Perhaps one of the most bizarre, and least-considered events in the Revelation, is the sudden appearance of two individuals called the "witnesses". The word witnesses is taken from the Greek word martus, pronounced mar'-toos, which means witness, and also "martyr"; an interesting definition considering their fate. We know the following about these witnesses from the 11th Chapter of the Revelation:
♦ The two fill their mission of prophesy for a period of three and a half years dressed in very basic human attire, but we do not have a clear picture of what that prophesy is.
"And I will give power unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days, clothed in sackcloth." (Revelation 11:3)
♦ The witnesses are direct representatives of God.
"These are the two olive trees, and the two candlesticks standing before the God of the earth." (Revelation 11:4)
♦ They have a very dangerous defense mechanism, which is described as fire they project that consumes any who attempt to attack them; presumably to stop them from what they are doing.
"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." (Revelation 11:5)
♦ They also possess the power to wreak physical havoc on the planet, though we do not know why they use these powers, or how often. These amazing powers are described as:
1. They can control the weather by stopping the rain. One may assume that the reading of the verse means it does not rain on the Earth for the entirety of their prophecy. It is unlikely that this will occur, as logic reveals all fauna and flora would die in short time and most humans would die of dehydration or starvation long before the mission is complete. Considering this is only the beginning of the global chaos remaining, it is more likely that they can cause droughts throughout the period of their presence.
"These have power to shut heaven, that it rain not in the days of their prophecy:.." (Revelation 11:6)
2. Their control also extends to an ability found in Old Testament accounts of the tactics used before the Exodus of the Hebrews from Egypt; they turn water to blood. The event in the Book of the Exodus describes this as God turning all land surface water to "blood", including moving sources like rivers, standing water like pools, and even water in vessels rendering it undrinkable. One barely noticed exception to this horrific plague is that ground water seems to remain uncontaminated, (see verse 24). Again, we do not know how often they perform this phenomenon, but it is unlikely it is a continuing condition.
" ...and have power over waters to turn them to blood," (Revelation 11:6)
3. Last, but from its obvious ramifications, certainly not least, is what seems to be an even more awesome power. The verse uses the word "plagues" when describing this power. The word "plagues" is taken form the Greek word plege, pronounced play-gay', which means; a stroke; by implication, a wound; figuratively, a calamity. By implication and by adding the word "all" to the equation we can safely form this concept. They have the power to create any kind of disaster or unsavory condition imaginable, and they can do it at will.
"...and to smite the earth with all plagues, as often as they will." (Revelation 11:6)
It is important to note the "as often as they will" clause, which gives us an indication that they use these powers as needed in conjunction with their mission, rather than just perform random acts against humanity.
♦ The next reference is to the killing of the witnesses at end of their completed mission. It should be considered carefully that from the previous verses we know this is no ordinary assassination. Obviously, they have incredible power and, no doubt, every element of military weaponry available will be used against them while the world is trying to stop them. If 3 1/2 years of effort in this era of high tech weaponry could not stop them, it is no wonder that the final effort to eliminate them is called a war.
"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." (Revelation 11:7)
♦ We are not sure where they start their mission, nor where, or if, they travel, but we do know they are killed in Jerusalem.
"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." (Revelation 11:8)
♦ Either, because the area around them is too dangerous or for the simple barbaric pleasure of just displaying their bodies to the world publicly; their bodies remain in public view for 3 days. During this period the entire world has a celebration, complete with gift giving, over their defeat.
"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." (Revelation 11:9-10)
♦ Much to the chagrin of the celebrants, they come back to life after the three days.
"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." (Revelation 11:11)
♦ In a manner well-documented in scripture, the witnesses are beamed up into a cloud-like vehicle in the presence of their assassins and, no doubt, the whole world.
"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." (Revelation 11:12)
♦ After this a great earthquake strikes Jerusalem, it destroys a tenth of the city and kills 7000 people.
"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." (Revelation 11:13)
Although nothing is said about the prophecy, which is at the heart of their mission, there is little doubt of its importance and God's willingness to emphasize it with such power, and emphasize it over so long a period of time. There is also little doubt that eradicating the two witnesses from the planet will be the focus of humanity and not the heeding of their message. While any commentary is only speculative, it can be assumed that their message has, at least, some of the elements of the words of Jesus and the apostles, the absolute deteriorating condition of the world's social, moral, and environmental state, the coming disasters about to befall mankind, and the alternatives to those disasters.
Will the Witnesses Support the Church?
Today's church shows great concern over the social conditions of the world but this does not include starvation, disease, poverty, and war. It is simply focused on gaining political power to impose a conservative agenda in all areas of life. The scriptural concept of Jesus actually having a ruling hand in the affairs of mankind, and a physical presence on Earth after his return, is ignored by the pulpit, instead teaching that the current biosphere will be destroyed immediately. The ones escaping the holocaust spoken of in the Bible will live in bliss in an imaginary heaven with Jesus and the angels. The care of, or concern for, the environment has become a moot point to the church. Starvation, disease, and poverty are considered to be the result of ignoring the pulpit and punishment of God for failing to follow church edict.
On war, the church leaders believe it is justified if it is the will of the leaders of the U.S. or its allies, because they believe the leadership of the U.S. is chosen by God directly and, therefore, their actions can't be questioned. War, if outside U.S. influence, is the result of evil caused by failure to heed God's will, as defined by the church, and no concern of the Christian community except for cannon fodder for assaults from the pulpit against those heathens who hate God. Little consideration is given to the fact that the leadership of the U.S. is elected primarily by money provided mainly by corporations, influenced by those same corporations through the lobby system after their election, and often found in the executive offices and board rooms of their corporate handlers after their term is served. If God is choosing the leaders of the U.S., he is using organizations with greed as a mandated practice in their corporate laws, a direct contradiction to the principles of Jesus.
Ironically, the corporations align themselves, and their money, with the conservative theocratic agenda. Conservatives tend to be strong capitalists, and religious conservatives believe the wealth of the church and its members are in direct proportion to, and evidence of, the blessings of God or, of course, the lack thereof. The formula could not be more simple or direct. What is good for corporations is good for the economy; what is good for the economy is good for the bank account of the church. The church also believes impressive buildings with parking lots filled with impressive cars are like billboards for God and his promise of prosperity. God does not promise, and even condemns such thought, but that technicality is easy to deal with; it is ignored.
Morality is a tightly defined set of agendas in the church, and does not officially include loving your fellow man, the cornerstone of the teachings of Jesus. Rejection and judicial banning of homosexuality, abstinence before marriage, pro-life issues, conservative courts and politicians to enforce the church's moral agenda, purity in the media, creationism, euthanasia, and support for any war the military industrial complex decides is needed makes up the bulk of their concerns, public agenda, and internal efforts. Poverty is not a moral issue; if you are poor, God made you that way. If you are destroying the environment it is not immoral as it makes no difference; God will destroy it anyway. Social service for disabled and the elderly is classified as a liberal agenda. If you are not blessed with perfect health and the ability to care for yourself, your faith is weak. Any other issues of social responsibility are conveniently lumped into the non-existent scriptural edict that "God helps those that help themselves".
How can the witnesses, who are direct representatives of God, and are warning the world of its wrongs support a church that is the shining example of the scriptural condemnations "And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?" (Luke 6:46), and "But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men." (Matthew 15:9). Building great structures, holding weekly meetings, extorting tithes from church members, showing intolerance for those we disagree with, forming political agendas, supporting wars while ignoring poverty and disease, and attempting to influence every aspect of life with a conservative slant are not the commandments of God. Pursuing or even advocating wealth flies in the face of Jesus' declaration that the richer you are the harder it is to become a member of the Family of God. Failure to follow the model of the first church Jesus created and condemning the socialist aspects present in that church as satanic shows not love and worship for Jesus but disdain and rejection. It is doubtful the church will get anything but the same disdain and rejection from the witnesses. And, it is very likely that when the true nature of the church is exposed by them, the church will call for their elimination at all cost.