Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The two witnesses

3 And I will grant authority to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth.” 4 These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth. 5 And if anyone would harm them, fire pours from their mouth and consumes their foes. If anyone would harm them, this is how he is doomed to be killed. 6 They have the power to shut the sky, that no rain may fall during the days of their prophesying, and they have power over the waters to turn them into blood and to strike the earth with every kind of plague, as often as they desire. 7 And when they have finished their testimony, the beast that rises from the bottomless pit will make war on them and conquer them and kill them, 8 and their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city that symbolically is called Sodom and Egypt, where their Lord was crucified. 9 For three and a half days some from the peoples and tribes and languages and nations will gaze at their dead bodies and refuse to let them be placed in a tomb, 10 and those who dwell on the earth will rejoice over them and make merry and exchange presents, because these two prophets had been a torment to those who dwell on the earth (Rev 11:3-10).
Premillennial cessationists believe prophecy terminated around the end of the 1C AD (give or take). However, premils interpret Rev 11 futuristically rather than preteristically. The two witnesses are prophets of God. So premillennial cessationists are committed to the endtime revival of prophecy. 
This is also an issue for amil cessationists who think Rev 4-18 narrates certain kinds of events which recur throughout church history. Even on an amil  interpretation (of the modified idealistic variety), the two witnesses in Rev 11 aren't simply a thing of the past, but have counterparts distributed through the course of church history. And the same issue applies to classic postmils. 


  1. What an excellent point! Thanks, Steve, for pointing this out.

    I wonder how a "MacArthurite" would respond to this? It is, after all, a fine exegetical argument for at least one spiritual gift continuing beyond today (and that on the grounds of their own eschatology). This also potentially answers the historical argument they present because it points to an ostensibly FUTURE event that is Biblically guaranteed, yet appears to falsify their position.

  2. I'm not a "MacArthurite", but as a point of logic, wouldn't the same argument prove the same points in relationship not just to the cessation or prophecy, but to the cessation of the ability of men to breathe fire, and to bring down plagues? Seems to me that the argument proves too much.

    1. Actually, that would extend it to other Elijah-like miracles. How does that prove too much? Moreover, dispensationalists typically interpret Revelation quite literally. So why would they balk at your inference?

    2. Well, I was making the point in a context of an assumption that all voices in the discussion would concede that men breathing fire, or calling down plagues, have ceased. You're right that, lacking that assumption, my point doesn't work. But does anyone question that assumption? Are there charismatics who claim those abilities?

    3. i) The question is less about what charismatics claim, and more about what premil cessationists claim, both regarding modern miracles and endtime prophecy.

      ii) In addition, whether or not something happens is independent of whether or not someone claims it happens or doesn't happen.

      For instance, many charismatics undoubtedly make exaggerated claims or have exaggerated expectations. That has no bearing on whether or not modern charismata happen. Their understanding or misunderstanding of the issue doesn't prescribe or proscribe reality.