Revelation Witnesses Prophesy
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44. Revelation Witnesses Prophesy
Revelation 11.1-6

"I was given a reed like a measuring rod and was told, "Go and measure the temple of God and the altar, with its worshippers. But exclude the outer court; do not measure it, because it has been given to the Gentiles. They will trample on the holy city for 42 months. And I will appoint my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth. They are 'the two olive trees' and the two lampstands, and 'they stand before the Lord of the earth.' If anyone tries to harm them, fire comes from their mouths and devours their enemies. This is how anyone who wants to harm them must die. They have the power to shut up the heavens so that it will not rain during the time they are prophesying, and they have the power to turn the waters into blood and strike the earth with every kind of plague as often as they want." (Revelation 11.1-3)✞

Measure Temple

ElijahJohn now participates in measuring the Temple in his vision. As he does so, he also declares what is yet to take place. The Greek word for "Temple" comes from the Latin word "Templum," meaning the "building itself and not the surrounding courts," indicating that the area measured out would be preserved during the coming destruction.

Moses and Elijah?

Idol Baal"The two witnesses prophesied," for they had experienced death and resurrection. These two individuals are a potent reminder of Moses and Elijah, two of God's mighty men of old representing both the Law and the Prophets. Moses calls plagues down upon Egypt's nation with God's power, and Elijah defeats the Baal'sprophets. "Baal" is a title for a pagan god meaning "lord" and is associated with the "storm and fertility god Hadad." Moses represents the Law or "Torah," and Elijah represents the Prophets. Both Elijah and Moses appear with Christ at the Transfiguration.

Two Olive Trees

MosesThe two olive trees and the two lampstands in Revelation are symbolic of the two great heroes of the Old Testament, the great prophet Elijah and the premier law-giver Moses. In the prophecy of Zechariah 4.1-3, we read, "Then the angel who talked with me returned and woke me up as someone awakened from sleep. He asked me, 'What do you see?' I answered, 'I see a solid gold lampstand with a bowl at the top and seven lamps on it, with seven channels to the lamps. Also, there are two olive trees by it, one on the right of the bowl and the other on its left.'" The angel identifies the two olive trees in Zechariah 11.14, "These are the two anointed to serve the Lord of all the earth." The "two who are anointed" means "two who bring the oil," hence the oil for the lamps from the olive oil trees. These two olive trees are symbols of the two witnesses. They wear sackcloth, a very coarse, rough woven material usually made from goat's hair or flax or hemp, often symbolizing mourning. Prophets sometimes wear sackcloth as a sign of submission. In Christianity, wearing a sackcloth hair shirt continued in the Middle Ages as a deliberate means of mortification of the flesh. Penitents wore it on Ash Wednesday, Good Friday, and other Fridays in the Lenten season. Sackcloth could be an empty sack with holes cut in for the head and arms or otherwise a loin-cloth. It could be worn all the time under one's clothes as a sign of repentance or mourning. "They should, at least, be wearing sackcloth and ashes in token penance of the wrongs committed." The Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Becket, or Thomas a Becket (1119-1170 AD), was murdered in Canterbury Cathedral by four of King Henry 2 knights in 1170 AD. When his servants removed his ornate outer clothing to prepare his body for burial, they were astonished to find a germ-infested sackcloth hairshirt, a sign of his repentance towards God!

Seeking Mercy

In 1 Kings 20.31, we read that Aramean soldiers seek mercy from the King of Israel, "wearing sackcloth around their waists and ropes around their heads. They went to the king of Israel and said, 'Your servant Ben-Hadad says: "Please let me live."'" It is also interesting that it appears that Isaiah wore nothing, not even sack-cloth as in Isaiah 20.2, for we read, "at that time the Lord spoke through Isaiah, son of Amoz. He said to him, 'Take off the sackcloth from your body and the sandals from your feet.' And he did so, going around stripped and barefoot. Then the Lord said, 'Just as my servant Isaiah has gone stripped and barefoot for three years, as a sign and portent against Egypt and Cush, so the king of Assyria will lead away stripped and barefoot the Egyptian captives and Cushite exiles, young and old, with buttocks bared to Egypt's shame.'" "Egypt and Cush" describe the Upper Nile Region.

Water into Blood

Moses and Elijah are both given miraculous powers by God. Elijah closes the sky so that it does not rain. Moses turns water into blood as in Exodus 7.19, "The LORD said to Moses, 'Tell Aaron, "Take your staff and stretch out your hand over the waters of Egypt over the streams and canals, over the ponds and all the reservoirs and they will turn to blood." Blood will be everywhere in Egypt, even in vessels of wood and stone.'" Moses uses the miracles and plagues before the Pharaoh in Egypt to persuade him to finally let the people of Israel leave Egypt and journey to the promised land. Control over the rain and turning of water into blood are the two characteristics given in Revelation to the two olive trees or two lampstands that indicate Moses and Elijah.

"Revelation Witnesses Prophesy"
by Ron Meacock © 2020

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