Rob Dalrymple, «These Are the Ones», Vol. 86 (2005) 396-406
The thematic features relating to John’s depiction of the righteous in the
intercalations of Rev 11,3-13 and 7,1-17 as well as how these features might
affect our understanding of Revelation 7,1-17 are examined. Four foci pertaining
to the righteous are explicitly present in the account of the Two Witnesses (11,3-
13). All four foci, also, materialize in the description of the 144,000 (7,1-8) and
the Great Multitude (7,9-17). However, when we examine Rev 7,1-8, we find that
John only incorporates the first two of the four foci (Divine Protection and
Witnesses) while in the account of 7,9-17, only the latter two appear (Enduring
Persecution and Vindication of the Righteous). If, however, we read Rev 7,1-17
as the account of one group, then the thematic parallels with the intercalation of
Rev 11,3-13 are retained.
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likely predicated upon the OT law, which required two witnesses for the
establishment of any testimony against the law (26). Therefore, the fact that
there are two witnesses appears to function as a means of establishing the
credibility of their legal testimony against the world. A. A. Trites suggests
that â€œTheir fire is the actual testimony which they must give in a Roman court
of lawâ€ (27).
Further attestation of their character as witnesses is the fact that they
possess the ability to spew fire out of their mouths: â€œfire proceeds out of
their mouthâ€ (11,5). That this signifies judgment is widely acknowledged.
Furthermore, that mouths represent their message appears equally justified.
The use of fire proceeding from a mouth outside of the Apocalypse supports
this conclusion. Jeremiah 5,14 provides a background for understanding the
fire from the mouths of the Two Witnesses as representative of their
message (28). Josephus, similarly, claims that Elijahâ€™s calling down fire from
Heaven served to prove he was a true prophet (29). In fact, the ability of the
Two Witnesses likely contrasts with the demonic hordes in 9,17, 18; 13,5;
and 16,13 (30). The references to the mouths of demonic, or demonically
empowered entities (as in 13,1-10), and the reiteration of the deceptive aims
of these beings (cp. 13,14) form a stark contrast with the testimony of the Two
Witnesses. Furthermore, there is likely a contrast between the mouths of the
demonic beings and the sword that proceeds from Christâ€™s mouth (1,16;
19,15, 21). That the â€œsharp two-edged swordâ€ (1,16) represents His words is
derived from the parallels with Heb 4,12 and 2 Thess 2,8. In the latter
passage, Christ â€œwill slayâ€ his enemies with the â€œbreath of his mouthâ€. The
combination of these passages and Revelation affirms that Christ defeats his
enemies by His very proclamation, which the Apocalypse represents by a
sharp two-edged sword.
Finally, in regards to the prophetic call of the Two Witnesses, due
attention is warranted to the powers granted to them, in that they appear to
embody the prophetic ministries of Moses and Elijah (31).
Therefore, it is apparent that the Two Witnesses function as conveyers of
the Gospel in accordance with the prophetic ministries of Moses and Elijah.
provide dual evidence necessary to sustain their case and to thwart the accuserâ€ (MORRIS,
Revelation, 135). Cf. J.P.M. SWEET, Revelation (London 1979) 184; SCHUSSLER FIORENZA,
Revelation, 78; HUGHES, Revelation, 124.
(26) Cf., Num 35,30; Deut 17,6; 19,15; also, Matt 18,16; Luke 10,1-24; 1 Tim 5,19.
(27) A.A. TRITES, The New Testament Concept of Witness (MSSNTS 31; Cambridge
(28) Jer 5,14 reads: â€œBecause you have spoken this word, Behold, I am making My
words in your mouth fire and this people wood, and it will consume themâ€. NASB. Cp.,
also, Isa 11,4; 1,16; 2,12, 16; 19,15, 21. LADD, Revelation, 155; SWEET, Revelation, 185;
HUGHES, Revelation, 124.
(29) Josephus, Ant. 9.23.
(30) The same phrase occurs in 9,17, 18.
(31) Cf. BEALE, Revelation, 582-85; J.F. WALVOORD, The Revelation of Jesus Christ
(Chicago 1966) 180; POYTHRESS, Returning King, 129; WILCOCK, Heaven Opened, 105;
MOUNCE, Revelation, 216; G.R. BEASLEY-MURRAY, The Book of Revelation (New Century
Bible; Greenwood, SC 1974) 180; CAIRD, Revelation, 135; R.H. CHARLES, A Critical and
Exegetical Commentary on the Revelation of John (ICC; Edinburgh 1920) 283; D.E. AUNE,
Revelation (WBC 52a-c; Nashville 1998) 600, 603.