More on the Two Witnesses. Revised
Today, the Christian community seems to be divided on the identity of the two witnesses. Many believe they will be a combination of three old testament prophets, Elijah, Enoch and Moses, resulting in [two] taking on the mantle of the two witnesses.
Revelation 11:4-7. The two witnesses are only identified, [symbolically] as the two olive trees, the two lamp stands, and represent two counterparts on earth. Their mission, testimony and the amount of time in which to fulfill their work is 1260 days or 3-I/2 years. And after their mission has been fulfilled, the two witnesses suffer a physical death. And three and a half days later, God resurrects the two witnesses, and are taken up to Heaven on a cloud in front of their enemies.
Their identity is also revealed in the book of Zechariah, and said to a be a fulfillment of his prophecy. Verse 4:11-14. Then I said to him, “What are these two olive trees on the right and the left of the lamp stand?” And a second time I said to him, “What are these two branches of the olive trees, which pour out the oil through the two golden pipes?” He said to me, “Do you not know what these are?” I said, “No, my lord.” Then he said, “These are the two anointed ones who stand by the Lord of the whole earth.”
Let’s first take a quick look at Enoch, Elijah and Moses.
Enoch. Hebrews 11:5.
By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death: “He could not be found, because God had taken him away.” For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God. Enoch walked with God for 300 years, Genesis 5:24, but doesn’t say where Enoch was taken. However, Hebrews 11:5 clearly points out that God translated or transformed Enoch, this involves [corruption putting on incorruption] and [mortality putting on immortality] (1 Corinthians 15:53.)
Elijah. 2 Kings 2:11-12. As they [Elijah and Elisha] were walking along and talking suddenly a fiery chariot pulled by fiery horses appeared. They went between Elijah and Elisha, and Elijah went up to heaven in a windstorm.This passage clearly states that God took Elijah to Heaven.
Moses. God told Moses that he would not be permitted to lead the Israelites across the Jordan river because of his trespass at the waters of Meribah (Deut. 32:51) but would die on its eastern shores. God Himself buried Moses in an unknown grave in a valley in the land of Moab. (Deut. 34:6)..
As with Enoch, God also took Elijah, however, the passage point out Elijah’s destination: Heaven, where Enoch’s destination is not given. However, since Enoch was translated, as recorded in Hebrews 11:5, then the universal truths of Hebrews 11:5 and 1 Corinthians 15:53 would also apply to Elijah as well. Flesh and blood cannot enter Heaven.
Those who believe that Elijah and Enoch to be the two witnesses base their argument using Hebrews 9:27 as evidence. “It is appointed unto men once to die.” Author and bible teacher Dr. Arnold Fruchtenbaum points out that the use of Hebrews 9:27 is a general principle, and not an absolute rule. Here is a quote from his book, Footsteps of the Messiah.
“Take the word [once] some people have died twice, namely, all those who had been resurrected in the Old and New Testaments apart from the Messiah. [Meaning, the second resurrection during the Great White Throne Judgment.] He goes on to say, “Furthermore, what about the living Church saints? If, indeed Hebrews 9:27 is an absolute rule, it would mean that all living Church saints would have to die at some point.”
Also, Dr. Arnold Fruchtenbaum compares both 1 Corinthians 15:51, and 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17 as proof that Hebrews 9:27 cannot be an absolute rule, but a general principle in light of Hebrews 11:5.
The Argument for Moses and Elijah.
Again, Dr. Fruchtenbaum makes this assessment. “Those who wish to make them Elijah and Moses fall back on the fact that they were the two who appeared with Messiah at the Transfiguration. But this is flimsy evidence and hardly shows a cause and effect relationship. Others say it is because they have unfinished ministries, and they will return to finish them at this time. This is a very subjective judgment, and that many from the Old Testament could be nominated for the same reason.”
He concludes in saying, “it is best to take these men to be two Jewish prophets whom God will raise up during the Tribulation.”
Another reason for disqualifying Elijah as one of the two witnesses is because scripture boldly declares that Elijah will return again. Malachi 4 verse 5. “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes.” Elijah will appear prior to the second coming of Jesus Christ. Why does Elijah return? Verse 6, “And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.”
In keeping with the chronological order in Revelation, Elijah, would have to reappear first as one of the witnesses, be killed, and then resurrected, and return again, as Malachi points out, [before the great and awesome day of the Lord.] This means that neither Elijah nor Enoch can die because they are both immortal and disqualifies them.
What About Moses?
We know that Moses died a physical death. God Himself buried Moses in an unknown grave in a valley in the land of Moab. (Deut. 34:6). In order to be resurrected, what remains of the physical body must be risen from a burial place.
There is a Universal Distinction between the First and Second Resurrection.
Allow me to first point out that the first resurrection is not just an absolute rule, but it is also a broad universal law covering all generations which includes not just a great promise to those who share in the first resurrection, but a strong declaration given by God that they, who share in the first resurrection are called Blessed and Holy because of the sacrifice of His son, Jesus Christ, and also declares that the second death has no power over them. Revelation 20:6.
The first application of this law covers all whom God deemed righteous because of His first covenant of faith through Abraham, and includes His second covenant of laws through Moses, and His new covenant of Grace through Jesus Christ. A further application also covers all those who are saved during the seven year tribulation period and extends to all those who believe and accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior and King during his 1000 year reign, and culminates at the end of the Millennium period.
The second resurrection is also another absolute rule, and likewise, another universal law covering all generations that have failed to seek the benefits of the first resurrection through Jesus Christ. The results of the second resurrection will apply and will determine the final outcome and destination, which will be judgment and the lake of fire.
The Translation or Transformation of the Corruptible Body.
Elijah and Enoch never experienced physical death due to war, disease, etc, but Moses did, then something had to happen to their physical bodies during their translation or transformation into [incorruptible bodies] before they could enter Heaven, 1 Cor. 15:50. The transformation into the incorruptible body results from the process that the physical body, [sin nature] must be destroyed first, [flesh cannot enter heaven, 1 Cor. 15:50.] The scriptures are absent in explaining exactly [how] the sin nature of the flesh is destroyed, thankfully we have scripture that clearly points out Jesus Christ is the first-fruits of the first resurrection. (Colossians 1:18.)
Jesus told the disciples after he rose from the tomb, “a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have.” (Luke 24:39). This means, it was His body that would be resurrected, not His spirit.
So he is first in everything.” What this means is before Jesus died and was resurrected, no one in the Old Testament had experienced death and then resurrected into eternal life. With Christ being the author of the first resurrection, all others who would believe in Him and die would be protected from the second resurrection this is why The Apostle Paul said, “But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.”
Moses died a physical death and was buried in an unknown grave. In what remained of his physical state had to be protected because, in this context, God had another task for Moses.
Matthew 17:4. Peter exclaimed, “Lord, it’s wonderful for us to be here! If you want, I’ll make three shelters as memorials—one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”
With the appearance of Elijah alongside Moses proves these two men equally shared in the benefits of the first resurrection and also applies to Enoch as well, which scripture proves he was translated or transformed and excluded them from the power of the second resurrection, their physical bodies were clothed in incorruptible and immortal bodies.
I have shown above, that first, Elijah, Enoch and Moses are covered by two absolute rules and universal laws, the first resurrection and it’s eternal benefits, and the second resurrection which would result in judgment and the lake of fire, thereby excluding any combination of the three men as the two witnesses spoken of in Revelation 11.
The universal law covering the first and second resurrection will exempt Moses from experiencing a second physical death and resurrection because scripture clearly points out that the second death will have no power over the righteous. And the law of the first resurrection covers both Elijah, Enoch because they never saw death. God took these men because He declared them righteous and not because He desired that they come back in physical form to die. Enoch was clearly translated, and because God took Elijah directly to Heaven, therefore he was translated in the same manner of Enoch. Flesh cannot enter Heaven.
Some believe that God will place a special dispensation over at least two of these three men to ensure that the mission of the two witnesses be fulfilled. This is dangerous thinking. God doesn’t backslide on His covenants or His word, one passage cannot be made contrary to another, they would be void and meaningless and produce no Glory or fruit to which they were intended.
And honestly, the identity of the two witnesses cannot overshadow their mission, and besides, who at the moment of their appearance would be able to recognize them anyway?
I agree with Dr. Arnold Fruchtenbaum “it is best to take these men to be two Jewish prophets whom God will raise up during the Tribulation.”