THE TWO WITNESSES OF REVELATION
(All quotes are from the “Scriptures”)
In the 11th chapter of Revelation, two mysterious entities are introduced into the story of the end of the age:
REVELATION 11:3-6: 3And I shall give unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy one thousand two hundred and sixty days, clad in sackcloth. 4These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that are standing before the Elohim of the earth. 5And if anyone wishes to harm them, fire comes out from their mouth and consumes their enemies. And if anyone wishes to harm them, he has to be killed in that way. 6These possess authority to shut the heaven, so that no rain falls in the days of their prophecy. And they possess authority over waters to turn them to blood, and to smite the earth with all plagues, as often as they wish.
Who are these "two witnesses" that YHWH will empower at the end of this age to carry His message to a world ruled by the Antichrist? Some believe that Eliyahu (Elijah) and Enosh (Enoch), who were miraculously "taken away" by Elohim, will return from heaven to prophesy for 3½ years. (Please refer to 2 Melakim [Kings] 2:11; Bereshith [Genesis] 5:24; Ibrim [Hebrews] 11:5).
Others think that it will be Eliyahu and Moshe who will antagonise the Beast during the 42 months of his reign. (It was Eliyahu who stopped the rain in Yisrael for 3½ years - 1 Melakim [Kings] 17:1 and Yaakov [James] 5:17. Moshe turned water to blood and brought plagues on Mitzrayim [Egypt] see Shemoth [Exodus] 7-12).
Some religious organisations believe that the two witnesses will be called from within the ranks of their ministry to perform this task. Another theory is that the Old Testament and the New Testament symbolically comprise these witnesses. But is there any way to really know who the two witnesses will be?
One vital key to understanding biblical prophecy is letting the Bible interpret itself. There are many clues to the identity of the two witnesses, but we have to recognise and accept them. Let's look at one of the first clues we're given about these two, which is their apparel. We are told that they are dressed in sackcloth. What do the Scriptures tell us about sackcloth?
YESHAYAHU [ISAIAH] 22:12: And in that day the Master YHWH of Hosts called for weeping and for mourning, for baldness and for girding with sackcloth.
YIRMEYAHU [JEREMIAH] 6:26: O daughter of My people, gird on sackcloth, and roll about in ashes! Make mourning as for an only son, most bitter lamentation because suddenly the ravage shall come upon us.
EKAH [LAMENTATIONS] 2:10: The elders of the daughter of Tziyon sit on the ground are silent. They have thrown dust on their heads; they have girded themselves with sackcloth. The maidens of Y’rushalayim have let their heads hang to the ground.
The Scriptures make it clear that the wearing of sackcloth is a sign of mourning. So we know that the fact that these two witnesses are clothed in sackcloth means that they are officially in mourning. What they are mourning for we will see a little later.
Now let's look at the specific role these two fulfil as witnesses. A witness is a person who has seen or knows something, and is therefore capable of giving evidence or testimony about it. Let's look at the biblical teaching on the function of witnesses. There are several scriptural passages that explain the role witnesses fulfil.
DEVARIM [DEUTERONOMY] 17:6-7: 6At the mouth of two or three witnesses shall he that is to die be put to death. He is not put to death by the mouth of one witness. 7“The hand of the witnesses shall be first against him to put him to death, and the hand of all the people last. So you shall purge the evil from your midst.
DEVARIM [DEUTERNOMY] 19:15: One witness does not rise up against a man concerning any crookedness or any sin that he commits. At the mouth of two witnesses or at the mouth of three witnesses a matter is established.
A clear principle found in the Torah is that the testimony of only one witness is not enough to convict a person of a capital crime. It takes a minimum of two witnesses to convict someone for the death penalty (or any other sin, for that matter). This same principle is repeated by both Yeshua and Shaul in the New Testament:
MATTITYAHU [MATTHEW] 18:16: But if he does not hear, take with you one or two more, that ‘by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word might be established.’ (This is the reference to Devarim 19:15)
2 CORINTHIANS 13:1: This is the third time I am coming to you. By the mouth of two or three witnesses every word shall be established.
According to the Scriptures, there must be two witnesses to an act in order for the sentence of the Law to be carried out. Since those who accept the mark of the beast and worship him will "drink of the wine of the wrath of Elohim, which is poured out undiluted into the cup of His wrath" (Rev. 14:10), at least two witnesses to their sins are necessary to convict and punish them.
Who are these two witnesses mentioned in Revelation 11? Let's look elsewhere in the Bible to see if Elohim identifies who His witnesses are and what they testify about:
YESHAYAHU [ISAIAH] 43:1, 10-12: 1But now thus said YHWH, your Creator, O Yaakov, and He who formed you, O Yisrael, “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you. I have called you by your name, you are Mine.”… “10You are My witnesses,” declares YHWH, “And My servant whom I have chosen, so that you know and believe Me, and understand that I am He. Before Me there was no El formed, nor after Me there is none. 11 I, I am YHWH, and besides Me there is no saviour. 12I, I have declared and saved, and made known, and there was no foreign mighty one among you. And you are My witnesses,’ declares YHWH, ‘that I am El.”
YESHAYAHU [ISAIAH] 44:1-8: 1But now hear O Yaakov My servant, and Yisrael whom I have chosen. 2Thus said YHWH who made you and formed you from the womb, who helps you, “Do not fear, O Yaakov My servant, and Yeshurun, whom I have chosen. 3For I pour water on the thirsty, and floods on the dry ground. I pour My Spirit on your seed, and My blessing on your offspring, 4and they shall spring up among the grass like willows by streams of water. 5One says, I belong to YHWH; another calls himself by the name of Yaakov; another writes with his hand, ‘Unto YHWH,’ and names himself by the name of Yisrael.” 6“Thus said YHWH, Sovereign of Yisrael, and his Redeemer, YHWH of Hosts, “I am the First and I am the Last, besides Me there is no elohim. 7And who is like Me? Let him call and declare it, and lay it before Me, since I appointed the everlasting people. And the events that are coming and those that do come, let them declare these to them. 8Do not fear, nor be afraid. Have I not since made you hear, and declared it? You are My witnesses. Is there an eloah besides Me? There is no other Rock, I know not one.”
These prophetic passages from Yeshayahu, plainly state that Yisrael will witness to the fact that there is no other Elohim like YHWH the Father. This testimony will be a necessary confirmation of the identity of the one true Elohim (Yochanan 17:3) during the time the Antichrist is reigning and proclaiming himself to be Elohim (2 Thes 2:4). But how can Yisrael, the chosen people of Elohim, be the TWO witnesses referred to in Revelation?
Christians who haven't studied the Tanakh (Old Testament) in depth might be surprised to learn that Yisrael split into two parts after the reign of King Shlomo [Solomon]. This split is recorded in 1 Melakim [Kings] 12 and 2 Dibre haYamim [Chronicles] 10. The division resulted in the southern kingdom of Judea (the "House of Yehudah") and the northern kingdom of Samaria (the "House of Yisrael") in the Holy Land.
The House of Yehudah was composed of the tribes of Yehudah and Binyamin (1 Melakim [Kings] 12:21; 2 Dibre haYamim [Chronicles] 11:12). The tribe of Levi also eventually sided with the House of Yehudah, having been rejected as priests by the ruler of the House of Yisrael (2 Dibre haYamim [Chronicles] 11:13-14).
The 10 tribes (1 Melakim [Kings] 11:31, 35) which composed the House of Yisrael were the tribes of Ephraim, Menashsheh, Reuben, Gad, Ashar, Naphtali, Shimeon, Yissachar, Zebulun, and Dan. These 10 northern tribes were led by the tribe of Ephraim, which was given the blessing of the firstborn by the patriarch Yisrael on his deathbed (Bereshith [Genesis] 48:14-22).
Therefore, we see from the Scriptures that Yisrael did indeed become "two," qualifying them to be recognized as two different entities. But is there any other biblical evidence which connects the two houses of Yisrael with the two witnesses of Revelation 11?
Indeed there is! Revelation 11:4 gives us the next two vital clues:
REVELATION 11:4: These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that are standing before the Elohim of the earth.
We see that the two witnesses are symbolically called "two olive trees" and also "two lampstands." We'll examine each of these symbols in turn and see what the Scriptures have to say about them.
First, let's look at what the Bible says about the "two olive trees." Are these olive trees spoken of anywhere else in the Bible? Yes, they certainly are!
ZECHARIAH 4:1-14: 1And the messenger who was speaking to me came back and woke me up as a man is awakened from sleep. 2And he said to me, “What do you see?” So I said, “I have looked, and see: a lampstand all of gold with a bowl on top of it and on the stand seven lamps with seven spouts to the seven lamps. 3And two olive trees are by it, one at the right of the bowl and the other at its left.” 4Then I responded and spoke to the messenger who was speaking to me, saying, “What are these, my master?” 5And the messenger who was speaking to me answered and said to me, “Do you not know what these are?” And I said, “No, my master.” 6And he answered and said to me, “This is the word of YHWH to Zerubbabel, ‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ said YHWH of Hosts. 7‘Who are you, great mountain, before Zerubbabel? A plain! And he shall bring forth the capstone with shouts of “Favour, favour to it!” ’ 8And the word of YHWH came to me, saying, 9“The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this House, and his hands shall complete it. And you shall know that YHWH of hosts has sent Me to you. 10“For who has despised the day of small beginnings? They shall rejoice when they see the plumb-line in the hand of Zerubbabel. These seven are the eyes of YHWH, which diligently search throughout all the earth.” 11 Then I responded and said to him, “What are these two olive trees, one at the right of the lampstand and the other at its left?” 12 And I responded a second time and said to him, “What are these two olive branches which empty golden oil from themselves by means of the two gold pipes?” 13And he answered me and said, “Do you not know what these are?” And I said, “No, my master.” 14 And he said, “These are the two anointed ones, who stand beside the Master of all the earth”
Here in Zechariah 4 we see the same symbols that are used in Revelation 11 — olive trees and a lamp stand. The two olive trees are said to be "the anointed ones" (literally "sons of the oil") who stand beside YHWH of the whole earth" (Zec. 4:14). But maddeningly, the angel doesn't give Zechariah (or us) a direct answer regarding the identity of these two trees. We must look in the book of Yirmeyahu [Jeremiah] to find identification of the olive trees:
YIRMEYAHU [JEREMIAH] 11:16-17: 16YHWH has named you, ‘Green Olive Tree, Fair, of Goodly Fruit.’ With the noise of a great sound He has set it on fire, and its branches shall be broken. 17And YHWH of Hosts, who planted you, has spoken evil against you for the evil of the House of Yisrael and of the House of Yehuda, which they have done against themselves to provoke Me, by burning incense to Baal.
Here in Yirmeyahu [Jeremiah] 11 we see that both houses of Yisrael are called a "green olive tree." They were planted and named by YHWH the Father Himself. We can be certain from Scripture that both the House of Yehudah and the House of Yisrael are symbolically labelled as olive trees. But is there any further evidence? Yes there is!
HOSHEA 14:5-6: 5I shall be like the dew to Yisrael. He shall blossom like the lily, and cast out his roots like Lebanon. 6His branches shall spread, and his splendour shall be like an olive tree, and his fragrance like Lebanon.
The prophet Hoshea preached several decades before the fall of the House of Yisrael to the Assyrians (c. 722 BCE). While he addresses both the House of Yehudah and the House of Yisrael in his prophecies, his primary message is directed at the House of Yisrael, also known as Ephraim.
To graphically illustrate the House of Yisrael's rebellion against Him, YHWH commanded Hoshea to take a harlot for a wife (Hos. 1:2). This harlot bore Hoshea three children. Elohim had Hoshea name them symbolically to show how He was going to deal with the House of Yisrael. The children were named Jezreel (lit. "Elohim sows"), Lo-Ruhamah (lit. "No mercy"), and Lo-Ammi (lit. "No people").
All three of these names described Elohim's punishment on the House of Yisrael, as He explained to Hoshea. Jezreel represented Elohim's sowing of the House of Yisrael among the Gentile nations of the earth after they were carried away into captivity by the Assyrians (Hos. 8:8; Zec. 10:7-10). Lo-Ruhamah denoted the fact that YHWH would no longer have mercy upon the House of Yisrael, allowing them to be taken captive because of their sins (Hos. 1:6). Lo-Ammi pictured the gradual loss of national identity by the House of Yisrael. After they were conquered by Assyria, they lost the knowledge of who they were. Scattered throughout the Gentile nations of the world, the House of Yisrael forgot that they were part of the chosen people of YHWH (Hos. 1:9), and eventually came to view themselves as Gentiles.
With this background, we are now ready to look at the Apostle Shaul's [Paul] revelation on Yisrael the olive tree:
ROMANS 11:16-26: 16Now if the first-fruit is set-apart, the lump is also. And if the root is set-apart, so are the branches. 17 And if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive tree, have been grafted in among them, and came to share the root and fatness of the olive tree, 18 do not boast against the branches. And if you boast, remember: you do not bear the root, but the root bears you! 19 You shall say then, “The branches were broken off that I might be grafted in.” 20 Good! By unbelief they were broken off, and you stand by belief. Do not be arrogant, but fear. 21 For if Elohim did not spare the natural branches, He might not spare you either. 22 See then the kindness and sharpness of Elohim: on those who fell sharpness, but toward you kindness, if you continue in His kindness, otherwise you also shall be cut off. 23And they also, if they do not continue in unbelief, shall be grafted in, for Elohim is able to graft them in again. 24 For if you were cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and were grafted contrary to nature into a good olive tree, how much more shall these who are the natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree? 25For I do not wish you to be ignorant of this secret, brothers, lest you should be wise in your own estimation, that hardening in part has come over Yisrael, until the completeness of the gentiles has come in. 26And so all Yisrael shall be saved, as it has been written, “The Deliverer shall come out of Tziyon, and He shall turn away wickedness from Yaakov.”
In this passage of Scripture from Shaul, we see two olive trees mentioned: one that is cultivated, and one that is wild. Who or what do these two olive trees represent?
The cultivated olive tree depicts the House of Yehudah, which provided the foundation for the early church (Acts 2:41; 21:20). This is the olive tree of salvation, for Yeshua said that "salvation is of the Yehudi [Jews]" (Yochanan 4:22). Shaul portrays those Yehudi who rejected Yeshua as branches which were broken off from the cultivated olive tree because they did not believe in the Messiah that YHWH sent to His people.
Elohim told Hoshea that He was going to cast the House of Yisrael away because of their sins (Hos 1:6). However, He said that He would not cast away the House of Yehudah (Hoshea. 1:7), although later on their sins were even worse than those of the House of Yisrael (Yehezqel [Ezekiel] 23:11). YHWH punished the House of Yehudah, but He never discarded them completely.
The House of Yehudah is Elohim's lawgiver (lit "scribe" Bereshith [Genesis] 49:10; Tehillim [Psalms] 60:7; 108:8; cf. Rom. 3:1-3). They had, and continue to have, a major part in the plan YHWH is accomplishing. As a whole, only the House of Yehudah has continued to keep YHWH's Sabbaths, which are the sign between YHWH and His people (Shemoth [Exodus] 31:13-17). Because of this, they alone have been recognised as Elohim's covenant people down to this day. However, the House of Yisrael lost their identity. They were absorbed into the nations wherein they were scattered. But HaShem has never lost track of them (Amos 9:9).
This brings us to the wild olive tree Shaul speaks of in this passage of Scripture. Many people equate the wild olive tree with Gentile believers who accept Yeshua as the Messiah. But is this really who Shaul is referring to here? There is a telling phrase used by Shaul in Romans 11:25 that exactly identifies who he is talking about:
ROMANS 11:25-26: 25For I do not wish you to be ignorant of this secret, brothers, lest you should be wise in your own estimation, that hardening in part has come over Yisrael, until the completeness of the gentiles has come in.” 26And so all Yisrael shall be saved, as it has been written, “The Deliverer shall come out of Tziyon, and He shall turn away wickedness from Yaakov.”
Here Shaul tells us that ALL of Yisrael, both the House of Yehudah and the House of Yisrael, have been blinded to the truth for a period of time. However, he says that wild olive branches will continue to be grafted in to the cultivated olive tree to replace those branches broken off until the fullness of the Gentiles has been added. Does the Bible tell us who this "fullness of the Gentiles" is? Yes, it most certainly does!
BERESHITH [GENESIS] 48:17-20 17 And when Yoseph saw that his father laid his right hand on the head of Ephrayim, it was evil in his eyes; and he took hold of his father’s hand to remove it from the head of Ephrayim to the head of Menashsheh. 18 And Yoseph said to his father, “Not so, my father, for this one is the first-born, put your right hand on his head.” 19But his father refused and said, “I know, my son, I know. He also becomes a people, and he also is great. And yet, his younger brother is greater than he, and his seed is to become the completeness of the nations.” 20And he blessed them on that day, saying, “In you Yisrael shall bless, saying, ‘Elohim make you as Ephrayim and as Menashsheh!’ ” Thus he put Ephrayim before Menashsheh.
Here we see the deathbed blessing of Yisrael upon Ephraim when he adopted him and his brother Manasseh. Yisrael said that Ephraim's offspring would become "the fullness of the nations." In Hebrew, this phrase is melo hagoyim. Interestingly, this phrase can also be translated "the fullness of the Gentiles." It was Ephraim (representative/leader of the lost 10 tribes of the House of Yisrael) that Shaul had in mind when he spoke of the wild olive tree in Romans 11!
This is verified by Shaul's statement about "the Gentiles" in the 9th chapter of Romans:
ROMANS 9:22-26: 22And if Elohim, desiring to show wrath, and to make His power known, with much patience tolerated the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23and that He might make known the riches of His esteem on vessels of compassion, which He had prepared beforehand for esteem, 24even whom He called, not only us of the Yehudim, but also of the Gentiles? 25As He says in Hoshea too, “I shall call them My people, who were not My people, and her beloved, who was not beloved.” 26“And it shall be in the place where it was said to them, ‘You are not My people,’ there they shall be called sons of the living Elohim.”
In this passage, Shaul quotes from Hoshea's prophecy about the eventual recovery of those Yisraelites (Ephraim and the tribes associated with him) who were cast away by Elohim for their sins (Hoshea. 1:10). Either Shaul was using this prophetic Scripture out of context, or the Gentiles he was speaking of were actually children of the lost Yisraelite tribes.
Other Scriptures indicate that Shaul understood that most of the Gentiles he was preaching to were in fact descendants of the 10 lost tribes who had been scattered 800 years earlier and had intermingled with all the nations round about Judea. To prove this assertion, let's first look at a telling statement by Shaul found in the 10th chapter of 1st Corinthians:
1 CORINTHIANS 10:1 -5: For I do not wish you to be ignorant, brothers, that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, 2and all were immersed into Moshe in the cloud and in the sea, 3and all ate the same spiritual food, 4and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed, and the Rock was Messiah. 5However, with most of them Elohim was not well pleased, for they were laid low in the wilderness.
Here Shaul is writing to a group of former pagan Gentiles (1 Corinthians 12:2) in Corinth, Greece. Yet in using the example of the Yisraelites that had been delivered from Mitzrayim by Elohim during the Exodus, he calls them "all OUR fathers" (1 Cor. 10:1). He certainly wasn't referring to them as "fathers" in a spiritual sense, because these people rebelled against Elohim and died while wandering in the desert for 40 years. So Shaul must be speaking of them as the Corinthians' PHYSICAL fathers! The Yisraelite ancestry of those "Gentiles" was known to the apostle Shaul, as his statement to King Agrippa also implies:
ACTS 26:6-7: 6And now I stand and am judged for the expectation of the promise made by Elohim to our fathers, 7to which our twelve tribes, earnestly serving Elohim night and day, expect to attain. Concerning this expectation, O Sovereign Agrippa, I am accused by the Yehudim.
The final reunification of the two houses of Yisrael described in the Tanakh (Yehezqel [Ezekiel] 37:15-28; Yeshayahu [Isaiah] 11:12-13; etc.) had not been accomplished at the time Shaul spoke. In fact, it still has not been fully accomplished. Therefore the 12 tribes he referenced, who were "earnestly serving Elohim night and day," must have included so-called "Gentile" believers who were, in fact, offspring of the lost tribes of the House of Yisrael!
Shaul wasn't the only one who understood this truth. In the salutation of his epistle, Yaakov also reveals that he knew to whom he was writing when he addressed the body of believers, both Yehudi and "Gentiles."
YAACOV [JAMES] 1:1: Yaakov, a servant of Elohim and of the Master Yeshua Messiah, to the twelve tribes who are in the dispersion: Greetings.
What Shaul revealed in his epistle to the Roman assembly was the same thing Yeshua spoke of in the 10th chapter of Yochanan Gospel:
YOCHANAN [JOHN] 10:16: And other sheep I have which are not of this fold – I have to bring them as well, and they shall hear My voice, and there shall be one flock, one shepherd.
Here Yeshua tells his disciples that He had sheep that belonged to ‘another flock’. He was speaking of the ones to whom he was sent, ‘the lost sheep of the House of Yisrael’ (Mattityahu. 15:24). These sheep had lost their identity and thought that they were Gentiles. But Yeshua knew who (and where) they were; and it was His divinely sanctioned job to retrieve them for the Father.
It is certainly true that Gentiles not of Yisraelite descent have been included in Elohim’s chosen people. But Scripture indicates that those who have been called by Elohim to His Son Yeshua (Yochanan [John] 6:44, 65) are primarily physical Yisraelites, both from the House of Yehudah (the cultivated olive tree) and the House of Yisrael (the wild olive tree). These two olive trees are the two witnesses of Revelation 11.
Further confirmation of this identity can be found by ascertaining the meaning of the "lampstand" symbolism used in Revelations 11:4. We only have to go back to the 1st chapter of Revelation to see what the "lampstands" represent:
REVELATION 1:12, 13 & 20: 12And I turned to see the voice which spoke with me. And having turned, I saw seven golden lampstands, 13and in the midst of the seven lampstands One like the Son of Adam, dressed in a robe down to the feet and girded about the chest with a golden band….20The secret of the seven stars which you saw in My right hand, and the seven golden lampstands: The seven stars are messengers of the seven assemblies, and the seven lampstands which you saw are seven assemblies.
In this passage, the lampstands depict seven ekklesia, the seven Asian assemblies listed in Revelation 1:11. The Greek noun ekklesia literally means "an assembly of called out ones." We can see that in the book of Revelation, a lamp stand represents a called out group of people. The symbolism fits perfectly with the House of Yehudah and the House of Yisrael, who were at first called out of Mitzrayim together to be Elohim’s people. At the end of this age, they will be called out once more to witness against the people of this earth when they forsake YHWH and worship the Antichrist.
The scriptural evidence is overwhelming that the two witnesses, who are symbolically called two olive trees and two lampstands, are in fact the House of Yehudah and the House of Yisrael. With this understanding, we can now clearly see the calling and sealing of these servants of Elohim as it is described in the 7th chapter of Revelation:
REVELATION 7:1 -8: And after this I saw four messengers standing at the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds of the earth, that the wind should not blow on the earth, nor on the sea, nor on any tree. 2And I saw another messenger coming up from the rising of the sun, holding the seal of the living Elohim. And he cried with a loud voice to the four messengers to whom it was given to harm the earth and the sea, 3saying, “Do not harm the earth, or the sea, or the trees until we have sealed the servants of our Elohim upon their foreheads.” 4And I heard the number of those who were sealed, one hundred and forty-four thousand, sealed out of all the tribes of the children of Yisrael. Of the tribe of Yehudah, twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Reuben twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Gad twelve thousand were sealed; 6of the tribe of Ashar twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Naphtali twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Menashsheh twelve thousand were sealed; 7of the tribe of Shimeon twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Levi twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Yissachar twelve thousand were sealed; 8of the tribe of Zebulun twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Yoseph twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Binyamin twelve thousand were sealed.
What has been a mystery, the 144,000 sealed from the tribes of Yisrael, can now be understood. These 144,000 servants constitute the two witnesses YHWH uses in the end-time to show the world that He is the one true Elohim. They can be grouped as follows:
The House of Yehudah composed of: the tribe of Yehudah, the tribe of Benjamin, and the tribe of Levi; The House of Yisrael composed of: the tribe of Yoseph, the tribe of Menashsheh, the tribe of Reuven, the tribe of Gad, the tribe of Ashar, the tribe of Naphtali, the tribe of Shimeon, the tribe of Yissachar, and the tribe of Zebulun.
If you will notice from the list above, the tribe of Joseph has a double portion among the tribes (with Manasseh replacing the missing tribe of Dan), as his father Yisrael promised (Gen. 48:22). But why is the tribe of Dan omitted from the twelve tribes sealed in Revelation 7?
In Bereshith [Genesis] 49, Yisrael gives deathbed prophecies to all his sons regarding their fate in the "last days" (Bereshith 49:1). The prophecy for the tribe of Dan explains the reason why he is not included as part of the two witnesses:
BERESHITH [GENESIS] 49:16 Dan rightly rules (or judges) his people as one of the tribes of Yisrael.
Since one cannot be both a witness and a judge in a matter, the tribe of Dan was chosen by Elohim to be the judge in this end-time situation. He is prophesied to be the judge of those among the offspring of Yisrael that forsake the true Elohim and follow the beast (Antichrist). However, the nature of Dan's judgment is not detailed.
The prophet Joel speaks of the sanctifying of the servants of Elohim in the end times:
YO’EL [Joel] 2:28-32: 28And after this it shall be that I pour out My Spirit on all flesh. And your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men dream dreams, your young men see visions. 29And also on the male servants and on the female servants I shall pour out My Spirit in those days. 30And I shall give signs in the heavens and upon the earth: blood and fire and columns of smoke, 31the sun is turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the coming of the great and awesome day of YHWH. 32And it shall be that everyone who calls on the Name of YHWH shall be delivered. For on Mount Tziyon and in Y’rushalayim there shall be an escape as YHWH has said, and among the survivors (or remnant) whom YHWH calls.
Kefa (Peter) used this very passage of Scripture to explain the miracle which occurred on Pentecost in Acts 2. But there remains an ultimate fulfilment of this prophecy which will occur during the unfolding of the events recorded in Revelation (compare Joel 2:30-31 with Rev. 6:12, 8:12).
The future sealing of the 144,000 will most likely occur on an upcoming Shavuot (also known as "Pentecost"). The Yehudi associate trumpets with three of YHWH's commanded Feast Days: the ‘first trumpet’ sounded on Shavuot; the ‘last trumpet’ sounded on Yom Teruah (also called Rosh Hashanah and the "Feast of Trumpets"); and the ‘great trumpet’ sounded on Yom Kippur (also known as the "Day of Atonement").
When will the "first trumpet" of Revelation be sounded? At the time shown in Revelation 8:7, which chronologically is a very short time after the 144,000 are sealed in Revelation 7:4-8. Just as the Spirit of Elohim fell upon the 120 (Acts 1:15) after ‘the day of Pentecost had fully come’ (Acts 2:1), so will the first trumpet of Revelation be blown after the 144,000 (120 x 12 x 100) have been sealed, when this future Pentecost has "fully come."
Now that we’ve established the identity of the "two" witnesses, let’s look more closely at what these witnesses will be doing during their 1,260 days of testimony (Rev. 11:3). We are given two glimpses into their activities through events that occurred during the ministry of Messiah Yeshua nearly 2,000 years ago:
LUKE 9:1-5: 1And having called His twelve taught ones together, He gave them power and authority over all demons, and to heal diseases. 2And He sent them to proclaim the reign of Elohim and to heal the sick. 3And He said to them, “Take no matter at all for the journey, neither staffs nor bag nor bread nor money – neither have two undergarments. 4And whatever house you enter, stay there, and go out from there. 5And as for those who do not receive you, when you go out of that city, shake off the dust from your feet as a witness against them.”
The commission to the 12 disciples to go out and ‘proclaim the reign of Elohim’ to “the lost sheep of the house of Yisrael” (Mattityahu 10:6) was the first type of the sending out of the 144,000 at the end of the age. In Mattityahu’s parallel account of this event, we see Yeshua’s instructions and warnings regarding what the disciples should expect during their mission:
MATTITYAHU 10:16-26: 16See, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. 17But beware of men, for they shall deliver you up to Sanhedrin and flog you in their congregations. 18And you shall be brought before governors and sovereigns for My sake, as a witness to them and to the gentiles. 19But when they deliver you up, do not worry about how or what you should speak. For it shall be given to you in that hour what you shall speak, 20for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking in you. 21And brother shall deliver up brother to death and a father his child. And children shall rise up against parents and shall put them to death. 22And you shall be hated by all for My Name’s sake. But he who shall have endured to the end shall be saved. 23And when they persecute you in this city, flee to another. For truly, I say to you, you shall by no means have gone through the cities of Yisrael before the Son of Adam comes. 24A taught one is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. 25It is enough for the taught one to become like his teacher, and a servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more those of his household! 26Therefore do not fear them. For whatever is covered shall be revealed, and whatever is hidden shall be made known.
Yeshua told the original 12 talmidim what would happen to them during their preaching of the gospel of the kingdom of YHWH. Yet his words also apply to what the 144,000 can expect as they go out into the world to preach the age-ending coming of the kingdom.
That these words likewise pertain to the witnesses at the end of the age is evident by Yeshua’s comment that "he who endures to the end will be saved" (Mattityahu 10:22). This same statement was repeated by Yeshua just before his crucifixion. In response to the question his disciples posed regarding “the sign of his coming and of the end of the age” (Mattityahu 24:3), Yeshua said:
MATTITYAHU 24:9-14: 9Then they shall deliver you up to affliction and kill you and you shall be hated by all nations for My Name’s sake. 10And then many shall stumble, and they shall deliver up one another, and shall hate one another. 11And many false prophets shall rise up and lead many astray. 12And because of the increase in lawlessness, the love of many shall become cold. 13But he who shall have endured to the end shall be saved. 14And this Good News of the reign shall be proclaimed in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end shall come.
Clearly the Messiah was not speaking solely to the 12 disciples here. They did not take the gospel of the kingdom into all nations as a witness, and the end of the age and his return did not come during their days. Therefore, we know that these words were also intended for a later group of witnesses. Luke’s gospel account shows that a second ante typical group was sent forth after the original 12, with similar instructions:
LUKE 10:1 -11: 1And after this the Master appointed seventy* others, and sent them two by two ahead of Him into every city and place where He Himself was about to go. 2Then He said to them, “The harvest indeed is great, but the workers are few, therefore pray the Master of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest. 3Go! See, I send you out as lambs into the midst of wolves. 4Do not take a purse, nor a bag, nor sandals. And greet no one along the way. 5And whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’ 6“And if indeed a son of peace is there, your peace shall rest on it; and if not, it shall return to you. 7And stay in the same house, eating and drinking whatever with them, for the labourer is worthy of his wages. Do not move from house to house. 8And into whatever city you enter, and they receive you, eat whatever is placed before you, 9and heal the sick there, and say to them, ‘The reign of Elohim has come near to you.’ 10And into whatever city you enter, and they do not receive you, go out into its streets and say, 11‘Even the dust of your city which clings to us, we wipe off against you, but know this, that the reign of Elohim has come near to you.’
*The number of disciples given in Luke 10:1 as "70" is found in some other ancient manuscripts as "72." The reason for this discrepancy is unknown, but the difference is not confined to specific manuscript groupings. Both Alexandrian and Western Greek manuscripts have examples of "72," as do some Syriac manuscripts. In The Gospel of Luke: A Commentary on the Greek Text, Howard Marshall states that manuscript "evidence in favour of 72 is the stronger" (p. 415).
Just as the number "12" is linked to "144,000" (12 x 12,000 = 144,000), the number "72" is also related to the number "144,000" in an interesting way: 72 x 2,000 = 144,000
Using the assumption it was ‘72’; about 2,000 years ago, Yeshua dispatched the 72 disciples "two by two" on their mission to prepare for the first harvest by preaching the gospel of the kingdom. Soon, the 144,000 from the two houses of Yisrael will be sent out "two by two" once again. Each pair of these witnesses will travel throughout the cities of the world to proclaim that the kingdom of Elohim is coming soon in its fullness.
LUKE 10:17 -20: 17And the seventy-two returned with joy, saying, “Master, even the demons are subject to us in Your Name.” 18And He said to them, “I saw haSatan falling out of the heaven as lightning. 19“See, I give you the authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and none at all shall hurt you. 20“But do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rather rejoice because your names have been written in the heavens.”
The 72 disciples were given power over the demons in the days of Yeshua’s ministry. In like manner, the 144,000 will also have such authority over “serpents and scorpions,” the demonic horde released from the Abyss (Rev. 9:1-11).
Now let's examine the fate of these two (144,000) witnesses, as revealed by Yochanan's vision:
REVELATION 11:7 -8: 7And when they have ended their witness, the beast coming up out of the pit of the deep shall fight against them, and overcome them, and kill them, 8and their dead bodies lie in the street of the great city which spiritually is called Sedom and Mitsrayim, where also our Master was impaled.
After these witnesses have finished their testimony before all the nations, YHWH will allow the Antichrist who had previously come up out of the Abyss (Rev. 9:11) to fight against them and kill them. For additional information on this Beast and his activities in the end-time, see my article "Who Is The 'Destroyer'?"
The phrase "fight against them" implies that action against the two witnesses is much more involved than just having two men killed. The Greek word used for "witnesses" in this passage is martusin; the English word "martyr" is derived from the singular form of this Greek word. At the end of their testimony, all 144,000 witnesses will be martyred for Elohim:
REVELATION 11:9 -10: 9and some of the peoples and tribes and tongues and nations see their dead bodies for three and a half days, and not allow their dead bodies to be placed into tombs, 10and those dwelling on the earth rejoice over them and exult. And they shall send gifts to each other, because these two prophets tortured those dwelling on the earth.
Such will be the hatred of the Antichrist-worshiping masses for these 144,000 witnesses that their bodies will be left to rot in the streets of Jerusalem after they are executed by the Beast. The world will be so glad to see these two groups of witnesses slain that they will declare a global holiday and rejoice over their deaths. But their defeat is not the end of the story:
REVELATION 11:11-12: 11 And after the three and a half days a spirit of life from Elohim entered into them, and they stood upon their feet, and great fear fell on those who saw them. 12And they heard a loud voice from the heaven saying to them, “Come up here.” And they went up into the heaven in a cloud, and their enemies saw them.”
Three-and-a-half days after the Beast is allowed to slay the witnesses of the House of Yehudah and the House of Yisrael (a day for every year they prophesied in the cities of the world), Yeshua the Messiah is going to return at the 7th trumpet to resurrect them and all the righteous dead, as numerous Scriptures show (1 Cor. 15:51-53; 1 Thes. 4:13-17; Matt. 24:31; Rev. 11:15-18). They will be taken to heaven to sing before the throne of Elohim the Father (Rev. 14:1-5) and to await the marriage ceremony of the Lamb (Rev. 19:6-9).
After the Messiah establishes his kingdom and begins to rule from Y’rushalayim, these witnesses shall be priests of Elohim and of Messiah, and shall reign with Him a thousand years (Rev. 20:4-6). So is the reward of those from the House of Yehudah and the House of Yisrael who are called to be witness’s forYHWH at the end of the age.