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So far we have covered much of what has happened (prophetically) just before the Return of Christ.  But Revelation 11 tells us another story; a parable of sorts that is full of hidden meaning and much symbolism.  It is the story of the two witnesses.                    

Revelation 11 starts with an angel handing John a measuring stick.  John was told to measure the Temple of God.  However he was told not to measure the outer court.  The angel goes on to say that the outer court has been given to the Gentiles and they will trodden down the city for 42 months.                        

Now what do the Temple and the outer court symbolize?  The Temple worship of God ended the day Jesus died.  On that day the veil of the Temple was torn from top to bottom.  This was meant as a sign that priests were no longer the go-between for God and the people.  The only go-between any of us need is Jesus.  As long as we are one with Him we are free to enter the "Holy of Holies".  The "Temple" must then symbolize God's eternal kingdom - the New Jerusalem.  Why John was told to measure it, I do not know.                                    

Since the Temple represents the New Jerusalem, then what could the outer court, that John was told not to measure, represent?  We read:                     

"But leave out the court which is outside the temple has been given to the Gentiles.  And they will  trend the holy city underfoot for 42 months." (11:2)               

If we accept that the temple represents the New Jerusalem, God's eternal kingdom, then the outer court could represent the old Jerusalem (the holy city).  Note that the time reference of 42 months is a symbolic time reference.                                    

In the post-exile period when the Jews returned to the Holy Land, the first return under Zerubbabel, the second under Ezra, and the third under Nehemiah in about the 5th Century BC, Israel was once again an independant nation.  It was not under the thumb of any outside power.  There was much work to be done.  Jerusalem and its city wall both had to be re-built (Nehemiah and his construction workers finished rebuilding the Jerusalem wall in just 52 days.)  It took a lot of time and effort but like post World War II Berlin, the holy city of Jerusalem was restored to its original splendor.                              

Around 63 BC the Roman General Pompey  entered Jerusalem, slew 12,000 Jews, and took the Israelite king captive to Rome.  The holy city was now made into part of the Roman Empire and Jews were required to pay Roman taxes.                                      

As noted earlier, the Gentile occupation of Jerusalem continued over hundreds of years by various Gentile groups including the Arab Muslims, the Crusaders, the Ottoman Turks, and the British.                    

Occupation of Jerusalem by the Gentiles finally ended on June 5-10, 1967 with the Israeli's incredible victory over their Arab enemies in the Six Day War.  The time of Jerusalem's Gentile occupation ended after 2029 years - a time symbolized as 42 months.                    

That's a lot of history to remember for sure!  More importantly, how is it that we who are living in the 21st Century are able to know so much about God, the nature of God, the condition of man, our remedy for sin, and God's promise of a New Jerusalem?  How are we able to know about Jesus, His sacrifice, and His promise to return?  How are we able to know all these things?  We know them from the Word of God - the Bible, and the Bible alone and in its entirety.                                   

We know that the Bible has two parts, the Old Testament and the New Testament.  The Old Testament highlights the Old Covenant of Temple sacrifices.  The New Testament highlights the New Covenant which is salvation by grace through faith in Jesus.  These two testaments are the TWO WITNESSES.  The two witnesses testify of the glory of God, the holiness of God, the love of God, the creativity of God, the wrath of God, and the grace of God.  Everything we need to know about God and His salvation plan can be found in the Old and New Testaments, the two witnesses.                   

Revelation 11:3 reads:                     

"And I will give power to my two witnesses and they  will prophesy (declare the Word of God) 1260 days ,   clothed in sackcloth."                    

Paul wrote in I Corinthians 2:1:                   

"And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come  with excellence of speech or wisdom declaring to you   the testimony of God."                     

The entire Bible is the testimony of God.  It is reliable.  Not every word recorded was spoken by God (i.e. the devil's temptation in the wilderness or the hollow counsel of Job's friends) but we have God's word that what was recorded was said.                    

Revelation also has this to say about the two witnesses:                                   

"These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands  standing before the God of the earth." (11:4)                

Why mention olive trees and lampstands?  The answer is in the Old Testament.  Before we look at the Old Testament reference, I want to point out the spiritual importance of olive trees and lampstands.                  

In ancient Middle Eastern cultures olive trees were a precious comodity.  Olive trees of course produced olives and olives produced olive oil.  At the time olive oil had four uses.  First it was used for cooking and baking in much the same way we use shortning and cooking oil.  Second it was used as fuel for lamps and lanterns.  The parable of the ten virgins recorded in Matthew 25 tells us this.  Third lesser grades of olive oil were used to make soap.                                    

The fourth purpose, which is its spiritual purpose, was that it was used to anoint a believer for a special calling:                          

"You anoint my head with oil" (Psalm 23:5)                 

Olive oil would be used to show God's presence and favor to a person.  In I Samuel 10:1 Samuel anointed Saul as the first king of Israel:                     

"Then Samuel took a flask of oil and poured it on   (Saul's) head and kissed him and said, 'Is it not   because the Lord has anointed you as commander over  His inheritance?'?"                      

Samuel had to repeat the same process a short time later when he anointed a young shepherd boy named David to be the next king.                       

"Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him  (David) in the midst of his brothers; and the spirit   of the Lord came upon David from that day forward"  (I Samuel 16:13)                      

The lampstands (older translations use the word "candlestick") served in ancient times as a source of light.  They provided guidance and direction in much the same way that a lighthouse provides directional light to a lost ship seeking the shore at night.  For the believer the written Word of God is our lampstand.                              

"Thy word is a lamp onto my feet and a light to my  path" (Psalm 119:105) KJV                     

Now taking what we know about olive trees and lampstands, let us turn now to Zechariah 4 to understand more concerning the mystery of the two witnesses.                

Zechariah 4 was written around 520 BC.  Zechariah lived at the time of Zerubbabel.  Zerubbabel was the Jewish governor who led the first return of the Jews to the Holy Land and he oversaw the construction of the second Temple.  Temple construction started in 536 and ended in 515.                                     

In Chapter 4 Zechariah is visited by an angel who gives him a vision:                       

"'What do you see?',  So I said, 'I am looking and   there is a lampstand of solid gold with a bowl on top  of it, and on the stand seven lamps with seven pipes   to the seven lamps.  Two olive trees are by it, one   on the right of the bowl and the other at its left.'"  (verses 2 and 3)                      

These verses are loaded with symbolism.  The bowl could represent the grace of God.  The seven lamps could represent God's spiritual light that was given out to His elect during the reigns of the seven heads (kingdoms) of the beast.  The bowl's grace was being dispensed by way of the pipes to the lamp of whichever time period that lamp represented.                                  

Zechariah asked the angel what all this symbolism meant.  The angel answered him saying:                   

"This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: 'Not by   might, nor by power but by My Spirit' says the Lord of Hosts.  'Who are you oh great mountain?  Before Zer-  ubbabel you shall be a plain!  And he shall bring   forth a capstone with shouts, "Grace, grace to it!"'"  (verses 6 and 7)                      

The chapter continues with Zerubbabel completing the construction of the Temple.  This is an Old Testament picture of Jesus building His church.                   

Zerubbabel is also seen in Haggai as a signet - that is he is a direct blood ancestor of both Joseph (Mat. 1:12) and Mary (Luke 3:27).                      

"I will take you Zerubbabel...and I will make you a  signet ring." (Haggai 2:23)                    

The great mountain that is pushed down represents the Gospel going out into the world in spite of all the opposition of the devil.  Jesus promised that the gates of Hell would never prevail against His church.                 

Zechariah further questions the angel concerning the two olive trees.  The angel responds:                   

"Those are the two anointed ones who stand beside the  Lord of the whole earth." (4:14)                   

Now let's go back to Revelation 11. Verse four tells us that the two witnesses are the two olive trees and the two lampstands.  In Zechariah 4 there are two olive trees but only ONE lampstand mentioned.  Why the descrepency?  Why is there one more lampstand in Revelation 11 than there is in Zechariah 4?                                 

We need to bear in mind that Zechariah is the second to the last book of the Old Testament and that it was written around 520 BC.  Therefore the lampstand that represented the Old Testament is mentioned.  However the New Testament, in Zechariah's time, was still in the future.  Therefore it was absent.                                

Now let's fastforward 600+ years when Revelation was written.  It is the last book of the New Testament and we are told never to add to or subtract from it. Why?  Because God has given us His entire Word.  Nothing is to be added.  Therefore when we read Revelation 11 we see two lampstands present.  The second lampstand, representing the completed New Testament, is in full view.                                    

Concerning the activity of the two witnesses we read:               

"They will prophesy 1260 days clothed in sackcloth."              


The 1260 days period is symbolic time.  It refers to the amount of time it took inspired men to complete the entire Bible.  In real time this period lasted roughly 1500 years - from the time of Moses (mid 1400s BC) to the time of John (95 AD).                                  

Why the sackcloth?  Sackcloth was a course dark fabric made of goat and camel hair.  We know that sackcloth had a dark color because when Jesus comes back, Revelation 6:12 gives us this ominous sign:                    

"...there was a great earthquake and the sun became  black as sackcloth"                      

This verse parallels perfectly with what Jesus said would happen at His Second Coming in Matthew 24.                

"...the sun will be darkened...all the tribes of the   earth will mourn and they will see the Son of Man   coming on the clouds of Heaven with power and great  glory." (verses 29 and 30)                    

Sackcloth was worn in Bible times during solemn  occasions such as funerals.  In Genesis 37:34 Jacob put on sackcloth when he mourned for his missing son Joseph.               

Sackcloth was also be worn during the reading of the prophets during Temple worship services.  This was meant to show reverence for God and His holy Word.  All this means that we should take God's Word seriously.  It contains good news and terrifying news.  The Old and New Testaments (the two witnesses) tell us what we need to hear rather than what we want to hear.                               

Karl Marx once called religion the "opiate of the people."  An opiate is an artifical mood altering drug that makes people feel good.  Anyone who reads Marx should also read Nahum 1:6:                      

"Who can stand before His indignation?  And who can   endure the fierceness of His (God's) anger?"                 

All of the Bible's words concerning important things like accountability, judgment, hell fire, and the story of the rich man and Lazarus certainly don't make me feel good.  Those words are there to show us the spiritual problem that all of us have.  We are all under the wrath of God because of our sin.  But Jesus came to wash us clean from our sin.  That is the joyful message.  We can have hope in spite of our sin.  That message is only found in the Bible, God's awesome Word.  Therefore the Bible should be read with a solemn rather than casual spirit.                                      

The Bible goes onto say that when the two witnesses finish their testimony, the beast from the bottomless pit (Satan) will kill them (Rev. 11:7).  Popular belief claims that the two witnesses are two miracle workers (some say Elijah and Enoch) who will come out of nowhere.  They will perform miracles and great signs for 1260 days.  Then the "future world dictator" will have them killed.  Their dead bodies will lay in the street for three and a half days while the whole world makes merry over their demise.  Three and a half days later the dead bodies of the two witnesses will come to life and be caught up to Heaven all to the amazement of the ungodly crowd.                            

Now let's examine the facts.  The two witnesses finishing their testimony really refers to the completion of the Bible.  This happened on the island of Patmos in 95 AD when John finished writing Revelation.  There was to be no more divine revelation given after Revelation.  Since the two witnesses are done testifying, there are to be no additions to the Bible.                     

The two witnesses being killed refers to the Bible being driven underground by Roman and later Papal authorities.  Domition was the Roman emperor at the time Revelation was completed and he was no friend to the Christians.  For centuries the Bible would be thought of as the "forbidden book."                                              

"that great city which is spiritually called Sodom and Egypt where also our Lord was crucified...nations will see their dead bodies for three and a half days." ( verses 8 and 9)                                   

"Now after the three and a half days the breath of   life from God entered them and they stood on their  feet...And they heard a loud voice from Heaven saying  to them, 'Come up here'.  And they ascended to Heaven" (v. 11:12)                        

How are we to understand these verses?  First we must understand that the three and a half day period must be understood correctly.  We need to apply the day-year prophecy principle twice over.  Hence the three and a half days becomes three and a half years or 1260 days.  Then we must apply the same principle once more making 1260 days equal to 1260 years.                    

Unlike the 1260 year prophecy concerning the reign of the beast, this 1260 year period doesn't mark any particular starting and ending years.  As mentioned the Bible was completed 1n 95 AD - the end of the testimony of the two witnesses.  The Roman emperor Domition was ready to suppress the truth and the Bible was driven underground.                                    

If we add 1260 years to 95 AD we come to the lifetime of one John Wycliffe.  He was a humble and godly man who disdained the ungodly corruption that existed in the Catholic Church.  Oxford educated, he had the ability and the burning desire to translate the Bible into the language of the common English people.                                

In 1380 Wycliffe, it is believed, translated the New Testament while several of his cohorts translated the Old Testament from Latin to English.  The project took only two years.  In December 1384, shortly after the first "Wycliffe Bible" was translated, John Wycliffe died of a stroke.                                     

Bear in mind that the Wycliffe Bible gave authority  to the Word of God instead of the pope.  In 1415 the Council of Constance declared Wycliffe a heretic.  His writings were declared illegal and burned.  The authorities proceeded to dig up his bones and publicly burned them.  His ashes were thoughtlessly tossed into a nearby river.                                    

In the years that followed other Bible translations started to emerge.  In the 1500s William Tyndale also translated the Bible into English.  His accuracy was stunning.  Upwards to 80 percent of the content of the King James Bible (1611) was taken from the research of Tyndale.  Later came the Coverdale Bible.  In 1537, one year after Tyndale was betrayed by a "friend" and executed by Henry VIII, came the Cranmer Bible.                             

In 1538 came the Great Bible.  It bore the endorsment of King Henry VIII, who had since turned against Catholicism and formed the Church of England.  The king denounced William Tyndale and Miles Coverdale, yet it is ironic to note that the translators who produced the Great Bible used the research of Tyndale in their translation efforts.  Also note that Henry's Great Bible was, by royal decree, required to be placed in every English church.                                   

The 1550s saw the ungodly reign of England's Queen Mary I.  During her reign no Bibles were produced until after her death in 1559.                                              

In Geneva, Switerland John Calvin and his cohorts went to work to produce the Geneva Bible.  That translation was completed in 1560.  It was the first English translation to divide the text into chapters and numbered verses.                                    

After the evil reign of Mary I, the Anglican bishops wanted a Bible that officially bore the endorcement of the Anglican Church.  The finished work came to be known as the Bishops Bible which first appeared in 1568.                 

In Germany, in the years after 1517, Martin Luther went to work and translated the Bible from Latin into German for the common people.                                

What was the result of the presence of the Word of God in the written language of the common people?  The result was the Reformation!                      

"Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of  God." (Romans 10:17)                      

After the Bible was made available to the masses, a whole flurry of spiritual activity ensued.  The papacy's chokehold on Europe was broken and multitudes were becoming saved.  This chapter of church history was a fulfillment of Revelation 11:11:                                

"Now after three and a half days the breath of life  entered them (the two witnesses)."                   

The mass availability of the newly translated Bibles helped spark the Protestant Reformation.  The Reformation identifies with the revival of the two witnesses.  Hence in a very real way the Bible predicted the Reformation.               

There is one more thing that needs to be said about the Reformation, it came at just the right time.  As Europe was slowly moving from the medieval era to the exploration and colonial era, European Christians were able to take the Gospel message to other lands.  Every major country wanted to settle colonies worldwide.  This meant that the Gospel message was moving from the Middle East and Europe to the shores of places like the Americas, India, Africa, Southeast Asia, Australia, and Indonesia (formerly the Dutch East Indies).  One example was in 1620 when the Pilgrims left Europe on the "Mayflower", landed at Plymouth Rock, and brought with them at least one copy of the Geneva Bible.                              

Another question one might ask is, "Why are there references to the 'great city', Sodom, Egypt, Jerusalem (where are Lord was crucified) in verse 8?  It seems like we are talking about three different places?  We know where Jerusalem and Egypt are.  But we don't know exactly where ancient Sodom was located.                     

What we do know is that when Lot fled Sodom he went to Zoar which is on the southern tip of the Dead Sea.  Verse 8 is to be understood symbolically.  Could it be that each location represents different sins in the world?  Sodom could represent the sin of immorality.  Egypt could represent the sin of abuse of power.  For 400 years the Israelites were compelled to serve the Egyptians "with rigor" as slaves (Exodus 1:13).  Jerusalem could represent the sin of apostacy (religion without Christ).                

Now what is meant by the "great city"?  The term "great city" is found in Revelation 18:19 and it refers to Babylon.  The two witnesses are killed and revived in Babylon.  Babylon here is not a place on a map.  What it is, as we'll see later, is the entire dominion of Satan here on this Earth.  The two witnesses are symbolized as two human prophets and Babylon is symbolized as a "great city".                                    

"Alas, alas, that great city...For in one hour she is  made desolate." (Revelation 18:19)                   

Everything that is an offense to God, every false gospel, every "-ism" that rejects the authority of the Bible is all part and parcel of Satan's great spiritual city of Babylon.  It was here where Satan and his ungodly fallen angels viewed with horror the revival of the two witnesses - the Old and New Testaments.                              

The site of the two witnesses being revived and ascending up into Heaven is a picture of victory for the Word of God and all of God's elect.  This will happen when Jesus returns for His elect on the last day.  After that event God will pour out His wrath onto an unbelieving world.                                   

The time between the revival of the two witnesses and their ascession into Heaven is the time that we are in today, the time of worldwide evangelism (Mat. 24:14).  What is the enemy's strategy now?  Since Satan and his minions couldn't destroy all reliable copies of the Word, his next trick was to create religions that might use the Bible but they will twist the meaning of its words.  The false gospels will quote verse after verse but they will take those verses out of their proper context.                             

I once had a conversation with a Jehovah's Witness.  He quoted John 14:28, "My Father is greater than I", as proof that Jesus was a lesser god.  Here we have to read this verse in light of the entire Bible.  When Jesus left Heaven He sacrificed His glory (temporarily) but not His divinity.  He was still fully God.  God the Father still had His glory therefore at that time God the Father was greater.  Also note in verse 26 that the Father will send a Helper, the Holy Spirit, in Christ's name WHO will teach you all things.  Note that the Holy Spirit is God in the form of a spirit, not an intangible force or power like electricity.                                   

Yes the doctrine of the Trinity is impossible to understand fully.  Let us all keep in mind the words of Billy Graham:                        

"If God were easy enough to understand, He would not  be big enough to meet all of man's deepest needs."               

What does the Bible say about Jesus?                  

"...great is the mystery of godliness:  God was mani-  fested in the FLESH, justified in the Spirit, seen by  angels, preached among the Gentiles, believed on in  the world, received up in glory." (I Tim. 3:16)                

Even the Bible indicates that from our prespective, the fact that Jesus was fully human and fully God is a great mystery.  A mystery that maybe only God can fully understand.                        

What does the Bible say are the "must knows" in regards to salvation?                      

1.  It tells us what we are saved from.                  

"For the wrath of God is revealed from Heaven against  all ungodliness..." (Romans 1:18)                   

2.  It tells us what we are saved for.                  

"For we are His workmanship created in Christ Jesus   for good works which God prepared beforehand..."   (Ephesians 2:10)                      

3.  It tells us how to become saved.                  

"Not by works of righteousness which we have done but  according to His mercy He saved us through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit."   (Titus 3:5)                       

4.  It reminds us that not all religious people are      saved.                        

"Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he  is not His." (Romans 8:9)                     

5.  It tells us the future of the unsaved.                 

"And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was  cast into the lake of fire." (Revelation 20:15)                

Think of the issues of grace, works, and salvation like this: Salvation = grace + nothing.  Salvation by faith in Christ plus a sensitivity to the prompting of God's Spirit equals a godly life.  Good works are important.  They prove our salvation but they do not bring us to salvation.  We do not do good works to become saved.  We do good works because we are saved. In this modern age of deception we need to compare scripture with scripture when we examine the testimony of the two witnesses.                                     

A second trick of the ememy that he uses in our time is to attack the credibiliy of the Bible.  He will push ideas like: "It is very unreliable.", "It has contradictions.",  "It's been translated over and over that the original meaning is lost forever.", "Reasonable people don't need a book that was completed 2000 years ago by a bunch of old Jews."  I once had a junior high clssmate who said, "The Bible is a crock."  Today I would say, "Oh if you believe that it is a crock then you must also believe that Exodus 20:13, 'Thou shall not kill' is also a crock.  If you believe that then you should have no problem with someone wanting to kill you."                            

Let's be consistant.  The Bible is not a salad bar where we can pick and choose what appeals to us.  Either we totally accept it or we reject all of it.                 

One movement that challenged the accuracy of the Bible was the Jesus Seminar.  This movemnet was started by Montana native Robert Funk.                      

In March 1985 Funk wanted to start a study that would separate the true historical Jesus from the Jesus of church tradition.  Sponsored by the Westar Institute in Berkeley, CA, this new academic endevor was attended by a panel of 200 scholars known as "fellows".  As time went on the number of enthusiastic fellows went from 200 to 74.   The remaining panel was composed of Catholics, Protestants, Jews (most likely non-Messianic),  and even a few atheists (like I really care to hear what an atheist has to say about God's Son).                               

Funk and his panel of experts would take the sayings of Jesus and then vote on whether they believed that the sayings were historical fact or just a product of tradition.  They would use a color system to mark which verses were most reliable and which ones were probably not reliable.  A whole list of colors were used but the most common colors used were black and red.                              

The sayings that received the most votes were marked in red.  These were sayings that they thought Jesus really did say.  The sayings that received the least number of votes were marked in black meaning that those sayings were probably never said.                     

The conclusion of the Jesus Seminar was that only 20% of what Jesus  has been credited as saying was authentic.  Some sayings were questionable and others were rejected.  The entire Gospel of John fell into the black category.                      

The conclusion of Funk and his Bible fellows was immediately challenged by credible Bible scholars.  These were academics who knew Greek and who realized that God not only wrote the Bible but also promised to preserve His Word in the translation process.                    

I believe that an all-powerful God is capable of seeing to it the the original meaning of His Word would never become lost in the paper chase of the last 2000 years.  The Bible has withstood wars, persecutions, and tyrannical decrees.  Skeptics come and go but God's Word still stands.                                                              

"The grass withers, the flower fades, but the Word of  our God stands forever." (Isaiah 40:8)                  

An excellent book on the subject of the reliability of the Bible is "Has God Spoken?" by Hank Hanegraaff.  Hank serves as host of the program "The Bible Answer Man."               

I'd like to close this chapter with these two quotes.               

"It is impossible to enslave mentally or socially a  Bible-reading people.  The principles of the Bible are  the groundwork of human freedom." - Horace Greeley               

"The existence of the Bible, as a book for the people, is the greatest benefit which the human race has ever  experienced.  Every attempt to be-little it is a crime against humanity." - Immanuel Kant

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