The Two Witnesses

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(Revelation 11, 2 Zechariah 4)
Lesson Number: 

Lesson 6

The Two Witnesses

(Revelation 11, Zechariah 4)

Copr. 2024, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. If you normally receive this lesson by e-mail, but it is lost one week, you can find it by clicking on this link: Pray for the guidance of the Holy Spirit as you study.

Introduction: One of the most unusual prophecies in the Bible is the Revelation 11 prediction about the “two witnesses” who are involved in astonishing displays of power. Revelation 11 tells us, “Fire pours from their mouth” to destroy opponents. “They have power to shut the sky,” turn water to blood, and create all sorts of plagues! Then they get killed. But, wait, they come to life again! Who are these guys? We begin to get the idea that they might not be “guys” or people at all because they witness for over a thousand years! Let’s dive into our study of the Bible to discover what I think is the most reasonable understanding of the two witnesses of Revelation 11!

  1. Olive Trees and Lampstands
    1. Read Revelation 11:1-4. The two witnesses are compared to two inanimate objects, trees and lampstands. When you think about lampstands, what prior reference in Revelation comes to mind? (Read Revelation 1:12-13 and Revelation 1:20. We see at the beginning of Revelation that lampstands refer to churches.)
      1. Why would a church be symbolized by a “lampstand” and not a lamp?
    2. Read Zechariah 4:1-3. Again we see olive trees, a lampstand, and lamps. What do you think the olive trees have to do with the lamp in these verses? (Read Zechariah 4:12. The olive trees provide the “golden oil” that powers the lamp.)
      1. How many lights are on this lampstand? (Seven. Notice that is exactly the same as the number of churches in Revelation 1.)
    3. Revelation 11:3-4 compares the two witnesses to trees and lampstands. If I only gave you the information we have discussed so far about the two witnesses, what would you conclude about them? What idea combines a church and a light fueled by oil? (A gospel guide. But let’s continue to explore this idea. It looks like we are dealing with pieces of a puzzle.)
    4. Read Acts 10:38 and Luke 4:18. What do you think it means to be “anointed?” (Read Exodus 30:22-25 which gives us a recipe for a special “holy anointing oil.” The general Biblical understanding is that being anointed means having oil put on you.)
      1. How do the texts in Acts and Luke relate the act of being anointed with oil and the Holy Spirit? (Anointing with oil is compared to anointing by the Holy Spirit.)
    5. Read 2 Peter 1:21. What light is fired by the Holy Spirit? (The Bible! As we put together the puzzle pieces of the olive trees, oil, lamp, and lampstands, the picture that emerges suggests that the witnesses are God’s word, the Bible.)
      1. Does God have two Bibles? (I think the Old and New Testaments solve that question.)
  2. The Age of the Witnesses
    1. We have all sorts of clues yet to be examined about the nature of the two witnesses. Let’s explore another. Re-read Revelation 11:3. Have you previously seen a reference in the Bible to 1,260 days? (The previous verse, Revelation 11:2 refers to forty-two months which equals 1,260 days. Daniel 7:25 refers to “a time and times and half a time.” This equals 3.5, which if referring to years, equals 1,260 days. Then Revelation 12:6 and Revelation 13:5 refer to the same time period.)
      1. What do you think it means for the two witnesses to be prophesying in “sackcloth?” (You wear sackcloth when you are grieving or sad.)
        1. If our original conclusion that the witnesses are the Bible is correct, what do you think it means to prophesy in sackcloth? (The Bible has suffered a reversal of fortunes.)
      2. Do you think all of these references in the Bible to 1,260 days refer to the same period of time? Is it a coincidence that this same period of time is stated in several different places in the Bible?
    2. Read Daniel 7:23-26. Does it seem like these events could happen in 3.5 years? (Adam Clarke’s commentary says that these are “prophetic” years “and a prophetic year has a year for each day.” If he is correct, and I think the context supports him, then we are talking about 1,260 years, not 1,260 days. If these various references to 1,260 days are the same time period, then we must conclude that it always refers to 1,260 years. Considering the other contexts, that makes sense.)
      1. Would a human be a witness for over one thousand years? (The answer is obviously, “no,” and that provides an additional clue that the two witnesses are not humans.)
  3. The Power of the Two Witnesses
    1. Read Revelation 11:5-6. Can you recall any of these things being reported in the Bible?
      1. Read 2 Kings 1:9-10. Did fire come down from heaven at the word of Elijah?
      2. Read 1 Kings 17:1. Did the sky shut at the word of Elijah?
      3. Read Exodus 7:20. Did water turn to blood at the word of Moses?
      4. If you scan Exodus chapters 7-11 you will find more plagues that came upon Egypt when Moses appeared before Pharaoh. Now that you have seen what happened when Elijah and Moses spoke, is it possible that they are the two witnesses?
        1. Do they solve the problem of humans not living for one thousand years? (Read Matthew 17:1-3. We see that Moses and Elijah came to earth from heaven! You can see why some believe that the two witnesses are Elijah and Moses.)
    2. Let’s dive a little deeper. Is there a single source of power behind the words of Elijah, Moses, and the Bible? (Yes! The Holy Spirit. We can see why the identity of the two witnesses is disputed, but I believe the Bible, with its two testaments, is a better fit.)
  4. The Death of the Two Witnesses
    1. Read Revelation 11:7-10. How can the two witnesses be killed if they are not alive? This is a clue that my suggestion that the two witnesses are the Bible is wrong!
    2. Focus on Revelation 11:7. The “testimony” of the witnesses is “finished” and a “beast” “makes war on them” and then kills them. Is the Bible a testimony? Has war been declared on the Bible? Let’s examine some quotations from the past:
      1. Pope Leo XII declared, “As it has been clearly shown by experience that, if the holy Bible in the vernacular is generally permitted without any distinction, more harm than utility is thereby caused.” Great Encyclical of Letters of Leo XIII, pp. 412-413.
      2. Pope Pius IV wrote: “The Bible is not for the people: whosoever will be saved must renounce it. It is a forbidden book. Bible societies are satanic contrivances.” Catholic Church Council of Trent, Rule III.
      3. Why would religious leaders make statements like this? (The stated concern is that untrained people would not be able to correctly understand the Bible.)
        1. What do you think about that view?
    3. Assume that in the middle ages, in accordance with the statements of these Popes, the Catholic Church was largely successful in keeping the average person from being able to read the Bible. Read Revelation 11:11. Can the Bible come alive? (When the printing press was invented, the masses were able to read and study the Bible for themselves. It was a new day for Bible literacy!)
    4. Let’s look again at Revelation 11:10. Have you heard of people who find the Bible to be a torment? Are any modern people burning the Bible?
    5. Read Revelation 11:12. What does this tell us about the battle over the Bible? (The Bible wins. Just as Jesus rising to heaven shows that He won, symbolically the Bible wins causing “great fear” for those who oppose the teachings of the Bible.)
    6. Have you asked yourself why we are studying the Two Witnesses? What is the relevance, other than unraveling another mystery in Revelation? (Our topic in this study is the great controversy between good and evil. The Bible is the bulwark, the victorious truth, in the battle against evil.)
    7. Friend, will you reaffirm your faith in the Bible? Will you agree that what the Bible says is true, and leave your own personal opinions behind?
  5. Next week: Motivated by Hope.