The identity of the two witnesses of the Book of Revelation is a highly disputed topic. As objectively as possible we will look at the main interpretations and give the strengths and weaknesses of each.
Elijah and Enoch
According to Hebrews 9:27, “it is appointed unto men once to die”. One doesn’t have to read very far into the scriptures before finding a man who breaks this rule. In Genesis 5, we find the story of Enoch, a man who walked with God of whom it is said, “he was not; for God took him.” It appears that Enoch did not die but was taken alive by God. Later in the scriptures we read of a similar account dealing with a man named Elijah. In 2 Kings 2 we find Elijah and Enoch walking together and talking. The Bible goes on to give this account,
2 Kings 2:11 “And it came to pass, as they still went on, and talked, that, behold, there appeared a chariot of fire, and horses of fire, and parted them both asunder; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven.”
If we accept Hebrews 9:27 as a rule that applies to every man from Adam until now, then we must believe that both Enoch and Elijah must die. This certainly would come to pass if Enoch and Elijah are the two witnesses for in Revelation 11:7 we read that the beast will “make war against them, and shall overcome them, and kill them.“ Considering this fact alone we would certainly say that the witnesses could be Enoch and Elijah.
As a Bible student we must always be willing to weigh the weak points of a teaching before we accept it. As pertaining to the two witnesses being Elijah and Enoch there are a couple of weak points.
First of all, the use of Hebrews 9:27 as a proof causes us to make too many assumptions. The first principle in Bible study should be “what does it say?” The verse plainly says “it is appointed unto men once to die”. It does not say that God can’t intervene and cause a man to miss this appointment (i.e. Enoch). Another example of a problem is the believers that are alive at the coming of our Saviour. Of this account we read
1 Thessalonians 4:17 “Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.
Once again this verse doesn’t say that we will die and then be caught up, so if Hebrews 9:27 is a rule that applies without exceptions then we have some problems in a couple of places.
Another problem that makes this interpretation faulty is the fact that we have only one verse that even hints to a possibility of Elijah and Enoch. As we have seen that verse does not hold much weight. It is not always a good idea to build a teaching or doctrine based on one verse, especially for the novice Bible student. It would certainly be safe to say that every man has an appointment with death and the only way out of that appointment is by the divine intervention of an omnipotent God. If you do not read of a man’s death in the scripture then you assume that man met his appointment. God only tells us of the rare times in history when He, for a purpose known only to Himself, rescues a man from the appointment with death.
Elijah and Moses
Their authority with the Jews-
In the New Testament we find the Lord dividing the Old Testament into three major categories. These categories are the law, the prophets and the psalms (Luke 24:44). If we were to look at the main representatives of each category, we would easily agree that Moses would be associated with the law and David with the Psalms but we might question who would be most associated with the prophets. This is certainly one of the weaker points for narrowing it down to Elijah for there were many prophets. However, when taking other points into account, applying this to Elijah does not deny the scriptures. The law and the prophets are the portions of scripture where God laid down His law and rules for fellowship with Him.
Mount of Transfiguration-
The Mount of Transfiguration was one of the most fascinating events that took place during the ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ. This was, if you will, a preview of the glorified Christ and His kingdom. Here we find the Lord Jesus and two Old Testament saints. Who were they? You guessed it. Moses and Elijah. It has been taught that Moses was representative of those who have died and will enter the kingdom. Elijah was representative of those who will be translated into the kingdom without having died. Peter, James and John were representative of the Jews who will be not in their glorified bodies but rather will be in the kingdom in their fleshly bodies and those who were at the bottom of the mount would be those nations who go into the kingdom because of their proper treatment of God’s people during the tribulation. Nevertheless, God does not give us the words that Moses, Elijah and Christ speak to each other. The importance lies in their presence rather than their words.
The prophetic strength of Moses and Elijah is mainly directed at Elijah. We are told several times in scripture that Elijah has to come again. By a close look at the scriptures you will realize that John the Baptist could have been Elijah if the Jews would have accepted him (Matthew 11:12-14), but when they did not the Lord told them that Elijah must come again (Matthew 17:11). It is very important to realize that the Lord had everything in place to establish His kingdom with the Jewish people on earth, but when they rejected Him their kingdom was postponed. This postponement means that Elijah still must come again for he is to come before the great and dreadful day of the Lord (Malachi 4:5).
Characteristics of the Witnesses-
By characteristics of the witnesses it is meant, what do we know about the works of the witnesses as recorded in the Book of Revelation compared to the works of Moses and Elijah. For this portion we will make use of a table.