According to a study by the American Judicature Society, eyewitnesses correctly identify suspects 87.8% of the time. This 12.2% margin of error provides one explanation for why Old Testament law required the testimony of two or three witnesses to prosecute a crime—one witness could be mistaken or even lie; two or three witnesses are not likely to be wrong (Numbers 35:30; Deuteronomy 17:6).
• God's Tribulation Witnesses
• God Never Leaves Himself Without a Witness
• God's Witnesses for Today
God's Tribulation Witnesses
As far back as Genesis, witnesses have held an important role in settling legal matters and testifying to the goodness of God. It should come as no surprise, then, that God will provide witnesses of His redemptive work to the very end of days. Until the Rapture, Jesus has commissioned every believer to be His witness: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20). With millions of witnesses testifying around the globe, the world today has an unprecedented opportunity to trust in Jesus Christ and repent of sin.
After the Church is raptured, the Holy Spirit will empower two witnesses who will prophesy during the Tribulation—not just one, but two—to meet the requirements of the Jewish law. With darkness pressing in all around, these faithful men will shine the light of truth by the power of God’s Spirit. The distinction of their ministry is highlighted by Jesus’ reference to them as “my two witnesses,” a special relationship to Him that was not shared with other witnesses in the Bible (Revelation 11:3, emphasis added).
Much like their Old Testament predecessors, these witnesses will be true prophets, speaking by divine revelation and performing miracles under the authority of Christ (Revelation 11:3, 6). For three-and-a-half years, they will warn the world of God’s coming judgment. This message will inspire faith in some and hatred in others. They will be unstoppable until they finish sharing their testimony.
When the fullness of their message is delivered, God will allow the Antichrist and the False Prophet to make war against the witnesses and kill them. They will be so hated by the unbelieving world that they will not be buried, a sign of extreme shame and dishonor under Jewish law. Their bodies will lie on the streets of Jerusalem itself—the holy city of Israel. Following their death, the Antichrist and his supporters will celebrate and even send gifts to each other.
The witnesses’ deaths and their public humiliation will not be the end of the story. Three-and-a-half days after their murders, the “breath of life from God” will enter into them (Revelation 11:11). They will be resurrected by the same power that brought Jesus back from the grave. Alive once more, a voice from heaven will call them to “come up here” (verse 12). The Antichrist’s revelry will end abruptly as the two witnesses soar to heaven.
Unlike the Rapture of the Church, which will occur too quickly to be witnessed, the witnesses’ rapture will be viewed by the entire world (1 Corinthians 15:52; Revelation 11:12). At the same time, an earthquake will rock Jerusalem so hard that one-tenth of it will lie in ruins and seven thousand people will perish. The language of the original text suggests the earthquake victims won’t be ordinary citizens—they will be leaders or celebrities. They will be “men of name.”
The ministry of the two witnesses reflects the love and mercy of God on hardened unbelievers. For the sake of a few who will heed their message, God will use these two men in one of the most dramatic moments that planet earth has ever or will ever experience.
God Never Leaves Himself Without a Witness
God’s love never ceases, and He never leaves Himself without a witness. In the words of Romans 1:20, “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that [people] are without excuse.” Looking back, these witnesses are often people, but not always. Scripture names a variety of witnesses to God’s nature:
- The nation of Israel—Isaiah 43:10
- Heaven and earth—Deuteronomy 4:25-26; 30:19; 31:28; Psalm 19:1
- The Book of the Law—Deuteronomy 31:26
- The prophets—Hosea 12:9-10; Acts 10:43
- The Gospel—Matthew 24:14
- Stones—Luke 19:40
- John the Baptist—John 1:6-7
- Jesus’ life, works, and miracles—John 5:36; Revelation 1:5; 3:14
- The Holy Spirit—John 15:26; Romans 8:16; Hebrews 10:15
- Jesus Christ—John 18:37
- The apostles—John 15:27; Acts 1:8; 4:33; 26:22
- Rain and fruitful seasons—Acts 14:17
- Conscience—Romans 2:15; 9:1
- The Law and the Prophets—Romans 3:21
- The Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit—1 John 5:7
In addition to these witnesses, the author of Hebrews points to the faith of earlier believers—Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, and others—as a great “cloud of witnesses” whose example should motivate us to “run with endurance the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 11; 12:1). Throughout history, God has provided signs pointing to His faithfulness and our fallenness.
God's Witnesses for Today
Today is no different. God has stationed witnesses at points all around the globe, and He has equipped them with the authority of His own testimony—the Bible. If you haven’t guessed it, today’s witnesses are ordinary people, including you and me. We have the privilege and responsibility of proclaiming the Good News until He calls us home to heaven.
Christians of today can rejoice knowing that they will not experience the horrors of the Tribulation. However, Jesus warned that His followers would be “hated by all for [His] name’s sake” (Matthew 10:22). The Jews of the Sanhedrin hated Jesus’ message so much that they deliberately dug up false witnesses to testify against Him. It took a lot of searching, but they eventually found two liars who provided the story that accused Him of blasphemy and nailed Him to a cross (Matthew 26:60). It’s easy to understand why God hates lying lips (Proverbs 12:22) and forbids us to give false testimony.
Whatever the cost, we have a responsibility to those perishing around us. The Bible’s descriptions of the Tribulation along with Jesus’ Great Commission should motivate us to urgently share the Gospel. We know exactly how long the Tribulation will last, and we know that God will provide witnesses to those living in the last days. But we do not know when Christ will rapture the Church. The Rapture could happen next year, next month, or perhaps even today.
The Jews were God’s witnesses, His light, to the ancient world. The two witnesses will be God’s light to the apocalyptic world. We are God’s witnesses, His light, for today.
Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:16