Sunday, 7 February 2021
These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands standing before the God of the earth. Revelation 11:4
In the previous verse, the two witnesses were introduced. Two aspects of them were given that indicate they are actually men and not merely to be considered as metaphor: they prophesy and they are clothed in sackcloth. With that in mind, an evaluation of who they are was given, deciding upon (but not dogmatically barking out) Enoch and Elijah. Reasons for that were provided.
Moses was rejected as one and the explanation was given as to why. The apostle John was rejected as one. The reason was not fully explained. In this verse, it can be determined why he is excluded. These two witnesses are now described by John. He says, “These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands standing before the God of the earth.” John is reaching back to what was said in the Old Testament. In Zechariah 4, the following is recorded –
“Now the angel who talked with me came back and wakened me, as a man who is wakened out of his sleep. 2 And he said to me, ‘What do you see?’
So I said, ‘I am looking, and there is a lampstand of solid gold with a bowl on top of it, and on the stand seven lamps with seven pipes to the seven lamps. 3 Two olive trees are by it, one at the right of the bowl and the other at its left.’ 4 So I answered and spoke to the angel who talked with me, saying, ‘What are these, my lord?’” Zechariah 4:1-4
Towards the end of the same chapter, it then says this –
“Then I answered and said to him, ‘What are these two olive trees—at the right of the lampstand and at its left?’ 12 And I further answered and said to him, ‘What are these two olive branches that drip into the receptacles of the two gold pipes from which the golden oil drains?’
13 Then he answered me and said, ‘Do you not know what these are?’
And I said, ‘No, my lord.’
14 So he said, ‘These are the two anointed ones, who stand beside the Lord of the whole earth.’” Zechariah 4:11-14
These two anointed ones predate the time of the Apostle John. They have been serving the Lord since Old Testament times. As noted, the only two men who were taken directly to heaven in the Old Testament were Enoch and Elijah –
“Enoch lived sixty-five years, and begot Methuselah. 22 After he begot Methuselah, Enoch walked with God three hundred years, and had sons and daughters. 23 So all the days of Enoch were three hundred and sixty-five years. 24 And Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him.” Genesis 5:21-24
“Then it happened, as they continued on and talked, that suddenly a chariot of fire appeared with horses of fire, and separated the two of them; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven.” 2 Kings 2:11
The book of Hebrews repeats the note concerning Enoch’s translation ensuring that the few words concerning him could not be misconstrued –
“By faith Enoch was taken away so that he did not see death, ‘and was not found, because God had taken him’; for before he was taken he had this testimony, that he pleased God. 6 But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” Hebrews 11:5, 6
Jude goes on to note that Enoch was a prophet –
“Now Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about these men also, saying, ‘Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of His saints, 15 to execute judgment on all, to convict all who are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have committed in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him.’” Jude 1:14, 15
Enoch is not a Hebrew; Elijah is a Hebrew (see the symbolism explained in the previous verse). Both were prophets. Both prophesied concerning the ungodliness surrounding them. These reasons indicate that the two most logical choices for the identification of the two witnesses are Enoch and Elijah. If they are humans, as seems more than probable, they meet the criteria that both Moses (whose death is recorded in Scripture) and John (who was not yet alive when Zechariah was written) do not meet.
An argument against this, which is invalid, is that it cannot be Enoch because he wasn’t a Hebrew. This is faulty logic based on Paul’s words of Romans 3:2 where he says that the oracles of God (meaning Scripture) were committed to the people of Israel. Two points dispel this thinking. Jude clearly identifies Enoch as a prophet, and Moses is the one who recorded the details of his life. Paul’s words are simply a note that the people of Israel were those who maintained the oracles, not that non-Israelites could not prophesy. Job was not of Israel, and an entire book is recorded concerning him.
Life application: Both Enoch and Elijah never died. They have been faithfully serving the Lord for thousands of years now. There is no reason to think that they will not serve Him in this especially personal way during the coming tribulation period.
When evaluating difficult passages, it is often necessary to search the entire Bible to resolve the difficulties. We cannot run with biblical analysis without doing diligent research, and although passages like this one are not related directly to salvation, they are a part of the whole counsel of God and so they need to be treated as such.
Let us endeavor to do our best when evaluating Scripture. When our logic or interpretation is found wanting, let us step back, admit our error, and then move on in what is logical and proper. To the glory of the Lord who gave us this marvelous word. To the glory of JESUS!
Lord, instill a desire in our hearts to know Your word completely – in both Testaments. Surely it is filled with treasure beyond our understanding, and the more we look into it, the more You will reward us in grasping it. May You alone be glorified through our studies and our teaching others of the wonders of Your Word! Amen.