The Two Witnesses ~ The Two Strongest Heroes
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The Two Strongest Heroes
“And I will give power to my Two Witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth.” Revelation 11:3
Some commentators believe that John did not “see” the Two Witnesses. They were, they say, only described to him by the angel. Although this monologue is considered to be “extraordinary and special”, the Two Witnesses were never actually “seen” by the prophet. This seems to me to be an unnecessary limiting of the Prophetic infusion. As the angel continues to speak his voice blends imperceptibly into the narrative of the vision. Where the Temple had previously stood two human figures emerge, and one of the most amazing scenes in the entire Apocalypse begins to unfold.
Two Witnesses, characters with whom John is already obviously familiar, dressed in sackcloth, the garb of the Judgment Prophets, are sent to speak to the entire world. They are, at first, invincible, and deliver their terrible prophecies of Divine Judgment unhindered. But as this tragic and mysterious drama continues, they are confronted by the evil Beast of the Abyss, who slays them. “In the hour of profoundest need, the King summons his two strongest heroes to fight for him, and lo, both fall in battle.” But the Two Witnesses somehow miraculously live again, and are transported into space before the eyes of their amazed enemies.
The vision before us is a solemn one, and its correct interpretation is vital to all that is to follow. In the opinion of E.W. Bullinger, “It is the test of all interpretations, and one over which many make shipwreck.” This passage, like the “measuring” in verse one, contains an unusual grammatical construction. There is an ellipsis of the object to the verb, and what is given is not stated. Most translators take the object to be the power with which these Prophets are endowed. A few, such as R. C. H. Lenski, believe the sense is not one of enabling the Witnesses, but rather the giving or supplying of the Two Witnesses themselves. It seems likely that the thrust of the passage includes both meanings, the infusion of these prophets with power, and the “giving” of them to the earth for a season.
This interpretation leads us to three conclusions. The first is that the Two Witnesses are the forerunners of the Second Advent just as John, the Baptizer, was of the first, and that they shall suffer the same fate as John. The second is that they are concrete rather than abstract symbols. This is an intensely human drama, and requires the participation of real, human personages to give it meaning. There can be no doubt that John conceived them as actual persons, and this has been the belief of the Church since the earliest times. Hippolytus believed that during the final 1,260 days two men would proclaim that the long prophesied Antichrist had, arrived at last, and then expose him as such.
“They will work signs and wonders with the object of making men ashamed and repentant on account of their surpassing lawlessness and impiety.”
The final, and perhaps most important conclusion, concerns the source of their unusual power. As we shall see, these powers are supernatural and omnipotent.
“This is the word of the Lord unto Zerubabel, saying, not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord of Hosts.” Revelation 11:10
Before we attempt to identify these marvelous Witnesses we need to answer one final question, “Why are two, and only two, witnesses sent?” Why not one, or four, or fifty? Three suggestions have been offered that merit our consideration.
It takes two witnesses to establish competent legal testimony
Under the Mosaic Law two witnesses were required to convict anyone of a crime.
“One witness shall not rise up against a man for any iniquity….at the mouth of two witnesses…. shall the matter be established.” Revelation 11:13
More importantly, two witnesses were required before a person could be put to death.
“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.” Luke 24:4f
These two witnesses are sent to legally testify against the Antichrist and the world system he controls, and in so doing, to condemn both him, and those who follow him, to death.
When the Twelve Disciples were first commissioned they were sent forth “two by two.”
“He summoned the twelve, and began to send them out in two’s, giving them power over evil spirits.” Acts 1:10
Jesus later sent the seventy disciples out by two’s, and the great missionary movement described in the Acts of the Apostles was based upon this practice. Actually, the principle has always been associated with the sending forth of the truth. Moses and Aaron, Joshua and Caleb, Zerubabel and Joshua, Peter and John, Paul and Barnabas, are all illustrations of this principle. It is no wonder, then, that the God of Heaven will send Two Witnesses in the very last days.
The number two, in itself, has a symbolic meaning that is consistent with the mission of these Two Witnesses
According to Anthony West the number two “expresses fundamental opposition, fundamental contrariety of nature: polarization.” Inherent in the word are the concepts of difference, enmity, oppression, division, separation, and duality. These concepts, in turn, lead to reactive principles such as positive/negative, passive/active, initiating/resisting, affirming/denying, male/female, yes/no, and true/false. In the mythology of the world, be it Egyptian, Chinese, or Nordic, evil and misfortune are associated with duality. The same meaning is implied in the fact that there are exactly two witnesses sent to withstand Antichrist in the final 1,260 days. For their message of impending Judgment will divide the peoples of the earth into two irreconcilables, fundamentally opposed groups, the peoples of the nations who gloat over their mutilated carcasses, and the Remnant, who “give glory to the God of Heaven.”