THE TWO WITNESSES
A witness is someone who attests to a fact, who gives evidence. Moreover, the testimony which is given must be based on a FIRSTHAND account - it cannot be based on what someone else said [hear-say].
In a legal sense, and as we have already indicated, a witness is a person called upon to OBSERVE a legal transaction in order to testify concerning it, especially if it is later called into question; he is required to be present at the transaction, HE MUST OBSERVE IT PERSONALLY. In criminal cases, a witness is someone who can give first-hand evidence as to the guilt or innocence of the accused.
"... but no person shall be put to death on the testimony of one witness." (Numbers 35:30)
"A single witness shall not rise up against a man on account of any iniquity or any sin which he has committed; on the evidence of two or three witnesses a matter shall be confirmed." (Deut. 19:15)
"On the evidence of two witnesses or three witnesses, he who is to die shall be put to death; he shall not be put to death on the evidence of one witness." (Deut. 17:6)
"[Jesus said] even in your law it has been written, that the testimony of two men is true." (John 8:17)
Throughout the Scriptures, and permeating all of God's dealings with man, God has adhered to an iron-clad principle that He Himself laid down: THAT NO MATTER BEFORE THE LAW SHALL BE ESTABLISHED WITHOUT THE TESTIMONY OF TWO WITNESSES. This principle is central to all of God's dealings with man. There were two tables of testimony [the law] in the Ark of the Covenant; two cherubim that covered the Ark; two witnesses were necessary for a fair trial; the disciples were named in pairs and sent out two by two - not that they might keep each other company [as some naively suppose], but that the testimony of the one could be substantiated by the testimony of the other according to the Law; AND FINALLY, TWO WITNESSES SHALL TESTIFY DURING THE TRIBULATION [the Seventieth Week].
The prophetic Scriptures have been written as parables, a puzzle. Their meaning has been shrouded in a mystery, a seemingly impenetrable haze.
Why? - to protect them from those against whom their message is directed: from governments, peoples, and organizations. And most especially, to protect them from the false religious leaders of today's apostate church, who - if they truly knew what had been written - would destroy the Scriptures if they could. As it is written:
"Therefore I [Jesus] speak to them in parables; because while seeing they do not see, and while hearing they do not hear nor do they understand.
"And in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is being fulfilled, which says, 'You will keep on hearing, but will not understand; And you will keep on seeing, but will not perceive ...' " (Matthew 13: 13-14)
But parables are surely clever devices, for while their purpose is to obscure truth from some, at the same time their purpose is to reveal truth to others. To some the prophetic Scriptures will always remain an enigma, while to those called according to His purpose, they are a cipher which, with study (II Tim. 2:15), can be unraveled:
"And the disciples came and said to Him, 'Why do You speak to them in parables'? And He answered and said to them, 'To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been granted'." (Matthew 13:10-11)
With all this in mind, let's look now at the mystery of the Two Witnesses. And we will begin by looking at the reference to them in Revelation 11:
"Then I was given a reed like a measuring rod. And the angel stood, saying, 'Rise and measure the temple of God, the altar, and those who worship there. "'But leave out the court which is outside the temple, and do not measure it, for it has been given to the Gentiles. And they will tread the holy city under foot for forty-two months. [3-1/2years] "'And I will give power to my TWO WITNESSES and they will prophesy one thousand two hundred and sixty days [3-1/2 years], clothed in sackcloth. "'These are the TWO OLIVE TREES and the TWO LAMPSTANDS standing before the God of the earth. "'And if anyone wants to harm them, fire proceeds from their mouth and devours their enemies. And if anyone wants to harm them, he must be killed in this manner. "'These have power to shut heaven, so that no rain falls in the days of their prophecy; and they have power over waters to turn them to blood, and to strike the earth with all plagues, as often as they desire'. "Now when they finish their testimony, the beast that ascends out of the bottomless pit will make war against them, overcome them, and kill them.
"And their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified.
"Then those from the peoples, tribes, tongues, and nations will see their dead bodies three and a half days, and not allow their dead bodies to be put into graves.
"And those who dwell on the earth will rejoice over them, make merry, and send gifts to one another, because these two prophets tormented those who dwell on the earth.
"Now after the three and a half days the breath of life from God entered them, and they stood on their feet, and great fear fell on those who saw them.
"And they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, 'Come up here'. And they ascended to heaven in a cloud, and their enemies saw them.
"In the same hour there was a great earthquake seven thousand men were killed, and the rest were afraid and gave glory to the God of Heaven.
"The second woe is past. Behold, the third woe is coming quickly.
"Then the seventh angel sounded: and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, 'The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever'!
"And the twenty-four elders who are before God on their thrones fell on their faces and worshipped God, saying:
"'We give You thanks, O Lord God Almighty, The One who is and who was and who is to come, Because You have taken Your great power and reigned.
"'The nations were angry, and Your wrath has come, And the time of the dead, that they should be judged, and that You should reward Your servants the prophets and the saints, and those who fear Your name, small and great, And should destroy those who destroy the earth'.
"Then the temple of God was opened in heaven, and the ark of His covenant was seen in His temple. And there were lightnings, noises, thunderings, an earthquake, and great hail." (Revelation 11)
We have already seen that the Tribulation is a test - a trial; mankind and the nations of the earth are to be judged. Witnesses are to be called [subpoenaed] to observe, record, and give evidence as to the test results so there will be no question at a later date as to the veracity of the test. The question naturally arises, then, who are these witnesses upon whom so much rests? It's a puzzle. Certain Christians have attempted to answer the puzzle by contending that these two witnesses are Moses and Elijah [some say Moses and Enoch or Elijah and Enoch] who shall come back to earth and testify in the city of Jerusalem for 3-1/2 years, breathing fire from their mouths like human torches. But such an interpretation borders on the absurd and is unreasonable, and the Scriptures are neither absurd nor unreasonable. Moreover, such an interpretation makes a mockery of the evidence which is presented in the chapter. It's a mystery, a puzzle, a cipher - a PARABLE - the purpose of which is to obscure the meaning from those against whom it is directed, so that:
"... You will keep on hearing, but will not understand; And you will keep on seeing, but will not perceive ..." (Matthew 13:14)
With all this in mind, let's look now at the mystery of the Two Witnesses.
The Scripture indicates that these Two Witnesses have power over the whole earth and their presence extends evidently to every continent and land (Rev. 11:6). Now is such a thing possible for two single individuals? Not even the angels have such power. Only God - and He alone - is omnipresent, that is to say, capable of being everywhere at once. Even Christ, though Himself God, confined Himself to the limitations of humanity and restricted His presence during His earthly ministry to just one location at one given time, just as you or I are so restricted [and the angels for that matter also]. Indeed, those living in Rome, Spain, Gaul [France], Britain, Germany, etc., never heard of Christ or knew of His presence during His time here on earth. Only later, through the ministry of the Holy Spirit in acting through the agency of the apostles and disciples [the Church], did these lands and peoples hear of Jesus Christ. Could two single human beings [or angels, for that matter] extend their presence beyond the limits that even Christ imposed upon Himself during His own earthly sojourn? Could their human [or angelic] presence be translated from the finite to the infinite? If the answer is no - which it obviously must be - how then can we account for the apparent omnipresence of the Two Witnesses?
And more, what does one REASONABLY do with that portion of the Scripture cited above which says that when the Two Witnesses desire to injure anyone, "fire goeth forth out of their mouth." Can anyone reasonably suppose that literal fire will issue forth from their mouths? If this is so, then one should apply such reasoning equally across the board and make the same supposition with regard to the references in Scripture which state that a sword will issue forth from Christ's mouth (Rev. 1:16). Such reasoning on the face of it is absurd! and - as we have already indicated - the Scriptures are neither unreasonable nor absurd. If such statements were made in any other piece of literature, they would, on the face of it, be judged allegorical. The Bible must be read in the same fashion! The Bible is speaking in parables.
You answer, "Well, God can do anything!" Yes, He can. But more often than not, He works within the limitations of His own Law. You say again, "God has, on occasion, set His Law aside in order to intervene directly in the affairs of man, such as when He made the sun to stand still for Moses." Yes, that's true, again - though one is still forced to admit that it borders on the ridiculous to picture two human beings [Elijah and Moses] walking about the streets of Jerusalem breathing fire out of their mouths like human torches. But NEVER has He shared His divine essence with any of His creation - and that's exactly what He would have to do in order to grant the quality of omnipresence to these Two Witnesses.
Moreover, Revelation 11:7 states that:
"... the beast that ascends out of the bottomless pit [Antichrist] will make war against them [the Two Witnesses], overcome them, and kill them ..." (Revelation 11:7).
Once again, certain Christians have attempted to interpret this verse as meaning that the Antichrist will seize the Two Witnesses in the city of Jerusalem [where they will be preaching] and murder them. But is this an adequate explanation? It hardly seems so.
Let's examine this verse in greater detail, for we know from the context that Antichrist does something to them, but exactly what, we are not yet sure. The verse says that he makes war with them. The interpretation we have just examined has watered the word war down in latitude to murder. Now, while both war and murder are heinous in themselves, their scope is vastly different! The word war implies killing on a huge scale, while the word murder implies killing on a much more limited scale.
The Greek word for murder is phoneuo and means killing in the same sense that the word murder means in the English language, usually the criminal killing of a single isolated individual [or, rarely, individuals, plural]. But that is specifically NOT the GREEK word that is used here. So, whatever it is that Antichrist does to the Two Witnesses, it is much more than this.
Let's continue our examination by looking at the actual Greek word for war. As we saw earlier in Chapter XI, there are two words for war in the Greek language - mache and polemos . The word mache means battle, while the word polemos means war. Their meaning is the same, but, once again, their scope is vastly different. A battle is a single isolated engagement between two opposing armies which - though it can be terribly intense in and of itself - is still limited in time and space, while polemos is a whole SERIES of battles fought over a much longer period of time and over a much greater stretch of territory. While the scope of killing implied by mache is obviously much greater than what is implied by the word phoneuo, the scope of slaughter implied by polemos is that much greater still than that which is implied by mache. These distinctions are observed by Trench [New Testament Synonyms], Thayer [Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament], and Vincent [Word Studies in the New Testament].
POLEMOS IS THE WORD USED IN REVELATION 11:7. Even if the word mache had been the one used in connection with the Two Witnesses, the use of that word in connection with two single human beings would have been rendered unintelligible. But to use the word polemos in reference to the murder of two single individuals in the city of Jerusalem is akin to using a nuclear bomb to kill a gnat. It renders it impossible - it's sheer idiocy.
But let's continue. How should we understand the passage:
"And their dead bodies [the dead bodies of the Two Witnesses] will lie in the street of the great city which spiritually [which in this sense is better translated as "allegorically" (NEB)] is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified.
"Then those from the peoples, tribes, tongues, and nations will see their dead bodies ..." (Revelation 11:8-9a)
Once again, there are certain Christians who interpret this passage as meaning that Moses and Elijah will be killed in the city of Jerusalem, and that through the medium of television 1 all the peoples of the world will see their dead bodies in the city and will rejoice over their murder. But is this an adequate explanation? No, it does not appear to be so; it breaks down at several points. And more than that, in this specific instance, the passage is clearly called ALLEGORICAL.
Let's look at the evidence. The above interpretation says that the Two Witnesses will be murdered in the city of Jerusalem. But the name of Jerusalem is not mentioned. The reference given is simply to "... that great city" which, allegorically, is called "Sodom and Egypt."
But never once - in all of Scripture - is Jerusalem referred to as "great," let alone as "Sodom and Egypt." The King James and the New King James version of the Bible mistranslated the words in Revelation 21:10 as that "great city, New Jerusalem." But the Revised, Emphasized and the New American Standard Bible) correctly render the same phrase as that "holy city..." The word great does not appear in the older Greek manuscripts, in reference to Jerusalem, only the word Holy.
Thus, while Jerusalem is referred to as the "Chosen City" (II Chron. 6:6), the "City of Peace" [which is its meaning], the "Holy City" (Neh. 11:1, Rev. 21:10), the "Throne of the Lord" (Jer. 3:17), the "City of Truth" (Zech. 8:3), the "City of the Great King" (Matt. 5:35), and the "City of the Living God" (Heb. 12:22), it is never referred to as a "great city." Indeed, Psalm 122:3 says that Jerusalem is a small, compact city - a city limited in space and area. Jerusalem has never derived its prominence because it was one of the great cities of the earth - a Babylon, a Ninevah, a Rome, a Paris, a London, or a New York; rather, it is because Jerusalem is a "holy city" that its fame is known throughout the earth. Why then would God here [in Revelation 11:8] refer to "Holy Jerusalem" as "great?"
But you say, "the passage refers to the city where Jesus was crucified - and clearly He was crucified in Jerusalem!" But Jesus was NOT crucified in the city of Jerusalem at all. The Scripture is quite clear about this! All the Gospel accounts are extraordinarily careful to point out the fact that Jesus was crucified OUTSIDE the city walls at a place called Calvary or Golgotha, a place close to Jerusalem, but definitely OUTSIDE the city proper! [Please see Davis, Dictionary of the Bible, Baker, pg. 110.] This is substantiated by Hebrews 13:11-12:
"For the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the holy place by the high priest as an offering for sin, ARE BURNED OUTSIDE THE CAMP.
"Therefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people through His own blood suffered [was crucified] outside the gate [Jerusalem]." (Hebrews 13:11-12)
The reference, then to "that great city which ALLEGORICALLY (NEB) is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified ..." could not possibly be to Jerusalem. This is no small point, and neither is the Scripture playing games with us here. It's a puzzle! A cipher! A parable!
It seems then that on every point the interpretation which makes the Two Witnesses merely two single human beings [or even angles] breaks down and collapses into ruin when examined closely. Then, who are these Two Witnesses?
Now, before we begin our inquiry, there are certain rules with which we must agree. Parables are puzzles - ciphers. They must be decoded. But in decoding a cipher, we must stay within the bounds of Scripture and reason. Parables are never unreasonable. They do not demand illogical conclusions such as the perception of the Two Witnesses as human torches breathing fire from their mouths. With this in mind, let's start.
Let's begin our examination by inquiring into the apparent omnipresence of the Two Witnesses during the Tribulation. They appear to be everywhere at once. Yet we know that it's not possible for any creature to possess the divine quality of omnipresence - so we seem to have reached an impasse. This means then that the Two Witnesses could not possibly be two single human beings; neither could they be angels, for even the angels do not possess omnipresence. It's a puzzle, it's a cipher.
But again, the answer is not all that difficult. Anyone with even a modicum of knowledge concerning the Bible knows that the Bible has a lot to say about another kind of being, another kind of entity; God calls these entities by name and refers to them as "beloved." They are two in number and they are CORPORATE beings: Israel and the Church!
Now what is a corporate being? A corporate being is a body or group of people united together in a common cause. The everyday business corporation is an example of a corporate being - for instance, General Motors. General Motors is composed of thousands of single human beings united together to build automobiles. All the members of General Motors work as a team, and they all work under one authority. Furthermore, General Motors [like all CORPORATIONS] is not limited in time and space as is a single human being; it is, in a very real sense, OMNIPRESENT! Moreover - unlike a single human being whose activities can be carried on only in one place and at one time - its activities are GLOBAL. It exists simultaneously in Detroit, New York, and San Francisco; in Europe, Asia, Africa and Latin America. It makes automobiles on one continent and sells them on another, and it does all this simultaneously from city to city, nation to nation, continent to continent. Its members come and go, live and die, but General Motors just continues on. Moreover, the laws of the United States treat General Motors as if it were a citizen like any other citizen. It is a "Corporate PERSON." It even possesses all the protection afforded to you and me as citizens by the Constitution. It can sue and be sued at a court of law; it can buy and own property; it can sell property. And all this is as true in any other country as it is here in the United States.
Business corporations derive their existence from man - specifically from the nations in which they are chartered. Indeed, nations themselves are another type of corporate being - though much broader in scope. The number and variety of corporations, CORPORATE BEINGS or CORPORATE PERSONS, are staggering. There are nations, from Uganda to China, and from France to Italy; there are business corporations from General Motors to IBM, and from Nissan to Standard Oil; there are farm trusts, charity trusts, hospitals, and so on, and so on. It's almost endless.
And in all these instances, these CORPORATE PERSONS are the creations of man - EXCEPT FOR TWO: ISRAEL AND THE CHURCH! Israel and the Church stand alone! For they, and they alone, derive their existence from God! For what business corporation, or for that matter, nation, can say with Israel:
"Look down from heaven, and see from Your habitation, holy and glorious. ...
"Doubtless You are our Father, ... You, O Lord, are our Father; Our Redeemer from Everlasting is Your name." (Isaiah 63:15-16)
And again, to what other nation or corporate person did God ever say:
"... For I am a Father to Israel, ... "Hear the word of the Lord, O nations, and declare it in the isles afar off, and say,
"He who scattered Israel will gather him, and keep him as a shepherd does his flock.
"For the Lord has redeemed Jacob [Israel], and ransomed him from the hand of one stronger than he." (Jeremiah 31:9-11)
And to what corporation of man did Christ ever say [as He does to the Church] that it is,
"... His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all." (Ephesians 1:23)
"... Christ ... loved the church and gave Himself up for her;
"that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word,
"that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she should be holy and blameless.
"... for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church ..." (Ephesians 5:25-27, 29)
Moreover, these divine corporate beings are referred to SPECIFICALLY as God's witnesses. To Israel, God says:
"But now, thus says the Lord, who created you, O Jacob, and he who formed you, O Israel: "Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; You are Mine.
"Let all the nations be gathered together, and let the people be assembled ... Let them bring out their witnesses ...
"'[But] YOU ARE MY WITNESSES', says the Lord, 'And My servant whom I have chosen' ..." (Isaiah 43:1,9-10)
And to the Church, He says:
"... and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth." (Acts 1:8)
Finally, let's examine the two objects to which the Two Witnesses are compared:
These are code words. Ciphers. But ciphers for what? Again, it's really not all that difficult.
Almost all biblical scholars agree that the term "Olive Tree" is a Scriptural reference, not to a single individual such as Moses or Elijah, but to a whole people and nation - a CORPORATE being or person - Israel (Romans 11).
The same is true with the term, "Lampstand." It is common knowledge in the church that the term "Lampstand" is a Biblical reference to the Church. In fact, in the book of Revelation, the seven Churches (Revelation 1-3) are all represented by a lampstand.
Finally, the Scriptures, as if to emphasize further the corporate nature of the Two Witnesses, represent each single witness with two objects, not one. Why? Why should not the one witness be represented by just one lampstand, and the other witness by just one olive tree? The reason, again, is simple. The number "two" in this case signifies PLURALITY and indicates that the Scripture has in mind here two CORPORATE or PLURAL beings rather than single individuals.
If we once see the Two Witnesses as CORPORATE PERSONS - ISRAEL2 and the CHURCH - than the entire puzzle falls into place. The cipher is solved.
While it was ridiculous to speak of the Beast [Antichrist] making war [polemos] against two individual saints, such in not the case if these Two Witnesses are Israel and the Church - for both Israel (including those Jews in the Dispersion) and the church [especially the latter] are world-wide in their reach, touching in their presence every continent and every nation.
And while it bordered on the absurd to speak of fire coming out of the mouths of two single individuals, like dragons in a fairy tale or human torches at the circus, one can with J.P. Lange [in his Commentaries on the Holy Scriptures], apprehend that fire now as the fire of judgment:
"When they [the Two Witnesses] desire to injure anyone, fire goeth out of their mouth. This can of course only be spiritual fire; just as the sword issuing forth from the mouth of the Lord. Nevertheless, it is the fire of judgment; it devoureth their enemies."3
It is like the fire of judgment that devoured Ananias and Sapphira, his wife:
"But Peter said, 'Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit' ... "And as he heard these words, Ananias fell down and ... [died]; and great fear came upon all who heard of it." (Acts 5:3, 5)
Moreover, the difficulty which we encountered with regard to the references to the great city which allegorically is called "Sodom and Egypt" is cleared up. While Jerusalem is NEVER referred to as "great" in the Holy Scriptures, there is such a city to which this adjective is appended over and over again:
"... mystery, 'BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH'."
"While Jerusalem cannot be supposed to be this city ... another collective city, Babylon, might easily correspond."4
The term "great city" must then have reference not to "holy Jerusalem," but "Babylon the Great," for within Babylon are both the beauty of Egypt and the wretchedness of Sodom. Both Egypt and Sodom constitute the "make-up" of Babylon; Egypt with its treasure, civilization, art, education, etc; and Sodom with its homosexuality and unnatural affections - both are a part of Babylon the Great. It is here, in the streets of Babylon in its empire-wide sense, that the Two Witnesses shall lie; and it is here in the streets of Babylon - where false and apostate religion has always thrived - that the Lord of Glory was crucified.
The existence side-by-side of Sodom and Egypt has always been the hallmark of Babylon the Great - i.e., the world - and most especially Western Civilization. Violence, corruption, and bloodshed coupled with luxury, a refined culture, and a love of art and music: this is the "coupling" of Sodom and Egypt spoken of in chapter eleven of the book of Revelation. The immorality and sensuous intellectuality of Athens is an example. A parallel is also easily discernible in the descriptions of ancient Rome given by Tacitus, Juvenal and others in the time of the Caesars. For then the whole society was utterly corrupted, the temples were merely mad excuses for houses of prostitution, and that in the name of their religions: the streets were filled with violence, and the sport of the day consisted of the gleeful slaughter of thousands in the Coliseum for the amusement of the citizens of Rome. And yet, in the midst of this vice, immorality, gluttony, and cruelty there prevailed in the company of magnificent splendor a high appreciation of music, sculpture, and art, generally, as well as a refined taste for literature and especially poetry.
Nor were the times of Leo the Tenth (Pope 1513-1521) much different, or of Paris during the Jacobins, Berlin in the 1920s, and New York and San Francisco even today. Lange continues:
"It is most significantly said: their corpses lie in the streets of the great city ... The great city itself is called Sodom and Egypt ... There, adds the Seer [prophet], their Lord was crucified. The crucifixion of Christ was itself the result of a coalition of ... [Sodom and Egypt] ... Their corpses lie there ...[for] three days and a half. And precisely this fact is a cause of delight to those who dwell on the Earth ... They rejoice over the apparent destruction of the Two Witnesses; they hold feasts and contemplate further festivities; mutual greetings, in the way of presents or compliments, are exchanged ... The reason for all this is as follows: these two prophets tormented them that dwell upon the earth."5
There is nothing so tormenting to the minds of unrighteous men than to be confronted with pure and unsullied righteousness in the midst of their own vile, hateful, and loathsome wickedness. Why? Because - deep down in their hidden parts, in the deeper recesses of their souls - they know right from wrong! They can hide it, sublimate it, bury it, and put it out of sight in the frenzy of their lusts. But when confronted with it in others, it is torture!
"... because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them.
"Professing to be wise, they became fools ...
"Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, that their bodies might be dishonored among them [in sexual sin].
"For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator ...
"... being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil [fornication] ...
"... although they know the ordinances of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them." (Romans 1:19, 22, 24, 25, 29, 32)
They cannot abide righteousness in others; they cannot stand to be in the presence of righteous men. And they will do one of two things when confronted with such a situation: they will first of all seek to subvert them - to bring them down to their level. And, oh, the joy and happiness, the pleasure and delight when they are successful. The laughter! The slap on the back! The assurances that, "it wasn't all that bad, now, was it? You're still alive, aren't you? Lightning didn't strike you? And wasn't it fun!"
But when unsuccessful, oh, the hatred! the hostility! Murder and slaughter enter the heart, and death is the only answer of the unrighteous to the righteous who refuses to be subverted. This was the answer of the Roman state to Peter and Paul, to Ignatius and Polycarp; it was the answer of the Apostate Catholic Church to Huss and Jerome; it was the answer of the Nazi state to Bonhoffer. And so it will be the answer of Babylon the Great to the Two Witnesses.
In addition to the references to the "Two Witnesses" in Revelation 11, there are additional references to them in the Scriptures; one is found in Daniel 12 and it substantiates Revelation 11. It reads as follows:
"... and there will be a time of anguish for God's people greater than any previous suffering in their history (i.e., the Tribulation) ...
"And those who are wise - the people of God (Israel and the church) - shall shine as brightly as the sun's brilliance (because of the purging effects of persecution and tribulation), and those who turn many to righteousness will glitter like stars forever (because of their righteousness and testimony).
"Then I, Daniel, looked and saw TWO MEN (lit. persons, the Two Witnesses) on each bank of the river. And one of them (one of the Two Witnesses) asked the man in linen robes (Christ) who was standing now above the river (hovering over it). 'How long will it be before the terrors end'? (i.e., the terrors of the last half of the Tribulation).
"He (i.e., Christ) replied, with both hands lifted to heaven ... that they will not end until three and a half years (i.e., the last half of the tribulation; other translations read "time, times, and half a time") after the power of God's people (Israel and the church) has been crushed.
"I heard what he said, but I didn't understand what he meant, so I said, 'Sir, how will this come out'?
"But He said, 'Go now, Daniel, for what I have said is not to be understood until the time of the end (i.e., until the latter days).
"'Many shall be purified by great trials and persecutions. But the wicked shall continue in their wickedness, and none of them will understand. Only those who are willing to learn will know what it means'." (Daniel 12:6-10)
Finally, coded - but very specific - references to the "Two Witnesses" are made insofar as the "marking out" or "sealing" of the "saints of God" during the last half of the Seventieth Week.
Immediately after the Abomination of Desolation - and just prior to the blowing of the seven trumpets (which signifies the beginning of the second half of the Tribulation and the supernatural events which pertain to it) - the "saints of God" are sealed. Why? - to protect them from the supernatural events of this period.
The sealing of God's servants directly concerns the passages of Scripture which deal with the so-called "144,000." There is perhaps no other group of verses around which so much misunderstanding and confusion swirl than those verses which deal with the 144,000 of Revelation 7:1-8 and Revelation 14:1-7. It is a sad commentary on all of us in the Christian community that so much "elitism" has resulted from false interpretations concerning the message of these passages of Scripture. It is of the utmost importance, therefore, that once again we recognize that these Scriptures - like the Scriptures which dealt with the Two Witnesses, etc. - have been written in code, their message hidden in a parable or a cipher.
The first important fact that we should note with regard to these passages is that the 144,000 of Revelation 7 are different from the 144,000 of Revelation 14. WE ARE DEALING WITH TWO DIFFERENT GROUPS. In comparing the 144,000 of Revelation 14 with the 144,000 of Revelation 7, Kelly writes that the group in Revelation 14 is:
"... a remnant, not merely sealed as the servants of God [like a similar band out of the twelve tribes of Israel in chapter vii (7)], but brought into association with the Lamb in Zion, that is, with GOD'S ROYAL PURPOSE IN GRACE ..."6
In commenting on Kelley, Pentecost7 writes:
"It is ... held that those in chapter 7 are on earth and these (in chapter 14) in heaven, making Mt. Zion the heavenly city, New Jerusalem. Those in chapter fourteen are said to be identified with the Lamb and those in chapter seven are not. Those in chapter seven are "sealed" but those in chapter fourteen have "the Father's name written in their foreheads."8
One group is heavenly, the other earthly, one group "... follows the Lamb whithersoever he goeth," the second group is numbered exclusively from the twelve tribes of Israel. Thus, there can be no doubt as to their identity: the 144,000 of Revelation 7 being Israel, and the 144,00 of Revelation 14 being the Church.
Both groups must be protected or sealed, but look - in actuality only one group is shown to be sealed, the group in Revelation 7. Why? Because the group in Revelation 14 - the Church - has already been sealed. Those in the Church - when they received Christ as their Savior - were "sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise" at that time and there is no further need to reseal them, as it were, like some half empty bottle of soda:
"In whom ye also trusted after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, YE WERE SEALED WITH THAT HOLY SPIRIT OF PROMISE, "Which is the earnest [down payment] of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchase possession, unto the praise of his glory." (Ephesians 1:13-14)
Let's look at both groups of 144,000 in greater detail.
Let's begin by examining the 144,000 of chapter 7. We first come in contact with this group just prior to the events described in the previous chapter, that is to say before the commencement of the supernatural events of the last half of the Seventieth Week - the Great Tribulation. Just prior to the blowing of the seven trumpets [which signify the beginning of the phenomenal events of this period], an angel of God descends from the east having the seal of the living God and it is announced to the fallen angels and the demons that they at last have permission to torment (Please see Chapter VIII) the very spirit of man itself - which now, through the Abomination of Desolation, has been abandoned by the "Restrainer" and given over to the power of Satan - EXCEPT THOSE WHO HAVE BEEN SEALED BY GOD:
"And it was commanded them that they should not hurt the grass of the earth, neither any green thing, neither any tree; but only those men which have not the SEAL OF GOD in their foreheads." (Rev. 9:4)
It is extremely important at this point to ascertain the exact sequence of events which now occurs. In order to do this, a number of verses must be brought together - all specifically related to the events surrounding the Abomination of Desolation: namely Revelation 7:1-8; 9:4-5; and 12:1-17.
Revelation 7:1-8 describes the sealing itself and those who are sealed (i.e., Israel); Revelation 9:4-5 describes why; and Revelation 12:1-7 gives the events surrounding the sealing; these events pertain to the woman "clothed with the sun," in Revelation chapter 12.
"And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars:
"And she being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered ... . And she brought forth a manchild, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron: and her child was caught up unto God, and to his throne.
"And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore days [31/2 years].
"... and when the dragon [Satan - please see Chapter IX] saw that he was cast [out of heaven] unto the earth, he persecuted the woman which brought forth the man child.
"And to the woman were given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness, into her place, where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time [31/2 years], from the face of the serpent.
"And the serpent cast out of his mouth water as a flood after the woman, that he might cause her to be carried away of the flood.
"And the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed up the flood which the dragon cast out of his mouth.
"And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus (Revelation 12:12; 5-6; 13-17).
"While there has been general agreement among commentators of all types concerning the identity of the two aforementioned individuals [i.e., the dragon as Satan (Please see Chapter IX) and the manchild as Christ (Please see, this chapter on the "The Identity of the Man-child"9], there is a great diversity of interpretation concerning the key individual in this passage" [i.e., the woman].
"... There have been many false interpretations of the identity of this woman. Some have held that it was Mary.
"However, the only feature to make this possible would be the fact of motherhood, for Mary was never persecuted, never fled into the wilderness, was never cared for 1260 days. Others have held that this woman is the church that is travailing to bring Christ to the nations. This, however, is ... (too) allegorizing ... and must be rejected ... . Still others have identified the woman as the leader of some particular sect; but only by the wildest vagaries of the imagination could some present day individual be pressed into the interpretation here.
"... It has [always] been the interpretation of dispensational premillennialists [i.e., evangelicals] that the woman in this passage represents the nation Israel.
"... Inasmuch then as the woman represents that which is to display divine government in the earth, and Israel is God's appointed instrument to that end [the Church being the instrument of divine government in the heavens], this woman must be identified as Israel." 10
Finally, the parallel between Revelation 12 and Micah 5 establishes once and for all the identity of the woman as Israel. Micah 5:2 records the birth of the ruler who shall rule all nations "with a rod of iron." It then records the rejection of this ruler by the nation of Israel and the resulting setting aside of the nation ["therefore will he give them up ... (Mic. 5:3)], which brings to an end the first Sixty-Nine Weeks of Daniel [see chapter VI]. The nation is then pictured by the prophet as being in TRAVAIL [dispersion in, and PERSECUTION by the Gentile nations] "... until the time that she [Israel] which travaileth hath brought forth" (Mic. 5:3); that is, until her blindness concerning Christ [her Messiah] is removed (Romans 11:25) and she is once again restored into God's plan and purpose.
"... in conjunction with the accomplishment of the purpose of God respecting Israel ... Christ was born (Micah v. 2); then comes His rejection ... the prophecy passes by all that has to do with the church and takes up Christ's birth ... . Here it is put figuratively, as Zion travailing till the birth of this great purpose of God as touching Israel ... [and continuing until] God's people will [at last ... resume their ancient place." 11
Finally, in Romans 9:4-5, Paul writes concerning Israel:
"... of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came ..." (Rom. 9:5).
And insofar as the identification of the "manchild" is concerned, Pentecost writes:
"The quotation from Psalm 2 [Thou art my SON; this day have I begotten thee ... Thou shalt break them (the nations) with a ROD OF IRON (Psalm 2:7,9)], which all would agree is a Messianic Psalm, identifies the man child here as none other than Jesus Christ. The fact of the birth, the fact of the destiny of this child, for He is 'to rule all nations with a ROD OF IRON', and the fact of the ascension, since He is 'caught up unto God, and to His throne', all cause the identification to point to one person, the Lord Jesus Christ, for of none other could all three statements be made."12
It is then said of the woman that she flees into a place called the "wilderness" where she has a "place prepared for her," and where she will be safe for "a thousand two hundred and threescore days" [31/2 years] (Rev. 12:6). Now, this part is not too difficult to decipher; what is being said here is this: that Israel [which is the same as saying the "144,000" of Revelation 7], immediately after the abomination of Desolation, will escape the perils of the last half of the Seventieth Week by fleeing into the "wilderness." Why? And more, why is this said of the 144,000 of Revelation 7 [Israel], and not of the 144,000 of Revelation 14 [the Church]? Why is Israel so protected and not the Church? A fair question. The reason is this: Because the protection that the Scripture has in mind here for both Witnesses [both groups of 144,000] - as we have said before - is SPIRITUAL protection, and not necessarily physical protection; but since Israel, by the time of the Abomination of Desolation, has not yet fully recognized her Messiah as Christ (Please see box, this chapter entitled, "Israel as One of the Two Witnesses"), their spirits do not as yet - indeed, cannot yet - contain the protecting presence of the Holy Spirit; thus, extraordinary care must be taken in the case of Israel that is not necessary with regard to the Church. Israel must be offered physical protection in addition to spiritual protection, for if they were to die as a result of the turmoil of the second half of the Seventieth Week, they would share the same fate common to all unbelievers who die outside of Christ. Thus, in the case of Israel, physical death means spiritual death, while the same is not true of those who die in Christ [i.e., the Church]:
"For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, WE DIE UNTO THE LORD: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord's." (Romans 14:8).
"For me to live is Christ, AND TO DIE IS GAIN." (Phil. 1:21)
"But when ye shall see the ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION spoken of by Daniel the prophet, STANDING [DWELLING] WHERE IT OUGHT NOT, [let him that readeth understand], then let them that be in Judea flee to the mountains [the wilderness]:
"And let him that is on the house top not go down in the house neither enter therein, to take anything out of the house.
"And let him that is in the field not turn back again for to take up his garment.
"But woe to them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days!
"And pray that your flight be not in the winter.
"For in those days shall be affliction such as was not from the beginning of the creation which God created unto this time, neither shall be [again]." (Mark 13:14-19)
Daniel 11:40-45 states that Antichrist shall invade the Middle East and conquer it, but that three countries will escape his grasp:
"He [Antichrist] shall enter also into the glorious land [Israel] and many countries shall be overthrown: but these shall escape out of his hand, even Edom, and Moab, and the chief of the children of Ammon." (Daniel 11:41)
God shall preserve, quite miraculously, this portion as a refuge for the children of Israel. This is the "wilderness" spoken of in Revelation chapter 12 where the woman [Israel] is to flee immediately after the Abomination of Desolation; it is the same place referred to in Matthew, Mark, and Luke (Matt. 24:1-22; Mark 13:14-20; and Luke 21:7-21). It is that portion of land east of the river Jordan which sweeps in a large arc [with the Dead Sea as the fulcrum] from about 40 miles north east of the Dead Sea southward to about 50 mile due south, southeast of the same sea - a barren, mountainous, and desolate wilderness devoid of any significant vegetation. Mt. Nebo is located in this wilderness where it is reputed that Jeremiah hid the ark of the Covenant in order to prevent its capture by the Babylonians. There are scholars today who suggest that it is still there (Numbers 35). Here God will care for His people much in the same fashion that He cared for them when Moses led the people out of Egypt.
And the certainty that all of Israel will be saved and brought back as a nation - and not just as scattered individuals - into a place of blessing is vouchsafed for by the Word of God.
"For the children of Israel shall abide many days [during the dispersion] without a king, and without a prince, and without a sacrifice ... "Afterward, shall the children of Israel return, and [through the trials and pressure of the Tribulation] seek [at last] the Lord their God... and shall fear the Lord and his goodness in the LATTER DAYS." (Hosea 3:4-5)
"AND SO ALL ISRAEL SHALL BE SAVED: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion [Zion] the deliverer [Christ], and he shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob [Israel]."
And Zechariah prophesies:
"And I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplication, so that they will look on Me whom they have pierced; and they will mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only son, and they will weep bitterly over Him, like the bitter weeping over a first-born.
"... They will call on My name, And I will answer them; I will say, 'They are My people', And they will say, 'The Lord is my God'." (Zech. 12:10; 13:9b)
And now, what about the 144,000 of Revelation chapter fourteen? The Bible says:
"And I looked, and, lo, a Lamb stood on the mount Sion, and with him an hundred forty and four thousand, having his Father's name written in their foreheads.
"And I heard a voice from heaven, as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of a great thunder: and I heard the voice of harpers harping with their harps:
"And they sung as it were a new song before the throne, and before the four beasts, and the elders: and no man could learn the song but the hundred and forty and four thousand, which were redeemed from the earth.
"These are they which were not defiled with women; for they are virgins. These are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth. These were redeemed from among men, being the first fruits unto God and to the Lamb.
"And in their mouth was found no guile: for they are without fault before the throne of God." (Revelation 14:1-5)
The fact that we are here speaking of the heavenly Mt. Sion [Zion] is confirmed by verse 3 of Revelation 14: "And they sung as it were a new song before the THRONE, and before the FOUR BEASTS, and the [TWENTY-FOUR] ELDERS" - and as there can be no doubt as to the location of these dignities [the heavenly Jerusalem], there can, therefore, be no doubt that we are here speaking of the HEAVENLY JERUSALEM: that we are here speaking of the heavenly Jerusalem is further substantiated by Revelation 4:1-6:
"After this I looked, and behold, a door was opened IN HEAVEN; and the first voice which I heard was as it were of a trumpet talking with me; which said, 'COME UP HITHER' ... "And immediately I was in the spirit: and, behold, a THRONE was set in HEAVEN... "And round about the throne were FOUR AND TWENTY SEATS and upon the seats I saw FOUR AND TWENTY ELDERS ... "And before the THRONE there was a sea of glass like unto crystal: and in the midst of the THRONE, and round about the throne were FOUR BEASTS ..." (Revelation 4:1-2, 4, 6)
All of these things - the throne, the four beasts, and the twenty-four elders - are in heaven; and it is precisely among these things (i.e., the throne, the four beasts, and the twenty-four elders) that the 144,000 are located. Thus, there can be little doubt as to the identification of this 144,000 - it is the Church, for just as the earthly Mt. Zion can only be apprehended as pertaining to Israel, so also the heavenly Mt. Zion must be apprehended as pertaining only to the Church - and the fact that it is the heavenly Mt. Sion (Zion) [not the earthly Mt. Zion] to which Christians should be looking is confirmed by Hebrews 12:22-24:
"But ye [dear Christian] are come unto MOUNT SION, and unto the city of the living God, THE HEAVENLY JERUSALEM, and to an innumerable company of angels,
"To the general assembly and CHURCH OF THE FIRSTBORN, WHICH ARE WRITTEN IN HEAVEN, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect,
"And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel (Hebrews 12:22-24).
Finally, the Scripture says of this group that they have: "... his Father's name written in their foreheads." This is a clear reference to Revelation 3:12 which, once again, places this group in the "heavenly" Jerusalem [as opposed to the "earthly" city], and clearly numbers it with the Church:
"To him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name." (Revelation 3:12)
Now we come to a mystery: the Scripture says - "These are they which were not defiled with women." What does this mean? Can it possibly mean that these 144,000 are all men [with no women in their company] and that none of them has ever been married? Of course not!! - if only because such an interpretation would contradict other portions of the Scripture and would render this passage an absurdity.
First of all, such an interpretation would seem to say that sexual intercourse between husband and wife is to be avoided, or at least frowned upon. But this would contradict one of the clearest warnings of Scripture concerning the End of Days - that evil men would appear commanding men to avoid marriage:
"Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils;
"Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron;
"FORBIDDING TO MARRY." (I Timothy 4:1-3)
Moreover, the Scriptures plainly teach that sexual intercourse between a husband and wife [but, only between a husband and wife] is HONORABLE and a pleasure ardently to be desired. Indeed, the Lord devoted an entire book in the Old Testament to a rapturous (and even erotic) description thereof: The Song of Solomon. And the teaching of the New Testament is also quite clear on the subject:
"Marriage [sexual intercourse within the institution of marriage] is honorable in all [in everything], and the bed undefiled [i.e., both husband and wife remain pure before God]." (Hebrews 13:4)
"If thou [a male] marry, thou hast not sinned; and if a virgin [in this case, female] marry, she hath not sinned." (I Corinthians 7:28)
Finally, the above interpretation which insists that the 144,000 of Revelation 14 are all male virgins [and, as ridiculous as it might sound, there are many who insist on this interpretation], flies in the face of the clear teaching of the Scripture concerning the status of the female in the Church and in the Heavens, for the Scriptures manifestly teach that in heaven there will no longer be any distinction [insofar as standing before God is concerned] between the male and female [though such a distinction remains while we are yet on the earth - and it must be remembered that the picture we have before us in Revelation 14 is that of the Church IN HEAVEN ]:
"For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage [there is no distinction before God between the two], but [they] are as the angels of God in heaven." (Matt. 22:30)
And Paul writes:
"For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus [both male and female].
"For as many as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.
"There is neither ... male nor female: for ye are all one [in standing] in Christ Jesus." (Galatians 3:26-28)
So then, what does the passage before us really mean? It is rendered more intelligible when read in its entirety. The passage says of this group that they have been "redeemed from the earth;" that "they follow the Lamb [Christ] whithersoever he goeth;" that they have been "bought from among men;" that they are "the first fruits unto God and to the Lamb;" that "in their mouth was found no guile;" and that "they are without fault before the throne of God." Now, what does all this speak of? It speaks of SPIRITUAL PURITY!!
Through the affliction and distress of the Tribulation - like gold tried and refined in a burning fire or like a precious stone [a diamond or a ruby] made perfect through INTENSE pressure - they have cast off all that bound them to the cares of this life and this present evil world. They have been redeemed from the earth. They no longer belong to it, but rather their citizenship is now of the heavens; so high have they been lifted above the earth, that they cannot even be numbered among men anymore. They have been lifted up to the heavens - even above the angels. Their testimony has been made pure in everything - there no longer is any "guile" or deceit in their witness; no self-serving nor double-dealing in their testimony; no attempt to serve both God and mammon - they follow Christ now wherever He goes, be it into fire, death, torture, whatever. Their love for Jesus no longer permits any separation from Him Who now is the ABSOLUTE object of their love and desire. Their love and their service has been made totally SELFLESS. They are "undefiled with women" - which means they no longer go whoring after the delights of this world. It no longer has any attraction for them. They have been cleansed from all their whoredoms [see Hosea] and their love is now only for their divine Husband - the Lord Jesus Christ. They have been transformed from their whoredoms into a Bride made perfect and pure, and worthy of His love.
Finally, we must come to grips with the meaning of the number 144,000. Are we to understand that only 144,000 out of all Israel and out of all the Church are to be saved? Or are we perhaps to perceive these two groups of 144,000 as some kind of elite to be honored above their companions in Israel and the Church? The Scripture does not indicate this at all. Israel is one, and the Church is one. They are not to be divided into segments according to some kind of intrinsic value of their several members. Each member's standing is the same, and their standing has nothing to do with any merit of their own, but it is based solely upon the merit of their dear Savior!!
"But the Scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe." (Galatians 3:22)
"For by grace [unmerited favor] are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves [no merit of yours had anything to do with it]: it is the gift of God:
"Not of works [not out of any merit you might have], lest any man should boast." (Ephesians 2:8-9)
The Bible does speak of a "remnant" in both the Church and Israel. But this is the "remnant" that is left after much tribulation - in other words, the true believers. In no instance are we to ever perceive the "remnant" to be some kind of special caste or class in either the Church or Israel - they are merely what is left over, or what remains [hence, remnant] after the winds of persecution have swept the chaff away [those who were merely playing at Christianity for advantage].
Then to what does the number 144,000 refer? Once again, the Scripture is speaking in a parable, a riddle. The number has a specific meaning, and we can begin to discern that meaning by examining its several parts. It is made up in this way: 12 x 12 x 1000 = 144,000. Now, in Scripture twelve is the number of CORPORATE TESTIMONY; for instance, there were twelve Apostles of the Lamb and twelve tribes in Israel; and we have already seen that the number one thousand is the number of magnification. The number 144,000 then, means the MAGNIFIED, COMPLETED TESTIMONY OF GOD AND THE LAMB - pure, unmixed, clean, spotless, without blemish, chaste, and holy!! This is now the condition of both Israel and the Church, the Two Witnesses of God.
Now, two last ciphers; two last puzzles. First, the Rapture and Resurrection as they pertain to the Two Witnesses:
"And after the three and a half days the breath of life from God came into them, and they stood on their feet; and great fear fell upon those who were beholding them. "And they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, 'Come up here'. And they went up into heaven in the cloud and their enemies beheld them." (Revelation 11:11-12)
What is this? Where have we heard such terminology before? The terms "3-1/2 days;" "time, times, and half a time;" "42 months;" "1,260 days" - all these are Biblical code words for either the first half or the second half of the Tribulation [Daniel's Seventieth Week]; in this case, the second half. There is no reference here as some believe, to the time Christ spent in the grave - which was only three days, not three and a half days.
What must be meant here is that shortly after the Abomination of Desolation [which occurs midway through the Tribulation or the Seventieth Week], the Beast [Antichrist] will make war on Israel and the Church - those who keep the commandments of God [Israel], and those who have the testimony of Jesus [the Church] (Rev. 12:17); that he will prevail on a world-wide basis in a holocaust that will dwarf the Holocaust of Hitler (Rev. 11:7); and that the dead bodies of both Jews [i.e., those who were unable to escape according to Matt. 24:15-16: "When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:) Then let them which be in Judea flee into the mountains ..."] and Christians will be scattered about in every city, town, and village of the whole earth where the inhabitants thereof will gaze upon them in glee and great joy because there is now no "righteous man" to torment their consciences.
But after three and a half years [the last half of the Seventieth Week, the "Great Tribulation"], Jesus will return, and the rapture and resurrection will occur - and this is the precise meaning behind the verse: "And they heard a loud VOICE [For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a SHOUT, with the VOICE of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and thus we shall always be with the Lord. (I Thess. 4:16-17)] from heaven saying to them, "Come up here." And they went up into heaven in the cloud and their enemies beheld them." (Rev. 11:12) 13
Lastly, many are puzzled about the reference to the fraction "one-tenth of the city" and about "7,000 persons killed" in conjunction with the Resurrection and Rapture of the Two Witnesses in Revelation 11. These figures are symbolical. Not, however, in a good sense, but in an evil sense. Lange (Lange's Commentaries on the Holy Scriptures) suggests an answer:
"... ten denoted completeness; one-tenth denotes a minor completeness of destruction and wreck. The added figure, 7,000 is to be understood in the same manner. Three [denoting God] and four [denoting man], thus seven denoting God's dealings with man, multiplied by 1,000 [the greatest completeness, 10 x 10 x 10]: GOD IS NOW UTTERLY THROUGH WITH UNREPENTANT MAN - "My Spirit shall not always strive with man" (Gen. 6:3). Hence, the complete and final removal of His Two Witnesses. What this removal means is written by this figure of 7,000 killed in Babylon. The removal of the Two Witnesses is a catastrophe such as is caused when a terrific earthquake rocks the very foundations of the world, as when the central pillar that upholds the whole earth is removed. When the task of the Two Witnesses is through, GOD IS FINISHED WITH THE WORLD. The catastrophe first strikes Babylon, the headquarters of the beastly opposition. When this totters, the rest will not stand for long.
That this entire section is symbolical can easily be seen: to calculate that one-tenth of the city was 7,000 people, and that hence the entire city (i.e., Jerusalem - or New York, or Washington D.C, or whatever) was 70,000 (i.e., ten-tenths) borders on the absurd. "And the rest became terrified and gave glory to the God of the heaven" cannot mean that now at last all who were not slain repented. When judgment descends, it is too late for repentance. When under the power of the Beast, the enemies of God are struck with terror as the first blow of judgment falls, and then acknowledge that there is a God of heaven; they have not thereby shown repentance. "The demons also know and tremble."
"And I will pour (out) upon the house of David and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace (unmerited favor), and of supplications. And they shall look (earnestly) upon me whom they have PIERCED (when Christ appears at the Mount to rescue Israel during the siege of Jerusalem - i.e., Armageddon), and they shall mourn for him (i.e., Christ), as one mourneth for his only son, and (they) shall be in bitterness (deep sorrow) for Him as one who is in bitterness (deep sorrow) for his first-born." [(cf. John 19:37 and Rev. 1:7); Zech. 12:10 RSV.]There are those who would object to Israel being a Witness of God while not yet fully saved. But, it must be remembered that the Tribulation is the very process whereby Israel's blindness is to be removed, the Second Coming of Christ being merely the culmination of that process. And even today, ISRAEL'S VERY PRESENCE IN THIS PRESENT EVIL WORLD AFTER 2,000 YEARS OF DISPERSION IS A TESTIMONY TO GOD'S UNMERITED GRACE. Indeed, the entire world finds itself today revolving around a nation of little more than a few million souls - a seeming absurdity by any standard. The Church also will be undergoing a similar transformation, for prior to the Seventieth Week the condition of the Church [and we mean here the so-called born-again Church] is characterized by the Scriptures as being one in which Christ can no longer find a home, a condition where Christ finds Himself outside the gate, knocking to get in (Revelation 3:14-20). [That this passage has specific reference to the "End Times Church," all evangelical scholars would agree - please see Miller's Church History.] For the Bible says with regard to us both [both Israel and the Church] that "God hath concluded them all [both groups] in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all. O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out.] [Romans 11:32-33.]
"The quotation from Psalm 2 [Thou art my SON; this day have I begotten thee ... Thou shalt break them (the nations) with a ROD OF IRON (Psalm 2:7,9)], which all would agree is a Messianic Psalm, identifies the man child here as none other than Jesus Christ. The fact of the birth, the fact of the destiny of this child, for He is 'to rule all nations with a ROD OF IRON', and the fact of the ascension, since He is 'caught up unto God, and to His throne', all cause the identification to point to one person, the Lord Jesus Christ, for of none other could all three statements be made." [Pentecost, Things To Come, pg. 286.]
"... Israel will be resurrected at the close of the tribulation period ..." [J. Dwight Pentecost, Things to Come. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1958, pg. 411.]
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