A Look at Revelation Chapter 11 – Part 2
In part 1, John was asked to measure the temple. Here two witnesses prophesy 1,260 days. The witnesses are described as fire-breathing olive trees and candlesticks. Candlesticks and fire I can understand, but olive trees! Hmm?
Wait, there’s more! After they witness, the beast from the pit kills them and the on-lookers have a party with presents. That’s odd. Thankfully, the witnesses come back to life and go up to heaven in a cloud. Their enemies aren’t celebrating now!
If this all sounds strange, it is! Let’s look in the Bible to see if we can find some clues to what’s going on here.
Two Olive Trees and Two Candlesticks
The first mystery to solve is who or what are the two witnesses, described as two olive trees and two candlesticks standing before the god of the earth.
Let’s go back to the Bible for some clues. The chapter began with measuring the temple. So let’s look first at the candlesticks inside the temple.
Q: What did they use as fuel for the lamps? (Lev. 24:2)
A: Olive oil
Q: Where do you get olive oil from?
Q: Where do you get olives from?
A: Olive trees
So the olive trees produce the olives that provide the oil for the continual lighting of the lamps in the temple. Here are some more clues as to what the trees, oil and candlesticks represent and who or what the witnesses might be. We’ll also search for what Jesus said about witnesses.
Clue 1: In a vision, Zechariah saw a candlestick with two olive trees by it. When he asked the angel what it was. the angel replied, “This is the word of the Lord…..’Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the Lord of hosts.” (Zech. 4:2, 3, 6)
Clue 2: Jesus said the gospel would be preached as a witness and that the Old Testament was a witness of Him (Matt. 24:14, John 5:39)
Clue 3: The Bible says in many places that God’s followers are his witnesses (Is. 43:10, Is. 44:8). The New Testament says we are witnesses through the power of the Holy Spirit and with the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8, Acts 5:32)
Who are the two witnesses?
The Word of God, (aka the Bible, both the Old and New Testaments) and the people of God. And really, the people of God are just sharing the Word of God through the power of the Holy Spirit.
God’s word is like fireWhat do the witnesses do and when do they do it?
These witnesses do some bizarre things. Let’s see if this fits what we know so far. They can breath fire, devour their enemies, stop the rain, turn water to blood, and cause plagues. Yikes! Don’t mess with these guys. Does the Bible talks about this stuff anywhere else?
- God’s word is like fire in the mouth which can devour (Jer. 5:14).
- Jesus says if anyone tampers with or changes the word of God they will have plagues on them and death (Rev. 22:18-19).
- Elijah was a prophet that had power to stop the rain, causing a famine. A famine can also be a lack of God’s word or a lack of right doctrine (Amos 8:11, Deut. 32:2).
- Moses received power from God to turn waters to blood and cause plagues.
Okay, this fits the idea of the two witnesses being God’s Word and/or God’s people or both. They have the same power as Moses and Elijah did in speaking the word of God to the people.
The witnesses in Revelation prophecy 1,260 days in sackcloth. What’s that about?
Sackcloth was usually worn when something was really bad, like when someone died or their was great trouble going on. What else does the Bible say about 1,260 days?
There is a time prophecy in Daniel that equals 1,260 days (a time and times and the dividing of time or 3 1/2 years) and sounds like a time of sackcloth because a power makes war with the saints and wears them out and speaks words against the Most High God. (Dan. 7:21, 25)
And during a time of 1,260 prophetic days, which equals 1,260 years called the Dark Ages, the Bible and true Christians were persecuted by a power that hated God’s Word and tried to wipe it out.* There was a shortage of God’s Word because this power made it illegal to own the Bible and read it for yourself.
A great way to teach kids about this period of history is through story books. Here’s a few suggestions to start with that tell the stories of great men of God that lived during a time when the Bible was hidden but still a shining witness of God’s love and power.
Martin Luther: A Man Who Changed the World by Paul L. Maier
Beggars Bible by Louise A. Vernon, about John Wycliffe
Bible Smuggler by Louise A. Vernon, about William Tyndale
Ink on His Fingers by Louise A. Vernon, about John Gutenberg
War of the Invisibles by Sally Pierson Dillon, about various reformation characters and events
Can History Repeat Itself?
Many people believe these two witnesses appear just before the 2nd coming of Jesus. Since the Bible has explained the witnesses are the Bible and the people of God, they do continue their witness until the end of time. And yes, history has a way of repeating itself. Just as Moses died before entering the promised land and Elijah was taken to heaven without dying, God’s people will follow the same path. Some of God’s people will die for their faith. Others will live to see Jesus come in the clouds and be taken to heaven without experiencing death. Either way, it will be worth it all to stay faithful to Jesus through the good and bad times. Wait until you hear the end of Revelation! You won’t want to miss out! I promise!
*The day for a year principle of Bible prophecy is used to interpret certain time prophecies in the Bible. For example the majority of Bible scholars agree that the 70 weeks of Daniel 9 equate to 490 literal days but are interpreted as 490 years. Num 14:34 and Eze. 4:6 confirm this principle is used in certain circumstances. The 1,260 days when interpreted as 1,260 years fits precisely the time when the Roman Papal Power ruled from 538 A.D. to 1798 A.D. How long? 1,260 years! During this time this power persecuted millions of true Bible believing christians, but God’s Word was not trampled out completely and served as a light and witness to the living God.
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