The Two Witnesses of Revelations 11 has boggled Christendom for centuries. Varying views have been presented in an attempt to shed light on this enigmatic subject. One of the most popular (if not the most popular) interpretations suggests that the Jews and the Gentiles are the two witnesses. Let's examine if this view fares well with the Biblical test.
We can read about the Two Witnesses in Revelation 11:3-4, "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."
Because the Jews are described as an olive tree (Jeremiah 11:16, 17) and that the Gentiles are grafted into the same olive tree after receiving Christ (Romans 11:13-24), some Christians conclude that the Two Witnesses are the Jews and the Gentiles. Is this a fail-proof interpretation?
We should understand that symbols used in the Bible can have more than one meaning and therefore should be interpreted with contextual consideration. The serpent would be a good example of this case. Most often, the serpent is viewed as a symbol of the Devil (Revelations 12:9) but Jesus was also symbolized by the serpent lifted by Moses in the wilderness (John 3:14-15). Another example is the Lion, yes Jesus is the lion of the tribe of Judah (Revelation 5:5-7) but the Devil is also symbolized as a roaring lion in the Bible (1 Peter 5:8). Having this in mind, we can see that although the Jews and Gentiles indeed are symbolized as an olive tree, we should not hastily conclude that the Jews and Gentiles are indeed the two witnesses of Revelation 11. Though God's people are told to "let your light so shine before men" (Matthew 5:16) and "Let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning" (Luke 12:35), we should not automatically conclude that God's people are indeed the candlesticks of Revelation 11. We need to examine the context of the scripture lest we make a wrong conclusion.
THE TWO CANDLESTICKS
Proponents of the view that the Jews and the Gentiles are indeed the Two Witnesses often quote Revelation 1:20 to prove that the candlesticks symbolize a group of people, the seven churches in particular. Where were the seven churches located? On the earth! Yes. The golden candlesticks in Revelation 1:20 is located on the earth and Jesus "walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks" (Revelation 2:1). On the other hand, the candlesticks of Revelation 11 are "standing before the God of the earth". Where is the throne of God? In heaven (Deuteronomy 26:15), that's right! With the fact that the candlesticks (symbolizing the seven churches) in Revelation 1:20 are located on earth while the candlesticks (symbolizing the two witnesses) in Revelation 11:4 are located in heaven, we certainly cannot conclude that the seven churches or a group of people would be the two witnesses.
ONE THOUSAND TWO HUNDRED SIXTY DAYS
Most proponents of the view that the Jews and the Gentiles are the Two Witnesses of Revelation 11 also believe that time will come when the Jews and the Gentiles will prophesy in sackcloth (repentance and humiliation) before the coming of Jesus. This idea falls apart when we consider the nearness of the coming of Jesus (Matthew 24) and the length of the prophesying of the Two Witnesses in sackcloth. Is Jesus coming very soon? No doubt about that. How long does the two witnesses prophecy in sackcloth? Revelation 11:4 says, "a thousand two hundred and threescore days". 1260 days? If 1 day in Bible prophecy means 1 literal year (Numbers 14:34; Ezekiel 4:6), 1,260 prophetic days is equal to 1,260 literal years. If the Jews and Gentiles are the Two Witnesses, and the Witnesses are yet to prophecy for 1,260 years, does this mean that the coming of Jesus will take at least a thousand years more? God forbid!
FIRE OUT OF THEIR MOUTH
Revelation 11:5 says, "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." Can the Jews and the Gentiles throw fire out of their mouths? Certainly not! Nevertheless, people who suppose that the Jews and the Gentiles are Two witnesses would quote Jeremiah 5:14 and then say that the fire proceeding out of their mouth of the two witnesses is symbolic for the preaching of the gospel. The biggest problem for this interpretation is the fact that according to Revelation 11:5, the fire "devoureth their enemies: and if any man will hurt them, he must in this manner be killed." The fire mentioned here is not gospel fire. Rather, we can clearly see that this fire is judgement fire. When fire is mentioned in connection with judgement (Genesis 19:24, Psalm 106:18, Amos 2:5), it is often, if not always, rendered in a literal sense. Are the Jews and the Gentiles capable of spitting fire to destroy their enemies? Not according to the Bible.
WHO ARE THE TWO WITNESSES OF REVELATION 11?
If the Jews and the Gentiles cannot "perfectly" fit the puzzle, who are the two witnesses of Revelation 11? John the Revelator saw that the Two Witnesses "are the two olive trees, and the two candlesticks standing before the God of the earth" (Revelation 11:4). The Prophet Zechariah also received the same vision as John, let us read Zechariah 4:1-6:
"And the angel that talked with me came again, and waked me, as a man that is wakened out of his sleep, 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?'"
At this point, Zechariah is asking about the meaning of the Two Olive Trees and the golden candlesticks. Whatever answer he received must be the same answer that we should take.
"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 (the angel) 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.'"
Here we have the question answered very clearly, the Two Olive Trees and the Golden Candlesticks is the Word of the Lord. Today, we call the Word of the Lord the Bible. Why TWO olive trees? The Bible has the old testament and the new testament. Also, the whole bible is composed of two scriptures, one about the law and another about prophecy. Isaiah 8:20 says, "To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them." Jesus himself sees the Bible as two scriptures. "And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he (Jesus) expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself." (Luke 24:27)
The two witnesses are described as, "the two anointed ones" (Zechariah 4:14). The Greek word "Christos" literally means "anointed", how was Jesus anointed? Isaiah 61:1 says, "The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me..." Jesus was anointed by the Lord when the Holy Spirit came upon him. Is the Bible filled with the Holy Spirit? "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness" (2 Timothy 3:16). In fact the Bible is written through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, "For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost." 2 Peter 1:21. This is also the very reason why the Bible is symbolized by olive trees, olive trees produce oil and oil is a symbol of the Holy Spirit (Revelation 4:5).
Is the Bible symbolized as candlesticks or lampstand? Certainly! Psalms 119:105 says, "Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path." God's word, the Bible is given to guide the people of God. Anyone who does not follow the law and the prophets has "no light in them." (Isaiah 8:20)
Can the Word of the Lord send fire, stop the rain, turn water into blood, and fill the earth with plagues? Most certainly! "For he spake, and it was done; he commanded, and it stood fast." (Psalms 33:9)
The interpretation that the Two Witnesses are the Jews and the Gentiles of the last days face numerous scriptural problems. On the contrary, careful examination of scripture reveals that The Bible, the Old Testament, and the New Testament, composed of the Law and the Prophets is a more fitting interpretation of the Two Witnesses of Revelation 11.
*All scripture used are from the King James Version Bible (1611).