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Who are the two witnesses in the book of Revelation?"

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icon 1.0 Viewpoints
    1.01 Viewpoint: (1) Moses and Elijah,
    1.02 Viewpoint: (2) Enoch and Elijah
    1.03 Viewpoint: (3) two unknown believers whom God calls to be His witnesses in the end times.
icon 2.0 Which view is correct?
icon 3.0 Why did God take Enoch and Elijah to Heaven without them dying?

There are three primary viewpoints on the identity of the two witnesses in Revelation 11:3-12:

1.0 Viewpoints

  • Viewpoint: (1) Moses and Elijah,
  • Viewpoint: (2) Enoch and Elijah,
  • Viewpoint: (3) two unknown believers whom God calls to be His witnesses in the end times.

Point: (1) Moses and Elijah are seen as possibilities for the two witnesses due to the witnesses' power to turn water into blood (Revelation 11:6), which Moses is known for (Exodus chapter 7), and their power to destroy people with fire (Revelation 11:5), which Elijah is known for (2 Kings chapter 1).

Also giving strength to this view is the fact that Moses and Elijah appeared with Jesus at the transfiguration (Matthew 17:3-4). Further, Jewish tradition expected Moses and Elijah to return in the future. Malachi 4:5 predicted the return of Elijah, and the Jews believed that God’s promise to raise up a prophet like Moses (Deuteronomy 18:15, 18) necessitated his return.

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Point: (2) Enoch and Elijah are seen as possibilities for the two witnesses because they are the two individuals whom God has taken to heaven apart from experiencing death (Genesis 5:23; 2 Kings 2:11). The fact that neither Enoch or Elijah have experienced death seems to qualify them to experience death and resurrection, as the two witnesses experience (Revelation 11:7-12). Proponents of this view claim that Hebrews 9:27 (all men die once) disqualifies Moses from being one of the two witnesses, as Moses has died once already (Deuteronomy 34:5). However, there are several others in the Bible who died twice—e.g., Lazarus, Dorcas, and the daughter of the synagogue ruler—so there is really no reason why Moses should be eliminated on this basis.

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Point: (3) essentially argues that Revelation chapter 11 does not attach any famous identity to the two witnesses. If their identities were Moses and Elijah, or Enoch and Elijah, why would Scripture be silent about this? God is perfectly capable of taking two "ordinary" believers and enabling them to perform the same signs and wonders that Moses and Elijah did. There is nothing in Revelation 11 that requires us to assume a "famous" identity for the two witnesses.

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2.0 Which view is correct?

Answer:

View: (1) The possible weakness of (1) is that Moses has already died once, and therefore could not be one of the two witnesses, who die, which would make Moses a contradiction of Hebrews 9:27. Proponents of (1) will argue that all of the people who were miraculously resurrected in the Bible (e.g., Lazarus) later died again. Hebrews 9:27 is viewed, then, as a "general rule," not a universal principle.

View: (2) There are no clear weaknesses to view (2), as it solves the "die once" problem, and it makes sense that if God took two people to heaven without dying, Enoch and Elijah, it was to prepare them for a special purpose.

View: (3) There are also no clear weaknesses to view (3). All three views are valid and plausible interpretations that Christians can have. The identities of the two witnesses is an issue Christians should not be dogmatic about.

3.0 Why did God take Enoch and Elijah to Heaven without them dying?

Answer: Genesis 5:24 tells us, "Enoch walked with God; then he was no more, because God took him away." 2 Kings 2:11 tells us, "...suddenly a chariot of fire and horses of fire appeared and separated the two of them, and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind." These two verses describe the only two occurrences in the Bible of people be taken to Heaven without having died. Enoch is described as a man who "walked with God for 300 years" (Genesis 5:23). Elijah was perhaps the most powerful of God's prophets in the Old Testament. There are also prophecies of Elijah's return (Malachi 4:5-6).

Why did God take Enoch and Elijah? The Bible does not specifically give us the answer. Some speculate that they were taken in preparation for a role in the end times, possibly as the two witnesses in Revelation chapter 11, verses 3-12. This is possible, but not explicitly taught in the Bible. It may be that God desired to save Enoch and Elijah from experiencing death due to their great faithfulness in serving and obeying Him. Whatever the case, God has His purpose...and it is not always for us to know or understand.

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