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Do We Know The
Tribulation Witnesses?
     Contrary to popular belief, when the disciples asked Yahshua why He spoke to the people in parables He told them, "The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them." Further, He said, "Though seeing they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand." (Matt. 13:10-14, NIV)
     Not everything in Scripture is stated as a parable, however. Many things are so obvious people can't help seeing them, yet they do not recognize what they see. They hear them preached over and over yet they do not understand what they hear.
     Many renowned Bible scholars and church prelates who are convinced that they have been given the knowledge to understand the secret hidden wisdom in Yahweh's Word do not seem to see the relationship of many things to prophecy or its significance to understanding prophecy.
Dual Meaning of Doubles
     Duality is probably the most obvious feature that permeates nearly everything in the Bible from Genesis 1:1 to Revelations 22:21. There seems to be two of everything.
     There are two mediators of two covenants and two testimonies to the covenants. There are two creations: the physical heaven and earth spoken about in Genesis 1:1, and the new heaven and earth prophesied in Isaiah 65:17 and seen in John's vision (Rev. 21:1).
     We are told about two births, two deaths, and two bodies. The Apostle Paul gives us a very important clue to understanding this duality in 1 Corinthians 15:46, where he said,
     The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual.
     The New Testament clearly reveals that there are even two Mighty Ones—Yahweh the Father and Yahshua the Messiah. This wisdom was hidden from Old Covenant Israelites. To this day Jews who reject the New Testament as Yahweh's Word will not believe that the Messiah is a mighty one.
     Their rejection is based upon their understanding of the shema, which in Hebrew reads, "Shema Yisrael Yahweh Elohenu Yahweh Echad," Deuteronomy 6:4. It's commonly mistranslated, "Hear 0 Israel, the
Lord our God, the Lord is One." Elohenu is Hebrew for "our Elohim." "Elohim," mistranslated "God," is plural and means "mighty ones." The Hebrew word echad (Strong's Concordance No. 259) means one but also properly means two acting together as one, a unity. (See Gesenius' Hebrew Lexicon to the Old Testament and the Companion Bible's margin note on Isa. 65:25.)
     I mention this only to point out how cunningly Yahweh has concealed wisdom in His Word from even astute Bible students until the time He has appointed for its revelation. Upon learning the revelation everyone is amazed and skeptical. After all, the Scripture has been right before our eyes all this time and even the scholars don't perceive it or understand it like that.
     Even though a great deal of wisdom hidden in the Old Testament is revealed in the New Testament, much is hidden in the New Testament that will not be revealed until Yahweh allows. Consequently, a great deal of doctrine is founded upon misunderstood Scripture.
     When Yahweh opens someone's mind to correctly grasp some previously misunderstood passage, most people will refuse to look at it. Why? Probably because a change in understanding would mean they would have to quit doing something they love to do, but which is not pleasing to Yahweh. Or, maybe a change in belief and practice would result in their being shunned by friends and relatives.
     Many books have been published in recent years that expound upon end-time prophecy. The interpretation of prophecy in these works varies according to the authors' doctrinal predilection and denominational predisposition.
     One doctrine that has created about as much misunderstanding of Scriptures as anything else is the widely held belief that the church will be raptured before the Great Tribulation at the end of the age. This belief leads to the conclusion that, since the church will not be around during the tribulation, that the two end-time witnesses prophesied in the Bible's pages must be resurrected human beings.
     Even many people who do not believe in the rapture of the church twist Scriptures in an attempt to support a belief that the two witnesses will be either a resurrected Moses and Eliyah, or Moses and Enoch or maybe even Joshua and Zerubbabel.
Israel, the Church as Witnesses?
     One book, The Beginning of the End by Steve Shearer, disavows the idea of a rapture and shows that the church will be around during the Tribulation. Mr. Shearer maintains that the Tribulation is Yahweh's great test of the peoples of the nations—not of Christians.
     He also points out (correctly) that Yahweh's law in both the Old and New Covenants demands the testimony of at least two witnesses before judgment can be administered. Because the church will be here, there is no need for Yahweh to resurrect two humans and give them supernatural powers.
Mr. Shearer says the two end-time Tribulation witnesses are Israel and the church.
     Though much closer to the truth than the idea of two resurrected human beings, the idea that the witnesses are Israel and the Church cannot be true. Would an apostate Judaism and an apostate Christian Church bear witness to Yahweh's Spirit and truth during the Tribulation?
     We are told about Yahweh's two witnesses in Revelation 11:1-12. During the terrible troubles just prior to Yahshua's return, these witnesses will be testifying Yahweh's way of spirit and truth to the peoples of this world, witnessing their lawlessness and prophesying the coming judgment upon them.
     When Yahweh has decided the time for their witnessing is up, He will allow Satan to put them out of business. Scores will celebrate and rejoice because they will no longer be troubled by them.
After they have been allowed to rejoice and celebrate for a short time, Yahweh will call to his witnesses saying; "Come up here." At the call, the witnesses will rise up from the earth and ascend into the clouds while people watch, Revelation 11:11-12. This will undoubtedly take place at the last trump, 1 Corinthians 15:52.
     Obviously, prophecies such as this are not open to the understanding of even serious Bible students whose minds are filled with the false doctrines of men.
     The fact that there is prophesied two witnesses symbolized by two olive trees and two lampstands hints at the duality hidden in this prophecy. It is like a parable in that it refers to familiar physical things to convey a spiritual message. On top of that, it is stated in symbolic language. Before the prophecy can be correctly understood, the interpretation of the symbols must be found. Familiar things like lamp-stands, olive trees, men, and bodies are not only parabolic, but also symbolic.
     The difficulty of correctly understanding this prophecy is compounded by such erroneous beliefs as the Tribulation is Yahweh's test of the peoples of the nations and not of His elect. The belief that Christians are Yahweh's elect causes a great deal of error. This is evident in Mr. Shearer's statement that the Tribulation is not a test of Christians.
     Yahshua warns His followers in John 15:18-21 that the world will hate and persecute them. In Matthew 24:9 He warns that they will even be put to death because of Him. Yahweh tests Yahshua's followers to see whether they will endure to the end in spite of any natural disasters they might experience such as earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, floods, famines or pestilences.
     Will they continue in spirit and truth regardless of wars, betrayal by friends, family, and even brethren? Will they remain faithful in spite of being hated for their faith and even killed by religious leaders who think they are serving Yahweh?
     The testing of Yahweh's elect is called the great tribulation in Revelation 7:14.
Symbolism in the Witnesses
     A question that should make those who really seek understanding of Yahweh's Word pause for thought is: Is that great multitude of people from every nation, tribe, and language which comes out of the great tribulation composed only of True Worshipers from the last generation on earth prior to Yahshua's return?
     Read Revelation 11:1-12. In order to identify the two witnesses it must be realized that the statements about them in these verses are symbolic. The witnesses are referred to as men. The Bible often refers to mankind and people as men (see Ex. 9:22,25).
     The witnesses are also said to have bodies. People who are baptized in Yahshua's name become members of His visible, physical body (see 1 Cor. 11:12-27 and 12:13, 27). As a man on earth, Yahshua had a physical body, but after His resurrection He returned to His spiritual body and is now said to be a life-giving Spirit (John 6:63; 1 Cor. 15:20-23, 2 Cor. 3:6).
     Ephesians 4:4 tells us there is only one body and one spirit. Paul says in I Corinthians 15:46 that the natural, physical body comes first then the spiritual. This is not exactly the case with Yahshua the Messiah, but it is with humans.
     Revelation 11 says there are two witnesses—two bodies—symbolized by two olive trees and two lampstands (NIV). Can these two bodies be Israel and the church when New Covenant people who are baptized in Yahshua's Name become Israelites by adoption? There is only one Israel!
     No doubt many assemblies of True Worshipers exist around the globe, but there is only one Body, 1 Corinthians 12:12. The fact that we are told there are two witnesses hints at, but does not reveal, the physical-spiritual duality in the witnessing of only one body of True Worshipers.
     Yahshua is the Word, John 1:1-2. The Word is truth, John 17:17, and the Word is Spirit, John 6:63. Who but those who have Yahshua's Spirit abiding in them could bear witness to Yahweh's spirit and truth?
     The spoken word is physical. A person must see it written or hear it spoken before it can convey thoughts to one's understanding. The thoughts induced by man's words are metaphysical. Thoughts induced by Yahshua's Word are spiritual.
     The physical aspect of Yahweh's witnesses is alluded to by reference to two olive trees. The Spirit is present in the First Covenant, but the emphasis is upon a physical relationship to Yahweh.
     In the New Covenant, Yahweh has not removed His people from the physical world, but emphasis is shifted from a physical to a spiritual relationship to Yahweh.
     In verse 1 of Isaiah 43:1-10 we note that Yahweh is speaking to only one group of people. He calls them Jacob one time and Israel another. Note what He says to Israel in verses 7 and 10, "Everyone who is called by My name" and "...you are My witnesses."
     In Revelation 11 He calls His witnesses olive trees and lamp-stands, yet He is speaking of Israel in the same manner that He called Israel by two names in Isaiah 43. Psalm 52:8 and Jeremiah 11:16 tell us that people called by His Name are like green olive trees to Him.
Lamps Give Light
     What do the seven golden lamp-stands (candlesticks, KJV) mentioned in Revelation 2:1 symbolize? True, they are associated with seven first-century assemblies in the Roman world, but these seven assemblies are hardly the only assemblies of converts in that world. Certainly Yahshua would not be limited only to seven if there were other assemblies of True Worshipers. Seven is the number always associated with spiritual perfection in the Bible and two is always associated with either division or with union or unity.
     In the case of the witnesses, the number two has to symbolize union of the Old and New covenant witnessing; the physical and spiritual union of the Word and the division of life in the spirit and death in the flesh.
     Why are the witnesses called lampstands (candlesticks, KJV)? As long as Yahshua was in this world physically He was the light of the world, John 9:5. Now that Yahshua is no longer in the world physically, Israelites are the light of the world, Matthew 5:14.
     What are they to do with the light? They are commanded not to hide the light. Instead, they are to set it on a lampstand where everyone can see the light and the witnesses' good deeds, Matthew 5:15-16. "Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path," Psalm 119:105.
     Yahshua is the Word, the Way, the Truth, and the Life. His witnesses are to hold up His light so that anyone who will open their eyes can walk in His path.
     But John 3:19 tells us that people whose deeds are evil love darkness and hate the light, verse 20. They also will hate those who hold up the light before men, Luke 6:22.
     How long are the witnesses to hold up the light and prophesy the coming wrath because of people's evil deeds? Ephesians 5:3-7. This amounts to the same question the disciples asked in Matthew 24:6: "When will this happen?" Yahshua told them that only Yahweh knows the day and the hour.
     The disciples were told to watchevents to know that the end of the age was upon them. In addition, we are also told in Revelation 11 about events to look for. But, we are told, too, that the witnesses will not know the time or date that Yahweh has set for the completion of their testimony, Acts 1:7, 1 Thessalonians 5:1-3.
     When the disciples saw the prophesied events coming to pass, they were convinced Yahshua's return was at hand. They did not understand the duality of prophecy any more than do present-day Bible students.
     Yahshua did not explain to the disciples that the events they would see at the end of the Old Covenant age would be only a prototype of the events that would occur at the end of the New Covenant age. Nor did He explain that the events limited to the Roman world they knew would be more physical and less spiritual than the universal events with far more spiritual ramifications that would come to pass at the end of the New Covenant age.
     The Bible refers to periods of time as ages (aion, Strong's Greek Dictionary No. 165). The Old Covenant age is the time from Moses to Yahshua's first coming. The New Covenant age is the time from Yahshua's first coming to His return.
     Yahshua's 1,000-year reign on earth will be the kingdom age. The disciples lived at the end of the Old Covenant age. They did not know, and it was not revealed to them, that there would be another age and we are not told how long it will be. Because Yahshua mediated a New Covenant, thinking of the period of time between His first and second coming as the New Covenant age rather than the church ages, helps to eliminate some of the misunderstanding of prophecies about that time.
     Without wasting time attempting to determine exact days and hours of prophesied events, let's look around and see whether we can understand the relationship between what we see and what we are told.
     Revelation 11:2-3 tells us that the Gentiles will trample on the holy city and the witnesses will be prophesying for 42 months. Revelation 13:5 tells us that Satan's beast religion will be exercising authority and blaspheming during the same 42 months. In fact, Revelation 13 tells us what the people of the earth, under the influence of the beast, will be doing during the 42 months.
     The 42 months will end when Yahweh allows the beast to over-power His witnesses. Then for a short time, designated by the symbolic 31⁄2 days, Satan's beast religion will exercise unrestrained authority on earth, Revelation 13:15-17. Satan's supreme "31⁄2 day rule" on earth will end with the first resurrection and the return of Yahshua, Revelation 11:11-15.
     The numbers 42, 1,260, and 31⁄2 are symbolic. They don't necessarily indicate time periods of literally 42 months, 1,260 years and only 31⁄2 years. Forty-two is one way or another always associated with Yahshua's coming. For example, Matthew 1:17 tells us there were 42 generations from Abraham to Yahshua's first coming.
     Forty-two 30-day months is 1,260 days. Saying that 1,260 days and 31⁄2 days mean 1,260 years and 31⁄2 years of literal time is logic based on Yahweh's allowing Ezekiel a year for a day in Ezekiel 4:6. But what about Psalm 90:4, which says 1,000 years is but a day that is past to Yahweh? If we allow 1,000 years for a day instead of a year, we are inferring the witnesses will be prophesying for 1,260,000 years!
A period of time so outlandish isn't even considered by scholars or anyone else who attempts to set dates. Yet, what some scholars and Bible students are saying amounts to telling us that the 31/2 days in Revelation 11:11 is the same period of time as the 42 months in Revelation 13:5.
     Though we can't determine exactly when Yahweh will consider that the witnesses have finished their testimony and prophesying, history and the Bible tell us exactly when it began. The witnessing to the nations—Gentiles—began immediately after the Feast of Weeks or Pentecost.
     When did the Gentiles begin trampling on the Holy City? Right after the destruction of the temple and the dispersion of the Jews in 70 C.E. Take 70 years from 1988, the present year, and we can see that the Gentiles have been trampling on the city for 1,918 years.
     The most probable year of Yahshua's impalement and ascension is 30 or 31 C.E., about 40 years before the destruction of the temple. That means Yahweh's witnesses have been active for about 1,958 years and they haven't been put out of business yet.
     That 698 years of difference between the actual years of witnessing and the supposed limit of 1,260 years has scholars searching for an explanation that isn't totally inconsistent with everything else they have been expounding about end-time prophecy.
Beast Religion Alive and Well
     The return of Jews to Jerusalem in 1948 may very likely be the beginning of the fulfillment of prophecies concerning the return of Israel from around the world. But we cannot say Jerusalem is no longer being trampled on by the Gentiles. If nothing else, the Arab Gentiles still have a beast-religion mosque on the Temple site.
     Compare Matthew 24:29-30 and Luke 21:25-27 with Revelation 11:12-15. No question about it. Yahweh's end-time witnesses will be resurrected with all the elect Yahshua will raise from the dead
when He returns. There is no question, either, that the Gentile trampling on the holy city will end at that time also.
     Revelation 11 tells us that the witnesses will have been killed and people of the world will rejoice over their dead bodies for a short time before the witnesses are called up to meet the coming Messiah.
What are we to look for to understand the signs of the times? Compare 2 Thessalonians 2:3 and 2:7-8 with Revelation 11:7-10 and 13:1-17.
     We can't set dates, but we can know from these Scriptures that the beast religion has been uttering blasphemies and exercising authority for as long as Yahweh's witnesses have been prophesying. When we see a man in a temple claiming to be Yahweh and having power to bring down fire from heaven, we must understand that Yahweh has removed His restraint from the Man of Sin. We will then be seeing the end-time fulfillment of Yahshua's prophecy about the abomination that causes desolation.
     The disciples were warned to flee to the mountains when they saw that prototype fulfillment. The end-time witnesses had better heed the warning because the persecutions experienced by the first-century disciples were a prototype of what they can expect from the Man of Sin.
     All the end-time witnesses can do is watch so that the day does not come upon them unexpectedly, Luke 21:34; run when they see it, Matthew 24:16; and pray that they will be able to escape, Luke 21:36. As for other symbols associated with the witnesses in Revelation 11, these can be correctly understood if their interpretation is looked for in other Scriptures. For example: "Fire comes out of their mouths," Revelation 11:5. Now read Psalm 18.
     In this psalm, Yahweh is called a rock. In 1 Corinthians 10:4 Yahshua is called a rock. We understand the symbolism of "rock" in these verses. The references are not to a literal, actual rock. Neither is the fire coming from the rock's mouth in Psalm 18:8 literal. That fire is a symbol of the spiritual power of Yahweh's Word.
     Yahweh's Word is spirit and truth. In Jeremiah 5:14 we are told that Yahweh's Word is a fire in His prophet's mouth. Read that verse again and note that the fire coming from the prophet's mouth will consume the people. What people? Who else but the inhabitants of the earth who gloat, celebrate, and rejoice over the death of the witnesses.
     Such people will be like the people of Noah's day, Matthew 24:36-39. They will laugh, scoff, mock, and refuse to believe it until the day they stand before the judgment throne and are judged by the Word: condemned because they refused to see or hear it and repent of their evil ways.
     They will believe the Word then, but it will be too late! From them will come wailing, Matthew 13:42, crying like Esau over their loss, Hebrews 12:17, but they will stand in jeopardy of being consumed in the lake of fire, called the second death, Revelation 20:14.
     Yahshua told His disciples in Matthew 24, "When you see all these things, you know it is near, right at the door," verse 33. He also said, "...this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened," verse 34.
     The big problem with understanding this prophecy is that Yahshua didn't give His disciples a clue to the duality in this prophecy. He did not differentiate between its first and second fulfillment. He runs it all together.
     The disciples did not grasp that what they would experience after they saw the abomination that makes desolate in the temple would only be a prototype of what Yahweh's end-time witnesses will experience after they see the Man of Sin revealed in the temple. Not everyone in the generation in which Yahshua walked this earth believed His Word and became His disciple. Neither will everyone in the end-time generation believe the witnesses and repent of their evil.
     It is doubtful that all the disciples died before the end of the Old Covenant age, but certainly many, even perhaps a great many people of the disciples' day, saw the end of the Old Covenant age.
     So also will many people ofthe end-time generation live from the revelation of the Man of Sin to the end of the New Covenant age at Yahshua's return. Yahweh gave Yahshua's disciples (apostles only?) power to perform miracles during their witnessing.
     He has promised that His end-time witnesses will be given power, too. When? It will have to be some time before the Man of Sin reveals himself. Why? After he has the power to stand in the temple, he will also have the power to put an end to the witnessing of Yahweh's Word.
     Anyone to whom it has been given to understand correctly what is going on in the world when the witnessing is silenced will very likely be able to set the date of Yahshua's return.
     This is because the number 31⁄2 probably indicates the demise of the witnessing at the midpoint in time between the revelation of the Man of Sin and the resurrection of the saints at Yahshua's return. The number 3 is associated with the resurrection and the 1⁄2 part may indicate that the event will occur halfway between the two other events.
     These are the author's inspirations. Yahweh says, "Test the spirits" that speak to you. It is our prayer that you do just that.
-Elder Ralph Henrie (deceased)

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