THE WAR BETWEEN THE TWO
WITNESSES AND THE ANTICHRIST
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. 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.
THE TWO WITNESSES & THE
"GREAT CITY" OF REVELATION 11
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 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
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]."
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!
THE BREAKDOWN OF THE COMMON
INTERPRETATIONS OF THE TWO WITNESSES
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
PART 5: PARABLES & CIPHERS
Who, then, are these two witnesses? In the last sub-section we examined
the many attempts of theologians up through the years to answer this
question, but we discovered that on every point these "historical
interpretations" break down - especially as those interpretations
attempt to explain the Two Witnesses as two single human beings [or
even angles]. Then, who are these Two Witnesses?
PARABLES ARE CIPHERS
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.
THE TWO WITNESSES AS CORPORATE PERSONS
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.
ISRAEL AND THE CHURCH -
GOD'S CORPORATE PERSONS
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)
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."
"... 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
ISRAEL AND THE CHURCH AS GOD'S WITNESSES
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."
ISRAEL AND THE CHURCH AS THE
TWO WITNESSES OF REVELATION 11
Finally, let's examine the two objects to which the Two Witnesses are
The OLIVE TREE.
The LAMPSTAND [Candlestick].
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.
THE MYSTERY UNVEILED
If we once see the Two Witnesses as CORPORATE PERSONS - ISRAEL
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."
It is like the fire of judgment that devoured Ananias and Sapphira,
"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."
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
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."
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
"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.
THE TWO WITNESSES OF DANIEL 12
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
"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
"'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)
THE TWO WITNESSES AND THE 144,000
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
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 144,000 OF REVELATION
SEVEN AND REVELATION FOURTEEN
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 ..."
In commenting on Kelley, Pentecost 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.'"
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.