Revelation 11:3-12 Two Witnesses
Posted by adventbiblestudy on October 3, 2013
Revelation 11:3-12 NLTse (3) And I will give power to my two witnesses, and they will be clothed in burlap and will prophesy during those 1,260 days.” (4) These two prophets are the two olive trees and the two lamp stands that stand before the Lord of all the earth. (5) If anyone tries to harm them, fire flashes from their mouths and consumes their enemies. This is how anyone who tries to harm them must die. (6) They have power to shut the sky so that no rain will fall for as long as they prophesy. And they have the power to turn the rivers and oceans into blood, and to strike the earth with every kind of plague as often as they wish. (7) When they complete their testimony, the beast that comes up out of the bottomless pit will declare war against them, and he will conquer them and kill them. (8) And their bodies will lie in the main street of Jerusalem, the city that is figuratively called “Sodom” and “Egypt,” the city where their Lord was crucified. (9) And for three and a half days, all peoples, tribes, languages, and nations will stare at their bodies. No one will be allowed to bury them. (10) All the people who belong to this world will gloat over them and give presents to each other to celebrate the death of the two prophets who had tormented them. (11) But after three and a half days, God breathed life into them, and they stood up! Terror struck all who were staring at them. (12) Then a loud voice from heaven called to the two prophets, “Come up here!” And they rose to heaven in a cloud as their enemies watched.
God is very consistent. He always gives the answer before He asks a question. Its a habit all good teachers have. If we keep this in mind, we know we have to let the Bible and God’s Spirit lead us to answers. As usual, God’s Spirit always confirms His word. God never needed anyone – or the world to confirm His Word. Evidence comes from the fact, God provided the answer long before anyone in this world understood the question.
Once we highlight texts, which shows words that are the same, similar, or related, we can see the main thought in the passage. Here the words witness and prophet are emphasized. Why does God repeat certain words? To draw our attention. The obvious question is, who are the two witnesses? The texts shows they will prophesy. They are prophets. God’s telling us where to look. God also emphasized the point there are two of them.
This texts also tells us five things the prophets will do.
- If anyone tries to harm them, fire flashes from their mouths and consumes their enemies.
- They have power to shut the sky so that no rain will fall for as long as they prophesy.
- They have the power to turn the rivers and oceans into blood
- Strike the earth with every kind of plague as often as they wish.
- Rose to heaven in a cloud as their enemies watched.Here we will show one prophet who accomplished three of these tasks. The words that lead us to the texts are obvious.
If anyone tries to harm them, fire flashes from their mouths and consumes their enemies.
2 Kings 1:10-14 NLTse But Elijah replied to the captain, “If I am a man of God, let fire come down from heaven and destroy you and your fifty men!” Then fire fell from heaven and killed them all. (11) So the king sent another captain with fifty men. The captain said to him, “Man of God, the king demands that you come down at once.” (12) Elijah replied, “If I am a man of God, let fire come down from heaven and destroy you and your fifty men!” And again the fire of God fell from heaven and killed them all. (13) Once more the king sent a third captain with fifty men. But this time the captain went up the hill and fell to his knees before Elijah. He pleaded with him, “O man of God, please spare my life and the lives of these, your fifty servants. (14) See how the fire from heaven came down and destroyed the first two groups. But now please spare my life!”
Its amazing how the first task is repeated four times in the text showing us which prophet the prophecy is pointing to. The next task is just as easy to find.
They have power to shut the sky so that no rain will fall for as long as they prophesy
1 Kings 17:1-7 NLTse Now Elijah, who was from Tishbe in Gilead, told King Ahab, “As surely as the LORD, the God of Israel, lives–the God I serve–there will be no dew or rain during the next few years until I give the word!” (2) Then the LORD said to Elijah, (3) “Go to the east and hide by Kerith Brook, near where it enters the Jordan River. (4) Drink from the brook and eat what the ravens bring you, for I have commanded them to bring you food.” (5) So Elijah did as the LORD told him and camped beside Kerith Brook, east of the Jordan. (6) The ravens brought him bread and meat each morning and evening, and he drank from the brook. (7) But after a while the brook dried up, for there was no rainfall anywhere in the land.
For some reason the event is only repeated twice in the text explaining the second task. There’s a reason for this. The first supporting text is so overwhelmed with the key task of fire coming down to consume Elijah’s enemies its easy to miss other details in the texts. Texts explaining the second task arranged the lack of water like book stands with a lesson in between. Its much easier to see how God wants us to know He has the ability to feed and protect when a plague is in effect. When we see this it tells us to look back at 2 Kings 1:10-14 to see what we missed. Now that we have two texts revealing one of the prophets, we can compare the texts for similarities. One is evident. In 2 Kings 1:10-14 the king sends men to arrest Elijah. In 1 Kings 17:1-7 Elijah flees from king Ahab. This answers the question of who will try to harm the two prophets. What do kings represent? Now that we know the prophecy in Revelation 11:3-12 points bask to Elijah as a symbol, the fifth task is easy to locate.
And they rose to heaven in a cloud as their enemies watched.
2 Kings 2:9-11 NLTse When they came to the other side, Elijah said to Elisha, “Tell me what I can do for you before I am taken away.” And Elisha replied, “Please let me inherit a double share of your spirit and become your successor.” (10) “You have asked a difficult thing,” Elijah replied. “If you see me when I am taken from you, then you will get your request. But if not, then you won’t.” (11) As they were walking along and talking, suddenly a chariot of fire appeared, drawn by horses of fire. It drove between the two men, separating them, and Elijah was carried by a whirlwind into heaven.
It seems strange how the first task leads to proof texts with the task repeated four times, the second task to texts repeating it only twice. The fifth lists the task only once. We realize, few people were seen taken up in Heaven. When we look at the details in 2 Kings 2:9-11 we see an important explanation for the prophecy in Revelation 11:3-12. Three proof texts identify Elijah as one of the prophets. The fifth task tells us Elijah’s role was passed onto Elisha in a double portion. Notice how Elisha’s request for a double share of Elijah’ spirit came with a condition. Elisha had to see Elijah go to Heaven. This indicates a condition for us to receive the same blessing. We have to understand one important rule about prophecy and symbols, which always points to a greater fulfillment. In this case, the prophecy in Revelation 11:3-12 points to other symbols in 1st and 2nd Kings. We know Elijah is not the fulfillment of the prophecy because Revelation 11:12 tells us, “they rose to heaven in a cloud as their enemies watched.” 2 Kings 2:9-11 tells us only Elisha saw Elijah go up to Heaven. This raises a question. Are these proof texts in context? How do we find out if they are in context? Following basic rules of contexts, we have to compare the introductions and summations of the chapters containing proof texts to the original chapter containing the prophecy. This is a very important rule of Bible study a vast majority of people miss. After comparing the introductions and summations we will understand why.
Revelation 11:1-3 NLTse (1) Then I was given a measuring stick, and I was told, “Go and measure the Temple of God and the altar, and count the number of worshipers. (2) But do not measure the outer courtyard, for it has been turned over to the nations. They will trample the holy city for 42 months. (3) And I will give power to my two witnesses, and they will be clothed in burlap and will prophesy during those 1,260 days.”
One of our proof texts is the introduction to 1 Kings chapter 17, which also has to be compared to the introduction for Revelation 11. In worldly terms this may sound strange. In human concepts it seems like an overwhelming amount of evidence to accumulate – but who is the Author? Don’t worry about it. God created his own evidence long before anyone had the idea to study the subject in question. If God can create every animal in one day – don’t you think He is capable of providing evidence for HIS prophecies? Don’t EVER underestimate God’s ability to give you evidence about HIS prophecies. When HE writes them – HE can prove them!
Taking a detailed look at the introductions to 1 Kings chapter 17, 2 Kings chapter 1, 2 Kings chapter 2, and comparing them to Revelation 11:1-3, God’s Spirit will reveal more than you expected. The key word in the introduction for Revelation 11 is, “measure.” John is told to, “Go and measure the Temple of God and the altar, and count the number of worshipers. But do not measure the outer courtyard, for it has been turned over to the nations. They will trample the holy city for 42 months.” Why is John measuring? This tells us to measure the introductions to the chapters we are using for proof texts. John is told not to, “measure the outer courtyard, for it has been turned over to the nations. They will trample the holy city for 42 months.” Why? Common sense will tell you – John has to pass through the outer court before he can measure the Temple of God and the altar. Looking deeper into the texts tells us to observe. Common sense will tell you — God built the Heavenly Sanctuary and knows all the measurements. Now look at what the angel told John about the courtyard. The nations will trample it, which is referred to as the holy city. Now that we have the proper mind set, we can begin to compare texts within context. We can now study the introduction to 2 Kings chapter 1 to find out why Elijah called fire down from Heaven.
2 Kings 1:1-8 NLTse After King Ahab’s death, the land of Moab rebelled against Israel. (2) One day Israel’s new king, Ahaziah, fell through the latticework of an upper room at his palace in Samaria and was seriously injured. So he sent messengers to the temple of Baal-zebub, the god of Ekron, to ask whether he wouldrecover. (3) But the angel of the LORD told Elijah, who was from Tishbe, “Go and confront the messengers of the king of Samaria and ask them, ‘Is there noGod in Israel? Why are you going to Baal-zebub, the god of Ekron, to ask whether the king will recover? (4) Now, therefore, this is what the LORD says: You will never leave the bed you are lying on; you will surely die.'” So Elijah went to deliver the message. (5) When the messengers returned to the king, he asked them, “Why have you returned so soon?” (6) They replied, “A man came up to us and told us to go back to the king and give him this message. ‘This is what the LORD says: Is there no God in Israel? Why are you sending men to Baal-zebub, the god of Ekron, to ask whether you will recover? Therefore, because you have done this, you will never leave the bed you are lying on; you will surely die.'” (7) “What sort of man was he?” the king demanded. “What did he look like?” (8) They replied, “He was a hairy man, and he wore a leather belt around his waist.” “Elijah from Tishbe!” the king exclaimed.
The key thought in the introduction to 2 Kings 1:10-14 tells us king Ahaziah will never leave his bed. Again we have to ask why. When we look into the summation of the previous chapter we see there has been a change of power in the story. Ahaziah son of Ahab began to rule over Israel in the seventeenth year of King Jehoshaphat’s reign in Judah. He reigned in Samaria two years. But he did what was evil in the LORD’s sight, following the example of his father and mother and the example of Jeroboam son of Nebat, who had led Israel to sin. He served Baal and worshiped him, provoking the anger of the LORD, the God of Israel, just as his father had done. (1 Kings 22:51-53 NLTse). A change of power also has a spiritual significance. In this example we’re shown Ahab’s son was just as evil as his father. Ahaziah was as much of an enemy to Elijah as his father. What are we supposed to observe in this introduction and how has God already measured it? We see Ahaziah trampled God’s people the same way his father did. We can see why Elijah called fire down to kill the solders Ahaziah sent. 2 Kings 1:1-8 also shows us Ahaziah went to Elijah as a last resort. There is no indication Ahaziah tried to go to God himself. Why? This shows how his religious leaders drew him away from God. Ahaziah had no personal relationship with God because his priests taught the king he had to go through them for an answer. This shows one of the pagan traditions adopted and practiced by a large number of Christians. Remember – like John we are to pass through and observe — NOT to measure. We’re shown how leaders will trample God’s people, but its not our job to measure them.
The introduction to 1 Kings 17, which is one of our proof texts, emphasizes the lack of rain and shows how seriously Elijah follows God. Elijah is a man of God. Elijah serves God, the God who lives. God gives instructions to Elijah. God feeds Elijah. That’s why Elijah is fleeing from king Ahab. We know why Elijah had to flee and why God caused a drought. The answer is confirmed in the summation of the previous chapter. But Ahab son of Omri did what was evil in the LORD’s sight, even more than any of the kings before him. And as though it were not enough to follow the example of Jeroboam, he married Jezebel, the daughter of King Ethbaal of the Sidonians, and he began to bow down in worship of Baal. First Ahab built a temple and an altar for Baal in Samaria. Then he set up an Asherah pole. He did more to provoke the anger of the LORD, the God of Israel, than any of the other kings of Israel before him. It was during his reign that Hiel, a man from Bethel, rebuilt Jericho. When he laid its foundations, it cost him the life of his oldest son, Abiram. And when he completed it and set up its gates, it cost him the life of his youngest son, Segub. This all happened according to the message from the LORD concerning Jericho spoken by Joshua son of Nun. (1 Kings 16:30-34 NLTse). We see how Ahab trampled on God’s holy city, his people. Remember God’s holy city is a spiritual symbol. That’s not the only thing God measured or John observed in the courtyard. We see a bright side to the prophecy when we look at the introduction to 2 Kings chapter 2.
2 Kings 2:1-6 NLTse When the LORD was about to take Elijah up to heaven in a whirlwind, Elijah and Elisha were traveling from Gilgal. (2) And Elijah said to Elisha, “Stay here, for the LORD has told me to go to Bethel.” But Elisha replied, “As surely as the LORD lives and you yourself live, I will never leave you!” So they went down together to Bethel. (3) The group of prophets from Bethel came to Elisha and asked him, “Did you know that the LORD is going to take your master away from you today?” “Of course I know,” Elisha answered. “But be quiet about it.” (4) Then Elijah said to Elisha, “Stay here, for the LORD has told me to go to Jericho.” But Elisha replied again, “As surely as the LORD lives and you yourself live, I will never leave you.” So they went on together to Jericho. (5) Then the group of prophets from Jericho came to Elisha and asked him, “Did you know that the LORD is going to take your master away from you today?” “Of course I know,” Elisha answered. “But be quiet about it.” (6) Then Elijah said to Elisha, “Stay here, for the LORD has told me to go to the Jordan River.” But again Elisha replied, “As surely as the LORD lives and you yourself live, I will never leave you.” So they went on together.
Remember the question is not what is measured – that is up to God – but what is observed. 2 Kings 2:1-6 contains a great amount of detail in contrast to the introductions to 2 Kings 1 and 1 Kings 17. Now its time to take a look at Elijah’s side of the story. Elijah is about to get taken up into Heaven. Instead of simply taking Elijah up, God send him on a journey. Elijah said to Elisha, “Stay here, for the LORD has told me to go to Bethel.” But Elisha replied, “As surely as the LORD lives and you yourself live, I will never leave you!” So they went down together to Bethel. The sequence and words are repeated when God sends Elijah to Jericho. Of course we pay close attention to the repeated words, in this case phrases. Elijah tells Elisha to stay where he is. Instead Elisha tells Elijah he will never leave him and they stay together. Of course these are spiritual symbols, but we do not want to get off track by trying to figure out what the symbols represent. Our first task is to study and learn about context. So we will follow the context and see where God’s Spirit leads rather than jumping around, following our on tuition. In both cases Elijah and Elisha meet a group of prophets. Both groups ask Elisha if he knows Elijah is going to Heaven. Both times Elisha answered, “Of course I know,” Elisha added, “But be quiet about it.” When following the basic rules of context the answer becomes obvious. Elijah is a symbol of people going to Heaven. The prophets and Elijah know when. If you follow God, shouldn’t you know when? Notice the timing. Elijah, Elisha, and the prophets knew, when the LORD was about to take Elijah up to heaven in a whirlwind. There was not a whole lot of advance warning, but God made sure his prophets knew. To find out what God wants us to know about the two prophets in Revelation 11, we have to compare the summation of Revelation 11 to the summations containing the proof texts we are using to be certain we are studying within context.
Revelation 11:18-19 NLTse (18) The nations were filled with wrath, but now the time of your wrath has come. It is time to judge the dead and reward your servants the prophets, as well as your holy people, and all who fear your name, from the least to the greatest. It is time to destroy all who have caused destruction on the earth.” (19) Then, in heaven, the Temple of God was opened and the Ark of his covenant could be seen inside the Temple. Lightning flashed, thunder crashed and roared, and there was an earthquake and a terrible hailstorm.
Looking at the summation for the texts we are studying in Revelation 11, we find a lot of information. One of the main details points to a time when, “the nationswere filled with wrath.” and it , “is time to judge the dead and reward your servants the prophets. It is time to destroy all who have caused destruction on the earth.” This is the time prophets should see and understand, just like the prophets knew Elijah was going to Heaven. Now we look at the summations from the chapters we located proof texts to see what details they add.
2 Kings 1:15-18 NLTse Then the angel of the LORD said to Elijah, “Go down with him, and don’t be afraid of him.” So Elijah got up and went with him to the king. (16) And Elijah said to the king, “This is what the LORD says: Why did you send messengers to Baal-zebub, the god of Ekron, to ask whether you will recover? Is there no God in Israel to answer your question? Therefore, because you have done this, you will never leave the bed you are lying on; you will surely die.” (17) So Ahaziah died, just as the LORD had promised through Elijah. Since Ahaziah did not have a son to succeed him, his brother Joram became the next king. This took place in the second year of the reign of Jehoram son of Jehoshaphat, king of Judah. (18) The rest of the events in Ahaziah’s reign are recorded in The Book of the History of the Kings of Israel.
It was time for Ahaziah to die. The summation for 2 Kings 1 repeated the same term, “you will never leave the bed you are lying on; you will surely die,” used in the introduction for the chapter. Of course this chapter shows who God will deal with and how He will deal with them. That’s why its God’s role to measure and not ours. Its God’s job to deal with them as He sees fit.
1 Kings 17:17-24 NLTse Some time later the woman’s son became sick. He grew worse and worse, and finally he died. (18) Then she said to Elijah, “O man ofGod, what have you done to me? Have you come here to point out my sins and kill my son?” (19) But Elijah replied, “Give me your son.” And he took the child’s body from her arms, carried him up the stairs to the room where he was staying, and laid the body on his bed. (20) Then Elijah cried out to the LORD, “O LORD my God, why have you brought tragedy to this widow who has opened her home to me, causing her son to die?” (21) And he stretched himself out over the child three times and cried out to the LORD, “O LORD my God, please let this child’s life return to him.” (22) The LORD heard Elijah’s prayer, and the life of the child returned, and he revived! (23) Then Elijah brought him down from the upper room and gave him to his mother. “Look!” he said. “Your son is alive!” (24) Then the woman told Elijah, “Now I know for sure that you are a man of God, and that the LORD truly speaks through you.”
1 Kings 17 began with a drought and ended with God bringing a widow’s son back to life. Comparing Ahaziah’s death to the boy’s resurrection within the context of Revelation 11’s context, the spiritual lesson is clear. At the proper time God will judge the world and reward His prophets, “as well as your holy people, and all who fear your name, from the least to the greatest.” Proper context will always reveal details when proper texts are compared.
2 Kings 2:23-25 NLTse Elisha left Jericho and went up to Bethel. As he was walking along the road, a group of boys from the town began mocking and making fun of him. “Go away, baldy!” they chanted. “Go away, baldy!” (24) Elisha turned around and looked at them, and he cursed them in the name of the LORD. Then two bears came out of the woods and mauled forty-two of them. (25) From there Elisha went to Mount Carmel and finally returned to Samaria.
God has a way of making unexpected connections between texts like the forty-two boys mauled in 2 Kings 2 summation. The study texts, Revelation 11:3-12, mentions 1,260 days which is also forty-two months, both mentioned in the introduction to Revelation 11. Looking at the summation of 2 Kings 2 we see the boys told Elisha to leave. Its easy to see how all of these chapters were meant to work together. The boys telling Elisha to go away point to the people and powers opposing God’s prophets in Revelation 11. Both chapters show us the penalty they face. All the chapters the tasks in Revelation 11:3-12 led us to support one another. Each adds information and details which provide a much clearer understanding. Tasks in Revelation 11 identified one of the prophets uncovered in this study. Now that you know how to conduct an Inductive study and remain within context, you can locate the other prophet on your own. You need the practice, and you need to use this study method before you will be able to explain it to others. Remember – the tasks led to a symbol which of course will have a much greater fulfillment. A study of Elijah will show how leaders opposed him and how God had to deal with them. In addition to withholding rain and calling fire down, God worked miracles through Elijah. A widow lived an extended time on a handful if flour and a few drops of oil. Her son was brought back to life. Elijah was taken up to Heaven and passed a double blessing onto Elisha. God’s prophets knew when Elijah was going to Heaven. All of these are symbols leading to a greater fulfillment. To close out Old Testament scripture, Malachi explains a portion of this fulfillment. “Look, I am sending you the prophet Elijah before the great and dreadful day of the LORD arrives. His preaching will turn the hearts of fathers to their children, and the hearts of children to their fathers. Otherwise I will come and strike the land with a curse.” (Malachi 4:5-6 NLTse).