This article is taken from the chapter concerning the Two Witnesses of Revelation 11:3-13 in my book entitled, The LAST Prophecies: The Prophecies in the First 3 ½ Years of the Tribulation. This chapter explores the timing of the Two Witnesses. This article is part two of two. Part one explored the details and identities of the Two Witnesses.[i]
* The Timing of the Two Witnesses
There is a debate about whether these Two Witnesses prophesy in the first or second half of the Trib-period. Below are some quotes from some of today’s most respected Bible prophecy experts on this timing topic. Dr. Ron Rhodes writes the following in his book entitled, The End Times In Chronological Order.
“Scholars debate whether the ministry of the two witnesses belongs in the first half or the second half of the tribulation. Their ministry will last 1260 days, which measures out to precisely three and a half years.”… “Most prophecy scholars conclude that the two witnesses do their miraculous work during the first three and a half years.”[ii]
In his book on page 127, Dr. Rhodes places the death and resurrection of the two witnesses at the midpoint of the Trib-period just before the Antichrist annuls the false covenant in Daniel 9:27 through the Abomination of Desolation spoken by Jesus in Matthew 24:15-22. Thus, Rhodes places the timing of the Two Witnesses in the first half of the Trib-period.
So does Tim LaHaye. In his book entitled, Revelation Unveiled, LaHaye says,
“As a result of the shocking treatment of these two faithful witnesses of God by the inhabitants of the city of Jerusalem, the Lord will send a great earthquake, destroying a tenth part of the city and slaying seven thousand people. This cataclysmic judgment of God on the city of Jerusalem may be the event that triggers a revival that will sweep across Israel during the latter half of the Tribulation, for the passage reads, “and the survivors were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven.” This remnant may refer to the Jewish inhabitants of the city who, after seeing the judging hand of God slay seven thousand of their residents and destroy a tenth part of their city, will turn in faith to embrace the message of the two witnesses so recently resurrected. All of these events take place before the third woe is sounded in verse 14, which identifies these two witnesses who live, preach, die, and are resurrected during the first half of the Tribulation period. In addition to closing this second parenthetical passage, it also sets the stage for the events of the latter half of the Tribulation period.”[iii]
Tim LaHaye places the death and resurrection of the Two Witnesses before the third woe judgment in Rev. 11:14, which reads, “The second woe is past. Behold, the third woe is coming quickly.” The three woe judgments of the fifth, sixth and seventh trumpets are explained in the LAST Prophecies book in the chapter dealing with the seven trumpet judgments. That chapter will demonstrate how the three woes provide evidence that the first six trumpet judgments happen in the first half of the Trib-period and that the seventh trumpet judgment happens around the middle of the Trib-period.
Whereas Rhodes and LaHaye place the timing of the Two Witnesses in the first half of the Trib-period, others such as Dr. John Walvoord and Dr. Mark Hitchcock favor the possibility that they prophesy in the second half. At the end of this article I will present the problems with this timing scenario.
A few of the clues that lead me to reason the Two Witnesses exist in the first half are below.
* The Counting the Worshipers in the Temple Clue
“Then I was given a measuring stick, and I was told, “Go and measure the Temple of God and the altar, and count the number of worshipers. But do not measure the outer courtyard, for it has been turned over to the nations. They will trample the holy city for 42 months.” (Rev. 11:1, NLT)
This verse pictures the apostle John measuring the third temple, the altar and counting the number of worshipers therein. This measuring and counting is taking place in the first half of the Trib-period. Then, Rev. 11:3 introduces the Two Witnesses in that same three and one-half year time frame.
“And I will give power to my two witnesses, and they will be clothed in burlap and will prophesy during those 1,260 days.” (Rev. 11:3, NLT)
Counting the number of worshipers in the temple won’t happen in the second half of the Trib-period, because the temple worship will have ceased by then as a result of the Antichrist abominating the temple and stopping the sacrifices and offerings as per Daniel 9:27. Any Jew attempting to worship inside the temple during the second half of the Trib-period will be killed on his way through the door as part of the genocidal campaign of the Antichrist.
Therefore, the Jewish religious leaders are counting the number of the worshipers inside the temple during the first half of the Trib-Period, at the same time that the Two Witnesses are prophesying outside in the streets of Jerusalem.
* The Malachi 4:5-6 Clues about the Coming of Elijah Before the Day of the Lord
“Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet Before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord. And he will turn The hearts of the fathers to the children, And the hearts of the children to their fathers, Lest I come and strike the earth with a curse.” (Malachi 4:5-6)
Malachi prophesies that Elijah will come before the GREAT and DREADFUL DAY of the LORD, which is commonly taught to be the Trib-period. This prophet of old will be sent in advance to make a spiritual impact on the Jewish people.
Elijah will influence Jewish fathers to be mindful of what their children’s near future holds. He will also turn the children’s hearts toward their fathers. This could refer to their biological fathers and / or their patriarchal fathers of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, through whom God gave the Abrahamic Covenant.
The point is that the testimonies of Elijah, as one of the two witnesses, and the other second witness will likely contribute toward the conversions of Jews who ultimately become members of the “Faithful Jewish Remnant.” This scenario could segue into the reasoning from the Tim LaHaye quote above. When the earthquake kills 7,000 people and destroys one-tenth of Jerusalem as per Rev. 11:13, the survivors, “will turn in faith to embrace the message of the two witnesses so recently resurrected.”
* The Seven Bowl Judgments Happen after the Two Witnesses Ascend to Heaven
Another important timing consideration is that the Seven Bowl Judgments require adequate time to happen in the second-half of the Tribulation Period. The chronology of prophetic events are explained below.
When the Two Witnesses are killed by the Antichrist, according to Rev. 11:10, “those who dwell on the earth will rejoice over them, make merry, and send gifts to one another.” Some sort of a worldwide celebration on this scale is not likely going to happen at the end of the Trib-period, which would be when these Two Witnesses would be killed if they ministered in the second half of the Trib-period.
Why? Because by then the wrath of God will have been poured out in the seven bowl judgments of Revelation 16. It will be far from a time of merriment, as this wrath includes:
* Loathsome sores will cover those who took the Mark of the Beast (Rev. 16:2),
* Seas and Waters will be turned to blood (Rev. 16:3-7),
* Multitudes will be scorched from intense heat (Rev. 16:8-9),
* Great darkness intensifying the painful stress (Rev. 16:10-11),
* The greatest earthquake in world history will strike and every island will be adversely affected and many mountains will collapse (Rev. 16:18-20),
* There will be a heavy barrage of hailstones falling upon many (Rev. 16:20-21).
Moreover, multitudes among mankind will be gathering in the valley of decision in Joel 3:14, which is the valley of Jehoshaphat in Joel 3:2. They will be preparing for the final war of Armageddon and not likely sipping wine and wrapping up gifts.
* The Problems with Placing the Two Witnesses in the Last Half of the Trib-Period
This concluding section will present a series of refutations that argue against the possibility that the Two Witnesses exist in the last half of the Tribulation Period.
The REFUTATIONS: The Two Witnesses will not likely be prophesying in the second half of the Trib-period because:
1. DISOBEDIENCE OF GOD: In Matthew 24:15-16. Jesus tells the Jews to flee to the mountains, (which are located in Petra, Jordan), immediately when they witness the “Abomination of Desolation.” This happens at the midpoint of the Seven-Year Tribulation Period. If the Two Jewish Witnesses decided to remain in Jerusalem after the “Abomination of Desolation,” instead of fleeing to the mountains with their Jewish brethren, then they would be guilty of disobeying the instructions of Jesus Christ.
2. RELIGIOUS TOLERANCE: 2 Thess. 2:4 says that the Antichrist will enter the Temple of God, which is when he performs the “Abomination of Desolation,” and that he will exalt himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped. Moreover, the Antichrist will sit in the Temple of God at that time showing off that he is God.
If the Two Witnesses begin their ministry at this time, which is the threshold of the beginning point of the second half of the Trib-period, that implies that the Antichrist is religiously tolerant. One could preclude that the Antichrist, after declaring himself as god, is giving two Jews a hall pass to stand on their pulpits in Jerusalem and preach about Jesus Christ as the Messiah. Not only the Messiah, but the only begotten Son of God as per John 3:16.
This flies in the face of the prophetic facts. The Antichrist will be anything but spiritually fair and balanced.
Firstly, by the time the Antichrist goes on his “I’m god” tirade, he will have the ten kings desolate the Harlot world religion and bestow the entirety of its wealth and all of their power to him as per Rev. 17:16-17. Eliminating a global religion is not exactly a religiously tolerant move.
Secondly, he stops the religion of Judaism when he goes into the temple and stops the sacrifices and offerings as per Daniel 9:27. This isn’t a display of religious tolerance.
Thirdly, after he stomps out Judaism, he proceeds to implement a killing campaign of Jewish genocide as per Zechariah 13:8. This will prevent the possible return of Judaism in the future.
Fourthly, the Antichrist begins beheading Christian believers who refuse to take his “Mark of the Beast” as per Rev. 20:4. This is a religiously intolerant attempt to eliminate and remove all vestiges of Christianity from the earth.
Therefore, there is no possible reason to believe that the Antichrist will stand by idly for three and one-half years and let two Jews preach Jesus in Jerusalem!
3. GENOCIDAL EXCEPTION: Along these same lines, it would make no sense for the Antichrist to make an exception that allows these two Jews to live, when at the time he is commanding a Jewish genocidal campaign. Revelation 11:7 says that the Antichrist, “will make war against them, overcome them, and kill them.” If the Antichrist is going to do these three things, then why would he wait for three and one-half years to do this? Why would he allow them to counter his religious objectives throughout the entire second half of the Trib-period? This makes no sense to me!
4. THE BOWL JUDGMENTS: Revelation 11:14 makes it clear that the deaths, resurrections and ascensions of the Two Witnesses happen between the sounding of the sixth and seventh trumpets. However, there is a potential problem with placing these events at the end of the Trib-period. This is because the sounding of the seventh trumpet in Rev. 11:15, which sounds after the Two Witnesses ascend to heaven, triggers the prophetic events within the seven bowl judgments.
Revelation 15:1 points out that the wrath of God is completed through the fulfillments of these seven bowl judgments. These judgments described in Revelation 16 were briefly identified previously, but are worthy of repeating in this concluding section. These Bowl Judgments involve the:
- * Inflicting of loathsome sores (1st bowl),
- * Sea turning to blood and killing all the sea creatures therein (2nd bowl),
- * Rivers and Springs turning to blood (3rd bowl),
- * Scorching of mankind with fires and great heat (4th bowl),
- * Widespread of darkness and the gnawing of tongues from the pain of the sores (5th bowl),
- * Drying of the Euphrates, enabling the world armies to gather for Armageddon (6th bowl),
- * Great Earthquake that destroys end times Babylon (7th bowl).
These things will take some time to find fulfillment. If the ascensions of the Two Witnesses precedes these seven bowl events, which they do, and if these ascensions happen at the end of the Trib-period, then there is no time remaining within the Trib-period for the fulfillment of these seven bowl events. This timing scenario would then preclude that these bowl events must find fulfillment sometime after the Trib-period.
This would mean that the wrath of God does not find completion within the Trib-period, but gets completed sometime after. This also forces the fulfillment of the bowl judgments into either the seventy-five day post-tribulation interval period of Daniel 12:12 or the Millennium of Rev. 20:4. Without going into a study about the details of these two post-tribulation periods, the fact is that it would make no sense for the wrath of God to be poured out in the bowl judgments during these two time frames.
5. THE TIMING RESTRICTIONS: The biblical text in Revelation 11:3 states that the ministry of the two witnesses is precisely 1260 days. This means logically that any end time scenario that would have the beginning and ending of their ministry less than 1260 days or more than 1260 days would seem to be in danger of contradicting the biblical text of this verse.
“And I will give power to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy one thousand two hundred and sixty (1260) days, clothed in sackcloth.” (Rev. 11:3; emphasis added)
In order for the Antichrist’s 1260-day period of rule over the world to synchronize with the same 1260 days that the Two Witnesses prophesy, the following must hold true. Let me explain.
It is commonly taught that the Antichrist performs the Abomination of Desolation, which is alluded to in Matthew 24:15, at the midpoint of the Trib-period. After this epic prophetic event, the Antichrist reigns as the world’s leader for forty-two months, which is precisely 1260 days.
“And he, (the Antichrist), was given a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies, and he was given authority to continue for forty-two months.” (Rev. 13:5; emphasis added)
This article, part two, has provided arguments that strongly support the existence of the Two Witnesses in the first half of the Trib-period. It has also identified several refutations that soundly argue against their existence in the last half. In The LAST Prophecies book, many more details are provided about the identities, details and timing of these two incredibly important and powerful last days prophets.
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[i] Part One is posted at this link: http://www.prophecydepotministries.net/2019/part-one-the-details-and-identities-of-the-two-witnesses-of-revelation-11/
[ii] Dr. Rhodes, The End Times In Chronological Order (Harvest House Publishers, 2012), p. 115-116
[iii] Tim LaHaye, Revelation Unveiled (Zondervan, 1999), p. 191