Over the last few days we have been reading about the blowing of the 7 Trumpets and the judgements that follow. There are three important things about the first six judgements that one should keep in mind:
(1) there is almost certainly a symbolic aspect to the judgements in which they are repeating themselves throughout history. Just as wars and plagues, etc tend to get larger and more devastating over the decades and centuries so will these judgements until the final ones.
(2) no one can say whether the final incarnation of these judgments will be literal or symbolic. I.e., will there be locusts with the monstrous appearance described in Chapter 9:7?
In appearance the locusts were like horses prepared for battle: on their heads were what looked like crowns of gold; their faces were like human faces, 8 their hair like women’s hair, and their teeth like lions ‘teeth; 9 they had breastplates like breastplates of iron, and the noise of their wings was like the noise of many chariots with horses rushing into battle.
or does this represent some kind of plague, perhaps a newly discovered bacteria or virus? We don’t know.
(3) no one can say how long they will take – i.e, whether they will play out over many years or roll across the earth in quick succession, one after the other.
In Chapter 11, we reach the judgement of the final trumpet and the coming of the Two Witnesses. The question here is not just whether they will be literal of figurative (for example, they could be two countries that stand against the growing secular forces or they could stand for the Church and Israel) but if they are literal, who will they be? Since the two witness die and are resurrected, I tend to think they will be literal people.
One of the most popular theories is that they will be Moses or Elijah or perhaps Enoch. In describing the witnesses we are told that they will have that power to turn water into blood calling to mind Moses as he did to the Nile during the Exodus. The theory that the Two Witnesses will be the return of two Old Testament prophets also stems from the verse in Hebrews that says,
And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.
We know from Scripture that Enoch did not die and Elijah was taken up into heaven body and soul. We know also that Moses, although traditionally believed to have died, appears alive with Elijah at the Transfiguration of Jesus. We see in Revelation the definitive death of the two witnesses is followed by their resurrection and then the final judgement. Thus, if the two witnesses are these Old Testament figures their death would make the verse in Hebrews literally true.
However, we must be careful. Recall that Jesus talked of John the Baptist as the return of Elijah. Jesus’ words about John the Baptist were forceful enough to raise the question of whether John was the literal return of Elijah but a careful reading of scripture does not bear out for certain that he was. Thus, one can read the two witnesses as coming in “the way of” or “the manner of” the Old Testament prophets. They very well could be two new men who come in the manner of the Old Testament prophets. Perhaps, one Christian and one Hebrew calling people to repentance.
In the final analysis what can be definitively said? This is the KEY takeaway:
But after the three and a half days a breath of life from God entered them, and they stood up on their feet, and great fear fell on those who saw them.
Then they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, “Come up here!” And they went up to heaven in a cloud, and their enemies watched them. And at that hour there was a great earthquake, and a tenth of the city fell. Seven thousand people were killed in the earthquake, and the rest were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven.
Of all the judgements released on the world in the Book of Revelation this is the ONLY ONE that causes some people to repent and turn to God.
So what we see up until this point is God continually trying to rouse people out of their sinful existence. However, people have become so distant from God that despite their calamities they do not turn to God in repentance. Finally, God gives them a definitive sign. He sends two witnesses who:
…these two prophets had been a torment to those who dwell on the earth.
Why would they be a torment? Because they call for repentance. But the people are so desirous of remaining in their sin that they celebrate the death of the two witnesses. They refuse to let the bodies be buried for 3 1/2 days. This is important, after three days there would be no doubt of their death, the corpses would have been rotting. God then resurrects the witnesses. The definitive final sign. The last warning. The last chance for repentance.