What does the Bible tell us about the two Witnesses?
One of the issues one must consider when answering the question posed in this Q&A is the warning given to us by Christ, in Matthew 24:4-5:
“And Jesus answered and said to them: ‘Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in My name, saying, “I am the Christ,” and will deceive many.’”
Notice, there will be many out there trying to deceive you. Notice also verse 24: “For false christs and false prophets will arise and show great signs and wonders, so as to deceive, if possible, even the elect.”
So the warning is, there will be many false prophets and much deception.
Ironically, there are numerous individuals claiming to be the two witnesses. One is claiming that he and his wife are the two witnesses which is patently absurd since they are called prophets, not prophetesses. Revelation 11:10 tells us: “And those who dwell on the earth will rejoice over them, make merry, and send gifts to one another, because these two prophets tormented those who dwell on the earth.”
The Bible reveals that beginning with the New Testament Church, there were no longer prophetesses, and there is no indication that there will be some prior to Christ’s return. For further information, please read our Q&A on the Old Testament prophetess Deborah.
On the other hand, it is very likely that the two witnesses will be supported and accompanied by others, as was the case with Elijah and Elisha (who had with them “sons of the prophets,”) and John the Baptist (whose followers were called “disciples.”) Jesus Christ Himself was also accompanied by male and female “disciples.”
The two witnesses are chosen by Christ Himself; notice Revelation 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.” Christ calls them His two witnesses, not some self-appointed individuals or someone making false claims about his qualifications to fill that position. Notice also Ephesians 4:11 which tells us: “And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers…” It is Christ who is choosing and giving His Church men to fill these positions.
Let us look at a few examples of prophets called by God to fulfill His purpose.
One of these prophets is Moses, about whom we read in Exodus 3:1-10:
“Now Moses kept the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian. And he led the flock to the back of the desert, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. And the Angel of the LORD appeared to him in a flame of fire from the midst of a bush. So he looked, and behold, the bush burned with fire, but the bush was not consumed. Then Moses said, ‘I will now turn aside and see this great sight, why the bush does not burn.’ So when the LORD saw that he turned aside to look, God called to him from the midst of the bush and said, ‘Moses, Moses!’ And he said, ‘Here I am.’ Then He said, ‘Do not draw near this place. Take your sandals off your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground.’
“Moreover He said, ‘I am the God of your father—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look upon God. And the LORD said: ‘I have surely seen the oppression of My people who are in Egypt, and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters, for I know their sorrows. So I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up from that land to a good and large land, to a land flowing with milk and honey, to the place of the Canaanites and the Hittites and the Amorites and the Perizzites and the Hivites and the Jebusites.
“‘Now therefore, behold, the cry of the children of Israel has come to Me, and I have also seen the oppression with which the Egyptians oppress them. Come now, therefore, and I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring My people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.’”
Moses was a prophet. Deuteronomy 18:15 says so: “The LORD your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your midst, from your brethren. Him you shall hear…’” Moses did not self-appoint himself but he was appointed by God to fulfill the task of bringing the children of Israel out of Egypt into the Promised Land. Notice also Deuteronomy 34:10: “But since then there has not arisen in Israel a prophet like Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face…”
Notice also that the prophet Jeremiah was chosen by God. Jeremiah 1:4-5 reads: “Then the word of the LORD came to me, saying: ‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; Before you were born I sanctified you; And I ordained you a prophet to the nations.” He was ordained and selected by God to be a prophet to the nations.
Let us return to Revelation 11 to see what else is revealed about the two witnesses. As quoted above, Revelation 11:3 states: “And I will give power to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy one thousand two hundred and sixty days, clothed in sackcloth.” They will be given power or authority or the ability from God (the word “power” has been added by the translator and is not in the original), and they will prophesy for three and a half years, which is the same time frame as the duration of the Great Tribulation.
Revelation 11:5 continues: “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.”
This passage does not tell us whether the two witnesses will directly cause the death of their enemies, or whether, what is more likely, God will supernaturally intervene and use them as “vehicles” or “instruments” to bring about the results, thereby proving the fact that they are HIS witnesses. Something similar occurred in the time of Elijah, as we will discuss below. In any event, it is evident that they must be able to discern real threats from bluffs. They have to be mature and grounded in the faith. Bear in mind also that not everyone has the stomach to participate, in some way, in taking human life which is a serious matter. On the other hand, others might be tempted to abuse and misuse that power.
Let us look in this context at an event in the life of the prophet Elijah. We read in 2 Kings 1:9-14:
“Then the king sent to him a captain of fifty with his fifty men. So he went up to him; and there he was, sitting on the top of a hill. And he spoke to him: ‘Man of God, the king has said, “Come down!”’ So Elijah answered and said to the captain of fifty, ‘If I am a man of God, then let fire come down from heaven and consume you and your fifty men.’ And fire came down from heaven and consumed him and his fifty. Then he sent to him another captain of fifty with his fifty men. And he answered and said to him: ‘Man of God, thus has the king said, “Come down quickly!”’ So Elijah answered and said to them, ‘If I am a man of God, let fire come down from heaven and consume you and your fifty men.’ And the fire of God came down from heaven and consumed him and his fifty. Again, he sent a third captain of fifty with his fifty men. And the third captain of fifty went up, and came and fell on his knees before Elijah, and pleaded with him, and said to him: ‘Man of God, please let my life and the life of these fifty servants of yours be precious in your sight. Look, fire has come down from heaven and burned up the first two captains of fifties with their fifties. But let my life now be precious in your sight.’”
Notice that it was fire coming down from God in heaven which devoured the soldiers. But Elijah the prophet had an active role in this matter (he pronounced that this would happen, if God had approved of him as His prophet), and he was not afraid to act as he did. The only reason the third captain did not get killed and his men with him was because he approached Elijah in a humble and fearful manner, which is easy to understand with a hundred dead bodies around him and Elijah still being alive and well.
Later on, even two of Christ’s apostles—James and John, the sons of thunder – misunderstood why and how Elijah acted, and Christ rebuked them by implying that they were, at that moment, influenced by Satan the Devil. So, this type of power is not given to a novice or to someone who would abuse it.
Let us also review an incident in the life of Samuel the prophet, as recorded in 1 Samuel 15:32-33:
“Then Samuel said, ‘Bring Agag king of the Amalekites here to me.’ So Agag came to him cautiously. And Agag said, ‘Surely the bitterness of death is past.’ But Samuel said, ‘As your sword has made women childless, so shall your mother be childless among women.’ And Samuel hacked Agag in pieces before the LORD in Gilgal.”
Samuel just did not kill him with a single blow of the sword, but he hacked him to pieces. King Saul had refused God’s explicit command to kill Agag, so Samuel did what Saul was supposed to have done. Moses had done something similar when he ordered the execution of many Israelites who had worshipped the golden calf. In general, Israel fought in war, and so did David. But as we point out in our free booklet, Should You Fight in War?”, this was never God’s initial intent. In fact, David sinned when he fought in war. We are not saying here that Samuel and Moses sinned when they acted in the way they did, as they followed God’s explicit command, and so did Abraham when God commanded him to kill his son Isaac (which was a test, because God never intended for Abraham to carry out that task), but we are saying that these examples must in no way be used today by any of us to justify harming or killing others.
Another example regarding Elijah can be found in 1 Kings 18:40: “And Elijah said to them, ‘Seize the prophets of Baal! Do not let one of them escape!’ So they seized them; and Elijah brought them down to the Brook Kishon and executed them there.”
The point is, not just anybody can carry out in a proper way what the two witnesses will have to do or participate in doing during the time of their testimony.
What other powers will they have?
Revelation 11:6 states:
“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.”
They can bring plagues on the earth as often as they desire to make a point or achieve some goal which of course would include the death of human life. This is similar to the plagues of Egypt, including the last one when the firstborn of all people and animals were killed, excluding the Israelites and their livestock. Even though Moses pronounced the plagues, it was still God—not Moses—who carried them out.
So the plagues which will be proclaimed by the two witnesses and carried out by God can affect both man and beast.
This is a grave responsibility which has to be given to the mature. Moses was eighty years of age when he exercised the powers given to him by God. Some prophets were chosen young, others older, but not all had the power ascribed to Elijah and Moses and the two witnesses.
The two witnesses will eventually be killed by the beast power (showing that they are mere men, not angels) and be resurrected when Christ returns. Revelation 11:11-12 tells us: “Now after the three and a half days the breath of life from God entered them, and they stood on their feet, and great fear fell on those who saw them. And they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, ‘Come up here.’ And they ascended to heaven in a cloud, and their enemies saw them.”
Sometime in the future, Christ Himself will use two faithful and chosen servants to carry out a most important task during the Great Tribulation. They will be given powers and responsibilities unheard of or unseen in modern times. We assume that these men are alive today and waiting to be revealed by Christ. We would also assume that the beast and the false prophet are also alive today whom Satan will reveal in due time. Once the task of prophesying and witnessing is complete, the two witnesses will be killed and their dead bodies will lie in the street of Jerusalem, and after three and a half days, they will be resurrected to eternal life to receive their reward in the Kingdom of God, together with all the faithful saints and prophets of old.
Lead Writer: Rene Messier (Canada)