There have been many theories about the identity of these two powerful preachers:

1. The allusion (cf. Rev. 11:4) is from Zech. 4:3,11,14. This originally referred to the returning Davidic seed, Zerubbabel, and the returning High Priestly seed, Joshua, who were the two Spirit-led leaders (two olive trees, see Rev. 11:4) who led the return from Babylonian captivity (i.e., the restored people of God).

2. The two lampstands (cf. Rev. 1:20) may imply the two faithful churches, Smyrna, Rev. 2:8-11, and Philadelphia, Rev. 3:7-13.

3. The two witnesses may imply testimony in court (cf. Num. 35:30; Deut. 17:6; 19:15).

4. The description of these two witnesses implies Elijah (shut up the sky from Rev. 11:6, cf. 1 Kgs. 17:1; 18:1; Luke 4:25; James 5:17 and called down fire, cf. 1 Kgs. 18:24,38; 2 Kgs. 1:10,12), and Moses (turn water to blood from Rev. 11: 6, cf. Exod. 7:17-19). Both of these appeared to Jesus on the mount of Transfiguration (cf. Matt. 17:4).

5. The intertestamental apocalyptic book of I Enoch 90:31 and two early church fathers, Tertullian and Hippolitus, asserted that they were the two persons from the OT who did not die natural deaths, Enoch (cf. Gen. 5:21-24) and Elijah (cf. 2 Kgs. 2:11).

6. The NJB footnote asserts that it refers to Peter and Paul, both martyred in Rome in the reign of Nero (p. 435).


I personally see them as symbolic of the witness of the entire people of God because of the parallel literary structure of the seven seals and interlude and seven trumpets and interlude. Therefore, both the 144,000 (believing Jews) and the innumerable group (believing nations), as well as the two witnesses, refer to the church.

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