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  • Writer's pictureLynn Holzinger

Who Are the Two Witnesses in Revelation 11 - And What Do They Do?

"And I will grant authority to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy

for twelve hundred and sixty days, clothed in sackcloth."

Revelation 11:3

I've been reading Dr. David Jeremiah's book, Agents of the Apocolypse, and realize there is a lot I don't know about the end times.

Such as, "Who are the two witnesses of Revelation 11?" And what do they do?

I thought I knew, but if you were to ask me about them, I couldn't have told you very much.

But, by reading this book, which is part dramatization and part what's said in Scripture, I'm learning more.

I like this book because the dramatization piques my desire to understand. Each chapter focuses on a key player in the Tribulation, and in this case, it's the two witnesses.

Each chapter begins with a fictional scenario and ends with a section entitled, "The Scripture Behind the story."

So, who are the two witnesses?

Let's find out.

Who Are the Two Witnesses in Revelation 11?

Although the Bible simply calls them, "my two witnesses" in Revelation 11:3, they are also referred to as "the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth" in verse four. And in verse ten, they are called, "two prophets." Based on the "clues" given in Chapter 11, most scholars have narrowed down who they might be to three Old Testament prophets: Elijah, Moses, or Enoch. But it's important to remember that we can't know for sure.

I Will Grant Authority...

God has granted these two witnesses authority (or power as some versions say).

It's safe to say, they have both.

What will they be able to do?

  • Fire can come out of their mouths and consume anyone who tries to harm them.

  • Keep it from raining the entire time they are prophesying (3 1/2 years).

  • Turn the rivers and oceans into blood.

  • Strike the earth with every kind of plague as often as they wish.

These two witnesses are not harmed until they have finished their testimony.

To My Two Witnesses

Many theologians warn us that we shouldn't try to figure out who the two witnesses are. It's counterproductive they say. If God wanted us to know, He would have told us.

That being said, some scholars looking at the whole of Scripture see some similarities between the two witnesses and three Old Testament prophets.

Here are the similarities:


  • Didn't die, but was taken to heaven (2 Kings 2:9-11) just like the two witnesses (Revelation 11:12)

  • Had the power to withhold the rain (1 Kings 17:1), and so do the two witnesses (Revelation 11:6)

  • Called down fire from heaven (2 Kings 1:10), whereas fire will proceed from the witnesses mouths (Revelation 11:5)

  • Withheld the rain for three and a half years (Luke 4:25), the same amount of time the witnesses do (Revelation 11:3, 6)

  • Malachi prophesied that Elijah would come back before the Lord returns (Malachi 4:5-6). Although John the Baptist came in the spirit and power of Elijah (Luke 1:17), when asked if he was Elijah, he said no (John 1:21). This means Malachi's prophecy has not yet been fulfilled.


  • Turned the water into blood (Exodus 7:19-20), and so can the two witnesses (Revelation 11:6)

  • Was given power to bring about the other plagues at God's direction (Exodus 7:14-12:36), whereas the two witnesses can strike the earth with any plague whenever they want (Revelation 11:6)


  • Was the other prophet who didn't see death but was translated to heaven (Hebrews 11:5) just as the two witnesses will be taken

This is Interesting
  • Moses and Elijah were at the transfiguration of Christ (Matthew 17:3).

  • Elijah and Enoch are the only two who never died, but some say death is necessary. If they are the two witnesses, then they do die before being brought back to life (Revelation 11:7-12).

  • Both Moses and Elijah are mentioned and honored in the New Testament more than Enoch. But no one asks the witnesses if one of them is Elijah. Maybe because they are no longer familiar with the Scriptures and aren't looking for Elijah to come back.

As interesting as it is to speculate, you must be careful not to get bogged down with trying to guess or figure out the things that are unclear. And don't look down on someone who doesn't agree with you about who it is.

What We Do Know About the Two Witnesses
  • Real flesh and blood men sent by God with a message.

  • Described as the two olive trees and two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth. In Zechariah 4:1-14, Zerubbabel had a vision of a lampstand and two olive trees. In the vision, the angel explains what they represent. Therefore, the initial readers would be familiar with the analogy.

  • Given miraculous powers.

  • Cannot be harmed until they have finished testifying for three and a half years.

  • Hated and rejected by the majority who then celebrate when they were killed.

  • Prophets

They Will Prophesy for 1260 Days

For twelve hundred and sixty days (forty-two months or three and a half years), the two witnesses will have a prophetic ministry in Jerusalem.

During that time, I'm sure people will try to harm or kill them, but will be unsuccessful.

However, after the time has passed, the Antichrist will kill them.

The only reason the Antichrist is successful is because God allows it. In fact, the only reason any of this is happening is because God is orchestrating events and allowing the Antichrist to have power for a short time.

And when they have finished their testimony, the beast that comes out of the abyss will make war with them, and overcome them and kill them. (Revelation 11:7)

The World's Reaction

And the world will celebrate because they are dead. Their bodies will be left in the street for everyone to gloat over.

And their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city which mystically is called Sodom and Egypt, where also their Lord was crucified. (Revelation 11:8)

All the people who belong to this world will gloat over them and give presents to each other to celebrate the death of the two prophets who had tormented them. (Revelation 11:10)

Why will the people be happy? Because the prophets had tormented them with their message of repentance. The ungodly in this world don't want to be confronted with the truth about Jesus.

For three and a half years nobody had been able to silence them, and now they could finally get some peace. If they only knew...

The great city is Jerusalem where Jesus was crucified. The reference to Sodom and Egypt signify places that were historically hostile to God.

Even though Israel is able to rebuild the temple, and bring sacrifices once again, the people's hearts are far from God.

And you can most see this in their reaction to the two witnesses being killed.

I'm certain the witnesses will also have success. Some hearts will be convicted and people will repent.

By in large, though, peoples hearts will remain hard to the message the witnesses bring. Instead of repenting, they will double down and be glad the tormenting is over.

Why are the people tormented? Because they don't like the message the two witnesses bring.

Interestingly, the people's joy quickly turns to fear when God brings them back to life and calls them up to heaven.

But after three and a half days, god breathed life into them, and they stood up! Terror struck all who were staring at them. then a loud voice from heaven called to the two prophets, "Come up here!" And they rose to heaven in a cloud as their enemies watched. (Revelation 11:11-12)

Clothed in Sackcloth

The two witnesses are dressed in sackcloth.

Sackloth, a coarse, loose burlap-like cloth, is most associated in the Bible with mourning or repentence. I'm guessing the way the witnesses are dressed embodies the type of message they bring.

Some Examples

Jacob mourned when he thought his son, Joseph, was dead.

Then Jacob tore his clothes and dressed in burlap. He mourned deeply for his son for a long time. (Genesis 37:34)

When Abner is killed, David instructs the people to tear their clothes and put on burlap to mourn his death.

Then David said to Joab and all those who were with him, "Tear your clothes and put on burlap. Mourn for Abner." (2 Samuel 3:31)

After the exile and the Israelites return to Israel, Ezra's message cause the people to repent.

On October 31 the people assembled again, and this time they fasted and dressed in burlap and sprinkled dust on their heads. Those of Isrealite descent separated themselves from all foreigners as they confessed their own sins and the sins of their ancestors. (Nehemiah 9:1)

Once Jonah finally preached the message of impending doom to the people in Nineveh, the king dressed in burlap and instructed all the people to follow suit and to turn from their wicked ways.

When the king of Nineveh heard what Jonah was saying, he stepped down from his throne and took off his royal robes. He dressed himself in burlap and sat on a heap of ashes. Then the king and his nobles sent this decree throughout the city: "No one, not even the animals from your herds and flocks, may eat or drink anything at all. People and animals alike must wear garments of mourning, and everyone must pray earnestly to God. They must turn from their evil ways and stop all their violence. Who can tell? Perhaps even yet, God will change his mind and hold back his fierce anger from destroying us." (Jonah 3:6-9)

Zion (Live From Jerusalem)

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Final Thoughts

Soon, when Jesus returns, Israel will look on the One they had peirced and they will repent and mourn. They will finally recognize Jesus as their Messiah and mourn the fact that their forefathers had crucified Him.

They will look on me [Jesus] whom they have pierced and mourn for him as for an only son. They will grieve bitterly for him as for a firstborn son who has died. (Zechariah 12:10)

They will finally be home!

It's going to happen, praise the Lord! Israel will finally recognize their Messiah. But until that day comes, will you join me in praying for them to see Him now?

If you are interested in knowing more about the key players of the end times, I recommend Dr. David Jeremiah's book, Agents of the Apocolypse.

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