7

When I hear people ask who the Two Witnesses are, responses often jump to Moses and Elijah, Enoch and Elijah, Zechariah, Haggai, and others guesses. It seems to me the Bible tells us who the Two Witnesses are by defining that they are the Two Olive Trees and the Two Lampstands.

The Two Lampstands are the more straightforward of the two.

‭‭Revelation‬ ‭1:20‬

As for the mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand, and the seven golden lampstands, the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.

Out of the seven churches addressed in Revelations, only two are not rebuked- Smyrna and Philadelphia. Both are given direction to endure, conquer, and remain steadfast during the tribulation and the hour of testing. Would it logically follow that the Two Lampstands seem to represent the non-rebuked Church that must endure and conquer in the coming Tribulation? This fits with what the Bible says the Two Olive Trees are.

Jeremiah‬ ‭11:16‭-‬17‬

16 The Lord once called you ‘a green olive tree, beautiful with good fruit.’ But with the roar of a great tempest he will set fire to it, and its branches will be consumed. 17 The Lord of hosts, who planted you, has decreed disaster against you, because of the evil that the house of Israel and the house of Judah have done, provoking me to anger by making offerings to Baal.”

This is the starting point for the Two Olive Trees representing the House of Israel and the House of Judah. Then in Ezekiel, the Hebrew word for "stick" is "ets" meaning tree. The two sticks/trees represent the House of Israel and the House of Judah that will be united as one.

‭‭Ezekiel‬ ‭37:16‭-‬22‬

16 “Son of man, take a stick and write on it, ‘For Judah, and the people of Israel associated with him’; then take another stick and write on it, ‘For Joseph (the stick of Ephraim) and all the house of Israel associated with him.’ 17 And join them one to another into one stick, that they may become one in your hand. 18 And when your people say to you, ‘Will you not tell us what you mean by these?’ 19 say to them, Thus says the Lord God: Behold, I am about to take the stick of Joseph (that is in the hand of Ephraim) and the tribes of Israel associated with him. And I will join with it the stick of Judah, and make them one stick, that they may be one in my hand. 20 When the sticks on which you write are in your hand before their eyes, 21 then say to them, Thus says the Lord God: Behold, I will take the people of Israel from the nations among which they have gone, and will gather them from all around, and bring them to their own land. 22 And I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel. And one king shall be king over them all, and they shall be no longer two nations, and no longer divided into two kingdoms.

So we have this picture of the Two Olive Trees being the House of Israel and the House of Judah, and the Two Lampstands as the remnant Church. How do these fit together into the Two Witnesses?

‭‭Romans‬ ‭11:17‭-‬24‬ ‭says we are the Wild Olive Tree grated into the cultivated tree (Israel and Judah joined).

17 But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, although a wild olive shoot, were grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing root of the olive tree, 18 do not be arrogant toward the branches. If you are, remember it is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you. 19 Then you will say, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.” 20 That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast through faith. So do not become proud, but fear. 21 For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you. 22 Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off. 23 And even they, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God has the power to graft them in again. 24 For if you were cut from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and grafted, contrary to nature, into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these, the natural branches, be grafted back into their own olive tree.

The last verse of Revelation‬ ‭10 says:

11 And I was told, “You must again prophesy about many peoples and nations and languages and kings.” Which then leads right into the talk of the Two Witnesses. I don't see two lone individuals described there, but a multitude.

Many more points to make but just a couple more from Chapter 11.

‭‭Revelation‬ ‭11:7‬

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, (the Two Witnesses)

The idea of the Two Witnesses representing a larger number than two individuals is supported in chapters 12 & 13 when the beast makes war on "them" and is defined further:

‭‭Revelation‬ ‭13:7‬, 10

7 Also it was allowed to make war on the saints and to conquer them. And authority was given it over every tribe and people and language and nation, ... 10 If anyone is to be taken captive, to captivity he goes; if anyone is to be slain with the sword, with the sword must he be slain. Here is a call for the endurance and faith of the saints.

‭‭Revelation‬ ‭12:17‬ ‭

Then the dragon became furious with the woman and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring, on those who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus. And he stood on the sand of the sea.

After they have been killed, ‭‭Revelation‬ ‭11:11‭-‬12‬ ‭says:

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.

Note the similarity here in 1 Thessalonians‬ ‭4:16‭b-‬17‬ ‭(as well as many other verses) describing the first resurrection:

16 ... And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.

Are we not His Witnesses?

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  • 2
    Is this a statement, a sermon or an argument? It does not read like a question!
    – Dottard
    Oct 20, 2023 at 19:45
  • Good Q., a little on the lengthy side, but nevertheless enlightening. + 1. I will endeavor to answer as soon as able. Oct 21, 2023 at 14:11

5 Answers 5

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No discussion of the olive trees/lampstands should ignore Zechariah ch4, where they are first seen in a vision. They are identified in vv13-14 as "the two anointed who stand by the Lord of the whole earth".

Surely, in the immediate context of Zechariah's time,this means "the King and the High Priest". To be exact, the Davidic king-in-waiting Zerubbabel and the priest Joshua. Kings had been anointed since at least Solomon's time, and in Zechariah's time the High Priest was also being anointed. The Lord wants these potential rivals to work together in the building of the temple.

If we want to understand "king and priest" in the context of Revelation, we ought to note "has made us kings and priests" (or "a kingdom and priests") in ch1 v6 and ch5 v10.

I think that leads us by a shorter route to the conclusion offered above. "We" are the witnesses.

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  • + 1 for mentioning Zerubbabel and Joshua. I'll give a fuller answer on this as well. Oct 20, 2023 at 20:46
  • Succinct and enlightening and great that you have identified, for initial understanding, Zerubbabel (King/Law) and Joshua (High priest/prophet), as the 2 Olive Trees, + 1. The "We" however needs expanding upon and I too will give my own answer in due course. Oct 21, 2023 at 14:07
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The two witness of Revelation 11:1-13 are actually given several titles including:

  • two lampstands
  • two olive trees
  • two prophets

In understanding these symbols, we seek their echo from other places in Scripture:

Two Witnesses (1) 11:3-13. The identity of these two witnesses is provided by a number of clues such as:

Those alluding to Elijah:

  1. v3: they prophesy for 1260 days (3½ years, Ja 5:17, Lu 4:25) in sackcloth
  2. v5: they call fire down from heaven (1 Ki 18:37, 38, 2 Ki 1:9-14)
  3. v11: they are caught up to heaven (2 Ki 2:11)
  4. v6: they shut up the heavens (1 Ki 17:1)

Those alluding to Moses:

  1. v6: they initiate a plague of blood (Ex 7:14-18)
  2. v6: they strike the earth with plagues (Ex 9:14-16)

Other General Clues

  • v10: also called two prophets (Moses and Elijah)
  • v4: also called two olive trees - an allusion to Zech 4: 3-12 and the two who serve the Lord of the earth. Rom 11:17, 24, James 3:12 use this figure of the church and its character.
  • v4: also called two lampstands - probably two churches or two aspects of the same church on the basis of Rev 1:20 which equates the symbol of the lampstand with a church as the light of the world (Matt 5:.14-16). If this is correct, then the two lampstands are symbols of God’s true church from the time of Jesus to His second advent.
  • v3: 1260 days is a parallel to the 1260 days of the woman of Rev 12 which is a clear allusion to a church.

Thus, the two lampstands appear to be symbols of the end-time church whose basis is the Bible symbolized by (the prophets) Moses and Elijah as the “Law and the Prophets.” Further, consistent with the pattern elsewhere in Revelation, John takes time to introduce new characters by giving historical background. If it is true that the two witnesses are the end-time church we will refrain from divining the future by any further speculation.

There is a fascinating connection between the work (or result?) of the two witnesses and the seven plagues. Rev 11:6 records the witnesses’ ability to turn water to blood and strike the earth with plagues. Rev 16:2-4 has similar language: water to blood…plagues…earth.

APPENDIX - The Two Witnesses of Rev11:1-13 Literary Analysis

Introduction and Background of the Two Witnesses:

  • 11:1 A: John told to take a reed and measure the temple and count the worshipers (Judgement)
  • 11:2a . B: Exclude the outer court as it is given to the nations (Gentiles)
  • 11:2b . . C: They will trample the holy city for 42 months
  • 11:3 . . C: 2 witnesses prophecy with divine power for 1260 days clothed in sackcloth
  • 11:4 . B: These are 2 olive trees, 2 lampstands that stand before the Lord of the Earth
  • 11:5, 6 A: If anyone tries to harm them fire comes from their mouths – this is how anyone who harms them will die. They have power to shut up the sky during their prophesying, turn the waters to blood and strike the earth with plagues (Judgement)

Work of Witnesses:

  • 11:7 A: After their testimony, the beast from the abyss attacks and kills them
  • 11:8 . B: Their bodies lie in the street of the great city (Sodom & Egypt) where their Lord was crucified
  • 11:9, 10 . . C: During 3½ days, bodies seen by all people who gloat by exchanging gifts because of the plagues with which they tormented people
  • 11:11 . . C: After 3½ days, breath of life enters, they stand on their feet and terror fill those who watch
  • 11:12 . B: Voice from heaven calls “come up here’, the ascend to heaven in a cloud
  • 11:13 A: Great earthquake – 1/10th city collapses, 7000 killed, survivors terrified and give glory to God of heaven.

Note the centrality of the time elements of 1260 days (= 42 months) and 3½ days

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  • Upvoted! This is now very interesting. The addition of Moses and Elijah, to that of Zerubbabel and Joshua, not to mention the subsequent "Endtime" Witnesses, is now going to make my own (forthcoming) answer all the more difficult. At times I feel sorely challenged and this would appear to be one of those times. Oct 21, 2023 at 17:12
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As the OP suggests, olive trees are often used in the Bible as symbols. What they symbolize is often a matter of opinion. The idea that "we" are the witnesses referred to in Revelation is a popular interpretation, but there are also others.

In the case of the Book of Zechariah, a fairly clear answer is implied in the text itself, involving two historical persons, the high priest Joshua and the governor Zerubbabel, a descendent of King David who was the leader responsible for rebuilding the Temple.

In the Zech. 3 the focus us on Joshua, Zerubbabel's partner in rebuilding the Temple. Joshua is required to repent from the corruption of the priesthood but in chapter 6:9-13 he is restored and placed at the right hand of person who rebuilds the temple and reigns as king:

Then the word of the Lord came to me... You will take silver and gold, and make crowns; place one on the head of Joshua, son of Jehozadak, the high priest... There is a man whose name is Branch—and from his place he will branch out and he will build the temple of the Lord. He will build the temple of the Lord, and taking up the royal insignia, he will sit as ruler upon his throne. The priest will be at his right hand, and between the two of them there will be peaceful understanding.

The one who rebuilds the temple apparently refers to Zerubbabel. Zech. 4:6-9:

Who are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you become a plain. He will bring forth the first stone amid shouts of ‘Favor, favor be upon it!’... The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundations of this house, and his hands will finish it.

Zechariah 4:11-14 introduces the idea of two leaders symbolized by two olive trees, which were the source of the oil by which kings and priests were anointed.

I then asked him, “What are these two olive trees, on the right of the lampstand and on its left?” A second time I asked, “What are the two streams from the olive trees that pour out golden oil through two taps of gold?” He said to me, “Do you not know what these are?” I answered, “No, my lord.” Then he said, “These are the two anointed ones who stand by the Lord of the whole earth.”

In context it seems clear that Zerubbabel and Joshua are the "two olive trees" of the original prophecy. The prophet Haggai shared Zechariah's hope for these two leaders and went a step further. Haggai 2:4-23:

Now be strong, Zerubbabel —says the Lord— be strong, Joshua, son of Jehozadak, high priest, Be strong, all you people of the land—says the Lord— and work! For I am with you—says the Lord of hosts... I will overthrow the thrones of kingdoms, and destroy the power of the kingdoms of the nations... On that day—says the Lord of hosts—I will take you, my servant, Zerubbabel, son of Shealtiel—says the Lord—and I will make you like a signet ring, for I have chosen you—oracle of the Lord of hosts.

At the time of Jesus, the Qumran Community (the Essenes) awaited two messiahs on the basis of these prophecies: one descended from David (a royal messiah) and another from Aaron (a priestly messiah). This hope, like Zechariah's, was not fulfilled in its own time. John of Patmos received a new understanding of the two olive trees prophecy, which he reported in the Book of Revelation.

Conclusion: In the Book of Revelation -clearly using the language found in Zechariah's prophecy- the two olive trees are cast as "two witnesses" during the tribulation of the last days. Various interpretations range from this referring to Moses and Elijah, to Peter and Paul, to two other Christian martyrs who will appear at some point in the future. Specific candidates in the last 100 years include Witness and Watchman Lee. The issue boils down to a matter of interpretation and opinion. Thus, the OP's suggestion that each one of us is a Witness cannot be ruled out.

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  • Upvoted! Great expose of Zerubbabel and Joshua, which sets the scene for what is/has to follow. I have a general idea of how to answer the OP's question, having often contemplated on the question of the "Two Witnesses", who are indeed questionable. I even learnt something more while reading through all the combined narrative here ventured. Hopefully, I too can be found worthy of my own expose. Incidentally, you might want to edit out Zechariah for Zerubbabel, where you continue on with:- In context it seems clear that Zechariah ..... Oct 21, 2023 at 15:33
  • The figure of Zerubbabel has fascinated me for years... especially why he disappears from the record without explanation. Perhaps the Babylonians saw him as a threat because of the prophecy that he would sit on the throne and rule? And is that related to Zech.'s warning: "not by might or power but by my spirit?" -- I corrected the mistake that you mentioned.. thanks. Oct 21, 2023 at 15:51
  • @Dan Fefferman Zechariah's time is in the Persian period. Specifically, ch1 coincides with the grand crisis of the beginning of the reign of Darius. The Temple priesthood rode out this crisis. The Davidic line apparently didn't. As an old student of history, I wonder about political back-stabbing. Oct 21, 2023 at 16:38
  • Yes. The "enemies of Judah" in Ezra 1 [future samartians?] were clearly upset that they were banned from participation in Zerubbabel's efforts and worked to undermine his authority with the Persians. The Persians must have preferred a theocracy under Ezra to a Davidic governor and possible king under Zerubbabel. Oct 22, 2023 at 15:23
  • A few hours ago I edited my own answer to this question, specifically with regard to the post script, which I was never happy with. You don't now need to upvote but I would appreciate feedback. It seems that members have been avoiding the original script like the plague. It was an extremely difficult Q. to answer, hours upon hours were spent and I may still need to make amends. Excuse me, I meant further edits. Oct 24, 2023 at 15:56
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Who does the Bible say the Two Olive Trees and Two Lampstands (Two Witnesses) are?

Are We not the Witnesses? (emphasis mine), the OP asks at the end of his soliloquy, this being a reference to the present day (non-rebuked) church. Well, let me say at the outset that I'm not so sure we presently have a non-rebuked church, consequently, the We, most probably needs some clarification. More on this later.

Moses and Elijah

Many a theologian point to these two prophets of God as being the beginning of the "Two Witnesses" theology, but more emphatically, point to them as being revived (they originally lived 6 Centuries apart) co-conspirators to the "End Times". There is much merit to this, but thankfully, it is not necessary for me to outline all these merits, as our own Dottard, in his own answer here to the OP, has done a masterful job of doing just that, in his expose of the earlier verses of Revelation Ch.11, i.e. verses 1 thru 13, which includes verse 4:-

These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth. Rev, 11:4 NASB

I will therefore move on.

Zerubbabel and Joshua

Then the angel who was speaking with me (me being, Zechariah) returned, and roused me as a man who is awakened from his sleep. 2 And he said to me "What do you see?" And I said, "I see and behold, a lampstand all of gold with its bowl on the top of it, and its seven lamps on it with seven spouts (i.e., 49 conduits in all) belonging to each of the lamps which are on the top of it; 3 also two olive trees by it, one on the right side of the bowl and the other on its left side." 4 Then I answered and said to the angel who was speaking with me saying, "What are these, my lord?" ...... 6 ... "This is the word of the Lord (Jehovah) to Zerubbabel saying, 'Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit (Jesus),' says the Lord (Jehovah) of hosts. 7 'What are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you will become a plain; and he will bring forth the top stone (of the 2nd Temple, an allusion to Jesus), with shouts of "Grace, grace to it!" ' " Zech, 4:1 thru 7 NASB (brackets mine).

The above verses come after the (Ryrie's) heading:- The Vision of the Golden Lampstand, 4:1-14, and after Joshua, the religious leader, was cleansed in the preceding vision. Verses 8 thru 11, talk about further word from the Lord (Jehovah) to Zechariah, regarding Zerubbabel finishing the Temple, whereupon the seven, eyes of the Lord (angels) are glad to see. The 11th verse then ends with Zechariah enquiring:-

11 ..... "What are these two olive trees on the right of the lampstand and on its left?" 12 And I answered the second time and said to him (the angel), "What are the two olive branches which are beside the two golden pipes, which empty the golden oil from themselves?" 13 So he answered me saying, "Do you not know what these are?" And I said, "No, my lord." 14 Then he said, "These are the two anointed ones, who are standing by the Lord of the whole earth." Zech, 4:11 thru 14, NASB (again brackets mine).

So, we now have a further Two Witnesses, Joshua and Zerubbabel, standing on either side of the lampstand, which can only be a reference to The Almighty, Himself, foreshadowing two more (witnesses) yet future. Let us now, through by the grace of God, speculate on those two.

End Time Witnesses

We have already talked about the possibility of the two "End Time Witnesses" being the revived Moses and Elijah, and this may yet be true but possibly only in part. But, what if this assumption is misleading. What if the two olive trees/two lampstands are referring to the "12 Tribes of Israel", specifically the two houses, i.e., "House of Judah" and the "House of Israel", as the OP suggests. The "Sceptre Lineage" and the "Birthright Lineage" (particularly of Ephraim and Manasseh) respectively - more about the "Birthright Lineage" later - that then come back together again (1948 comes to mind), from which are taken the so called "Elect", which some say could be the "144,000".

After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth, so that no wind should blow on the earth or on the sea or any tree. 2 And I saw another angel ascending from the rising of the sun, having the seal of the living God; and he cried out with a loud voice to the four angels to whom it was granted to harm the earth and sea, 3 saying, "Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees, until we have sealed the bond-servants of our God on their foreheads." 4 And I heard the number of those who were sealed, one hundred and forty-four thousand sealed from every tribe of the sons of Israel. Rev, 7:1-4, NASB

What if these could be the branches, of the two olive trees/two lampstands, or if not the 144,000, the great multitude of Gentiles, who come out of the "Great Tribulation", having washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the lamb, who are in excess of the 144,000 ... although this multitude, by some reckonings, may not be part of the heavenly calling but may indeed be those that are to experience the "New Earth" (remember the "We" earlier in this narrative), as opposed to the "New Heaven"... The King would then be Jehovah/Yahweh, with the high priest being Jesus, and the branches being the "Bride", whereas the 6th Century BC, king, was of course Zerubbabel and the high priest was Joshua, and the branches were the "Sons of Israel".

NB

The God given earth today, especially in very recent times, has been experiencing and suffering from excessive heat, causing fires upon fires throughout the whole earth, resulting in untold death and misery. Costly? You bet!! At the same time rain has been a scarcity, droughts abound. It's been as if the skies have been shut up. Our waters, lakes; seas; rivers; have too suffered, metaphorically speaking, they have been bloodied. Not only sea mammals, such as whales and dolphins, not to mention the proverbial fish, have been beached, dead already, or soon to be. Our sea corrals have not been beached, but most certainly have been bleached. We don't here, in the USA, here much about plagues, but that doesn't mean to say, that there hasn't been a revival in certain parts of the world. The word "Pandemic" has been ushered from lips, of late, in parts of the world where one wouldn't expect it to grace same. "Covid 19" hit our fellow man unawares, especially here in the USA and may not yet be done.

The above "traits" have been well publicized throughout. The comparison to what Moses and Elijah actually were able to do in their day is, dare I say, unmistakable. But is there evidence of a revived Moses and Elijah today? Well the answer to that is an emphatic NO. Consequently, we probably shouldn't be looking for two revived prophets of God. The two End Time Witnesses may well be right under our very noses, and for some time, no less. We just haven't been able to identify with them yet. Most likely these are two governmental entities, of high regard, with untold and therefore consequential power. Theories abound as to where the " 10 tribes of the House of Israel", may have been scattered to, which included Ephraim and Manasseh, the birthright lineage (through Jacob's blessing), possessors of the "Unconditional Promises" of becoming great nations, colonists even. See Genesis 22 for origin for this.

When it comes to great nations, it's hard to dispute, that the greatest of all became Great Britain and then subsequently the United States of America, with "Christianity" being a huge part of their "Testament".

And when they have finished their "testimony", the beast that comes up out of the abyss, will make war with them and overcome them and kill them ... etc ... etc ... etc ... See Rev, 7-14.

... and make of it what you will. I, myself, am not going to speculate further, lest it truly become a matter of opinion .....

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  • Whoever these two witnesses are, they will be special individuals in some regard. Perhaps even unique, either in character or understanding, perhaps both. The fact that God will allow them to be martyred says something about them also, perhaps they have shortcomings as well as virtue and understanding.
    – moron
    Oct 28, 2023 at 2:47
-1

Psalm 52:8 KJV

But I am like a green olive tree in the house of God: I trust in the mercy of God for ever and ever.

Mark6:7 KJV

And he called unto him the twelve, and began to send them forth by two and two; and gave them power over unclean spirits;

Revelation 1:20 KJV

The mystery of the seven stars which thou sawest in my right hand, and the seven golden candlesticks. The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches: and the seven candlesticks which thou sawest are the seven churches.

7-5 bad = 2 good. (The person who wrote that... nice insight!

Conclusion: Children of God in the house of the Lord which is the external church.

1
  • Welcome to BH. Do read the tour [below, left] to see how this site works. You say "7-5" but where does the 5 come from? Where does the minus sign come from? I can't begin to guess. If you think you can make your answer any clearer please edit it to do so.
    – C. Stroud
    Jan 15 at 11:13

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