Revelation 11:3-14 explain the truth about the “two witnesses.” They will play a crucial role in end-time events. This passage has inspired a lot of speculation over the years. Some of us have heard of someone who believes he’s one of these witnesses—I certainly have!
But look at the time element of this passage. It is set in the future. Right now, the two witnesses have not even received their mission. When the time comes, however, they will be empowered by God to deliver a difficult warning message before the “beast” power puts them to death (verse 7). This power is described in Revelation 13 and 17.
After the two witnesses fulfill their mission, the seventh trumpet of Revelation is blown, the “last woe,” during which something spectacular happens to these witnesses.
Revelation for Our Time
Many find the book of Revelation incomprehensible. It is true that no amount of human reasoning can unlock it; many people have tried, but it is impossible. Yet the very definition of the word “revelation” (apocalypse in the original Greek) is comprehending, revealing, understanding. God the Father and Jesus Christ intend us to understand these dramatic and mysterious prophecies in Revelation (see Revelation 1:1; 5:5).
When God gave the message of Revelation to the Apostle John nearly 2,000 years ago, it was a mysterious, closed book, sealed with seven seals. This is similar to the Prophet Daniel’s message, which was also “closed up and sealed till the time of the end,” or the “crisis at the close,” as the Moffatt translation renders it (Daniel 12:9).
But we are living through that time right now! God has unsealed these books so we can understand them! In fact, more than 90 percent of all Bible prophecy is being fulfilled in this “time of the end.” But we can only receive this understanding from God.
The story flow of the book of Revelation is contained in seven seals that God unseals: false prophets, war, famine, pestilence, the Great Tribulation, heavenly signs, and the sounding of seven trumpets, culminating in the dazzling supernatural return of Jesus Christ. The fifth, sixth and seventh trumpet are also called “woes.” These are massive, nation-shaking, earthshaking events!
The two witnesses described in Revelation 11 appear in connection with the sixth trumpet (second woe). When the sixth trumpet sounds, the two witnesses have fulfilled their mission for God, and the beast power kills them for it. This leads directly into the sounding of the seventh trumpet (including the seven last plagues) and the return of Jesus Christ. The two witnesses are directly connected to Christ’s return!
“I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet” (Revelation 1:10). Anciently, the trumpet was an alarm of war. The “Lord’s day” here is not referring to a particular day of the week. There are some 30 prophecies in your Bible that describe “the day of the Lord” as the great and terrible one-year time period preceding Jesus Christ’s return.
God revealed all this to John in a vision of the future. His writings in Revelation and elsewhere, as well as other prophecies, show that a 21/2-year Great Tribulation, the unleashing of Satan’s wrath, will be followed by the one-year Day of the Lord, the time of God’s wrath. This culminates in the greatest, most wonderful news ever, the seventh seal being revealed, the seventh trumpet blasting, and the return of Christ Himself.
Revelation 9:12 notes the sequence of events: “One woe is past; and, behold, there come two woes more hereafter.” This means that the fifth trumpet has blown and now the sixth trumpet, which includes warfare waged by an Asian army of 200 million soldiers, will blow, followed by the seventh.
At this point in the story flow of Revelation comes chapter 10. This is an inset chapter about something that occurs much earlier but directly relates to the two witnesses. This inset must be very important for God to embed it within the sixth and seventh trumpet blasts.
“And I saw another mighty angel come down from heaven, clothed with a cloud: and a rainbow was upon his head, and his face was as it were the sun, and his feet as pillars of fire: And he had in his hand a little book open …” (Revelation 10:1-2). This “little book” is a book that reveals the truth about a split in God’s true Church. God puts His Church right in the center of these major world events leading into the greatest event in history.
When the little book regarding God’s true Church is revealed, that is a sign of “time no longer” (verse 6), meaning no more delay. World events begin racing along as never before.
This has already occurred! God’s true Church split, the overwhelming majority stopped prophesying and doing God’s work, God delivered the little book to His people to correct and warn and save them, and now the faithful remnant of that true Church is “prophesy[ing] again” (verse 11). This shows you how far along in Bible prophecy we are today!
This all precedes Revelation 11, the chapter about the two witnesses. It begins, “And there was given me a reed like unto a rod: and the angel stood, saying, Rise, and measure the temple of God, and the altar, and them that worship therein. But the court which is without the temple leave out, and measure it not; for it is given unto the Gentiles: and the holy city shall they tread under foot forty and two months” (verses 1-2).
This shows a separation in God’s Church, and again, God puts this right in the midst of His prophecies about the most dramatic, tumultuous time in human history. Because most of God’s own people are lukewarm (Revelation 3:14-16) about the precious truth He has given them, they are far from God and in the “outer court.” This passage ties these rebels to the devastating 3½-year time period, which is the Great Tribulation and Day of the Lord combined. Meanwhile, those in the inner court are close to God, keeping His law, doing His work, proclaiming His prophecies.
The little book inset begins in Revelation 10 and ends in Revelation 11:2, then verse 3 describes the two witnesses: “And I will give power unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days, clothed in sackcloth.”
During this period of intense suffering, the two witnesses are warning! They are lights in a horribly dark world, but the world wants to extinguish them.
“And if any man will hurt them, fire proceedeth out of their mouth, and devoureth their enemies: and if any man will hurt them, he must in this manner be killed. These have power to shut heaven, that it rain not in the days of their prophecy: and have power over waters to turn them to blood, and to smite the earth with all plagues, as often as they will” (verses 5-6). God gives these two witnesses amazing power! Why?
The answer is in verse 7—it’s because they must complete their mission before the beast power murders them: “And when they shall have finished their testimony, the beast that ascendeth out of the bottomless pit shall make war against them, and shall overcome them, and kill them.”
God says that when He opens a door, no man can shut it. Not even a 200 million-man army can! That’s the power He gives to people who obey Him and do His work.
But when their work is done, God allows them to be killed. What then do the enemies of the two witnesses do? “And their dead bodies shall lie in the street of the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified. And they of the people and kindreds and tongues and nations shall see their dead bodies three days and an half, and shall not suffer their dead bodies to be put in graves. And they that dwell upon the earth shall rejoice over them, and make merry, and shall send gifts one to another; because these two prophets tormented them that dwelt on the earth” (verses 8-10). These evil people want everyone to see the dead bodies. They celebrate because the two witnesses tormented them with God’s warning message.
God allows the two witnesses to be killed because He has a plan for them that their enemies and people around the world do not expect: “And after three days and an half the Spirit of life from God entered into them, and they stood upon their feet; and great fear fell upon them which saw them. And they heard a great voice from heaven saying unto them, Come up hither. And they ascended up to heaven in a cloud; and their enemies beheld them. And the same hour was there a great earthquake, and the tenth part of the city fell, and in the earthquake were slain of men seven thousand: and the remnant were affrighted, and gave glory to the God of heaven. The second woe is past; and, behold, the third woe cometh quickly” (verses 11-14).
The two witnesses disappear at the end of the second woe, the sounding of the sixth trumpet. The sounding of the seventh trumpet brings with it seven terrible plagues, God’s wrath poured out on mankind for our sins. But it culminates in Jesus Christ coming to Earth to rule all nations!
“And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever” (verse 15). Right after the two witnesses finish their work, Christ returns and takes over the reins of rulership over Earth! He will show mankind how to be happy. He will guide us and correct us so we learn to willingly choose His law, His way, which produces nothing but peace, abundance and joy for all eternity.
And He will be assisted in this work by those who obey Him and do His work today—including the two witnesses. What a glorious calling!