Expositional commentary on Scripture using an inductive exegetical methodology intent upon confronting the lives of Christians with the dogmatic Truths of God's inspired Words opposing Calvinism and Arminianism, Biblical commentary, doctrine of grace enablement, understanding holiness and wisdom and selfishness, in-depth Bible studies, adult Bible Study books and Sunday School materials Dr. Lance T. Ketchum Line Upon Line: The Two Olive Trees

Monday, September 3, 2018

The Two Olive Trees

The Two Olive Trees
         In Revelation 11:3-12, we have another testimony from God regarding “candlesticks” and “olive trees.”  In this text there are two “candlesticks.”  The “candlestick,” or Temple Menorah, is God’s picture of the operations of His Spirit through the lives of His redeemed.  This is a manifestation of God’s workings in grace to bring the lost to trust in the “finish” work of Jesus through faith.  This is the answer to the question of Romans 10:14; “How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?”  YOU are the answer to this question!

3 And I will give power unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days, clothed in sackcloth. 4 These are the two olive trees, and the two candlesticks standing before the God of the earth. 5 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. 6 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” (Revelations 11:3-6).

The Controversy Over the Identity of the Two Witnesses

          There is no reason here to suddenly move from a literal interpretation to allegory.  Nor is there any reason to suppose that John is speaking in symbolic language about these two witnesses.  Therefore, they are not the Church and Israel or Israel and the Word of God.  They are not the Law and the Prophets or the Law and the Gospel.  They do not represent the Old Covenant and the New Covenant, or the Old Testament books and the New Testament books

          The two witnesses are two literal men who miraculously appear on the scene of history with extreme supernatural powers.  Can we identify them for sure without any doubt?  No, we cannot.  Can we speculate as to the probability of who they are from other portions of Scripture?  Sure, and with a certain degree of confidence.  Will it make any difference who they are?  Not really, they will be God’s men doing God’s work in God’s power.  According to Revelation 11:3, their power will be given to them by the “mighty messenger” of Revelation 10:1 which has been shown to be Jesus Christ. 

The Ministry of the Two Witnesses

          I believe they will be Moses and Elijah (with a strong possibility that if Moses is not the one, Enoch is), or possibly Moses and the Apostle Paul.  Their primary purpose is to be witnesses to Jesus Christ TO UNBELIEVING JEWS. 

“7 And when they shall have finished their testimony, the beast that ascendeth out of the bottomless pit shall make war against them, and shall overcome them, and kill them. 8 And their dead bodies shall lie in the street of the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified. 9 And they of the people and kindreds and tongues and nations shall see their dead bodies three days and an half, and shall not suffer their dead bodies to be put in graves. 10 And they that dwell upon the earth shall rejoice over them, and make merry, and shall send gifts one to another; because these two prophets tormented them that dwelt on the earth. 11 And after three days and an half the Spirit of life from God entered into them, and they stood upon their feet; and great fear fell upon them which saw them. 12 And they heard a great voice from heaven saying unto them, Come up hither. And they ascended up to heaven in a cloud; and their enemies beheld them.(Revelation 11:7-12).

          The ministry of these two witnesses will be a combination like that of Jonah and Nahum to the city of Nineveh.  They will come proclaiming the wickedness of man, the holiness of God, and the pending judgment upon all who refuse to repent.  Yet like Nahum, nothing shall stay the judgment, not even repentance.  These two men will preach about these things throughout the last three and one-half years of the Tribulation.  They will proclaim the judgments of God as they happen.  Perhaps they will proclaim the judgments of God before they will happen as did Moses to Pharaoh in the book of Exodus, warning the faithful and calling others to repentance.

          In Zechariah chapter three, Joshua (the High Priest) represents a defiled priesthood and therefore a defiled nation before God.  The angel of the LORD is the Son of God Who will restore and purify Israel for the Kingdom.  These two witnesses of Revelation will be how the LORD provides the message that will restore a remnant to faith in Christ.  

          Secondary to this, these two witnesses shall be a great “torment” to all Christ rejecters.  When they proclaim the truth about the deception of this Antichrist system and its false wonders, Antichrist and his followers will seek to kill them.  When they attempt to do so, “fire” will come out of their mouths and kill those that oppose them.  They will have the power to keep it from raining at their will, to cause water to turn to blood, and to bring plagues as often as they need. 

          In Revelation 11:4, Christ states that these two individuals are the fulfillment of the prophecy of Zechariah.  They are described as “the two olive trees, and two candlesticks standing before the God of the earth.”  This is a fulfillment of the prophecy of Zechariah chapter four.  Zechariah prophesied of the restoration of the nation of Israel prior to the establishment of the Kingdom and the coming of Messiah to rule on earth.  Therefore, this will carry special significance to the Jews living during the Tribulation period.

2 And said unto me, What seest thou? And I said, I have looked, and behold a candlestick all of gold, with a bowl upon the top of it, and his seven lamps thereon, and seven pipes to the seven lamps, which are upon the top thereof: 3 And two olive trees by it, one upon the right side of the bowl, and the other upon the left side thereof. 4 So I answered and spake to the angel that talked with me, saying, What are these, my lord? 5 Then the angel that talked with me answered and said unto me, Knowest thou not what these be? And I said, No, my lord. 6 Then he answered and spake unto me, saying, This is the word of the LORD unto Zerubbabel, saying, Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the LORD of hosts. 7 Who art thou, O great mountain? before Zerubbabel thou shalt become a plain: and he shall bring forth the headstone thereof with shoutings, crying, Grace, grace unto it” (Zechariah 4:2-7).

          The significance regarding these two witnesses is that God reveals to Zerubbabel through Zechariah, that God’s Temple will not be restored by a large military power (“might’), or by some outstanding charismatic and influential leader (“power”).  The restoration of the Temple would be a spiritual restoration that could only be accomplished by the Holy Spirit.  This restoration was a physical picture of spiritual revival of the nation of Israel.  The accomplished restoration was not the revival itself, but the product of that revival.

          These two witnesses will be how God will accomplish revival among the Jews.  The 144,000 are sealed in Heaven at the same time these two men come on the scene (Revelation 6:17; 7:4-8).  Therefore, this army of glorified saved Jewish evangelists will come to Earth from Heaven with these two witnesses as their leaders.  This is important because it will prove to the Jews the inspiration of all the New Testament books of the Bible.  The two olive trees represent these two men, full of the Holy Spirit and with unlimited resources.  They are also the two “candlesticks” (“Lampstands”) as they are the heralds of God’s truth in the power of His Holy Spirit.

11 Then answered I, and said unto him, What are these two olive trees upon the right side of the candlestick and upon the left side thereof? 12 And I answered again, and said unto him, What be these two olive branches which through the two golden pipes empty the golden oil out of themselves? 13 And he answered me and said, Knowest thou not what these be? And I said, No, my lord. 14 Then said he, These are the two anointed ones, that stand by the Lord of the whole earth” (Zechariah 4:11-14).

          Jack MacArthur (Revelation; Certain Sound Publishing) says:

“Trees in Scripture speak of righteousness, while the olive oil consistently typifies the Holy Spirit.  Two is the number of testimony.  These two men, then, will not only be witnesses and martyrs, they will be righteous and Spirit-filled. The two lampstands (candlesticks) signify lightbearers.  In the intriguing passage of Zechariah 4 olive oil is seen as the source of fuel for the lampstands.”

          The Antichrist will come into power by military “might” and by dominating “power” as he holds the position of world leader.  This will be the exact opposite of the Kingdom of Christ (compare Zechariah 4:6; “Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the LORD of hosts.”).  The restoration of the nation of Israel will be a spiritual accomplishment before it is ever a physical one.  The two witnesses will be the means God uses to bring revival and the message of salvation through the finished work of Jesus Christ to the nation of Israel during the last half of the seven-year Tribulation. 

          The ministry of these two witnesses is said to be for a period of forty-two months (1,260 days divided by thirty days; all prophetic months are thirty days long) equals forty-two months, or three and half years).

“And I will give power unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days, clothed in sackcloth” (Revelation 11:3).

          Their ministry will end just prior to the sounding of the seventh Trumpet judgment, which is the seven bowl or vial judgments.  These last seven judgments are the most severe and all appear to take place very rapidly, perhaps even in one day or less.

11 And after three days and an half {they lay dead in the street for this time} the Spirit of life from God entered into them, and they stood upon their feet; and great fear fell upon them {the celebrating unbelievers} which saw them. 12 And they {the celebrating unbelievers} heard a great voice from heaven saying unto them, Come up hither. And they ascended up to heaven in a cloud; and their enemies beheld them. 13 And the same hour was there a great earthquake, and the tenth part of the city {Jerusalem} fell, and in the earthquake were slain of men seven thousand: and the remnant {believing Jews} were affrighted, and gave glory to the God of heaven. 14 The second woe is past; and, behold, the third woe cometh quickly” (Revelation 11:11-14).

          Therefore, the probability is that the two witnesses will arrive on the scene after the completion of the sixth seal (Revelation 6:12-16) at about the same time that the Antichrist desecrates the Temple with his image.  In that case, the two witnesses will oppose and resist everything the Antichrist does for the next three and a half years, until the Antichrist is finally allowed to kill them at the end of the Tribulation and just prior to Armageddon.  Just when the Antichrist begins to think he has finally gotten a victory, Jesus Christ will confront him in power and glory.

          Revelation 11:5 reveals that if anyone attempts to hurt the two witnesses, or even approaches them with the intent of doing them harm, fire will come out of their mouths and consume the adversary.  That should be a great deterrent to assassination attempts.  Imagine standing on the sidelines of that event or hearing it on a news broadcast; “Four assassins attempted to killed two men in Jerusalem today who have been talking about Jesus Christ.  Fire came from the mouths of the two men and consumed the assassins.  Nothing but a pile of ash was left.  Pictures at eleven.”

          The “power” they will be given is defined in Revelation 11:6.  They will have power with God to withhold rain from the earth for the whole three and one half years while they are on earth.  They will have power with God to turn water to blood.  They will also have power with God to bring various kinds of plagues upon the earth at their will.  Let me assure you, these are going to be two men every Christ rejecter will want dead, but with which no one will want to mess.

          According to Revelation 11:7, only when “they have finished” will the Antichrist be allowed to kill them.  This will be at the end of the 1,260 days.  Not one day sooner.  This will prove to the world that these men are under the protection of God.  Even in their momentary death God will manifest His sovereignty.

          All during the 1,260 days, the Christ rejecting world will continue to deny that these men are of God. Yet, these men will be a constant testimony to the sovereignty of God.  The book of Revelation will be their textbook as they proclaim its prophecies each day.  As they do so, the world will begin to see they are at war with God but will still refuse to repent (Revelation 16:9 and 11).

          Once they are killed (Revelation 11:8), their dead bodies will be put on display for three and a half days in the city of Jerusalem, which God calls “spiritual Sodom” and “spiritual Egypt.”  That means Jerusalem will have become the center of all religious perversion imaginable.  For those three and a half days, the T. V. networks will broadcast pictures of the dead bodies of these two men all over the world (Revelation 11:9).  The Christ rejecters will think they have finally won.  They will think victory is theirs. 

          The lost, Christ rejecting world will begin to celebrate (Revelation 11:10).  They will have an Anti-Christmas.  They will have a Mardi Gras celebration and send gifts to one another as the T. V. cameras of the world broadcast a continual picture of the dead bodies.  The celebration will go on and on until it will all be interrupted after three and a half days. 

          These two witnesses, whose bodies have been lying rotting in the streets of Jerusalem, will stand up on their feet as people watch through broadcasting mediums seen by the whole world.  Mouths will drop open in amazement.  Great fear will come on the world.  Why?  Because they will realize their victory was no victory at all.  They will realize that the battle is not over and all that these men said was true.  As the inner fear begins to grip their hearts in convulsive spasms and the cold sweat begins to break on their foreheads “they will hear a voice from heaven” and watch in deadening silence from all around the world as these two men ascend up to “heaven in a cloud” (Revelation 11:12).

          In all the judgments that God will bring upon this earth, one of the greatest torments to Christ rejecters will be the constant testimony of these two witnesses that it is all of God.  No one will be allowed to pass these judgments off as the results as of Global Warming or natural catastrophes.  As the two witnesses proclaim the truths of the book of Revelation, the lost world will be under constant conviction of the Holy Spirit.  They think they finally are free from the oppressive immorality of morality.  They will think they are finally free from the injustice of moral restraint, but the Holy Ghost will haunt them as He convicts them of the consequences of their sin, of the righteousness of Christ, and of the pending final day of judgment each time these two men preach.  The only way to escape this conviction (now and then) is to repent and accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

Could They Be Moses and Elijah?

          The most convincing evidence that these two witnesses are Moses and Elijah is that Moses and Elijah were the two who appeared with Christ on the Mountain of His transfiguration.

1 And after six days Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into an high mountain apart, 2 And was transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light. 3 And, behold, there appeared unto them Moses and Elias talking with him. 4 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. 5 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” (Matthew 17:1-5).

          Malachi prophesied that Elijah would return before the great Judgment Day of the Lord.  Therefore, some of the Jews at Christ’s first advent believed He was Elijah. 

5 Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD: 6 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” (Malachi 4:5-6).

          Some thought that John the Baptist was Elijah.  John the Baptist did not fulfill this.  He did come in “the spirit and power of Elijah,” but he was not Elijah.

“And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord” (Luke 1:17).

“And they asked him, What then? Art thou Elias? And he saith, I am not. Art thou that prophet? And he answered, No” (John 1:21).

Elijah and Moses had the powers with God that these two witnesses will have.

“And Elijah the Tishbite, who was of the inhabitants of Gilead, said unto Ahab, As the LORD God of Israel liveth, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to my word” (I Kings 17:1; see I Kings 18:20-46 also).

“Then the king sent unto him a captain of fifty with his fifty. And he went up to him: and, behold, he sat on the top of an hill. And he spake unto him, Thou man of God, the king hath said, Come down. And Elijah answered and said to the captain of fifty, If I be a man of God, then let fire come down from heaven, and consume thee and thy fifty. And there came down fire from heaven, and consumed him and his fifty” (II Kings 1:9-10).

“Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months” (James 5:17).

“And Moses and Aaron did so, as the LORD commanded; and he lifted up the rod, and smote the waters that were in the river, in the sight of Pharaoh, and in the sight of his servants; and all the waters that were in the river were turned to blood” (Exodus 7:20).

Present technology makes a literal interpretation of Revelation 11:9 possible.

          Less than fifty years ago, the technology to realize Revelation 11:9 was not yet available.

“And they of the people and kindreds and tongues and nations shall see their dead bodies three days and an half, and shall not suffer their dead bodies to be put in graves” (Revelation 11:9).

          Today, with satellite television, and live streaming cell phone technology, a picture can be almost instantaneously sent to anywhere on earth that has a receiver.  It may not be that every single person in the world will view this, but the technology is available for every nation, “people and kindreds and tongues” to do so.

          After the dead bodies of these two witnesses lay in the streets of Jerusalem for three and a half days (after the Christ rejecting world has celebrated their murder), God will once again breathe into them the breath of life.  The same technology that allowed the whole world to see their dead bodies and that has focused the world’s attention upon them, will be used of God to show the world His power over death.  As the whole world watches these dead bodies, God will miraculously raise them from the dead.  In the sight of the whole world, they will ascend into heaven in a cloud, as the voice of God is heard everywhere saying, “Come up hither.”

          As the world watches their live streaming news and the sights before them, a great earthquake will destroy one-tenth of the city of Jerusalem and seven thousand people will die.  Almost immediately the seventh trumpet will sound, and the seven bowls of God’s wrath will be poured out upon the earth, which will be followed (almost immediately) by the coming of Christ with His saints at Armageddon.

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Numerous studies and series are available free of charge for local churches at: http://www.disciplemakerministries.org/ 
Dr. Lance Ketchum serves the Lord as a Church Planter, Evangelist/Revivalist. 
He has served the Lord for over 40 years.

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