I'm often asked about the two witnesses in Revelation 11. Their identity is a mystery, but what's really significant about these guys is what they do. They prophesy for three and a half years (1,260 days), the last three and a half years of the tribulation period, in Jerusalem. And they have power—a lot of power. They are able to destroy their enemies with fire. They can stop the rain from falling. They can turn water to blood. They're a different kind of witness; they don't take any flak from anyone!
Some people say these can't be real people, and that they must represent some great future movements. I don't think so, because Revelation talks about their dead bodies lying in the streets. Movements don't have bodies. We should read this as two literal prophets: witnesses for God who come in the end times, filled with the Holy Spirit, supernaturally enabled to carry on their ministry. They are faithful witnesses in the midst of a world that hates God. They don't compromise—and they don't give up.
The fact that they're even here is an indication of the grace of God. It shows that during the great tribulation people will still have the chance to be saved. There will be 144,000 witnesses, an angel flying around—and these two witnesses, with a worldwide ministry.
So who are they? Answer: I don't know! You can't be dogmatic. But my opinion (and that of most commentators and scholars in Revelation) is that these two could be Moses and Elijah returned to earth. The works they do sound very similar to the works done by Moses and Elijah. Elijah called fire from heaven to destroy the men sent to take him. He had the power to declare that it would not rain for three years. Moses had the authority to turn the waters of the Nile into blood. Those signs sound very similar to the performances of these two witnesses.
A second reason is prophecy. Malachi predicted that Elijah would come before the "great and terrible day of the Lord," as a witness to the nation of Israel. And historically the Jews have believed that Moses would come before the Messiah. In Deuteronomy 18:15, Moses said God would raise up a prophet "like unto me." Many Jews inferred this would be Moses again. And people asked John the Baptist, "Are you Elijah? Are you that prophet?" Because of prophecy, that was the expectation.
A third reason is New Testament precedence. Moses and Elijah already did this. They returned to earth. When Jesus was transfigured on the mountain, Moses and Elijah were with Him, speaking about the future.
A fourth reason is their passing: Both left the world in an unusual way. Elijah didn't die—he was taken up into heaven. Moses died, but Jude 9 says the archangel Michael and Satan disputed over his body. Why fight over a dead body unless God wants to preserve it for His special purpose?
I can't think of anyone who would have more impact on the Jewish nation than Moses, who represents the Law, and Elijah, who is seen as the greatest prophet. Can you?
Skip Heitzig is the founder and senior pastor at Calvary Albuquerque. His teachings are heard across the country and around the world on The Connection. Skip and his wife, Lenya, and son and daughter-in-law, Nathan and Janaé, live in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Skip and Lenya are the proud grandparents of Seth Nathaniel and Kaydence Joy.