The Way It Happened

Revelation 11:3-14, The Two Witnesses, II of V

And I will give power to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth … If anyone tries to harm them, fire comes from their mouths and devours their enemies. … 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.

//John surely means for his two witnesses to fulfill the prophecy of Malachi that Moses and Elijah would make their appearance before the Messiah returned.  To this day, Jews leave a special chair empty during the Passover ritual, expressing their hope that Elijah will return and announce the coming of the Messiah, and they also once shared a widespread belief in the return of another Moses-like prophet based on Deuteronomy 18:15.  But John insists the two revered prophets have already arrived by giving his two witnesses similar powers.  These two reenact the judgment ministries of Moses and Elijah.  Fire came down from heaven at Moses’ command and consumed the false worshipers who had rebelled against him, and fire fell from heaven and consumed Elijah’s enemies in like manner.  Jewish tradition held that neither Moses nor Elijah died, but that God lifted both up to heaven, like these two witnesses. And a 1260-day drought occurred during the time of Elijah.

Matthew, Mark, and Luke agree with Revelation that Moses and Elijah have already returned, appearing on a mountaintop with Jesus.  When the disciples ask whether Elijah will arrive to usher in the final age, Jesus even declares Elijah has already once made his return in the form of John the Baptist.

Understanding this basic expectation, and the fulfillment in the Gospels of Malachi’s prophecy, sets the stage for further analysis in part III.

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