In the previous two installments, we have looked at Old Testament prophetic allegories of the two witnesses found in Sodom and Egypt. While those are the ones specified in Revelation chapter 11, there are still others that warrant some consideration.
Paul said that the "shadows of good things to come," contained in the pages of the law and the prophets, are "not the very image." For example, Abraham's offering of Isaac prophesied of the sacrifice of Jesus, but God provided a ram for Isaac. Thus, the allegory did not exactly reveal the course of events as they would be played out in their ultimate fulfillment.
Likewise, as I have shown in the previous chapters, the elements which deal with the two witnesses in Sodom and Egypt are merely shadows of how those things will actually play out in the end. The same holds true for any other pertinent prophetic allegory contained in the Scriptures. A clear understanding will only be realized when all of the shadows are compared and considered together. Of course, even a diligent study of every scriptural facet on any particular subject will be fruitless without the guidance of the Holy Spirit. So, with the Spirit of Truth to guide us, we will further pursue an understanding of the two witnesses, by examining some other Old Testament allegories.
One such allegory takes place shortly after the Israelites came out of Egypt, in Numbers chapters 13 and 14. God told Moses to send men into Canaan to "search out the land." "And Moses sent them to spy out the land of Canaan, and said unto them, 'Get you up this way southward, and go up into the mountain: And see the land, what it is; and the people that dwelleth therein, whether they be strong or weak, few or many; And what the land is that they dwell in, whether it be good or bad; and what cities they be that they dwell in, whether in tents, or in strong holds; And what the land is, whether it be fat or lean, whether there be wood therein, or not. And be ye of good courage, and bring of the fruit of the land.' Now the time was the time of the first ripe grapes."
When the 12 spies returned, they confirmed that the land was good and fruitful, but the inhabitants were many, and they were strong. "And Caleb stilled the people before Moses, and said, 'Let us go up at once, and possess it; for we are well able to overcome it.' But the men that went up with him said, 'We be not able to go up against the people; for they are stronger than we.' And they brought up an evil report of the land which they had searched unto the children of Israel."
In response to the evil report given by 10 of the 12, all the congregation wept and murmured against Moses and Aaron. They cried out, saying that it would have been better to die in Egypt or in the wilderness than by the sword of the Canaanites. So, believing the report of the 10, they came up with a brilliant(?) plan. "And they said one to another, 'Let us make a captain, and let us return into Egypt.' "
At that moment, Moses and Aaron fell on their faces, "And Joshua the son of Nun, and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, which were of them that searched the land, rent their clothes: And they spake unto all the company of the children of Israel, saying, 'The land, which we passed through to search it, is an exceeding good land. If the Lord delight in us, then he will bring us into this land, and give it us; a land which floweth with milk and honey. Only rebel not ye against the Lord, neither fear ye the people of the land; for they are bread for us: their defence is departed from them, and the Lord is with us: fear them not.' But all the congregation bade stone them with stones. And the glory of the Lord appeared in the tabernacle of the congregation before all the children of Israel."
As a result of the disobedience of the children of Israel, God slew the 10 spies and sentenced the Israelites to forty years of wandering in the wilderness. Of all the adults of the congregation, only the two faithful spies, Joshua and Caleb, would live to cross the river Jordan and possess the land of promise.
The twelve were sent to spy out the land, and, in effect, became witnesses to the status of it. Of them, only two were faithful. The connection of the two witnesses in Revelation 11 and Joshua and Caleb, however, is not limited to the number of people involved.
In Rev. 11:3, it says, "And I will give power unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days, clothed in sackcloth." Being clothed in sackcloth represents a state of mourning. Apparently, the days of their ministry, while so near to the glorious return of our Lord Jesus Christ, are not days of joy. Similarly, when Israel should have rejoiced at the imminent fulfillment of the promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob that they should possess Canaan, we find two men - namely, Joshua and Caleb - rending their clothes: another popular act of mourning.
And why do they mourn? They mourn, because, although the return of the Lord is near, the wrath of God is also nigh at hand. When the spies returned from Canaan, they brought with them a cluster of grapes from the brook Eshcol. This they did, as the Bible says, because it was the time of first ripe grapes. Why is this important? Jesus said, "The harvest is the end of the world" (Matt. 13:40). And what of harvest? "And I looked, and behold a white cloud, and upon the cloud one sat like unto the Son of man, having on his head a golden crown, and in his hand a sharp sickle. And another angel came out of the temple, crying with a loud voice to him that sat on the cloud, 'Thrust in thy sickle, and reap: for the time is come for thee to reap; for the harvest of the earth is ripe.' And he that sat on the cloud thrust in his sickle on the earth; and the earth was reaped. And another angel came out of the temple which is in heaven, he also having a sharp sickle. And another angel came out from the altar, which had power over fire; and cried with a loud cry to him that had the sharp sickle, saying, 'Thrust in thy sharp sickle, and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth; for her grapes are fully ripe.' And the angel thrust in his sickle into the earth, and gathered the vine of the earth, and cast it into the great winepress of the wrath of God" (Rev. 14:14-19).
This 'dark side' of the harvest - the harvest of the grapes of wrath - is seen here in Numbers. The spies were sent at the time of first ripe grapes. The Lord tells us that, when the grapes are fully ripe, the vine of the earth shall be gathered, and cast into the winepress of God's wrath. The timing of the taking of the promised land is further proven in the book of Joshua, for forty years later they crossed Jordan in the time of harvest. (See Josh. 3:15)
So, with their clothes rent in pieces, they cried out to the children of Israel, pleading the cause of the Almighty. "If the Lord delight in us, then he will bring us into this land, and give it us; a land which floweth with milk and honey. Only rebel not ye against the Lord, neither fear ye the people of the land; for they are bread for us: their defence is departed from them, and the Lord is with us: fear them not." When they had finished making their plea, "all the congregation bade stone them with stones." A death sentence was pronounced by the congregation for Joshua and Caleb, and they would have been slain, but, like the sacrifice of Isaac, this allegory is only a shadow, and not the very image.
The two witnesses of Revelation, however, do not escape death when the days of their prophecy come to and end. "And when they shall have finished their testimony, the beast that ascendeth out of the bottomless pit shall make war against them, and shall overcome them, and kill them" (Rev. 11:7).
They will, however, be raised to life, and enter into the Lord's millennial rest, according to the word of the Lord. When the Israelites determined to kill Joshua and Caleb, the glory of the Lord appeared before all the children of Israel. So, also, will God's glory appear three and a half days after the martyrdom of the two witnesses. "And after three days and an half the Spirit of life from God entered into them, and they stood upon their feet; and great fear fell upon them which saw them. And they heard a great voice from heaven saying unto them, 'Come up hither.' And they ascended up to heaven in a cloud; and their enemies beheld them. And the same hour was there a great earthquake, and the tenth part of the city fell, and in the earthquake were slain of men seven thousand: and the remnant were affrighted, and gave glory to the God of heaven."
So, as seen in Joshua and Caleb, the two witnesses' message will not be so enthusiastically received: not only by the beast, but even by some of their own brethren. Yet they will testify, pleading the cause of our Lord, before a hostile crowd. Their lives will be threatened, but they shall not be harmed until all 1260 days of their prophecy are fulfilled. While others will contradict their message, those naysayers will perish, and these modern-day faithful witnesses will declare the victory of our God over His enemies, showing the way into the land of rest.