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And I will give power unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days, clothed in sackcloth. These are the two olive trees, and the two candlesticks standing before the God of the earth. And if any man will hurt them, fire proceedeth out of their mouth, and devoureth their enemies: and if any man will hurt them, he must in this manner be killed. These have power to shut heaven, that it rain not in the days of their prophecy: and have power over waters to turn them to blood, and to smite the earth with all plagues, as often as they will.

[Revelation 11:3-5, KJV]

This passage makes reference to Moses turning the waters of Egypt to blood, to Elijah deliberately praying for an extensive three and a half year long drought in the Mediterranean region and to Elijah also calling down fire from heaven to consume troops of soldiers sent by a king to apprehend him.

What parts of Protestantism accept that such men still walk the earth, perhaps not in every generation, but from century to century and that these 'have power ... to smite the earth with plagues' ?

And what parts of Protestantism accept that such men will continue to be seen to the end of time, since their duration is 1,260 days which is three and an half years ( or 'weeks' in the prophetic aspect) and since that length of time prophetically indicates the duration of the Church Age from the ascension of Christ until his triumphant return ?

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    Are you asking specifically about eschatalogical interpretations which say that the Two Witnesses refer to individuals in every age, or just to a position which would say that there are prophets with this power in every age? TBH, I haven't heard of anyone who teaches either option! – curiousdannii Apr 24 at 1:34
  • @curiousdannii No, I am asking whether any parts of Protestantism accept that there are some, in the present Church Age - perhaps not in every generation, but from time to time, one century or another - who 'have power' ... 'to smite the earth with plagues'. Such power did, yes, exist previously in such as Moses and Elijah (in a previous age). But the spirit of prophecy continues, some suggest, according to Revelation 11:6. The two witnesses clearly have the spirit of prophecy (unless some doubt it is so ?). I am interested in where these views are held. – Nigel J Apr 24 at 8:32
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When it comes to interpreting Revelation in general, and those 4 verses in particular, I consulted a book where the Protestant author classifies 4 main ‘types’ of interpretation. He explains what he means by those ‘types’ at the start of his book, summarized on the cover jacket as: “PRETERISM: most prophecies were fulfilled during the time of the Roman empire. HISTORICIST: the prophecies have been fulfilled throughout history and are still being fulfilled today. FUTURIST: most prophecies are yet to be fulfilled. SPIRITUAL (or Symbolic or Idealist): most prophecies portray ongoing cosmic conflict of spiritual realities and may have many fulfilments throughout history.”

For the various Christian authors he quotes and their sources, please consult the book “Revelation – Four Views – A Parallel Commentary” edited by Steve Gregg, page xiii (Nelson, 1997). My compilation comes from pages 226 to 233. But as it really is the Futurist and Spiritual interpretation groups of Protestants who hold largely (though not entirely) to the views you ask about, I will only state some of their views. If you would like to have similar notes I compiled on the other two groups, please just let me know and I will e-mail them to you.

“The Futurist” view taken by Walvoord claims that the 1,260 days of verse 3 says that as “the two witnesses pour out divine judgments upon the earth and need divine protection lest they be killed, it implies that they are in the latter half of the seven years when awful persecution will afflict the people of God… The punishments and judgments the witnesses inflict on the world also seem to fit better in the great tribulation period.” Others with that general view (Lindsey, Morris and Ryrie) differ regarding the time period, thinking it is the first one, adding that it seems to be the coming of the beast onto the scene in power that terminates their witness.

Most Futurists take the 2 witnesses to be actual men who will arise to prophesy in Jerusalem in the Tribulation. Some think they will be Moses and Elijah themselves. Others think that it is Elijah and Enoch (the view of the earliest apocryphal writers and the early exegetes of the church, a view shared by modern writer Henry Morris.) On the other hand, Mounce writes, “It seems more likely… that they are not two individuals but a symbol of the witnessing church in the last tumultuous days before the end of the age.”

Others think that two individuals are the principal interpretation of the expression, but also leave room for the possibility of including a larger group of witnesses in the picture, including Gaebelein: “Perhaps the leaders would be two great instruments, manifesting the spirit of Moses and Elijah, endowed with supernatural power, but a larger number of witnesses is unquestionably in view here.” Ladd takes this approach as well, allowing that Possibly there is a blending of the symbolic and the specific in the passage. He believes the witnesses to be two “actual historical eschatological personages who will be sent to Israel to bring about her conversion.” He elaborates that the two witnesses may indeed represent the witness of the church to Israel throughout the age. This witness, however, will be consummated in the end time by the appearance of two Christian prophets, who will come in the spirit of Moses and Elijah, even as John the Baptist came in the spirit of Elijah.

This is apparently Ironside’s position as summarized by Charles Ryrie thus, “…this much is certain (1) They are persons, for all the other times that the word ‘witness’ is used in the NT it is used of persons. They are not movements or powers, but individual persons. (2) It is also certain that they are not named in the text, and this writer feels that the case should be left there. These are two exceptional witnesses raised up by God during the Tribulation and preserved by Him until their ministry is completed.” Walvoord comes to a position similar to Ryrie: “It seems far preferable to regard these two witnesses as two prophets who will be raised up from among those who turn to Christ in the time following the rapture.”

“The Spiritual” view holds that the two witnesses represent the witnessing church throughout its entire career. Hendriksen says, “These witnesses symbolize the Church militant bearing testimony through its ministers and missionaries throughout the present dispensation.” Regarding the miracles, Leon Morris writes, “God’s servants in the new dispensation have just as great resources as did Moses and Elijah in the old.” The deadly fire pictures those setting out to destroy them being undone. Lenski writes that “the word in the mouth of the Lord’s prophet-witnesses may be scorned but it is not an empty sound. Its judgments are fire that devours its enemies.” The failure of Julian the Apostate to reimpose paganism in the ‘christianized’ Roman Empire is cited as an example.

I have not sorted out any particular denominations these various authors belong to, and it might be fair to say that within all the denominations they represent, there will be some people with differing views.

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  • Very thorough - thank you. Up-voted (+1) and accepted. – Nigel J Apr 25 at 21:24
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Altho I can not answer for what doctrine the Southern Baptist officially states on this subject; I can tell you what I was taught in Sunday School as a youngster. There was not common assent to either of these ideas, and in my studies have found no information to back either idea in the Bible.

On idea put forth is that these two witness are those with which Jesus met during the transfiguration.

Matthew 17:1 through 13 KJV  And after six days Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into an high mountain apart, And was transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light. And, behold, there appeared unto them Moses and Elias talking with him. Then answered Peter, and said unto Jesus, Lord, it is good for us to be here: if thou wilt, let us make here three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias. While he yet spake, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them: and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him. And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their face, and were sore afraid. And Jesus came and touched them, and said, Arise, and be not afraid. And when they had lifted up their eyes, they saw no man, save Jesus only. And as they came down from the mountain, Jesus charged them, saying, Tell the vision to no man, until the Son of man be risen again from the dead. And his disciples asked him, saying, Why then say the scribes that Elias must first come? And Jesus answered and said unto them, Elias truly shall first come, and restore all things. But I say unto you, That Elias is come already, and they knew him not, but have done unto him whatsoever they listed. Likewise shall also the Son of man suffer of them. Then the disciples understood that he spake unto them of John the Baptist.

Another idea put forth is that these two witnesses are the two persons stated in the Bible who have not tasted physical death and fulfill the prophesy of Malachi. 

Malachi 4:5 and 6 KJV  Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD: And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.

Those two are as quoted in the following Scriptures:

Genesis 5:24 KJV  And Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him.

The other is:

2Kings 2:11 KJV  And it came to pass, as they still went on, and talked, that, behold, there appeared a chariot of fire, and horses of fire, and parted them both asunder; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven.

The following is quoted from Jamison and Faucets commentary of the entire Bible:

Revelation 11:3-13 In this time of treading down, God has reserved to himself his faithful witnesses, who will not fail to attest the truth of his word and worship, and the excellency of his ways. Here observe, I. The number of these witnesses: it is but a small number and yet it is sufficient. 1. It is but small. Many will own and acknowledge Christ in times of prosperity who will desert and deny him in times of persecution; one witness, when the cause is upon trial, is worth many at other times. 2. It is a sufficient number; for in the mouth of two witnesses every cause shall be established. Christ sent out his disciples two by two, to preach the gospel. Some think these two witnesses are Enoch and Elias, who are to return to the earth for a time: others, the church of the believing Jews and that of the Gentiles: it should rather seem that they are God's eminent faithful ministers, who shall not only continue to profess the Christian religion, but to preach it, in the worst of times.

As stated before, I know of no verification of either of these two theories, but I find them quite interesting. Should anyone have any other inputs I look forward to hearing especially any backed up by Scripture, since there is much that I do not know about the Scriptures.    

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I think referring to Moses turning the waters of Egypt to blood is false. God turned the water to blood. Moses was following Gods instruction in each plague. Moses was the one who relayed the message through to Pharaoh from God in all cases. Moses did not tell or ask God to perform the plagues.

This is like saying a news reporter caused the CV lockdown because he/she brought the news out of the briefing room from the President or Prime Minister to us.

Elijah was no different, he followed the instructions of God in the same way, telling Israel and its king what God had told him to say. In fact, the opposite occurred. Elijah was the one who’s prayer for rain was recorded in detail, despite the word of God saying it would rain. Like the prayer of Daniel, who in similar circumstances was experiencing the punishment meted out in his people for their sins, and at the end of the 70 years was praying that God would relent, the recorded prayers of Elijah was for rain. Both knew that Israel continued to sin against God, and both prayed on their behalf for relief.

Men of God are those who intervene between God and man on behalf of humanity.

Did Elijah pray for drought? Yes, under instruction from God. Did Moses stretch out his rod over the water? Yes, under instruction from God.

The two witnesses you refer to are different. These are the two Testaments, the Old Testament and the New Testament. They are not people.

There are parts of your question where I can see you faithfully follow the Protestant Historicist Interpretation uncovered by the early reformers, but other parts follow Futurism. Note that Preterism and Futurism were revived in the Counter Reformation to counteract the Historicist school of the reformers which pointed to the Roman church as the persecuting beast of Revelation and Daniel.

Futurism also relates to Premillennialism and Dispensationalism, which from parts of your question I read that you prescribe to. Examine the prophecies carefully and try to follow the reformers steps in deciphering the prophecies.

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The OP tells me I am splitting hairs in ascribing the plagues to God not to men. Here from Exodus 3:18-20 where God speaks to Moses from the burning busy and says as follows:

“The elders of Israel will listen to you. Then you and the elders are to go to the king of Egypt and say to him, ‘The Lord, the God of the Hebrews, has met with us. Let us take a three-day journey into the wilderness to offer sacrifices to the Lord our God.’ But I know that the king of Egypt will not let you go unless a mighty hand compels him. So I will stretch out my hand and strike the Egyptians with all the wonders that I will perform among them. After that, he will let you go."

From chapter 7:4 God again is recorded as instructing Moses as follows:

"Then the Lord said to Moses, “Pharaoh’s heart is unyielding; he refuses to let the people go. Go to Pharaoh in the morning as he goes out to the river. Confront him on the bank of the Nile, and take in your hand the staff that was changed into a snake. Then say to him, ‘The Lord, the God of the Hebrews, has sent me to say to you: Let my people go, so that they may worship me in the wilderness. But until now you have not listened. This is what the Lord says: By this you will know that I am the Lord: With the staff that is in my hand I will strike the water of the Nile, and it will be changed into blood."

So the question here is, is the OP correct in saying "These men actively caused the events to occur."

I read it as saying these men followed the instructions of God, but it was clearly God actively causing the events to occur. I do not believe that God requires the compliance of men in order to perform any deed. Nor do I believe that any man can perform these deeds without the instruction of God.

The men were there to give the meaning of the events, to record the hand of God in action. God worked through them, as when Moses struck the water of the Nile, to show to all present, and to all future, that it was indeed Him that sent the men.

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  • Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain James 5:17. and he lifted up the rod, and smote the waters that were in the river, in the sight of Pharaoh Exodus 7:20. Your comments are splitting hairs. These men actively caused the events to occur. I do not subscribe to anything you have mentioned. – Nigel J Apr 23 at 22:12
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    This post gives commentary on the passage, but doesn't actually identify anyone who teaches what is asked about. – curiousdannii Apr 24 at 1:35
  • @curiousdannii I do not know of any denomination that teaches this. I read through a number of commentaries this afternoon but came up blank. I suspect there will be some, but it would likely be unaffiliated churches from which really, you could pick any belief under the sun, and likely as not find someone who believes it. Of the mainstream churches though, no, I do not find any. Though, as I write this I recall I've not searched Spurgeon for his comments. I'll do that and add if I do, or naturally, any other commentary I've still to read. Accept silence from me as I drew a blank. – Ian Macintosh Apr 24 at 8:49
  • @curiousdannii This looks a little bit like a challenge to the frame of the question, and there is the thorny problem that Ian runs into of "trying to prove a negative' which is what Nigel's question sets up. – KorvinStarmast Apr 24 at 14:41
  • @KorvinStarmast I take your point on that. Though I have to say it was unintentional. I was taught these things myself - over a period of twenty five years - and I am genuinely surprised to find that Protestantism, more generally, has not embraced them. I could attempt to re-frame the question, if you think it would help. But at the moment I cannot see how to do it. – Nigel J Apr 24 at 16:03

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