Are Enoch and Elijah the two witnesses?
In Revelation 11:1, John is told to measure the temple of God, which in the gospel era, is the church. In verse 2 he is told to omit the outer court, which is given to Gentiles, who trample the holy city for 42 months.
The prophecy of Daniel 7 describes the saints as given into the hand of a little horn, which arises among the ten horns of the fourth beast, representing the Roman Empire. The “time, times and a half” in Daniel 7:25 is the duration of the period of warfare between the saints and the little horn.
I beheld till the thrones were cast down, and the Ancient of days did sit, whose garment was white as snow, and the hair of his head like the pure wool: his throne was like the fiery flame, and his wheels as burning fire.
A fiery stream issued and came forth from before him: thousand thousands ministered unto him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him: the judgment was set, and the books were opened.
This description of Christ is similar to the one John provided in Revelation 1:13-17, where Christ stands in the midst of the seven candlesticks, and holds seven stars in his right hand. The seven candlesticks represent the church; the visions in both prophecies apply to the church throughout the present age.
The little horn is described in Daniel 7:8 as having “eyes like the eyes of a man,” and a “mouth speaking great things against the Most High.” This refers to Jesus, as we can determine by comparing Daniel 7:9-10 and Revelation 1:13-17. He was raised up to the throne of God, and Peter said he has been “made Lord and Christ,” implying that he fulfils all the prophecies about the promised Messiah who will reign upon the throne of David forever.
One of the great things spoken against the Most High is a claim that Jesus is not reigning as king upon the throne of David, but his kingdom was postponed, because some of the Jews did not believe in him. But Peter said any Jew who did not believe in Christ was cut off from Israel. He quoted the law of Moses. [Acts 3:23]
After his resurrection, Jesus ascended to his father’s throne. Paul taught that those who are in Christ are also raised up, and sit together in heavenly places. [Ephesians 2:5-6] They have come to the heavenly Jerusalem. [Hebrews 12:22] This fulfils Isaiah 2:2, where the mountain of the Lord’s house is established in the top of the mountains. What mountain is higher than the throne of God?
The apostle John, writing in the first century, identified the present age as the “last time,” and he said there were already many antichrists.
1 John 2:18
Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time.
In Daniel 12:7, the “time, times and a half” was identified with the “last time,” when the swearing angel said, “it shall be for a time, times, and an half; and when he shall have accomplished to scatter the power of the holy people, all these things shall be finished.”
Correctly interpreting the meaning of the “time, times and a half” and the corresponding numbers, the 42 months of Revelation 11:2 and 13:5, and the 1,260 days of Revelation 11:3 and 12:6, simply involves believing John’s statement identifying this present age as the last time.
Confusion characterizes the interpretations of those who insist that the 42 months and the “time, times and a half” represent a literal three years and a half. They typically insist that the two witnesses are two men, and also that the “little horn” of Daniel 7 is a particular man. This, they think, deflects some discomforting sayings in the scripture that could apply to them, such John’s statement that Gentiles will trample the holy city, and that they are given the outer court, which is cast out.
In Jewish tradition, Elijah was to return at the time of the end; this was based on Malachi’s prophecy. Hippolytus identified him with one of the two witnesses, but did not comment on the other one.
The tradition that two prophets, usually Enoch and Elijah, would appear at the end of the age, was a prevalent superstition in the early centuries of the church. Below are some examples from the literature.
Pseudo-Ephrem: “God, seeing the human race endangered and wavering under the breath of the frightful Dragon, sends them a consoling exhortation through His servants the prophets Enoch and Elias; and when these just ones shall appear, they shall indeed confound their adversary, the Serpent, with his cunning, and bring back the faithful elect to God, that from his wiles.”
The Syriac Apocalypse of Peter: “The accursed Antichrist. And they shall rebuke and denounce him as a liar, and he shall know (?) them by their bodies, and the son of perdition shall speak and say to them, I am the expected Messiah. But they shall convict him of falsehood, and say to him. Thou, a liar art thou, and thou art not the Messiah; then shall he be enraged against them and kill them, and their bodies shall lie four days in the streets of Jerusalem; and after that I will command by means of My power, and Enoch and Elias shall again be alive, and rise up with their bodies.”
Pseudo-Methodius: “And without delay he shall send his ministers, both Enoch and Elias, and loannes [John], son of thunder, who before all the peoples shall convict him of fraud and prove him a liar to all men, and that he hath come for the destruction and deception of the many. But he being sorely convicted and being by all despised in his wrath and fury shall make away with those saints.”
Ezra, Syriac Apocalypse: “And then shall the lying Messiah appear and display his destructive power and the onslaught of his wickedness. And he shall drag Enoch and Elias to the altar, and shed their blood on the ground with great suffering.”
Adso: “Then shall be sent into the world the two great prophets Elias and Enoch, who shall forearm the faithful with godly weapons against the attack of the Antichrist, and they shall encourage and get them ready for the war. . . . But after they have accomplished their preaching, the Antichrist shall rise up and slay them, and after three days they shall be raised up by the Lord.”
Pseudo-Johannine Apocalypse: “And then I shall send Enoch and Elias to convict him, and they shall show him to be a liar and a deceiver, and he shall slay them on the altar.”
These and other similar quotes are from: Wilhelm Bousset & Augustus Henry Keane. The Antichrist legend; a chapter in Christian and Jewish folklore, Englished from the German of W. Bousset, with a prologue on the Babylonian dragon myth (1896).
According to Victorinus, Elijah and Jeremiah will be the two witnesses. He wrote:
3. “They shall tread the holy city down for forty and two months; and I will give to my two witnesses, and they shall predict a thousand two hundred and threescore days clothed in sackcloth.”] That is, three years and six months: these make forty-two months. Therefore their preaching is three years and six months, and the kingdom of Antichrist as much again.
5. “If any man will hurt them, fire proceedeth out of their mouth, and devoureth their enemies.”] That fire proceedeth out of the mouth of those prophets against the adversaries, bespeaks the power of the world. For all afflictions, however many there are, shall be sent by their messengers in their word. Many think that there is Elisha, or Moses, with Elijah; but both of these died; while the death of Elijah is not heard of, with whom all our ancients have believed that it was Jeremiah. For even the very word spoken to him testifies to him, saying, “Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.” But he was not a prophet unto the nations; and thus the truthful word of God makes it necessary, which it has promised to set forth, that he should be a prophet to the nations.
Lactantius wrote: [Bk. VII: 17.]
When the close of the times draws nigh, a great prophet shall be sent from God to turn men to the knowledge of God, and he shall receive the power of doing wonderful things. Wherever men shall not hear him, he will shut up the heaven, and cause it to withhold its rains; he will turn their water into blood, and torment them with thirst and hunger; and if any one shall endeavour to injure him, fire shall come forth out of his mouth, and shall burn that man. By these prodigies and powers he shall turn many to the worship of God; and when his works shall be accomplished, another king shall arise out of Syria, born from an evil spirit, the overthrower and destroyer of the human race, who shall destroy that which is left by the former evil, together with himself. He shall fight against the prophet of God, and shall overcome, and slay him, and shall suffer him to lie unburied; but after the third day he shall come to life again; and while all look on and wonder, he shall be caught up into heaven.
Lactantius spoke of only one end time prophet. He was probably influenced by the Jewish tradition. Commodian was unsure whether there would be two or only one witness.
The Commentaries of Andreas and Aretha on Revelation xi. 3. identify three witnesses, Elias, Enoch and John the Baptist. Methodius also believed this.
A French play, “Jour du Jugement” (c. 1330) incorporated some of these traditions, which also involved antisemitism. Andrew Colin Gow described it:
At the end of time a devil will father a child on a whore at Babylon a Jewess of the tribe of Dan. The child will be Antichrist. Emerson notes that the speeches of the devils and of the mother “particularly emphasize that … the mother is a Jew of the tribe of Dan.” At the end, when Enoch and Elijah preach, the Jews– traditionally the first to be converted by the prophets–resist them, labelling them false prophets traitors and hypocrites finally killing them at the orders of Antichrist. Written just as the Jews of France were being expelled in stages by means of a series of edicts and counteredicts, this play provides evidence that the secular and vernacular drama of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries was markedly more hostile to the Jews than the ecclesiastical Latin drama of an earlier age.
[Andrew Colin Gow. The Red Jews: Antisemitism in an Apocalyptic Age, 1200-1600. Brill, 1995. pp. 107-108.]
A so-called “literal” approach to the 42 months and the 1,260 days does not lead to consensus on the identity of the two witnesses, but endless speculation and confusion. Jesus said, “And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven.” [John 3:13] All the speculations about Elijah and Enoch being in heaven contradict this statement.
Paul said Jesus is the only one who has been made immortal.
1 Timothy 6:16
Which in his times he shall shew, who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords;
Who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see: to whom be honour and power everlasting. Amen.