Who are the mysterious two witnesses described in Revelation chapter 11? We will examine many passages of Scripture that will give us a definitive answer.
“And I will give power unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days, clothed in sackcloth. 4 These are the two olive trees, and the two candlesticks standing before the God of the earth. 5 And if any man will hurt them, fire proceedeth out of their mouth, and devoureth their enemies: and if any man will hurt them, he must in this manner be killed. 6 These have power to shut heaven, that it rain not in the days of their prophecy: and have power over waters to turn them to blood, and to smite the earth with all plagues, as often as they will. 7 And when they shall have finished their testimony, the beast that ascendeth out of the bottomless pit shall make war against them, and shall overcome them, and kill them. 8 And their dead bodies shall lie in the street of the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified. 9 And they of the people and kindreds and tongues and nations shall see their dead bodies three days and an half, and shall not suffer their dead bodies to be put in graves. 10 And they that dwell upon the earth shall rejoice over them, and make merry, and shall send gifts one to another; because these two prophets tormented them that dwelt on the earth. 11 And after three days and an half the spirit of life from God entered into them, and they stood upon their feet; and great fear fell upon them which saw them. 12 And they heard a great voice from heaven saying unto them, Come up hither. And they ascended up to heaven in a cloud; and their enemies beheld them.” – Revelation 11:3-12
The Revelation 11 Account of The Two Witnesses
The Ministry of The Two Witnesses (Revelation 11:3,7)
They will prophesy for 1,260 days, which amounts to three and a half years of preaching the Word of God and the Lordship of Jesus Christ as the Son of God and promised Messiah. Their ministry will specifically call national Israel to repentance and salvation in Jesus Christ. Even as they bring God’s judgment on the world, they will teach the world of God and His righteousness.
“With my soul have I desired thee in the night; yea, with my spirit within me will I seek thee early: for when thy judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness.” – Isaiah 26:9
The Power of The Two Witnesses (Revelation 11:5,6)
God will empower these two witnesses for a period of three and half years and during this time, they will receive divine powers. In addition to having power to incinerate their enemies, God will give them power to cause worldwide drought for three and a half years, turn water to blood and smite the earth with plagues.
The Death And Resurrection of The Two Witnesses (Revelation 11:8-12)
At the end of their ministry, the two witnesses will be killed by the Antichrist. Their bodies will lie in the street of Jerusalem for three and a half days before God will raise them back to life and call them up into Heaven. The entire world will witness this event and become gripped with fear at the sight.
The Identity of The Two Witnesses
View One: No One Knows Who They Will Be (I strongly disagree)
There are three main views concerning who these mysterious witnesses will be. The first view is vastly in the minority and claims that these are unknown men whom God will choose in the end times. The main problem with this view is that it ignores clear Scripture that Elijah must return in the end times to prophesy to the people of ethnic Israel. Malachi 4 and Matthew 17 both make it abundantly clear that Elijah will physically return to accomplish the revival of Israel before the Second Coming of Christ.
“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.” – Malachi 4:5-6
“And his disciples asked him, saying, Why then say the scribes that Elijah must first come? And Jesus answered and said unto them, Elijah truly shall first come, and restore all things.” – Matthew 17:10-11
If there was any doubt in the disciples’ minds, and there was, Jesus set the record straight when he plainly cleared up a popular understanding of the Jewish theologians of their day that held that Elijah would physically return before the great day of the LORD. Jesus said Elijah would literally come.
View 2: Enoch and Elijah (I strongly disagree)
Some hold fiercely to the idea that Enoch and Elijah must be the two witnesses. The only argument given for this view is that neither Enoch nor Elijah died, but were taken up into Heaven alive and therefore must die the death of martyrdom as the witnesses of Revelation 11 will. The first problem with this view is that it hangs on the assertion that only Enoch and Elijah can be the witnesses because they have not died like all others in the past. Those who hold this view cite Hebrews 9:27 as proof of Enoch and Elijah as the witnesses.
“And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:” – Heb. 9:27
Despite the Scriptural hints, foreshadowing and allusion to Moses and Elijah being the witnesses, all proof of this view hangs on an incorrect assumption placed on Hebrews 9:27, which does not dictate Enoch and Elijah as the witnesses. Hebrews 9:27 grammatically is pointing out that after death, all men will be judged by God. There is no universal law that all men must die being taught here in Hebrews. What about the millions of believers who will go up in the rapture, or the Tribulation saints who survive into the Millennial Kingdom? If Hebrews 9:27 truly dictated all men must physically die, then the Scriptures would contain an irreconcilable contradiction.
The third problem with this view is that one can make a Scriptural case that Enoch did in fact die a natural death. I am not trying to persuade anyone that Enoch did die, but the Scriptures do allow for the possibility that God simply allowed Enoch to go straight to paradise without experiencing death. God may have just as easily “raptured” Enoch. But either argument has Scriptural merit. Consider the following Scriptures.
“And all the days of Enoch were three hundred sixty and five years: And Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him.” – Genesis 5:23-24
“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.” – Hebrew 11:5
“These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.” – Hebrews 11:13
Based on the above Scriptures, one can make a case that Enoch simply died and God went ahead and translated his body into a celestial one and this is why no one found him, because his old body was translated into a celestial one and therefore there was no need for or possibility of a burial. Enoch is listed with those who “all died in faith”. Basing one’s case for Enoch as a witness solely on the Hebrews 9:27 argument is desperately weak and ill founded.
The final problem with the Enoch Elijah view is that again, the argument of Hebrews 9:27 can be easily defeated by the Scriptural case which can be made that Elijah did in fact die a normal death. Long after the time of Elijah’s “rapture” into heaven, we see that he wrote a letter to the King of the Southern Kingdom.
“And there came a writing to him from Elijah the prophet, saying, Thus saith the LORD God of David thy father, Because thou hast not walked in the ways of Jehoshaphat thy father, nor in the ways of Asa king of Judah,” – II Chronicles 21:12
How did a man who was raptured into heaven write a letter to a living king, and much more impressively, how did he have it delivered? The issue must be addressed and I believe has a much simpler answer than some might give. Was Elijah truly raptured into God’s presence in heaven or was he caught away by the Spirit to another location. Philip the evangelist certainly could understand this, as he was whisked away by the Holy Spirit and taken somewhere far from his original location.
“And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, that the eunuch saw him no more: and he went on his way rejoicing. But Philip was found at Azotus: and passing through he preached in all the cities, till he came to Caesarea.” – Acts 8:39-40
Another issue is the word for heaven can mean several things in Scripture. Heaven can mean the sky, space, the place where God rules and is and all places use the same word. The context of the passage determines which heaven is being referred to. Paul referenced the third heaven in his second epistle to the Corinthians.
“I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such an one caught up to the third heaven.” – II Corinthians 12:2
Scripture indicates that prior to Jesus’ leading of the captives into Heaven after his resurrection, all saved souls were in paradise or Abraham’s bosom. Jesus made it clear that prior to His resurrection, no one ascended into Heaven where God is.
“No man hath seen God at any time, the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.” – Iohn 1:18
“And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven.” – John 3:13
Elijah cannot have ascended up into Heaven where God is until after the resurrection of Christ, meaning that like all other men, Elijah died a normal death. He was raptured away by the Spirit and lived out his days somewhere else. This is the only rational and Scriptural explanation for him being able to send a letter long after being taken up into heaven. Elijah was taken up into the sky and the Spirit sent him elsewhere.
View 3: Moses and Elijah Are The Two Witnesses
If we examine the Revelation 11 account of the two witnesses, we will find quite a list of descriptive details that correspond directly to Moses and Elijah.
Correlations Between Revelation 11 And The Lives of Moses and Elijah
- Rev. 11:3 – Both Moses and Elijah are prophets. (Enoch is also a prophet).
- Rev, 11:5 – They consume their enemies with fire.
- Moses witnessed the pillar of fire and people consumed by fire
- Elijah consumed his enemies with fire on two occasions
- Rev. 11:6 – They have power to shut heaven from rain, turn water to blood and bring plagues on the earth.
- Moses turned water to blood and brought plagues against Egypt
- Elijah shut heaven from raining for 3.5 years.
- Rev. 11:10 -They will torment evil people with their presence
- Moses tormented Pharaoh and the Egyptians
- Elijah tormented Ahab, Jezebel and the prophets of Baal
- Rev. 11:9,11 – Their bodies will lie dead in the street for 3.5 days
- Elijah – kept the rain at bay for 3.5 years
- Rev. 11:12 – They will ascend into the heavens
- Moses – beheld smoke on Sinai ascend into heaven as God’s fire descended from heaven
- Elijah – ascended into heaven in a fiery chariot
Evidence of the Two Anointed Ones In Scripture Points To Moses And Elijah
The Concept of Two Witnesses and the Sons of Oil In The Old Testament
Aside from the striking parallels in the lives of Moses and Elijah and the details of Revelation 11, there is a Biblical case spanning almost the entire Bible that leads the student of Scripture to overwhelming proof that the two witnesses of Revelation are Moses and Elijah. The concept of having two witnesses goes back to the book of Deuteronomy.
Deuteronomy 19:15 – One witness shall not rise up against a man for any iniquity, or for any sin, in any sin that he sinneth: at the mouth of two witnesses, or at the mouth of three witnesses, shall the matter be established.
By Hebrew law, it took two witnesses to establish proof in a legal matter. By choosing two witnesses, God is following His own law He gave to Israel over several millennia ago. Considering the establishment of a two witness concept, consider also that God revealed the existence and function of two celestial witnesses in a vision witnessed by the prophet Zechariah.
Zechariah 4:14 – Then said he, These are the two anointed ones, that stand by the LORD of the whole earth.
The words used for anointed ones here literally read “sons of oil”. These sons of oil have a prophetic future. They stand by the LORD and give witness to Him and His kingdom. Because Revelation identifies the two witnesses as the sons of oil, we know that they are the same two men. These two are associated with worship and standing before the LORD, therefore we can safely conclude they are both very likely Levites.
Deuteronomy 10:8 – At that time the LORD separated the tribe of Levi, to bear the ark of the covenant of the LORD, to stand before the LORD to minister unto him, and to bless in his name, unto this day.
Exodus 33:9 – And it came to pass, as Moses entered into the tabernacle, the cloudy pillar descended, and stood at the door of the tabernacle, and the LORD talked with Moses.
Exodus 28:30 – And thou shalt put in the breastplate of judgment the Urim and the Thummim; and they shall be upon Aaron’s heart, when he goeth in before the LORD: and Aaron shall bear the judgment of the children of Israel upon his heart before the LORD continually.
Exodus 28:35 – And it shall be upon Aaron to minister: and his sound shall be heard when he goeth in unto the holy place before the LORD, and when he cometh out, that he die not.
Exodus 2:1-3 – And there went a man of the house of Levi, and took to wife a daughter of Levi. And the woman conceived, and bare a son: and when she saw him that he was a goodly child, she hid him three months…
I Kings 17:1 – And Elijah the Tishbite, who was of the inhabitants of Gilead, said unto Ahab, As the LORD God of Israel liveth, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to my word.
The final words of the Old Testament, written down by the prophet Malachi, told God’s people to expect the future the two witnesses with Moses and Elijah. While some might contest this as a less than proving reference, consider the last words of the Old Testament and pay close attention to the two men it names as figures of end times revival.
Malachi 4:4-6 – Remember ye the law of Moses my servant, which I commanded unto him in Horeb for all Israel, with the statutes and judgments. 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.
Moses and Elijah will be the ultimate “dream team” for Israeli revival. They will both preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and call Israel back to the God of Sinai and the God of Israel. At this time in history, Israel is largely in unbelief and even the ones who do believe in God are either hopeless lost in Judaic tradition and or in total rejection of Jesus as their Messiah. All of that will change after Moses and Elijah, or figuratively, the Law and Prophets again confirm as the ultimate witnesses to Christ’s deity and Messianic authority.
The New Testament Continues And Expands The Ministry of Two Witnesses
- The Two Witnesses Confirmed Yeshua HaNazerot as the Messiah and The Son of God
Matthew 17:1-11 –And after six days Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into an high mountain apart, And was transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light. And, behold, there appeared unto them Moses and Elijah talking with him. Then answered Peter, and said unto Jesus, Lord, it is good for us to be here: if thou wilt, let us make here three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah. While he yet spake, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them: and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him. And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their face, and were sore afraid. And Jesus came and touched them, and said, Arise, and be not afraid. And when they had lifted up their eyes, they saw no man, save Jesus only. And as they came down from the mountain, Jesus charged them, saying, Tell the vision to no man, until the Son of man be risen again from the dead. And his disciples asked him, saying, Why then say the scribes that Elijah must first come? And Jesus answered and said unto them, Elijah truly shall first come, and restore all things.
Luke 9:30-31 –And, behold, there talked with him two men, which were Moses and Elijah: Who appeared in glory, and spake of his decease which he should accomplish at Jerusalem.
The great point of the Mt. of Transfiguration scene is that the Law (Moses) and the Prophets (Elijah) confirmed before the inner circle of disciples that Jesus is truly both the Son of God and the Messiah of Israel. Another great truth we must take from these accounts is the identification Moses and Elijah have as being figure heads representing the Law of God and the collective voice of the Prophets. The Law and the Prophets always lead people to the ultimate manifestation of God, Jesus the incarnation of God’s person. This fact is reinforced throughout the New Testament.
Matthew 11:13 – For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John.
Matthew 22:40 – On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.
Luke 16:29 – Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.
John 1:45 – Philip findeth Nathanael, and saith unto him, We have found him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.
Acts 24:14 – But this I confess unto thee, that after the way which they call heresy, so worship I the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the law and in the prophets:
Acts 28:23 – And when they had appointed him a day, there came many to him into his lodging; to whom he expounded and testified the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus, both out of the law of Moses, and out of the prophets, from morning till evening.
Romans 3:21 – But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets;
The Two Witnesses Confirmed Yeshua’s Resurrection
Luke 24:1-9 – Now upon the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they came unto the sepulchre, bringing the spices which they had prepared, and certain others with them. And they found the stone rolled away from the sepulchre. And they entered in, and found not the body of the Lord Jesus. And it came to pass, as they were much perplexed thereabout, behold, two men stood by them in shining garments: And as they were afraid, and bowed down their faces to the earth, they said unto them, Why seek ye the living among the dead?He is not here, but is risen: remember how he spake unto you when he was yet in Galilee, Saying, The Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again. And they remembered his words,And returned from the sepulchre, and told all these things unto the eleven, and to all the rest.
The identity of these two shining men as angels is one that is neither mandatory nor provable. I believe they were none other than God’s two sons of oil once again giving witness to the fact that Christ defeated death and conquered the grave.
The Two Witnesses Confirmed Yeshua’s Ascension
Acts 1:9-11 – And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight. And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.
Again, these two men in white do not have to be angels and proving that is impossible. It is just as likely, I say far more likely, that they were God’s sons of oil yet again bearing witness to the Son of God, the Messiah.
There is no doubt in my mind, as is the case with the vast majority of serious students of this subject, that Scripture has made it painstakingly clear that God has ordained two witnesses to give testimony to the redemptive work of Jesus Christ as the Son of God and the Messiah King of Israel; and that Moses and Elijah are the two sons of oil, the two witnesses of Revelation.