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The two witnesses in Revelation 11, as far as their ministries are concerned, are pictured in terms of Moses and Elijah. Zechariah, however, pictures them as two olive trees and portrays them as Zerubbabel the governor and Joshua the high priest. It is clear, then, that different people have played the role of the two witnesses over the centuries. We must, then, look beyond their personal identities and see what they represent on a higher level.
Moses and Elijah represent the law and the prophets. Zerubbabel and Joshua represent civil and religious (priestly) rulership. Seen on this level, we may find other types and shadows who have represented two witnesses during the past millennia. Moses and Aaron bore witness of the truth as a team, but Moses and Elijah lived in different generations. Hence, it is not required for the two witnesses to minister together as two individuals in a single generation.
In ancient times, the prophets until Christ were killed in Jerusalem, but after that time, the old city became known as a metaphor for Old Covenant religion. The fact that John identifies that city with Sodom and Egypt makes it more difficult to claim that earthly Jerusalem is the place where two witnesses in the future will be killed.
So who are these witnesses in Revelation 11, and what is the time frame of their ministry? Who kills them, and when?
We find our first major clue in Rev. 11:7, which says,
7 And when they have finished their testimony, the beast that comes up out of the abyss will make war with them, and overcome them and kill them.
John says the two witnesses are to be killed by “the beast that comes up out of the abyss.” What beast is that? The answer is found earlier in Rev. 9:2 in the time of the first woe, where the fifth angel “opened the bottomless pit,” that is, the abyss. We have already seen that this spoke of the rise of Mohammed and his new Islamic religion.
Recall that God raised up Islam to judge the church for its idolatry, murder, sorcery, and immorality (Rev. 9:20, 21). Essentially, the church had taken on the characteristics of the earthly Jerusalem with its Old Covenant mindset and all of the corruptions and perversions from the temple in earlier times. Most important, perhaps, was their reliance upon the traditions of men, which, according to Matt. 15:9, caused the people to worship God “in vain.”
Because God judges by His law, which mandates that the judgment should fit the crime, God raised up another legalistic religion based on other traditions of men to judge the church. Mohammed rose up from Arabia, the inheritance of Ishmael. It is therefore an Ishmaelite religion, coming out of Hagar, which, Paul says, is “Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present Jerusalem” (Gal. 4:25).
So are the two witnesses killed by Islam? Not necessarily, for Jerusalem is the mother of all children of the Old Covenant. Islam is certainly an Old Covenant religion, but so is Judaism and much of Christianity. Hence, the two witnesses could be killed by either Islamics or Jews or even carnal Christians and still fulfill the prophecy.
We must view this more broadly, instead of looking at a single religion that kills these witnesses. It is the spirit or “beast” rising from the abyss who should be given credit for killing the witnesses, regardless of which of its agents do the stoning. In fact, as we will see later in our study of Revelation 13, there is a church beast that arises out of the sea—that is, the abyss—and this is primarily a church beast whose origin is the same as the Islamic beast.
Unfortunately, the church too has become fleshly, requiring church membership in an earthly organization rather than a spiritual begetting that might make them members of the heavenly assembly (Heb. 12:23). In recent years, as this apostasy has deepened, we have seen the rise of Dispensationalism and its offspring, Christian Zionism, which have brought many Christians back into Egyptian slavery by claiming Hagar-Jerusalem as their spiritual “mother.”
Hence, all three of these religions have been influenced by the same beast from the abyss. All of them are children of the flesh (Gal. 4:29), complete with bitter sibling rivalry over who will inherit the birthright. The biblical answer is that none of them will inherit the promise of God. The way to the inheritance is through a spiritual begetting that makes Sarah (New Jerusalem) one’s mother.
This requires faith in Jesus Christ as the Son of God. Islam honors Jesus as a great prophet and teacher, but does not confess Him as the Son of God. Christianity confesses Him as the Son of God, but causes men to place their faith in the church and to maintain only an indirect relationship, often portraying Christ as unapproachable. Judaism rejects Jesus altogether.
Each in their own way brings men into the slavery of Hagar, regardless of their religious zeal. No religion likes its heart to be exposed, for they demand immunity from divine prosecution. But the hearts of men are exposed by their own carnality, especially in their violent methods of spreading their religious “revelations.” The Old Covenant (Hagar-Ishmael) method is by force, violence, and war, but the new Covenant (Sarah-Isaac) method is by genuine love that is willing to give one’s life for an enemy (Rom. 5:6-8).
So we find that the two witnesses are killed by the inspiration of the earthly Jerusalem. This is the type of violent behavior that we would expect from the spirit of that city. And what did the angel tell Hagar about her son even before he was born? Gen. 16:12 says,
12 And he will be a wild donkey [pareh awdawm] of a man, his hand will be against everyone, and everyone’s hand will be against him; and he will live to the east of all his brothers.
The angelic revelation shows that Ishmael was to have a violent streak, and this is why he persecuted Isaac, for he knew that Isaac was his competitor for the birthright. His solution was not to cultivate righteous character that might qualify him to receive the birthright, but to use violence in order to kill his competitor.
The beast from the abyss, John says, was to “make war with them, and overcome them and kill them” (Rev. 11:7). This is a direct reference to the little horn in Dan. 7:21, 22,
21 I kept looking, and that horn was waging war with the saints and overpowering them 22 until the Ancient of Days came, and judgment was passed in favor of the saints of the Highest One, and the time arrived when the saints took possession of the kingdom.
We have already identified this little horn with the Roman church beginning with the establishment of church law in the Empire. The Emperor Justinian instituted his new law code in 529 A.D., revised it the next year, and made it effective by the end of December, 534 A.D.
This was done while altering the calendar as well, for up to that time all legal contracts were dated according to A.U.C. (ad urbe condita), the year of the founding of Rome in 753 B.C.
Justinian changed the calendar to begin a week after Christ’s birth, which he supposed was on December 25, 1 B.C. Since there was no Year 0, the calendar began on the day that came to be known as January 1, 1 A.D. To the Romans, it was New Year’s Day of the year 754.
The little horn is described in Dan. 7:25, saying,
25 And he will speak out against the Most High and wear down the saints of the Highest One, and he will intend to make alterations in times and in law; and they will be given into his hand for a time, times, and half a time.
In waging war against the saints, wearing them down, and actually overpowering them, the little horn has done what the beast from the abyss has also done in Rev. 11:7. The time period is also the same. Dan. 7:25 is somewhat obscure: “a time, times, and half a time,” but as we will see later in Rev. 13:5-7, John interprets this obscure reference to mean “forty-two months,” or 3½ years. In other words, “a time” is one year, “times” is two years, and “half a time” is six months.
Yet a time of forty-two months is also the time allotted to the nations to “tread under foot the holy city” in Rev. 11:2 while the two witnesses prophesy to them. So the events of Revelation 11 are directly linked to the events of Revelation 13, which we have yet to cover.
If we use Justinian’s new calendar and new law code as our starting point, and consider a prophetic “year” to be 360 days/years in actual length, then 1,260 years past 529-534 A.D. brings us to 1789-1794. This time was marked by the French Revolution, followed in 1798 by the pope being imprisoned by Napoleon. The papacy then received its “fatal wound” that would be healed a few years later when the papacy was restored. We will cover that history later in our study of Revelation 13.
During the 1,260 years leading up to the French Revolution, the saints (or overcomers) came under persecution from all brands of Old Covenant (violent) religion, each inspired by the beast from the abyss.
Meanwhile, it is sufficient for us to see that the beast from the abyss was to wage war against the saints for forty-two prophetic months (1,260 years). The saints in Dan. 7:21 are thus pictured and represented by the two witnesses in Revelation 11.
As representatives of a greater body of saints during this long period of time, they are not said to be “killed” until the end of this time, but because the beast has power to overpower them, they must be killed in the end. Otherwise, they could hardly represent those overcomers who had been persecuted and martyred over many generations.
In addition to this, there are other 1,260-year cycles that ought to be considered in order to get a complete picture of this time period. Each has its own portion of revelation. The broadest application is seen when we look at the entire “seven times” period of 2,520 years during which time the beast systems exercised the power of the Dominion Mandate.
Nebuchadnezzar was given this Mandate in 607 B.C., and when Babylon fell, it was passed on to Persia, then Greece, Rome, and finally to the little horn. Only a single century (163-63 B.C.) interrupted beast rule, and so this century must be added to the first 1260-year period.
From 607 B.C. to 754 A.D., the beasts exercised power for 1,260 of those years. The year 754 was the midpoint of the 2,520-year time of beast rule, and it was the year that the popes were given civil power (over the Papal States). This midpoint was discussed fully in Book 2 of Daniel: Prophet of the Ages, chapter 8. The first 1,260 years is the main focus of Daniel’s prophecy. The last 1,260-year cycle, revealed by John, extends from 754-2014, when the divine court transferred the authority of the Dominion Mandate to the saints of the Most High.
It seems clear that the two witnesses reach the full end of their “sackcloth” ministry in 2014 when the beast lost its authority in the courts of heaven. Sackcloth (Rev. 11:3) is the clothing of one who is fasting and praying. It is a time of mourning during a time of pressure (thlipsis) or tribulation. Such clothing is to be contrasted with regular garments, wherein we may rejoice in the exercise of authority.
The date of 2014, I believe, marked the end of the beast’s ability to overpower the saints in its war against them. The tide has now turned, because the saints won their case before the divine court. Even as this entire 2,520-year cycle began with a three-year transition from 607-604 B.C. (when Jerusalem was captured), so also are we seeing the same three-year transition transpire from 2014-2017.