Greetings! Welcome to the second post in a five-part series on the Two Witnesses. In our first post, we talked about John’s personal visitation from the Lord where he received a prophetic assignment from the Lord regarding end time events. We talked about how strange it was for John’s personal experience to be inserted right in the middle of a vision about end time events. In this second post, we’re going to look at the ministry of the two witnesses. The two witnesses will be alive for the entire length of the last half of Daniel’s 70th week. They will interact with the Antichrist and the nations that are aligned with him, yet the only place you will learn about the two witnesses is in Revelation chapter 11. If you want to learn more about the two witnesses, keep reading.
Revelation 10 and 11
Second in a Five-Part Series
By Karen Thompson
The Ministry of the Two Witnesses
Rev. 11:3 And I will give power unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days, clothed in sackcloth.
After the angel told John to measure the temple, the altar, and the people who worship in the temple, he immediately began talking about two witnesses. John abruptly writes, “I will give power unto my two witnesses.” That is our introduction to two people who are called “the witnesses.” John, unfortunately, never tells us who the two witnesses are, which has left eschatologists to endlessly speculate as to their identities. Not including their identities, we are told a great deal about the two witnesses in the following verses. Here in verse three, the first two things we learn about the two witnesses in this verse is that God calls them “My witnesses” and He has given them power.
The next two things we learn about the two witnesses is in the phrase, “and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days….” First, the two witnesses will prophesy. That means these two witnesses will be prophets sent from God. The other thing we learn is that the length of their prophetic ministry will be 1,260 days. Using the Jewish calendar of 30-day months and 360 days per year, 1,260 days come to exactly three and one-half years—the last half of Daniel’s 70th week.
They are called witnesses, meaning they will witness about God, the Lord Jesus and His truth. For three and one-half years, they will prophesy in the name of the Lord Jesus, no doubt causing many to come to the Lord. Because John measured the temple, the altar, and the people that worship in the temple, we can deduce that they will minister in the temple. The people who come to the temple to worship will be free to do so. While in the temple, no harm will come to them.
The Witnesses Wear Sackcloth
The last thing we learn about the two witnesses in verse three is that they will be clothed in sackcloth. Sackcloth is a garment made of coarse fabric, usually black goat’s hair. In the Old Testament, it was worn by those who were in mourning. Following are just a couple of examples. Genesis 37:34 says, “And Jacob rent his clothes, and put sackcloth upon his loins, and mourned for his son many days”; and in 2 Samuel 3:31, King David said, “Rend your clothes, and gird you with sackcloth, and mourn before Abner.”
The two witnesses will wear sackcloth, black goat’s hair, because they will minister during the time of earth’s greatest mourning. With that in mind, I want to go back and look at the scripture that tells us about the sixth seal. When the sixth seal was opened, a powerful earthquake took place that shook the mountains and islands out of their places. It is the beginning of God’s wrath being poured out. I want to focus your attention to the phrasing used in that verse: “And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair…” (Rev. 6:12). It’s not a coincidence that John described the sun becoming “black as sackcloth of hair.” The sixth seal marks the beginning of a time of great mourning.
The Temple of Time
At this point, I’d like to make an interesting observation. Did you notice how abruptly John changed the subject? First we’re reading about John measuring the temple and then without notice, the subject abruptly changed to the two witnesses prophesying for 1,260 days. At first, I just chalked it up to bad writing skills, but then I came to learn that there is a fascinating connection between measuring the temple and the two witnesses.
One day, I read an article online about the temple coverings and their measurements. The article was about God’s specific measurements for the temple materials and how they related to time. There have been studies on the significance of the furnishings inside the temple, but no one had ever studied the measurements of the temple. Those who studied this subject were astonished to discover that the measurements of the temple tent represented time in days, months, years, and seasons. In essence, its specific measurements made it a “temple of time.”
What was discovered is that the dimensions of the materials used for the temple had significance. They found significant dates in Israel’s history to correspond with the dimensions of the temple. The temple measurements served as a sort of clock of Israel’s history and her future. There is much to say about the different temple materials and their measurements, but I only want to focus on the measurements for the temple curtains.
As an example of curtain measurements relating to time, one single curtain panel was 30 cubits by four cubits; these measurements correspond to 30 days in a month and/or four seasons in a year. The people who studied the measurements discovered that the dimensions of the temple curtains had corresponding numbers in Bible prophecy. For instance, the measurements of the curtains represented the length of time the two witnesses would minister. There were four curtains in the temple. The first two tent curtains represented one seven-year period, and the other two curtains represented a divided seven-year period of three and one-half years and three and one-half years.
The four curtains for the temple were made from four different materials. Exodus chapter 26 talks about the first curtain being made of fine twined linen in colors of blue, purple, and scarlet with cherubims embroidered on it. The other three curtains were made of rams’ skins dyed red, and badger skins, and goat hair. I want to focus your attention on the dimensions for the curtain made of goat’s hair.
7 And make curtains of goats’ hair to be a [second] covering over the tabernacle; eleven curtains shall you make. 8 One curtain shall be thirty cubits long and four cubits wide; and the eleven curtains shall all measure the same. 9 You shall join together five curtains by themselves and six curtains by themselves, and shall double over the sixth curtain in the front of the tabernacle [to make a closed door]. 10 And make fifty loops on the edge of the outmost curtain in the one set and fifty loops on the edge of the outmost curtain in the second set. 11 You shall make fifty clasps of bronze and put the clasps into the loops and couple the tent together, that it may be one whole. 12 The surplus that remains of the tent curtains, the half curtain that remains, shall hang over the back of the tabernacle. 13 And the cubit on the one side and the cubit on the other side of what remains in the length of the curtains of the tent shall hang over the sides of the tabernacle, on this side and that side, to cover it. (Exo. 26:7–13 Amp.)
These curtains were to go in front of the holy place. They were instructed to create 11 curtain panels, and they were all to be 30 cubits in length and four cubits wide. Five of these curtain panels were sown together and the other six curtain panels were sown together, creating two curtains—one curtain made of five panels and the other curtain made of six panels. These two curtains were then fastened together with buttons and loops to form the second covering which was made of goat’s hair. The total square cubit amount of material used in this covering is 1,320 (11 x 4 x 30 = 1,320).
Here is the interesting part. The curtain made with six panels sown together was to have its sixth panel folded back. In other words, 60 cubits were to be folded back. The practical purpose of sewing the curtain back was to make an extra thick covering so that it prevented possible onlookers from being able to see inside when the priest entered. The spiritual aspect of the sixth curtain being folded back reveals a number that corresponds with John’s prophecy about the two witnesses. The dimension for just one panel was four cubits wide and 30 cubits long making it 120 square cubits. When that panel was folded back, the square cubit size became 60. This changed the total square cubit size of that curtain to be four cubits wide, times 30 cubits long, times 10 ½ panels, totaling 1,260 square cubits (4 x 30 x 10.5 = 1,260). The total square cubits of the covering made of goat’s hair was 1,260. That is the exact number of days the two witnesses will prophesy in Jerusalem wearing sack cloth made of goat’s hair!
Two Olive Trees and Two Candlesticks
Rev. 11:4 These are the two olive trees, and the two candlesticks standing before the God of the earth.
In verse four, Jesus called the two witnesses “the two olive trees and the two candlesticks standing before the God of the earth.” Here we have three things to be considered: 1) two olive trees, 2) two candlesticks, and 3) they stand before the God of the earth. We can find all three of these same elements in one of the prophet Zechariah’s visions. From Zechariah’s vision, we can gain an understanding of this verse about the two olive trees. In Zechariah chapter four, we see Zerubbabel, the governor of Jerusalem, and Joshua, the high priest, also being referred to as olive trees attached to a seven-lamp candlestick, standing before the Lord. If we examine Zechariah’s vision, we’ll be able to interpret the symbols of the olive tree and the lampstand and apply them to the two witnesses.
The book of Zechariah was written after the Babylonian Empire had been conquered by the Medo/Persian Empire. The new Medo/Persian king issued a decree allowing all the Jews who so desired to return to Jerusalem and rebuild it. The book of Ezra tells us the initial group that returned to Jerusalem totaled almost 50,000. Because of complications with their hostile neighbors, the work on the city ceased. Several years later, the Lord used the prophet Zechariah to prophesy to the people. Zerubbabel, the governor, and Joshua, the high priest, led the rebuilding project in spite of much resistance from their neighboring nations. Both Zerubbabel and Joshua needed encouragement from the Lord. That’s where the prophet Zechariah came in.
One night, Zechariah was awakened by an angel. The angel asked Zechariah what he saw in the vision that was before him. Zechariah said he saw a seven-lamp candlestick. Then on each side of the candlestick were two olive trees, one coming out of the right side and one out of the left side. Zechariah asked the angel what the vision represented. The angel said, “This is the word of the Lord unto Zerubbabel, saying, Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the Lord of hosts” (Zec. 4:6). The angel was telling Zerubbabel that the rebuilding of Jerusalem wouldn’t come through their might and power, but by the Spirit of the Lord. Initially, it seems like the angel didn’t answer Zechariah’s question about the candlestick, but in fact, he did. The symbolism of the seven-lamp candlestick in Zechariah’s vision represents the Holy Spirit and His anointing that will enable Zerubbabel to finish the task of rebuilding Jerusalem.
Zechariah’s next question to the angel was about the two olive trees. He wanted to know what the two olive trees represented on the right and left side of the candlestick. The angel said they were the two anointed ones that “stand by the Lord” (Zec. 4:14). Other translations say they stand “with the Lord.” This is similar language about the two witnesses who were “standing before the God of the earth.” This phrasing simply means they stand with the Lord; they are united together with Him. The two anointed ones that Zechariah saw as olive trees symbolized Zerubbabel, the governor, and Joshua, the high priest. The message the prophet Zechariah was to give Zerubbabel and Joshua was that they were anointed of God to do His work in rebuilding the temple and that they were not alone in their project. God would help them complete their building project with the supernatural power of His Holy Spirit.
Just as Zerubbabel and Joshua were symbolized as olive trees anointed to do God’s will, the two witnesses are also being symbolized as olive trees anointed to do God’s will. The two witnesses were also referred to as the two candlesticks. The candlesticks represent the fact that they are shining the light of the Gospel in the world. It represents their ministry of proclaiming the good news to the lost. In the same way we saw the seven churches represented as candlesticks, the ministry of the two witnesses is also symbolized as candlesticks. This symbolism of the single candlestick is reflected in Jesus words: “Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matt. 5:14–16).
In conclusion, the two witnesses being described as two olive trees and two candlesticks standing before the Lord simply means that they are two anointed ministers shining the light of God’s Word to the world.
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