We often attempt to tie specific people and events with each text in Revelation. When we do so, we become wrapped up in details that often cause us to miss the point of the passage. That is a danger of today’s text, as well! Though we would all like to know the identity of these two witnesses, we would do better to understand the point this text is illustrating. In fact, the story of the two witnesses serves to demonstrate the truth we learned in chapter 10: believers will have final victory, but that doesn’t preclude suffering in this life.
The two witnesses faithfully proclaim God’s truth, with great power (Revelation 11:5–6). This power should remind us of the prophets of the Old Testament, who demonstrated the might of God through signs and wonders. So, what does this have to do with us? We are called, just as the witnesses are, to preach God’s truth to a dark and broken world. Like the witnesses, we are not left to this calling without power. The Holy Spirit indwells believers and supplies us with what we need to faithfully minister to those around us. As Christians, we should glean great hope from this passage.
Tragically, we see that though the witnesses are faithful, they still face persecution and death. We must take this as a reminder that trials, suffering, and even death of believers are not indicative of God’s abandonment. Though the witnesses are martyred, God raises them up from the dead. God’s breath enters their bodies and they return to life, death no longer having any hold over them (Revelation 11:11).
Christmas can be a particularly hard time of year for those of us who are missing our loved ones who have died. Though death may reign for a season, God will raise up His people just as the witnesses are resurrected. While the wait may seem long and lonely, God has not forgotten you and certainly has not abandoned His resurrection program. The hope of our bodily resurrection from death gives us authentic comfort in seasons of sorrow. Thanks be to God!
Revelation 11:1-14 (ESV):
Then I was given a measuring rod like a staff, and I was told, “Rise and measure the temple of God and the altar and those who worship there, 2 but do not measure the court outside the temple; leave that out, for it is given over to the nations, and they will trample the holy city for forty-two months. 3 And I will grant authority to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth.”
4 These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth. 5 And if anyone would harm them, fire pours from their mouth and consumes their foes. If anyone would harm them, this is how he is doomed to be killed. 6 They have the power to shut the sky, that no rain may fall during the days of their prophesying, and they have power over the waters to turn them into blood and to strike the earth with every kind of plague, as often as they desire. 7 And when they have finished their testimony, the beast that rises from the bottomless pit will make war on them and conquer them and kill them, 8 and their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city that symbolically is called Sodom and Egypt, where their Lord was crucified. 9 For three and a half days some from the peoples and tribes and languages and nations will gaze at their dead bodies and refuse to let them be placed in a tomb,10 and those who dwell on the earth will rejoice over them and make merry and exchange presents, because these two prophets had been a torment to those who dwell on the earth. 11 But after the three and a half days a breath of life from God entered them, and they stood up on their feet, and great fear fell on those who saw them. 12 Then they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, “Come up here!” And they went up to heaven in a cloud, and their enemies watched them. 13 And at that hour there was a great earthquake, and a tenth of the city fell. Seven thousand people were killed in the earthquake, and the rest were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven.
14 The second woe has passed; behold, the third woe is soon to come.