The Book of Revelation declares that the dead bodies of the two witnesses will lie "in the street of the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt." What were the two witnesses doing in Sodom and Egypt?
Last month, we examined how they are represented in Sodom by the two angels, whom the Lord sent into that city to "go down and see" whether it was as bad as the reports had indicated. Bearing witness to the fact that Sodom did indeed live up to its reputation, the two angels had power to plague the city with blindness (darkness) and fire from heaven. In the process, the other major work of the two witnesses in Sodom was to help the righteous flee the wrath of God. So, righteous Lot was led out of Sodom, along with his wife and two of his daughters.
But the prophecy proclaims that the two witnesses work in a city that is spiritually called both Sodom and Egypt. So, having seen how the two witnesses have been foretold in the destruction of Sodom, let us see what the Bible says about them in the land of Egypt.
God called Abram, a 75-year-old man with no children, out of his country, and promised to bring him to a land which he and his children would receive for an inheritance. Later, God told Abram, "Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years; ... But in the fourth generation they shall come hither again" (Gen. 15:12-16). That promised "seed" would not be seen for another 14 years.
God changed Abram's name to Abraham, and, when he was 100 years old, his wife Sarah bore him the son of promise: Isaac. At five years old, Isaac was weaned, and joined Abraham, who had, himself, at that time already sojourned in a land that was not his for 30 years. Dwelling in the region of Egyptian dominion, including the land of the Philistines, they spent many years in "a place which [they] should after receive for an inheritance."
During their pilgrimage, they ended up in the land of Egypt. Because of Abraham's great-grandson Joseph's influence, they lived in some of the best land Egypt had to offer. Still, they were strangers in a strange land.
One thing we know for sure about God is that He always keeps His promises. If He said four hundred years, He meant four hundred years. So, as the time approached that 400 years should be fulfilled, God looked down on the children of Israel, and called a man named Moses to bring deliverance to His chosen people.
God said, "the cry of the children of Israel is come unto me: and I have also seen the oppression wherewith the Egyptians oppress them. Come now therefore, and I will send thee unto Pharaoh, that thou mayest bring forth my people the children of Israel out of Egypt" (Ex. 3:9-10).
As God explained the task Moses was to perform, Moses protested, saying that he could not possibly do it. He told God to send someone else - someone more able, and God replied, "Is not Aaron the Levite thy brother? I know that he can speak well. And also, behold, he cometh forth to meet thee: and when he seeth thee, he will be glad in his heart. And thou shalt speak unto him, and put words in his mouth: and I will be with thy mouth, and with his mouth, and will teach you what ye shall do" (Ex. 4:14-15).
God had never intended for Moses to be a one-man show. He had already put it upon the heart of Aaron to go out to find his brother in the wilderness. God said that he would be with them both, and teach them what they should do to deliver the children of Israel out of the land of Pharaoh.
The two sons of Amram went to Egypt, and first went to the Israelites to declare unto them the word of the Lord. Having convinced them, at least to some degree, they went before Pharaoh. Not only did Pharaoh refuse to release God's "firstborn," he even refused to acknowledge the Lord. "Moses and Aaron went in, and told Pharaoh, Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, Let my people go, that they may hold a feast unto me in the wilderness. And Pharaoh said, Who is the Lord [Jehovah], that I should obey his voice to let Israel go? I know not the Lord, neither will I let Israel go" (Ex. 5:1-2).
Pharaoh had drawn a line in the sand, and the Lord was up to the task. So God's two witnesses, Moses and Aaron, displayed that they, like the two witnesses of the apocalypse, had power "over waters to turn them to blood, and to smite the earth with all plagues, as often as they will" (Rev. 11:6).
Ultimately, Pharaoh, his priests, and all the people of Egypt got acquainted with the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. After nine devastating plagues, Pharaoh was about to let Israel go, "But the Lord hardened Pharaoh's heart, and he would not let them go. And Pharaoh said unto him, Get thee from me, take heed to thyself, see my face no more; for in that day thou seest my face thou shalt die. And Moses said, Thou hast spoken well, I will see thy face again no more" (Ex. 10:27-29). God, at the word of Moses and Aaron, smote the firstborn of Egypt, and Pharaoh finally released the Hebrew slaves, and the sons of Amram led the Israelites out of Egypt, 430 years, to the day, from the promise to Abraham. (That is, 30 years from when Abraham was called out of Haran until Isaac, his seed, was weaned, plus the 400 years of Gen. 15:12-16. See Ex. 12:40-41 & Gal. 3:16-17.)
Throughout the whole ordeal, they constantly proclaimed their real purpose. Although they had power to plague Egypt, their real job was to lead God's people to the mountain to worship. Meanwhile, as God worked out the details of getting them to Sinai, He provided a place of safety during the time of the plagues: Goshen. (How beautifully this agrees with the account of the destruction of Sodom, for, while God had told Lot and his family to go to the mountain, He first allowed him to find temporary safety in a small city called Zoar.)
So, the purpose of the two witnesses, as revealed in both Sodom and Egypt, is two-fold. Not only are they sent in to bring forth the people of God from the midst of the ungodly, but they are given the authority to do so "with great power, and with a mighty hand." Once they have served as witnesses to the wickedness of the land, and the people's suffering at the hands of their oppressors, these two men of God - like two wing's of a great eagle - carry the people of God to worship Him in safety at His holy hill.
We are told by Paul in Hebrews 10:1, that the law presented a shadow of good things to come, but it was not the very image. Many times we will see a shadow, and find that the object which cast the shadow was something other than we first thought. Likewise, as we examine the two witnesses' Old Testament shadows, it is important to look at them all to get an accurate representation of their ultimate fulfillment. We are as police detectives, gathering information from multiple sources to produce a composite sketch, whereby we may accurately recognize the subjects when they appear.
So far, we have seen them as men with oil for light in the two olive trees of Zechariah, and the sons of the widow in 2 Kings 4. We have also looked at the two witnesses in Egypt and Sodom: deliverers of the righteous and captains against the wicked. We will continue to gather evidence from the other Old Testament shadows: some may further delve into these aspects of the work of two witnesses, while some may reveal yet other sides of their ministry. Those who teach about the two witnesses strictly from the eleventh chapter of Revelation have only a one-dimensional view of a multidimensional work of prophecy. If we are to truly "flesh them out," we must conduct a thorough investigation of all the Scriptures concerning the work of these end-time prophets.