Who Are the Two Witnesses in Revelation 11?

Contributing Writer
Who Are the Two Witnesses in Revelation 11?

The Bible contains epic stories and images, which is partly why this sacred text continues to resonate and fascinate people across the world centuries later. The prophecy of the two witnesses in Revelation 11 stirs the heart and inspires the imagination.

Written by John, Revelation offers a glimpse into the cosmic battle between good and evil, culminating in the ultimate triumph of God’s kingdom at the end of this age. In apocalyptic literature, the author often employs symbolic language to convey profound truth and unveil hidden mysteries. In Revelation, or the Apocalypse of John, God gives the apostle visions filled with fantastical beasts, heavenly realms, and cataclysmic events. These visions and messages both intrigue and challenge believers, inviting us to consider the mysteries of the end times.

God’s prophecy doesn’t only refer to the future. Within Revelation, God calls believers in every generation to worship, to be faithful, and to stand firm against persecution and oppression.

Therefore, the two witnesses in Revelation 11 reveal a future event and inspire us today.

When Do the Two Witnesses Appear in Revelation 11?

The context for the appearance of the two witnesses is set amidst the visionary account of the apostle John, who is given a revelation of future events by Jesus Christ Himself (Revelation 1:1).

Revelation begins with seven messages to seven different churches, contemporary to John. Then, the scene shifts to heaven, where angels, creatures, and elders surround God and worship him. God holds a scroll with seven seals, and only Jesus is worthy to open those seals. With the breaking of each seal, epic events unfold, disturbing and building to the seventh seal, when seven trumpets begin to sound. The trumpets announce and bring destruction and death across the earth. The two witnesses appear with the seventh trumpet.

After John eats a little book from an Angel, two witnesses start to minister on the earth (Revelation 11:1-13). These two individuals are clothed in sackcloth and are granted supernatural power by God to prophesy and perform miracles for 1,260 days, or 3 and a half years.

Scholars and theologians have identities. Some suggest they represent specific individuals from biblical history, such as Moses and Elijah, due to their ability to perform miracles reminiscent of those performed by these Old Testament prophets. Others view the two witnesses as symbolic figures representing the faithful remnant of God’s people who bear witness to the gospel’s truth during intense persecution and opposition.

Regardless of their precise identity, the two witnesses powerfully testify to the world during great upheaval and chaos. Their prophetic proclamation and miraculous signs confront the forces of evil and challenge the reign of the Antichrist, who is depicted in Revelation as waging war against the saints and seeking to deceive the nations.

However, the two witnesses’ ministry eventually ends when they are killed by the Beast that rises from the bottomless pit. Their bodies lie in the streets of Jerusalem for three and a half days as the inhabitants of the earth rejoice over their demise. Yet, to the world’s astonishment, the two witnesses are resurrected and ascend to heaven in a cloud, signaling the triumph of God’s power over the forces of darkness.

Immediately after their ascension, the seventh trumpet sounds, and worship erupts again from different kingdoms and nations in heaven. Following worship, other fascinating and mysterious things occur, like the woman and the child, the war in heaven, and more revelation of the Beast and the Dragon, all leading up to the seven bowls of judgment before the Lord Jesus Christ returns.

What Do the Two Witnesses Prophesy in Revelation 11?

The message of the two witnesses is multifaceted, addressing both humanity’s wickedness and God’s sovereignty. They prophesy against the nations, warning of impending judgment and calling people to repentance (Revelation 11:3). Their message denounces idolatry, immorality, and rebellion against God, challenging the world’s allegiance to the powers and principalities that oppose the kingdom of God.

The two witnesses proclaim Christ’s coming reign and the establishment of His kingdom on earth. They testify to God’s victory over the forces of darkness and the ultimate triumph of His righteous rule (Revelation 11:15). Their message of hope and redemption stands in stark contrast to the despair and destruction wrought by the Antichrist and his followers.

The two witnesses primarily prophesy to earth’s inhabitants, whom Revelation depicts as deceived by the Antichrist and his false prophet (Revelation 13:11-18). Their message challenges the prevailing culture of wickedness and rebellion, calling people to turn away from their sins and embrace the salvation offered through faith in Christ. The people didn’t receive the truth and warning, nor did they repent.

The two witnesses testify to the overall reality of truth, persecution, and resurrection. Their courageous proclamation of the gospel inspires hope and perseverance among believers, encouraging them to remain steadfast in their commitment to Christ even during tribulation. Their martyrdom and resurrection become a symbol of this, how Jesus followers’ faithfulness will be rewarded with eternal life.

Why Does Revelation 11 Say that the Two Witnesses Wear Sackcloth?

Revelation 11 describes the two witnesses wearing sackcloth during their prophetic ministry. This attire holds significant biblical symbolism.

In ancient times, people wore sackcloth (typically made from coarse goat hair) as a sign of mourning and repentance. The Old Testament associates wearing sackcloth with expressions of grief and sorrow in times of pending national calamity or personal distress.

One prominent example in Jonah is when the prophet Jonah travels to Nineveh and delivers a message of impending judgment. In response to Jonah’s proclamation, Nineveh’s king issues a decree for the entire city to repent and turn from their violent and evil ways. He commands both humans and animals be covered in sackcloth as a sign of repentance, saying, “Let everyone turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands. Who knows? God may turn and relent and turn from his fierce anger, so that we may not perish.” (Jonah 3:8-9) God does respond to their repentance with mercy and doesn’t destroy them.

Similarly, when Queen Esther learns of Haman’s plot to destroy the Jewish people, she sends clothing to her cousin Mordecai, urging him to take off his sackcloth and ashes instead of dressing in royal robes. This symbolic act signifies a shift from mourning and despair to hope and redemption, as God intervenes to deliver His people from destruction (Esther 4:1-4, Esther 8:15).

In Revelation 11, the two witnesses wear sackcloth as a symbolic expression of mourning and repentance in the face of the coming divine judgment. Their attire serves as a visual reminder of the seriousness of the message they proclaim and the urgency of the call to repentance before God’s impending judgment. The sackcloth also manifests their humility and dependence on God as they fulfill their prophetic ministry. It reflects their recognition of human frailty and sinfulness and their acknowledgment of the need for divine mercy and forgiveness.

What Can We Learn from the Two Witnesses in Revelation 11?

We shouldn’t dismiss this story as something beyond our time or only for the future. The two witnesses’ accounts provide valuable lessons and insights for us today.

At the outset, in sackcloth, the witnesses wore a symbol of their own humility, repentance, and mourning. We must remember humility in all we do. God gives grace to the humble and resists the proud (James 4:6), and our pride sits at the root of sin, which brings destruction and death. God does call us to speak the truth to people, even to warn them of coming destruction, whether in this world or the next, but we also continually need God’s grace and salvation from judgment. We are the rescued calling others to rescue.

Sackcloth also signified mourning. The people in Revelation stood against the witnesses and rejoiced at their death, yet God still loved those individuals. When we understand how people receive the consequences for their sins, this should break our hearts, much like when Paul expressed he would be cursed in exchange for the Jews to come to faith in Christ (Romans 9:3). The Jews had persecuted him in city after city, yet he identified with their deception. He had once persecuted Christians, too, but God saved him. And he desired the Jewish salvation.

We must learn to speak the truth and speak it in love (Ephesians 4:15).

Once God calls us to speak the truth in love, we must obey boldly and without compromise, proclaiming the gospel even during persecution and opposition. Despite facing intense hostility and resistance, the two witnesses remain steadfast in their commitment to testify to the truth of God’s word and the coming judgment. Their courageous witness challenges us to stand firm in our faith and boldly declare the Gospel, regardless of the cost.

God’s power accompanies us when we stand up and speak in obedience (Matthew 28:18-20). In Revelation 11:6, we read that the two witnesses have the power to shut the sky and turn water into blood, demonstrating their supernatural authority granted by God. This miraculous power testifies to the divine enablement available to believers who trust God’s promises and seek His will in prayer.

And there will be a cost. Throughout their prophetic ministry, the two witnesses face relentless opposition and hostility from the world, yet they remain faithful to their calling until the end. Their example encourages us to persevere in the face of adversity, trusting in God’s faithfulness and the promise of reward if we endure to the end.

The fate of the two witnesses reminds us of God’s ultimate victory over the forces of darkness. Despite being killed by the beast, their resurrection and ascension to heaven signify the triumph of God’s power and the assurance of eternal life for those who remain faithful. This brings us hope and encouragement when facing hardship. The sovereign God fulfills his promises and brings justice and redemption in the end.

As we seek to follow their example, may we remain steadfast in our faith, boldly proclaiming the truth of God’s word and trusting in his power to overcome every obstacle in our path.


Photo Credit:© Sixteenth-century illustration from the Augsburg Book of Miracles via Wikimedia Commons.

Britt MooneyBritt Mooney lives and tells great stories. As an author of fiction and non -iction, he is passionate about teaching ministries and nonprofits the power of storytelling to inspire and spread truth. Mooney has a podcast called Kingdom Over Coffee and is a published author of We Were Reborn for This: The Jesus Model for Living Heaven on Earth as well as Say Yes: How God-Sized Dreams Take Flight.

This article is part of our larger End Times Resource Library. Learn more about the rapture, the anti-christ, bible prophecy and the tribulation with articles that explain Biblical truths. You do not need to fear or worry about the future!

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