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Saturday, 01 July 2017 12:15

72. The two witnesses: clothed in sackcloth * Revelation 11:3-6 - Part 1 of 6

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3  And I will give power unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and three score days, clothed in sackcloth.

4  These are the two olive trees, and the two lampstands standing before the God of the earth.




*** Two witnesses clothed in sackcloth ***: The same voice from Heaven kept talking to John in the vision (see studies #70 and #71). The voice had the power to command John to measure the temple, the altar, and the worshipers, and not to measure the outer court (Revelation 11:1-2). It also had the power to authorize two witnesses to prophesy for a very long time (Revelation 11:3). John continued to hear a message directly from God. But who are these two witnesses?

What do they do?: The two witnesses do not seem to have power on their own to carry out God's mission. They are able to move on with the task because that is God's plan. The two witnesses were commissioned to prophesy, just like John had been earlier in the vision (Revelation 10:11). As we saw in study #69, the word prophesy means to "'speak forth' in divinely-empowered forth telling or foretelling". Ths is the first clue we have to help us identify the two witnesses: they preach God's message, through divine inspiration.

What do they wear?: According to Revelation 11:3, the two witnesses are clothed in sackcloth. The word 'sackcloth' was used previously in Revelation 6:12 to describe the darkening of the sun. In that comparison, we can see that sackcloth was a dark fabric made of human and animal hair. Not surprisingly, sackcloth or hairy clothing was the typical outfit of prophets in the Bible (Isaiah 20:2; Zechariah 13:4;  2 Kings 1:8; Matthew 3:4). It was also used as a symbol of repentance, bitterness, and humbleness before God (1 Kings 21:27;  2 Kings 19:1; Isaiah 37:1-2; Daniel 9:3; Joel 1:8; Jonah 3:5-8). The outfit of the two witnesses suggests they have a prophetic role. They carry a message from God. And as the prophets in the Bible, they suffer greatly in their mission. They are often persecuted, rejected, and killed.

Duration of their witnessing while wearing sackcloth: Once again, we see this prophetic period of 1260 days. This is the same period we saw in Revelation 11:2, when the people of God would suffer oppression in the hand of those who do not follow God's Truth (see studies #16, #20, #68 and #71 for a more in-depth explanation). This period corresponds to the Dark Ages, a time when the faithful people of God suffered terribly.

*** The two witnesses are the two olive trees and two lampstands ***: Revelation 11:4 gives us another aspect of the two witnesses, to help us identify them more clearly. This text is a reference to the vision described in Zechariah 4. In Zechariah's vision, he saw one lampstand and two olive trees. The olive trees were the "two anointed ones, that stand by the Lord of the whole earth." (Zechariah 4:14). The two anointed ones were Joshua the high priest (Zechariah 3:1), and Zerubbabel, the governor of Judea (Zechariah 4:6). These two men were involved in the restoration of the temple in Israel (Ezra 5:2; Zechariah 4:9; Haggai 2:2; Zechariah 4:9-10). The seven lamps in Zechariah's vision were the "the eyes of the LORD, which run to and fro through the whole earth" (Zechariah 4:10). The Word of God to Zerubbabel was this: "Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit" (Zechariah 4:6). In Zechariah's vision, we see that the restoration of the temple will need to be done through the collaboration of two human leaders: the high priest and the governor. One represents the spiritual leadership, and the other represents the king. These two are not set to satisfy their own selfish desires. They are following God's instructions. In the vision, they are a symbol of what God expects of His people: that they become kings and priests in the service of the Lord. Now that we understand the reference to Zechariah 4, we can see that Revelation 11:4 describes another aspect of the two witnesses: their role as king and priest (Revelation 1:6; Revelation 5:10), in the business of restoring God's Truth as they testify by preaching the Gospel to the world.

*** Why two witnesses? ***: The Jewish custom required that at least two to three witnesses confirm a story so the testimony could be deemed true (Deuteronomy 19:15; Deuteronomy 17:6; Numbers 35:30; Matthew 18:16; John 8:17;  2 Corinthians 13:1;  1 Timothy 5:19; Hebrews 10:28). That is why Jesus sent the disciples to preach the Gospel in groups of two (Mark 6:7; Luke 10:1). And this practice continued through the early church as well (Acts 13:2; Acts 15:39-41).

*** Who does the Bible say are the witnesses? ***: There are several views on this subject. It is important to remember that only the views which are according to the Bible should be taken as true. Let's see what the Bible has to say about who is considered to be God's witnesses:

1 John 5:7-12 - The Trinity, and those who believe that Life is in Jesus: "For there are three that bear witness in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit: and these three are one. And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one. If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater: for this is the witness of God which he has testified of his Son. He that believes on the Son of God has the witness in himself: he that believes not God has made him a liar; because he believes not the witness that God gave of his Son. And this is the witness, that God has given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that has the Son has life; and he that has not the Son of God has not life."

Revelation 1:5 - Jesus Christ: "And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loves us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood"

John 5:39 - The Scriptures: "Search the scriptures; for in them you think you have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me."

Luke 24:27, 44 - Moses and the prophets, and Psalms: "And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself." "And he said unto them, These are the words which I spoke unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me."

Revelation 1:2, 9 - The book of Revelation carrying the Word of God and the testimony of Jesus: "Who bore witness of the word of God, and of the testimony of Jesus Christ, and of all things that he saw." "I John, who also am your brother, and companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was in the isle that is called Patmos, for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ."

John 15:27 - The disciples: "And you also shall bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning."

Luke 24:46-48 - The disciples: "And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it was fit for Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And you are witnesses of these things."

Acts 2:32; Acts 3:15 - Those who witnessed the death and resurrection of Christ: "This Jesus has God raised up, of which we all are witnesses." "And killed the Prince of life, whom God has raised from the dead; of which we are witnesses."

Acts 1:8; Acts 5:32 - The church: "But you shall receive power, after the Holy Spirit has come upon you: and you shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth." "And we are his witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to them that obey him."

*** Overview ***: The two witnesses bring a message that is confirmed to be true. They come in a humble manner with a bold message, much like the prophets in the Bible did. They preach a message which has the goal to bring people back to God. They do so in their capacity of priest and king in the service of the Lord Himself. The Bible tells us that God has had His witnesses from the beginning of the Ages. The first two witnesses are part of the Trinity. They testify of each other (John 3:16; John 15:8; John 16:7-8; Matthew 17:5; John 5:36-37;  1 Corinthians 2:12; John 15:26;  1 John 4:2;  1 John 2:23; Romans 8:14-15). The next Biblical reference as God's witness is the Bible itself, through the books of the law, the books of the Prophets, and Psalms. These made up what the Bible in Ancient times. There was no New Testament yet from Johns perspective. It is important to understand that for our modern times, we can clearly include the New Testament teachings as being a witness, as it is the actual account of the Messiah's ministry on Earth. The Church is the next witness, mentioned in the Bible, represented by the disciples, John, and those who witnessed Jesus' death and resurrection. In summary, we have here three witnesses: the Godhead, the Bible, and the Church. Revelation 1:3 starts by saying that God "will give power unto [His] two witnesses". And this is the big clue we needed to see who are the two witnesses mentioned in Revelation 11: The Bible and the Church. Without God's power, the Church would be unable to carry out the message contained in the Bible. Without God's power, there can't be any understanding of the message contained in His Word. The message would be just ink on the pages of a book. The two witnesses must go hand in hand, as one unit, taking God's Word "unto the uttermost part of the earth" (Acts 1:8). They have a purpose: to restore God's Truth.

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