By: Sammy Seagroves
Date: October 10, 2001


The title of this article is a reference to one of the most intentionally misunderstood passages of scripture in the book of Revelation. However, rightly understood it provides the discerning believer a sense of identification with that company of saints who shall ultimately be recognized as the Bride of Christ, that is, of the Lamb, while all other believers shall be known, in a certain context, as guests of the Bridegroom and of the Bride. That is a subject for another study.

Four Prominent Views

Among students of prophecy, four views generally have found a place of prominence. These are the Historicist view, the Preterist view, the Futurist view, and the Spiritual (or symbolic) view. The following information is quoted, from REVELATION Four Views - A Parallel Commentary, Thomas Nelson Publishers, c. 1997.

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,....

The Historicist View

As I understand it, the Historicist view claims that all of Revelation is pretty much fulfilled (with some variation in details) right up to the "second" Parousia coming of Christ, which will take place just before the battle of Armageddon (Rev. 19). Then, in reference to the 1,260 days/42 months, many who hold to this view, rely heavily upon an application of the year-for-a-day principle of interpretation without documenting by what means that principle might be justified in this case.

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.

A Faithful Remnant

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.

Who Will Enter The Most Holy Place?

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).

I am persuaded that everyone who enters through the true gate Who is Jesus Christ,, into the Outer Court does so in response to the biblical Gospel message to "Repent, and be baptized* the name of Jesus Christ for** the remission of sins..." and so experiences the new birth (receives the indwelling Spirit, and is further invited to "...receive the gift of the Holy Spirit"(in order to be equipped for service and to enter the Sanctuary and the Most Holy Place to worship God in Spirit and in Truth). See John 10:7, 9; John 3:16; Acts 2:38, 39; John 4:23, 24; John 20:22. "Said faith" does not get you inside the gate.
*[Many true believers in the Protestant denominations do not receive Scriptural baptism. This is a fundamental deficiency in their appropriating the "faith once delivered to the saints". Because of this, and other deficiencies, the Reformers of the Middle Ages could not be the "two witnesses".]
**[From the Gr. eis, into, to, unto, with a view to; hence, with respect to a certain event, in order to, for (Bullinger's Lexicon).]

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).

Return to The Historicist View

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.

What Did Zechariah Say?

[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.]

Again, I must agree that the author seems very clearly to be on the right interpretational track in this segment. I would note here that the author does not deal with the seeming discrepancy from the passage in Zechariah. The prophet does refer to the "two olive trees" but only refers to one "candlestick" [or "lampstand"]. This compares to John's reference to two of each. The explanation for this from Zechariah's perspective, is that the two covenants [the Abrahamic Covenant* and the New Covenant**] embodied in the whole Word of God, were written in heaven before the foundation of the world. However, only the true Israel of God embodied among men had become manifest (from the pre-Calvary perspective) at the time of Zechariah's prophecy. At the time of John's writing, the perspective was post-Calvary, and the New Covenant was then in force; hence, two candlesticks.
*[Gal. 3:19, rightly divided, demonstrates that the Abrahamic Covenant, with The Law of Moses added because of transgressions, was NOT abolished at Calvary, but continued in force in its appropriate functions in relation to the New Covenant.]
**[This New Covenant was prophesied of in Jeremiah 31:31-34, and confirmed in Romans 11:27, and Hebrews 8:6, 8, 10-13; and Hebrews 10:14-17.]

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....

TWO 1260-Year Periods?

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.

  • 1a. Here we have yet another apparent 1260-year period which was followed by Papal persecution of various Protestant movements over the next several hundred years. With absolute certainty we know that none of the Protestant movements fit the character of the Two Witnesses. We also know that the remnant true church the Bride of Christ has not had the power described by John in Rev. 11 since the first century.

  • b. Nowhere in Revelation is there any evidence which causes us to make the assumption that the two periods of 42 months and 1260 days do not occur in the identical same period. Further, his reference to Foxe's "Book of Martyrs" (pg. 74) does not in any way validate the claim for identifying the martyrs as the two witnesses just because they were in fact, willing to die for their faith in Christ. The fact is, some of them probably were members of the true church, the Israel of God, who will be in truth represented by the Two Witnesses during that still-future event.
  • 2a. Still further, his reference to the Papacy as being identified as the "man of sin", "the anti-christ", and the final head of the (Daniel's) "fourth beast" (pg. 76) in history from the 12th century onward, has no valid scriptural support. First of all, the reference to the "man of sin" in II Thess. 2:3 was a spiritual title, or label, strictly reserved for a specific period of time for the purpose of identifying the official paradigm shift which established the worldly power of the Imperial state over the sovereign churches of Christ. That period began with Constantine I as the first Emperor of Rome to become "converted" (an event of doubtful authenticity) to Christ. But he never gave up the office as Keeper of the Mysteries and he was never baptized by immersion. Succeeding emperors retained the office until it was refused in 376 A.D. on Christian grounds. Two years later (378 A.D.), it was taken up again by the bishop of Rome where it has resided until the present.

  • b. Secondly, the term "anti-christ" in Scripture is not restricted to a single person or corporate, historic entity, for there were many antichrists even in John's day.

  • c. Thirdly, there is no evidence that Mystery Babylon the Great,the apostate religious system which calls itself "Christian", can be identified as the "beast" in any way, shape, or form-at least not from a biblical basis. The Papacy cannot be separated from the system.
  • Some Final Thoughts on The Historicist View

    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.

    I believe that that will only occur as the seed of Abraham after the flesh, as many of them begin coming to Christ, will re-focus the direction of this pre-dominantly "Gentile church" movement back to the biblical Jewish model of the N. T. church. Again, that will take place by Divine direction as the "falling away" continues among Gentile Christian movements.*
    *[That this will occur is the strongest possible evidence against the doctrine of the so-called pre-tribulation rapture of the church. At this point in time (today), the Lamb's "wife" (the Church) has not yet made herself ready. This will occur with the Divinely directed baptism of fire (prophesied of by John the Immerser) which will prove them who are willing to Come out of her,, that is, out of Babylon.

    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.

    In spite of its history, this apostate* system still thrives today, if less aggressively. Inasmuch as "she" is to receive double in terms of recompense for her iniquity (lawlessness), can we not begin to glimpse the role of the Two Witnesses leading up to, and perhaps during-that time of judgment?
    *[At the time of composition of this article in 2001, I had not yet concluded that the institution of The Holy Roman Catholic Church was not, in fact, apostate, which actually came later. I can now say, in November 2008, that that institution could not be apostate, because it was never a Christian institution from its conception. Notwithstanding the claims of the Papacy, I can find NO record, either from the scriptures or from history, that the Roman Catholic Church had ever been set in order as a biblical New Testament Church by legitimate five-fold ministry. The RCC continues, to this day, to make the slanderous claim that "she" alone has the right to be called The Bride of Christ, and that the Pope is the vicar of Christ on earth. This is a slap in the collective faces of all of the sovereign true churches of Christ from the first century to this day, who have sought only to serve their Risen Lord in Spirit and in Truth, with emphasis on "Truth". The condition of apostasy does affect many churches which have been influenced by this other woman to commit spiritual adultery and fornication at her behest.]

    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.

    The Futurist View

    It is apparently believed by many who teach The Historicist View that The Futurist View is a false doctrine instigated by the Papacy, specifically, a Jesuit priest named Ribera, for the expressed purpose of defending the Roman Catholic Church against long-term attacks by Reformers and others--attacks which claim to identify the Papacy (based on certain passages of Scripture) as "that man of sin", "THE Antichrist", and/or "the fourth beast", which was to rise to power after the fall of the Roman Empire.

    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.

    The problem with The Historicist View is that it confuses the identity of "that man of sin" with the personage which some called historically by the unbiblical title of "THE Antichrist"*, which somehow was to be understood as the first "beast" of Rev. 13. This is not a valid correlation.
    *[I and II John list five occurrences of the term "antichrist(s)", one of which is plural. Nowhere does he imply that the term should be used as a singular title (denoted by "THE") of "that man of sin" or of any other end-time personage, as many teach today.

    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.

    Last edited, updated, or changed February 1,2010. Last changed and updated November 18, 2008. Last previously updated and modified October 14, 2001.

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    The Two Witnesses-Cont'd2

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