Summary: More on the Two witneses
Revelation 11:3, “And I will give power to my two witnesses, and they will be clothed in sackcloth and will prophesy during those 1,260 days.”
The only two that could have given power to the two witnesses to perform their duty were God the Father or the Lord Jesus Christ. Witnesses is the plural form of martus, from which the English word martyr derives, since so many witnesses of Jesus Christ in the early church paid with their lives. It is always used in reference in the New Testament to persons so therefore the two witnesses must be actual people, not movements. The Word of God requires a testimony of two people to confirm a fact or verify truth (Deut 17:6; 19:15; Matthew 18:16; John 8:17; 2 Cor 13:1; 1 Tim 5:19 Heb 10:28), so therefore these two witnesses have to be two persons. Prophesy propheteuo is here used with the primary meaning of telling forth the divine counsels of God. Prophecy does not necessarily refer to predicting the future. Here though the word is translated propheteuo but the other Greek word translated would be propheteia signifying the speaking forth of the mind and counsel of God. The primary mission of the two witnesses is to speak forth the judgments of God to warn people of the impending doom that is coming there way through the preaching of repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. 1,260 days refers to the length of there ministry the last three and one-half years of the Tribulation, when Antichrist’s forces will oppress the city of Jerusalem (v.2), and many Jews, and believers in the Messiah will be sheltered in the wilderness (12:6).
Sackcloth was rough, heavy, course cloth wore in ancient times as a symbol of mourning, distress, grief and humility. Jacob put on sackcloth when he thought Joseph had been killed (Gen 37:34). David ordered the people to wear sackcloth after the murder of Abner (2nd Samuel 3:31) and wore it himself during the plague God sent in response to his sin of numbering the people (1 Chron 21:16). King Jehoram wore sackcloth during the siege on Samaria (2 Kings 6:30), as did King Hezekiah when Jerusalem was attacked (2nd Kings 19:1). Job (Job 16:15), Isaiah (Isa. 20:2), and Daniel (Daniel 9:3) also wore sackcloth. The purpose of the witnesses them wearing the sackcloth is an object lesson to express their great sorrow for the wretched and unbelieving world racked by God’s judgments, overrun by demon hordes, and populated by wicked, sinful people who refuse to repent. They will also mourn because of the desecration of the temple, the oppression of Jerusalem and the ascendancy of the Antichrist.
Revelation 11:4, “These two prophets are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of all the earth.”
Zechariah 4:1-14 is the backdrop for this. Charles calls this a bold and independent interpretation of Zechariah’s symbols. The two olive trees in Zechariah’s vision are Joshua, the high priest and Zerubbabel, the Jewish governor under the Persian king Darius). The seven churches were described as seven lampstands. The historical fulfillment here was in Joshua rebuilding the post-exilic temple with the Joshua being the religious leader and Zerubbabel being the political leader (Zech 3:1-10). This prophecy also refers to the restoration of the Temple in Israel in the Millennium (Zech 3:8-10). The two olive trees and lampstands refer to the light of revival, since olive oil was commonly used in lamps. The connecting of lamps to the trees is intended to depict a constant automatic supply of oil flowing from the olive trees into the lamps. This symbolizes that God will not bring salvation blessing from human power but by the power of the Holy Spirit (Zech 4:6). Like Joshua and Zerubbabel, the two witnesses will lead a spiritual revival culminating in the building of a temple. Their preaching will be instrumental in Israel’s national conversion (Revelation 11:13; Romans 11:4-5,26), and the temple associate with that conversion will be the Millennial temple.
It is hard to say who these two Prophets will be. Some have suggested they are representative of the Law and the Church the new and the Old. More than likely though this is a reference to the Law and the Prophets. The reasons for such a position is that Elijah called fire down from heaven (2nd Kings 1:10,12) and pronounced a three-and-one-half-year drought on the land (1 Kings 17:1; James 5:17) –the same length as the drought brought by the two witnesses (Revelation 11:6). Moses turned the waters of the Nile into blood (Exodus 7:17-21) and announced the other plagues on Egypt recorded in Exodus chapters 7-12. Malachi 4:5 predicted the return of Elijah and the Jews believed that God’s promise to raise up a prophet like Moses (Deut 18:15,18) necessitated his return (John 1:21; 6:14;7:40). John the Baptist came as Luke 1:17 says, “He will be a man with the spirit and power of Elijah, the prophet of old. He will precede the coming of the Lord, preparing the people for his arrival. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and he will change disobedient minds to accept godly wisdom." But the Jews did not accept Jesus John did not fulfill the prophecy in relation to Malachi 4:5. Moses and Elijah furthermore appeared with Christ as the Transfiguration, the preview of the Second Coming (Matthew 17:3) Elijah never died but was transported to heaven in a fiery chariot (2nd Kings 2:11-12) and God supernaturally buried Moses’ body in a secret location (Deut 34:5-6; Jude 9). Since the Word does not say who exactly the Prophets will be this position above cannot be accurately defended since the identity of the two is still a mystery.