“And I will appoint my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth. They are “the two olive trees” and the two lampstands, and “they stand before the Lord of the earth.” If anyone tries to harm them, fire comes from their mouths and devours their enemies. This is how anyone who wants to harm them must die. They have power to shut up the heavens so that it will not rain during the time they are prophesying; and they have power to turn the waters into blood and to strike the earth with every kind of plague as often as they want.”
Revelation 11.3-6 NKJV
Let me say this right up front. I am not an expert on the Book of Revelation. I can’t even remember the last time I read it from beginning to end.
So anything I say here is not any kind of official, doctrinal statement. Rather, it is me poking and pondering about this mysterious book. And believe me, there is a lot to ponder about in this book. Take this passage for example, Revelation 11.3-6. Here are a collection of verses from a statement that God is making. He is declaring what will come to pass (or has come to pass already, depending on how you interpret Revelation) and God mentions two individuals. There will be two witnesses, specific people, and empowered from on high to do the work of the LORD.
Now, for all my life I have been told that the identity of these men are known for a fact. People have often preached or commented when this subject is brought up that the two witnesses will be Moses and Elijah. I have also heard Enoch and Elijah as possible identities of these men. But as I was reading the Bible today, something stuck out. Something that I had never noticed before. Something that may offer a different explanation as to who those two witnesses are.
What has always baffled me is that people make these assumptions with such certainty. They know that they know that somebody and Elijah are going to be the two witnesses in Revelation. They just know it. Most of the time their rationale for this belief breaks down like this:
“The two witnesses are Moses and Elijah because they were the two men that appeared on the Mount of Transfiguration with Jesus (Matthew 17.1-8).”
“The two witnesses are Enoch and Elijah because they are the only two people in the Bible that didn’t die (Genesis 5.24, Hebrews 11.5, 2 Kings 2.11-12).”
There may be other things that people point at to say it will be Moses, Elijah or Enoch, such as what the two witnesses are said to do. Their activity with calling for a drought and plagues being sent out are reminiscent of these men. But I am still struck with curiosity by what I read.
So Moses went out and told the people what the Lord had said. He brought together seventy of their elders and had them stand around the tent. Then the Lord came down in the cloud and spoke with him, and he took some of the power of the Spirit that was on him and put it on the seventy elders. When the Spirit rested on them, they prophesied—but did not do so again.
However, two men, whose names were Eldad and Medad, had remained in the camp. They were listed among the elders, but did not go out to the tent. Yet the Spirit also rested on them, and they prophesied in the camp.
For most people, this story goes under the radar. It is in the book of Numbers, an Old Testament book with lists of names and numbers. To say that it is a dry book is an understandable statement. However, there are these little stories that fill in the spaces between the names and numbers that are absolutely bizarre. This account is one of them.
After reading this passage in Numbers, I was struck by this idea. Two men prophesying, where have I head that before? Revelation talks about that. Two men prophesying. Yes, you can say that these two men could be anyone, Moses, Elijah, or Enoch just as easy as it could be Eldad and Medad. But besides the Mount of Transfiguration, those three men were never together. And definitely not together to prophesy. Moses and Elijah did not hang out after the Exodus or get coffee on Mount Sinai. Moses died thousands of years before Elijah. Even Enoch was thousands of years before Moses, so the idea that Enoch and Elijah spoke God’s word together is out of the question. But Eldad and Medad, these two men did prophesy together. They spoke by the prompting of the Spirit. God moved specifically on them, and then God’s word came forth from them.
I am not saying that Moses, Enoch, or Elijah were not moved by God’s Spirit, or that their prophesies lacked the move of God. What I am saying is we have a record of two distinct individuals, just like there will be in Revelation, prophesying together.
Before I go on, it occurs to me that you may assume that I think that Eldad and Medad did not die, that they somehow lived for all these years or they were taken to be with the Lord, and no one noticed. I am saying nothing of the sort. What I am saying is that Eldad and Medad bear at least a passing similarity with what is described in Revelation. I think that is at least worth looking at. Whether these two men are resurrected for the divine job of prophesy in Revelation or that there is simply a parallel between them, I saw something there that is worth investigating.
The account of Eldad and Medad is nestled in a story of God imparting His Spirit onto the seventy leaders of Israel. What is interesting is that the seventy leaders do prophesy, but only the once. What exactly they spoke is a mystery but they “did not do so again.” However, it does not say that this was the case for Eldad and Medad. It does not state they prophesied once and never again. In fact, the narrative ends with Joshua, Moses’ assistant, begging Moses to command Eldad and Medad to stop. Moses refuses. In fact, Moses goes on to state that he wished that the Spirit of God would be on all people and that everyone would prophesy. Then the author, Moses, tells the story of how God brings quail to feed Israel.
The issue of Eldad and Medad prophesying is not touched. It is never mentioned again. Go to biblegateway.com and search “Eldad” or “Medad”. Their names only appear in this story. Never again in the entire Bible do they show up as characters or names. While this is a leap of faith, it could be said that the lack of an account that Eldad and Medad’s prophesy ceased could mean that it continued. At least it continued for a while, maybe even for 1260 days like the two witnesses in Revelation.
Yes, I am aware that this notion is a big jump. And yes, I know I am reading into the text. But I think you would agree that this idea isn’t without some level of merit.
The last observation I had about Eldad, Medad, and the two witnesses of Revelation is about the symbolism of the olive trees, the lampstands and the Spirit of God. Throughout the Old Testament, olive oil was used as a symbol to make something anointed. When Moses and Israel are setting up the Tabernacle, God commands that all pieces of the alter, the show bread table, everything should be marked with olive oil. The mark of olive oil, or being anointed, stood as a symbol that this alter, this table, were set apart. This was a unique piece. This wasn’t a regular table. This was not an ordinary alter for any God. This was sacred. This was marked as holy. As Israel moved on, throughout their history, to mark something or someone with oil, to anoint them was to set them apart as holy and sacred.
This practice was done for kings, like Saul and David in 1 Samuel. It was done over all the pieces for the Tabernacle and later the Temple. And it was done over the prophets as well.
I mentioned the alter and the show bread table in the Tabernacle in the days of Moses, but there was more there than just those two items. There was a very special lampstand in the Tabernacle. It was a lamp that was continually burning, lit by olive oil. When God speaks of his two witnesses and compares them to being lampstands, the idea that they will be filled with this something sacred, being sustained by something holy is not a leap of faith, but very much a logical understanding.
Now I say all this to make this point. Throughout Scripture, the Spirit being poured out on, the Spirit being placed or dwelling in, the idea of the Spirit moving through someone was symbolized by oil. To anoint someone with oil was to declare that the Spirit of God was with this person. When David was anointed king, “the Spirit of the Lord came upon [him] from that day forward (1 Samuel 16.13).” In the New Testament, the writers used the language of being anointed as a simile or a metaphor for being filled with the Spirit of God.
“Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.”
2 Corinthians 1.21-22
Eldad and Medad were two men that had the Spirit of God move on them. The Spirit rested on them, anointing them as sacred and special men in Israel. If the New Testament writers talked about these two, the language of having oil poured on them would likely be used. Men filled with the oil, the Spirit of God, like the lampstand in the Tabernacle. Men marked and distinguished by the olive oil, just as a tree is marked and distinguished by its fruit.
It seems to me that there are some strong comparisons between the two witnesses in Revelation 11 and the men, Eldad and Medad, from Numbers 11. Could they be the same people? Could they be the facsimiles of one another?
I don’t know, but I wonder.
It is possible, but then again, like I said before, it is possible that Moses and Elijah, or Enoch and Elijah could be the two witnesses. There are holes in those ideas. I’m sure there are holes in mine as well.
And if you believe that Revelation records events that have happened, whether in part or completely, then you have another idea as to who these two witnesses are.
But could they be Eldad and Medad?
There is a lot to answer. Lots of questions have been asked.
What do you think?
Who do you think the two witnesses are?
How do you support that idea?
Let me know in the comment section.
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