• Three Kinds of Plague During the Tribulation
• Three Reasons for the Tribulation Plagues
Miracles have always been rare. In all history, there have been three great epics of miraculous signs, and these were separated from each other by hundreds of years. The first cluster of miracles was performed by Moses and Joshua. The second cluster was performed by Elijah and Elisha. The third cluster was performed by Jesus and the apostles. The Bible indicates a fourth cluster is coming during the Tribulation, which will be performed by the two witnesses described in Revelation 11.
As we study miracles, it is important to distinguish them from providence. Providence uses nature to accomplish its end. Examples of providence include a gust of wind that blows a wayward ship back on course or the mist that concealed General George Washington as he crossed the Delaware. Miracles are different from providence because they defy nature—a shepherd’s staff that becomes a snake or fire that falls from heaven rather than rising from the ground. Biblical miracles are obvious and spectacular whereas an act of providence is often subtle.
Miracles are events of supernatural power with a supernatural source. They involve power over demons, power over nature, power over matter, and power over death. Their purpose is to validate the one who performs the miracle as a messenger from God. Ultimately, they validate God Himself. As the Creator of nature, God exists outside of natural laws and boundaries. By revealing God’s transcendence, miracles call mankind to repentance and worship.
When the two witnesses of Revelation 11 appear during the Tribulation, their miracles will recall earlier miracles and share the same purpose: they will warn a fallen world of God’s wrath and coming judgment.
Three Kinds of Plague During the Tribulation
Most people who have even a casual knowledge of the Bible associate plagues with Moses and Egypt. The Tribulation witnesses inflict the world with similar, but even more far-reaching, plagues. They will be empowered “to strike the earth with all plagues, as often as they desire” (Revelation 11:6, emphasis added). In ancient Egypt, God relented each time the pharaoh pled with Him. During the Tribulation, Scripture indicates the witnesses will wield complete control over the plagues, which will take on three forms:
1. The plague of death.
The witnesses will upset the Antichrist’s followers so deeply that many will want them dead. God will give the witnesses power to defend themselves by annihilating those who would hurt them. “If anyone wants to harm them, fire proceeds from their mouth and devours their enemies” (Revelation 11:5).
2. The plague of drought.
These two witnesses will have the power “to shut heaven, so that no rain falls in the days of their prophecy” (Revelation 11:6). Revelation 11:3 informs us that the witnesses will prophesy for 1,260 days. This means the drought will last for three-and-a-half years, just like the drought of Elijah’s time. “Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months” (James 5:17; see also 1 Kings 17–18).
When God wants to get our attention, He often strikes our pocketbooks first. Ancient Israel depended on farming. Elijah’s drought devastated their economy and demanded their dependence on God. During the Tribulation, the Antichrist will control the global economy. The witnesses’ drought will defy his power, damage his economy, and draw some of his citizens to repentance.
3. The plague of disease.
Like Moses in his confrontation with Egypt’s pharaoh, the two witnesses will “have power over waters to turn them to blood” (Revelation 11:6). This plague corresponds with the second trumpet of Revelation 8. “Then the second angel sounded: And something like a great mountain burning with fire was thrown into the sea, and a third of the sea became blood. And a third of the living creatures in the sea died, and a third of the ships were destroyed” (verses 8-9). The contaminated water will cause epidemics of disease.
Three Reasons for the Tribulation Plagues
The witnesses will be the only earthly obstacle to the Antichrist’s regime, and they will have many enemies. As opposition intensifies, attempts will be made on their lives. But the same plague that will bring death to their adversaries will guard the lives of the two witnesses. Their ministry is so vital in the Tribulation period, God will make them immortal until their work is done. No one will be able to harm them before their testimony is complete.
When I was a young pastor, a mentor shared this with me, “God’s man, in the center of God’s will, is immortal until God is done with him.” That is true for all of us, but many of us don’t realize it. If the Church today really believed that, we would transform the world. God’s Tribulation witnesses will have that kind of confidence because His protection over them will be unmistakable.
At the midpoint of the Tribulation period, when the two witnesses have completed God’s mission, He will finally allow the Antichrist to destroy them. “When they finish their testimony, the beast that ascends out of the bottomless pit will make war against them, overcome them, and kill them” (Revelation 11:7). Their murder will greatly expand the Antichrist’s power and popularity. People will be so glad to be free of the witnesses’ plagues and preaching that they will rejoice over their deaths and give each other gifts (Revelation 11:10), exposing the extreme wickedness of their hearts.
The witnesses’ bodies will be displayed and defiled in the streets of Jerusalem for three-and-a-half days. Then two miraculous events will cut the Antichrist’s festivities short. Here is what Scripture says:
Now after the three-and-a-half days the breath of life from God entered [the witnesses], and they stood on their feet, and great fear fell on those who saw them. And they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, “Come up here.” And they ascended to heaven in a cloud, and their enemies saw them. (Revelation 11:11-12)
Once more, the witnesses will work to jar their enemies out of unbelief and into repentance by displaying God’s power. With the technology available today, it will be possible for these miracles to be viewed by a worldwide audience.
We must remember that these two witnesses will not perform their miracles out of spite or unkindness. Their purpose will be to awaken the people to their sinfulness and move them to repentance and belief. All the discomfort and displeasure these men bring to the world through their preaching and their plagues will be minor compared to the suffering of those who ignore their message. The end of their ministry will mark the beginning of the end for all God’s enemies.