Who Are the Two Witnesses in Revelation 11?
- Hope Bolinger Contributing Writer
- 2020 29 Sep
Similar to figuring out the author of Hebrews, Christians haven’t successfully identified, beyond a shadow of a doubt, the identities of the two witnesses found in Revelation.
Like the prophets, these two will prophesy, and similar to prophets such as Elijah, they appear to be able to do various miracles such as breathing fire from their mouths and causing the rain to stop falling on the land.
Although we don’t have one hundred percent certainty on their identities, Christians have conjectured throughout church history about who from biblical history is one of the two witnesses. In this article, we’ll explore what the Bible says about the two witnesses, the contenders for the two witnesses, and why this ultimately matters to us today.
What Does the Bible Say about the Two Witnesses?
First of all, they are clothed in sackcloth and prophesy for 1,260 days (about three and a half years, also known as a “prophetic year”). They represent the two olive trees the prophet Zechariah saw in a vision (more on this later).
They come in between the first and second woe we see in Revelation.
They can consume with fire anyone who tries to harm them and can turn water to blood, similar to the plagues we saw in Egypt back in Exodus.
After this period of three and a half years, the Beast will kill them in Jerusalem. After three and a half days, they will resurrect. And then they will ascend into heaven.
Why Are There Two Witnesses?
For what purpose do we have the two witnesses, and why two? It seems they just appear, prophecy, get killed, and then resurrect? So why appear at all?
Let’s break down each of these questions.
Now, in the Old and New Testament court of law, one needed two witnesses to secure a valid testimony. This could explain the reasoning for why God would send two representatives during the end times.
They also reflect the prophets of old who would prophesy when many false prophets ran rampant. During the time of the last days, a number of false prophets will claim prosperity will come and will try to win the hearts of the people with feel-good messages. The same thing happened to Israel right before Babylon took over.
But like Ezekiel and Jeremiah, these two witnesses will prophesy the opposite and will call for repentance before God’s judgment continues.
As far as the identity goes for the two witnesses, scholars have narrowed down the candidates to three people: Moses, Elijah, and Enoch. Some have suggested we also don’t know the identity of the two people and it could simply be two random prophetic men, but we’ll lightly touch on that in the Enoch section.
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Is Moses One of the Two Witnesses?
Moses contends for this spot because he appeared at the transfiguration (Matthew 17). During this event, Jesus reveals his glory, and two figures appear: Moses and Elijah. Jesus talks with them.
The inability to find Moses’ bones (Deuteronomy 34:6) and the fact that Michael and Satan dispute over his body in Jude 1:9 possibly hints that Moses’ time on earth lends itself to something more. That perhaps he will return as one of the two witnesses in Revelation.
We can also point to the fact that the two witnesses can turn water to blood. This is a distinctly mosaic miracle that occurs, the first of the 10 plagues in Egypt (Exodus 7:14-25).
Of course, what could possibly deter Moses from this spot is that he died, whereas Enoch and Elijah did not have a physical death on this earth. Considering the Beast kills the two witnesses, perhaps Elijah and Enoch (who were taken up and never experienced a physical death) will also die once, like the rest of humanity.
Is Elijah One of the Two Witnesses?
Elijah seems to make almost every scholars’ “Two Witnesses” list. Not only does he appear at the transfiguration with Jesus, but he also never experienced a physical death (2 Kings 2). He rides up in a chariot of fire into heaven, when his apprentice, Elisha, takes up the mantle and prophesies in Elijah’s place.
Elijah and Enoch, or Elijah and Moses, seem to be the pairing (Elijah always gets picked). We can safely assume (unless the two witnesses happen to be men of unknown origin) that Elijah is one of the two witnesses.
Is Enoch One of the Two Witnesses?
We don’t know much about Enoch. He appears only in four verses in the whole Bible (Genesis 5:21-24). Enoch lives on earth for 365 years. He lives faithfully to God during a time of rampant depravity and sin (just before the flood). Because he does so, he doesn’t experience death and God takes him up to heaven.
Because Enoch never experienced death, many have conjectured he will experience physical death for the first time as one of the two witnesses, showing that all men must experience death at least once (see Lazarus for humans who have died more than one time).
Many church fathers also held the view that Enoch and Elijah, having never experienced death, form the identities of the two witnesses.
Going against Enoch is the fact that he didn’t appear with Jesus during Jesus’ transfiguration. We also don’t know a whole lot about Enoch. We can pull materials from extra-biblical sources such as Josephus, but we have to read any non-canonical books with discernment.
We should also mention that some scholars believe the identities of the two witnesses are unknown men. Men that, perhaps, have not appeared on this earth once during the Old Testament times. Although most of scholarship leans toward one of the three men listed above, we should at least make mention that perhaps we will not know the two witnesses as Moses, Elijah, or Enoch when they appear on earth.
Photo Credit: ©Getty Images/AlexLinch
Although we don’t know with absolute certainty the identity of the two witnesses, we can offer some strong arguments for Moses, Elijah, or Enoch as contenders for one of the two spots.
Moses and Elijah, for instance, completed very similar miracles. They appeared with Jesus at the transfiguration, and Elijah fulfilled the role of a prophet during his time here on earth, very similar to what we see in the two witnesses.
Enoch and Elijah also never perished here on earth. Perhaps God will allow them to enter earth as the two witnesses and experience death at the hands of the Beast, showing that no man can escape a physical death.
Or perhaps the two witnesses are not any of the three men scholars have proposed.
No matter what the case, we know that when these men appear on earth that they will usher in the events of God’s judgment. As we near many of the events in Revelation, we can vigilantly watch for the two witnesses who will be in Jerusalem and pay heed to their message of repentance and salvation.
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Hope Bolinger is a literary agent at C.Y.L.E. and a graduate of Taylor University's professional writing program. More than 600 of her works have been featured in various publications ranging from Writer's Digest to Keys for Kids. She has worked for various publishing companies, magazines, newspapers, and literary agencies and has edited the work of authors such as Jerry B. Jenkins and Michelle Medlock Adams. Her column "Hope's Hacks," tips and tricks to avoid writer's block, reaches 6,000+ readers weekly and is featured monthly on Cyle Young's blog. Her modern-day Daniel, Blaze, (Illuminate YA) Den (releasing July 2020), Dear Hero (releasing September 2020), and Dear Henchman (releasing 2021) Find out more about her at her website.