Politics & Prophecy: A Lawyer’s View of the End Times
Part 2 – Judgment of the Nations
by Gerald R. Thompson
Zech. 4:1-14 (summary) – I said, “I see, and behold, a lampstand all of gold with a bowl on top and seven lamps on it. And there are two olive trees by it, one on the right of the bowl and the other on its left.” Then he said, “These are the two anointed ones who stand by the Lord of the whole earth.”
Rev. 11:3-13 (summary) – God’s two witnesses will prophesy for 1,260 days clothed in sackcloth. They are “the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth.” If anyone would harm them, fire comes from their mouth and kills them. They have the power to shut the sky (prevent rain), turn water to blood, and to strike the earth with every kind of plague, as often as they desire. When they have finished their testimony, the Antichrist will kill them and their bodies will lie in the streets of Jerusalem for 3½ days. Those who dwell on the earth will rejoice over them and make merry and exchange presents, because these two prophets had been a torment to them. But after this God will breathe life into them, they will stand on their feet, God will call to them, they will ascend to heaven in a cloud, and their enemies will see it. Then 7,000 people will die in an earthquake and others will give glory to God as a result.
Have you ever thought about what it would take to be the most hated person in the world? Who would you really have to tick off to be universally hated? It wouldn’t be enough to just offend a particular segment of society, or even a particular nation. You would need to enrage a good portion, possibly even a majority, of the world’s population. How would anyone do that? And why?
Let me make it easy. Which group of people are most likely to develop a seething hatred of an adversary – the people of God, or the followers of the devil? Which of those two groups accounts for a majority of the world’s population? In the end times, will the world be more likely to hate a bad guy or a good guy?
When the Antichrist comes, he will be highly admired and revered. He will succeed because people will want him to succeed. He will occupy a position of world leadership, and people will have no problem deferring to him, accepting him, and serving his will because of his power. I won’t go so far as to say he will be loved by all, because he will rule with fear – a terrible fear. But he will be terribly popular at the time. The long and short of it is – he will not be universally hated.
Besides, when the people of God are offended, cursed, persecuted and tortured, they tend to offer forgiveness in return. Some will pronounce judgment, and some will resist, of course. But there never has been, and never will be, a universal hatred expressed by the people of God towards their enemies. The followers of Satan, on the other hand, do not hesitate to become enraged at adversaries, to hold days of rage, to issue fatwahs or death threats, and send out assassins willing to blow themselves up. When was the last time you ever heard of a Christian or Jewish Day of Rage?
I suspect the surest way to be nearly universally hated is to offend the ruthless world leader then in power, to offend the worldwide anti-Jehovah religion he supports, and to pronounce judgment against the forces of evil (i.e., the very same leader and religion). If at all possible, do it in a way which is open and notorious (public and in your face), and it helps if you can escape capture and be a thorn in the side of the evil world leader for the entire time he is in power. Personally, I can’t think of a more fun and fulfilling job that a person could ever have.
You might think Jesus would be the most hated person in the world, but the fact is when the Antichrist comes to power, Jesus won’t be here on earth stirring up trouble against him. Plus, the followers of the Antichrist are likely to think that when Jesus returns, He is actually going to be on their side! [Discussed later.] The Jews and Christians will of course be hated during the Tribulation, but they will be persecuted and murdered to such an extent they will dwindle in population so their threat will diminish as time goes by. To sustain hatred, you really need someone who can’t be eliminated. Besides, to really generate hatred, you need to put a face on it. Hatred towards a group, or even two groups, is not enough.
Enter the two witnesses.
It is often assumed in popular culture (especially apocalyptic fiction books) that the two witnesses are primarily evangelists. This comes from the common usage by Christians of the term witnessing to refer to sharing the gospel, i.e., evangelism. So if God is sending out two witnesses, they must be evangelists, right? Not so fast.
Evangelism, by its nature, is motivated by love, reaches out to restore the lost, is a ministry of grace, and never uses force or compulsion. But look how these two witnesses operate: fire proceeds out of their mouths to devour their enemies (not figuratively, but literally to burn them to death). They have the power to withhold rain (cause droughts), turn water to blood (a sign of judgment), and smite the earth with plagues at will. They are not your usual ministers of the gospel.
Clearly, the killing of enemies and smiting of plagues is not the stuff of love, charity or grace. This is the stuff of judgment, execution, and extreme prejudice. They are operating in the province of law, not grace. The God of the O.T. is alive and well and hasn’t changed (Heb. 13:8).
Most serious Bible scholars at least recognize the two witnesses have all the hallmarks of a distinctly prophetic ministry: men clothed in sackcloth, calling forth fire, and smiting plagues on people. Plus, vv. 3 and 6 explicitly say the two witnesses will prophesy. Their ministry may or may not have a secondary effect of evangelism, but their primary function is something else entirely.
This has lead some people to conjecture that the two witnesses are literally Elijah and Moses (who exercised similar powers), or Elijah and Enoch (both of whom were caught up to heaven and in a sense never died) come back to the earth, or even an unnamed O.T. prophet and a N.T. prophet. But any of these conjectures is foolishness.
God can pick anyone He wants to when the time comes – Elijah, Moses, Enoch and various biblical prophets (from God’s perspective) are nobody special. It was, and is, only God’s power that was ever special. The men are just men, instruments in God’s hands. God can use anyone He chooses – He doesn’t need to bring anyone back to life. God can give any one any powers He wants.
However, there is still the question of what the two witnesses will prophesy about. Is their ministry a call to repentance, like Jonah or John the Baptist (“repent and be saved”)? Are they merely prophets of doom, shouting warnings to the wicked, “woe to you for your evil deeds and thoughts”?
I believe the two witnesses are not merely prophets, they are witnesses in a legal sense. God is holding a great legal trial called the Tribulation (see Dan. 7:10, 26), the result of which will be a pronouncement of a verdict (“guilty”), and the execution of judgment culminating in Armageddon. The job function of the two witnesses is to present and announce evidence against the accused (primarily the Antichrist) before God’s court. They aren’t sharing out of love – they are testifying and accusing in the case for the prosecution against the greatest criminals of all time.
In order for them to carry out this task, the two witnesses have to be able to get into the hidden places in order to root out the evil behind the public images, expose it, and confront it. They have to go where evil does not want them to go, and will do anything to stop them from going.
The inner workings of the Antichrist’s empire would remain hidden itself except for the fact that the witnesses will smite the earth with plagues – a very public and open act – as a demonstration they have penetrated the hidden places of evil. This will also serve to expose what they have found, and show that God is superior to the evil masters of the world.
The two witnesses will persist in their mission even when warned to stop and death threats are issued against them. Thus, evil forces will send out assassins, and the witnesses have to be able to defend themselves or they won’t survive. Hence the fire of God which will come out of their mouths to devour their enemies. Oh, I’m sure that will engender a spirit of love and compassion on the part of the Antichrist’s followers.
Further, during the Tribulation the Antichrist and False Prophet will be doing miracles, conducting spectacles and showing many signs and wonders to deceive the nations. Jesus will not be physically present during this time. He will be waiting in heaven to destroy the Antichrist and False Prophet by the appearance of His coming.
So it will be the two witnesses who, at this time, will be the primary counter-force to the Antichrist and False Prophet. They will oppose them, expose them, and show them to be false. While the Antichrist and False Prophet will dazzle the world with a wondrous show to deceive the nations, the two witnesses will inflict real pain in response.
This will naturally enrage everyone on earth beholden to evil or in league with it. And since most if not all believers in God will perish during the Tribulation, the people in league with evil will be the only ones left. Hence, the two witnesses will truly be the most hated people on earth. Then, when they have finished gathering the evidence they need, God will let them be killed, and how will the world respond? They will celebrate with a giant party to end all parties (no, literally – it will end all parties).
Of course, this is not the end of the story. God will supernaturally raise the two witnesses from the dead in full public view as a special resurrection event. This supernatural event will apparently have a secondary effect of evangelism (Rev. 11:13b), once again showing that God can do more than one thing at a time. And when this happens, the party will end.
In this life, the two witnesses will appear to fail. They will struggle against the Antichrist and False Prophet in a very public way, and will be rewarded by being killed in a very public way. Their deaths will be celebrated around the world. The forces of evil will rejoice that their nemeses were killed by their false Messiah, for they will have been witnesses against him essentially the same length of time the Antichrist will be in power.
Yet, God will visibly and publicly give the two witnesses victory in the next life, foreshadowing the ultimate victory over the Antichrist which must necessarily come very soon.
I can’t help but notice a parallel with Zech. 4:1-14, especially vv. 11-14. I mean, how many different lampstand and olive tree allegories are there in the Bible, and why would God have multiple sets of a pair of olive trees who are standing by the Lord of the whole earth? I therefore conclude Zech. 4 is a reference to the same individuals.
Also note that the two olive trees are called anointed ones, without any indication that this is a reference to Jesus. Keep that in mind when you come across other anointed ones in prophecy, i.e., in Dan. 9.