Greetings! This is the fifth and final post in our series about the two witnesses. In our last post, we talked about the possible identities of the two witnesses being Elijah, Moses, or Enoch. In this post, we’re going to present the idea of a fourth person being a possible witness. We’ll lay out the case for it and you can decide whether or not if you think it has validity. Curious? Keep reading.
Revelation Chapters 10 and 11
Fifth in a Five-Part Series
By Karen Thompson
A Fourth Possible Witness
There is an argument to be made for another biblical person to be one of the two witnesses. It’s the apostle John! It’s not a crazy idea. Before you blow it off, just think about it for a moment. Let’s go back and re-examine John’s personal experience from the point of view that he is receiving a commission to be one of the two witnesses. When you read John’s personal experience with that point of view in mind, his personal experience doesn’t seem oddly placed at all. And it suddenly makes sense as to why his personal experience is stuck right in the middle of the telling of the army of 200-million and the two witnesses. If John is, indeed, one of the two witnesses, the telling of his personal experience right in the middle of a vision about end times isn’t strange. In fact, it all makes sense. So let’s go back and take another look at John’s personal experience again.
The Seven Thunders
Rev. 10:1 And I saw another mighty angel come down from heaven, clothed with a cloud: and a rainbow was upon his head, and his face was as it were the sun, and his feet as pillars of fire: 2 And he had in his hand a little book open: and he set his right foot upon the sea, and his left foot on the earth, 3 And cried with a loud voice, as when a lion roareth: and when he had cried, seven thunders uttered their voices. 4 And when the seven thunders had uttered their voices, I was about to write: and I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Seal up those things which the seven thunders uttered, and write them not. 5 And the angel which I saw stand upon the sea and upon the earth lifted up his hand to heaven, 6 And sware by him that liveth for ever and ever, who created heaven, and the things that therein are, and the earth, and the things that therein are, and the sea, and the things which are therein, that there should be time no longer: 7 But in the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he shall begin to sound, the mystery of God should be finished, as he hath declared to his servants the prophets.
When the mighty angel appeared before John, the angel had in his hand a little book that was opened. He cried with a loud voice, after which seven thunders uttered their voices. When John heard the seven voices, he was about to write them down, but then he heard a voice from heaven that told him to “seal up those things which the seven thunders uttered, and write them not” (v. 4). Let’s think about it for a moment. Jesus is revealing this whole vision to John for the purpose of writing it all down in order to share it with the seven churches. So in obedience to the command, he began to write down what the seven thunders said but then he was told to stop. Why put the seven thunders in the vision and then tell John not to write them down? If we weren’t supposed to know what the seven thunders said, why were they even part of the vision in the first place?
John is the only one that heard what the seven thunders said. I contend that the seven thunders were for John’s ears and John’s ears only. Obviously, there was a reason for John to hear them. Perhaps the seven thunders had something to do with the commission he was about to receive.
The Seventh Trumpet Proclamation
Next, the angel made the seventh trumpet proclamation: “in the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he shall begin to sound, the mystery of God should be finished, as he hath declared to his servants the prophets.” We see in Revelation that at the sounding of the seventh trumpet, the two witnesses begin their ministry. So if John is one of the two witnesses, the angel is telling him, after the seventh trumpet sounds, your ministry begins.
Eating the Book
Rev. 10:8 And the voice which I heard from heaven spake unto me again, and said, Go and take the little book which is open in the hand of the angel which standeth upon the sea and upon the earth. 9 And I went unto the angel, and said unto him, Give me the little book. And he said unto me, Take it, and eat it up; and it shall make thy belly bitter, but it shall be in thy mouth sweet as honey. 10 And I took the little book out of the angel’s hand, and ate it up; and it was in my mouth sweet as honey: and as soon as I had eaten it, my belly was bitter. 11 And he said unto me, Thou must prophesy again before many peoples, and nations, and tongues, and kings.
After that, John heard a voice from heaven telling him to take the little book that was in the angel’s hand. The book the angel had in his hand was open. Again, an opened book means the court of heaven is sitting in judgment. For instance, Revelation 20:12 talks about how “books were opened” and the dead, both great and small, were judged from what was written in the books. So we can assume that because the book was open, it is about judgment that is supposed to be prophesied.
Next, we see John taking the book out of the angel’s hands. When he did, the angel told him to eat the book and that it would be sweet in his mouth but bitter in his belly. John’s experience is almost identical to an experience that Ezekiel had (Eze. 2:7–10; 3:1–3). It will help us understand John’s experience if we compare it with Ezekiel’s experience.
The Lord told Ezekiel he was to speak prophetic words of judgment to the rebellious house of Israel. The Lord told Ezekiel to open his mouth and eat “what I give you.” Then a book appeared, a book that was written “within and without: and there was written therein lamentations, and mourning, and woe.” This is another example that an open book means judgment time. Ezekiel was commanded to eat the book and then go speak to the house of Israel. When he ate it, he said it was sweet like honey in his mouth. Ezekiel eating the book was a prophetic experience.
John’s experience, also prophetic, is nearly exactly the same. After John ate the book, the angel gave him his prophetic assignment, telling him, “Thou must prophesy again before many peoples, and nations, and tongues, and kings” (Rev. 10:11). Ezekiel’s experience of eating the book was for the purpose of speaking God’s prophetic words of judgment to Israel. Likewise with John; upon eating the book, he was commissioned to prophesy to people, nations, tongues, and kings.
Let me ask you a question. When have you ever heard of John fulfilling this prophetic commission? When John received this vision, he was a prisoner on the aisle of Patmos. He was placed there by the Romans as punishment for preaching about Jesus. When John was finally released from off the island, he lived out the last of his days in the city of Ephesus. By that time, he was a very old man. It seems John did not fulfill this spiritual commission given by the angel.
Some would argue that John’s book of Revelation fulfilled this commission. But does it? John received two commissions with regard to this vision. The first one came at the beginning in the first chapter. In verse 11, Jesus instructed John to write down everything he heard and saw: “Saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last: and, What thou seest, write in a book, and send it unto the seven churches which are in Asia; unto Ephesus, and unto Smyrna, and unto Pergamos, and unto Thyatira, and unto Sardis, and unto Philadelphia, and unto Laodicea.” The purpose of writing down the vision was to send it to the seven churches. That was John’s first commission regarding this vision.
John’s second commission was when the angel told him he would prophesy to “many peoples, and nations, and tongues, and kings.” John writing down what he heard and saw in the vision and sending it to the seven pastors and their congregations (all located in what is today Turkey) does not equate to prophesying to nations and kings. The commission to write everything down he saw in the vision and send it to the seven churches and the commission to prophesy to nations, peoples, nations, and kings are two very different commissions. They are not one in the same. So no, I would strenuously argue that John writing the book of Revelation does not fulfill the commission to speak to nations and kings.
This prophetic commission to prophesy to nations and kings only makes sense if you consider it from the point of view that John is one of the two witnesses. Also, notice that the ministry of the two witnesses will involve “people and kindreds and tongues and nations” just like the angel told John he would minister to “many peoples, nations, tongues, and kings.”
And who are the nations and kings that were so angry with the two witnesses that they rejoiced at their deaths and sent each other gifts? It was the ten kings that were in alignment with Antichrist. They were mad at the two witnesses because they obviously had been prophesying to them and using their powers against them and their nations. I propose these are the “many peoples, nations, tongues, and kings” to which John was commissioned to prophesy.
Measuring the Temple
Let’s look again at the angel telling John to measure the temple from the point of view that John is one of the two witnesses. John’s prophetic commission to kings and nations came at the end of chapter 10. And at the beginning of chapter 11, John was told to measure the temple. Remember, the Bible wasn’t written in chapters and verses. These two experiences flow together. John’s prophetic commission does not come to an abrupt end in chapter ten with the angel telling him he would prophesy before many peoples, nations, tongues, and kings. His prophetic commission continued with the instruction to measure the temple in the beginning of chapter 11.
First, John heard the seven thunders. Then he heard the angel make the seventh-trumpet proclamation. Next, John ate the book that was open. Then the angel gave him a prophetic commission to speak to peoples, nations, tongues, and kings. Then he is told to measure the temple. Measuring the temple was part of his prophetic commission. It was the physical demonstration of the prophetic commission. John physically acted out the three and one-half year ministry of the two witnesses. Very often, God had His prophets physically act out the prophecy they were commissioned to proclaim. Such was the case for Isaiah, Jeremiah, Hosea, and Ezekiel. Let’s look at some examples where prophets physically demonstrated their prophetic words.
Let’s first look at Isaiah. In obedience to the Lord, Isaiah walked around barefoot and stripped down to his loincloth for three years to demonstrate coming judgment. The Lord said to Isaiah, “Go, loose the sackcloth from off your loins and take your shoes off your feet.” The Lord explained saying, “As My servant Isaiah has walked [comparatively] naked and barefoot for three years, as a sign and forewarning concerning Egypt and concerning Cush (Ethiopia), so shall the king of Assyria lead away the Egyptian captives and the Ethiopian exiles, young and old, naked and barefoot, even with buttocks uncovered—to the shame of Egypt.” (Isa. 20:3–4 Amp.) Isaiah physically demonstrated God’s prophetic word.
Another example is when God commissioned Jeremiah to prophesy about the coming destruction of Jerusalem. God commanded Jeremiah to create a visual and physical demonstration of coming destruction to go along with his verbal warning of the coming destruction. God instructed Jeremiah to tell the elders of the city to meet him in the Valley of Hinnom. A wretched place, the Valley of Hinnom was not only the city dump but it was also where they had the Tophet fires. Tophet was a great burning oven that burned the city garbage, and it was also the place of pagan worship where children were sacrificed to the false god Moloch.4 The Valley of Hinnom was not only visually unpleasant, but it smelled nasty as well. It is in this physical environment of disgusting sights and smells that God wanted Jeremiah to deliver His words of coming destruction. While standing in this dump, God instructed Jeremiah to hold up a clay jar and then break it in front of the elders and priests saying, “Thus saith the Lord of hosts; even so will I break this people and this city, as one breaketh a potter’s vessel, that cannot be made whole again” (Jer. 19:11). Jeremiah physically demonstrated the coming destruction to Jerusalem by breaking the clay jar and shattering it into pieces. The sights and smells of the dump along with the jar being smashed matched Jeremiah’s prophetic words of judgment.
God also used the prophet Hosea in this way. Hosea was a prophet to the northern kingdom of Israel. God used Hosea’s troubled marriage to illustrate Israel’s unfaithfulness to Him. Hosea’s wife, Gomer, was unfaithful to Hosea. When Hosea found out about her unfaithfulness, he divorced her. Hosea still loved his unfaithful wife and later on took her back. God used Hosea’s relationship with his wife to mirror God’s relationship with unfaithful Israel.
In addition to that, Gomer bore three children and God instructed Hosea to name them specific names. God instructed Hosea to name the first child, a son, Jezreel, a name alluding to the scattering of Israel. God instructed Hosea to name the second child, a girl, Loruhaman which means “no mercy.” God would have no mercy on the northern kingdom of Israel and would “utterly take them away.” God instructed Hosea to name the third child, a boy, Loammi meaning “not my people.” God was saying, “You are not my people, and I am not your God.”
God instructed Hosea to use his own troubled marriage to an unfaithful wife who turned her back on her faithful husband and went after lovers to illustrate Israel’s unfaithfulness to Him. Hosea’s marriage paralleled God’s dealings with the northern kingdom of Israel. Hosea did as God commanded and spoke prophetically to the northern kingdom of God’s coming rejection, using his own marriage and children as an illustration. (Hosea 1 and 2)
Finally, the prophet that was most used to physically demonstrate the judgment of God was Ezekiel. I’ll share a couple examples. In Ezekiel chapter four, God instructed Ezekiel to paint on a tile an image of Jerusalem. Then he was to “lay siege against it, and build a fort against it, and cast a mount against it; set the camp also against it, and set battering rams against it round about. Moreover take thou unto thee an iron pan, and set it for a wall of iron between thee and the city; and set thy face against it, and it shall be besieged, and thou shalt lay siege against it” (Eze. 4:2–3). God said the purpose of doing this physical demonstration was to “be a sign to the house of Israel.” Using this physical demonstration, Ezekiel then verbally prophesied the coming judgment to Jerusalem.
Later in Ezekiel chapter five, God instructed Ezekiel to cut off all his hair from his head and divide it into three groups. He was to burn a third of his hair in the “midst of the city.” Then he was to take another third and cut it with a knife. The other third he was to scatter to the wind. This was to demonstrate how the inhabitants of Judah would die: “A third part of thee shall die with the pestilence, and with famine shall they be consumed in the midst of thee: and a third part shall fall by the sword round about thee; and I will scatter a third part into all the winds, and I will draw out a sword after them. Thus shall mine anger be accomplished, and I will cause my fury to rest upon them, and I will be comforted: and they shall know that I the Lord have spoken it in my zeal, when I have accomplished my fury in them” (Eze. 5:12–13). The Lord had Ezekiel physically demonstrate the coming judgment to the people of Judah to match his verbal prophecy.
Each of these examples all share something in common. When God had the prophets physically act out a coming judgment, He had them follow it up with a verbal prophetic word. The point I’m making is the prophet who is asked to physically demonstrate God’s coming judgment is also the prophet who will follow up with the verbal counterpart! God never had a prophet physically act out a coming judgment but then had a different prophet give out the verbal judgment.
The apostle John was told to physically demonstrate the coming 1,230 days of ministry of the two witnesses when he was told to measure the temple. If John was told to act out the physical demonstration of the coming judgment, then it only makes sense that he will follow it up with the verbal counterpart—just like Isaiah, just like Jeremiah, just like Hosea, and just like Ezekiel. The verbal counterpart of the physical act of measuring the temple is when John fulfills the commission to prophesy to peoples, nations, tongues, and kings.
Why Did John Speak in the Third Person
If John is one of the two witnesses, some might wonder why he spoke about the two witnesses in the third person. Perhaps he was instructed to conceal his identity as being one of the two witnesses. Maybe that’s why he was told not to write down the seven thunders as that would have told us he was one of the two witnesses. Plus, there’s a very good reason why John wrote in the third person. John is famous for writing about himself in the third person: “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” When John wrote “the disciple whom Jesus loved,” he was referring to himself. So this writing style is not unusual for John. (See John 19:26; 20:2; 21:7; 21:20 for examples.)
Now that we’ve re-visited John’s personal experience and studied it from the point of view that he is one of the two witnesses, his personal experience placed in the middle of Revelation no longer seems odd. It makes sense. And when you think about it, how appropriate would it be that one of the two witnesses that will usher in the Second Coming of the Lord would be named John, since it was another John, John the Baptist, that ushered in the First Coming of the Lord!
Full disclosure: Before examining John’s personal experience more closely, I didn’t think the identity of the two witnesses would be two men from Israel’s ancient past returning to earth. I surmised they would simply be two men who were already alive on the earth. But after studying John’s personal experience more closely, I now see the possibility of the two witnesses as being John and Elijah. I say “possibility.” I don’t think we’ll know for sure the identities of the two witnesses until they show up to fulfill their ministry.
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