In the 11th chapter of Revelation, two mysterious entities are introduced into the story of the end of this current age:
REVELATION 11:3 "And I will give power to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy one thousand two hundred and sixty days, clothed in sackcloth." 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. (NKJV)
Who are these "two witnesses" that God will empower at the end of this age to carry His message to a world ruled by the Antichrist? Some believe that Elijah and Enoch, who were miraculously "taken away" by God (2 Kings 2:11; Gen. 5:24; Heb. 11:5), will return from heaven to prophesy for 3½ years. Others think that it will be Elijah (who stopped the rain in Israel for 3½ years - I Kings 17:1; Jam. 5:17) and Moses (who turned water to blood and brought plagues on Egypt - Exo. 7-12) who will antagonize the Beast during the 42 months of his reign. Some religious organizations believe that the two witnesses will be called from within the ranks of their ministry to perform this task. Another theory is that the Old Testament and the New Testament symbolically comprise these witnesses. But is there any way to really know who the two witnesses will be?
One vital key to understanding biblical prophecy is letting the Bible interpret itself. There are many clues to the identity of the two witnesses, but we have to recognize and accept them.
Let's look at their apparel, which is one of the first clues we're given about these two. They are dressed in sackcloth. What do the Scriptures tell us about the meaning of wearing sackcloth?
ISAIAH 22:12 And in that day the Lord GOD of hosts called for weeping and for mourning, for baldness and for girding with sackcloth. (NKJV)
JEREMIAH 6:26 O daughter of my people, dress in sackcloth and roll about in ashes! Make mourning as for an only son, most bitter lamentation; for the plunderer will suddenly come upon us. (NKJV)
LAMENTATIONS 2:10 The elders of the daughter of Zion sit on the ground and keep silence; they throw dust on their heads and gird themselves with sackcloth. The virgins of Jerusalem bow their heads to the ground. (NKJV)
The Scriptures make it clear that the wearing of sackcloth is a sign of mourning. These two witnesses are clothed in sackcloth because they are officially in mourning. What they are mourning about will be shown later.
Now let's look at the specific role these two fulfill as witnesses. A witness is a person who has seen or knows something, and is therefore capable of giving evidence about it. There are several scriptural passages that explain the role and function which witnesses fulfill:
DEUTERONOMY 17:6 "Whoever is deserving of death shall be put to death on the testimony of two or three witnesses; he shall not be put to death on the testimony of one witness. 7 The hands of the witnesses shall be the first against him to put him to death, and afterward the hands of all the people. So you shall put away the evil from among you." (NKJV)
DEUTERONOMY 19:15 "One witness shall not rise against a man concerning any iniquity or any sin that he commits; by the mouth of two or three witnesses the matter shall be established." (NKJV)
It is a clear principle in the Torah that the testimony of only one witness is not enough to convict a person of a capital crime. It takes a minimum of TWO witnesses to convict someone for the death penalty (or any other sin, for that matter). This same principle is repeated by both Yeshua and Paul in the New Testament:
MATTHEW 18:16 "But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that 'by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.' " (NKJV)
II CORINTHIANS 13:1 This will be the third time I am coming to you. "By the mouth of two or three witnesses every word shall be established." (NKJV)
According to the Scriptures, there must be two witnesses to an act in order for the sentence of the Law to be carried out. Since those who accept the mark of the beast and worship him will "drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out full strength into the cup of His indignation" (Rev. 14:10), at least two witnesses to their sins will be necessary to convict and punish them.
Who are the two witnesses mentioned in Revelation 11? Let's look elsewhere in the Bible to see if God identifies who His witnesses are and what they will testify about:
ISAIAH 43:1 But now, thus says the LORD, who created you, O Jacob, and He who formed you, O Israel: "Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; You are Mine. . . ." 10 "You are My witnesses," declares the LORD, "and My servant whom I have chosen, so that you may know and believe Me and understand that I am He. Before Me no god was formed, nor will there be one after Me. 11 I, even I, am the LORD, and apart from Me there is no savior. 12 I have revealed and saved and proclaimed — I, and not some foreign god among you. You are My witnesses," declares the LORD, "that I am God." (NIV)
ISAIAH 44:1 But now hear, O Jacob My servant, Israel whom I have chosen! 2 Thus says the LORD who made you, who formed you in the womb and will help you: Do not fear, O Jacob My servant, Jeshurun whom I have chosen. 3 For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour My spirit upon your descendants, and My blessing on your offspring. 4 They shall spring up like a green tamarisk, like willows by flowing streams. 5 This one will say, "I am the LORD's," another will be called by the name of Jacob, yet another will write on the hand, "The LORD's," and adopt the name of Israel. 6 Thus says the LORD, the King of Israel, and his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts: I am the first and I am the last; besides Me there is no god. 7 Who is like Me? Let them proclaim it, let them declare and set it forth before me. Who has announced from of old the things to come? Let them tell us what is yet to be. 8 Do not fear, or be afraid; have I not told you from of old and declared it? You are my witnesses! Is there any god besides Me? There is no other rock; I know not one. (NRSV)
These prophetic passages from Isaiah plainly state that Israel will witness to the fact that there is no other God like YHVH the Father. This testimony will be a necessary confirmation of the identity of the one true God (John 17:3) during the time the Antichrist is reigning and proclaiming himself to be god (II The. 2:4). But how can Israel, the chosen people of God, be the TWO witnesses referred to in Revelation?
Christians who haven't studied the Tanakh (Old Testament) in depth might be surprised to learn that Israel split into two parts after the reign of King Solomon. This split is recorded in I Kings 12 and II Chronicles 10. The division resulted in the southern kingdom of Judea (the "House of Judah") and the northern kingdom of Samaria (the "House of Israel") in the Holy Land.
The House of Judah was composed of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin (I Kings 12:21; II Chr. 11:12). The tribe of Levi also eventually sided with the House of Judah, having been rejected as priests by the ruler of the House of Israel (II Chr. 11:13-14).
The 10 tribes (I Kings 11:31, 35) which composed the House of Israel were the tribes of Ephraim, Manasseh, Reuben, Gad, Asher, Naphtali, Simeon, Issachar, Zebulun, and Dan. These 10 northern tribes were led by the tribe of Ephraim, which was given the blessing of the firstborn by the patriarch Israel on his deathbed (Gen. 48:14-22).
Therefore, we see from the Scriptures that Israel did indeed become "two." They can legitimately be recognized as two different, but related, entities. But is there any other biblical evidence which connects the two houses of Israel with the two witnesses of Revelation 11?
Indeed there is! Revelation 11:4 gives us the next two vital clues:
REVELATION 11:4 These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands standing before the God of the earth. (NKJV)
We see that the two witnesses are symbolically called "two olive trees" and also "two lampstands." We'll examine each of these symbols in turn and see what the Scriptures have to say about them.
First, let's see what the Bible says about the "two olive trees." Are these olive trees spoken of anywhere else in the Bible? Yes, they certainly are!
ZECHARIAH 4:1 Now the angel who talked with me came back and wakened me, as a man who is wakened out of his sleep. 2 And he said to me, "What do you see?" So I said, "I am looking, and there is a lampstand of solid gold with a bowl on top of it, and on the stand seven lamps with seven pipes to the seven lamps. 3 Two olive trees are by it, one at the right of the bowl and the other at its left." 4 So I answered and spoke to the angel who talked with me, saying, "What are these, my lord?" 5 Then the angel who talked with me answered and said to me, "Do you not know what these are?" And I said, "No, my lord." 6 So he answered and said to me: "This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: 'Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,' says the LORD of hosts. 7 Who are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you shall become a plain! And he shall bring forth the capstone with shouts of "Grace, grace to it!" ' " 8 Moreover the word of the LORD came to me, saying: 9 "The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this temple; his hands shall also finish it. Then you will know that the LORD of hosts has sent me to you. 10 For who has despised the day of small things? For these seven rejoice to see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel. They are the eyes of the LORD, which scan to and fro throughout the whole earth." 11 Then I answered and said to him, "What are these two olive trees — at the right of the lampstand and at its left?" 12 And I further answered and said to him, "What are these two olive branches that drip into the receptacles of the two gold pipes from which the golden oil drains?" 13 Then he answered me and said, "Do you not know what these are?" And I said, "No, my lord." 14 So he said, "These are the two anointed ones, who stand beside the Lord of the whole earth." (NKJV)
In Zechariah 4 we see the same symbols that are used in Revelation 11 — olive trees and a lampstand. The two olive trees are said to be "the anointed ones" (literally "sons of the oil") who stand beside the Lord of the whole earth" (Zec. 4:14). But maddeningly, the angel doesn't give Zechariah (or us) a direct answer regarding the identity of these two trees. We must look in the book of Jeremiah to find the identification of the olive trees:
JEREMIAH 11:16 The LORD called your name, Green Olive Tree, lovely and of good fruit. With the noise of a great tumult He has kindled fire on it, and its branches are broken. 17 For the LORD of hosts, who planted you, has pronounced doom against you for the evil of the House of Israel and of the House of Judah, which they have done against themselves to provoke Me to anger in offering incense to Baal." (NKJV)
In Jeremiah 11 we see that both houses of Israel are called a "green olive tree." They were planted and named by Yah the Father Himself. We can be certain from Scripture that both the House of Judah and the House of Israel are symbolically labeled as olive trees. But is there any further evidence? Yes there is!
HOSEA 14:5 I will be like the dew to Israel; he shall grow like the lily, and lengthen his roots like Lebanon. 6 His branches shall spread; his beauty shall be like an olive tree, and his fragrance like Lebanon. (NKJV)
The prophet Hosea preached several decades before the fall of the House of Israel to the Assyrians (c. 722 BCE). Although he addresses both the House of Judah and the House of Israel in his prophecies, his primary message is directed at the House of Israel, also known as Ephraim.
To graphically illustrate the House of Israel's rebellion against Him, YHVH commanded Hosea to take a harlot for a wife (Hos. 1:2). This harlot bore Hosea three children. God had Hosea name them symbolically to show how He was going to deal with the House of Israel. The children were named Jezreel (lit. "God sows"), Lo-Ruhamah (lit. "no mercy"), and Lo-Ammi (lit. "no people").
All three of these names described God's punishment on the House of Israel, as He explained to Hosea. Jezreel represented God's sowing of the House of Israel among the Gentile nations of the earth after they were carried away into captivity by the Assyrians (Hos. 8:8; Zec. 10:7-10). Lo-Ruhamah denoted the fact that Yah would no longer have mercy upon the House of Israel, allowing them to be taken captive because of their sins (Hos. 1:6). Lo-Ammi pictured the gradual loss of national identity by the House of Israel. After they were conquered by Assyria, they lost the knowledge of who they were. Scattered throughout the Gentile nations of the world, the House of Israel forgot that they were part of the chosen people of YHVH (Hos. 1:9), and eventually came to view themselves as Gentiles.
With this background, we are now ready to look at the apostle Paul's revelation on Israel the olive tree:
ROMANS 11:16 For if the firstfruit is holy, the lump is also holy; and if the root is holy, so are the branches. 17 And if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive tree, were grafted in among them, and with them became a partaker of the root and fatness of the olive tree, 18 do not boast against the branches. But if you do boast, remember that you do not support the root, but the root supports you. 19 You will say then, "Branches were broken off that I might be grafted in." 20 Well said. Because of unbelief they were broken off, and you stand by faith. Do not be haughty, but fear. 21 For if God did not spare the natural branches, He may not spare you either. 22 Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness. Otherwise you also will be cut off. 23 And they also, if they do not continue in unbelief, will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again. 24 For if you were cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and were grafted contrary to nature into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these, who are natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree? 25 For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. 26 And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: "The Deliverer will come out of Zion, and He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob; (NKJV)
Two olive trees are mentioned in this passage of Scripture from Paul: one that is cultivated, and one that is wild. Who or what do these two olive trees represent?
The cultivated olive tree depicts the House of Judah, which provided the foundation for the early church (Acts 2:41; 21:20). This is the olive tree of salvation, for Yeshua said that "salvation is of the Jews" (John 4:22). Paul portrays those Jews who rejected Yeshua as branches which were broken off from the cultivated olive tree because they did not believe in the Messiah that YHVH sent to His people.
God told Hosea that He was going to cast the House of Israel away because of their sins (Hos. 1:6). However, He said that He would not cast away the House of Judah (Hos. 1:7), although later their sins were even worse than those of the House of Israel (Eze. 23:11). YHVH punished the House of Judah, but He never discarded them completely.
The House of Judah is God's "lawgiver" (lit. "scribe" - Gen. 49:10; Psa. 60:7; 108:8; cf. Rom. 3:1-3). The Jews had, and continue to have, a major part in the plan YHVH is accomplishing. As a whole, only the House of Judah has continued to keep God's Sabbaths, which are the sign between YHVH and His people (Exo. 31:13-17). Because of this, they alone have been recognized as God's covenant people down to this day. However, the House of Israel lost their identity. They were absorbed into the nations wherein they were scattered. But God has never lost track of them (Amos 9:9).
This brings us to the wild olive tree Paul speaks of in this passage of Scripture. Many people equate the wild olive tree with Gentile believers who accept Yeshua as the Messiah. But is this really who Paul is referring to here? There is a telling phrase used by Paul in Romans 11:25 that exactly identifies who he is talking about:
ROMANS 11:25 For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. 26 And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: "The Deliverer will come out of Zion, and He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob; (NKJV)
Paul tells us that ALL of Israel, both the House of Judah and the House of Israel, has been blinded to the truth for a period of time. However, he says that wild olive branches will continue to be grafted in to the cultivated olive tree to replace those branches broken off until the fullness of the Gentiles has been added. Does the Bible tell us who this "fullness of the Gentiles" is? Yes, it most certainly does!
GENESIS 48:17 And Joseph saw that his father was putting his right hand on the head of Ephraim; and it was evil in his eyes. And he took hold of his father's hand to turn it from Ephraim's head to the head of Manasseh. 18 And Joseph said to his father, "Not so, my father! For this one is the firstborn; put your right hand on his head." 19 And his father refused, and said, "I know, my son, I know. He also shall be a people, and he shall become great. But his younger brother shall become greater than he, and his seed shall become the fullness of the nations." 20 And he blessed them in that day, saying, "In you shall Israel bless, saying, 'May God make you like Ephraim and Manasseh!' " And he put Ephraim before Manasseh. (The Interlinear Bible)
On his deathbed, Israel blessed Ephraim when he adopted him and his brother Manasseh. Israel said that Ephraim's offspring would become "the fullness of the nations." In Hebrew, this phrase is melo hagoyim. Interestingly, this phrase can also be translated "the fullness of the Gentiles." It was Ephraim (representative/leader of the lost 10 tribes of the House of Israel) that Paul had in mind when he spoke of the wild olive tree in Romans 11!
This conclusion is verified by Paul's earlier statement about these "Gentiles" (Romans 9):
ROMANS 9:22 What if God, wanting to show His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23 and that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had prepared beforehand for glory, 24 even us whom He called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles? 25 As He says also in Hosea: "I will call them My people, who were not My people, and her beloved, who was not beloved. 26 And it shall come to pass in the place where it was said to them, 'You are not My people,' there they shall be called sons of the living God." (NKJV)
In this passage, Paul quotes from Hosea's prophecy about the eventual recovery of those Israelites (Ephraim and the tribes associated with him) who were cast away by God because of their sins (Hos. 1:10). Either Paul was using this prophetic Scripture out of context and applying it to unrelated Gentiles, or the Gentiles he was speaking of were actually the offspring of the lost Israelite tribes.
Other Scriptures indicate that Paul understood that most of the Gentiles he was preaching to were in fact descendants of the 10 lost tribes who had been scattered 800 years earlier and had intermingled with all the nations round about Judea. To prove this assertion, let's first look at a telling statement by Paul found in the 10th chapter of 1st Corinthians:
I CORINTHIANS 10:1 Moreover, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware that all our fathers were under the cloud, all passed through the sea, 2 all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, 3 all ate the same spiritual food, 4 and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ. 5 But with most of them God was not well pleased, for their bodies were scattered in the wilderness. (NKJV)
Paul is writing here to a group of former pagan Gentiles (I Cor. 12:2) in Corinth, Greece. Yet in using the example of the Israelites who had been delivered from Egypt by God during the Exodus, he calls them "all OUR fathers" (I Cor. 10:1). He certainly wasn't referring to them as "fathers" in a spiritual sense, because these people rebelled against God and died while wandering in the desert for 40 years. Therefore, Paul must have been speaking of them as the Corinthians' PHYSICAL fathers!
The Israelite ancestry of those "Gentiles" was known to the apostle Paul, as his statement to King Agrippa also implies:
ACTS 26:6 "And now I stand and am judged for the hope of the promise made by God to our fathers. 7 To this promise our twelve tribes, earnestly serving God night and day, hope to attain. For this hope's sake, King Agrippa, I am accused by the Jews." (NKJV)
The final reunification of the two houses of Israel described in the Tanakh (Eze. 37:15-28; Isa. 11:12-13; etc.) had not been accomplished at the time Paul spoke. In fact, it still has not been fully accomplished. Therefore, the 12 tribes he referenced, who were "earnestly serving God night and day," must have included so-called "Gentile" believers who were, in fact, offspring of the lost tribes of the House of Israel!
Paul wasn't the only one who understood this truth. In the salutation of his epistle, James also shows that he knew specifically to whom he was writing when he addressed the body of believers, both Jews and "Gentiles":
JAMES 1:1 James, a bondservant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad: Greetings. (NKJV)
What Paul revealed in his epistle to the Roman assembly was the same thing Yeshua spoke of in the 10th chapter of John's Gospel:
JOHN 10:16 "And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd." (NKJV)
Here Yeshua tells his disciples that he had sheep which belonged to another flock. He was speaking of the ones to whom he was sent, the lost sheep of the House of Israel (Matt. 15:24). These sheep had lost their identity and thought that they were Gentiles. But Yeshua knew who (and where) they were, and it was his divinely sanctioned job to retrieve them for the Father.
Gentiles not of Israelite descent have certainly been included in God's congregation through the centuries(Exo. 12:38; Isa. 56:3-8). Yah has always made a way for godly foreigners to become part of His chosen people. But Scripture indicates that those who have been called by God to His Son (John 6:44, 65) are primarily physical Israelites, both from the House of Judah (the cultivated olive tree) and the House of Israel (the wild olive tree). These two olive trees are the two witnesses of Revelation 11.
The meaning of the "lampstand" symbolism used in Revelations 11:4 is further confirmation of this identity. We only have to go back to the 1st chapter of Revelation to see what "lampstands" represent:
REVELATION 1:12 Then I turned to see the voice that spoke with me. And having turned I saw seven golden lampstands, 13 and in the midst of the seven lampstands one like the Son of Man, clothed with a garment down to the feet and girded about the chest with a golden band. . . . 20 "The mystery of the seven stars which you saw in my right hand, and the seven golden lampstands: The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands which you saw are the seven churches." (NKJV)
The lampstands here depict seven ekklesiai, the seven Asian churches listed in Revelation 1:11. The Greek noun ekklesia literally means "an assembly of called out ones." We can see that in the book of Revelation, a lampstand represents a called out group of people. The symbolism fits perfectly with the House of Judah and the House of Israel, who were at first called out of Egypt together to be God's people. At the end of this age, they will be called out once more to witness against the people of this earth when they forsake YHVH and worship the Antichrist.
The scriptural evidence is overwhelming that the two witnesses, who are symbolically called two olive trees and two lampstands, are in fact the House of Judah and the House of Israel. With this understanding, we can now clearly see the calling and sealing of these servants of God as it is described in Revelation 7:
REVELATION 7:1 After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth, that no wind might blow on earth or sea or against any tree. 2 Then I saw another angel ascending from the rising of the sun, with the seal of the living God, and he called with a loud voice to the four angels who had been given power to harm earth and sea, 3 saying, "Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees, until we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads." 4 And I heard the number of the sealed, 144,000, sealed from every tribe of the sons of Israel: 5 12,000 from the tribe of Judah were sealed, 12,000 from the tribe of Reuben, 12,000 from the tribe of Gad, 6 12,000 from the tribe of Asher, 12,000 from the tribe of Naphtali, 12,000 from the tribe of Manasseh, 7 12,000 from the tribe of Simeon, 12,000 from the tribe of Levi, 12,000 from the tribe of Issachar, 8 12,000 from the tribe of Zebulun, 12,000 from the tribe of Joseph, 12,000 from the tribe of Benjamin were sealed. (ESV)
The 144,000 sealed from the tribes of Israel have long been a mystery. But now the purpose and mission of these witnesses can be understood. These 144,000 servants will form the two witnesses YHVH uses in the end-time to show the world that He is the one true God. These witnesses can be divided into two groups:
The House of Judah
The House of Israel
The tribe of Joseph has a double portion among the tribes (with Manasseh replacing the missing tribe of Dan), as his father Israel promised (Gen. 48:22). Why is the tribe of Dan omitted from the twelve tribes sealed in Revelation 7?
In Genesis 49, Israel gives deathbed prophecies to all his sons regarding their fate in the "last days" (Gen. 49:1). The prophecy for the tribe of Dan explains the reason why he is not included as part of the two witnesses:
GENESIS 49:16 "Dan shall judge his people as one of the tribes of Israel." (NKJV)
Since one cannot be both a witness and a judge in a matter, the tribe of Dan was chosen by God to be the judge in this end-time situation. He is prophesied to be the judge of those among the offspring of Israel that forsake the true God and follow the beast (Antichrist). However, the nature of Dan's judgment is not detailed.
The prophet Joel speaks of the sanctifying of the servants of God in the end times:
JOEL 2:28 "And it shall come to pass afterward that I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions. 29 And also on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days. 30 And I will show wonders in the heavens and in the earth: Blood and fire and pillars of smoke. 31 The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the coming of the great and awesome day of the LORD. 32 And it shall come to pass that whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved. For in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be deliverance, as the LORD has said, among the remnant whom the LORD calls." (NKJV)
Peter used this very passage of Scripture to explain the miracle which occurred on Pentecost in Acts 2. But there remains an ultimate fulfillment of this prophecy which will occur during the unfolding of the events recorded in Revelation (compare Joel 2:30-31 with Rev. 6:12, 8:12).
The future sealing of the 144,000 will most likely occur on an upcoming Shavu'ot (also known as "Pentecost"). The Jews associate trumpets with three of God's commanded Feast Days:
When will the "first trumpet" of Revelation be sounded? At the time shown in Revelation 8:7, which chronologically is a very short time after the 144,000 are sealed in Revelation 7:4-8. The Spirit of God fell upon the 120 (Acts 1:15) after "the day of Pentecost had fully come" (Acts 2:1). In like manner, the first trumpet of Revelation will be blown after the 144,000 (120 x 12 x 100) have been sealed, when this future Pentecost has "fully come."
Now let’s look more closely at what these "two witnesses" will be doing during their 1,260 days of testimony (Rev. 11:3). We are given two glimpses into their future activities by events that occurred during the ministry of Messiah Yeshua nearly 2,000 years ago:
LUKE 9:1 Then he called his twelve disciples together and gave them power and authority over all demons, and to cure diseases. 2 He sent them to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick. 3 And he said to them, "Take nothing for the journey, neither staffs nor bag nor bread nor money; and do not have two tunics apiece. 4 Whatever house you enter, stay there, and from there depart. 5 And whoever will not receive you, when you go out of that city, shake off the very dust from your feet as a testimony against them." (NKJV)
The commission to the 12 disciples to go out and preach the kingdom of God to “the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matt. 10:6) was the first antetype of the sending out of the 144,000 at the end of the age. Yeshua’s instructions and warnings regarding what the disciples were to expect during their mission is found in Matthew’s parallel account of this event:
MATTHEW 10:16 "Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves. 17 But beware of men, for they will deliver you up to councils and scourge you in their synagogues. 18 You will be brought before governors and kings for my sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles. 19 But when they deliver you up, do not worry about how or what you should speak. For it will be given to you in that hour what you should speak; 20 for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you. 21 Now brother will deliver up brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death. 22 And you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved. 23 When they persecute you in this city, flee to another. For assuredly, I say to you, you will not have gone through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes. 24 A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. 25 It is enough for a disciple that he be like his teacher, and a servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more will they call those of his household! 26 Therefore do not fear them. For there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, and hidden that will not be known." (NKJV)
Yeshua told the original 12 disciples what would happen to them during their preaching of the gospel of the kingdom of God. Yet his words also apply to what the 144,000 should expect as they go out into the world to preach the age-ending coming of the kingdom.
Yeshua’s comment that "he who endures to the end will be saved" (Matt. 10:22) is evidence that these words also pertain to the witnesses at the end of the age. This same statement was repeated by Yeshua just before his crucifixion. In response to the question his disciples posed regarding “the sign of his coming and of the end of the age” (Matt. 24:3), Yeshua said:
MATTHEW 24:9 "Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. 10 And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another. 11 Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. 12 And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. 13 But he who endures to the end shall be saved. 14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come." (NKJV)
Clearly the Messiah was not speaking solely to the 12 disciples here. They did not take the gospel of the kingdom into all nations as a witness, and the end of the age and his return did not come during their days. Therefore, we know that these words were also intended for a later group of witnesses.
Luke’s account shows that a second antetypical group was sent forth after the original 12, with similar instructions:
LUKE 10:1 After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them on ahead of him, two by two, into every town and place where he himself was about to go. 2 And he said to them, "The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. 3 Go your way; behold, I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves. 4 Carry no moneybag, no knapsack, no sandals, and greet no one on the road. 5 Whatever house you enter, first say, 'Peace be to this house!' 6 And if a son of peace is there, your peace will rest upon him. But if not, it will return to you. 7 And remain in the same house, eating and drinking what they provide, for the laborer deserves his wages. Do not go from house to house. 8 Whenever you enter a town and they receive you, eat what is set before you. 9 Heal the sick in it and say to them, 'The kingdom of God has come near to you.' 10 But whenever you enter a town and they do not receive you, go into its streets and say, 11 'Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet we wipe off against you. Nevertheless know this, that the kingdom of God has come near.' " (ESV)
The "72" disciples mentioned in Luke 10:1 above is said to be "70" in some other ancient manuscripts. The reason for this discrepancy is unknown, but the difference is not confined to specific manuscript groupings. Both Alexandrian and Western Greek manuscripts have examples of "72," as do some Syriac manuscripts. In The Gospel of Luke: A Commentary on the Greek Text, I. Howard Marshall states that manuscript "evidence in favour of 72 is the stronger" (p. 415).
Just as the number "12" is linked to "144,000" (12 x 12,000 = 144,000), the number "72" is also related to the number "144,000" in an interesting way:
72 x 2,000 = 144,000
About 2,000 years ago, Yeshua dispatched the 72 disciples "two by two" on their mission to prepare for the first harvest by preaching the gospel of the kingdom. Soon, the 144,000 from the two houses of Israel will once again be sent out "two by two." Each pair of these witnesses will travel throughout the cities of the world to proclaim that the kingdom of God is coming soon in its fullness.
LUKE 10:17 The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, "Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!" 18 And he said to them, "I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. 19 Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. 20 Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven." (ESV)
The 72 disciples were given power over the demons in the days of Yeshua’s ministry. In like manner, the 144,000 will also have such authority over “serpents and scorpions,” the demonic horde released from the Abyss (Rev. 9:1-11).
Now let's look at the fate of these two (144,000) witnesses, as revealed by John's vision:
REVELATION 11:7 When they have finished their testimony, the beast that comes up out of the Abyss will make war with them, and overcome them and kill them. 8 And their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city which mystically is called Sodom and Egypt, where also their Lord was crucified. (NASU)
After the witnesses have finished their testimony before all the nations, YHVH will allow the Antichrist who had previously come up out of the Abyss (Rev. 9:11) to make war against them and kill them. For additional information on this Beast and his activities in the end-time, see my article "Who Is The 'Destroyer'?"
For many people (formerly including myself), the end of verse 8 clearly establishes Jerusalem as the place where the witnesses will die. It's commonly understood that Yeshua was crucified in Jerusalem. However, John's very next use of the phrase "the GREAT CITY" in Revelation 14:8 shows that this is a reference to Babylon the Great, not the earthly Jerusalem.
The "great city" of Revelation 11:8 where our Lord was crucified is Satan's Babylonian system. Babylon the Great is called a CITY because it is patterned after the original city of Babel (Gen. 11:1-5). This Babel (i.e., Babylon) was the first successful attempt at GLOBAL government on the earth. Virtually all of mankind was gathered together in this one city under the rule of Nimrod, the original type of the Antichrist. The famous Tower in the original city of Babel evidenced the rebellion of mankind against God; this rebellion will be replicated at the end of the age.
The Babel system of Satan is prophesied to rise up and rule over God's people seven times before it is finally destroyed at the end of this age by the coming of the Messiah. At the time John saw his vision of that system (Rev. 17:1-11), five of the Babel-patterned kingdoms had already arisen and fallen. These five were: (1) Egypt, (2) Assyria, (3) Nebuchadnezzar's Babylon, (4) Medo-Persia, and (5) Greece. The one that was then "alive" was (6) Rome. Then comes the final one, (7) the end-time Babylon the Great, which in John's day was still far in the future.
When John spoke of the "great city" where the Lord was crucified, he was speaking of Satan's Babylonian system "Beast," NOT the physical city of Jerusalem. Rome was part of that Beast, the 6th incarnation of the "great city Babel" that existed in John's day. It was within the Roman Empire that Messiah Yeshua was crucified. Indeed, without the Roman involvement, Messiah would NOT have been crucified, since crucifixion was a uniquely Roman form of capital punishment.
The phrase "make war against them" implies that action against the two witnesses is much more involved than just having two men killed. The Greek word used for "witnesses" in this passage is martusin; the English word "martyr" is derived from the singular form of this Greek word. At the end of their testimony, all 144,000 witnesses will be martyred for God:
REVELATION 11:9 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. 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. (NKJV)
Such will be the hatred of the Antichrist-worshiping masses for these 144,000 witnesses that their bodies will be left to rot in the streets of cities all over the world after they are beheaded by the forces of the Beast. The world will be so glad to see these two groups of witnesses slain that they will declare a global holiday and rejoice over their deaths. But their defeat is not the end of the story:
REVELATION 11:11 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. 12 And they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, "Come up here." And they ascended to heaven in a cloud, and their enemies saw them. 13 In the same hour there was a great earthquake, and a tenth of the city fell. In the earthquake seven thousand people were killed, and the rest were afraid and gave glory to the God of heaven. (NKJV)
Three-and-a-half days after the Beast is allowed to slay the witnesses of the House of Judah and the House of Israel (a day for every year they prophesied in the cities of the world), Yeshua the Messiah is going to raise them from the dead in the sight of all their enemies. This event will cause the Antichrist to lose a 10th of his kingdom and bring to a close the 6th trumpet (also called "the 2nd woe"-Rev. 11:14), setting the stage for the end of the age at the 7th trumpet (Rev. 11:15-18).
After the Messiah establishes his kingdom and begins to rule from Jerusalem, these witnesses shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years (Rev. 20:4-6). This is the reward of those from the House of Judah and the House of Israel who are called to be the witnesses of YHVH at the end of the age. Amen!
Bryan T. Huie
July 22, 2000