The two witnesses

The Little Book of the Revelation - Twelfth in a series

Among the sevens, twelves, three and a halfs, forty-twos and so on, there are other important numbers in the Revelation, such as two. In Scripture, two speaks of unity, confirmation and strength.

  • Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labor. (Ecc 4:9)
  • VERSE 3a
    And I will give power unto my two witnesses

There are two ways (at least two) to regard the two witnesses: 1) They are real men who will arise in the end time, or 2) They symbolize two aspects of God’s power to work. In both cases, Bible expositors offer numerous ideas about who or what the two witnesses may be, and in either case their prophecy is about the Lord and his coming judgment.

In the first concept it may be Moses and Elijah, for example, or Enoch and Elijah. In the second, it could be the Old and New Testaments— law and gospel, or Christians and Messianic Jews.

I favor the symbolic viewpoint, though not dogmatically, and that grace and law are the two, as delineated in 2 Tim 2:19— Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, 1) The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, 2) Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity.

  • The Lord knoweth them that are His.
  • Those who base their faith on Christ’s atoning death on the cross are the sheep who hear the Shepherd’s voice. “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand…” (John 10:27-29) See Rev 13:8.
  • Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity.
  • When we belong to Him, we are enabled by the Holy Spirit to live for Christ, in obedience to his teaching and commands. We are not those described by Jude, who turn the grace of our God into lasciviousness (license), thus denying our Lord Jesus Christ. (Jude 1:4) The unbeliever mocks the true faith by saying, “Let’s continue in sin that grace may abound.” (Rom 6:1) In other words, whatever a sinner does can be forgiven, so don’t sweat it. But that is not saving faith.

The two witnesses symbolize Christians who prove their salvation is by grace alone through faith alone as they live in obedience to Scripture. (Jas 2:26; Mat 5:18) What could be a more sure or any more convicting witness than the mature Christian?

That said, we all fall far short and sin daily, even hourly. But fortunately, under intense trials, our reliance upon the Lord increases exponentially, and should we ever find ourselves in the end-time great tribulation, without a doubt we would cry out for divine help so fervently that our capacity for obedience to God’s laws would measurably increase. I have always found that my ability to please the Lord is greatly enhanced when I am humbled and incapable of helping myself out of trouble.

What is your concept of the two witnesses? As Christians strive to interpret and to apply Scripture we are warned against adding to or taking away from it by any suggestion or view. Each person will reflect upon the verses and perhaps come to no conclusion, but let us all carefully consider the power, holiness, love and fear of God.

  • VERSE 3b
    and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days

As we have noted previously, this time period connects dots between and among numerous scenes: 1) the antichrist’s reign, 2) the protection of Israel by God, 3) the testimony of the two witnesses, and 4) the gentiles trampling on the holy city.

In saying that the time period connects dots, it would seem that all these activities are concurrent, and that the ‘time, times and half a time’ denoted would be the ‘great tribulation.’* (Dan 7:25, 12:7; Rev 12:14)

Perhaps this terror is not at the start or end of a seven year period, but within it. Perhaps it is to be understood as a segment rather than a definite length of time. We do read that the great tribulation has been shortened by God, otherwise no flesh would survive. (Mat 24:21-22)

The protection of Israel by God is noted twice in Revelation 12, in verses 6 and 14. In vs. 6 the time period is a thousand two hundred and threescore days, and in vs. 14 it is a time, and times and half a time. This double reference seems to be for confirmation that the Jews will be helped while they are yet in the wilderness, not in the settled place of rest.

  • VERSE 3c
    The witnesses are clothed in sackcloth.

True believers will understand what hour it is and will be of sober spirit in the final days, crying out for the salvation of family members and friends, and for those without any understanding, and they will mourn for the earth, God’s beautiful creation.

*Time, times and half a time is 1 year + 2 years + 1/2 year = 1260 days or 40 and 2 months, if a year is 360 days.

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The Many Faces of Remembering

Remembrance and its opposite - Twelfth and final in a series

A single verse found twice in Scripture summarizes what we should recall about the Lord: Remember his marvelous works that he hath done, his wonders, and the judgments of his mouth. (1 Ch 16:12; Ps 105:5)

As we do, when our spirits are low we will rise up with wings as eagles (Is 40:31) and keep the faith, sustained by our memories of God's mighty acts and wonderful words.

Much more could be stated and explicated about what Christians should remember about the Lord, but perhaps we are at a stopping point; we can rest here knowing he has promised never to leave or forsake us (Heb 13:5), and he has engraved us on the palms of his hands so how could he forget us? (Is 49:16) He who cannot lie promised us eternal life even before the world began (Tit 1:2), and in Christ all of God's promises are yea and amen. (2 Cor 1:20)

If you are presently suffering in a lengthy trial, remember this: God does not always plow to sow; a joyous time of reaping a harvest is coming for the faithful doer. (Is 28:24)

For those in Christ, there is no opposite to being remembered. You will be fully disciplined, tested, taught, guided, helped, strengthened and perfected.

For the rebellious, there is no opposite to being remembered, but remembrance is severe judgment. God keeps records. (Mal 3:16-18; Rev 20:11-13)

For man, the opposite of remembering God's ways and wonders is anxiety, sorrow, darkness and confusion, but remembrance brings peace, gladness, hope and praise.

I will remember the works of the LORD: surely I will remember thy wonders of old. (Psa 77:11)

Yea, in the way of thy judgments, O LORD, have we waited for thee; the desire of our soul is to thy name, and to the remembrance of thee. (Is 26:8)

I remember the days of old; I meditate on all thy works; I muse on the work of thy hands. (Ps 143:5)

God favors his followers

Remembrance and its opposite - Fifth in a series

There are three persons in the Bible who are called out as remembered by God. The first is Noah: But God remembered Noah and all the beasts and all the livestock that were with him in the ark. And God made a wind blow over the earth, and the waters subsided. (Gen 8:1)

The second is Abraham: So it was that, when God destroyed the cities of the valley, God remembered Abraham and sent Lot out of the midst of the overthrow when he overthrew the cities in which Lot had lived. (Gen 19:29)

The third is Rachel: Then God remembered Rachel, and God listened to her and opened her womb. (Gen 30:22)

We established in the previous posts of this series that God is not in any way forgetful, so is there something to learn from these special passages?

God remembered Noah… (Gen 8:1)
In the first instance we have a man who is preserved from severe judgment but is nevertheless in need of deliverance. Man was not made to live in a ship indefinitely, nor were animals. Thus, after the deluge that poured from above and surged from beneath, the waters slowly decreased, and in the seventh month on the seventeenth day, the ark rested on the mountains of Ararat. (Gen 8:4) Nisan* 17 was also the day that Christ was raised from the dead, so as we remember God’s faithfulness to Noah we likewise rejoice in God’s work of salvation for all mankind. That special connection, however, is not the takeaway for this post.

Noah was remembered because he was upright; he walked with God. (Gen 6:8-9). Somehow, amidst the evil that had overtaken the earth so that EVERY imagination of men's hearts was ONLY EVIL CONTINUALLY (Gen 6:5), Noah was above the fray. He was in the line of righteous men; his great-grandfather was Enoch who “walked with” God. (Gen 5:22, 24)

God remembered Abraham … (Gen 19:29)
Abraham, too, walked with the Lord. He was God’s friend. (Isa 41:8) Thus in response to his intercession for his nephew Lot, God remembered Abraham and sent angels to pull and to lead Lot to safety before fire and brimstone were poured from heaven on the totally corrupt cities of the plain.

This is the Bible's first instance of intercession. Lot's deliverance from Sodom depended upon Abraham's faithfulness and prayer. If you would like to read more on this, see God Remembered Abraham, a Bible study on this website, which includes a contemporary application of this truth, about a wife's intercession for her husband.

God remembered Rachel … (Gen 30:22)
Finally, God remembered Rachel. This was a more complex remembrance. We may wonder: Did Rachel walk with God?

At the beginning of Genesis 30 we find that Rachel could not have children so she envied her sister; and said unto Jacob, Give me children, or else I die. (Gen 30:1) This made Jacob angry at her, and Rachel's solution was to give Jacob her maid, whose child would be in place of the one Rachel could not bear. Jacob accepted her notion and two sons were born, Dan and Naphtali.

She did not prevail for long. Not to be outdone, Leah then gave her maid to Jacob and Gad and Asher were born. Then Leah had two more sons, Issachar and Zebulun, crediting her good fortune to having been so generous as to give her maid to Jacob! (Gen 30:18)

By now Rachel had had time to consider that her rash suggestion was unwise. Rather than endearing her husband to her, it had served to divide him even further to two other women. It did not increase her stature but rather provoked a new level of competition as Leah turned the tables on her.

Comparing ourselves with others nearly always leads to disaster. Whatever the paths or good fortune of our sisters and brothers, our only directive is to follow Jesus, and to be content. (Heb 13:5)

Then came the time when God remembered Rachel. Jacob felt a new lease on life: it was time to return to his home with his large and extended family. Surely if his first love had born him a son, God was no longer angry and would bless him on his way. (Gen 30:25)

The answer to Rachel's prayer for a child was a sign of God's grace and love. We can safely assume that Rachel had overcome the adversary and had begun to walk with the Lord.

We know from Scripture that the Lord sends both rain and sun on the just and unjust, but for these three special mentions of remembrance, we see a pattern of God's favor to those who are his, who walk with him. For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him. (2 Ch 16:9a)

* Nisan is the first month of the Hebrew year. corresponds to March or April on the Gregorian calendar.