Most Christians today are aware of the “two witnesses” of Revelation 11 that appear to come prior to the day of the Lord. This topic, along with many others, carries numerous different doctrines with it that have been formed by men. Some believe that these are two actual men/prophets that come in a way similar to Moses where they have power to bring plagues upon nations in the second half of a seven year tribulation period. Some believe that these two witnesses are the Old and New Testament, that were destroyed during the French Revolution bible burning yet resurrected and became the most distributed book in history. There are many other doctrines in between as well. Just as with other topics, how can one know what to believe with so many differing doctrines? For this reason it is important for every man to examine the testimony for himself. Today, let’s examine the scriptural testimony to see what this could mean. First let’s examine the testimony from Revelation:
“And there was given me a reed like unto a rod: and the angel stood, saying, Rise, and measure the temple of God, and the altar, and them that worship therein. But the court which is without the temple leave out, and measure it not; for it is given unto the Gentiles: and the holy city shall they tread under foot forty and two months. And I will give power unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days, clothed in sackcloth. These are the two olive trees, and the two candlesticks standing before the God of the earth. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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 11:1-12
There are a few things we can gather from this prophecy. The two witnesses: 1. Will be given power by God, 2. They will prophecy 1,260 days, 3. They will be clothed in sackcloth (poor man’s cloth’s), 4. They are the two olive trees and two candlesticks standing before the God of the earth. 5. They can spit fire out of their mouths and destroy their enemies, 6. They have power over rain, plagues, and to turn water into blood, 7. They will be killed by the “Beast” in the “great city” where our Lord was crucified, 8. They will be dead in the streets for 3 ½ days and will resurrect and ascend to heaven for all to see, 9. While they are dead the earth will rejoice and exchange gifts. These are all extremely descriptive points. Notice at the beginning of this chapter that the angel speaks of the temple of God and the altar, and instructs John to measure it. This may be a clue for our understanding, in that it is speaking to something that is spiritual, not physical. Remember, the temple of God is now within us and is no longer an earthly building- the tabernacle is in heaven, not on the earth:
“Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.” ~ 1 Corinthians 3:16-17
Notice the parallel between these two witnesses and Moses and Elijah of the Old Testament. Like Moses and Elijah, they are given the power of God to shut up the rain, bring plagues, and spit fire out of their mouths to devour their enemies. To receive more insight into this topic, let’s examine one clue in particular- the clue that these two witnesses are “two olive trees” and “two candlesticks” standing before the God of the earth. This isn’t the first reference to these two things in the bible. To consider the parallel reference to these things, let’s look back to the time where the Israelites came out of captivity in Babylon and were permitted to return to Jerusalem. This was during the time of the prophets Ezra, Nehemiah, Haggai and Zechariah. Remember, the Israelites once already escaped captivity via the hand of God when Moses led them out of Egypt. This would be the second time that God would help his people to return to the promised land- Jerusalem/Israel.
During this time, two leaders were distinct and instrumental. Zerubbabel was the son of Shealtiel the governor of Judah, and emerged as the leader of the first Israelites to return to Jerusalem. There were approximately 42,360 Israelites that returned to Jerusalem in this first wave of migration. Joshua son of Josedich the high priest was also a leader that emerged among the people. Keep in mind, these people returned to a city that was in ruin, in need of much fixing and restoration. Solomon’s Temple was completely destroyed during the Babylonian invasion, and the land was desolate- not producing nearly enough fruit to feed all of these people. Nevertheless they returned and were rebuilding the city. The prophet Haggai then came with a prophecy. First Haggai reveals to them why they are working so hard and yet the land wouldn’t bear them enough fruit:
“Is it time for you, O ye, to dwell in your cieled houses, and this house lie waste? Now therefore thus saith the Lord of hosts; Consider your ways. Ye have sown much, and bring in little; ye eat, but ye have not enough; ye drink, but ye are not filled with drink; ye clothe you, but there is none warm; and he that earneth wages earneth wages to put it into a bag with holes. Thus saith the Lord of hosts; Consider your ways. Go up to the mountain, and bring wood, and build the house; and I will take pleasure in it, and I will be glorified, saith the Lord. Ye looked for much, and, lo it came to little; and when ye brought it home, I did blow upon it. Why? saith the Lord of hosts. Because of mine house that is waste, and ye run every man unto his own house. Therefore the heaven over you is stayed from dew, and the earth is stayed from her fruit. And I called for a drought upon the land, and upon the mountains, and upon the corn, and upon the new wine, and upon the oil, and upon that which the ground bringeth forth, and upon men, and upon cattle, and upon all the labour of the hands.” ~ Haggai 1:4-11
You can see here that Yeshua through Haggai revealed that the reason the land wasn’t fruitful, was because the temple of God was still in ruins. Because of this He withheld the dew and called a drought upon the land and its products. This was Yeshua giving them the key to restoring the Kingdom of Israel- which was to rebuild the temple. Haggai continues:
“Then Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest, with all the remnant of the people, obeyed the voice of the Lord their God, and the words of Haggai the prophet, as the Lord their God had sent him, and the people did fear before the Lord. Then spake Haggai the Lord’s messenger in the Lord’s message unto the people, saying, I am with you, saith the Lord. And the Lord stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and the spirit of Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest, and the spirit of all the remnant of the people; and they came and did work in the house of the Lord of hosts, their God,” ~ Haggai 1:12-14
So this people, led by Zerubbabel and Joshua, went to work on rebuilding the temple of God. Yeshua tells them “I am with you” and He stirred up their spirit to accomplish this great task. What is very interesting is Haggai 2, where not only does Yeshua instruct Zerubbabel to be strong in this great task ahead of them, but he prophecies of the time of the end:
“Yet now be strong, O Zerubbabel, saith the Lord; and be strong, O Joshua, son of Josedech, the high priest; and be strong, all ye people of the land, saith the Lord, and work: for I am with you, saith the Lord of hosts: According to the word that I covenanted with you when ye came out of Egypt, so my spirit remaineth among you: fear ye not. For thus saith the Lord of hosts; Yet once, it is a little while, and I will shake the heavens, and the earth, and the sea, and the dry land; And I will shake all nations, and the desire of all nations shall come: and I will fill this house with glory, saith the Lord of hosts. The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, saith the Lord of hosts. The glory of this latter house shall be greater than of the former, saith the Lord of hosts: and in this place will I give peace, saith the Lord of hosts.” ~ Haggai 2:4-9
You can see in the message “shake the heavens, and the earth, and the sea, and the dry land”, is the same message of the other prophets concerning the day of the Lord. He says that this will happen in a “little while”, and we know from Apostle Peter that a thousand years is like a day to Yeshua. He refers to the “latter house” being greater than the former, again a reference to the end of days. This mention that ALL nations will be shaken, again confirms that this prophecy is concerning the day of the Lord. He gets more specific:
“Speak to Zerubbabel, governor of Judah, saying, I will shake the heavens and the earth; And I will overthrow the throne of kingdoms, and I will destroy the strength of the kingdoms of the heathen; and I will overthrow the chariots, and those that ride in them; and the horses and their riders shall come down, every one by the sword of his brother. In that day, saith the Lord of hosts, will I take thee, O Zerubbabel, my servant, the son of Shealtiel, saith the Lord, and will make thee as a signet: for I have chosen thee, saith the Lord of hosts.” ~ Haggai 2:21-23
Here Yeshua makes again a reference to the shaking of heaven and earth, he mentions destroying and overthrowing all kingdoms etc. Then He says something that is puzzling. Verse 23 where it mentions “In that day, saith the Lord of hosts, will I take thee, O Zerubbabel, my servant, the son of Shealtiel, saith the Lord, and will make thee as a signet: for I have chosen thee, saith the Lord of hosts.” The rational person says “wait a minute?” How can this be, as Zerubbabel was living in the 6th century BC? He clearly isn’t alive today in these latter times, so what does this mean? How will Zerubbabel become a “signet” for the end times, when Yeshua will shake the heavens and the earth? The word “signet” comes from the Hebrew word ka·ḥō·w·ṯām meaning “a precious article, a seal, a seal on a ring worn on the right hand or around the neck, engraving or inscription.” A signet in other words represents something. It is a symbol. For this reason, it is important to understand the role of Zerubbabel as Yeshua has established that Zerubbabel is a symbol/seal for us today in these latter times. Zechariah gives us some more testimony to consider that ties in the Revelation 11 testimony of the olive trees and candlesticks:
“And said unto me, What seest thou? And I said, I have looked, and behold a candlestick all of gold, with a bowl upon the top of it, and his seven lamps thereon, and seven pipes to the seven lamps, which are upon the top thereof: And two olive trees by it, one upon the right side of the bowl, and the other upon the left side thereof. So I answered and spake to the angel that talked with me, saying, What are these, my lord? Then the angel that talked with me answered and said unto me, Knowest thou not what these be? And I said, No, my lord. Then he answered and spake unto me, saying, This is the word of the Lord unto Zerubbabel, saying, Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the Lord of hosts. Who art thou, O great mountain? before Zerubbabel thou shalt become a plain: and he shall bring forth the headstone thereof with shoutings, crying, Grace, grace unto it. Moreover the word of the Lord came unto me, saying, The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house; his hands shall also finish it; and thou shalt know that the Lord of hosts hath sent me unto you. For who hath despised the day of small things? for they shall rejoice, and shall see the plummet in the hand of Zerubbabel with those seven; they are the eyes of the Lord, which run to and fro through the whole earth. Then answered I, and said unto him, What are these two olive trees upon the right side of the candlestick and upon the left side thereof? And I answered again, and said unto him, What be these two olive branches which through the two golden pipes empty the golden oil out of themselves? And he answered me and said, Knowest thou not what these be? And I said, No, my lord. Then said he, These are the two anointed ones, that stand by the Lord of the whole earth.” ~ Zechariah 4:2-14
First notice the reference to the two olive trees and the candlestick with seven lamps and seven pipes to the seven lamps. This bears a striking similarity to the testimony of Revelation 11. Also notice, when the angel is asked “what are these things”, He replies they are the “word of the Lord unto Zerubbabel saying, Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the Lord of hosts.” There is also a specific reference to the two olive trees as being the two anointed ones that “stand before the Lord of the whole earth.” These do appear to be the same witnesses as those mentioned in Revelation. Are they actual individuals in the flesh? Are they unseen? It doesn’t say. He indicates that through the spirit comes power- in the reference to the mountain becoming a plain before Zerubbabel. Then something very interesting is mentioned- that the hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house; and his hands shall also finish it.” Will God’s chosen given the spirit that led Zerubbabel, be tasked with rebuilding the temple within man in the latter times?
Consider the testimony of Apostle Paul to the Romans. There he symbolically references the “good” olive tree representing the Jewish nation of Israel, and the “wild” olive tree representing the Gentile nations:
“For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office: If by any means I may provoke to emulation them which are my flesh, and might save some of them. For if the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead? For if the firstfruit be holy, the lump is also holy: and if the root be holy, so are the branches. And if some of the branches be broken off, and thou, being a wild olive tree, wert grafted in among them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree; Boast not against the branches. But if thou boast, thou bearest not the root, but the root thee. Thou wilt say then, The branches were broken off, that I might be grafted in. Well; because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not highminded, but fear: For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee. Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off. And they also, if they abide not still in unbelief, shall be grafted in: for God is able to graft them in again. For if thou wert cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and wert grafted contrary to nature into a good olive tree: how much more shall these, which be the natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree? For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.” ~ Romans 11:13-25
The Gentiles who were a part of the wild olive tree were grafted into the good olive tree (Israel), as those from Israel that didn’t believe were cut off from the good tree. It is interesting that these olive trees represent Israel and the Gentiles. Could the two olive trees of Revelation represent the body of believers who remain obedient to the covenant of God? This is something to consider. You can also see, that the example of Zerubbabel does have a relationship with the testimony of the two witnesses of the book of Revelation. Could it be that in the end, a major movement must take place where God’s chosen set out to reestablish the temple of God within the hearts of men where His people will obey His commandments and come back under the covenant? When you examine the account of Ezra 2, 3, 4, 5 and Nehemiah 7, 12, you will see that when the Israelites returned to Jerusalem, Zerubbabel and Joshua had a tremendous task ahead of them. They set out to reestablish the city, rebuild the temple, and reinstate the laws, statutes, commands and judgments of the Creator among the people. This was their duty, and Yeshua moved their spirit to accomplish this enormous task. The laws of God were read repeatedly day after day to all of the people during the Feasts immediately after the temple was rebuilt as you can see in the biblical record, all to remind the people of the covenant and to reestablish the Kingdom. Circling back to the Revelation account, one may ask- Are these two witnesses literal? Are these two witnesses the spirit of God moving in people? Ask yourself- what does a witness do? A witness gives testimony of something that has been shown to Him, or something that he has experienced or seen. Could these two witnesses be actual prophets that appear prior to the day of the Lord? That’s possible. Could these two witnesses be a spiritual reference to many people all over the world that carry the spirit and testimony of God’s two witnesses? Again this too is possible. Will Zerubbabel and Joshua come back from the dead to finish the work of the Lord on this earth before the day of the Lord, just as Yeshua called them to rebuild the temple and reestablish the covenant in the 6th century BC? I don’t know. What we can conclude is that the book of Revelation does make a reference back to the book of Zechariah, and the book of Zechariah does make a reference that can be confirmed in the book of Revelation. It is important for us to understand the work of Zerubbabel (the signet) and Joshua. Like with other prophecies, it is difficult to understand many things until they are fulfilled completely. As usual, I have my opinions as a man based upon my own studies and where I’ve been led, but my opinions don’t really matter. I do believe though, that the covenant must be reestablished, and the temple within the hearts of men must be rebuilt today. We know from the New Testament scripture that “we are the temple of God,” yet man has fallen far away from desiring to be obedient to Him. What a tremendous work that lies ahead. Whether God will send two literal prophets, or he leaves the work to us through His spirit, I pray that I and my family and friends can be a part of His work regardless. Please prayerfully consider the testimony of Ezra, Nehemiah, Haggai and Zechariah.