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New Defender's Study Bible Notes

11:3 two witnesses. The identity of these “two witnesses,” with their unique ministry and miraculous powers, has been controversial. Nevertheless, one of them almost certainly is Elijah, who was translated into heaven without dying (II Kings 2:11), and whom God promised at the very end of the Old Testament to send back to earth “before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord” (Malachi 4:5). Though he came “in the spirit and power of Elias,” John the Baptist did not fulfill this promise (Luke 1:17), for after John had been executed, Jesus renewed the promise that “Elias truly shall first come, and restore all things” (Matthew 17:11).

The other witness is probably the ancient prophet Enoch, who—like Elijah—was taken into heaven without dying, in the very midst of his prophetic ministry. As Elijah was the great prophet to Israel, ministering essentially at the midpoint of the time from Abraham’s call to the coming of Christ, so Enoch prophesied at about the midpoint of the time between Adam and Abraham, ministering as it were to the Gentile nations. When they return to earth, they will complete their ministry to both Jews and Gentiles, finally dying for the first time in their long lives, as Christ’s special witnesses—“my” witnesses (or “martyrs”) He called them. Though it is claimed by some, Moses could hardly have been one of the two witnesses, for he already had died and will have already been resurrected and glorified, either at the time of Christ’s resurrection or at the time of the rapture. He could not die again in a glorified body. Three of the disciples had seen Moses and Elijah with Jesus on the mount of transfiguration, but this was a vision only—not Moses and Elijah in the flesh (Matthew 17:9).

11:3 thousand two hundred and threescore days. The period of their prophetic ministry will thus be forty-two months of thirty days each, corresponding to the length of the month and year before the great Flood (compare Genesis 7:11, 24; 8:3,4). The earth’s rotation seems to have been increased (or else its orbital speed decreased) by about 5¼ days per year as a result of the cataclysmic effects of the Flood, so that terrestrial chronologies have been difficult to calculate ever since. God, however, evidently still uses the primeval time measures (360-day years and 30-day months) in His own reckoning of time, especially prophetic time. Note that the 3½ year reign of the beast does not begin until after the witnesses are slain (Revelation 11:7; 13:5), which means that the 1260 “days of their prophecy” (Revelation 11:6) correspond to the first 3½ years of the tribulation period, the time of the seal and trumpet judgments.

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