Friday, August 15, 2014

The Identities of The Two Witnesses

Elijah is obvious

Rarely some will even question Elijah's status (claiming they're not two literal individuals, but symbolic), saying that to Christians the promise of Elijah's return (Malachi 4:5&6) was fulfilled by John The Baptist. But this is an over simplification of what The New Testament says about the connection between John and Elijah (who due to Greek transliteration tends to be called Elias in the KJV of the NT).

Matthew 11:14 says "if ye will receive it" they didn't however, John was rejected just as Jesus was. Accounts of the Transfiguration likewise have a lot of quotes that can be taken out of context to support this doctrine, but that discussion is particularly mystical in nature. John like Elisha preached with the "Spirit and Power" of Elijah, but that's a separate thing from his literal return. In a sense I believe NT Church Age believers also have the "Spirit and Power" of Elijah, or at least we should if we're not ignoring the Gifts of the Spirit.

In John 1:21 John clearly states that he is not Elijah.  Some people just write off this clear statement preferring to build doctrine on the Transfiguration.  Scripture cannot contradict, so clearly one statement is not to be taken at face value.  And it's the Transfiguration quote, not John, that contains a qualifying statement.

That the Prophecy that begins Malachi 3 (and Isaiah 40:3) is cited the NT as being about John The Baptist is sometimes seen as backing John The Baptist being the return of Elijah.  Nothing however proves those should be viewed as the same thing.  They just assume that last part of Malachi was merely elaborating on Malachi 3:1, but I see no reason to believe that.

John could be viewed as a near fulfillment, like Solomon was of Nathan's Prophecy, but the true ultimate fulfillment is still yet future.

Other circumstantial reasons to view Elijah as a witness will happen to come up as I discus the identity of the other one. So addressing the John issue is all I need to do for now.

Not Moses

So many scholars I respect, like Chuck Missler, who are right on so many other basic Eschatological issues still insist on this mistaken view that the other Witness is Moses. I'm going refute those arguments.  The main three are.

1. "The plagues parallel Elijah and Moses". Miracles are truly performed by God, Elijah and Moses happened to be affiliated with some of the most basic and standard stuff. Truth is however it's primarily Elijah's ministry their description parallels, with stopping the rain for 3 and a half years and consuming their persecutors with fire. The only specific thing affiliated with Moses is the turning water to blood. But by this point in Revelation that's already no longer unique to Moses, we saw it in the trumpet judgments twice and will again twice during the bowl judgments.

2. "It was Moses and Elijah at the Transfiguration". The Transfiguration follows directly when Jesus said to the Twelve "Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom." Matthew 16:28. My response to how that verse is used by Preterists and Amillennials (and Bible skeptics who call Jesus a failed Prophet) is that it's referring to the Transfiguration. Jesus and his two visitors are transfigured into their post Resurrection states. I believe there is a deliberate bending of Space-Time here, and that the Elijah with Jesus here has already experienced the events of Revelation 11.

3. "Moses and Elijah represent The Law and The Prophets". For starters the term "The Law and The Prophets" isn't used in Revelation 11. Also "The Prophets" in that sense refers to the Prophetic books of The Bible, Elijah didn't write any of those. But at any rate, Enoch is from The Torah.

4. "Moses is mentioned right by Elijah in Malachi's Prophecy". This should be an argument against frankly, Malachi was just on the subject of Moses and yet he only directly refers to Elijah returning. Clearly the intent was that Elijah's return would make people remember the Law of Moses, I believe he'll be preaching that the Law was fulfilled by Jesus.

Those are the typical core three arguments, but I want to address now two I've heard chiefly from Chuck Missler.

First Chuck claims that the Prophecy of the coming "Prophet like unto Moses" from Deuteronomy 18 really implies a second coming of Moses but that's simply lost in translation, but my own study of the Hebrew text lends it no support. At any rate he's ignoring Acts 3:22 and 26:22 which define this as a Prophecy of Jesus.

He also cites Jude verse 9

"Yet Michael the archangel, when contending with the devil he disputed about the body of Moses, durst not bring against him a railing accusation, but said, The Lord rebuke thee."
Suggesting the reason defending Moses's body from Satan was so important was because God still has a future plan for him.

I believe the reason was to be a witness to the Resurrection. Matthew 27:52&53 says

"And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, and came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many."

As I've said elsewhere, this can't be another temporary Resurrection like Lazarus, that wasn't a special sign anymore. This is referring to the first phase of The First Resurrection. We know where Moses was buried, Mt. Nebo isn't as controversial an identity as Sinai. Lots of excavations go on there, but the body of Moses hasn't been found. I believe Moses certainly had to be among those Resurrected soon after Jesus, which means he's not capable of dieing anymore, which The Witnesses will have to do. 

Some have even argued that what Jude is describing here is when Moses Resurrection happened.  Daniel 12 arguably links Michael to the Resurrection (I think Daniel 12 has it's near fulfillment in the Resurrection that happened with Jesus Resurrection, and finale fulfillment in The Rapture) and if you hold a Midway Point Rapture view like I do, the connection between the Seventh Trumpet and Revelation 12 could back that up.

People then go on and bring in all kinds of Extra-Biblical post Second Temple Rabbinic Jewish traditions to back them up, from the Mishna, Talmud and Kabbalistic ideas, from men like Rashi.

 I'm a Christian who considers the Talmud a useful source of Historical information, but Rabbinic Judaism is still just as much a false religion as Catholicism and their traditions. These same kinds of Esoteric Jewish speculations may consider the idea of a returning Moses independent of Revelation 11, but you'll also find teachings there that the Messiah isn't a Son of David but David himself Resurrected, or Solomon.

The death nail however is that Moses was punished for his Sin of Unbelief by not being allowed to enter the Promised Land.  The Witnesses will be in the promised land.  And that was a penalty God will not repent of, Moses will not see The Promised Land.

Why I view the other as Enoch.

I believe in the symmetry of The Bible. Exactly two people are recorded as being taken out of the Earth alive without ever dying during the B.C. period. One we are told specifically will come back. Then Revelation 11 speaks of Two Witnesses who operate like Old Testament Prophets, and they definitely parallel the one confirmed to come back. And both will die and be resurrected in circumstances distinct from most of humanity. It seems to me like 1+1=2.

Chuck Missler argues against Enoch by saying "He's not Jewish". He's one of those Pre-Tribbers who view the entire Tribulation as being uniquely focused on Israel, so clearly the other can't be a Gentile, not even a pre-Abramanic gentile. But to me the Gentiles are still relevant during this period, the whole world is said to hate them, not just Jews offended by their Jewish message. I could add that Chuck also likes to say that the Woman of Revelation 12 is "Israel, in the sense that she starts with Eve" The Seed of The Woman, Enoch is part of that sense clearly, being in the Genealogy of Jesus from Luke 3.

There were Prophets in Pre-Church times who had missions to the Gentiles, Jonah and Nahum for example. But also Daniel's message was half for Israel and half for The World. 2-7, Aramaic Daniel, is a message for The Gentile World. Elijah himself, as well as Elisha his successor had missions involving Gentiles, including a command to Anoint a King of Aram. Prophets need not physically travel to Nineveh to preach to them anymore, television and the internet will make sure their message travels.

Here is what he's overlooked though. The Two Olive Trees imagery of Revelation 11 in addition to drawing on Zachariah 4 is also further explained by Romans 11:17-24, the Prophecy of Israel's restoration. Where it becomes clear one represents Israel and the Other the believing Gentiles. This is often used by those who want to allegorieze the Witnesses, that allegorical context is only heretical when it throws out the literal fulfillment. We know Romans 11 should be understood with this subject in mind because Elijah was refereed to at the start.

But what about the assumption that in Zachariah they represent Zerubbabel and Jeshua? Both of them were Jews and not Gentiles? Technically true but Zerubbabel did have a Gentile name, unlike Enoch who coming from Pre-Babel times had a Hebrew name like all original Gentiles. But either way the Doctrine of the Two Witnesses shouldn't be based on the types definitively. For one thing, The Witnesses clearly hold the office of Prophet, while Zeurbbabel was the leader of Civil Government and Jeshua was the High Priest.

Hebrews 9:27 is often cited by Enoch supporters, though I hardly view my position as dependent upon it. "And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment". The response to that however is that there are exceptions to this chiefly in those who will be Raptured.  Because whether your Pre, Mid or Post Tirb, 1 Thessalonians 4 clearly describes people who will be spared "dying" in the normal way when Jesus returns to gather his people.

The Church is Resurrected at the Rapture "The dead in Christ shall rise first: then we which are alive and remain", those alive still when it happens will be Resurrected without dying. No one was truly Resurrected before Jesus in 30 A.D. So Enoch couldn't have been Resurrected, he still needs to be.

People against it being Enoch like to say Enoch's being taken was a type of The Rapture as if that inherently conflicts with the idea of him coming back.  But Elijah's can be viewed as a type of The Rapture too, even better really since his story has a narrative, linked to other End Times proto-types.  Those are only a type because they weren't Resurrected.  But The Two Witnesses will be Resurrected and Raptured.  And as a Mid-Tirbber I view theirs and ours as linked, maybe even simultaneous.  So to me their serving at a foreshadowing of The Rapture event in The Law and The Prophets only fits them being The Witnesses even better.

Those against using Hebrew 9:27 ti support Enoch will say it's intent is only about condemning reincarnation.  Well the irony there is I've seen supporters of reincarnation mocking the idea of using that verse against reincarnation because the same author reminds us Enoch was taken out of the Earth alive.

John 3:13 is often cited by skeptics of The Bible as a contradiction, for contradicting the accounts of both Elijah and Enoch by saying. "And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven." The answer is that Elijah and Enoch were taken out of The Earth, but did not go all the way to the "Third Heaven" (2 Corinthians 12:2–4). But that answer leaves Enoch stranded if only Elijah comes back.

Given what we now know about the nature of Time thanks to Albert Einstein, about how if you travel past the speed of light you're also traveling through Time itself.  What if Enoch and Elijah were taken to an angelically inhabited planet orbiting a distant Star?  Both could have arrived at the same time despite being taken from Earth thousands of years apart simply by giving their "Chariots" different speed settings. There they were briefed on what they needed to do.  I suspect they arrived after 100 A.D. so they could be given a complete New Testament and Hebrew Scriptures to study. Then left to Space-Time Travel again and will return when the 70th Week starts, but for them it'll have only been like a few years tops.

Next I will return to a specific passage alluded to in Revelation 11, Zechariah 4. The two Olive Tress on each side of the Menorah, which represent two Anointed Ones who stand before YHWH. Standard non NT influenced interpretation is that they refer to Zeurbbable and Joshua, leaders of the first wave of Israelites returning from the exile. Of course that is true, in one sense they do foreshadow The Witnesses. But there is more to it. One of the layers of symbolism of the Seven Candlesticks of The Menorah to me is the Seven Angels who stand before the Throne of YHWH. So what we have here is literally two men who are currently among the Angels.

What's interesting is this passage is also often affiliated by Jews with Hanukkah and read during that festival. They see the two Olive Trees next to the Menorah as foreshadowing the nine candlestick Hanukkah Menorah.  Hanukkah is linked to the history of Antiochus Epiphanes and his Abomination of Desolation, a precursor of The Man of Sin. So it does also have End Times significance. 

It's not noticed by us in English because of differences in transliteration, but in Hebrew the first syllable of Hanukkah is the name of Enoch. The Holy Spirit loves making puns like that, so I don't think it's a coincidence.

I feel I should add, even though it's ultimately irrelevant to me, that them being Enoch and Elijah was virtually the unanimous opinion of early Christianity. Early Church fathers, such as Tertullian, Irenaeus, and Hippolytus of Rome state this view, the last two I know take the correct Futurist views on most issues of Eschatology and so are my favorites to read on that subject. The account of Christ's descent into Hades from the apocryphal Gospel of Nicodemus features both of them identifying themselves as The Two Witnesses. The Pseudo-Prophecy from the late 4th Century attributed to the Tiburtine Sibyl also identifies them as Enoch and Elijah. Also Ephraim the Syrian, and other 7nth Century AD apocalypses.  This Moses popularity popped up much latter.

One final thought that is completely conjectural.

The Moses camp can build a strong circumstantial case using thematic parallels, but those aren't something to build doctrine one.  It being Enoch is what makes the full Biblical picture of history fit together.

I've thought to myself recently.  "What if there is a way to reconcile the circumstantial arguments with the solid reasons for seeing it as being Enoch.  What if to begin with Moses was to Enoch as John The Baptist was to Elijah?  A type fulfillment of his promised return but not the literal final fulfillment."

We have no real reason to build such a doctrine on that.  But I can think of one thing that might give it minute support.  The Prophecy Jude attributes to Enoch says "Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints".  This verse happens to have a poetic parallel to Deuteronomy 33:2 "he came with ten thousands of saints: from his right hand went a fiery law for them."  That could lend credence to suggesting that if we knew more about what Enoch prophesied that maybe the days of Moses could be viewed as its near fulfillment, but the End Times as the final far fulfillment.

This theory on how to tie everything together might suggest that the "Elijah" at the Transfiguration was really John The Baptist.  Considering the Transfiguration account is the only place that seems to explicitly identify John with the fulfillment of Elijah's return, that could make sense.

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