Over the last few months, we have explored how that God's word, time and again, reveals something about the work and ministry of the two witnesses. The passage in Revelation chapter 11, where we began this study, takes up only 11 verses. As we look at Rev. 11:3-13, we see that verse 3 begins by introducing these two prophets, declaring the length of time in which they prophesy, and describing their wardrobe. Verse 4 gives us one prophetic reference, connecting them to the two olive trees in Zechariah 4. The next two verses proclaim their authority to smite the earth with plagues and God's protection over them during the days of their prophecy.
Without any further ado, verses 7-10 bring us right to a time after they have ended their prophesying, and we see that the beast makes war with them, and kills them. While their dead bodies lie "in the streets of the city . . . where our Lord was crucified," the inhabitants of the earth rejoice over them and give gifts to one another.
But verses 11-13 reveal that the merrymaking is short-lived, because, after three and a half days, God raises them up, and they ascend to heaven in a cloud in the eyes of their enemies. Instantly, there is a great earthquake, destroying a tenth of the city, and slaying seven thousand. Lastly we are told of the remnant which, though affrighted, gave glory to the God of heaven.
As is readily seen, apart from the miraculous authority to kill anyone who would attempt to harm them, and to bring plagues on the earth, we are told nothing here of their ministry, or of the gist of their prophecy. It is because of this that we have spent the past months exploring types and shadows throughout God's holy word. In doing so, we have begun to develop, as it were, a "composite sketch" of these mighty prophets.
Seeing them, over and over again, in the personages of two men going into hostile lands and making a way for the deliverance of God's people, we can see the ministry of the two prophets to come. These, too, shall, in the last days, receive authority from God to lead His people out of great trouble, and to the place which God has prepared for them. There is a set time in which this work is to be accomplished: 1,260 days. It is during this time that they will be divinely protected, while they work to lead out the children of God, and pronounce plagues at the Lord's command to provide for their release.
After those days are ended, however, other elements of the prophecy concerning the two witnesses remain to be fulfilled. Whereas, over the last few months, we have looked at prophecies pertaining to their work during the 1,260 days, I would now like to look at what is to take place when they are ended.
Growing up, we are taught "moral stories" in various forms: legends, myths, fables, fairy tales, etc. At the end, we are supposed to learn a moral lesson, which will aide us in being responsible adults and good citizens. As Christians, we have Bible stories thrown into that mix, and, in many cases, while we are told that the tales from the Bible are true occurrences, and that the proverbs it contains are the inspired word of God, they often are presented as little more than just some other moral stories.
The presentation of the Parables of our Lord Jesus Christ is likely the worst case of mistakenly relegating the Word of God to moral lessons. Is there moral wisdom contained in the parables of Jesus? Of course. But, were the parables merely Jesus' version of moral lessons akin to the wisdom of Confucius, Buddha, or some other wise historical figure, as many propose? What did Jesus say was the purpose of His parables?
A prominent televangelist, upon reading Matthew 13:10-17, said that Jesus spoke in parables so that even the little children could understand. But what does this passage say? "And the disciples came, and said unto him, 'Why speakest thou unto them in parables?' He answered and said unto them, 'Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given. For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath. Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand. And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive: For this people's heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them. But blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear. For verily I say unto you, That many prophets and righteous men have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them.' "
Jesus did not speak unto them in parables so that they would understand, He spake in parables so that they would not understand. Matthew goes on to record, "All these things spake Jesus unto the multitude in parables; and without a parable spake he not unto them: That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying, 'I will open my mouth in parables; I will utter things which have been kept secret from the foundation of the world' " (Matt. 13:34-35).
So the parables are not mere moral stories! The contain that which has been kept secret from the foundation of the world!
Mark wrote, "And with many such parables spake he the word unto them, as they were able to hear it. But without a parable spake he not unto them: and when they were alone, he expounded all things to his disciples" (Mark 4:33,34). It was only when Jesus was alone with His disciples that He gave the sense of the meaning of the parables. Still, it would likely be folly to assume that just because we have access to some of the interpretations of certain parables, that it is automatically given to us to understand them. God has not changed. His secrets are still reserved for those who have an ear to hear.
I have gone into this lengthy discourse about parables, precisely because I want to look at one, in particular, as it pertains to the subject at hand.
In Revelation 11, after the days of the two witnesses' prophesying are ended, they are slain and their bodies are left to rot in the streets of "the city . . . where our Lord was crucified." This seems to place them in the city of Jerusalem at the time of their martyrdom. When they are resurrected three days and a half later, "the remnant . . . [gives] glory to the God of heaven." This is a reference to the Jewish remnant, oft mentioned in the Bible, of those who have not bowed down to Baal, and which are grafted into their olive tree.
So, the days of their prophecy are completed, and their work among the Gentiles to lead God's people out of the imminent wrath is done. Now they are found among the Jews, where they will also meet their temporary demise.
This falls right in line with the words of Jesus,"O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets . . ." (Matt. 23:37; Luke 13:34).
In Luke chapter 10, when asked to explain what He meant by the term "neighbor," Jesus answered with a parable. "A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side. But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him, And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee" (Luke 10:30-35).
This story has been used countless times to encourage the followers of Jesus to show kindness to those in need, and rightly so. Even special "Good Samaritan" programs have been started by churches and secular groups for the express purpose of going around looking for someone who needs assistance. However, while this obvious moral lesson should not be wasted on the Bible student, a deeper, more subtle message - a secret from the foundation of the world - is also conveyed here.
A man, it is to be assumed that he is a Jew, is traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho, and falls among thieves. He is beaten, robbed, and left for dead. A priest and a Levite, each in turn, pass him by and keep on going. The law declares that to touch such a man would render you unclean, and, no doubt, neither the priest nor the Levite were going to risk making themselves unclean for some stranger. They were ministers of the Lord.
But a Samaritan saw him and had compassion on him. He bound his wounds, poured in oil and wine, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. In the morning, before he checked out, he left two pence with the host, and also vowed to return and cover any other costs that the wounded Jew might accrue.
The Samaritans were a mix of Gentile and Israelite heritage, and did not enjoy the respect of the Jews. For all intents and purposes, they were Gentiles, and that is what we are supposed to hear from this parable - if we have ears to hear. (See John 4:4-30; 2 Kings 17:20-41.)
This parable reveals the truth of God concerning the restoration of the Jewish remnant in the last days. Zechariah 14 describes a time yet future when the nations shall sack Jerusalem just before the return of our Lord. They will be beaten, robbed and left for dead, and the "religious crowd" will be unwilling to dirty their hands, even to see if anything can be done to bring healing. But a group of Gentile Christians, here shown in the person of the Samaritan, will reach out to the hurt and dying "Jew." They will pour in the oil and the wine, bringing them the gladness and joy of the truth of the love, mercy, and work of God.
Lastly, two "pence" will be spent. The two witnesses, after plaguing the enemies of the children of God, and leading His people to meet the Lord, will go to Jerusalem to work in the restoration of the Jews and their grafting in again into their olive tree. Even as it was the work of God among the Jews that commissioned Paul and Barnabas to bring the word of God to the Gentiles during the time of the Early Church, it will be the work of God among the Gentiles that will commission these two men to bring the word to the Jews during the time of the Latter Church.
Just as their death is prophesied in Revelation 11, the parable of the kindness to the Jew shows that, in the process of the restoration of the Jewish remnant, the two will be "spent."
Three and a half days later, they are raised, and the remnant gives glory to God. But the beast has tasted blood, and will begin to persecute, in earnest, the Christians that did not hearken to the message of the two witnesses and stayed behind in Sodom and Egypt. Without, there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, but the wise Christians, having followed the witnesses to their place in the wilderness, will be nourished there, and will be busy making final preparations for the return of the Bridegroom.