The Two Witnesses
We continue with the hardest chapter in the Book of Revelation, and these next verses are even more difficult than the last. Although it is common for many to take Revelation literally and refer much of it to a future date, I’m sure that it has occurred to some already that I do not hold to such a view. Granted, much of it does involve the future as that concerns our Lord’s return, but I believe that its message is timeless as it concerns God’s Church throughout history and all over the world. My intention is to interpret the Book christologically (concerning Christ) and ecclesiologically (concerning Christ’s Church), and truly do feel that such is the message of the Book.
I contend that the “two witnesses” represent the Church as they are the “two lampstands.” We learned from 1:20 that the seven lampstands represented the seven churches. That only two lampstands are mentioned here refers to the Law that there be at least two witnesses to confirm testimony. As for these witnesses also being the “two olive trees,” the reference comes from Zechariah 4:11-13 in which the two olive trees “are the anointed ones who stand by the Lord of the whole earth.” Scholars offer different interpretations and even persons whom these olive trees might be. I will focus on the fact that from the olive trees come the oil for the lampstands—which oil symbolizes the Holy Spirit who empowers the two witnesses, that is, the Church. After all, the key verse in that chapter is: “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of Hosts” (Zechariah 4:6). I have already spoken of the 1,260 days representing that time allotted to the Church from Pentecost until our Lord’s return. Thus, the import of the passage is that Christ’s Church “stands before the Lord of all the earth” testifying to the gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit to an unbelieving world.
As for the miraculous power of the “two witnesses”—fire pouring forth from their mouths, shutting off rain, turning water to blood, and striking the earth with plague—I again interpret as symbolic references to the power of the gospel proclaimed by the Church. One will notice that these were miracles performed by Elijah and Moses, and I will not gainsay that such miracles might be performed again just before our Lord’s return. But in the meantime, let us not denigrate the power of the gospel to work the far greater miracle of changing hearts and minds and even bringing whole nations into the Kingdom, nor God’s ability to protect His Church against which the gates of hell cannot prevail (Matthew 16:18).