On the Testimony of Two Witnesses
A Preterist Commentary on Revelation 11–Who are the Two Witnesses?: Summary and Highlights
In the following Preterist Bible commentary on Revelation 11, the reader will be exposed to shocking and compelling Biblical and historical evidence of the historical identity of the two witnesses. According to Revelation 11, the two witnesses were to prophesy openly for 1260 days while stopping the rain during the time in which they were prophesying. These two men were then to be killed by the beast and refused burial. Interestingly, all of the above details are corroborated in first century Roman records concerning Israel’s war with Rome. Though history confirms these prophecies, some questions must be answered. Why is it that in Revelation 11:4, the two witnesses are called “the two olive trees . . . that stand before the Lord of the earth.” According to Zechariah 4:11-14, the two olive trees that stand before the Lord are the king and high priest. Furthermore, why is it that in the original manuscripts, the Bible uses the singular tense when describing the deaths of the two witnesses in v. 9? Is there an error in the Bible, or is there more to the identity of the two witnesses than meets the eye? Who were the two witnesses?
The following may seem unbelievable. However, all information is taken from unbiased historical records and is easily verifiable. Sources listed at the end.
On the Testimony of Two Witnesses
A Realized Eschatology Interpretation and Commentary of Revelation 11: Who are the Two Witnesses in Revelation?
There was once a man who prophesied for three and a half years,1 was hated by the Jewish elite,2 was flogged by a Roman procurator “yet he did not open his mouth,”3 and was killed on Passover. Based on this description, who is the first person to come to mind?
If you answered Jesus, you are correct. But I am not speaking of the life of Jesus as it is recorded in the gospels. I am speaking of what could be the post-resurrected Jesus who may have made a brief reappearance at the Feast of Tabernacles in A.D. 62. After Jesus’ resurrection, he appeared to Mary looking like a farmer or gardener (John 20:15). Similarly, a farmer or husbandman named Jesus the son of Ananus haunted Israel with powerful warnings of impending doom before the arrival of the Roman army. Was Jesus the son of Ananus Jesus Christ?
Revelation 11 Commentary Intro: A Word of Caution . . .
In the remainder of this commentary on Revelation 11, I present historical evidence that Jesus the son of Ananus is the two witnesses of Revelation 11. It appears to me that there can be no better candidate for the two witnesses than this man as he seems to fulfill perhaps all the predictions concerning this figure or figures as described in the text.
Though Jesus the son of Ananus appears to have historically fulfilled the prophecies concerning the two witnesses in Revelation 11, this fact presents a possible conundrum. Revelation 10 and 11 imply that the two witnesses are Jesus Christ. Though the Book of Revelation never explicitly identifies the two witnesses as Jesus Christ it does provide many subtle clues throughout these two chapters that all point to this idea. When the collective whole of the evidence is weighed and considered, the idea that Jesus Christ is the two witnesses seems to me to be very compelling.
In the commentary below I ask the question, was Jesus the son of Ananus Jesus Christ? If he was, then this certainly would explain how one man could be two witnesses (John 8:18). But before addressing this question I believe that it is wise to exercise some caution. Strong claims require strong evidence. No amount of historical evidence will ever be sufficient to claim with one hundred percent certainty that Jesus Christ and Jesus the son of Ananus are one and the same. That having been said the historical and Biblical evidence presented in the remainder of this commentary will explore this question. Regardless of the amount of evidence in favor of the fact that these two men are the same being, I wish to caution my audience. If one boldly claims that Jesus the son of Ananus is or was Jesus Christ and they are wrong, then this person is arguably guilty of idolatry in raising a mere man to divine status. If one inflexibly asserts that Jesus the son of Ananus is or was not Jesus Christ and he or she is wrong, then this person is potentially guilty of blasphemy in denying Christ’s divinity. Therefore, one should refrain from inflexibility and dogmatism whether for or against this idea. A healthy degree of open-mindedness and skepticism is certainly prudent while examining the evidence.
Revelation 11 Commentary Intro: Does Revelation 10:1-5 suggest that Jesus Christ is the Two Witnesses?
The chapter breaks in the Bible were not in the original manuscripts. These breaks were added later to make it easy to quickly locate a verse. Thus Revelation 10 and 11 should not be thought of as separate chapters but rather as a continuous narrative. This is especially warranted because Revelation 10 offers clues to the identity of the two witnesses described in Revelation 11.
In the introductory verses of Revelation 10 John sees a vision of an angel crowned with divine attributes. As explained in detail in the preterist commentary on Revelation 10:1-2, this is angel is Christ, the angel of the Lord. In Revelation 10:5 Christ, the angel of the Lord, raises his right hand to heaven. Preterist author David Chilton correctly points out that “this is the proper stance for a witness in the court of law.” He then illustrates this fact by citing Genesis 14:22, Exodus 6:8, Deuteronomy 32:40, Ezekiel 20:5-6 and Daniel 12:7.4 Is the angel of this vision the two witnesses of Revelation 11?
Isbon Beckwith correctly notes that “almost every one of the fourteen places where the name Jesus is used in the book [of Revelation] it is in connection with the office of witnessing or revealing.”5 This is true. Jesus is said to testify, bear witness or be a witness in Revelation 1:2, 1:5, 1:9, 12:17, 19:10, 20:4, 22:16, and 22:20. Furthermore, in Revelation 1:5 and 3:14 Jesus, the angel of Revelation 10, is called the faithful witness. Jesus Christ is called the faithful witness twice in the Book of Revelation. Is the fact that Christ is called a witness twice in the Book of Revelation a subtle hint that Jesus is the two witnesses of Revelation 11? Interestingly, in Isaiah 55:3-4, the Messiah, the son of David, appears to be addressed as a witness: “I will make an everlasting covenant with you, my faithful love promised to David. See, I have made him a witness to the peoples, a ruler and commander of the peoples [emphasis mine].” God and His anointed are also called witnesses in 1 Samuel 12:5, Jeremiah 29:23, Jeremiah 42:5, Micah 1:2 and Malachi 2:14.6
Christ’s identity as the two witnesses is also implied in Revelation 10:1. In this verse, Jesus’ two legs are pictured as pillars of fire. According to Genesis 31:45, 52; Deuteronomy 27:1-8; Joshua 8:30-35; Joshua 22:26-28, 34; and Joshua 24:26-27 pillars are used in the Bible to represent witnesses.7 If pillars represent witnesses in the Bible, why are Jesus’ two legs depicted as pillars? Perhaps Jesus is symbolically portrayed in this way in order to depict Christ as the sole embodiment of the two witnesses?
Revelation 11 Commentary Intro: The Gospel of John also suggests that Jesus is the Two Witnesses.
Additional evidence that Jesus is the two witnesses is found in the Gospels. In John 12:49-50 Jesus says, “For I did not speak on my own, but the Father who sent me commanded me to say all that I have spoken. . . . So whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say.” In John 8:13-18 Jesus echoes John 12:49-50 while calling attention to the fact that because He speaks the words of the Father His testimony is that of two witnesses. John 8:13-18 reads,
“The Pharisees challenged him, “Here you are, appearing as your own witness; your testimony is not valid.” Jesus answered, “Even if I testify on my own behalf, my testimony is valid, for I know where I came from and where I am going. . . . But if I do judge, my decisions are true, because I am not alone. I stand with the Father, who sent me. In your own Law it is written that the testimony of two witnesses is true. I am one who testifies for myself; my other witness is the Father, who sent me.”8
Additional evidence that Jesus Christ is the two witnesses will be raised as it appears in the verse-by-verse commentary below. But before addressing more of this evidence let us now turn our attention to Jesus the son of Ananus. The following is written about him in The Wars of the Jews:
[T]here was one Jesus, the son of Ananus, a plebeian and a husbandman, who, four years before the war began, and at a time when the city was in very great peace and prosperity, came to that feast whereon it is our custom for everyone to make tabernacles to God in the temple, began on a sudden to cry aloud, “A voice from the east, a voice from the west, a voice from the four winds, a voice against Jerusalem and the holy house, a voice against the bridegroom and the bride, and a voice against this whole people!” This was his cry, as he went about by day and by night, in all the lanes of the city. However, certain of the most eminent among the populace had great indignation at this dire cry of his, and took up the man, and gave him a great number of severe stripes; yet did not he either say anything for himself, or anything peculiar to those that chastised him, but still went on with the same words which he cried before. Hereupon our rulers, supposing, as the case proved to be, that this was a sort of divine fury in the man, brought him to the Roman procurator, where he was whipped till his bones were laid bare; yet he did not make any supplication for himself, nor shed any tears, but turning his voice to the most lamentable tone possible, at every stroke of the whip his answer was, “Woe, woe to Jerusalem!” And when Albinus (for he was then our procurator) asked him who he was, and whence he came, and why he uttered such words; he made no manner of reply to what he said, but still did not leave off his melancholy ditty, till Albinus took him to be a madman, and dismissed him. Now, during all the time that passed before the war began, this man did not go near any of the citizens, nor was seen by them while he said so; but he every day uttered these lamentable words, as if it were his premeditated vow, “Woe, woe to Jerusalem!” Nor did he give ill words to any of those that beat him every day, nor good words to those that gave him food; but this was his reply to all men, and indeed no other than a melancholy presage of what was to come. This cry of his was the loudest at the festivals; and he continued this ditty for seven years and five months, without growing hoarse, or being tired therewith, until the very time that he saw his presage in earnest fulfilled in our siege, when it ceased; for as he was going round upon the wall, he cried out with his utmost force, “Woe, woe to the city again, and to the people, and to the holy house!” And just as he added at the last, “Woe, woe to myself also!” there came a stone out of one of the engines, and smote him, and killed him immediately; and as he was uttering the very same presages he gave up the ghost.9
There are several things that must be highlighted concerning this man. First of all, his name is Jesus; and like Jesus Christ, he is seen preaching for a period of three and a half years. Modern church tradition teaches that Jesus’ ministry lasted three and a half years. If it was exactly three and a half years, that would suggest that Jesus Christ, like the Jesus mentioned above, also began to preach on the Feast of Tabernacles. Josephus says, “Now, during all the time that passed before the war began, this man did not go near any of the citizens, nor was seen by them.” Here Josephus suggests that Jesus the son of Ananus was not seen for four years from the Feast of Tabernacles in A.D. 62, when he made his initial appearance, to the Feast of Tabernacles in A.D. 66, when the war began. Josephus then says:
[H]e continued this ditty for seven years and five months . . . until the very time that he saw his presage in earnest fulfilled in our siege, when it ceased; for as he was going round upon the wall, he cried out with his utmost force, “Woe, woe to the city again, and to the people, and to the holy house!” And just as he added at the last, “Woe, woe to myself also!” there came a stone out of one of the engines, and smote him, and killed him immediately.
Josephus seems to contradict himself in this verse. Josephus indicates that Jesus began his ministry at the Feast of Tabernacles in A.D. 62 and continued until he was killed at the start of the siege of Jerusalem in Passover of A.D. 70. This is a period of seven years and six months, not seven years and five months as Josephus states above.10 And since this man was not seen by anyone for four years until the start of the war, that means–like Jesus11 and the two witnesses of this chapter–this man preached for three and a half years.
Revelation 11 Commentary Intro: Did Christ return during the Jewish War?
The similarities between Jesus Christ, Jesus the son of Ananus, and the two witnesses do not end here. Like Jesus Christ who was hated by the religious elite (John 11:47-53), so too was Jesus son of Ananus: “certain of the most eminent among the populace had great indignation at this dire cry of his, and took up the man, and gave him a great number of severe stripes.” Though people heard his cries, Jesus the son of Ananus stayed away from populated areas for four years in much the same way that Jesus Christ did throughout much of His ministry. After healing a leper in the beginning of Mark’s Gospel, “Jesus could no longer enter a town openly but stayed outside in lonely places.”12 As already indicated, both men were brought before the procurator and flogged; and in the same way that Jesus Christ did not answer His accusers according to Matthew 27:11-14,13 neither did Jesus the son of Ananus: “And when Albinus (for he was then our procurator) asked him who he was, and whence he came, and why he uttered such words; he made no manner of reply to what he said. . . .” Furthermore, both men died on Passover for it was then that Titus began his siege of Jerusalem; and Jesus the son of Ananus “gave up the ghost.”
Revelation 11 Preterist Commentary Intro: Revelation 17:1-3 Implies that the Judgment coming at the End of the Age was the Result of the Releasing of the Four Winds. The Fact that Jesus the Son of Ananus Claims to be “A Voice From the Four Winds” Strongly Suggests that He is the Two Witnesses.
Josephus records Jesus the son of Ananus saying, “A voice from the east, a voice from the west, a voice from the four winds, a voice against Jerusalem and the holy house, a voice against the bridegroom and the bride, and a voice against this whole people!” [Emphasis mine.] The fact that this man says, “[A] voice from the four winds[!]” Seems to be an allusion to Revelation 7:1-3:14
After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth to prevent any wind from blowing on the land or on the sea or on any tree. Then I saw another angel coming up from the east, having the seal of the living God. He called out in a loud voice to the four angels who had been given power to harm the land and the sea: “Do not harm the land or the sea or the trees until we put a seal on the foreheads of the servants of our God.”
Revelation 7:1-3 implies that the judgment that would soon come upon Jerusalem in Revelation was to come by way of the releasing of the four winds.15 Thus if Jesus the son of Ananus truly is a “voice from the four winds” as he purports, this fact depicts him as a witness to these divine agents thus strongly suggesting that he is the two witnesses of this chapter.
Revelation 11 Preterist Commentary Intro: Could the Voice Against the Bridegroom be a Reference to Jesus Christ (Revelation 21:2)? And Could This Point to Jesus the Son of Ananus’ Untimely Death Wherein He States, “Woe, Woe to Myself Also!”
I believe the quote above may also imply that Jesus the son of Ananus is Jesus. In the quote cited above, Jesus son of Ananus says, “[A] voice against the bridegroom and the bride[.]” In Revelation 21:2 Jesus is presented as the bridegroom of the saints who are depicted as His bride. The woe pronounced to the bride, the saints, is probably an allusion to the persecution which was afflicting the saints at the time of this pronouncement. The woe to the bridegroom, Jesus Christ, would appear to me to refer to the ultimate fate of Jesus the son of Ananus himself when upon being killed by a stone launched by a Roman catapult he says, “Woe, woe to myself also!”
Revelation 11 Commentary Intro: If Jesus had no Human Father, What was his Surname?
If Jesus the son of Ananus is Jesus Christ, why the peculiar surname? As the Son of God, Jesus does not have a biological father according to the gospels. Because Jesus could not be properly identified in the traditional Jewish way with His first name followed by the name of His father, perhaps Jesus adopted the surname “son of Ananus” in order to convey a message?
Revelation 11 Commentary Intro: The Surname “Son of Ananus” Points to the High Priesthood.
Ananus was the name of the high priest from A.D. 6-15 and was a kind of perpetual high priest who held the title even after completing his term in office seemingly without precedence. It would seem that this title stuck because Ananus’ son-in-law and five sons were also appointed high priest after him and similarly preserved their titles after completing their terms. Because five of Ananus’ sons had become high priest, during the middle of the first century the surname “son of Ananus” had almost become synonymous with the high priesthood. Perhaps in adopting this surname, Jesus Christ intended to send a subtle message identifying himself as the true perpetual high priest since according to Hebrews 7:24 Jesus “has a permanent [high] priesthood.”
Revelation 11 Commentary Intro: The High Priest Ananus Son of Ananus Killed James, Jesus Christ’s Biological Brother, at the Start of Jesus the Son of Ananus’ Ministry.
It is interesting to note that Caiaphas the high priest largely responsible for Jesus Christ’s execution according to John 11:45-53 was Ananus’ son-in-law. Furthermore, Ananus’ fifth and last son to become high priest was Ananus the son of Ananus. While serving as high priest, Ananus the son of Ananus was most directly responsible for the murder of Jesus’ biological brother James in A.D. 63.16 Perhaps it is not a coincidence that Jesus the son of Ananus began his ministry at around the time of James’ death. James was not only the leading pillar of the Christian church in Jerusalem at the time of his death, he was also Jesus Christ’s biological brother. Was the death of James the final straw that brought about the coming judgment that Jesus had so often warned about in the gospels?
After describing the martyrdom of James, Eusebius says the following:
So remarkable a person must James have been, so universally esteemed for righteousness, that even the more intelligent Jew felt that this was why his martyrdom was immediately followed by the siege of Jerusalem, which happened to them for no other reason than the wicked crime of which he had been the victim. And indeed Josephus did not hesitate to write this down in many words: ‘These things happened to the Jews in requital for James the Righteous, who was a brother of Jesus known as Christ, for though he was the most righteous of men, the Jews put him to death.’17
Perhaps Jesus’ outrage over the unjust murder of His brother matched or exceeded that of many of the other righteous people of that city leading Him to reveal himself at that time to warn of the coming judgment? And perhaps He adopted the last name of the man most responsible for his brother’s murder in order to imply that He is the true high priest?
A Preterist View of Revelation 11: The High Priest Ananus Son of Ananus has been Proposed as One of the Two Witnesses Despite His Infamous Character and the Fact that He Had Many Christians Put to Death. The Most Noteworthy being James, Jesus Christ’s Biological Brother, Who was also the Head of the Christian Church in Jerusalem.
It is interesting to note that the high priest Ananus the son of Ananus has been proposed as a possible candidate for one of the two witnesses. This is shocking since the two witnesses–if nothing else–should be regarded as righteous men. However, as stated above, Ananus the son of the Ananus had Jesus’ biological brother James alongside other Christians in Jerusalem unjustly put to death. This is a horrendous sin as Jesus’ brother James, nicknamed James the Just, was the leader of the church in Jerusalem according to early church tradition in addition to being a man widely respected and revered for his saintly character. As cited above, the Church historian Eusebius believes that it was because of this crime that the Jews suffered during the Jewish War. And Eusebius appears to be largely correct in his assessment as the Whore of Babylon symbolizing adulterous Jerusalem is depicted holding a goblet full of the blood of the saints in Revelation 17:3-6 presumably as a symbol of the crime for which she is punished (see the preterist commentary on Revelation 17). Thus here we have Ananus son of Ananus guilty of the sin of the Whore of Babylon and yet he is to be considered a possible candidate for one of the two witnesses? Josephus writes the following in Antiquities of the Jews concerning the death of James alongside some of his Christian companions:
But this younger Ananus, who, as we have told you already, took the high priesthood, was a bold man in his temper, and very insolent; he was also of the sect of the Sadducees, who are very rigid in judging offenders, above all the rest of the Jews, as we have already observed; when, therefore, Ananus was of this disposition, he thought he had now a proper opportunity [to exercise his authority]. Festus was now dead, and Albinus was but upon the road; so he assembled the sanhedrim of judges, and brought before them the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, whose name was James, and some others, [or, some of his companions]; and when he had formed an accusation against them as breakers of the law, he delivered them to be stoned: but as for those who seemed the most equitable of the citizens, and such as were the most uneasy at the breach of the laws, they disliked what was done; they also sent to the king [Agrippa], desiring him to send to Ananus that he should act so no more, for that what he had already done was not to be justified; nay, some of them went also to meet Albinus, as he was upon his journey from Alexandria, and informed him that it was not lawful for Ananus to assemble a sanhedrim without his consent. Whereupon Albinus complied with what they said, and wrote in anger to Ananus, and threatened that he would bring him to punishment for what he had done; on which king Agrippa took the high priesthood from him, when he had ruled but three months, and made Jesus, the son of Damneus, high priest.18
Revelation 11 Commentary Intro: Jesus’ Physical Presence in Jerusalem as Jesus the Son of Ananus is Implied by the Greek Word Parousia.
As surprising as it may sound that Jesus Christ might have been physically present in Jerusalem during the Jewish War, this shock should be alleviated by the way in which the second coming is labelled in the New Testament.19 Whenever the second coming is mentioned the word that is often used to identify this event is the Greek word parousia. Parousia is a word used to denote the arrival of a conquering general, emperor or high-ranking official into a city. The word connotes a coming into with an extended presence of an official in a city. When people think of the “second coming” or parousia, they often picture a one-time, brief appearance of Christ on the clouds. If that is all that the second coming or parousia was then parousia is a strangely inaccurate way to label this event. The word parousia implies that a king or high ranking official will appear outside and then subsequently enter a city often for a somewhat lengthy period of time. Given the fact that the New Testament uses parousia to describe the second coming, it should not be surprising that after Christ was seen on the clouds outside of Jerusalem in A.D. 66, at the start of the Jewish War, that He later may have entered Jerusalem in the flesh and stayed for three and a half years. See Jesus, the Son of Man, was LITERALLY Seen in the Clouds in A.D. 66 and Historical Evidence that Jesus, the Son of Man, was LITERALLY SEEN in the Clouds in the First Century.
Revelation 11 Commentary Intro: Two Witnesses in the Sky. . .
Following the procession of the zodiac, the constellation Gemini, the twins, precedes the coming of the six constellations used by John in Revelation 9 to symbolize the five month siege of Jerusalem. And just as the two men of Gemini precede these signs of the coming war, two witnesses warned the people of Israel for forty-two months before the attack on Jerusalem. For an explanation of how Revelation sometimes employs the zodiac which is iconic, stereotypical ancient Babylonian imagery to communicate inevitable judgments on spiritual Babylon in signs and omens that spiritual Babylon could and should have understood see the brief introduction to the commentary on Revelation 12.
As stated in Revelation 9: A Preterist Commentary–Who is Apollyon?, the locusts in Revelation 9 withhold their assault until the seventh trumpet. At the end of Revelation 11 the seventh trumpet is blown. But before the sounding of the final trumpet, there is a pause in John’s vision. In Revelation 8, John describes how the Romans destroyed city after city throughout the Israeli countryside. Then in Revelation 9, John foresaw the mobilization of Roman reinforcements heading for Jerusalem. Revelation 11:1-6 reveals what happened in Jerusalem during these forty-two months of strife. During this time, two men symbolized in the sky by the Gemini twins warned Jerusalem of the coming disaster. According to the Law of Moses, the testimony of two witnesses is required to put a man to death (Deuteronomy 17:6). Thus on the testimony of these two witnesses, the people of Jerusalem are marked for slaughter.
A Covenant Eschatology Exposition and Commentary of Revelation 11: Having the Power and Spirit of both Moses and Elijah, the Two Witnesses Embody the Law and the Prophets—the Word of God.
According to v. 6 these two have the power to turn water into blood and strike the land with every kind of plague. The plagues mentioned in this verse are the plagues of Exodus unleashed throughout the course of the Jewish War as shown repeatedly throughout this commentary on Revelation. Here one can see how these witnesses display the power of Moses.20 And just as Moses was given a prophet, his brother Aaron, these two witnesses also have prophetic power (Exodus 7:1). In v. 5 they exhibit the power of Elijah, who in 2 Kings 1:10 called down fire from heaven. Then like Elijah, they stop the sky from raining for three and a half years (1Kings 17:1, Luke 4:25). Furthermore, at the end of their ministry the two witnesses are raised to heaven in v. 12 as was Elijah in 2 Kings 2:1-12 and Moses according to The Assumption of Moses and later rabbinic tradition.21
During the transfiguration in Mark 9:2-8, Jesus appeared in a glorified form amidst Moses and Elijah. Could Jesus’ presence amidst that of Moses and Elijah be a sign that the lives of these two men served as prophetic types ultimately pointing to Christ? This is the implicit message conveyed in Acts 3:22. Here Peter identifies Christ as a kind of Moses who is to come. Peter does this by quoting Moses’ words in Deuteronomy 18:15 and 18 and applying it to Jesus: “The Lord God will raise up for you a prophet like me [Moses] from your brethren; to him you shall give heed to everything he says to you.” Not only is Jesus compared to Moses in Acts 3:22 like the two witnesses in Revelation 11:6, Jesus, like the two witnesses, is also identified as a prophet in this verses as is also the case in Luke 24:19: “About Jesus of Nazareth,” they [the disciples] replied. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people [emphasis mine].” Interestingly, these two witnesses, having the power and spirit of both Moses and Elijah, together embody the Law and the Prophets. Before there was an official Bible, the Holy Scriptures were called the Law and the Prophets. The Law and the Prophets is the Word of God–a title given to Jesus in John 1.22
In alignment with the likelihood that Moses and Elijah were prophetic types pointing to Christ, could this vision of Jesus beside Moses and Elijah be a sign that throughout Jesus’ ministry He worked in the power and spirit of Moses and Elijah in the same way that John the Baptist worked through the spirit and power of Elijah? In Mark 9:4 Jesus is seen speaking with Moses and Elijah. Could this discourse be a brief glimpse of the possibility that Moses and Elijah guided Jesus and worked behind the scenes not just at that moment but throughout His entire ministry? And if they did, could it not then be said that Jesus acted in the power and spirit of Moses and Elijah during His ministry recorded in the Gospels? And if Jesus worked by the power and spirit of Moses and Elijah during the initial aspect of His ministry, would it not stand to reason that the same would be true during Jesus’ corporal ministry as the two witnesses at the time of the Jewish War?
In the Mosaic Law, there is a list of over twenty curses that would befall Israel if they ever turned away from God. Every curse listed in Deuteronomy 28 has recorded fulfillment in the Jewish War, some multiple times over.23 Likewise, almost every prophet from Isaiah to Malachi wrote of the end times. In quoting so abundantly from the Old Testament, it is the author of Revelation’s intention to show the reader that almost every significant event in Jewish history was a symbol of the climax at the end of the age.24 These two witnesses act as God’s reminder to the people. This chapter tells their story.
1I was given a reed like a measuring rod and was told, “Go and measure the temple of God and the altar, and count the worshippers there. 2But exclude the outer court; do not measure it, because it has been given to the Gentiles. They will trample on the holy city for 42 months.
Revelation 11:2 Preterist Commentary: Forty-Two Months of War . . .
Following the precedence set in the Book of Ezekiel regarding the Babylonian invasion, John is told to measure the Temple as an angel had done in Ezekiel 40. This temple and its measurements are described in Revelation 21. Though a literal description of heaven, the New Jerusalem of Revelation 21 is also a symbol of the church, the new temple of God (2 Corinthians 6:16).
If the trampling of the holy city in v. 2 is to be understood as a literal, physical presence in Jerusalem for forty-two months, then the Gentiles that trample this city may refer to apostate Jews. The outer court of the temple was called the court of the Gentiles. Here non-Jews were permitted to enter, but under no circumstances were they allowed inside the Temple itself. Under God’s new covenant, the Christian church represents the new temple. Therefore, the Gentiles in the outer court here may refer to the people of Jerusalem who were not Christian. In Romans 11 Israel is symbolized by a cultivated olive tree in which some of the natural branches, the unbelieving Jews, are pruned off the tree of Israel and some wild branches symbolizing believing Gentiles are grafted into the tree representing Israel. Thus Romans 11 depicts Gentile Christians as Israel and apostate Jews are depicted as Gentile. These Jews were only permitted in the holy city for 42 months. This 42 month interval seems to correspond with the arrival of Vespasian in the early spring of A.D. 67 to the fall of Jerusalem in September of A.D. 70, approximately 42 months later. It is also possible that the author of Revelation is speaking of the 42 months between the arrival of Cestius and the twelfth legion at Jerusalem during the Feast of Tabernacles in A.D. 66 to the actual start of the Roman attack on Jerusalem in Passover of A.D. 70, exactly forty two months later.25
If the trampling of the holy city in v. 2 is to be understood figuratively, then the “Gentiles” of v. 2 may be the Romans. Though the Roman siege of Jerusalem only lasted five months, recall as stated above that the Roman offensive under the Flavians seems to have lasted forty-two. Rabbinic tradition confirms the fact that Titus and Vespasian assaulted Israel for 42 months or three and a half years in the Midrash Rabbah Lamentations 1.31 and 1.40. According to the Midrash Rabbah Lamentations 1.31 and 1.40, Vespasian was expected to be punished in Gehenna for three and a half years because that was the length of time in which he besieged Israel. Kenneth Gentry notes that “to tread underfoot” is a figurative expression denoting military conquest or defeat:
In the ancient world military conquest was often expressed by images of putting one’s enemy under his feet (2Sam. 22:38-39; 1 Kgs. 5:3; Ps 18:38; 47:3; Lam 3:34), or making the enemy a footstool (Ps 110:1; Lk 20:43; Ac 2:25), or trampling him into the dust (Ps 7:5; 44:5; 56:1-2; 57:3; Is 10:6; 14:25).26
Perhaps the trampling of the holy city in v. 2 denotes the total conquest of Israel under the Flavians which culminated in the conquest of Jerusalem in the final five months of this three and a half year assault?
It is perhaps also possible that the trampling of Jerusalem by the Gentiles refers to the conquest and subsequent occupation of Jerusalem during and after the siege of Jerusalem by the Romans beginning at the point in which the army broke into or conquered the city in A.D. 70. Luke 21:20-24 uses similar language as that found in v. 2 in referring to the breaking of the Roman army into Jerusalem immediately before its subsequent fall in A.D. 70:
“When you see Jerusalem being surrounded by armies, you will know that its desolation is near. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those in the city get out, and let those in the country not enter the city. For this is the time of punishment in fulfillment of all that has been written. How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! There will be great distress in the land and wrath against this people. They will fall by the sword and will be taken as prisoners to all the nations. Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.
Notice that Luke 21:24 implies that Jerusalem is trampled upon by the Gentiles during and after the siege of Jerusalem, not before it. Interestingly, after Jerusalem was conquered by the Romans the tenth legion was subsequently stationed in the city as a guard.27 Hence the Gentiles truly did trample on the city of Jerusalem during its conquest and after its fall.
3And I will give power to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth.
Preterism Explained and Interpreted, A Commentary of Revelation 11:3: Jesus the Son of Ananus Prophesied Openly for 1,260 Days.
1260 days or forty-two months is three years and six months according to the Hebrew prophetic solar calendar in which each year is 360 days. This verse is one of several verses in the Bible in which a 360 day year is implied (Genesis 7:11,24; 8:3-4; Esther 1:4). However, to call this 360 day year the Hebrew prophetic solar calendar as it is often called is a misnomer. The Egyptians and Babylonians both charted time using a 360 day solar calendar. And because the Jews spent considerable time in both nation states, it is not surprising that this calendar was occasionally used and thus surfaces at times in the Bible. But why is this 360 day Egyptian and Babylonian calendar used in the Book of Revelation? The reason is soon to be clarified in Revelation 11:8 and Revelation 17. As will be explained in detail in the commentary on these verses, Jerusalem is spiritually called Egypt in Revelation 11:8 and Babylon in Revelation 17 and 18. Thus the fact that John uses the Egyptian and Babylonian calendar to predict the future of Jerusalem in this verse reinforces this theme of labeling Jerusalem these epithets.
By modern reckoning this 360 day solar year is three years and five months, the interval between the arrival of Cestius and the Roman army at Jerusalem in Tishri of A.D. 66 to Passover of A.D. 70 when the Romans began their assault on Jerusalem and Jesus the son of Ananus was killed. During this time, Jesus son of Ananus warned that the current war would soon make its way to Jerusalem. As explained in detail above, Jesus the son of Ananus prophesied openly for 1260 days. This 1260 day interval spans the time of the arrival of the Roman army at Jerusalem during the Feast of Tabernacles in A.D. 66 to the beginning of the siege of Jerusalem in Passover of A.D. 70 when Jesus was killed by the Romans, approximately 1260 days later.28
Revelation 11:3 says that the two witnesses prophesied in sackcloth. Sackcloth was the clothing of prophets (Zechariah 13:4, 2 Kings 1:8) and mourners (Ester 4:3, Daniel 9:3, John 3:6). Can one think of a more suitable garment for a prophet like Jesus son of Ananus whose incessant chant immediately before the fall of Jerusalem was “Woe, woe to Jerusalem!”?
4These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth.
A Preterist Interpretation, Exposition and Commentary of Revelation 11:4: Revelation 11:4 is a Clear Reference to Zechariah 4:11-14 in which the Two Olive Trees and Lampstand Symbolize the King, High Priest, and Temple. Therefore, the Two Witnesses Appear to be One Man Jesus Christ Who is King and High Priest (Hebrews 5:10; 7:1) and Temple (John 2:19-21).
The olive trees and lampstands of Revelation 11:4 are a direct reference to the olive trees and lampstand of Zechariah 4. In Zechariah 4, Zechariah sees a vision of two olive trees beside a lampstand. In Zechariah 4:11-14, the two olive trees are said to symbolize “two anointed ones” who are clearly identified in Zechariah 3 and 4 as Zerubbabel and Joshua–the king and high priest respectively. Like the two olive trees of Zechariah 4:11-14 which are said to represent the king and high priest, Jesus is also identified as king and high priest (Hebrews 5:10; 7:1). Hebrews 5:10 says that Jesus “was designated by God to be high priest in the order of Melchizedek.” “This Melchizedek was king of Salem and priest of God Most High (Hebrews 7:1).” By saying that Jesus is a high priest in the order of Melchizedek means that Jesus is both king and high priest. Therefore, having inherited the Father’s heavenly kingdom, Jesus Christ is both high priest and king and thus appears to be represented by the two olive trees in Revelation 11:4 following the precedent set in Zechariah 4:11-14.
The lampstand in between the two olive trees in Zechariah 4 appears to symbolize the second Temple.29 The fact that the lampstand symbolizes the Temple in Zechariah 4 also points to Jesus. In John 2:19-21 Jesus refers to His body as a Temple: “’Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.’ They replied, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?’ But the temple he had spoken of was his body.” Compelled by the Jewish religious elites Jesus Christ was, of course, ultimately killed by Rome, the beast, just as the two witnesses are killed by the beast in Revelation 11:7. And just as Jesus predicted that He would be raised again in three days (John 2:19-21), the two witnesses are also resurrected after three days (Revelation 11:11). Thus in light of Zechariah 3 and 4 this olive tree and lampstand symbolism in v. 4 strongly implies that Jesus Christ is the solitary embodiment of the two witnesses in this chapter as Jesus is both king and high priest and is also represented in Temple imagery in the New Testament.
Revelation 11:4 Preterist Commentary: Lampstands represent the Church. The Fact that the Two Witnesses are depicted as Two Lampstands also points to Christ Who is the Sole Embodiment of the Church, the Body of Christ.
There are some commentaries that claim that the two witnesses represent the collective body of the church as lampstands represent the Church in Revelation 1:20. And this is certainly true! However, what these commentators fail to realize is that Jesus Christ IS the collective body of the Church as one of the names of the church is the Body of Christ (Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12). The fact that the two witnesses are depicted as two lampstands implies that they are, of course, a human embodiment of the Church. The fact that both the two witnesses and Jesus Christ are human embodiments of the church implies that the two witnesses are, in fact, Jesus Christ. Thus the lampstand imagery is yet another piece of evidence ultimately suggesting that the two witnesses are Jesus.
Those who believe that the two witnesses represent the church may also cite the fact that the lampstand of Zechariah 4 represents the Temple and the church is also often represented as a Temple (1 Corinthians 3:16; 6:19; 2 Corinthians 6:14-18; Ephesians 2:19-22; 1 Peter 2:5). But as implied above the church is represented as a Temple because the church is the Body of Christ (Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12) and Jesus is also represented in Temple imagery (John 2:19-21). Thus this lampstand/Temple imagery in Zechariah 4 and Revelation 11:4 also all ultimately point to Jesus Christ who just like the two witnesses is a human embodiment of the church.
One problem with identifying the two witnesses as the church collectively outside of its solitary embodiment in Jesus Christ is the olive tree symbolism in Zechariah 3-4 and its corresponding reference in Revelation 11:4. As stated above, the two olive trees represent the king and high priest in both Zechariah 3-4 and Revelation 11:4. Though the church is said to be a kingdom of priests (Revelation 1:6; 5:10; 20:6) it could never be identified as high priest, the exclusive role of its leader–Jesus Christ.
Revelation 11:4 Commentary: Having Divided His Ministry into Two Equal Three and a Half Year Intervals, Could Jesus Christ be the Two Witnesses of Revelation 11?
If we assume that Jesus the son of Ananus is Jesus Christ, then it makes perfect sense to call Jesus Christ “two witnesses.” Not only does it make sense to call Jesus “two witnesses” because he is both king and high priest, the fact that Jesus Christ may have divided His corporal and visible ministry into two equal and separate three and a half year intervals makes this title even more appropriate. Though different in some respects, the ministries of both Jesus Christ and Jesus the son of Ananus are strikingly similar in many ways as stated above. The fact that Jesus is called the two witnesses is not surprising if we assume that He came to earth twice to deliver the same message—a warning concerning the tragedy at the end of the age.
Revelation 11:4 Full Preterist Commentary: The Fact that the Two Witnesses are Embodied in One Man Explains the Shift to the Singular Tense in v. 9.
The fact that Jesus is the two witnesses are one man may also be implied by a peculiar shift from the plural to the singular tense found in v. 9.30 This verse literally reads, “Those from the peoples and tribes and tongues and nations look at their dead body for three and a half days, and do not permit their dead bodies to be laid in a tomb [emphasis mine].” Notice body is singular, not plural. This is not a linguistic mistake. The two witnesses representing the king and high priest are embodied in one being, Jesus Christ who may have made two distinct appearances in the first century.
5If anyone tries to harm them, fire comes from their mouths and devours their enemies. This is how anyone who wants to harm them must die.
Revelation 11:5 Commentary: “I will make my Words in Your Mouth a Fire and these People the Wood it Consumes.”
The two witnesses are said to pour forth fire from their mouths as the Lord does when He comes in judgment (2 Samuel 22:9, Psalm 18:7-9, Isaiah 33:10-14). The symbolism used here is similar to that of Jeremiah 5:14 in which God says to the prophet Jeremiah, “I will make my words in your mouth a fire and these people the wood it consumes.” This verse illustrates their prophetic power. The fire that comes out of the mouth of Jeremiah in Jeremiah 5:14 points to the fact that as a prophet of God, Jeremiah speaks the word of the Lord. This v. also appears to point to their role as two witnesses giving testimony resulting in capital punishment. Numbers 35:30 reads, “Whoever kills any person, the murderer shall be put to death by the mouth of witnesses: but one witness shall not testify against any person to cause him to die [emphasis mine].”31
Psalm 29:7 reads, “The voice of the Lord strikes with flashes of lightning.” This lightning that comes from the mouth of the Lord in Psalm 29:7 I believe is the fire from heaven mentioned in Revelation 13:13. Echoing the fact that fire comes from the mouth of the Lord when He comes on the clouds of heaven, Psalm 18:8-9 reads, “Smoke rose from his nostrils; consuming fire came from his mouth, burning coals blazed out of it. He parted the heavens and came down; dark clouds were under his feet.” Is this lighting or fire from heaven the fire which proceeds out of the mouth of the two witnesses in v. 5?
Preterism Explained and Interpreted, A Commentary of Revelation 11:5: The Two Witnesses Have Power over the Fire-Breathing Leviathan, Rome.
When fire is said to come from the mouths of the two witnesses in v. 5, four complimentary points seem to be implied all of which point back to Jesus Christ: First as stated above, the fire that proceeds from the mouth of the two witnesses points to their prophetic power (Jeremiah 5:14). This prophetic power points to Christ because “Jesus is the spirit of prophecy (Revelation 19:10).”32 Second as implied above, this fire hints at the coming of Christ on the clouds of heaven (Matthew 24:30, Mark 14:62, Luke 21:27) as God had done so often in the Old Testament. When the Lord came on the clouds of heaven fire from heaven is said to come from God’s mouth (2 Samuel 22:9; Psalm 18:7-9; 29:7; Isaiah 33:10-14). This fire from heaven was a sign and symbol of Christ’s coming on the clouds of heaven in judgment (Matthew 24:27). Third this phrase shows that these two witnesses possess the power of Elijah who in 2 Kings 1:10 called down fire from heaven before killing the prophets of Baal. Elijah was to pave the way for the coming of Christ (Malachi 4:5, Matthew 11:14). Furthermore, as will be explained below there also seems to be a way in which Jesus’ ministry displayed the power of both Moses and Elijah. And lastly the author of Revelation implies that these two witnesses control the mighty leviathan, later identified as Rome, who also pours forth fire from his mouth (Job 41:19, Revelation 9:17). See Revelation 9: A Preterist Commentary and Revelation 13: A Preterist Commentary. As indicated in Revelation 10: A Preterist Commentary, it is the divine Christ who guides the Roman army to attack Israel in fulfillment of Job 41:1. Thus clothed with divinity, it is Jesus Christ Himself who acting like the Lord in the Old Testament pours forth fire from His mouth when He comes in judgment on a nation whether directly (2 Samuel 22:9; Psalm 18:7-9; 29:7; Isaiah 33:10-14) or indirectly through a prophet (Jeremiah 5:14) or through His punishing army (Job 41:19, Revelation 9:17). I believe that every time Revelation mentions fire from heaven or fire proceeding from something or someone’s mouth it is a Biblical hint that this fire is ultimately coming from and pointing back to Jesus Christ as a sign of divine judgment. After all it was Jesus Christ who was ultimately responsible for orchestrating Israel’s demise during the Jewish War as was explained in the commentary on Revelation 10.
A Covenant Eschatology Exposition and Commentary of Revelation 11:5: Jesus the Son of Ananus was Harmed Daily, and as a Result Jerusalem burned to the Ground in Fulfillment of v. 5.
The leviathan was a seven-headed sea monster. The fact that the leviathan was a many-headed sea monster is made explicit in Psalm 74:14: “You crushed the heads of Leviathan.” The seven-headed beast of Revelation representing Rome is the leviathan. This beast, the leviathan, according to Job 41:19, has the power to breathe firebrands: “Out of his [the leviathan’s] mouth go burning torches; sparks of fire leap forth.” Firebrands are burning torches used as weapons of war. In this verse, John asserts that anyone who tries to harm these witnesses will ultimately be killed by firebrands launched into the city by the leviathan representing the Roman army.33 Both Jesus Christ and Jesus the son of Ananus were harmed by the inhabitants of Jerusalem. In The Wars of the Jews, Josephus says that Jesus the son of Ananus was beaten daily;34 consequently, the Roman army launched firebrands into the city in fulfillment of Revelation 9:7; and Jerusalem burned to the ground.
6These men have power to shut up the sky so that it will not rain during the time they are prophesying; and they have power to turn the waters into blood and to strike the earth with every kind of plague as often as they want.
Revelation 11:6 Preterist Commentary: The Drought Ended and the Waters Overflowed at the Death of Jesus Son of Ananus in Fulfillment of v. 6.
In the first half of this verse, the two witnesses display the power of Elijah, who in 1 Kings 17:1 stopped the sky from raining. These two witnesses have the same power.35 Josephus tells of a drought that nearly dried up the pool of Siloam as well as all the other springs around the city before the arrival of the Roman army. Then when the Romans began their siege and Jesus was killed and therefore silenced, the water overflowed.36
Revelation 11:6 Commentary: Does the Fact that it Rained in A.D. 68 during the Three and a Half Year Interval in which Jesus the Son of Ananus was Prophesying preclude Him from Being the Two Witnesses? No.
In A.D. 68 at the arrival of the army of Idumeans outside of Jerusalem, Josephus mentions a “prodigious storm”:
There broke out a prodigious storm in the night, with the utmost violence, and very strong winds, with the largest showers of rain, with continued lightnings, terrible thunderings, and amazing concussions and bellowings of the earth, that was in an earthquake. These things were a manifest indication that some destruction was coming upon men, when the system of the world was put into this disorder; and any one would guess that these wonders foreshowed some grand calamities that were coming.37
This storm occurred in the midst of the three and a half year interval in which Jesus the son of Ananus, the two witnesses, was prophesying. Does this disprove the fact that Jesus the son of Ananus was the two witnesses? It would seem so—unless, Jesus the son of Ananus is Jesus Christ.
As explained in detail in The Appearance of Christ in A.D. 68?, this “prodigious storm” of A.D. 68 mentioned by Josephus fulfills seemingly all the Biblical criteria necessary to say that God had come on the clouds in judgment at that time amidst the Glory Cloud—the ultimate sign of the divine presence. The storm of A.D. 68 marked the arrival of an invading army outside of Jerusalem and continued while these soldiers broke into the city and caused a tremendous massacre within. This storm with its dark storm clouds darkened the sun, moon and stars with a thick blanket of clouds. Furthermore, this storm was also accompanied by an earthquake in addition to the other signs that God was present on the clouds in judgment like rain, thunder, lightning and strong winds. The fact that God came on the clouds in judgment during the above mentioned storm of A.D. 68 appears to solve the dilemma of why it rained during the time in which the two witnesses were prophesying.
In Matthew 17:1-9, Jesus transforms Himself into a being of light dressed in white in the presence of what looks like two angelic beings. Jesus’ transfiguration is quite literally a metamorphosis into His heavenly body. Jesus’ appearance during the transfiguration bears a striking resemblance to the similarly luminescent appearance of angels as indicated 2 Kings 6:17, Daniel 10:6, Matthew 28:2-3, 2 Corinthians 11:14 and Hebrews 1:7. See How the Resurrection Bodies of the Saints Perfectly Mirror Jesus’ Resurrection Body after His Ascension Into Heaven Fulfilling Philippians 3:20-21 and ALL Other Bible Verses on the Resurrection!!!. This luminescent appearance is also the way beings in heaven are described in near-death experiences. In other words, spirits in heaven are often described as beings of light dressed all in white in many near-death experiences. If Jesus could transform at will into His heavenly resurrection body (1 Corinthians 15) during His first incarnation, perhaps He did so again in His second? Could the parousia of A.D. 68 have been Christ transfigured again while once again in the presence of the heavenly host? In other words, perhaps Jesus transformed into His heavenly body as He had in Matthew 17:1-9 when He came on the clouds of heaven in A.D. 68?
Revelation 11:6 says, “These men have power to shut up the sky so that it will not rain during the time they are prophesying[.]” It would seem logical that Jesus would continue to prophesy while He was on earth as Jesus the son of Ananus. However, during the times in which Christ had come on the clouds in judgment during the Jewish War, He would have stopped prophesying because His earthly body would have presumably been transfigured into His heavenly body while He rode on the clouds of the sky in judgment. In other words, Jesus as Jesus the son of Ananus would not have prophesied as the two witnesses because Jesus the son of Ananus would have presumably ceased to exist at those times. This is because Jesus’ body would have presumably been transfigured or transformed into His glorified heavenly body during the times in which Jesus had come on the clouds in judgment during the Jewish War. Furthermore, because Jesus was in the clouds of the sky at this time, this fact, of course, implies that He had stopped prophesying since He was no longer present on the surface of the earth in physical form.
It should also be said that when God came on the clouds in judgment as appears to be the case during the rain storm of A.D. 68, the time for prophesying was, at least temporarily, over; because the time for judgment had arrived. In other words, when the time for judgment is at hand there can be no prophesying since at the time of fulfillment, prophesies are–by definition–no longer prophecies, but rather statements of current events.
Furthermore, if Jesus came on the clouds of heaven in A.D. 68 it would have been expected to have rained since rain is one of the signs of the presence of God when He on the clouds of heaven according to Psalm 18:7-14. The fact that it rained in the midst of the interval in which Jesus, the two witnesses, were prophesizing implies that Jesus was transfigured into His heavenly body at the arrival of the Idumeans in A.D. 68. At this time, Christ rode the dark rain clouds of the sky at the head of His punishing army as God had in Psalm 18:11: “He made darkness his covering, his canopy around him—the dark rain clouds of the sky.” Therefore, the fact that it rained during the time in which the two witnesses were prophesying would not appear to contradict Revelation 11:6. This, of course, could only be the case if Jesus Christ is Jesus the son of Ananus.
There appears to have been one other occasion in which Christ came on the clouds in judgment during the three and a half year interval in which the two witnesses were prophesying. This was in A.D. 66. (As will be explained in detail below, Jesus the son of Ananus died at the start of the second coming of A.D. 70.) See Jesus, the Son of Man, was LITERALLY Seen in the Clouds in A.D. 66. In this case I believe Jesus the son of Ananus also transfigured into his heavenly body and came on the clouds of heaven at that time.
Revelation 11:6 Commentary: The Two Witnesses Have the Power to Afflict Israel with the Seven Plagues of Revelation.
In the second half of this verse, the two witnesses display the power of Moses. Like Moses, Jesus also turns water into blood in Revelation 8:8 and Revelation 16:3-4 while afflicting Israel with the plagues of Exodus throughout the seven trumpets and bowls of Revelation 8, Revelation 9 and Revelation 16.38
Revelation 11:6 Commentary: 2 Peter 1:16-18 indicates that the Transfiguration was a Model of the Parousia. The Fact that Jesus appears at this Time in the Presence of Moses and Elijah may be a Sign that Jesus Christ is the Sole Embodiment of the Two Witnesses who have the Power and Spirit of Moses and Elijah in v. 6.
In 2 Peter 1:16-18, Peter describes the transfiguration in such a way as to imply that the transfiguration may be a visionary model of the parousia. Peter does this by seemingly describing the transfiguration as the “coming [parousia] of our Lord Jesus Christ”:
For we did not follow cleverly devised tales when we made known to you the power and coming [parousia] of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty. For when He received honor and glory from God the Father, such an utterance as this was made to Him by the Majestic Glory, ‘This is My beloved Son with whom I am well-pleased’— and we ourselves heard this utterance made from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain.
2 Peter 1:16-18 is a description of the transfiguration. During the transfiguration, Jesus appeared to the disciples in the presence of Moses and Elijah. (Matthew 17, Mark 9, Luke 9) What is interesting about Peter’s description of the transfiguration is that the Greek word translated coming in v. 16 is parousia, the same word often used to refer to the second coming throughout the New Testament. The fact that Peter uses the word parousia to describe the transfiguration implies that Peter may have seen this event as a visionary shadow or model of the parousia, the second coming.
In Luke 9:30 Peter, John and James see Jesus in a glorious luminescent form standing by Moses and Elijah who seem to be “speaking of His [Christ’s] departure which He was about to accomplish at Jerusalem.” Furthermore, while Jesus was on the cross many bystanders believed that Jesus called on Elijah (Matthew 27:46-49). I believe that Luke 9:30 and possibly Matthew 27:46-49 imply that Moses and Elijah may have spiritually aided Jesus throughout His earthly ministry recorded in the gospels. If Moses and Elijah spiritually worked behind the scenes assisting Jesus throughout His ministry, then perhaps it may be said that Christ came in the spirit and power of Moses and Elijah at the time of His gospel ministry? If this is true during Jesus’ initial earthly ministry, maybe it is also true of His return as the two witnesses of Revelation 11? In Revelation 11:5-6 the two witnesses display the power of Moses and Elijah by assaulting their adversaries with fire, withholding rain, changing water into blood and tormenting Israel with many of the plagues of Exodus in the form of the seven trumpets and bowls. When the vision of the transfiguration comes to a close and Moses and Elijah disappear leaving Jesus alone in His ordinary human form, perhaps this pericope hints at this element of the Parousia when Jesus returns in human form with the power and abilities of Moses and Elijah as the lone embodiment of the two witnesses of this chapter?
Furthermore, recall that according to Jewish tradition both Moses and Elijah ascended into heaven (Assumption of Moses, 2 Kings 2:11-12). Having the power and spirit of Moses and Elijah, Jesus also ascends into heaven in Acts 1. At this time an angel informs the disciples that Jesus would return in the same way they saw Him go up to heaven. I believe this prophecy is compelling evidence that the two witnesses are Jesus Christ as the two witnesses are also depicted ascending into heaven in a cloud exactly as Jesus did in Acts 1.
Recall that the Bible describes the second coming with the Greek word parousia. This word implies a coming with an extended stay. Did Jesus Christ come to Jerusalem in glorified form at the head of the angelic army in the clouds of A.D. 66 and then enter the city in the flesh to warn of the coming disaster for three and a half years? For a detailed discussion of how the transfiguration also mirrors the other appearances of Christ in the first century see How and Why 2 Peter 1:16-18 Implies that the Transfiguration is a Visionary Type of the Second Coming and How Every Element of the Transfiguration Literally Modeled the Various Manifestations of the First Century Parousia.
7Now when they have finished their testimony, the beast that comes up from the Abyss will attack them, and overpower and kill them.39
Revelation 11:7 Preterist Commentary: Jesus the Son of Ananus was Killed by Titus, the Beast from the Abyss.
The beast out of the Abyss mentioned here has been referred to many times throughout this prophetic work. The beast out of the Abyss is Rome which received a fatal wound at the death of Nero as predicted in Revelation 13:3. This wound had been healed and the beast resurrected at the ascension of the Flavian Dynasty–Caesar Vespasian, Titus and Domitian. Vespasian and his two sons were all declared Caesar at the same time.40 The Flavian trinity put an end to the civil wars in Rome which caused the metaphorical death of the Beast. This unlikely peace and restored unity of the empire is, I believe, symbolized in Revelation by the Beast rising out of the Abyss and being brought back to life.
Revelation 11:7 is most directly fulfilled by the second Caesar of the Flavian Dynasty. He is called Apollyon in Revelation 9:11, the beast out of the earth in Revelation 13:11, the false prophet in Revelation 19:20, and the beast who once was, now is not, and yet will come in Revelation 17:8. This is the Roman general Titus, the man responsible for the destruction of Jerusalem. Upon Caesar Titus’ arrival at Jerusalem on Passover, forty-two months into His ministry, Jesus the son of Ananus was killed by Titus’ army.41
Revelation 11:7 Commentary: Romans 6:9 says, “Christ, having been raised from the dead, no longer dies.” Because Jesus the Son of Ananus died, Does that mean that He cannot be the Two Witnesses?
Romans 6:9 says, “Christ, having been raised from the dead, no longer dies.” If Jesus the Son of Ananus is Jesus Christ and because Jesus the Son of Ananus died, does that mean that Jesus Christ cannot be the Two Witnesses? In John 11:25-26 Jesus says, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die.”42 When Jesus said, “[E]veryone who lives and believes in Me will never die,” He is, of course, not saying that all believers would never experience physical death. Confirming the fact that those who put their faith in Christ are still expected to die physically, Hebrews 9:27 reads, “[P]eople are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment[.]” Likewise Isaiah 65 predicts the fact that physical death was to continue in the Age to Come. Predicting the New Jerusalem of Revelation 21 and 22, Isaiah says the following in Isaiah 65:17: “Behold, I will create new heavens and a new earth” thereby echoing Revelation’s prophetic introduction of the new Jerusalem in Revelation 21:1: “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth.” Interestingly, in remainder of Isaiah 65’s portrayal of the new Jerusalem, Isaiah clearly states that people will still die physically: “Never again will there be in it an infant who lives but a few days, or an old man who does not live out his years; he who dies at a hundred will be thought a mere youth; he who fails to reach a hundred will be considered accursed (Isaiah 65:20).” [Emphasis mine.] For a related discussion on spiritual death see the preterist commentary on 1 Corinthians 15:50 and 1 Thessalonians 4:13.
In light of Hebrews 9:27 and Isaiah 65:20 it is clear that the when the saints were told that they would never die in John 11:25-26, this prediction cannot refer to physical death on earth. When the saints who believe in Jesus are said to never die in John 11:25-26 this must refer to the eternal life the saints were expected to experience after the resurrection of the dead. The same meaning is likely implied in Romans 6:9. When Romans 6:9 says that Jesus having been raised from the dead no longer dies, this statement clearly echoes John 11:25-26 when Jesus said that all who believe in Him would also never die. In both verses it seems clear that this immortality is a consequence of the resurrection as is explicitly stated in Romans 6:9. After Jesus rose from the dead He ascended into heaven. Jesus’ righteousness opened the gates of heaven, the afterlife realm of eternal life. It is through admittance into the eternal life of heaven at the resurrection that death is truly and literally conquered. Thus Christ “no longer dies” according to Romans 6:9 because He, like the saints after the resurrection, resides in heaven. This interpretation is confirmed by Luke 20:35-36: “But those who are considered worthy of taking part in the age to come and in the resurrection from the dead will neither marry nor be given in marriage, and they can no longer die; for they are like the angels. They are God’s children, since they are children of the resurrection [emphasis mine].” Remember that Isaiah 65:20 explicitly states that physical death continues in “the age to come” mentioned in Luke 20:35. Therefore, when Luke says that the saints “can no longer die” in “the age to come,” he appears to be alluding to post-resurrection existence in heaven. Luke clarifies this interpretation at the end of v. 35 when he addresses how it is that the saints “can no longer die”: according to Luke 20:36, the saints no longer die “since they are children of the resurrection.” Thus, when Romans 6:9 says that “Christ, having been raised from the dead, no longer dies,” this freedom from death applies only to Christ’s post-resurrection existence in heaven, as is also the case with the post-resurrected saints according to Luke 20:35-36 and John 11:25-26.
That being said, what if Christ voluntarily came to earth after His resurrection, could He physically die then? In other words, if Jesus voluntarily left heaven to come to earth, as He did in His ministry recorded in the Gospels could Jesus die then? We already know the answer to this question as Jesus had already come down to earth as a man during His ministry recorded in the gospels. And, of course, Jesus did die toward the end of His ministry after having been crucified by the Romans (Matthew 27:50).
As explained above, the “eternal life” that Jesus inaugurated after His resurrection was and is fulfilled in heaven, not on earth. Jesus’ death and resurrection was a model of our own. If the death and resurrection of Christ is a model of the death and resurrection of the saints after the end of the age and the saints still physically die after the end of the age, then one might also expect that if Christ returned to earth after His resurrection, He could still die physically as well.
Jesus the son of Ananus died around Passover of A.D. 70, the same holiday in which Jesus Christ is said to have died according to the Gospels. If Jesus Christ came to earth to be physically “born again” shortly after His ascension, then Jesus the son of Ananus may have even been the exact same age as Jesus Christ when He was crucified in A.D. 33. If Jesus came to earth to be born of a woman a second time, this might also explain the surname “son of Ananus.” In Jesus’ first earthly incarnation, He had to live a life free of sin in order to be a suitable sacrificial offering for the sins of the world. In order to be free of sin it was necessary that Jesus be born of a virgin in order to avoid being tarnished at birth by original sin, the ancestral sin of Adam. Having already died for the sins of the world at His first incarnation, in subsequent incarnations it would no longer appear to be necessary that Christ be born of a virgin in order to avoid the curse of original sin. Thus Jesus may have had a real earthly father in HIs second incarnation explaining the surname son of Ananus. If Christ physically died twice in the first century, could this shed light on the prophetic custom of the daily sacrifice? According to Exodus 29:38-39, the custom of the daily sacrifice was performed twice each day–once in the morning and once in the evening.
8And their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified.43
Revelation 11:10 Preterist Commentary: Jesus Christ and Jesus the Son of Ananus Both Died in Jerusalem.
Verse 8 indicates that the two witnesses would die in Jerusalem “where also our Lord was crucified.” Of course, Jesus Christ and Jesus the son of Ananus both died in Jerusalem. Preterist commentators have long struggled to identify the two witnesses. Some have suggested that they may be the Apostles Peter and Paul. Verse 8 argues against this idea as neither of these men died in Jerusalem according to church tradition. In this verse Jerusalem, the city where the Lord was crucified, is called Sodom and Egypt. Why is Jerusalem given these epithets? Let us first turn our attention to why Jerusalem is called Sodom.
Revelation 11:8 Commentary: The “Fire from Heaven” during the Second Coming in A.D. 66 and the Elijah, Sodom and Jerusalem Connection. . .
In Matthew 24:27 Jesus declares, “For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.” Tacitus writes in The Histories 5.13, “In the sky appeared a vision of armies in conflict, of glittering armour. A sudden lightning flash from the clouds lit up the Temple.” I believe this angelic army in the clouds that was seen at the start of the Jewish War was Jesus leading an army of angels in the sky during the first part of His second coming in fulfillment of Revelation 19:11-14. For a detailed explanation of this aspect of the second coming see Jesus, the Son of Man, was LITERALLY Seen in the Clouds in A.D. 66. For an explanation of the historical evidence of other possible appearances of Christ around the time of the Jewish War see Historical Evidence that Jesus, the Son of Man, was LITERALLY SEEN in the Clouds in the First Century.
The lightning flash from the clouds that followed the army in the sky not only fulfills Matthew 24:27 and the expectation that lightning would mark the second coming of Christ it is also evidence that Jesus is the two witnesses of Revelation 11. As stated in the commentary above on Revelation 11:6, the two witnesses possess the power of Moses and Elijah. As stated above, Jesus as the two witnesses stopped the sky from raining during the Jewish War as did Elijah in 1Kings 17:1. The lightning from the clouds during the second coming in A.D. 66 also links Jesus to Elijah. Here Jesus literally called down fire from heaven as had Elijah who did the same in 1 Kings 18 and 2 Kings 1.
The first aspect of the second coming was witnessed in Iyyar of A.D. 66. This is the same month and year in which the Israelites revolted against Rome. The fact that lightning, fire from heaven, struck the Temple in A.D. 66 during the second coming is, I believe, an omen foreshadowing the destruction of the Temple by “fire from heaven” in A.D. 70. In fulfillment of Revelation 13:13 Titus, calls down fire from heaven. This prophecy was fulfilled when under Titus’ leadership, the twelfth legion, Legio XII Fulminata, assisted in the burning and destruction of the Temple at the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. The emblem or symbol of the twelfth legion is a lightning bolt–fire from heaven. Similarly, the symbol of Rome itself is the Aquila, the mythological eagle who was believed to carry Zeus’ lightning bolt down to the earth. The Aquila, the symbol of Rome, was normally sculpted in Roman ensigns grasping a lightning bolt in its talons. In light of this information it does not seem to me to be a stretch to say that Rome itself is the lightning or fire from heaven mentioned so often in Revelation, Rome being most-notably represented by the mythological being believed to carry Zeus’ lightning bolt to the earth. See Revelation 13: A Preterist Commentary Not only was the Temple destroyed by fire from heaven, Jerusalem was as well.
A Realized Eschatology Exposition and Commentary of Revelation 11:8: Jerusalem is called Sodom because it was destroyed by “Fire from Heaven.”
In Luke 13:33, Jesus declares, “[N]o prophet can die outside of Jerusalem!” In v. 8 the author of Revelation calls Jerusalem Sodom and Egypt. John Noe notes that Jerusalem is the only city in the Bible that is symbolically called Sodom (Deuteronomy 29:23-25; 32:28-32; Isaiah 1:10; Ezekiel 16:44-58).44 The city of Sodom was destroyed by fire from heaven. Jerusalem was destroyed in a similar way. As stated above, with the aid of the twelfth legion, Legio XII Fulminata, Jerusalem and its temple were burned to the ground. The emblem of the twelfth legion is a lightning bolt—fire from heaven–and the symbol of the empire that destroyed Jerusalem by fire was the Aquila who carried Zeus’ lightning bolt down to the earth. Here one can see how like Sodom, Jerusalem was also destroyed by “fire from heaven.”
Preterism Explained and Interpreted, A Commentary of Revelation 11:8: Jerusalem is called Egypt because it was afflicted with the Plagues of Exodus.
Jerusalem is called Egypt in fulfillment of the curse of Deuteronomy 28:60. In this verse, God promises to bring on Israel the plagues of Egypt as punishment for their disobedience. Israel had been disobedient. And as a result, God punished Israel with the seven trumpets and bowls of Revelation, each trumpet and bowl resembling a different plague of Exodus.45
9For three and a half days men from every people, tribe, language and nation will gaze on their bodies and refuse them burial. 10The inhabitants of the earth will gloat over them and will celebrate by sending each other gifts, because these two prophets had tormented those who live on the earth.
Revelation 11:10 Commentary: In John 16:20, Jesus says that the Earth would rejoice over His Death.
In John 16:20, Jesus says that the earth would rejoice over His death: “Truly, truly, I say to you, that you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice.” The fact that the earth is depicted rejoicing over the death of the two witnesses is another subtle hint that the two witnesses are Jesus Christ. This blasphemous merriment also points to Jesus in another way. Rather than exchanging gifts at Jesus’ birth as Christians did for many centuries and still do today at Christmas, Jesus’ enemies are depicted in v. 10 exchanging gifts at His death in a dark parody of Christmas. Similar merriment was to be expected at the death of Jesus the son of Ananus—perhaps even more so. But before discussing the people’s reaction to this man’s death, let us first turn our attention to the earth’s general reaction to their dead during the siege of Jerusalem.
A Preterist Interpretation, Exposition and Commentary of Revelation 11:9-10: Because Jesus the son of Ananus was killed in Jerusalem on Passover, Jews from all over the World would have witnessed His Death fulfilling vs. 9-10.
During the Passover of A.D. 70, Jerusalem swarmed with pilgrims. It was at this time that Rome began its attack. As a consequence, thousands of Jews from all over the world were trapped inside the city. The fact that Jews from all over the world converged on Jerusalem during Passover, the holiday in which Jesus the son of Ananus was killed, explains how “men from every people, tribe, language and nation” rejoiced over the death of two witnesses according to Revelation 11:9-10.
Revelation 11:9-10 Preterist Commentary: Why the People of the Jerusalem almost Certainly Celebrated the Death of Jesus Son of Ananus and likely refused Him the Honor of a Proper Burial.
As the siege progressed and the people of Jerusalem were weakened with disease and famine, those inside the city walls did not bury the dead. As a result, corpses blocked the streets and allies of the city. Jesus the son of Ananus wailed cries of doom for years. Perhaps his fervor lit flickers of doubt in the minds of those who hoped that God would defend their city? The fact that this man was killed at the beginning of the siege46 might have suggested to some that perhaps he had been prophesying lies and was thus stuck down by God–death being the prescribed punishment for false prophets (Deuteronomy 13:5). Seen as a false prophet, Jesus would have almost certainly been refused the honor of a proper burial since his dead body was a sign to all that God was going to save their city. These Jewish rebels would have certainly celebrated their anticipated deliverance only to be confused later by the saintly resurrection they would soon witness.
11But after the three and a half days a breath of life from God entered them, and they stood on their feet, and terror struck those who saw them. 12Then they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, “Come up here.” And they went up to heaven in a cloud, while their enemies looked on.
Revelation 11:11-12 Preterist Commentary: “[H]e gave up the Ghost.”
Verse 12 says that the people witnessing the resurrection of the two witnesses heard a voice from heaven. However, some manuscripts read “I heard” meaning John alone heard the voice from heaven telling the two witnesses to come up to heaven.47
According to the New Testament, Jesus Christ resurrected from the dead on the third day. The two witnesses do the same in three and a half days. 1Corinthians 15:52 says, “For the [last] trumpet will sound, [and] the dead will be raised imperishable.” Jesus the son of Ananus died at the seventh trumpet. Was the seventh trumpet the last trumpet mentioned in 1 Corinthians 15:52 when the resurrection was expected to occur?48 After describing the death of Jesus the son of Ananus, Josephus uses the ambiguous expression: “he gave up the ghost.” Could Josephus be hinting at this man’s resurrection as described in the above two verses?
Revelation 11:12 Preterist Commentary: The Striking similarities between Revelation 11:12 and Acts 1:9-11 suggests that Revelation 11:12 describes the beginning of the Parousia of A.D. 70.
The following verse, Revelation 11:12, also suggests that the two witnesses are Jesus Christ. Verse 12 reads, “Then they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, ‘Come up here.’ And they went up to heaven in a cloud, while their enemies looked on.” This verse is an exact fulfillment of the second coming as it appears to be depicted in Acts 1:9-11:
After he [Jesus] said this, he [Jesus] was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”
In Acts 1:11 the apostles are told that Jesus was going to return just as they saw Him go into heaven. In other words, Acts 1:9-11 suggests that Jesus was to be seen ascending into heaven in the same way that the two witnesses are said to do in v. 12. After the disciples see Jesus ascending into the sky He is then taken from view having been obscured by a cloud. I believe that it was when Jesus was hidden by a cloud that the judgment accompanying the Parousia began.
The cloud that obscured Jesus in Acts 1:9 and the two witnesses in v. 12 is the Glory Cloud, the often-mentioned sign of the presence of God. In the Old Testament when the Lord was depicted coming on the clouds in judgment on a wayward kingdom, the Bible implies that the Lord is not generally seen at that time. Though God is only made visible to people in God-given visions, the Bible often implies that the Lord is not seen when He comes in judgment because He is masked by the clouds upon which He rides just as Jesus and the two witnesses were hidden by clouds upon their ascension in Acts 1:9 and Revelation 11:12. These clouds that seem to render God invisible are often said to be storm or rain clouds as stated in Psalm 18:9-11: “He parted the heavens and came down; dark clouds were under his feet. . . . He made darkness his covering, his canopy around him—the dark rain clouds of the sky [emphasis mine].”
In Psalm 18:9-11 cited above it is clear that storm or rain clouds act as a canopy around the Lord hiding His likeness when He comes on the clouds in judgment on a nation just as Jesus was also hidden from view when He entered the cloud at His ascension in Acts 1:9. It, therefore, does not appear to be a coincidence that Josephus tells of a drought that nearly dried up the pool of Siloam as well as all the other springs around Jerusalem before the arrival of the Roman army. Then when Titus arrived with the Romans army in A.D. 70, Josephus says that the water overflowed.49 In other words, there appears to have been a great rainstorm upon the arrival of the Roman army to besiege Jerusalem in A.D. 70. As stated above, Revelation 11:6 indicates that the two witnesses have the power to stop the rain during the time in which they are prophesying. Josephus says that Jesus the Son of Ananus actively prophesied right up to the moment of his death at the arrival of the Roman army in A.D. 70:
This cry of his was the loudest at the festivals; and he continued this ditty for seven years and five months, without growing hoarse, or being tired therewith, until the very time that he saw his presage in earnest fulfilled in our siege, when it ceased; for as he was going round upon the wall, he cried out with his utmost force, “Woe, woe to the city again, and to the people, and to the holy house!” And just as he added at the last, “Woe, woe to myself also!” there came a stone out of one of the engines, and smote him, and killed him immediately; and as he was uttering the very same presages he gave up the ghost.50
Revelation 11:6 says that the two witnesses have the power to stop it from raining while they are prophesying. Jesus the son of Ananus did not stop predicting doom until he was killed by the above mentioned stone. After Jesus’ death he presumably rose up to heaven in the sight of all those around him as predicted in Revelation 11:12 and Acts 1:9-11, at that time he was also presumably obscured by a dark rain cloud caused by the termination of his prophesying (Revelation 11:6). Not only does the rain that accompanied the arrival of the Roman army and the concurrent death of Jesus the son of Ananus seem to fulfill Revelation 11:6, it is also a sign of the coming of the Lord on the clouds of heaven (2 Samuel 22:12, Psalm 18:9-11). “He parted the heavens and came down; dark clouds were under his feet. . . . He made darkness his covering, his canopy around him—the dark rain clouds of the sky [emphasis mine].” (Psalm 18:9-11) Thus the rain that occurred presumably at the arrival of eth Roman army and the ascension of Jesus the son of Ananus is a sign of the coming of the Lord on the clouds of heaven according to Psalm 18:9-11. Also keep in mind that the arrival of a foreign army is another sign of the coming of the Lord on the clouds in judgment (Psalms 68:7-14, Joel 2:1-11). I believe these rain clouds of the Glory Cloud also obscured Jesus from view after his saintly resurrection and ascension.
A Preterist Exposition and Commentary of Revelation 11:11-13: The Glory Cloud was Present at the Death and Ascension of Jesus Christ and the Two Witnesses. Is this a Subtle Sign that Jesus Christ is the Two Witnesses?
The fact that Jesus Christ is the two witnesses may also be suggested by the similar events surrounding their deaths and ascensions into heaven. Both the death and ascension of the two witnesses and the death and ascension of Christ were marked by the presence of the Glory Cloud. As stated above, the cloud that obscured Jesus in Acts 1:9 and the two witnesses at the time of their ascension in v. 12 is the Glory Cloud, the ultimate sign of the presence of God. This idea is supported by the fact that v. 6 implies that it rained at the death of the two witnesses. And as mentioned above, rain is a sign of the presence of God overhead in the Glory Cloud according to Psalm 18:9-11. Furthermore, v. 13 mentions an earthquake at the ascension of the two witnesses—another sign of the presence of God on the Glory Cloud according to Joel 2:10: “Before them [an invading army] the earth shakes, the heavens tremble, the sun and moon are darkened, and the stars no longer shine.” Interestingly the “heavens [literally] tremble” as a result of resounding thunder, a common occurrence during a rainstorm. Similarly, the sun, moon and stars are also generally darkened by thick rain clouds (Ezekiel 32:7) in total fulfillment of Joel 2:10.
The Glory Cloud was also present at the death of Jesus Christ as it is recorded in the Gospels. According to Matthew 27:54 there was an earthquake like that mentioned in Joel 2:10 that shook the earth at the time of Jesus’ death on the cross. Earthquakes are a sign of the presence of God on the Glory Cloud according to Joel 2:10 quoted above. And as was the case in Joel 2:10 the sun was also darkened at the time of the crucifixion. Luke 23:44-45 reads, “It was now about the sixth hour, and darkness fell over the whole land until the ninth hour, because the sun was obscured.” Notice that Luke 23:44-45 indicates that darkness came over the land because the sun was obscured for three hours. This could not have been a solar eclipse. Solar eclipses do not last three hours. The only phenomenon that could darken the sun and cause darkness for three hours is thick cloud cover like that of the Glory Cloud. Describing the literal darkness that accompanies the presence of God on the Glory Cloud, Ezekiel 32:7-8 reads, “And when I extinguish you, I will cover the heavens and darken their stars; I will cover the sun with a cloud and the moon will not give its light. All the shining lights in the heavens I will darken over you and will set darkness on your land[.]” Notice that according to Ezekiel 32:7-8 the presence of the Glory Cloud obscures or covers the sun and brings literal darkness over the land as was the case during the crucifixion when according to Luke 23:44-45 darkness fell over the land because the sun was obscured. Could the presence of the Glory Cloud at the death and ascension of Jesus Christ and the death and ascension of the two witnesses be a subtle sign that Jesus Christ is the two witnesses of Revelation 11?
Though there exists no historical record to confirm that Jesus the Son of Ananus was seen rising up to heaven before he was hidden by a the Glory Cloud or that rain immediately followed the exact moment of his death or resurrection, I believe that these events did occur in light of three facts:
1) Revelation 11 repeatedly suggests that the two witnesses are one man, Jesus Christ.
2) A man with this name is recorded in The Wars of the Jews who acts suspiciously like Jesus Christ, and
3) Jesus the Son of Ananus fulfills the rest of the predictions in Revelation 11 to the letter.
13At that very hour there was a severe earthquake and a tenth of the city collapsed. Seven thousand people were killed in the earthquake, and the survivors were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven.
Revelation 11:13 Preterist Commentary: Boulders Launched from Roman Catapults shake Jerusalem . . .
As mentioned above, the Glory Cloud was present at Jesus Christ’s death and ascension. Similarly an earthquake also marked Jesus’ death on the cross (Matthew 27:54) and subsequent resurrection (Matthew 28:2). Interestingly, in fulfillment of v. 13 there also appears to have been an earthquake at the death of Jesus the son of Ananus.
Jesus the son of Ananus was killed by a boulder launched from a Roman catapult during the initial wave of Titus’ assault on Jerusalem. Regarding this assault, Josephus writes:
Now, the stones that were cast [by the Roman catapults] were of the weight of a talent, and were carried two furlongs and farther. The blow they gave was no way to be sustained, not only by those that stood first in the way, but by those that were beyond them for a great space.51
Because of the weight of the stones and the great distance with which they were hurled, when these boulders struck their target they would shake the earth. Perhaps these boulders were partially to blame for the earthquake mentioned in this verse?
Revelation 11:13 Commentary: Joel 2:1-10 Suggests Another Interesting Way in which the Earth Shakes at the Approach of a Besieging Army.
Though there appears to have been a literal shaking of the earth at the death of Jesus the son of Ananus from boulders launched by Roman catapults, as implied in Joel 2:1-10 the earth is also said to shake when the people of the earth tremble and shake in fear at the approach of a besieging army. See How and Why Prophecies with Apocalyptic Imagery May Have Been Fulfilled in Old Testament History Much More Literally than Previously Thought.
A Preterist Interpretation, Exposition and Commentary of Revelation 11:13: The Fact “a Tenth of the City collapsed” in v. 13 was Fulfilled in the Fall of the Temple which occupied a Tenth of the City of Jerusalem. Furthermore, Josephus Records a similar Number of Casualties at the Fall of the Temple as that Mentioned in v. 13.
The fact that “a tenth of the city collapsed” in v. 13 was also the result of the Roman siege of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. This verse was fulfilled in the destruction of the Temple. Upon breaking into the temple fortress, the Romans immediately set the Temple on fire. As illustrated in the picture above, the Temple occupied approximately one-tenth of the total size of the city of Jerusalem upon the completion of its walls in A.D. 66, at the start of the Jewish Revolt.
Josephus estimates the circumference of the walls surrounding Jerusalem during the siege of A.D. 70 at 33 stadia.52 Edward Gibbon in his book The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire believes Josephus’ estimate of Jerusalem’s circumference to be unlikely: “[T]the 27 stadia, to my mind, are, on all the data we have at present, more probable than the 33 of Josephus.”53 A stadia is approximately 607ft. Thus a total city circumference of 27 stadia is approximately 3.104 miles. Since the city was roughly rectangular in shape this circumference approximates the total area of Jerusalem during the siege of A.D. 70 at approximately .5781 square miles.54 The circumference of the Herod’s Temple was measured by F.J. Hollis at 929ft to the south, 1041ft to the north, 1556ft to the east, and 1596ft to the west.55 This gives the Temple an average length of 985 ft (.18655 miles) and width of 1576 ft (.2985 miles) or an area of .05569 square miles. Thus the area of the Temple at .05569 square miles/ the area of Jerusalem at .5781 square miles=.0963 or roughly 1/10th of the total area of the entire city. Thus v. 13 was fulfilled in the destruction of the Temple.
Preterist Explanation of Revelation 11:13: The Seven Thousand Killed in Revelation 11:13 were likely fulfilled in the Roughly Ten Thousand Casualties Josephus Mentions when the Romans Seized the Temple in A.D. 70.
Verse 13 then goes on to say that “[s]even thousand people were killed” at this time. Appearing to confirm this fact, Josephus says that ten thousand Jews were killed when the Romans seized the Temple.56 The ten thousand casualties mentioned by Josephus appears to me to be a rounded-off estimate of the seven thousand mentioned in v. 13.57
Revelation 11:13 Commentary: Both the Death of Jesus the Son of Ananus and the Fall of the Temple occurred in the “Last Hour.”
Jesus the son of Ananus died at the start of the siege of Jerusalem and the Temple fell to the Romans about four months later. How could both interpretations be true if immediately after mentioning the death and resurrection of the two witnesses in v. 12, v. 13 then mentions the fall of the Temple as having occurred “[a]t that very hour”? The word “hour” used in Revelation 11:13 is the Greek word hora. This word is used ten times throughout the Apocalypse. Eight out of the ten times in which hora appears in Revelation it seems to clearly symbolize the five-month siege of Jerusalem (Revelation 3:10; 14:7; 15; 17:12; 18:10; 17; 19). Furthermore, the Bible sometimes refers to the end of the age as simply the last hora or hour as is the case in 1 John 2:18. Thus it is not surprising that Revelation mentions the death of the two witness and the fall of the Temple as having occurred in the same hora or hour even though these events were likely four months apart.
Revelation 11:13 Preterist Commentary: “And the Survivors were Terrified and gave Glory to the God of Heaven.”
Revelation 11:13 ends with the survivors being terrified and giving glory to God. Who were these survivors? I believe these survivors are represented in the following chapter by the woman of Revelation 12 who was kept safe from the dragon. They are the Christian saints who fled to Pella at the start of the Jewish revolt and as a result, of course, survived the war.58 See the preterist commentary on Revelation 12. These Christians presumably gave glory to God because they had been persecuted by the Jews of Jerusalem and unlike many of the martyrs under the altar of Revelation 6:9-11, these saints had survived the persecution instituted in Jerusalem (Acts 8:1). Because of its long history of persecuting the saints, Jerusalem was punished during the war with Rome at the end of the age (Matthew 23:27-38; 27:25; Luke 13:33). The plagues of Revelation were for the purpose of martyr vindication as the martyrs prayed for vengeance for their unjust deaths in Revelation 6:9-11. The fact that Jerusalem had been punished for her crimes in answer to the prayers of the saints in Revelation 6:9-11 is why “the survivors were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven.”
14The second woe has passed; the third woe is coming soon. 15The seventh angel sounded his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, which said: “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and his Christ, and he will reign for ever and ever.” 16And the twenty-four elders, who were seated on their thrones before God, fell on their faces and worshipped God, 17saying: “We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty, the One who is and who was, because you have taken your great power and have begun to reign. 18The nations were angry; and your wrath has come. The time has come for judging the dead, and for rewarding your servants the prophets and your saints and those who reverence your name, both small and great—and for destroying those who destroy the earth.”
Revelation 11:18 Preterist Commentary: Revelation 11:8 is an Allusion to Psalm 2, a Messianic Prophecy, Which Again Suggests that the Two Witnesses are Jesus.
In Revelation 11:18 “the nations were angry[.]” The anger of the nations mentioned in v. 18 is an allusion to Psalm 2 which is a Messianic prophecy concerning the conspiring of the nations against the Messiah. Psalm 2:1 opens as follows: “Why are the nations so angry? Why do they waste their time with futile plans [emphasis mine]?”59 The anger of the nations which alludes to a Messianic prophecy in v. 8 is still more evidence that Jesus is the two witnesses.
Revelation 11:14-18 Commentary: The Resurrection of the Dead. . .
In the above verses, Jesus inherits dominion over the world, ruling at the right hand of God on a heavenly throne. In v. 15, the seventh and possibly the last trumpet is blown which according to 1 Corinthians 15:52, announces the resurrection of the dead. Therefore, the resurrection of the dead is described in verses 14-18.
19Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and within his temple was seen the ark of his covenant. And there came flashes of lightening, rumblings, peals of thunder, an earthquake and a great hailstorm.
Revelation 11:19 Commentary: The entry of the Ark into the Temple is fulfilled in the Resurrection.
In this verse, God’s temple in heaven is opened and within is seen the ark of his covenant. I believe the Ark of the Covenant is a symbol of Christ and His kingdom. Thus the entry of the ark into the temple is fulfilled in the resurrection of the dead. The events described in this verse correspond concurrently with Revelation 16:18-21 and will be discussed in greater detail there. In the next chapter, John is given a new vision of a war in heaven and conflict on the earth below. And once again, his predictions unfold with startling accuracy.
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For an explanation of the other appearances and manifestations of Christ during and shortly after the Jewish War see Historical Evidence that Jesus was LITERALLY SEEN in the Clouds in the First Century. For an explanation of how the end of the age and its fulfillment during the Jewish War mirror Genesis 1-3; how the Bible teaches that the resurrection of the dead is a resurrection of heavenly bodies to heaven, not a resurrection of perfected earthly bodies; and how the resurrection is a mirror opposite of the fall see How the Jewish War and Resurrection to Heaven Mirror Genesis and the Fall; and How Preterism fixes the Age of the Earth Problem and unravels the Mysteries in Genesis.
Interested in THE PRETERIST VIEW OF ESCHATOLOGY, or are you a preterist struggling with a prophecy or verse? It DID happen just like the Bible says! If you liked this essay, see PRETERIST BIBLE COMMENTARY for a detailed explanation of the FULFILLMENT OF ALL MAJOR END TIME PROPHECIES IN THE BIBLE. The more unbelievable the prophecy, the more amazing and miraculous the fulfillment!
Commentary on Revelation 11: Conclusion
In the above commentary on Revelation 11, the reader was exposed to compelling Biblical and historical evidence that as king and high priest, Jesus was the sole embodiment of the two witnesses and had returned to Jerusalem to fulfill all the predictions of Revelation 11 during the Jewish War in the first century.
- This is believed by many Biblical scholars to be the approximate length of Jesus’ ministry.
- Jesus Christ was killed by the chief priests and Pharisees in a conspiracy designed to prevent Jesus from becoming king of the Jews. (John 11:45-53)
- Isaiah 53:7.
- David Chilton, The Days of Vengeance: An Exposition of the Book of Revelation (Dallas, GA: Dominion Press, 2011), 264.
- Isbon Beckwith, The Apocalypse of John (New York: Macmillan, 1919), 777.
- David Chilton, The Days of Vengeance: An Exposition of the Book of Revelation (Dallas, GA: Dominion Press, 2011), 265.
- Ibid., 264.
- Dennis LaValley, Revelation: Beyond the Cross, 3rd ed. (2014), 226-227.
- Josephus The Wars of the Jews 6.5.3.
- Perhaps the seven years and five month period mentioned by Josephus is based on the Gregorian calendar?
- According to modern church tradition, Jesus’ ministry lasted three and a half years; however, it is not known whether or not Jesus began His ministry on the Feast of Tabernacles.
- Mark 1:45; John 11:54.
- This was in fulfillment of Isaiah 53:7.
- Phillip Carrington, The Meaning of Revelation, (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2007), 244-245.
- I believe the angels of the four winds are the four angels bound at the Euphrates (Revelation 9:14) who are ultimately responsible for setting in motion the fall of Jerusalem at the seventh trumpet. If this is true, the fact that Jesus the son of Ananus claims to be a “voice from the four winds” explains why he incessantly repeats “Woe to Jerusalem” as the four winds, I believe, are responsible for the fall of this great metropolis.
- Josephus The Antiquities of the Jews 20.9.1.
- Eusebius The History of the Church 2.23. This quote by Josephus is not in current manuscripts but is also quoted by Origen.
- Josephus The Antiquities of the Jews 20.9.1.
- The definitive parousia is described in Daniel 7:13-14. In these verses, Christ comes on the clouds of heaven to receive His heavenly crown.
- The name Moses means “drawing out (of the water), rescued.” (Pamela McQuade and Paul Kent, The Dictionary of Bible Names (Uhrichsville, O.H.: Barbour Publishing, 2009), 271.) Of course, this name calls to mind the rescuing of the Hebrews from slavery in Egypt as is symbolically depicted in the miracle of the parting of the Red Sea. The freeing of the descendants of Israel from slavery in Egypt is a prophetic type of the resurrection of the dead at the last trumpet. In v. 11, the two witnesses, who have the power of Moses, rise from the dead. Their resurrection immediately precedes the resurrection of the saints from Sheol at the last trumpet depicted in vs. 15-19. Like Moses leading the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt to the Promised Land, Christ leads the departed spirits in slavery to sin out of Hades to receive their inheritance in the Promised Land that is above–heaven.
- Isbon Beckwith, The Apocalypse of John (New York: Macmillan, 1919), 594.
- According to John 1, the Word of God is a title for Jesus Christ, the bodily manifestation of the Law and the prophets.
- See Deuteronomy 28:15-68: A Preterist Commentary.
- Having occurred in the same generation as the second coming, I believe Jesus’s life, death and resurrection are also considered end time prophecy.
- Josephus The Wars of the Jews 2.19; 6.9.2. Cestius departed from Jerusalem shortly after briefly besieging the city. However, the Roman army returned in A.D. 70, and Jerusalem fell several months later. The fact that the Jews of Judea were removed from Israel after the war suggests that they were regarded as Gentiles in God’s eyes and therefore unworthy to live in the Promised Land. This idea is given greater support in v. 8 where Jerusalem is called Sodom and Egypt: two Gentile kingdoms.
- Dr. Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr., The Beast of Revelation, (Powder Springs, GA: The American Vision, Inc., 2002), 155.
- Josephus The Wars of the Jews 7.1.2.
- Josephus indicates that Jesus began his ministry at the Feast of Tabernacles in A.D. 62 and continued until he was killed at the start of the siege of Jerusalem in Passover of A.D. 70. This is a period of seven years and six months. And since this man was not seen by anyone for four years until the start of the war, that means that Jesus the son of Ananus preached openly for three and a half years beginning sometime amidst the feast of Tabernacles in A.D. 66 when the 12th legion threatened to besiege Jerusalem until sometime around Passover of A.D. 70 when the Roman siege of Jerusalem truly began. The festival of Passover and the Feast of Tabernacles are each about a week long. From the middle of the Feast of Tabernacles until the middle of Passover are 1268 or 1269 days apart. This 1260 day interval is technically 42 months long, though it is almost 43 months in length (1268 or 1269 days). There were likely to be 43 months between the middle of Passover of A.D. 70 and the Feast of Tabernacles of A.D. 66 since a 29 or 30 day leap month was likely added sometime in this three and a half year interval to prevent seasonal overlap.
- It is also possible that the lampstand of Zechariah 4 symbolizes YHWH or more precisely God’s spiritual presence in the Temple. In Zechariah 4, Zechariah sees a vision of two olive trees beside a lampstand. In Zechariah 4:11-14, the two olive trees are said to symbolize “two anointed ones” who are clearly identified in Zechariah 3 and 4 as Zerubbabel and Joshua–the king and high priest respectively. The lampstand in between the two olive trees is implied in Zechariah 4:14 to signify YHWH, “the Lord of the whole earth” as the two olive trees standing by the lampstand are said to represent “two anointed ones,” the king and high priest, who stand beside the “Lord of the whole earth” as the two olive trees stand beside the lampstand: “These are the two anointed ones [olive trees] who are standing beside the Lord of the whole earth [lampstand].” (Zechariah 4:14.) (GOD’S WORD translation.) Thus if the lampstand represents YHWH and His spiritual presence in the Temple, this fact again points to Jesus who is “Lord of the whole earth.”
- In Biblical Greek it is true that the singular tense is sometimes used when the plural tense is intended (James 3:3; Revelation 13:16; 2 Corinthians 1:12; 6:11; Romans 8:16, 26). Perhaps this shift to the singular tense is one example of this? However, I believe this shift from plural to singular may have been intended to further imply the fact that the two witnesses are actually one person, the Messiah.
- King James 2000 Bible.
- NET Bible.
- According to 2 Kings 2, the first person to inherit the power and spirit of Elijah was Elisha, Elijah’s friend and contemporary. Because Elijah and Elisha lived at the same time, Elisha could not have been the reincarnation of Elijah. In the same way, just because the two witnesses were said to have the power and spirit of Elijah also does not mean that they were the reincarnation of the prophet. This fact is implied in John 1:21. Here John the Baptist denies being Elijah despite having the power and spirit of Elijah as indicated by Jesus in Matthew 17. John, like Elisha, has the power and spirit of Elijah but is not actually Elijah himself.
- Josephus The Wars of the Jews 6.5.3.
- The drought induced by the two witnesses fulfills the curse of Deuteronomy 28:22. The fact that these two witnesses have the power to fulfill the Law makes them a kind of embodiment of the Law itself.
- Josephus The Wars of the Jews 5.9.4.
- Ibid., 4.4.5.
- See Revelation 8: A Preterist Commentary, Revelation 9: A Preterist Commentary–Who is Apollyon? and Revelation 16: A Preterist Commentary.
- In v. 7 the two witnesses become martyrs. “[I]ndeed, the two words are the same in Greek.” Phillip Carrington, The Meaning of Revelation, (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2007), 189.
- Cassius Dio Roman History 66.1.
- Josephus The Wars of the Jews 6.5.3.
- NKJV. Verse 8 is sometimes translated “where also their Lord was crucified.” The their in v. 8 appears to refer to the people who killed the two witnesses, not the two witnesses themselves, as Jesus Christ is Lord of all whether righteous or wicked.
- John Noe, Ph.D., The Greater Jesus: His glorious unveiling, (Indianapolis: East2West Press, 2012), 95.
- See Revelation 8: A Preterist Commentary, Revelation 9: A Preterist Commentary–Who is Apollyon? and Revelation 16: A Preterist Commentary.
- Josephus The Wars of the Jews 6.5.3.
- Robert H. Mounce, The Book of Revelation, rev. ed. (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1997), 223.
- Revelation 11:15.
- Josephus The Wars of the Jews 5.9.4.
- Ibid., 6.5.3.
- Ibid., 5.6.3.
- Josephus The Wars of the Jews 5.4.3. Some translations read furlongs which is similar in length to stadia. However, furlongs did not exist at the time in which The Wars of the Jews was written.
- Edward Gibbon, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Vol. 2, (E. P. Dutton & Company, 1914), 381.
- 27 stadia X 607ft/1stadia=16.389 ft or 3.104miles. Since the outer walls of the city of Jerusalem roughly approximated the rectangular proportions of the Temple, a circumference of 3.104 miles would give an average length of .6208 miles and an average width of .9312 miles. .6208 X .9312 = .5781 square miles.
- F.J. Hollis, The Archaeology of Herod’s Temple: With a Commentary on the Tractate Middoth, (London, 1934), cited in John M. Lundquist, The Temple of Jerusalem: Past, Present, and Future, (Greenwood Publishing Group, 2008), 103.
- Josephus The Wars of the Jews 6.5.1.
- Arthur M. Ogden, The Avenging of the Apostles and Prophets: Commentary on Revelation, (Pinson, AL: Ogden Publications, 2006), 255-257.
- Eusebius The History of the Church 3.5.