Question: Who are the two witnesses in Revelation, and what is the time frame of their ministry?
The Time Frame
These witnesses will prophesy in Jerusalem for 42 months, or 1,260 days, which equals 31/2 years (Rev. 11:2-3). The temple in Jerusalem has been rebuilt (Rev. 11:1-2), and Gentiles, not Jews, have control of the city (Rev. 11:2). These witnesses prophesy during the reign of the Antichrist, who is responsible for killing them (Rev. 11:7).
A new international holiday is declared, celebrating the death of these two martyrs. Following the 31/2 days when their bodies are left in the street, a severe earthquake kills 7 thousand people in Jerusalem, and this marks the end of “the second woe” (Rev. 11:14). The third “woe” describes the blowing of the seventh Trumpet and the beginning of the Day of the Lord’s Wrath upon the Antichrist and the rebellious nations of the earth (Rev. 11:15-19; 19:11-21). The death of the witnesses and the Rapture of the Church take place before God’s wrath is poured out (Rev. 19:1-10).
A “witness” is someone who can speak authoritatively from firsthand experience. The last OT prophet, Malachi, heard firsthand from the Lord concerning one of these two future witnesses:
Mal. 4:5-6 “See, I will send you the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day of the LORD comes. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers; or else I will come and strike the land with a curse.”
The Jewish people take this prophecy with such seriousness that every year at Passover a chair is left empty in case Elijah shows, anticipating the arrival of the Messiah.
It seems that God is telling us that during the latter part of the Great Tribulation God will send two witnesses to bring thousands of Jewish people to repentance and faith in Jesus. One of these prophets will have “power to shut up the sky,” which points to the ministry of Elijah:
1Kings 17:1 Now Elijah the Tishbite, from Tishbe in Gilead, said to Ahab, “As the LORD, the God of Israel, lives, whom I serve, there will be neither dew nor rain in the next few years except at my word.”
Many Jews will recognize this coming of Elijah as the fulfillment of prophecy announcing the imminent appearing of the Messiah.
These witnesses will also be given “power to turn the waters into blood,” which points to the ministry of Moses:
Ex. 7:20 Moses and Aaron did just as the LORD had commanded. He raised his staff in the presence of Pharaoh and his officials and struck the water of the Nile, and all the water was changed into blood.
These two witnesses are not some reincarnated appearance of Elijah and Moses. Rather, they are two prophets who will come on the scene during the worst of the Tribulation Period, just before the Rapture of the Church and the Day of the Lord’s Wrath, who will function in the Holy Spirit, exercising power like that of Elijah and Moses.
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