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Who are the two witnesses from Revelation?

And I will give power to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth." These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth. If anyone tries to harm them, fire comes from their mouths and devours their enemies. This is how anyone who wants to harm them must die. These men have power to shut up the sky so that it will not rain during the time they are prophesying; and they have power to turn the waters into blood and to strike the earth with every kind of plague as often as they want.
Now when they have finished their testimony, the beast that comes up from the Abyss will attack them, and overpower and kill them. Their bodies will lie in the street of the great city, which is figuratively called Sodom and Egypt, where also their Lord was crucified. For three and a half days men from every people, tribe, language and nation will gaze on their bodies and refuse them burial. The inhabitants of the earth will gloat over them and will celebrate by sending each other gifts, because these two prophets had tormented those who live on the earth.
But after the three and a half days a breath of life from God entered them, and they stood on their feet, and terror struck those who saw them. 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.
At that very hour there was a severe earthquake and a tenth of the city collapsed. Seven thousand people were killed in the earthquake, and the survivors were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven.  Revelation 11:3-13

If taken literally, these two witnesses:
  • Cannot be touched or harrassed or killed.
  • Fire comes out of their mouths.
  • They can stop rain and call down plagues.
  • They will die but rise again.
Can that be or does John use terminology that points to something else?

The two witnesses, also called the two olive trees and two lampstands, relate directly to ZECHARIAH 4, where lamp stands, olive trees and two witnesses are mentioned.

Then the angel who talked with me returned and wakened me, as a man is wakened from his sleep.  He asked me, "What do you see?"
I answered, "I see a solid gold lampstand with a bowl at the top and seven lights on it, with seven channels to the lights. Also there are two olive trees by it, one on the right of the bowl and the other on its left."
I asked the angel who talked with me, "What are these, my lord?"
He answered, "Do you not know what these are?"
      "No, my lord," I replied.
So he said to me, "This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: 'Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,' says the LORD Almighty. Zechariah 4:1-6

Then I asked the angel, "What are these two olive trees on the right and the left of the lampstand?"
Again I asked him, "What are these two olive branches beside the two gold pipes that pour out golden oil?"
He replied, "Do you not know what these are?"
      "No, my lord," I said.
So he said, "These are the two who are anointed to serve the Lord of all the earth."  Zechariah 4:11-14

Zechariah, a prophet during the exile to Babylon, contains several allusions to Jesus/Revelation.  John borrows heavily from this book that is rich in imagery and prophecy:
  • Zechariah 1 – horns
  • Zechariah 2 – measuring line for the temple
  • Zechariah 3 – the priest Joshua and the Branch (Jesus, a form of the name Joshua)
  • Zechariah 4 – lamp stands, olive trees
  • Zechariah 5 – scroll, a wicked woman of Babylon
  • Zechariah 6 – four horses of different color
  • Zechariah 9 – Jesus on a donkey, coming of the Lord
  • Zechariah 12 – the one who was pierced
  • Zechariah 14 – the final coming of the Lord
In Zechariah’s day, the two witnesses were Zerubbabel (governor) and Joshua (high priest).  They faced opposition and stood strong.

John wanted to say the same thing to a different audience.  There will be opposition, church, but hold strong. 

So what should the people hold on to?  The "witness" of these things:
  • The CHURCH, also known as the lampstand in Revelation.
  • The WORD of God.
  • The power/spirit/example of ELIJAH (who shut up the rain) and MOSES (who called down the plagues).  That miraculous spirit of God can still protect his people.  Both of them were with Jesus at his transfiguration.
  • The power/spirit/example of JESUS (a type of Moses) and JOHN THE BAPTIST (a type of Elijah).
If taken LITERALLY, these are two men who prophesied in the open for three and a half years, burn people with their mouth like a flamethrower, die, then rise again from the dead.  That can't be true.

FIGURATIVELY, this represents encouragement for the church, speaking words that burn the world, convicting it.  They are attacked, but never die.  Zechariah calls them the witnesses that bring the word to the world.

Since lamp stands stand for the church, we would call these witnesses THE CHURCH.