Two Witness

The number two appears in the book of Revelation in association with the two witnesses (Rev. Rev. 11:3+, Rev. 11:10+) who are the “two olive trees and two lampstands standing before the God of the earth” (Rev. Rev. 11:4+). These witnesses (μάτυσιν [matysin] from μάρτυς [martys] from which we derive martyr), furnish a testimony (μαρτυρίαν [martyrian] ) of the power and judgment of God to a rejecting world. They serve as witnesses both before and after their death: by the miraculous powers which God grants them while living (Rev. Rev. 11:5-6+) and by their subsequent resurrection which causes great fear to fall on those who see them rise (Rev. Rev. 11:11+).

The basis for two as the number of witness is found in the Law of Moses which prescribes that judgments be made on the basis of at least two witnesses (Num. Num. 35:30; Deu. Deu. 17:6; Deu. 19:5; 1K. 1K. 21:10 cf. Mtt. Mat. 18:16; 2Cor. 2Cor. 13:1).

God, Who can swear by no other, frequently employs the two witnesses of ‘heaven and earth’ to underscore His promises (Deu. Deu. 4:26; Deu. 30:19; Ps. Ps. 50:4; Isa. Isa. 1:2) as did Moses (Deu. Deu. 31:28; Deu. 32:1).1 The two-fold use of God’s created order as a witness is found within a frequently misunderstood passage in the book of Revelation where a sign consisting of “a women clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet” [emphasis added] (Rev. Rev. 12:1+) appears. Here, the ordinances of the sun and moon serve as witnesses to the promises which God makes elsewhere to this woman: that the nation of Israel (Jer. Jer. 31:35-36) and the Davidic throne (Ps. Ps. 89:35-37; Jer. Jer. 33:20-22) will never cease to exist before Him.

Throughout the New Testament, reference is made to “the law and the prophets” as the two-fold witness against those who reject God (Mtt. Mat. 5:17; Mat. 7:12; Mat. 11:13; Mat. 22:40; Luke Luke 16:16; Luke 24:44; John John 1:45; Acts Acts 13:15; Acts 24:14; Acts 28:23; Rom. Rom. 3:21). For example, Paul states: “But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets” [emphasis added] (Rom. Rom. 3:21). The importance of this witness is emphasized in Jesus’ teaching concerning the rich man and Lazarus in Luke Luke 16:1. When the rich man, tormented in hades, appealed to Abraham to warn his five brothers to avoid his fate, Abraham responds:

Abraham said to him, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.’ And he said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ But he said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.’ (Luke Luke 16:29-31)

It is no accident that it is Moses (representing the law) and Elijah (representing the prophets) who appear with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration (Mtt. Mat. 17:3; Mark Mark 9:4; Luke Luke 9:30). Many have noted the similarity between the miraculous activities of the two witnesses of Revelation Rev. 11:1+ and those of Moses and Elijah recorded in the Old Testament. Regardless of the actual identity of the two Revelation witnesses (see commentary on Rev. Rev. 11:3-13+), the similarity of their ministry to that of Moses and Elijah seems intended to underscore their role as witnesses to the law and the prophets.

Within the “unholy trinity” of the Beast, the False Prophet, and Satan, it is significant that there are two human personages: the two beasts which rise from the sea and the earth, respectively (Rev. Rev. 13:1+, Rev. 13:11+). These two men stand as witnesses to the depravity of man, as empowered by Satan. Both are beasts, both rise from distinct human populations (the sea being a reference to Gentile nations and the earth a possible reference to the Jewish nation). The second beast has two horns which may emphasize his special role as a witness to the first beast, to whom he directs the attention and worship of those who dwell upon the earth.


1 Significantly, Gen. 1:1) which thereafter were available to serve as “witnesses” of all that would follow.