Greetings! This is the fourth post in a series about the two witnesses in Revelation chapter 11. In this post, we’re going to talk about the identity of the two witnesses. Are they men who come from heaven? Some think they know who the two witnesses are going to be. In any event, this post will discuss the likelihood of these two men being men from the past who have already gone on to heaven. After hearing the pros and cons, you’ll be able to make up your own mind as to the suggested identities of the two witnesses.
Revelation Chapters 10 and 11
Fourth in a Five-Part Series
By Karen Thompson
The Two Witnesses
Rev. 11:3 And I will give power to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy one thousand two hundred and sixty days, clothed in sackcloth.” 4 These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands standing before the [b]God of the earth. 5 And if anyone wants to harm them, fire proceeds from their mouth and devours their enemies. And if anyone wants to harm them, he must be killed in this manner. 6 These have power to shut heaven, so that no rain falls in the days of their prophecy; and they have power over waters to turn them to blood, and to strike the earth with all plagues, as often as they desire.
The Identity of the Two Witnesses
One thing the Bible doesn’t tell us about the two witnesses is their identity. Who are they? Is it possible for us to know? Does the Bible actually point to any men in particular? Many have tried to identify these two men, and so far there are three candidates whose eligibility is up for debate: Elijah, Enoch, and Moses. The belief is that two of these three men will come back to earth from heaven to function as the two witnesses. And then there are those who question why the two witnesses must be men who lived in the past. Why can’t the two witnesses simply be two men living on the earth, called of God to fulfill an extraordinary task?
In any event, most eschatologists agree that one of the witnesses will be Elijah because of Malachi 4:5–6 which says, “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord: and he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.”
Jesus Himself confirmed that Elijah would come before the great and dreadful day of the Lord after the experience of the Mount of Transfiguration. Matthew chapter 17 records the experience of the Mount of Transfiguration when Jesus took Peter, James, and John up to a mountain. While there, Jesus was transfigured before their very eyes. His face shined like the sun and His clothing became as white as the light. Then suddenly, Moses and Elijah appeared before them and talked with Jesus. Needless to say, it was a profound experience for Peter, James, and John to witness.
Afterward, as they were making their way back down the mountain, Jesus told His disciples not to talk about what they saw. The disciples asked Jesus about the prophetic word about Elijah: “Why then say the scribes that Elias [Elijah] must first come?” And Jesus confirmed that Elijah would come first saying, “Elias truly shall first come, and restore all things.” Then Jesus said that Elijah had already come, but he was not recognized. The disciples realized that Jesus was referring to John the Baptist.
Before John the Baptist was born, an angel appeared to his father, Zacharias, and spoke about the baby his wife, Elizabeth, was pregnant with and said, “many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God. And he shall go before him [before Jesus] in the spirit and power of Elias [Elijah] (Luke 1:16–17). John the Baptist was not the reincarnation of Elijah. He was sent to prepare the way of the Lord in the “power of Elijah.” So here is the question: Will the Lord actually send the real Elijah back to earth to be one of the two witnesses? Or will the two witnesses just be two men who are alive on the earth who will simply operate with the same anointing as Elijah, like John the Baptist did?
Many eschatologists believe that God will send Elijah himself as one of the two witnesses. So for now, let’s assume they are right and Elijah himself will come back to earth as one of the two witnesses. The focus of the debate is then directed toward the identity of the other witness. There are those that believe the two witnesses will be Elijah and Moses, and then there are those that believe it will be Elijah and Enoch. There are pros and cons regarding both combinations. Let’s first look at the pros.
The Argument for the Elijah/Moses Combination
Those who believe the other witness will be Moses point to a scripture in Deuteronomy that says the Lord will raise up a prophet like Moses: “The Lord thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me [“me” meaning Moses]; unto him ye shall hearken; … I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him” (Deut. 18:15, 18).
Another reason they favor Moses is because it was both Moses and Elijah that appeared with Jesus on the mount of transfiguration in Matthew 17:3–4. Also, those that lean toward the Moses and Elijah combination point out that the powers of the two witnesses in Revelation emulate the powers that both Moses and Elijah displayed. The two witnesses will have power to turn water into blood which Moses did in Exodus 7:20. And they will also have power to destroy with fire which was evident in the ministry of Elijah in 2 Kings 1:9–12.
The Argument for the Elijah/Enoch Combination
Advocates of the Elijah and Enoch combination believe these two will be the two witnesses because of an experience they both share in common. Neither Elijah nor Enoch experienced a natural death on the earth. They were both caught up to heaven by God, meaning they were both “raptured.” About Enoch, Genesis 5:24 says, “And Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him.” It is again confirmed in Hebrews 11:5: “By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God.”
We read about Elijah being taken up to heaven in 2nd Kings 2:11: “And it came to pass … there appeared a chariot of fire, and horses of fire, and parted them both asunder; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven.” Like Enoch, Elijah didn’t experience death as he too was translated to heaven, circumventing the usual path to heaven.
Those who believe these two men will be the two witnesses in Revelation base their argument on Hebrews 9:27 which says, “It is appointed unto men once to die….” Their argument is that since it is appointed unto men “once to die” both Elijah and Enoch must come back to earth and experience death like everyone else has experienced death.
Before we draw any conclusions either way, let’s hear the arguments against Moses and Enoch being one of the two witnesses.
The Arguments Against Moses and/or Enoch as Witnesses
Those who favor Enoch as being one of the witnesses argue that since Moses died a natural dead, he could not be one of the two witnesses who are destined to die at the end of their ministry. As mentioned before, their argument is based on Hebrews 9:27, which states that all men must die once.
But those that argue for Moses being one of the witnesses say that argument doesn’t hold water, because there are people in the Bible that have died more than once—people like Lazarus, the son of the Shunammite woman, and others. Plus if you think about it, because of today’s modern medical technology, there are countless numbers of people walking the earth that have died and been resuscitated back to life. They all will have experienced death more than once.
Most importantly, what about all the people on earth who will be caught up to God in the resurrection? Like Enoch and Elijah, none of them will have experienced a natural death on earth either. Does that mean all those caught up to God in the rapture must come back to earth so they can die? Of course not! So how do we view this law that says all men must die once? Consequently, this means that the “all-men-must-die-once” rule in Hebrews 9:27 is not a written-in-stone rule but rather is simply a general rule. Clearly, not experiencing a natural death on earth is not a qualification for being one of the two witnesses.
However, it must be pointed out that the scripture in Deuteronomy 18:15, 18 that says God will raise up Moses actually says God will raise up someone “like” Moses—not the actual Moses. Furthermore, Acts 3:12–26 says the prophetic word in Deuteronomy chapter 18 of God sending someone “like” Moses was fulfilled in Jesus the Messiah.
Lastly, those who argue for Moses being one of the witnesses cling to the fact that the two witnesses will exhibit the same two powers that Elijah and Moses demonstrated in their ministries. But just because God demonstrated these powers through Moses and Elijah in the past doesn’t mean that He can’t use other people to demonstrate these powers. These powers did not originate in these two men; they came from God. If these powers came from God, then He could cause whomever He wishes to demonstrate these powers. Elijah and Moses do not have a “lock” on those powers.
Those who argue against Enoch being one of the witnesses say he could not be one of the witnesses for the simple reason that he was not a descendant of Israel. Furthermore, even though he lived a life that was well pleasing to God, Enoch lived before the time of the flood. Not only was he not an Israelite descendant, he didn’t even live in the same time period as the children of Israel. And after all, the book of Revelation is all about events that the Jewish people will experience. So why would God use a non-Israelite to be one of His two witnesses?
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