The mainstream teaching on the two witnesses of Revelation teaches that they will be literal people sent down from There are three primary viewpoints on the identity of the two witnesses in Revelation 11:3-12: (1) Moses and Elijah, (2) Enoch and Elijah, (3) two unknown believers whom God calls to be His witnesses in the end times.
1)Moses and Elijah are seen as possibilities for the two witnesses due to the witnesses’ power to turn water into blood (Revelation 11:6), which Moses is known for (Exodus chapter 7), and their power to destroy people with fire (Revelation 11:5), which Elijah is known for (2 Kings chapter 1). Also giving strength to this view is the fact that Moses and Elijah appeared with Jesus at the transfiguration (Matthew 17:3-4). Further, Jewish tradition expected Moses and Elijah to return in the future. Malachi 4:5 predicted the return of Elijah, and the Jews believed that God’s promise to raise up a prophet like Moses (Deuteronomy 18:15, 18) necessitated his return.
(2) Enoch and Elijah are seen as possibilities for the two witnesses because they are the two individuals whom God has taken to heaven apart from experiencing death (Genesis 5:23; 2 Kings 2:11). The fact that neither Enoch or Elijah have experienced death seems to qualify them to experience death and resurrection, as the two witnesses experience (Revelation 11:7-12). Proponents of this view claim that Hebrews 9:27 (all men die once) disqualifies Moses from being one of the two witnesses, as Moses has died once already (Deuteronomy 34:5). However, there are several others in the Bible who died twice—e.g., Lazarus, Dorcas, and the daughter of the synagogue ruler—so there is really no reason why Moses should be eliminated on this basis.
View (3) essentially argues that Revelation chapter 11 does not attach any famous identity to the two witnesses. If their identities were Moses and Elijah, or Enoch and Elijah, why would Scripture be silent about this? God is perfectly capable of taking two “ordinary” believers and enabling them to perform the same signs and wonders that Moses and Elijah did. There is nothing in Revelation 11 that requires us to assume a “famous” identity for the two witnesses.heaven to preach to the world for a literal 1260 days, or 3 and a half years.
Why two witnesses?
Throughout the Bible, we find that God often works with pairs of individuals. During the time Zechariah was writing, Zerubbabel served as governor and a man named Joshua served as the high priest (Zechariah 3:1). Earlier, God had used Moses as the leader of the ancient Israelites and his brother Aaron as the high priest.
In the New Testament, Christ sent His disciples out “two by two” (Mark 6:7). Although they occasionally had others traveling with them, Paul and Barnabas worked together to take the gospel to the gentiles.
When two people work together, they can often be more productive than when working alone. Recognizing this principle, Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 states: “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labor. For if they fall, one will lift up his companion. But woe to him who is alone when he falls, for he has no one to help him up.”
Another indication why God will have two witnesses is because of the importance of having at least two people to testify in judicial matters. As Deuteronomy 19:15 states: “One witness shall not rise against a man concerning any iniquity or any sin that he commits; by the mouth of two or three witnesses the matter shall be established” (also see Deuteronomy 17:6).
By having two witnesses, God is following His own law as He, through the two witnesses, warns people to repent of their sins prior to punishing them if they do not heed His instruction.
The work of the two witnesses
The account in the book of Revelation gives clues about the work of the two witnesses: “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. 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” (Revelation 11:5-6).
As these representatives of God witness to the world that all people need to repent of their sins, they will have access to God’s Holy Spirit to produce miracles reminiscent of other prophets of God. Like Elijah, they will have the power to stop the rain (1 Kings 17:1) and kill anyone who tries to harm them (2 Kings 1:9-12). Like Moses, they will have the power to turn water to blood (Exodus 7:17) and strike the earth with plagues (Exodus 7:14 through 12:30).
But making people suffer is not their primary mission. Instead, like Elijah, their goal will be to encourage people to turn their hearts to God (1 Kings 18:37). Elijah served during a time when ancient Israel had become exceedingly corrupt under wicked King Ahab and his idolatrous wife, Jezebel. Biblical prophecies show that the whole earth will become corrupt prior to the return of Christ (2 Timothy 3:13), and this will be the environment in which the two witnesses will minister.
Counterfeits of the two witnesses
In the book of Revelation, God reveals a prophecy concerning two individuals called “the beast” and “the false prophet,” who will be opposed to the work of the two witnesses. The beast will be the civil leader who all people of the earth, except those faithful to God, will follow (Revelation 13:8). The false prophet is the head of the religious system supporting the beast.
One tool used to understand prophecy is the type-antitype principle. The account in Exodus 7:10-12provides a preview of things to come at the time of the two witnesses. It begins with the first of several encounters between Moses and Pharaoh. Under Moses’ direction, Aaron threw down the rod and it became a snake. The magicians (Jannes and Jambres) also did the same thing with their rods (Exodus 7:11-12). Water was turned to blood, and the magicians did the same thing (verse 22). These miracles were performed in the presence of Pharaoh.
During the Great Tribulation, the false prophet will also perform miracles. “The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders” (2 Thessalonians 2:9).
Speaking of this same person, Revelation 13:11, 13-14 says, “Then I saw another beast coming up out of the earth, and he had two horns like a lamb and spoke like a dragon. … He performs great signs, so that he even makes fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men [an Elijah-like miracle]. And he deceives those who dwell on the earth by those signs which he was granted to do in the sight of the beast.”
Satan will use the beast and the false prophet as counterfeits to the two witnesses. As a result, Satan will continue to deceive the whole world through “signs, and lying wonders” (2 Thessalonians 2:9) and false religion (also see Matthew 24:24; Revelation 12:9).
Why will people rejoice over their deaths?
After the two witnesses complete their 3½-year ministry of preaching the gospel to the entire world, their divine protection will be removed and they will be killed.
“When they finish their testimony, the beast that ascends out of the bottomless pit will make war against them, overcome them, and kill them. And their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified. Then those from the peoples, tribes, tongues, and nations will see their dead bodies three-and-a-half days, and not allow their dead bodies to be put into graves. 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” (Revelation 11:7-10).
Why will the world rejoice over their deaths?
Most in the world will not like their message of repentance. People do not want to be told that what they are doing is wrong, that they are sinning and need to change. They will be angry because of the plagues being brought on them as punishments for not repenting of their sins, and they will blame the two witnesses for the torment so many will suffer.
The rejoicing over their deaths will be short-lived. After 3½ days, God will resurrect them from the dead, and their enemies will see them ascend to heaven (Revelation 11:7-12). As for their ascending to heaven, this occurs at the end of this age and is not something that has been happening to good people when they die.
What’s the point?
The overall lesson we learn from the two witnesses is that God will send these two special representatives to warn people to repent and change their evil ways—to turn their hearts toward God. We also see that we need to beware of the false prophets that are prophesied to come and we must be careful that we don’t allow ourselves to be deceived. It is far better for us to respond to God now, when we become aware of His expectations of us.