Revelation is not a mystery, but God’s solution of one. Consequently, we can’t go to that book with our doctrines in place and expect to learn what the Lord may have in store for us there. The Two Witnesses of Rev 11:3-7 are good examples of why. Most believe these two witnesses to be a couple of Old Testament saints like Enoch and Elijah, but they might be someone else entirely:
Rev 11:3 “... and I will grant authority to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for twelve hundred and sixty days, clothed in sackcloth.”
Since the day-year principle fits our history so far, it’s likely those two witnesses will witness for 1260 years. No one in any age lived 1260 years so this can’t be about two individuals. We need another clue:
Rev 11:4 “These are the two olive trees, and the two candlesticks standing before the God of the earth.”
Hmm... olive trees and candlesticks. What can those figures mean? Unless the Lord’s Two Witnesses are a pair of real elderly fruit-bearing olive trees and a couple of really ancient, oildripping candlesticks, then like it or not, we are dealing with figurative language. So let’s see if we can find biblical definitions for olive trees and candlesticks.
To sort these figures out we probably need to apply one of the rules of hermeneutics. Now, hermeneutics is not a discipline we play games with to fit our doctrines. It is a sound study of how to interpret either the spoken word or a written document. Hermeneutics has some excellent, time-tested rules. Among them is the rule of “scriptural adjacency.” That rule states: When you read something you don’t understand, first study the surrounding text, then the chapter, then the book in which that chapter appears, then the testament that contains that book, and finally, relate the verse to the whole Bible. That is one of the rules, and it’s a very sound one. In other words...
We don’t go to the Old Testament for definitions of New Testament figures when there are New Testament definitions that fit perfectly!
In Rev 11:4 quoted above, the Two Witnesses of the Christian Era are described as olive trees and candlesticks. To find the correct definition for those figures, we should find the closest contextual address that explains them. Lo and behold, right in Revelation we find candlesticks defined:
Rev 1:20 “The mystery of the seven stars which thou sawest in My right hand, and the seven golden candlesticks. The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches: and the seven candlesticks which thou sawest are the seven churches.”
Right in Revelation 1, candlesticks are defined as churches. Now if candlesticks are churches in Rev 1, then guess what? Candlesticks are still churches in Rev 11. The only way they would not be Churches is if God Himself changed the symbolic meaning of that word somewhere between Rev 1:20 and Rev 11:4. No change of definition appears there (or anywhere else in Scripture for that matter) so the candlesticks of Rev 11:4 are churches. That interpretation is not the product of some clever theologian’s overactive imagination. Candlesticks are churches because the Bible itself defines them as such.
So, if the seven candlesticks of Rev 1 are seven churches, what do you suppose the two candlesticks of Rev 11 might be? Why, two churches of course. But if the Two Witnesses are only two churches, which churches are they? Probably every denomination in the world would like to believe it is one of the Two Witnesses (with the rest of Christendom being heretics, of course), but God’s churches of the Christian Era are far broader than man’s sectarian restrictions, and the Olive Trees figure positively identifies who
Still applying the principle of scriptural adjacency, we first try for a definition of olive trees in Revelation and then in the rest of the New Testament. Four times in the Old, and twice in the New, Israel is defined as an olive tree. Old Testament verses are included in footnote, but we still don’t use Old Testament definitions to define New Testament figures when there are New Testament definitions that fit perfectly:
Rom 11:17 “And if some of the [Jewish] branches be broken off, and thou [the Gentile church], being a wild olive tree, wert grafted in among them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree.”
Rom 11:24 “For if thou [the Gentile Church] wert cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and wert grafted contrary to nature into a good olive tree [the Jews]: how much more shall these [Jews], which be the natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree?”
Revelation is a New Testament book, and a New Testament definition for olive trees appears in Romans 11.1 According to that whole chapter, the Gentile church is one olive tree, and the Jewish people are the other. As a result...
One witness is the Jewish people
and the other witness is the Gentile church!
That’s not optional. If we just accept the scriptural definitions for olive trees and candlesticks, we are not left with a lot of doctrinal options. Take a realistic look at history. The nation of Israel could not have maintained its identity through nineteen centuries of dispersion, under constant persecution, were it not for the protecting hand of the Lord our God. The Bible itself affirms it. Listen to what Scripture says:
Jer 31:35-37 “Thus saith the LORD, which giveth the sun for a light by day, and the ordinances of the moon and of the stars for a light by night, which divideth the sea when the waves thereof roar; The LORD of hosts is his name: If those ordinances depart from before me, saith the LORD, then the seed of Israel also shall cease from being a nation before me for ever. Thus saith the LORD; If heaven above can be measured, and the foundations of the earth searched out beneath, I will also cast off all the seed of Israel for all that they have done, saith the LORD.”
Our Heavenly Father has not forgotten those words. He stated right there that the children of Israel would be a nation before Him forever, so He has remembered His chosen people all along. The Lord’s plans for the physical seed of Israel throughout all time, including the Christian Era, is recorded in too many Scriptures to ignore.
Replacement theology notwithstanding, from the multitude of verses cited in the footnote, it appears that the Lord never intended to forget the physical seed of Israel. Let me tell you how important that is. If the Jews could not trust the promises God made to them in the Old Testament, how can the Church trust the promises God made to us in the New? Despite man’s doctrines to the contrary, it is comforting to know that the God of the Bible keeps His Word eternally.
Psalm 33:11 “The counsel of the LORD standeth for ever, the thoughts of his heart to all generations.”
But if the Two Witnesses are two churches, when are they going to witness? If we stand by the day-year principle, they would have to witness for 1260 years: Rev 11:3 “And I will give power unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days.”
The time of the Two Witnesses cannot come after the time of the Gentiles because Jesus told us there would be only ONE generation following 1967: “This generation (after the time of the Gentiles) will not pass away until all things are fulfilled” (Luke 21:24, 32). A generation cannot be over 70 years (Psalm 90:10), and is usually considered to be 40 years, so we have to look back in history for these 1260 years. The author could find only one 1260 year time period that had any spiritual significance at all during the whole Christian Era:
1948AD - 1260 = 688 AD and the Dome of the Rock!
And this fits history perfectly! As of 1948, the Jews are no longer witnessing in the nations. The “Abomination that maketh Desolate” was set up in 688, and the Jews were driven into the “wilderness” of the nations at that time.1 Now, 1260 years later, there is a new autonomous nation of Israel, and the Jews are back in the Holy Land again. So the Jewish people are one of the Two Witnesses of the Christian Era.
The Other Witness
We can see 688 to 1948 as the time of Jewish witness, but what about the second witness, the Church? How can the church’s time of witness be over since we are still here? Well, look at what has happened to the Church since 1948. Most Christian homes have a Bible, but few Christians still read them or continue to witness to the lost. The immorality, involvement in the occult and satanism in the western nations has mushroomed since 1948, and the church has done little to slow the decay. As a result of our apathy and the questionable lifestyles that follow, much of the Gentile church has fallen into apostasy.
Many churches in America are terminally ill and most in Europe no longer hold Christian services. Many are beyond reach, “the sin unto spiritual death” (1 John 5:16). Since our battle is really spiritual, one is inclined to wonder if the coming destruction of the visible Church may not be more spiritual than physical. If it is, we are frighteningly close to that hour:
Rev 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.”
Note: Before 688, both Christians and Jews could freely worship in Jerusalem, and on the temple mount. They were not prophetically in the nations until the Moslems made it unsafe for them to worship in that city. That is why the time of the Two Witnesses began in 688.
Rev 11:7 “And when they [the Two Witnesses] 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.”
One way or another, in the final hours of this age, the Two Witnesses are going to be destroyed. Read Rev 11:7 in the original Greek or any translation you like. All predict the end of the visible Church. How can that be? Didn’t Jesus promise that the gates of Hell would not prevail against His church? Yes, but the true Church that remains are not all those big buildings out there, the Church is only a remnant now . . . a few hairs hidden in a hem of the Lord’s garment (Eze 5:3).
For the first time since the invention of the printing press, books on astrology, satanism, and the occult are outselling the Bible. Truth has fallen in the street (Isa 59:14), and the consciences of our people have been seared as with a branding iron (1Tim 4:2). This will eventually lead to a worldwide rejection of God and of His Word. As the spiritual decay deepens, a ruthless and devastating evil is being unleashed upon this planet, and it is coming with an intensity unknown since the flood.