Chapter 6 - The two witnesses of Revelation chapter eleven
The two witnesses of Revelation chapter eleven is also the most misunderstood section of John's manifesto against the Roman Empire. The first subject that must be explained is the wording of the verses within this chapter. They are like the canvas background to the chapter. The next issue is to explain the form of punishment being presented to the audience as an allegory to the relationship between the political centers of this story. The political cities being judged by John are the two cities of Rome and Jerusalem. Of course, accompanied in this allegorical story are the witnesses of the true believers composing of Jewish and Gentile believers in the divinity of Jesus Christ. The last segment is the story of the grafting of the Gentiles into the family of God. John, the writer of the Book of Revelation, at times borrows not only from the Old Testament but also writings and reports from his contemporaries of his time or era.
The Canvas of the Two Witnesses
The canvas for Revelation chapter eleven is broad and unique. The most interesting ingredient is the story of Jezebel (1st Kings 16:31 and 2nd Kings 9:22) is more relevant to the whole story concerning the Book of Revelation. Jezebel was mention by John at Revelation 2:20. Jezebel within the previous verse highlights the canvas of Revelation chapter eleven. It states everything: "Nevertheless, I have a complaint to make: you are encouraging the woman Jezebel who claims to be prophetess, and by her teaching she is luring my servants away to commit the adultery of eating food which has been sacrificed to idols."
My interpretation to the verse above is that the writer of the Book of Revelation, John, is under duress and may have coded this to mean the Roman government to include an actual person by that name that lived and participated at Thyatira. Some commentators of the Bible and the Book of Revelation have stated that Jezebel was a Nicolaitan. I disagree partly on this issue because the next verses, Revelation 2:21-24, would fit the description of a symbolic description of another entity. The entity is the Roman government of his day.
Revelation 11:3 mentions "sackcloth" and this is connected with the Jezebel/Elijah story of 2nd Kings 2:8-9. The previous example is a reminder of the clash between these two opposing individuals: Jezebel versus Elijah (1st Kings 18:13). John has a way of combining past Old Testament storylines to represent symbolic entities. Why? Because the story of the slaying of the prophets is repeated - Revelation 11:7 and 1st Kings 18:13. Now, accordingly we see the pairing of two: the Jewish-Christians are Elijah and the Gentile Christians are Elisha. Also, the Jewish-Christians are also represented as Joshua the High Priest and Gentile Christians as Zerubbabel. The reason for the symbolic representation is because of the mention of the Lampstands(or candlesticks) and the Olive Tree (Revelation 11:4 and the Book of Zechariah chapters three and four). The Lampstands are also mentioned previously to describe the mostly gentile church (Revelation 1:20). This is why they are mentioned twice in Revelation 11:4 because the congregation is comprised of both Jewish-Christians and Gentile Christians. The areas are Jerusalem and the lands outside of Jerusalem. Revelation 11:1-2 is a reference to the Ezekiel second Temple prophecies. However, only Ezekiel 4:13 mentions "gentiles" while Ezekiel chapter forty has no mention of "gentiles" but mentions an individual measuring the area. The Olive Tree is known to be the Jewish community as is stated in the pre-captivity passages (Jeremiah 11:16). In the book of Jeremiah, one of the books detailing the pre-captivity and post-captivity verses or passages, the Jewish community is known by two allegorical descriptions: Olive Tree (Jeremiah 11:16) and the basket of figs (Jeremiah chapter 24). The overall subject is the pattern of pairs of two. This type of pattern will be explained later in this chapter in the importance of having more than one witness. The verses Revelation 17:16 and 2nd Kings 9:36-37 are similar but most importantly it shows us the complexity of the writer's mind in taking a supposedly literal event from the past and changing it into a symbolic representation. Revelation 17:16 says: "… shall eat her flesh " and the events of the death of Jezebel stated in 2nd Kings are connected to convey a message concerning the death of Rome.
Ezekiel 23:36-37 explains the nature for the symbolic adultery. The mention of "gentiles" by John was to emphasize what Paul stated in Romans 11:23-25 explaining the joining of Gentile Christians with the Jewish Christians. Many commentators make the mistake of concluding this is the grafting of the general Jewish community with Christian Gentiles but this is not the case. Moreover, the symbolic adultery is now understood to be the relationship between Jerusalem and Rome. Those who are witnessing the "sin" are the "Body of Christ" (Ephesians 4:12) which is now to be understood to be the Jewish and Gentile believers of Jesus Christ's divinity. The proof of this conclusion is Revelation 11:5, Acts 2:3 & Acts 2:16-17 and Joel 2:28 which now has identified who are the witnesses of Revelation Chapter eleven. The witnesses of Revelation Chapter eleven are the Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians who have lived during the era of the Roman Empire.
The symbolic Punishment for Adultery and Fornication
The witnesses are now entering the courtroom and Judge John is presiding. According to the passages in the Old Testament it states: "stone her to death" (Deuteronomy 22:21,Leviticus 20:10). Ruth 4:9-11 shows the importance of witnesses and we have our witnesses composing of faithful Jewish Christians and faithful Gentile Christians(the term used - "faithful"- will be explained in another chapter).The words by Jesus noted in the Gospel of John (John 8:4-11) is a departure of the symbolic punishment given to Jerusalem and Rome (Revelation 18:21 and Revelation 19:2). The positive identification given in court that "Babylon" is an alias for Rome is noted by the words of Peter (1st Peter 5:13). The punishment was given out by an Angel and the Angel through the stone to punish the guilty party (Revelation 18:21) and this is now recorded in court. This was to avenge the martyrs (Revelation 18:20).
The verse in 2nd Chronicles 21:11 - "Moreover he made high places in the mountains of Judah, and caused the inhabitants of Jerusalem to commit fornication, and compelled Judah to do the same ". The punishment for this crime is light compared to what was given to Rome. The city of Jerusalem was given its punishment as four lashes (The four horsemen).
The four horsemen are the cycle of the relationship between Rome and Jerusalem. Why? The four horsemen was already explained and summarized in the Book of Jeremiah when describing the seven decades captivity. The previous seven decades captivity was between Jerusalem and Babylon. The four horsemen (Jeremiah 15:2) are symbolically represented as:
a. White Horse = captivity (Revelation 6:2)
b. Red Horse = war/sword (Revelation 6:4)
c. Black Horse = famine and starvation through economic exchanges (Revelation 6:5-6) * This would also explain Revelation 13:16-17 without explaining who is the "beast(s)" as this is explained in an earlier chapters of one and two of this book - Book of Revolution.
d. Pale Horse = death (Revelation 6:8)
All four existed when Babylon invaded Jerusalem as the relationship digressed into "death" (Jeremiah 15:2). John observed the relationship between Rome and Jerusalem as a repeat of the previous adulterous relationship. Both ventures would end up in the complete removal of the Temple. Revelation 6:8 was manifested in A.D.70.The intention of captivity happened earlier (2nd Kings 24:15) and was repeated in A.D.70 because of the adulterous relationship between Rome and Jerusalem. Therefore, the White Horse is represented as a false peace and the initial process for the start of captivity. One important factor that must be understood: If the Temple is not in existence the process could not be in play. Therefore, John expected something to occur seven decades after the Temple's destruction in A.D.70.Moreover, repeating the process years earlier according to the past relationship between Jerusalem and Babylon.
The previous act of fornication/adultery was performed previously and the guilty party has a history of this act (Jeremiah 23:10). Even though, the sin of fornication was cleansed through punishment (The captivity by Babylon) and redemption (Isaiah 52:1-6 and Isaiah 62:2, during the events of the building of the second temple in Jerusalem after the Babylonian captivity). The process of punishment of the lashes was performed in the previous fornication (captivity) with Babylon (Zechariah chapter six) and now the current fornication (destruction of the Temple and divorce from the general Jewish community in A.D. 70 by the Romans) which is explained and noted (Revelation 6:1-17). The reason why I have concluded the previous sentence with a profound conclusion is the repeated theme from Jeremiah concerning "figs" (Jeremiah chapter twenty-four) and this pattern is repeated in Revelation 6:13 - " And the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig tree caste her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind. " The term "earth" is the city of Jerusalem. This is also explained by Isaiah when he mentions "earth" (Isaiah 65:17-18). The mention of the four horsemen of the apocalypse was expressing the "Apocalypse" of the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D.70 and not a future event. The four horsemen also represents the digression of the relationship between God and the general Jewish community but ends in the redemption of the city by Jesus himself (Revelation 21:2-6 and Revelation 21:22). There is no future employment or usages for the "four horsemen" because there is no physical Jewish Temple in Jerusalem to initiate the process. Also, there are no sufficient and clear verses which predicted the rise of Islam in Arabia.
The Grafting of the Olive Tree
Romans 8:35 - " Who shall seperate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation,or distress,or persecution,or famine,or nakedness,or peril,or sword? "
The Jewish Mishna explains the importance of witnesses during Rosh Hashanah. There is a possibility that the descriptions contained therein is a good indicator of Jewish observances used as a background to convey John's message:
(Mishna,treatise of Rosh Hashanah,tract 4, chapter 4):
4. Formerly evidence as to the appearance of the new moon was received the whole [of the thirtieth] day; but as it once happened that the witnesses delayed coming, which interrupted the Song of the Levites 3 [at the evening sacrifice], it was ordained that witnesses should be admitted till the time of Minchah only, and if any came after that time, that and the following day were kept as holy. After the destruction of the temple, Rabbon Jochanan, son of Zaccai ordained, "that evidence as to the appearance of the moon should be
received all day." R. Joshua, son of Korcha says, "This too did Rabban Jochanan, son of Zaccai ordain, viz. that wherever the chief of the tribunal might be, the witnesses need only go to the place of meeting [of the Sanhedrin 4]." ( pg.165 )
(Mishna,treatise of Rosh Hashanah,tract 8,chapter 1):
8. The following are considered incompetent witnesses: gamblers with dice, usurers, 14 pigeon breeders, 15 those who trade in the produce of the Sabbatical year, and also slaves. The rule is, that all evidence that cannot be received from a woman cannot be received from any of these.
(Mishna,treatise of Rosh Hashanah,tract 6,chapter 2):
6. In what manner was the examination of the witnesses conducted? The first pair were always examined first. The eldest of them being introduced first, the following questions were put to him: "Tell us in what form you saw the moon; was it with her horns turned towards the sun, or away from it? To the north or to the south [of the sun]? What was her elevation on the horizon? Towards which side was her inclination? What was the width of her disk?" If he said towards the sun, his evidence went for nothing. The second witness was then brought in, and examined; if the evidence was found to agree, their testimony was received as valid. The remaining pairs of witnesses were then superficially examined, not because there was any necessity for their evidence, but only not to disappoint them, 8 and also to encourage them to come another time.
(Mishna,treatise of Rosh Hashanah,tract 1,chapter 3):
1. If the Beth Din and all Israel saw the new moon, 1 or if the examination of the witnesses had already taken place, but it had become dark before the word "Mekoodash," 2 was pronounced, the month will be intercalary. When the Beth Din alone saw it, 3 two of its members must stand up before the others as witnesses, 4 who shall then say, "Mekoodash, Mekoodash." When only three forming a Beth Din have seen it, two of them must stand up as witnesses, and conjoin some of their learned associates with the single one, 5 and then give their evidence before these, who are to say, "Mekoodash, Mekoodash," because a single member of a Beth Din has not this faculty by himself alone.
The last tract of evidence from the Mishna explains to us why there are two pairs of Lampstands and Olive trees in Revelation 11:4 - "These are the two olive trees, and the two candlesticks standing before the God of the Earth". In other words, the nominal Christians are separated from the "faithful" or strong Christians. Only the strong Jewish Christians and strong Gentile Christians were able to stand up against the Roman system and witnessed the "fornication" and "adultery" between Rome and Jerusalem. The summary of this process is given in the Gospel of Matthew 13:24-30 when it is explaining the differentiation between wheat and tares. Ezekiel 37:22 is an example of the unification or grafting of the Gentiles and Jews under the Messiah called Jesus Christ. Even though the Ezekiel verse is appropriate for Second Temple prophecies which were fulfilled hundreds of years earlier. The Gospel of Matthew is more appropriate and even more relevant to the witnessing process. The wheat and tares are separated accordingly through a test by witnessing the "fornication" and "adultery" between Rome and Jerusalem (Revelation 11:3-5). I fully believe that John was demonstrating his Jewishness or knowledge of Jewish customs and simultaneously presenting the grafting of the Olive Trees (Jewish-Christians) and the Lampstands (Gentile Christians). The verse - Revelation 11:5 "..., fire proceed out of their mouth,..." is explained by the verse in Acts 2:3 "And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as fire, and it sat upon each of them. " Therefore, the verse in Revelation is describing a segment of the early Christian community who stood up against the Roman authorities with non-violence and equipped only with their words.
The equipment of force for the early Christians was their own words (Revelation 11:6) as powerful as Christian-like Moses against the new Roman Pharaohs. The Roman Empire is equipped not only with swords but also with intellectual refuters both of which are like Korah from Moses era (Revelation 11:7 / Isaiah 5:13-14 & Numbers 16:31-32) which concluded in a Babylon-like Roman captivity for those who were not martyred by Roman swords. Surely, the result was the destruction of the Temple and city of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 by the Romans (Revelation 11:8) which was recorded by Flavius Josephus:
"1. THUS did the miseries of Jerusalem grow worse and worse every day, and the seditious were still more irritated by the calamities they were under, even while the famine preyed upon themselves, after it had preyed upon the people. And indeed the multitude of carcasses that lay in heaps one upon another was a horrible sight, and produced a pestilential stench, which was a hinderance to those that would make sallies out of the city, and fight the enemy: but as those were to go in battle-array, who had been already used to ten thousand murders, and must tread upon those dead bodies as they marched along, so were not they terrified, nor did they pity men as they marched over them; nor did they deem this affront offered to the deceased to be any ill omen to themselves; but as they had their right hands already polluted with the murders of their own countrymen, and in that condition ran out to fight with foreigners, they seem to me to have cast a reproach upon God himself, as if he were too slow in punishing them; for the war was not now gone on with as if they had any hope of victory; for they gloried after a brutish manner in that despair of deliverance they were already in. And now the Romans, although they were greatly distressed in getting together their materials, raised their banks in one and twenty days, after they had cut down all the trees that were in the country that adjoined to the city, and that for ninety furlongs round about, as I have already related. And truly the very view itself of the country was a melancholy thing; for those places which were before adorned with trees and pleasant gardens were now become a desolate country every way, and its trees were all cut down: nor could any foreigner that had formerly seen Judea and the most beautiful suburbs of the city, and now saw it as a desert, but lament and mourn sadly at so great a change: for the war had laid all the signs of beauty quite waste: nor if any one that had known the place before, had come on a sudden to it now, would he have known it again; but though he were at the city itself, yet would he have inquired for it notwithstanding. "
(SOURCE: The War of the Jews or the History of the destruction of Jerusalem, Book 6, Chapter 1,paragraph 1)
The previous evidence by Josephus is evidence which John described the carnage by adopting Jeremiah’s four horsemen. The topic returns to the two witnesses which are described in Revelation chapter eleven. Revelation 11:12 is a rapture event of the two camps of Jewish-Christians and Gentile Christians. The topic of the witnesses to include Gentile Christians was a revision to Matthew 10:5-15. The previous was supported by the Gospel of Mark (Mark 6:7-13). The reason why Paul mentioned “dispensation” was to introduce a revision to the previous Matthew passages (Colossians 1:25-27). In other words, John was stating something which already occurred and repeating such events in allegorical form. These events repeated is the earthquake which occurred after Jesus' death was then borrowed by John to suggest the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple by the Romans (Revelation 6:12-13).
Joshua 10:20 seems to be like Revelation 11:12 where the enemies where awed but in this case it is rather spiritual in nature and not a physical bodily resurrection. Also, 2nd Kings 2:11 states a physical taking of Elijah. If John, the writer of the Book of Revelation is stating an actual physical and bodily resurrection and physical rapture then we have no written historical account of this event ever taking place around 70 A.D. The enemies would have been in awe and spread the account of the events of a physical resurrection and then rapture something which occurred earlier in Matthew 27:52-53. Hence, the reason why Hosea 6:1-3 is stated is to show that a physical and bodily resurrection is not possible but rather a spiritual one. Later, I will present evidence that James' may have used this after Jesus' death on Sunday morning the supposed day of his resurrection. Paul addressed this problem in 2nd Timothy 2:8-18 where Hymenaeus and Philetus were observing Matthew 27:52-53 with Hosea 6:1-3. The subject of the two witnesses expanded the scope of Matthew 10:5-15 to include Gentile Christians.
The other evidence from the New Testament is the events surrounding the martyrdom and stoning of Stephen in the Book of Acts 7:54-60. In the previous passage, Stephen was delivered up by the violent actions of the enemies of the Gospel (message) of Jesus according to Paul. So, we now have conclusive proof that the two witnesses are a group of people despite the mention of "two prophets" in Revelation 11:10. The "two prophets" are the "two witnesses" according to the earlier evidence presented therefore both entities would represent the faithful "body of Christ" (Ephesians 2:15 and Ephesians 4:12). Therefore, the events stated in Revelation chapter eleven are evidently around A.D. 70. When the predictions did not occur according to what is stated in Matthew chapter twenty-four then many non-believers verbally attacked the Christian community and this forced John to produce the Epistles of John and the Gospel of John. Furthermore, when John was then arrested and exiles to the island of Patmos the Book of Revelation was composed as court document against the Roman Empire.
Romans 11:23-26 stated by Paul explains the grafting of the Gentiles to the Jewish group of Jesus followers. For Paul also states Romans 10:12 and this is confirmed by John when he states the "12,000" and "144,000" in Revelation chapters seven and fourteen. Paul emphasize the previous statements with Galatians 3:28 -
"There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for you are all one in Christ Jesus".
Revelation 15:3 also explains the grafting of the two groups: "And they sing the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, Great and marvelous are true are your ways, King of saints".
The grafting theme, the two witnesses, is not a unique idea among the New Testament writers. The idea of expanding citizenship to non-Romans was a practice among the Romans periodically and therefore it is theorized that the idea was adopted by Paul and later by John to incorporate gentiles into the fold of the Christian movement (Romans chapter eleven; and Revelation chapters seven, eleven and fourteen). The previous example was overall a dispute against Matthew 10:5-15 which only details the evangelization to the Jewish populace while neglecting the Gentile population. The Gospel of Mark, the third Gospel, speaks of the two witnesses in Mark 6:7-13 which was repeated by John in Revelation chapter eleven. The Gospel of John may have skipped the theme of the two witnesses but it was later adopted within the Book of Revelation. The Gospel of Luke, the next Gospel after Matthew, presents the term "Gospel" as representing Paul's revised or new doctrine (Luke 9:1-6 and Mark 1:27).