The two witnesses in Revelation 11 are represented by two trees, which John called two olive trees.
There were two trees in the garden of Eden, one of which was forbidden to Adam and Eve. Adam represents man, the "lord of the earth." Adam and Eve and their progeny were given "dominion" over all the earth. [Genesis 1:28]
The other tree represents the word of God, which to us, means the scriptures, but to Adam meant the instruction he received from God regarding the forbidden tree. From the scriptures, we obtain the knowledge about good and evil, right and wrong. "For by the law is the knowledge of sin." [Romans 3:20]
Adam and Eve ate the fruit of the forbidden tree, and in doing so, they disobeyed, and felt shame and guilt. They learned about sin, and they realized they were naked.
Then, God provided clothes for them, and they were banished from the garden. This was done to deny them access to the tree of life, the Holy Spirit.
And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever:
Therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken.
So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.
"Fire" and a "sword" are metaphors also used for the scriptures. The word of God is represented by a sword, that goes forth out of the mouth of Christ.
And he had in his right hand seven stars: and out of his mouth went a sharp twoedged sword: and his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength.
In the Old Testament, the promised land replaces the Garden of Eden, but on a national scale. A garden was suitable for two people to dwell in, but a much larger area would be needed for a nation. This is the promised land. It was where the two trees would continue to exist.
These are the two olive trees, and the two candlesticks standing before the Lord of the earth.
The two trees also have the role of lamps, or candlesticks, in the world, as they provide light, in the spiritual darkness. The Psalmist wrote:
Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.
The loss of man's first home in Eden, and the desire for a restored fellowship with God, are background ideas, that underlie Israel's land promises, and their taking possession of the land, and occupying it, and their removal from it, at the time of the exile. Who can fail to see the parallel between the Genesis story of man's exile from the paradise of Eden, and Israel's exile from the promised land?
The land promise, and its spiritual intent, as a symbol of a place where man has access to the tree of life, and the invisible things promised to the saints, is a theme evident throughout the Old Testament. Dispensationalists, who limit the promise to a literal territory, that is to be possessed by ethnic Jews, have missed the point.
Nathan Pitchford wrote:
The Abrahamic promise, then, could never be eternal unless something other than the physical land of Palestine is fundamentally intended by the promise. And if something other than the physical land is intended by the promise, then it would be vastly beneficial for us to ascertain the nature of this original intention, together with the ramifications that it has for our understanding of God's unfolding plan of redemption.
The Old Testament saints and prophets sought the truth that is represented by the tree of life.
The prophecy of the two witnesses in Revelation 11 throws some light on the present condition of the church, and the Spirit, and the role of the scriptures in the world. The two witnesses are described as corpses lying in the street. Their revival suggests what we can expect to happen in the future.
The prophecy of the two witnesses itself illustrates the fulfillment of the prophecy. The proliferation of theories, and interpretations of this prophecy, along with other prophecies, is one of the means by which the two witnesses are killed by the beast, and the general vagueness and uncertainty about the meaning of the prophecy, fits the description of the two witnesses as lifeless corpses, lying in the street.
The world rejoices over their demise. They can point with glee to scores of misguided "prophets" over the past few centuries, who claimed to be one of them! One pastor said that during his career he had met 26 people who each claimed to be one of the two witnesses. Thus the prophecy depicts the state of the witness of the gospel in the world today, as well as the spiritual condition of the church.
The beast from the pit seeks to destroy the two trees, and extinguish their light. The beast seduces Christians, by its faithless attitude to the scriptures.
And in the latter time of their kingdom, when the transgressors are come to the full, a king of fierce countenance, and understanding dark sentences, shall stand up.
And his power shall be mighty, but not by his own power: and he shall destroy wonderfully, and shall prosper, and practise, and shall destroy the mighty and the holy people.
Dispensationalists apply the promises of God to ethnic Jews, rather than to the saints. Scholars exalt their own opinions above the two witnesses, and see themselves as critics of the teachings of the apostles. According to them, Peter and John were rivals of Paul. They segregate the Jewish saints from Gentile believers, whereas Paul said they were all one in Christ. They separate the church from its foundations, which Paul said, are the prophets and the apostles. [Ephesians 2:20-21]
By promoting many flawed interpretations, men bring an evil reputation on the message of the prophets, and the true gospel.
2 Timothy 3:5
Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.
There is a connection between the two trees, and the promised land. The revelations of God to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, were about a promised land. The history in the Old Testament is about Israel possessing their promised land, occupying it, and then losing it. Then, the prophets spoke of a restoration to the land.
The ministry of Jesus was conducted entirely within the promised land. The Spirit was given to the disciples when they were at Jerusalem, and after that, the influence of the Spirit extended world wide.
The two olive trees represent the word of God, and the Spirit. They are described as two witnesses in Revelation 11, and are related to the two candlesticks, as Zechariah 4:11 describes two olive trees, that supply oil through two golden pipes. The oil is no doubt the fuel in the candlestick.
The Spirit shows us the spiritual meaning of all the events, promises, covenants, laws, psalms, and prophecies of the OT. Without a second tree, there can be no fruit, as olive trees require pollination to bear fruit.
Just as an olive, by itself, can bear no fruit, neither can the scriptures alone bear fruit. Christ has to open our minds to the truths hidden in his word.
The prophet Zechariah wrote:
Then he answered and spake unto me, saying, This is the word of the LORD unto Zerubbabel, saying, Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the LORD of hosts.
Jesus identified two things that would "testify" of him, the scriptures, and the Comforter, which is the Holy Spirit.
Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.
But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me:
And in Revelation 11, the two olive trees represent the scriptures and the Spirit of God, which are two witnesses of Christ, as one who "testifies" is a "witness."
The two trees in Revelation 11:4 imply a land, or a place for them to grow. The land, and Jerusalem, were raised to heaven in the New Testament. This fulfilled Isaiah's prophecy in Isaiah 2:2, that Jerusalem and Mount Zion would be raised up above the hills. Abraham is said to have desired a "heavenly" country.
But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city.
The two witnesses, which are called two olive trees, are also raised up to heaven, in a cloud.
And they heard a great voice from heaven saying unto them, Come up hither. And they ascended up to heaven in a cloud; and their enemies beheld them.
The two olive trees are identified with two candlesticks; the seven candlesticks in Revelation 1:12, 20 are identified with seven churches. Understanding the scriptures is one of the spiritual things promised to the saints.
Copyright © 2010, 2011, 2013 by Douglas E. Cox
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