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Olive Trees and Lampstands

There has long been great interest and controversy about God's end-time "Two Witnesses." Who are they? What are they? Are they around somewhere right now? What will be their purpose? What does The Bible actually say about those two end-time prophets of God who are symbolically referred to as "the two olive trees and the two lampstands which stand before the Lord of the earth"?

The Two Witnesses Using the Revised Standard Version (RSV), we read of them in Revelation 11:3-13:

"And I will grant My two witnesses power to prophesy for one thousand two hundred and sixty days, clothed in sackcloth."

"These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands which stand before The Lord of the earth. And if any one would harm them, fire pours out from their mouth and consumes their foes; if any one would harm them, thus he is doomed to be killed."

"They have power to shut the sky, that no rain may fall during the days of their prophesying, and they have power over the waters to turn them into blood, and to smite the earth with every plague, as often as they desire."

"And when they have finished their testimony, the beast that ascends from the bottomless pit will make war upon them and conquer them and kill them, and their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city which is allegorically called Sodom and Egypt, where their Lord was crucified. For three days and a half men from the peoples and tribes and tongues and nations gaze at their dead bodies and refuse to let them be placed in a tomb, and those who dwell on the earth will rejoice over them and make merry and exchange presents, because these two prophets had been a torment to those who dwell on the earth."

"But after the three and a half days a breath of life from God entered them, and they stood up on their feet, and great fear fell on those who saw them. Then they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, "Come up hither!" And in the sight of their foes they went up to heaven in a cloud. And at that hour there was a great earthquake, and a tenth of the city fell; seven thousand people were killed in the earthquake, and the rest were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven."

So, what do we know about God's two witnesses?

  • They will be God's two witnesses - God will select and empower them. They won't be volunteers or self-appointed (see Are The Two Witnesses Here Now?).

  • They will have great miraculous powers, that God will have given them for their time of service - as a sign of their authority, and for their own self defense.

  • Their ministry will last 1,260 days, nearly 3½ years - they will be around for a long time.

  • They will be clothed in "sackcloth" - they will present themselves in a humble manner, no expensive business suits. "Sackcloth" was a strong cotton or other basic utility fabric, which in our modern time could even mean denim - "Levis" would be ironic. Apart from the symbolic humility, such clothing would also be an obvious practical choice for the difficult conditions under which they will be living day to day.

  • Some people will attempt to injure them during their time of service, but the two witnesses will be given the use of miraculous powers, and will be authorized by God to use such deadly force in self defense. In effect, God decreed the death penalty, specifically by fire, to anyone who attempts to harm the two witnesses.

  • Since they will eventually be martyred, God's two witnesses will be two humans, not two angels.

  • They will have the God-given power to control the weather, and to inflict plagues on their enemies, at times of their own choosing.

  • At the end of their mission, God will withdraw His miraculous protection from His two witnesses, and Satan will have them killed in a fierce (miraculous) fire fight (see Down Without A Fight?). More proof that they will be two humans - angels cannot be killed.

  • God's two witnesses will be killed in Jerusalem and there their bodies will be left in the street.

  • For three and a half days their bodies will be seen by people in all countries around the world - an easy matter with modern television, and now the Internet. Out of contempt for them, or perhaps even out of fear because of the miraculous powers that they had before, their bodies will not be given burial.

  • They clearly will have been sent by God, and will speak what He sent them to say, but their message will be fiercely rejected - they will be hated by millions (see Butch and Sundance).

  • After three and a half days, they will be resurrected right on the street, and will ascend into the heavens.

Perhaps the most amazing fact about the two witnesses is, despite their clearly and without doubt being sent directly by God, their message, and they themselves, will not be well received. One can only imagine the reason for this being that the end-time world will have sunk so low into deception and depravity that anything good and true will be widely rejected by the overwhelming majority. True Christian people on the other hand will recognize them for who they are, and welcome both them and their message.

As for the identity of the two witnesses, we need not be too concerned about how to know who they are when the time comes. When they begin their very powerful ministry, they will be "headline news" every day, all around the world, for 3½ years - and as the Scriptures make very plain, those who don't want to get barbecued will do very well not to try to harm or interfere with them.

Fact Finder: What two humans during Bible History, who were also given various miraculous powers, including over plagues and the weather, were the Old Testament's version of the "two witnesses"?
Exodus 7:1-5
See also Moses, Aaron and The Ten Plagues

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