TWO COMING PROPHETS
By JOSEPH A. SEISS, D.D.
The career of the Two Witnesses, though crowded miracle from beginning to end, is very brief. When their word is finished they become vanquishable and are vanquished. When they shall have completed their testimony, the Beast that cometh up out of the abyss shall make war with them, and overcome them, and kill them(Rev. 11: 7). Whether in consequence of a withdrawal of their power of self-defence and the gradual wasting of their heavenly vigour, like the fading of the celestial halo from the face of Moses, or by an enlarged licence to hell to act out its murderous malignity, the potencies of the underworld eventually seize them and put them to death.
And there, in the broad place of public concourse, the dead bodies of these Witnesses are exposed. And certain ones from among the peoples and tribes and tongues and nations behold their corpses three days and a half, and suffer not their corpses to be put into a sepulchre. This is so intense an outrage upon common decency and humanity, that it is full of significance here. Even to the worst of criminals the law awarded burial on the same day as their execution (Deut. 21: 22, 23); but all law and right feeling is set at defiance with regard to these prophets of God. The exposure of their dead bodies tells of a most extraordinary malignity and spite, and attests the extraordinary potency and effectiveness of the objects of it.
Great joy is experienced over their death. They that dwell in the land rejoice upon them, and make merry, and shall send gifts one to another. Now that the two mighty Witnesses are dead, they dismiss all further fear, consider their greatest trouble at an end, and send presents and congratulations to each other, as upon some grand jubilee. Three days and a half the holy prophets lie in death, their corpses a public spectacle, their killing celebrated as a general benefaction. The days are literal days, not years. Corpses could not endure to be thus exposed for three and a half years. Three years and a half they prophesied, and three days and a half they lie under the power of death. It was long enough to prove the reality of their death, of which the representatives of the nations were so anxious to be perfectly assured.
But they do not remain dead. After the three days and a half the spirit of life from God entered into them, and they stood upon their feet. The extraordinariness of the death and resurrection harmonizes well with the extraordinariness of the history of Enoch and Elijah throughout. Of old, they left the world as no other mortal ever did, and here they are resurrected in a band by themselves, and under circumstances quite differing from all other resurrections. Whilst their exposed corpses were being watched and guarded by men overjoyed at their destruction, those lifeless frames took vitality again. The spirit of life from God re-entered them, and they arose from their prostration, and stood upright, gazing round upon the terrified people who beheld them, and flashing a fresh and still deeper alarm into the guilty souls lately so joyous over their death.
Now that organized and Satanic war, and veritable killing, and the baseness of the most malignant insults after the killing, had been perpetrated, what was to be apprehended from this their sudden resurrection? These holy messengers had completed their work on earth, and Jesus Himself was now to be their avenger. No more devouring fire issues from their mouths, and no further plagues do they inflict. By the power of God life is restored to them, even a higher, more glorious, more indestructible life than that which was given them in their marvellous translation. They rise and stand upon their feet. Their enemies behold them. The reality of their resurrection is as manifest as was the reality of their death. The fiendish joy of the enemy is suddenly turned into overwhelming terror. Guilty consciences are now the prophets that torment the people. The Witnesses prophesy no more. They only stand up, and other fires seize their adversaries souls.
Heaven immediately recalls them. They stood by Christ in their testimony, faithful unto death; and Christ now rewards their fidelity, receives them to Himself, and crowns them among His heavenly princes. They heard a great voice out of heaven saying to them, Come up hither. And they went up to the heaven in the cloud, and their enemies beheld them. People who would not believe in the resurrection and ascension of Christ for their hope and consolation, are now compelled to witness the resurrection and ascension of His last Witnesses, to their horror and dismay. The record is literal. As well might we think to do away with the literal reality of the death, resurrection, and ascension of Christ Himself, as with the literal reality of the death, resurrection, and ascension of these Two Witnesses. Against their wishes and theories, many have been compelled to admit the inevitable literalness of the first resurrection in chapter 20; but much more clear, circumstantial, and certain is the literalness of the account of these Witnesses and their marvellous end.
When Jesus ascended, and His friends stood gazing after Him in tearful wonder and adoration, holy angels lingered by with words of promise and comfort. Here there is another gazing into heaven, as His prophets go up. But the gazers now are His murderous foes. Marvels follow here also; but they are marvels of judgment. Not loving angels with words of consolation, but executioners of divine vengeance with signs of doom show their presence. In that hour there happened a great earthquake. It is a literal earthquake, for it overthrows buildings and kills men. The tenth of the city fell, and there were killed by the earthquake seven thousand names of men. Earthquakes attended the death and resurrection of Jesus also, but we read of no deaths occasioned by them. Those were days of mercy and promise; these are days of judgment. A tenth part of the city is thrown into ruins, and seven thousand men are enumerated as killed by this earthquake.
We may well suppose that such a cluster of stunning marvels would not be without effect, even upon the hardened wretches of those evil times. Amazement, conviction, terror, strike in upon their guilty souls, and for the moment they acknowledge the hand of God, and seem ready to repent. The remainder, that is, those not destroyed with the seven thousand, became terrified and gave glory to God. To see those dreaded Witnesses come to life again, and go up in triumph to the sky, and, in the same hour, one house in every ten of the city fallen, seven thousand men of name killed by the disaster, and the world itself rocking as if in the throes of dissolution, was more than even their indurated hearts could bear. Against their will they are forced to the confession that Gods almighty power is in it.