First, let us consider what the Lord spoke of the Two Witnesses, through the prophet Zechariah and the apostle John.
Zechariah 4:1-4 Now the angel who talked with me came back and wakened me, as a man who is wakened out of his sleep. 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. Two olive trees are by it, one at the right of the bowl and the other at its left." So I answered and spoke to the angel who talked with me, saying, "What are these, my lord?"
Zechariah 4:11-14 Then I answered and said to him, "What are these two olive trees--at the right of the lampstand and at its left?" 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?" Then he answered me and said, "Do you not know what these are?" And I said, "No, my lord." So he said, "These are the two anointed ones, who stand beside the Lord of the whole earth."
Revelation 11:3-4 “And I will give power to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy one thousand two hundred and sixty days, clothed in sackcloth." These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands standing before the God of the earth.
The Lord was telling the apostle John about His Two Witnesses. He said that they are the two olive trees, the two lampstands that “stand before the God of all the earth.” They are the same anointed ones that the prophet Zechariah saw in a vision, before the rebuilding of the 2nd temple. In the book of Zechariah, we see that oil flowed from them into the heavenly menorah.
At the time of Zechariah's vision, the Jews had been released from being in captivity in Babylon for 70 years. The Jews were in the process of returning to Jerusalem, but the city and temple were in much need of repair. A leader named Zerubabbel had laid the foundation for the temple, but the temple itself was yet to be rebuilt.
Zechariah 1:16 Therefore thus says the Lord: "I am returning to Jerusalem with mercy; My house shall be built in it," says the Lord of hosts, "And a surveyor's line shall be stretched out over Jerusalem."
Zechariah 2:1-2 Then I raised my eyes and looked, and behold, a man with a measuring line in his hand. So I said, "Where are you going?" And he said to me, "to measure Jerusalem, to see what is its width and what is its length."
Zechariah 4:8-10a Moreover the word of the Lord came to me, saying: "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. For who has despised the day of small things? For these seven rejoice to see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel.”
Historical consideration: The Jews were under terrible opposition. If one reads the book of Nehemiah, one will see that the people had to work with a weapon in one hand and a work tool in the other. There were many then, just as today, that did not want the Jews to succeed at anything and especially with the rebuilding of their temple. This is the same era and temple that the Lord was prophesying about to Zechariah. In this word of the Lord to Zechariah, God wanted Zerubbabel to know, that the temple would “not be built by might or power, but by His Spirit” and that before Zerubbabel, the mountain of opposition would become a plain. This is how it is when God ordains something. Just as the Jews were able to return to Israel in recent years and reclaim their land. And someday, despite all the opposition, they will have a temple again. The Lord Himself, stopped their ability to have one since 70 AD (through the Romans) and when the time is right, He will allow it to be rebuilt again.
In John’s lifetime, this 2nd temple that Zerubbabel laid the foundation for and did accomplish in building (which later became known as Herod’s Temple, from additions by a king of the same name) was utterly destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD. How would this relate to what John saw in Revelation?
Revelation 11:1-2 Then I was given a reed like a measuring rod. And the angel stood, saying, “Rise and measure the temple of God, the altar, and those who worship there. But leave out the court which is outside the temple, and do not measure it, for it has been given to the Gentiles.”
In both these sections of Scripture, we find measuring taking place in preparation of temples that were yet to be built. In Zechariah’s day, the tool for measuring was in the hand of Zerubbabel, the leader who would accomplish the building of the temple. In the book of Revelation, John was told in his vision, to measure part of a future temple, the inner portion but not the outer courts. He was told not to measure the outer court areas for they were to be given over to the Gentiles for 42 months (3 ½ years).
Here is an interesting side thought. Imagine, John the apostle, sometime near 90-100 AD was seeing into the future, a temple that will be built around 1900 years later (in our estimation), and he was told to go and measure part of it. This means he did not just see it, but went there. He was even told to count the people who were worshiping there. This is beyond time and space!
Why did the Lord show Zechariah “the two that stand beside the Lord” in his vision about the rebuilding of the 2nd temple? Why did the Lord take John, into the future and have him measure part of the 3rd temple just before revealing to John that He has Two Witnesses that will be coming too? For one thing, I believe the Lord was revealing to us, that the two olive trees/two lampstands of Zechariah and John are the same persons. In the “Most Holy Place” of the first temple built by Solomon, was the Ark of the Covenant, covered with a lid called the Mercy Seat, which had two golden angels mounted on each end of it. Is it possible that those two golden angels, represent the two olive trees or lampstands that stand “beside the Lord of the whole earth”?
They might also be the two greatest angels in all of heaven. They actually stand beside God. This is something that goes beyond what normal humans can do. Moses had a relationship with God like no one else, but was only permitted to see the Lord from behind as He passed by. People have seen the Son of God, that is for sure, but seeing and standing with Father God seems to be beyond our normal human capabilities. These two special anointed ones, actually stand beside God.
If the two great olive trees/lampstands are the same two angels that the ones on the Ark of the Covenant represent, one might possibly say that they guard God’s presence. The Ark was also considered the Ark of His Presence. The Ark was where the blood sacrifice was presented by the head priest once a year and kept in the innermost part of the temple and considered to be an extreme place of pure holiness. The priest literally came before God, as part of the process of atonement for the nation, in the Most Holy Place, and the presence of God, literally met him there.
A 3rd temple, built by sincere Jews, needs to be holy and according to the designs that God gave Moses. In the case of the Two Witnesses, the temple that is coming will be sincerely holy to the Jews but some of what will happen there will be an offense to the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, because He already paid for our sins with His own blood. There is certainly nothing wrong with offering non-blood sacrifices to the Lord, or offerings of praise in a true temple of God, but to kill animals in atonement for sins when Jesus, the Son of God and true Messiah, already paid for the sins of all, would be utterly wrong.
What if the Two Witnesses, these same two, who Jesus says are, “My two witnesses” proclaim the Gospel to the Jews at the temple, as part of their 1260 day ministry (42 months/3 ½ years) and it is quite disturbing to those who still refuse the truth of Jesus being the real Messiah?
We know the Two Witnesses prophesy for the first half of the 7 years, because the 2nd half is a time of judgment and wrath.
Revelation 11:3-4 “And I will give power to My two witnesses, and they will prophesy one thousand two hundred and sixty days, clothed in sackcloth." These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands standing before the God of the earth.
We know that at the beginning of the 7 years, the Antichrist is given authority, a white horse, a bow and told to go conquer (Revelation 6:2). Also, at the same time, the Two Witnesses will be accomplishing their term of ministry. Herein lies a huge clash of good and evil.
What is their assignment? The Two Witnesses of the Lord have the testimony of Jesus Christ and will see that the Gospel goes out to the whole earth and prophesy.
Let’s break this down a little. They are Lord's Two Witnesses with incredible God-given power. They witness and prophesy.
God established both the Jews and the Law (the Torah). As part of the law, the Lord required two honest, witnesses to be brought with any important charges against someone. In any case involving the death penalty, two witnesses were required. If a witness was found to be lying, they had to suffer the equivalent punishment of whoever they bore false testimony against.
Deuteronomy 17:6 At the mouth of two witnesses, or three witnesses, shall he that is worthy of death be put to death; but at the mouth of one witness he shall not be put to death.
Could it be that judgment is about to come on the earth and before it does, the Two Witnesses are part of that plan? The answer is yes. And God has two special witnesses that will stand for the truth.
The English word “witnesses,” used in the case of the Two Witnesses, comes from the Greek word, “marturions.” It is the same word that the Lord used when He called the disciples “witnesses” as recorded in the book of Acts.
Acts 1:7-8 And He said to them, "It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority. But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth."
To “give testimony” or “be a witness,” meant you would put your life on your word. These two “Witnesses” of the Lord in the book of Revelation, will not only “witness” as in “giving testimony of God”, but also will “prophesy” and eventually “do so unto death” becoming “martyrs.” Praise God, that after 3 ½ days, they will rise again!
John records that upon their deaths, the (worldly) people will "celebrate and make merry" all over the earth.
Revelation 11:9-10 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. 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.
So how is it, that they are "witnesses of the Lord" who prophesy, but will also “torment” the lost people on earth?
Revelation 11:5-6 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. 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.
They will have the power to defend themselves from enemies by devouring them with fire. They will have the power to call for a drought during their days of prophecy. They will have the power to turn water into blood and strike the earth with plagues.
This will be a battle of good and evil like never before. The wicked will desire to destroy God’s witnesses but will be unable to do so until their ministry is finished.
The Antichrist will be given power for 42 months over the earth. The Two Witnesses are also sent for 42 months to prophesy, spread the Gospel and stand for righteousness.
Revelation 14:6-7 Then I saw another angel flying in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach to those who dwell on the earth--to every nation, tribe, tongue, and people-- saying with a loud voice, "Fear God and give glory to Him, for the hour of His judgment has come; and worship Him who made heaven and earth, the sea and springs of water."
I believe this is a direct reference to "their testimony and prophecy.” After these two anointed ones are killed and upon their resurrection, those that rejected the Gospel they preached, will “fear God and give Him glory as the hour of His judgment will have come.” Every knee will bow in “worship to Him who made heaven and earth, the sea and springs of water.”
Revelation 13:3b-7 And all the world marveled and followed the beast. So they worshiped the dragon who gave authority to the beast; and they worshiped the beast, saying, "Who is like the beast? Who is able to make war with him?" And he was given a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies, and he was given authority to continue for forty-two months. Then he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme His name, His tabernacle, and those who dwell in heaven. It was granted to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them. And authority was given him over every tribe, tongue, and nation.
But the dragon, his beast and false prophet, will have no authority over the Two Witnesses of Jesus Christ and cannot touch them, "until" they will have “finished their testimony.”
Revelation 11:7 When they finish their testimony, the beast that ascends out of the bottomless pit will make war against them, overcome them, and kill them.
Their testimony is of Jesus Christ and the Gospel.
Mark 13:10 “And the Gospel must first be preached to all the nations.”
Matthew 24:14 “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.”
Just when Satan and his Antichrist think they have it all under control, the situation will completely change.
Revelation 11:11-12 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. 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.
This is also when the rapture happens! This will be near the middle of the 7 years. Not only will the Two Witnesses ascend, but the saints will too The Lord will separate/call out His sheep unto Himself and then send judgment and wrath upon the most blasphemous and wicked people that will have ever lived.
Here is a mystery and how it will unfold. "Wherever the body is, there the eagles will be gathered together." Please notice this sentence or phrase in the following sections of Scripture.
Luke 17:30-37 "Even so will it be in the day when the Son of Man is revealed. In that day, he who is on the housetop, and his goods are in the house, let him not come down to take them away. And likewise the one who is in the field, let him not turn back. Remember Lot's wife. Whoever seeks to save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it. I tell you, in that night there will be two men in one bed: the one will be taken and the other will be left. Two women will be grinding together: the one will be taken and the other left. Two men will be in the field: the one will be taken and the other left." And they answered and said to Him, "Where, Lord?" So He said to them, "Wherever the body is, there the eagles will be gathered together."
Matthew 24:27-31 "For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. For wherever the carcass is, there the eagles will be gathered together. Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.”
Notice what happens to the bodies of the Two Witnesses.
Revelation 11:8-12 And their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified. 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. 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. 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. 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.
Can you see the mystery becoming clear? Have you ever wondered about this verse?
“For wherever the carcass is, there the eagles will be gathered together.”
Many consider what the Lord said here to be very mysterious. Some Bible versions use the word “eagles” here and others use the word “vultures.” This comes from a long history of the Jews using the same word for both. While the New Testament is translated from Greek, the history of the eagle/vulture situation has still had an effect. It is obvious that the birds which feed on carrion are vultures. Where the Two Witnesses' dead remains will be, the vultures will be gathered.
The wicked ones will believe they are free from the Two Witnesses and that they have crushed the Christians, but their peace and joy will be short-lived. The false prophet will have the image of the beast set up and everyone will be ordered to worship it and take the mark of the beast.
1 Thessalonians 5:2-3 For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. For when they say, "Peace and safety!" then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape.
Praise the Lord! Just as when the Lord was on the cross, it looked "the worst" but, in reality, it was the opposite. Our Lord was not defeated at all. He was accomplishing what He had come to do! And so, it will be at this time.
Thank the Lord for these two olive trees that His oil flows from. Thank the Lord for these two anointed ones. We may not know much about them for now, but for all eternity, they will be remembered for their awesome 42 months of ministry.
But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief. You are all sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober. 1 Thessalonians 5:4-6
While we do believe in a mid tribulation rapture, we are not saying we know the day or the hour. The Lord makes it very clear that no one but the Father knows that. While we do believe it is at or near the middle of the last 7 years of this age, the Lord says that He has to cut the time short for the elect's sake in Matthew 24:22 and who knows the amount of time that will be?