resurrection of the corpses of the two witnesses probably depicts the Spirit of God restoring faith and courage to believers, and scripture being understood and believed. This prophecy of the two witnesses, and other prophecies, will be understood and taken to heart. Fulfilled prophecy will show scripture to be the word of God.
In the time of Elijah there was no rain, and famine in Israel for three years and six months. (James 5:16-17) This time period is also a figure of the entire age in which the Church is in the world. Elijah predicted it would not rain, until he gave the word. His purpose was to turn the hearts of the people back to the true God. This period of three and a half years of famine corresponds to the symbolic 42 months, and the 1260 days mentioned in the prophecy of the two witnesses. It represents the period that the Church exists in the world.
After the three and a half years of drought, Elijah's prayer brought rain in abundance. This appears to be a type of what is to happen in the future. The Spirit is to be revived in the Church and the scripture will come alive. This means it will be understood. The scriptures and the Spirit will "stand on their feet," which will cause great fear to those who become aware of it. This will fulfil the role of Elijah which was foretold in Malachi 4:5-6: "Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord: And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to the fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse."
The proper interpretation of key prophecies will allow an understanding of scripture as never before. Christians who have long thought this prophecy of the two witnesses referred to two men, who are to appear in the future, and who will preach in Jerusalem for three and a half years, causing terror or "torment" to men around them, will be enlightened. They will realize this scripture is figurative. The language of symbol can be understood, since the scriptures explain these symbols. Christ gave us lessons on the symbolic language of the Bible in the parables.
We should not expect another return of Moses or Elijah in person until the resurrection of the saints. But they will return figuratively. Christ said, "Elias truly shall first come, and restore all things. But I say unto you, That Elias is come already, and they knew him not, but have done unto him whatsoever they listed. Likewise shall also the Son of man suffer of them." (Matthew 17:11-12) The disciples understood he meant John the Baptist, who prepared the way for Christ at his first coming.
Moses and Elijah also returned in vision. This vision of the transfiguration of Christ before three of the disciples, and the reason Moses and Elijah appeared was significant. Perhaps this was because they were to symbolize the scriptures and God's Spirit in John's prophecy.
But what of the Elias who was to prepare the way for Christ's return at the end of the age? This must refer to the work of the Spirit of God, and the scriptures. They would do what Moses and Elijah were predicted to do; "turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to the fathers," and prepare the way for the Christ's coming. This would occur when the scriptures were understood, and the meaning of the symbols in scripture was realized.
The prophecy found in the second chapter of Joel also depicts the Holy Spirit being "poured out upon all flesh." The Apostle Peter connected this prophecy with the "last days," before the return of Christ, when he quoted from this passage when the Holy Spirit was first given to the Church (Acts 2:15-21). Joel wrote: "And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions: And also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my spirit."
Elijah was carried up into heaven by a whirlwind, 2 Kings 2:11. He dropped his mantle, which was picked up by his successor Elisha. The two witnesses, also, are described ascending to heaven.
The spirit of life from God enters the corpses of the two witnesses, reviving them, and they stand on their feet. Can the Bible and the Spirit become alive? Indeed, words can be alive, according to Jesus, in John 6:63:
It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.
What makes the words of the Bible come alive? They are "alive" when they are understood, and believed, and acted upon. The words of God live in the minds of believers, while the same words are "dead" to those who do not believe.
The new covenant which God makes with His people is that His laws will be "written in their hearts," Jeremiah 31:31-33, and Hebrews 8:10:
For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people:
The saints are those who are in Christ, having been anointed with Christ's Spirit which provides understanding of the scriptures.
What is the great voice, that calls the two witnesses up to heaven? Some have thought it must refer to the time of the resurrection of the saints, and the return of Christ, described by the apostle Paul. But the voice could also be a voice from the church, as thit could also be . This event will be visible to those remaining in the earth, Matthew 24:30-31:
And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.
The ascent of the two witnesses is also observed by their enemies.
Of course it does not mean literal, printed Bibles will ascend to the clouds, but it is those who believe the word of God, and have it written in their hearts, who will be in the first resurrection, which occurs when Jesus returns. 1 Thess 4:17:
Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.
At that time the word of Isaiah about the word of God not returning unto him void will be fulfilled. The word of God, like the seed that is sown in the ground, will bring forth its harvest. The scriptures were given for a specific purpose by God, and they will accomplish this purpose., Isaiah 55:10-11:
For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater: So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.
The two witnesses are pictured returning to God, in much the same way Christ ascended to heaven, (Acts 1:9), when they have fulfilled their role in God's plan of redemption, and accomplished all that God had intended. They will have produced a "harvest", like the seed which fell in good ground, in the parable of the sower. The saints will be that harvest. The resurrection of the saints will vindicate the scriptures.
Revelation 11:13 says:
And the same hour there was a great earthquake, and the tenth part of the city fell, and in the earthquake were slain of men seven thousand: and the remnant were affrighted, and gave glory to the God of heaven.
Jesus said, "Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away." (Matthew 24:35)
The Bible and its promises are to remain in force. Psalm 119:89 says, "For ever, O LORD, thy word is settled in heaven."
1. Rand, Howard B. 1962. Study in Revelation. (4th edition) Destiny Publishers, Haverhill, Mass.
Copyright © 2001 by Douglas E. Cox
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