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Who Are the Two Witnesses?
An excerpt from The Authorized Left Behind Handbook

No one ever saw them come or go; none knew where they were from. They had appeared strange and weird from the beginning, wearing their burlap-like sackcloth robes and appearing barefoot. They were muscular and yet bony, with leathery skin; dark, lined faces; and long, scraggly hair and beards. Some said they were Moses and Elijah reincarnate, but if Buck had to guess, he would have said they were the two Old Testament characters themselves.

Twining throughout the Left Behind books is the story of two men who stand at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem and perform impossible feats while sharing prophecies that can be understood by all listeners, whatever their native language. The profoundly moving and disturbing story of these men is biblically founded and is at the core of the series' prophetic message.

Revelation 11:3-4 describes these two witnesses: "And I will give power to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth. These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands standing before the God of the earth."

Some identify one of the witnesses as Enoch (because he never died—Genesis 5:24) and the other as either Elijah (who also never died—2 Kings 2:11-12) or Moses. But for the following three important reasons, many are inclined to think they are Moses and Elijah.

  1. Moses and Elijah were two of the most influential men in the history of the Jewish people. Moses introduced God's written law to Israel. Elijah was a leading prophetic figure. Whenever the Jews said, "Moses and Elijah," they usually meant "the law and the prophets."
  2. Moses and Elijah appeared with Jesus and the three disciples on the mount when Jesus was "transfigured before them" (Matthew 17).
  3. The two witnesses will have the power to kill with fire from their mouths those who try to harm them, "shut heaven, so that no rain falls," "turn [the waters] to blood," and "strike the earth with all plagues, as often as they desire" (Rev. 11:5, 6). These are the very miracles performed by Moses and Elijah. Elijah was famous for calling down fire from heaven, the best-known occurrence appearing in 1 Kings 18:36-38 during the contest between Elijah and the prophets of Baal. He is also connected to divinely caused droughts and judgments of fire. Moses, of course, is intimately connected to the ten plagues that struck Egypt before the Exodus (Exodus 7-11).

The two witnesses of Revelation 11 will play a vital role in producing the enormous soul harvest of the first 42 months of the Tribulation. They will provide the millions of Jews in the Holy Land a theological and spiritual bridge to the Christian gospel.

The supernatural works entrusted to these two witnesses will be a testimony to the existence and power of the living God. The Antichrist will have no power over them until the due time.

We might wish for these two witnesses to oppose and finally overthrow Antichrist, as Moses did Pharaoh and Elijah did Ahab and Jezebel. But that is not their destiny:

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. &hellip 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. (Revelation 11:7-8, 10)

For reasons known only to God, the Lord will allow the Antichrist to overcome and kill the two witnesses once they "finish their testimony." Before that time they will be untouchable; anyone who threatens them must be killed by fire coming out of their mouths.

After the deaths of the witnesses, the unsaved people of the world who so hate them will refuse them a decent burial, leaving their dead bodies to decay in the streets of Jerusalem. Then they will "rejoice over them, make merry, and send gifts to one another" in celebrations of the witnesses' deaths (Rev. 11:9).

John prophesied that "those from the peoples, tribes, tongues, and nations will see their dead bodies three-and-a-half days" (Revelation 11:9). How could the whole world see their dead bodies? Even as recently as [15 years ago] it seemed impossible to fulfill that prophecy, but today the technology exists to broadcast news across the globe. The prophetic significance of this capability cannot be overstated.

As the unredeemed "peoples, tribes, tongues, and nations" gaze on the putrefying corpses of the two witnesses, no doubt they will think, "Ha! Take that, you miserable troublemakers!" But they rejoice too soon. John predicted that while the world is watching, God will do a mighty miracle.

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, and a tenth of the city fell. In the earthquake 7,000 men were killed, and the rest were afraid and gave glory to the God of heaven. (Revelation 11:11-13)

Among other things, the resurrection of the witnesses will be a loving gesture by God Almighty to make his existence and power known around the world. Millions spoken to by the 144,000 Jewish witnesses and convicted by the Holy Spirit will see this demonstration of divine power and respond to the Savior. The people of Jerusalem will have even more reason to respond, for John tells us of a mighty earthquake that will topple a tenth of the ancient city and kill 7,000 people. Often in Revelation, after a divine judgment hits the earth, we read that the people refuse to repent and even blaspheme God (Rev. 16:9, 11). But not this time. John tells us that "the rest were afraid and gave glory to the God of heaven." The significance of this verse is central to the story, and to the end times. God intends the plagues and judgments of the Tribulation to cause the people of the world to repent and turn to him. He tells us over and over in his Word that he has "no pleasure in the death of the wicked" but instead desires that they turn from their sin and place their trust in him (Ezekiel 33:11).

In the Left Behind novels, a pastor makes the following speech in a videotape for any of his flock who missed the Rapture:

"Strange as this may sound to you, this is God's final effort to get the attention of every person who has ignored or rejected him. He is allowing now a vast period of trial and tribulation to come to you who remain. He has removed his church from a corrupt world that seeks its own way, its own pleasures, its own ends."
—Left Behind

The resurrection of the two witnesses will allow those who remain to take stock of themselves, leave their frantic search for pleasure and self-fulfillment, and turn to Christ for salvation.

Excerpt from The Authorized Left Behind Handbook by Tim LaHaye, Jerry B. Jenkins, and Sandi L. Swanson. Tyndale House Publishers, 2005.

Original article: Left Behind

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