What mission will the two witnesses fulfill during the tribulation?
REVELATION 6, CONTINUED
Let’s turn to Revelation Chapter 11. And here is where you can pick up a time frame if you will just take time to study it. You will find here in verse 3, where God says:
“And I will give power unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy (speak forth the Word. The word “prophesy” in Scripture can mean either one. To speak about the future or just speak forth the Word. They are His witnesses, and they are going to minister primarily to the Nation of Israel and the area of Jerusalem.) a thousand two hundred and threescore days, clothed in sackcloth.”
That is 3 1/2 years. We know that is not the last 3 1/2 years, because you see when you come to end of their ministry in verse 12.
“And they heard a great voice from heaven saying unto them, `Come up hither.’ And they ascended up to heaven…” And then in verse 13:
“And the same hour was there a great earthquake,…”
This is at the middle of the Tribulation and not the end. These two witnesses will minister the first 3 1/2 years. That is why I’ve come to Chapter 11 (the middle of the Tribulation), after Chapter 6 (the beginning of the Tribulation) because again we are going to come right back to an event at the beginning of the Tribulation. It is the appearance of the two witnesses. I’ll have to comment on who those two witnesses might be. We can’t be dogmatic because the Scripture doesn’t tell us. There’s nothing in this verse that says that it’s going to be so and so. But we can speculate. The one that I think is a little easier to decide on than the other, is Elijah. I think that it’s very possible that one of these two witnesses will be Elijah, because Elijah was taken up without having died. And there is a good reason for that. Let’s go to the Book of Malachi. It’s the last book of your Old Testament. Malachi Chapter 4 and verse 5:
“Behold (the prophet writes. God is speaking through the prophet), I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD:” That’s plain English. I know it was originally in Hebrew, but for us it’s in plain English. Before the great and terrible day of the Lord, Elijah will come.
“And he (that is, Elijah) shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.”
Alright, flip back if you will to Matthew Chapter 11. Again, we are in Jesus’ earthly ministry. Now in Chapter 11 he makes an unusual statement. Starting with verse 11. Jesus is speaking and he says:
“Verily I say unto you, `Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist: notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. And from the days of John the Baptist until now (and remember that this is during Christ’s earthly ministry) the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force.'”
“For all the prophets and the law prophesied (of the coming kingdom) until John. And (what’s the next word?) if (a little word like that is so easy to gloss over. but it’s loaded) ye will receive it,…”
Who is Jesus talking to? Jews. He’s talking to the Nation of Israel. If they would receive what? The King and the Kingdom. That’s what He’s offering. He’s their King and He’s ready to set up the Kingdom, if Israel would accept the King and the Kingdom at this point and time. Remember that it’s an offer. We know according to prophecy that it couldn’t have happened because Christ had to die. But nevertheless, it was still a valid offer. They had the opportunity to accept Him as their King. So read it in that light.
“And if ye will receive it (the Kingdom then), this is Elias,…”
Who is? John the Baptist. Think about that for a minute. Jesus is offering the Kingdom to the Nation of Israel in fulfillment of those Old Testament Covenants. The Abrahamic and all the rest of them. The Old Testament said, “that before the return of Christ or the setting up of the kingdom, Elijah had to come.” But Jesus said, “If you accept the kingdom now, then what? John is the prophesied Elijah.” That’s hard for us to comprehend, but that’s what He’s saying. But since Israel did not accept the King, and did not accept the Kingdom, what has to happen? Elijah has to come. Come back to Revelation Chapter 11. I have to feel that on the basis of those two scriptures, one of these two witnesses will quite likely be the Old Testament Elijah brought back on the scene. He was also at the Mount of Transfiguration. Back to Revelation 11:4:
“These (the two witnesses) are the two olive trees, and the two candlesticks standing before the God of the earth.”
In other words, they are God’s messengers for that time. The candlestick refers to the light that a candlestick gives forth. In the midst of the Tribulation darkness and wickedness and iniquity, in the great cataclysmic events that are taking place, these two men will still be like a spiritual lighthouse. Now verse 5:
“And if any man will hurt them (or try to), fire proceedeth out of their mouth, and devoureth their enemies (they’re going to have a special power for their protection as they proclaim the Word of God): and if any man will hurt them, he must in this manner be killed.”
In other words, these two witnesses are going to have that kind of power. And then in verse 6, is another reason why so many people feel that one of these witnesses is going to be Elijah, because he’s going to do the same thing that he did in his Old Testament experiences.
“These have power to shut heaven, that it rain not in the days of their prophecy (or their speaking. Remember Elijah stopped the rain for three years back in the Old Testament.); and have power over waters to turn them to blood, and to smite the earth with all plagues, as often as they will.” Now that kind of language gives us an idea that it could be Moses. See? Now I never get dogmatic about this. Others say it has to be Enoch, because Enoch didn’t die either. This isn’t all that basic to our doctrine. All we have to do is believe that our Sovereign God is in control, and is going to bring these two men to the city of Jerusalem at the very onset of the seven years of Tribulation. Now verse 7:
“And when they shall have finished their testimony (their 3 1/2 years), the beast that ascendeth out of the bottomless pit (I think the beast could either be the Roman Empire which is now the E.C. and is now back on the scene. Or the beast here could be in reference to the Anti-christ himself. I throw this out to get you to study. I remember years ago as our class was dismissed, a lady walked out the door and she had just been a visitor. She had come from another part of the country. And she said, “Well, I don’t know that I agree with you, but I’ll give you credit for one thing. I have already promised myself that starting tomorrow I’m going to study my Bible.” And that is the only reason I teach. Then verse 7 winds up with this government that I think will be the Anti-christ or the revived Roman Empire) shall make war against them (They will try to destroy these two men. And they are going to succeed), and shall overcome them, and kill them.” So these two men will be put to death.
“And their dead bodies shall lie in the street of the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified.”
So that was what city? Jerusalem. So they are going to be killed and left to rot on the streets of Jerusalem. Just because of their mortal hatred for these two men. Verse 9:
“And they of the people and kindreds and tongues and nations shall see their dead bodies three days and an half, and shall not suffer their dead bodies to be put in graves.” They will just lie out in the hot sun for 3 1/2 days.
“And they that dwell upon the earth (not just Israel, but the whole earth, from one end to the other) shall rejoice over them, and make merry, and shall send gifts one to another; because these two prophets tormented them that dwelt on the earth.”
Well, how did they torment them? By simply pointing out their wickedness, and their iniquity. And the righteous judgment of God which is already to a certain degree upon them. And the world is going to hate them. But the amazing thing is that verse 11 says something that 50 or 60 years ago was almost hard to swallow, and the average Bible believers had problems with this. All you could say was that God in His wisdom knows how He is going to do it. And now you see it is so common. What is it?
“And after three days and an half the Spirit of life from God entered into them (God brings them back to life), and they stood upon their feet; and great fear fell upon them which saw them.”
Who saw them? The whole world. How do they see them? Television. We do that everyday. It is very common now to see a news broadcast from the other side of the earth. I can remember when I was a kid, I would hear a preacher preach on this, and I can still hear mom and dad talk about, how that was going to be possible. How can the people of the world see two dead people lying on the streets of Jerusalem. Now, we just take that for granted. It will probably be on the 5:30 national news. And the whole world will see these two witnesses suddenly ascend.
“And they heard a great voice from heaven saying unto them, `Come up hither.’ And they ascended up to heaven in a cloud; and their enemies beheld them.”
Right in view of the cameras up they go, and this is going to shake people up. But remember this will be the time of the supernatural and God isn’t going to hide it. And when these two witnesses who have been put to death, are suddenly made alive, and ascend right out of the midst of Jerusalem, the whole world will witness it. Now these are Tribulation days. The days of Supernatural. Alright let’s go on to verse 13:
“And the same hour (remember this is the mid-point of the Tribulation) was there a great earthquake,…” You have to remember that Jerusalem and especially the valley of the Jordan, and the Dead Sea, and the Sea of Galilee, are sitting right on a tremendous fault line. It’s historical. In fact, that’s probably why the Dead Sea is so deep and why it is so far below sea level (approximately 12-1400 feet below sea level). Because at times the fault has literally dropped the surface of the earth in that area. Remember the whole Jordan valley is below sea level. Even the Sea of Galilee is 600 feet below sea level. So when the Bible speaks of great earthquakes in that part of the world it is not unusual.
So we know we are at the mid-point of the Tribulation. Remember I told you rather than go verse by verse chronologically, take Revelation by events. The beginning (the appearance of the Anti-christ and these two witnesses), and at the mid-point we have the end of these two witnesses and have a great earthquake. We studied earlier how the Anti-christ will come in and desecrate and defile the Temple at the mid-point. We will try to look at that in our next lesson. But for now let’s look at Revelation Chapter 7. And here again is a portion of Scripture that has been so completely perverted that we have a lot of confusion and it doesn’t have to be. It is so plain. Now since these two witnesses are beginning to proclaim Godly things, and I think again just like Jesus said, they are going to be proclaiming the King and the Kingdom is coming. Out of their preaching, almost immediately, they will have a response of their prophesying or speaking, by the 144,000 young Jewish men that we find in Chapter 7. Now let’s read it:
“And after these things I saw four angels standing on the four corners of the earth (remember this is supernatural experiences in a supernatural time), holding the four winds of the earth, that the wind should not blow on the earth, nor on the sea, nor on any tree.”
“And I saw another angel ascending from the east, having the seal of the living God: and he cried with a loud voice to the four angels, to whom it was given to hurt (or judgment on) the earth and the sea, Saying, `Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads.'”
Now isn’t that easy to understand? These servants, I feel, have been listening to the two witnesses and so they are responding. Now look who they are in verse 4:
“And I heard the number of them which were sealed (or designated or commissioned): and there were sealed an hundred and forty and four thousand (now watch where they come from) of all the tribes of the children of Israel.”
So that there are no mistakes, He names them in verse 5-8 except for one. And that question comes up often. Why aren’t Dan and Ephraim mentioned in these 12 tribes? Remember, they moved up into the northern part of Israel, and what were the tribes guilty of? They were the first ones to go into idolatry. And, consequently, they are left out of these 12 tribes. So we have 12,000 from each of the other 12 tribes all sealed and they are given a particular mission.