“And I will give power to my two witnesses, and they will be clothed in burlap and will prophesy during those 1,260 days.” These two prophets are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of all the earth. If anyone tries to harm them, fire flashes from their mouths and consumes their enemies. This is how anyone who tries to harm them must die. They have power to shut the sky so that no rain will fall for as long as they prophesy. And they have the power to turn the rivers and oceans into blood, and to strike the earth with every kind of plague as often as they wish.”
Revelation 11:3-6 NLT
We are still in the part of John’s vision between the second and third terrors or woes. And he was busy. John has just finished measuring the spiritual well being of the Church when he noticed two figures arrive, dressed in burlap, which is a very coarse, hessian-based cloth. Straight away I am reminded of John the Baptist, who appeared out of the desert dressed in clothes made of coarse camel hair. So these two people, referred to as “witnesses”, were dressed in the traditional way of Old Testament prophets. Perhaps the implication of wearing what was effectively sackcloth was to demonstrate, in the Jewish way, the importance of repentance.
And prophets they were. John said so. And they prophesied for 1,260 days, which is, more or less, the 42 months we read about in previous verses. There has been some speculation about who these two prophetic witnesses were. The most popular suggestion was that one of them was Moses, because of the reference to turning rivers into blood (Exodus 7:17) and that the other was Elijah, who commanded no rain to fall, coincidentally, for 42 months (1 Kings 17:1, James 5:17). But the Scriptures do not say specifically who the two witnesses were.
The reference to “the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of all the earth” is underpinned by the writings of the prophet Zechariah. We read in chapter 4:11-14, “Then I asked the angel, “What are these two olive trees on each side of the lampstand, and what are the two olive branches that pour out golden oil through two gold tubes?” “Don’t you know?” he asked. “No, my lord,” I replied. Then he said to me, “They represent the two anointed ones who stand in the court of the Lord of all the earth.” So in John’s vision he saw the culmination of another prophesy, made many years before. An olive tree represented fruitfulness and the source of the Holy Spirit, and the lampstand declared the light of God to those around.
John was told that the two witnesses, the two anointed ones, prophesied for three and a half years. I wonder what they said. We might get some help from Scripture. 2 Peter 1:20-21 says, “Above all, you must realise that no prophecy in Scripture ever came from the prophet’s own understanding, or from human initiative. No, those prophets were moved by the Holy Spirit, and they spoke from God“. So a genuine prophet is someone who communicates, via the power of the Holy Spirit, what God wants people to hear. In John’s vision the two witnesses had some fearsome abilities to defend themselves from harm, so it can be concluded that what they were prophesying was not always a blessing to their listeners. The signs used by Moses and Elijah were used to back up the witnesses’ prophetic words, and I suspect that the two prophets were also using their power to draw people’s attention to what they were saying, lending weight to their messages.
What do we think of prophecy today? One thing for sure, there are many counterfeit prophecies. People claim to be able to see into the future and make declarations of things to come, usually far enough away to avoid any repercussions if they turn out to be in error because they will be long dead. And a common aberration is the use of horoscopes. But such devices are not of God. We pilgrims must always beware of getting caught up by counterfeits from the devil. We are told to test prophecies (1 Thessalonians 5:20-21). And take note that no prophetic message will contradict what God has said in His Word, the Bible.
Heavenly Father, we thank You for Your prophets, men and women who are prepared to stand up and declare Your message to us. And we thank You for caring so much about us that You send us direct messages. We are so grateful. Amen.