Who are the two witnesses (Revelation 11:3)?
B. Hodge, Biblical Authority Ministries, June 12, 2020
When Israel and Judah (again, that is, Israel collectively) were judged previously for her sin, and sent into captivity there were also two witnesses according to Nehemiah 9:26.
"Nevertheless they were disobedient And rebelled against You, Cast Your law behind their backs And killed Your prophets, who testified against them To turn them to Yourself; And they worked great provocations. (NKJV, emphasis added)
The Law of Moses (by the prophet Moses) and the rest of the Old Testament by the mouth of the Prophets (Luke 24:27) both testified against Israel and her adulteries again. The witnesses were these two as Paul says in Romans 3:21. Keep in mind other passages that confirm this such as Luke 16:29-31 and Acts 26:22. There is no reason to assume that the two witnesses at Israel’s judgment this time are any different.
As a clarifying note, the prophets were forerunners to apostles who now share that office and supersede it in the church as direct representatives for Christ, as opposed to merely mouthpieces of God (Hebrews 1:1-5, Luke 11:49, 1 Corinthians 12:28, Ephesians 3:5, and 2 Peter 3:2). Prophets also existed in the New Testament but the authority of the apostles was above that of prophets (e.g., Acts 13:1). And God’s vengeance upon the Jews satisfied the complaints of the prophets and apostles in Revelation 18:20.
A brief description of the two witnesses includes, “They have the power to shut the sky, that no rain may fall during the days of their prophesying, and they have power over the waters to turn them into blood and to strike the earth with every kind of plague, as often as they desire.” (Revelation 11:6). These are clearly the marks of prophets (e.g., prophesying for example) including the finger prints of prophets like Moses (plagues on Egypt) and Elijah (shutting up the rain).
The two witnesses are described as two olive trees and two lampstands (Revelation 11:4). The two olive trees and two lampstands are discussed in Zechariah 4:1-14. The olive trees are the Word of the Lord (Zechariah 4:3-6). The lampstands that are fed by the olive trees that feed the lampstands with two gold pipes and oil drains are called the “anointed ones” (Zechariah 4:11-14). Scriptures called the prophets the “anointed ones” in 1 Chronicles 16:22 and Psalm 105:15.
For judgment, it required two or three witnesses (e.g., Deuteronomy 17:6, 19:15, Matthew 18:16, 2 Corinthians 13:1, 1 Timothy 5:19, Hebrews 10:28). Where the Jews found two false witnesses to come forward to put Jesus to death (Matthew 26:59-60), God used two witnesses to confirm the harlotry of ungodly Israel and Jerusalem—the Word of God, beginning with Moses and prophets—which is collectively the Old Testament. These are the two witnesses called against those who killed the Lord.
Re-Read Deuteronomy 17:6, 19:15, Matthew 18:16, 2 Corinthians 13:1, 1 Timothy 5:19, Hebrews 10:28, and then read Revelation 11:3-8.