posted on Apr, 30 2005 @ 08:45 PM
In verse 3, the anonymous voice speaking to John takes on a kind of personality: And I will give power to my two witnesses. This can only be the voice
of God, for God is clearly the source of the witnesses' authority, yet the voice goes on to speak in the third person of the Lord of the earth (v.
4), a breath of life from God (v. 11) and the God of heaven (v. 13). This is characteristic of many biblical oracles in which God speaks through a
prophet, partly from God's own perspective in heaven and partly from that of the prophet who delivers the message on earth. The oracle does not end
after verse 4 (where the NIV and the NRSV end it with their quotation marks), but continues to the end of the sixth trumpet and the announcement of
the third woe (v. 14). This is God's voice speaking through John, as John fulfills his commission to prophesy again about many peoples, nations,
languages and kings (10:11; compare every people, tribe, language and nation, 11:9).
Who are John's "two witnesses"? Identifications have been varied and sometimes eccentric, ranging from the apostles Peter and Paul martyred in
Rome, to two seventeenth-century London tailors named John Reeve and Lodowick Muggleton! The latter interpretation created a sect known as the
Muggletonians, which lasted for three hundred years. In America, the Shakers identified the witnesses as the male and female aspects of God, linked
both to Christ's first coming (as Jesus of Nazareth) and second coming (as Mother Ann Lee, founder of the Shakers).
The context suggests that in some way the testimony of the two witnesses corresponds to John's own. In 10:11 he is told to prophesy, and in 11:3, 6
he describes the witnesses doing just that. By referring to them as the two olive trees and the two lampstands (v. 4), he recalls a vision of
Zechariah (Zech 4:2-3), with the accompanying message, "`Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,' says the LORD Almighty" (Zech 4:6). Olive
trees (with their oil) and lampstands (with their light) are appropriate images for the Spirit of God, and John has already used lampstands as a
metaphor for the seven congregations to which he writes. The witnesses, therefore, should be understood as vehicles of the Holy Spirit, representing
Christian prophecy or the church in its prophetic ministry to the world, whether in John's time or ours.