THE TWO WITNESSES of REVELATION
The historicist approach, which is the historic Protestant interpretation of the book, sees the Book of Revelation as a prewritten record of the course of history from the time of the apostle to the end of the world. Fulfillment is thus considered to be in progress at present and has been unfolding for nearly two thousand years.
The preterist approach sees the fulfillment of Revelation's prophecies as already having occurred in what is now the ancient past, not long after the author's time. Thus the fulfillment was in the future from the point of view of the inspired author, but it is in the past from our vantage point in history. Some preterists believe that the final chapters of Revelation look forward to the second coming of Christ. Others think that everything in the book reached its culmination in the past.
The futurist approach postulates that the majority of the prophecies of the Book of Revelation have never yet been fulfilled and await future fulfillment. Futurist interpreters usually apply everything after chapter four to a relatively brief period before the return of Christ.
What I am calling the spiritual approach (often called the idealist or symbolic approach) to Revelation does not attempt to find individual fulfillments of the visions but takes Revelation to be a great drama depicting transcendent spiritual realities, such as the spiritual conflict between Christ and Satan, between the saints and the antichristian world powers, and depicting the heavenly vindication and final victory of Christ and his saints. Fulfillment is seen either as entirely spiritual or as recurrent,....
This writer has done an in-depth study of the Historicist view as it was presented in a little book entitled: THE BOOK OF REVELATION (in two parts), by A. J. Ferris, B.A., 1936. From first to last, the author presented no persuasive evidence which would justify and establish the Historicist view as the biblical view. Further, the author has woven the doctrine of British Israelism throughout his commentary on Revelation. Due to the esoteric character of the doctrine, its inclusion in a work of commentary which is proffered for biblical truth does nothing toward that end. Nevertheless, we shall examine some of the author's statements relating to his interpretation of the two witnesses.
We go now to Part I, pg. 72, under: THE REFORMER'S DISCOVERY OF GOD'S TRUE WITNESSES. The scripture reference is Revelation 11:2-13.
From verse 2 to verse 12, we read of another series of prophecies this time concerning a faithful remnant of Christians who would witness to the truth throughout the Middle Ages....
Here the author begins his commentary by making an assumption of application for which he lays no foundation.
While this writer agrees that there has been a faithful remnant in every generation since the first century, the author demonstrates a partial lack of comprehension concerning the biblical view of the two witnesses. This will be revealed as we work through some of his commentary.
As we continue in the same paragraph, the author quoted part of vs. 2, referring to the holy city. Then he wrote (still in the same paragraph:
...The "holy city" or "New Jerusalem" always symbolises in the N.T. the true church of Christ, and so we see there a prophecy that the Papal church would oppress all true Christians for 1260 years...True to these prophecies the pages of church history clearly reveal such a line of persecuted witnesses.
While this is a generally accurate assessment of history (and is true regarding the Church of Christ), it does not accurately reflect the revealed prophecy which is under discussion. The author does not recognize the fact that there are no unbelievers in the "holy city", or "New Jerusalem". But according to the record of John, there are many believers in the Outer Court, who are under the religious and cultural influence of Mystery Babylon, and are therefore unmotivated to enter the Sanctuary or into the Most Holy Place (which is directly accessible from the Santuary) to worship God. Hence, the "holy city" is trodden "under foot" by the Gentiles for 42 months (but not limited to that duration) can only refer to believers who, for whatever reason, have not made that essential connection to their heritage in the Abrahamic Covenant, and who have not appropriated in their own lives the biblical Jewish model (as opposed to the Roman model) of the New Testament Church.
Even today, in this age of the wide availability of the Scriptures and many useful resource tools and materials, few believers are willing to pass from the Outer Court with its confusion of voices, practices, and doctrines, to enter the Sanctuary to be anointed with the oil of the Holy Spirit (lampstand) to receive the enlightenment of the Word of God (table of shewbread), to enter into regular seasons of prayer (altar of incense) IN ORDER that they may enter into worship in the Most Holy Place the Gr. naos, dwelling place of God..
So perhaps we can appreciate the Divine attitude which was transmitted to John when he was told to leave out the Outer Court in measuring the progress of transformation from the rough-cut living stones, into finely-hewn building blocks to be included in the heavenly, or new Jerusalem (See Rev. 3:12).
We must see that the meaning of "...for it is given unto the Gentiles;..." does not refer to the Roman Catholic church per se, but rather, to believers who still are in some way consorting with Babylon (including Roman Catholics who are saved AND saved members of Babylonian daughter denominations).
The following statement was omitted from the previous quote for comment at this point.
...Verse 3 then foretells how that during that time Christ would specially empower "two witnesses" to maintain the truth of the gospel even though "clothed in sackcloth", that is, under conditions of persecution....
We need to know that, for the purpose of his commentary on The Historicist View, the author set the year 533 A.D. as the beginning of the 1260-year period, ending in 1793 A.D. He does not attempt to explain the fact that probably hundreds of thousands of true Bible Christians had been persecuted and martyred under "Christianized" Imperial Rome and then under the bishop of Rome after the satanic office of Pontifex Maximus had been transferred to the bishop of Rome, from 313 A.D. and 378 A.D., respectively. Thus, his interpretation of verse 3 does not seem to have any validity, which will become clear as we proceed with our examination of the author's commentary.
We note that in the O.T., prophets of God were often clothed in sackcloth and ashes as a sign of their humility and obedience before the God of Israel, not because they were being persecuted.
So far, the author-Mr. Ferris, has made no legitimate connection between the general, historical facts he cites and the passage of Scripture from Rev. 11. As we shall see, his application does not fit the biblical parameters of the passage.
We now move on to the paragraph at the bottom of pg. 72. Here, Mr. Ferris makes some statements with which I do generally agree. His opening statements are quoted below.
We notice that John told that the truth of Christ would be maintained by "TWO witnesses" which number suggests another witness besides that of the faithful Christians.* In the Mosaic Law two witnesses were always required to establish a conclusive testimony. Verses 4 to 6 enumerate various characteristics of the two witnesses by which we can not only identify them but also distinguish one from the other....
*[The unbiblical implications of this statement will be explained further on.]
I see the relevance of his statement on the two witnesses under the Mosaic Law. However, his statement relative to verses 4 through 6 fails to consider that, concerning the identity of the two witnesses there is only one human representation, or group, with only one message (that group of special witnesses who are living at the time of the testimony), as seen in verse 7. "And when they shall have finished their testimony,..." says it very clearly.
[Continue the quote from the paragraph at the bottom of pg. 72:]
...In verse 4, one witness is likened to "two candlesticks", and the other to "two olive trees". This metaphor is repeated from Zech. 4:11 to 14 where the prophet visualized two olive trees one on each side of a candlestick into which they fed the oil for burning. Now Christ told John in Rev. 1:20 that a candlestick symbolised a church. Therefore Zechariah (skip to pg. 74) saw symbolised in his vision the O.T. Israel church*, while John saw "TWO candlesticks" representing the N.T. church as well. Hence we conclude that one of the witnesses is the true church....
*[While I agree with this treatment of the passage in Zechariah, I would add this clarification, that only the saved ones of Israel-those who observed the Abrahamic Covenant in the same spirit of faith and obedience as did father Abraham, and who kept the commandments of God out of contriteness of heart to obey God in love-formed the true O.T. Israel of God. At no time in their history has all Israel after the flesh been saved for heaven, but only the elect who have not put themselves into bondage according to Gal. 4:22-26.]
Still on pg. 74, we quote from the beginning of the next paragraph:
We now ask who is the second witness symbolised by the "two olive trees" which supplied the candlesticks with oil for their light? Zech. 4:14 tells us they are "the two anointed ones that stand before the Lord", i.e., the prophets and apostles* of the Old and New Testaments, whose writings we now call the Bible...Hence, the two witnesses are without doubt (1) the faithful church both B.C. and A.D. symbolised by the two candlesticks, and (2) the Bible consisting of the Old and the New Testaments symbolised by the two olive trees.
See Eph. 2:20-in the context of believing Gentiles being reconciled to God, to the covenants of promise, and to the common wealth of Israel by the blood of Christ. "And are built upon the foundation of the apostles (latter) and prophets (former), Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone." (KJV). Eph. 2:11-22 is very important to our understanding of the Testimony of the Two Witnesses, especially in the last days.
I do in fact agree with the author's interpretation of the identity of the Two Witnesses up to this point. However, his statements in the next paragraph marks a departure from revelation knowledge based on his bias against the full knowledge of events which must surely come to pass in the days just before the "second" Parousia coming of Christ.
Thus verses 3 and 4 represent the Divine revelation which came to the Reformers showing them that Christ's true church were the martyrs who had witnessed to the truth of the scriptures, and NOT the Roman persecuting church with her unscriptural manmade tradition....
For the next several pages the author develops the above premise based on a scenario of selected historical events which is designed to demonstrate the applicability of Rev. 11:3-6 apparently to a different 1260-year period of history from the period from 533 A.D. to 1793 A.D. In other words, he interpreted the period of the "Two Witnesses" to fit his scenario of history. On pg. 74, he stated that 1866 was the 1260th year of the existence of the Papacy, a claim which is patently false. The Papacy has existed as such at least from 378 A.D. when the office and title of PONTIFEX MAXIMUS was transferred from the Imperial seat to the bishop of Rome.
Then on pg. 76 the author made the following statement, quoted below.
...The identity of the Papacy as the "man of sin", the "anti-christ", and the final head of the "fourth beast", was not preached by the remnant of witnessing Christians until the twelvth century A.D. Thus it was not until then that their special witnessing for Christ was completed.
Although the Protestant Reformation and other pre-Reformation movements made very important and significant sacrifices in order to demonstrate their faith in Christ in opposition to the Papacy, AT NO TIME did Luther, or any of his reformation predescessors, or successors EVER come close to restoring the character of the biblical Jewish model of the first century New Testament Church.
An in-depth examination of the whole Historicist View reveals no legitimate foundation for that view, in spite of the fact that the Papacy was responsible for countless murders, atrocities, and abominations for many hundreds of years.
Those true believers who hear the call of Rev. 18:4, and heed it-will have done so in response to the testimony of the Two Witnesses. However, the field needs much work beforehand. The rocky ground needs to be broken up, the rocks moved out of the way. Seeds of truth need to be sown now, and nurtured in order to bring forth a harvest of obedience and faith, especially when time and circumstance require it.
Having never read Ribera's presentation I cannot attest to any of the claims or charges which have been made against the contents of his work. What I can attest to, based on the Word of God, is that understanding of certain passages of Scripture related to specific topics of end-time significance has been in an extreme state of confusion almost from the beginning of Gentile dominance and influence in and over the true churches of Christ.
There was a time not so long ago when I still tried to reconcile Paul's description of the "man of sin" in II Thess. 2:3-4 to John's description of the first "Beast" in Rev. 13. I have since come to believe that these two descriptions are incompatible. On the one hand, I must disagree with The Historicist View that "that man of sin" is to be attributed to the Papacy. In fact, the appointed time for the "man of sin" ended two years before the Papacy became a spiritual reality. The "mystery of iniquity" which apparently had its beginning sometime prior to the writing of II Thess. 2:7, has continued uninterrupted from that time to the present.
One problem is related to the failure by most (or all?) previous interpretations of II Thess. 2:7 to recognize that the temporal context of vs. 7 covers an unspecified duration from Paul's time to the unknown future time of the "second" Parousia Coming of Christ.
7. For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way.
The following is an exact quote of the text from the Zondervan Inter-Linear Greek-English New Testament, 1970, as a literal translation from the Gr. text.
For the mystery already is working of lawlessness; only (there is) he who restrains at present until out of (the) midst he be (gone).
Actually, this is not a very good rendering of the Gr. text even though it is the basis for the KJV English text. The following is from Bullinger's Lexicon which throws some light on the difficulty.
Gr. ginomai; to become, begin to be, arise or be (revealed). Here, with ek mesou arise out of the midst, repeating the word "revealed" from v. 3 and 6, and referring to the Antichrist. 2 Thess. 2:7.
Notwithstanding Bullinger's slightly apparent bias, he is still able to put the problem into perspective. Based on his exposition, we may render the text, thus:
For the mystery of iniquity already works, only he restrains (himself) at present, until he becomes fully (revealed) out of the midst.
Bullinger's use of "the Antichrist" strongly implies his belief that at least part of this verse refers to the end-time beast. To that extent, I agree. "The mystery of iniquity" refers to the unseen source of the evil which directed, not only "the man of sin" in his time (fulfilled), "Mystery Babylon the Great" in her time (ongoing), but also "the beast" in his time (still future). What is that source? His name is Satan, and he is yet waiting in the wings again until the time is right for another vain and insane attempt at world domination.
This is confirmed by vs. 8:
8. And THEN (when the "restrainer" becomes fully revealed out of the midst-i.e., "the beast") shall that Wicked (one) be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming (Gr. parousia).
This is clearly an end-time context which occurs at the end of an unspecified duration of time.
It is possible that some of these finer points of interpretation will be explained in greater detail as the two witnesses company prophesies, perhaps before, and most definitely during, the 1260 days of their testimony. But I believe that those who will, at some future time, make up the Two Witnesses Company will have already been through the peculiar baptism of fire which will prepare them for their role, their calling, and yes-their election-to fulfill the Word of God according to Rev. 11:3-13.
If the events described in this passage are imminent for this generation, then it is very likely that there are believers who are at this point in time agonizing over issues of faith which go back to the first century "faith which was once delivered to the saints". They are now, or will be, outraged with righteous indignation toward the errors and heresies of the modern popular theology, especially as it is taught by those who defend Gentile Religious Cultural Bias (GRCB) Against The Biblical Jewish Model of The New Testament Church.
While The Historicist View paints an inaccurate picture in identifying the human component of the Two Witnesses as the Reformers of the Protestant Reformation, the biblical view of the two witnesses will be found in the members of that company consciously, knowingly, and willfully identifying themselves with John's description of the Two Witnesses. Obviously, they will be defenders of the biblical Futurist View.