Signs of the Times: The Two Witnesses of Revelation 11 Identified


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"Don't Pray For the Persecution to End...,"  (Charisma Magazine quoting Chinese crypto-Christians, April, 1998).

UNCLOAKING THE TWO WITNESSES by Jackson Snyder

(Rev 11:1-3)  {1} And there was given me a reed like unto a rod: and the angel stood, saying, Rise, and measure the temple of God, and the altar, and them that worship therein. ... {3} And I will give power unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days, clothed in sackcloth. {4} These are the two olive trees, and the two candlesticks standing before the God of the earth.
 
There has forever been a mystery surrounding the identities of these two witnesses.   Moses and Elijah?  Elijah and Enoch? Enoch and Moses?  But their identity is to be found for certain within the text of Revelation itself.  Let's investigate:
 
  (1) There are two witnesses  because there must be two in order to bear lawful testimony (Deu 19:15).
  (2) They are olive trees, for though they die, they live forever like the olive.  (The olive is fondly known as the ‘resurrection tree’ because they can’t easily be killed.)
  (3) They are candlesticks, which are "churches," according to Rev 1:20.
  (4) They are mentioned in context with the temple of God and its worshipers.
 
So the two witnesses signify are two "churches" (assemblies) or specific groups of worshipers;  though divided by emphasis, united by purpose, and specifically named five times in Revelation, as in this passage:
 
(Rev 14:12)  Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.
 
The first lampstand / olive tree is comprised of those who keep the comandments of God:

(Rev 7:4)  And I heard the number of them which were sealed (sphragizo, "stamped"): and there were sealed an hundred and forty and four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel.
 
Designating a large but finite number of Messianic Jews sealed by God.  (Symbolically, 12 x 12 x 1000.)
 
The second lampstand / olive tree is comprised of those who hold the testimony of Jesus,
 
(Rev 7:9-10)  After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands; {10} And cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb.
 
designating a great number of those who have been washed in the blood of Yahshua unto salvation.  
 
These are the two great end-time witnesses, our-time witnesses: those who keep the commandments and those who bear the testimony of Jesus.  Both assemblies demonstrate the stipes of their witness in their bodies as well as their spirits.
 
THE MARTYRDOM OF THE GENTILES
 
The two witnesses are spoken of again in a metaphoric way in the following passage:
 
(Rev 12:17)  And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.
 
The woman here is "true faith; true Wisdom; true Israel."  Here those who keep the commandments of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ are called the remnant of the her seed, with whom the devil is at war.  Only those of her remnant who overcome will be rewarded greatly, for
 
(Rev 2:7b)  To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.
 
So the two witnesses not only keep the commandments of God and bear the testimony of Jesus, but they also are overcomers through tribulation.
 
First let's consider the tribulation (or trial) of the Multitude of Gentile witnesses.  But we know a lot about that, don't we?  Take for instance the story of William Tyndale, which every thinking Christian has surely already heard:
 
500 years ago....  William Tyndale's vision was that all English people should have the Scriptures in their own language. The church outlawed that possibility, but Tyndale undertook to see that it was accomplished.  That put his life in grave danger. Tyndale was eventually arrested, "tried," and sentenced to death. After 15 months in prison, he was strangled and burned at the stake at age 42.  Less than a year later, his persecutor, King Henry VIII, gave his approval to an English Bible that was, unknown to him, Tyndale's own work. And today many of us carry at least 70% of the same Bible that was forged by the blood of this dear martyr.  But we already knew that story.  (Of course, we didn't know it!   We don't know much at all about the price that's been paid or that is even now being paid.)
 
But according to the scripture, the time of Christ's return is actually set by the amount of blood spilled by witnesses of the faith.  
 
(Rev 6:10-11)  And [the faithful witnesses] cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth? {11} ... and it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellowservants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled.
 
The cup of the martyrs’ blood has been filling over the years.  We could certainly recount the martyrdoms of the apostles and saints from the time of St. Stephen through the Reformation.  Those stories have been told again and again.  But what about now?
 
I was shocked into reality in 1990 when I read David Barrett's prediction that 333,000 Christians would die for their faith each year by the year 2000.  in 1999, that figure matching up with reality quite well -- in 1997, 157,000 Christians, an extremely conservative, secular estimate, were murdered for their faith all over the world -- even in places you wouldn't expect, like some of the USA's close allies.  There are many stories of martyrdom, but time for but one:
 
(1998) It was one of the most horrific instances of religious persecution the modern world has ever seen. During a government crackdown on Egypt's Coptic Christian community two weeks ago, a thousand Christians were manacled to doors, then beaten and tortured with electric shocks to their genitals.  Teenage girls were raped.
 
Even babies were not spared.  Mothers were forced to lay their infants on the floor and watch helplessly while police struck them with sticks.  And in a scene right out of ancient Rome, Christian men were nailed to crosses.
 
For the past decade, Egypt's Christian minority, the Copts, have been the target of brutal attacks by Muslim extremists.  And in recent months they have even come under attack from government officials themselves, as I just described.
 
What happened in this case, according to the London Daily Telegraph, is that the police in the city of Al-Kosheh instigated a dragnet, detaining 1,200 Christians. They were rounded up after the death of a Muslim who other Muslims believe had been murdered by Christians, even though doctors had put his death down to natural causes.  And then the police tortured many of the detainees.
 
When Bishop Anba Wissa protested the beatings, rapes, and torture, the regional police chief told him, "You haven't seen anything yet."  
 
Multiply that story by 150,000 and you have last year’s blood added to the cup of Christ's coming.  But I believe there is also another kind of martyrdom that we can relate.  The martyrdom of believers to disease or poverty.   Read this letter from Sister Faith Madgalena to see what I mean.
 
Dear Friends,    David Allen is a young missionary on the Chiang Mai, Thailand,  mission team. He is critically ill with an unknown parasite and apparently will die within two months unless there is an intervention by the Lord. Please help create a global blanket of prayer for David, Michelle,  and their four month old daughter, Brianna.
From David Allen: My condition is quite serious now. The body is beginning to break down because I have no more fat or nutrient reserves. My diet consists mostly of vegetable  broth, Gatorade, and saltine crackers.  I tried home made bread a few  weeks  ago, and ended up in the emergency room.  I am in constant pain and have to take pain killers regularly. The severe diarrhea has continued for 7 weeks and I have been in the emergency room five times. In the last three days there have been sharp pains in both of my kidneys, so they are now running tests to see if my kidneys are infected.  
 
So far, eight doctors have not been able to diagnose the parasites. One lab in Dallas thought they had a positive diagnosis, but the Public Health Center of Disease Control in Houston said it was an incorrect diagnosis. They have found two foreign agents, but no one has ever seen them before or can Identify them. One is a parasite, and the other looks more like an amoeba. One of the effects of the parasites is to prevent my GI tract from absorbing nutrition.  The CDC in Atlanta is 3-6 months behind, so they cannot help in time. My  doctors are trying everyone else. They are in contact with one of the top  infectious disease doctors in Thailand, and several of the experts here  in the States. I believe that the pictures of the parasites are to be passed around until someone can identify them. I am not doing well. I feel like I am in a very dark valley right now. I have been praying for so long for help with no response, that I have become discouraged in prayer.  This is a first for me in my life.
 
Michelle and my parents are being a tremendous support for me, but they are having a hard time seeing me suffer so much. My prayers now are very elemental: "Father, save me!" But the pain continues each day, and I continue to lose weight. Please pray not only for my body, but for my spirit.  I have not known fear like this before. I don't want to be fearful, and I don't need to be fearful because I am confident of my salvation.  I think my fear is related more to the thought of not being with my wife and the new baby. This was the happiest time in my life before I became sick.  -- David Allen
Witnesses that die of cancer or other diseases, or even take their own lives, are often blamed -- "she didn't have enough faith to get healed...." etc.   And perhaps we may add to these stories your story of sacrifice and martyrdom as we leave the first of the Two end-time Witnesses and go on to the second.  (By the way, reports tell us that Br. Allen was eventually healed of this terrible parasite.)
 
AND NOW OF THE MESSIANIC JEWS
 
There has always been a remnant of Jews who followed in the footsteps not of Peter, but of St. James: Jews through and through, but celebrating Jesus (Yahshua) as Messiah.  
 
In 1865 was formed in London the Hebrew Christian Alliance, which became the foundation for the entire Messianic Jewish Movement of today.  Here is the premise upon which the HC Alliance was founded:
 
Let us not sacrifice our identity. When we profess Christ, we do not cease to be Jews. Paul, after his conversion, did not cease to be a Jew; not only Saul was, but Paul remained a Hebrew of Hebrews. We cannot and will not forget the land of our fathers.
 
It is estimated that over 250,000 Jews came to regard Yahshua as their Messiah in the 19th century.  But now, in these last thirty years or so, a multitude of Jews have come to recognize Yahshua in the U.S. alone.  The Messianic Jewish Movement International now estimates that there are about 1.5 million Messianic Jewish believers in the world today.  Yet this is a small number -- a finite number -- not so unlike the symbolic number of 144,000 given in Rev 7, compared to the multitudes of Gentiles who have already given there lives for Christ.  We are witness to a finite number of the sealed children of the Patriarchs, just as scripture has predicted for this end-time.  And thousands of these evangelical Messianics are living in Israel today.  But they are far from welcome there.  They are persecuted and castigated constantly.  Following is a typical act of persecution:
 
"Haredim Attack Messianic Believers, Police Rescue Jewish Followers of Jesus from Mob," BE'ER SHEVA, Israel, December 1, 1998  "In a scene out of the Bible, about 1,000 Ultra-Orthodox (Haredim) Jews threw stones and cursed over a three-hour period while between 30 to 40 people, including women and children, were trapped inside their own Messianic Jewish meeting place. They eventually were freed by local police and escorted to safety, according to Police Chief Superintendent Kobi Cohen. The incident was spurred when the Orthodox met in their synagogues and heard that the Messianic Jews had "kidnapped" some 150 children in order to perform baptisms. It was all based on "a lie" that has circulated through the Haredim and has gone unchecked for a number of years...."  (WorldNetDaily)
 
The explosion of Messianic Jews in Israel has alarmed the establishment to such a degree that there has been a proposed law pending for the last two years that would punish anyone in Israel for disseminating information about Yahshua with fines and a year in prison.  The law passed the first round in the Knesset by a vote of 21 to 7.  As of this writing, this law is yet pending, but it shows us how threatened are the modern-day Pharisees of Israel at the name of Yahshua.  The law is still pending only because of the pressure Christians like you and me put on the Israeli government with our money.  It also gives us a glimpse of the fulfillment of the prophecy that these dear souls will subsequently die  martyrs.
 
 
THE TEMPORAL FATE OF THE TWO WITNESSES -- MARTYRDOM
 
11:{7} And when they shall have finished their testimony, the beast that ascendeth out of the bottomless pit shall make war against them, and shall overcome them, and kill them.
 
Unfortunately, it is essential that these Two Witnesses die to fill the cup that tips the scales that brings the Messiah to public awareness.  And notice how the world regards the martyrdom of the righteous:
 
{10} And they that dwell upon the earth 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.
 
The lingering, world-wide attitude toward true Christians and true Jews is ripe for such a response.  Several prominent people in society have stated that the best thing for the world now might be the elimination of the Christian element entirely.  Yet we see no rapture for these end-time witnesses at all.  Even though the Two Witnesses are powerful and tear down strongholds, yet, unlike Hollywood heroes, the multitudes of the faithful die in the end.  And as unfair as it may seem, it is through faithfulness and death that they ultimately ascend to where they belong:
 
{11} And after three days and an half the Spirit of life from God entered into them, and they stood upon their feet; and great fear fell upon them which saw them. {12} 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.
 
Yes, it's an inevitable conclusion: Yahweh's Two Witnesses --maybe even you and me -- will be overcome by the dragon.  Their victory will be gained in the same way Christ gained the victory for them.  They give everything they have.  Despite the claims of popular religion, to be an overcomer, one must be overcome -- one must die or be willing to.  And even now, overcomers  and witnesses are giving everything they have for Yahweh and his beloved Son; even their very lives.  Let us judge whether we stand with these by what we give for his sake.
 
THE ETERNAL FATE OF WITNESSES
 
(Rev 20:4)  And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.
 
And in this final passage we discover why there exists a Gospel Age in the first place -- an age in which the turmoil of the earth and the persecution of the dragon would hinder every good work that men and women of God endeavor to accomplish -- An age in which even the strongest and wisest and most dedicated and most spiritual of believers are undone and defeated -- their dreams and visions and goals and ministries eaten away by persecution and corruption and falsehood -- An age in which to lose means to win, to give all means to receive all -- to die means to live.  For the very purpose of this Gospel age is to reveal the elect of God -- those Two Witnesses, martyrs, who are willing to give away their now for the sake of some unseen then -- to sacrifice temporal reality, and the vast store of pleasure to be gained from it, for a mere promise of an eternal, invisible Kingdom.  Friend, has Christ revealed you?
 
Listen to me:  Today there are hundreds of thousands among the Two Witnesses of Revelation 7 -- those heeding the commandments of God and those living the testimony of Jesus -- who are losing all for the sake of Christ.  (Or, as Paul Said, "Being Killed all the day long.")  Have you ever considered the possibility that you might be called on to die for a mere promise?  If some cruel president or society demanded your life for the name of Jesus Christ, could you willingly give it?  How would you come out if you had to make a choice now?  
 
You may say to yourself, "That day will never come."  But friend, that day has come.  It is today -- tonight.  For the word of God says that no matter what you're doing every day, unless you are dying every day, you'll not be in that company of saints who rule and reign with Christ.  Yes, today we so-called saints in America stand in the valley of decision, and each one of us must make a choice -- to live, then to die or to die, then to live.  Potential witnesses, arise from your slumber while there is still light.  Let the fulfilled prophecy of the Two Witnesses shake you awake from your slumber.  Examine the spiritual drowsiness of the course you're following right now, though it seem exciting and blessed, then abandon it for the narrow course which leads to life that quickens his coming and his Kingdom for the sake of all humanity.

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NOTES:

1 Composed and preached July 7, 1998 at Throne of Grace CEC, Sarasota, FL.
2 BreakPoint Commentary - November 10, 1998 by Charles Colson, 16 Nov 1998.
3 Email from Sister Faith Magdalena (sister-faith-magdalena@WORLDNET.ATT.NET)Fri, 4 Dec 1998.