“At thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore” (Ps. 16:11)
“And I will give power unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days, clothed in sackcloth. These are the two olive trees, and the two candlesticks standing before the God of the earth. 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.”
Biblical law requires at least two witnesses before a condemnation, and here, before Jerusalem is finally condemned, the requisite two witnesses are brought forward. The identity of these witnesses has long been disputed and discussed, and this contribution to the discussion is offered with that awareness.
That said, I take these witnesses to represent all the prophets of Israel. The Lord taught us that the guilt of the old covenant era was cumulative. “From the blood of Abel unto the blood of Zacharias, which perished between the altar and the temple: verily I say unto you, It shall be required of this generation” (Luke 11:51). The Lord said this, speaking of the destruction of Jerusalem, which is our topic here. The two witnesses are dressed in sackcloth, which denotes a message of woe and the need for repentance. That matches the narrative as well.
The two witnesses have miraculous powers, as did the prophets of old, and their powers echo the powers of Moses and Elijah, the two who visited with the Lord on the Mount of Transfiguration. Moses turned water to blood, and he struck the earth with all manner of plagues. Elijah called down fire from the sky that consumed the men who had come to arrest him, and he shut up the heavens so that a fierce drought came upon Ahab’s Israel. Moses and Elijah also represent for us the Law and the Prophets.All of them, considered together, were ignored by the establishment in Jerusalem.In addition, the two olive trees and two candlesticks are intended to make us think of Zerubbabel and Joshua (Zech. 4:2-14). These two men were true servants of God, serving Him in the civil and religious spheres respectively. In the same way, throughout the Old Testament not only did prophets come out of the wilderness, like Elijah, but they also wielded civic, political power, like Moses and David. And all of them, considered together, were ignored by the establishment in Jerusalem. Their works of power were ignored, and their powerful words were ignored. “Wherefore thus saith the Lord God of hosts, Because ye speak this word, behold, I will make my words in thy mouth fire, and this people wood, and it shall devour them” (Jer. 5:14).
These two men prophesy for 1,260 days, the same period of time that sees the holy city trampled on by the Gentiles. I take this as a picture of the final prophetic culmination. “And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead” (Luke 16:31). They were not persuaded when Jesus rose, as the prophets had said, and neither were they persuaded when they died . . . also as the prophets had said.