The Purpose of the Two Witnesses
Dec 18, 2009
When I was young, I was given the impression that the job of the Two Witnesses was to go around blasting sinners with fire from heaven if they dared to arrest them. Or if any territory or nation did not believe in Jesus, they would cover the land with blood much like what occurred in Egypt during the first plague.
Back in those days, I knew little or nothing about the difference between the two covenants. Having been raised a Dispensationalist and a Christian Zionist, I assumed that the Two Witnesses were Jews who were re-establishing the Old Covenant in preparation for the Jewish Kingdom in the coming "Age of Law" after the close of the present "Age of Grace."
I now see things a whole lot differently after reading (and understanding) the Book of Hebrews.
The primary job description of the Two Witnesses is to bear witness of Jesus Christ through the law and the prophets, represented by Moses and Elijah. More specifically, as I have already said, it is Joshua and Elisha in our day, because we are in the time of the second work of Christ.
But we can see a major hint by looking at John the Baptist, who was sent "in the spirit and power of Elijah" (Luke 1:17) at the time of the first work of Christ.
(17) And it is he who will go as a forerunner before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers back to the children, and the disobedient to the attitude of the righteous, so as to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.
So his job was to get the people ready, to change their mindset in such a way that they would know the divine plan and agree with that plan. As I see it, this is the primary function of the Two Witnesses today. It is not to force people into compliance by threatening them with plagues or fire from heaven. It was to prepare the people for "the baptism of fire" (Matt. 3:11).
The Old Covenant method of converting people was "Convert or Die!" Such a method was allowed earlier only because Israel had rejected the voice of God at Sinai at their first Pentecost (Ex. 20:18-21). Their hearts were hardened, and for this reason, God said in Psalm 95:7, "Today if you will hear His voice, harden not your hearts." In refusing to hear His voice, they were unable to fulfill the terms of Pentecost, so they were instructed to observe this feast every year until it was fulfilled in Acts 2.
Israel conquered Canaan by a physical sword because they lacked the Sword of the Spirit that had been offered to them at Sinai on that first Pentecost. But we should not glorify such bloody conquests as if such methods were an accurate reflection of the heart of God. Nor should we think that the Sword of the Spirit, given to the Church in an "Age of Grace," was only a temporary interlude before reverting back to Old Covenant methods of conversion.
No, the Book of Hebrews makes it clear that the New Covenant is a "better" one (8:6). Having established something "better," God will never revert back to that which is worse. Nor does God expect "gentiles" to abide by the New Covenant, and Jews to abide by the Old Covenant. Keep in mind that the book above is NOT entitled "the Book of Gentiles." It is the Book of Hebrews, and it is designed to bring Hebrew people out from under the Old Covenant and into something "better."
In Luke 9:54, Jesus' disciples once asked Him if they should call down fire from heaven upon the Samaritan city that rejected Jesus. They had an Old Covenant mentality. Jesus responded,
(55) But He turned and rebuked them, and said, "You do not know what kind of spirit you are of; (56) for the Son of Man did not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them."
We can apply this to the Two Witnesses. Rev. 11:5 says that "fire proceeds out of their mouth and devours their enemies." The fact that the fire is coming out of their mouth tells us that it is not a literal fire. It is the fire of the Word of God, which has an entirely different effect upon the people. "In this manner he must be killed." Yes, there are two ways to kill people. The first is by a literal fire that burns people to crispy critters. The second is the baptism of fire by which people repent, "die daily," and are purified by the word of the fiery sword that comes from the mouth of Christ.
The type of death prescribed depends upon which covenant is in operation. It depends upon which sword a person is using. Is it the physical sword in one's hand? or is it the spiritual sword in one's mouth?
The Two Witnesses are also said to "have power over the waters to turn them into blood" (Rev. 11:6). This is the "Moses" ministry, and Jesus was the Prophet like Moses (Deut. 18:18, quoted in Acts 3:22). The difference is in their two covenants. Moses mediated the Old Covenant, while Jesus mediated the New.
Under Moses, Egypt was covered in blood. Under Jesus, the world is covered by the blood of Jesus Christ. While the "plague" appears to be the same, the effects are entirely different. They are as different as the "fire" of Elijah was from the "fire" of John the Baptist.
At the end of the Old Testament, we are left with two admonitions in the book of Malachi. We are told to "remember the law of Moses" (4:4) and to watch for "Elijah the prophet." The first appearance of Christ was preceded by John the Baptist, whom Jesus called "Elijah" (Matt. 11:14). Yet there is no mention of any second witness coming in the spirit and power of MOSES.
It seems to me that John's ministry was incomplete without this counterpart. In that sense, it was only a partial fulfillment of Malachi's prophecy, and so God never intended for it to succeed. Hence, John was killed, and his death meant that Jesus too would have to die. This was the divine plan in that first appearance, because the first goat (Lev. 16) and the first dove (Lev. 14) had to die.
We, however, are living in the time of the second goat and the second dove, which is a living work. In this time, there are TWO witnesses, not just one, because this time Moses is part of the divine plan to back Elijah and vice versa. I find it interesting in this light that during the Age of Pentecost the Church has known to watch for Elijah, but they forgot the law of Moses. This pattern was established in the fact that John came as Elijah without Moses as a back-up.
But this is all changing now. We are seeing that Moses is not to be feared or shunned. The law is not evil, nor is it a death-trap when viewed through the eyes of Christ and applied as a New Covenant Sword of the Spirit.
Moses is now Joshua. Elijah is now Elisha. The shift suggests a progression from the Old Covenant to the New and from the good to the "better." This is our revelation in the past year as God has clarified these things to us. I believe that we have already entered the time of the Two Witnesses even now, and I suspect that the relevant time frame involved is 3-1/2 years from June 21, 2009 to December 21, 2012. (You will have to look at the blogs from last June to get a fuller understanding of those dates.)
Now mind you, I'm not trying to date the coming of Christ, nor am I suggesting that Jesus Christ will come on Dec. 21, 2012. It would certainly surprise me if it happened that way. But I am certainly saying that we want to be part of the Joshua-Elisha company and help prepare the way for His return. And to do this work properly and effectively, we ought to see how the law and the prophets complement each other and bear witness to each other.
And let's not forget that third witness--the Psalms (Luke 24:44).
Dr. Stephen Jones