Thank you for your time,
Like you, I have always believed that this speaks of the first half of the tribulation. So when your question came in I thought I'd write a reply but decided to look up a couple of Bible teachers that I like and see what they had to say (really for confirmation). They were split on the timing. Hmmm... So I looked up some more. They had different views as well. It got me more interested so I kept looking and what I found is that the belief in the two witnesses being in the 1st half or 2nd half of the tribulation was split right down the middle! And these are all pre-millennial, pre-tribulation Bible teachers that would agree on most topics related to Bible prophecy! For example:
When reading the account straight through in chapter 11 it goes right from discussing the two witnesses and the earthquake that occurs at their resurrection to saying the 2nd woe is past and then announces the 7th trumpet:
- We know that the Antichrist is given 3 1/2 years / 42 months / 1260 days / times, time and half a time to have authority (Rev 13:5, Dan 7:25). And not a day more. His reign comes to an end when the Lord returns at the second coming. (Rev 19:19-20, 2 Thes 2:8) So if this 1260 days of Revelation 11:3 is the last half of the tribulation then the day of the witnesses' death is also the day when the Lord Jesus returns at His second coming. That being so, does it make sense that people would be celebrating and sending presents to one another for another three days, over the death of these witnesses, when the battle of Armageddon is going on, the earth is in chaos and the Lord Himself has returned? It doesn't.
- It makes more sense I believe that the witnesses are in the first half of the tribulation and, though no one can touch them for 1260 days, the Antichrist "wows" the whole world at the mid point by declaring Himself to be God in the temple and then proving it by killing these "un-killable" witnesses. This would cause people to both worship the Antichrist and celebrate the death of the witnesses.
- Also we know that these two witnesses are in Jerusalem (Rev 11:8). The last half of the tribulation is the time that the Lord has told the Jews to flee Israel! (Matt 24:15-22, Rev 12:6). It seems better to place them there in the first half of the tribulation (while the people are there) than in the 2nd half when Israel has fled into the wilderness (or those that are obedient have).
- It is likely that one of the witnesses is Elijah who has to come again before the great and terrible day of the Lord. Part of his ministry is to cause repentance (Mal 4:6) As the Bible Knowledge Commentary states: "As a result of the ministry of the two witnesses many people will repent, thus uniting the hearts of… fathers with their children. This repentance will mean that they will not experience God’s judgment in the day of the Lord." This makes a lot more sense in the first half of the tribulation before the "full-on" judgment and day of Jacob's trouble occurs.
The three "woes" are declared in Rev 8:13 and are the last three trumpet blasts (trumpets 5, 6 and 7). Each of these are BIG events (hence called 'woes')
The first 'woe' is over on the 5th trumpet which gives authority to torment mankind for 5 months:
The second woe is the terrible events of trumpet no 6 which kill a third of mankind, not the earthquake when the witnesses are resurrected. Though the second woe isn't recorded as over till Rev 11:14, I believe this is simply because in between times John was told to 'prophecy again' in Rev 10:11 so he picks up a new theme (that of the temple and the witnesses) which is slotted in between trumpets 6 and 7 in his letter but really is a theme of it's own. In other words what we call Rev 11:1-13 is a parenthesis, a theme of it's own and then it gets back to where it left off... the 2nd woe of the 6th trumpet is over and the last woe, the 7th trumpet is at hand.
That is how I see it. Could I be wrong? Absolutely... as mentioned above better men than I have disagreed on this! Is there a possibility that the 1260 days of the two witnesses actually goes from half way through the first half to half way through the 2nd half of the tribulation? Yes, it's possible. While it is a fair assumption to make that the 1260 days are the first or the second half of the final 7 years (because of the other scriptures stating that exact same length of time) it is still an "educated" assumption. The Bible doesn't specifically say that it has to be the first or the second. But my understanding is, for the reasons stated above, that it is the first half of the tribulation.
The good thing is that church age believers won't be here - our hope is in the One who has gone to prepare a place for us and will come again, before God's judgement and wrath, to take us to be where He is!
So while we are speculating and dealing with controversial and debated prophetic scriptures, might as well comment on the identity of the two witnesses! : ) Again, could be wrong... but it seems to me that the Bible is pointing to Elijah and Moses as being the two witnesses. Too many clues point that way IMHO. As mentioned above, we know that Elijah is said to come again at this time:
Jesus said that if the people had accepted (Him), then John the Baptist, who had come in the spirit of Elijah, would have fulfilled this... but they rejected Jesus. So Jesus said that Elijah would still come (in the future). (Luke 1:17, Matt 11:14, Mark 9:11-13)
|Theme in Rev 11||Picture of Elijah / Moses|
Length of ministry: Rev 11:3 And I will give power to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth."
|Elijah caused drought for the same period - 3 1/2 years (1260 days)
Jas 5:17 Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the earth for three years and six months.
Fire: Rev 11:5 If anyone tries to harm them, fire comes from their mouths and devours their enemies. This is how anyone who wants to harm them must die.
|Elijah called fire down upon his enemies
2Ki 1:10 Elijah replied to the captain of fifty, "If I am a man of God, let fire come down from heaven and consume you and your fifty." Then fire came down from heaven and consumed him and his fifty.
Stop rain: Rev 11:6 These men have power to shut up the sky so that it will not rain during the time they are prophesying;
Elijah stopped it from raining
1Ki 17:1 Now Elijah the Tishbite, who was of the settlers of Gilead, said to Ahab, "As the LORD, the God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, surely there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word."
|Water into blood: Rev 11:6 and they have power to turn the waters into blood and to strike the earth with every kind of plague as often as they want.||
Moses turned water into blood
|Strike with plagues: Rev 11:6 ...and to strike the earth with every kind of plague as often as they want.||Moses performed 10 different plagues upon Egypt (Exodus ch 7-11)
Exo 11:10 Moses and Aaron performed all these wonders before Pharaoh; yet the LORD hardened Pharaoh's heart, and he did not let the sons of Israel go out of his land.
So the length and type of ministry definitely reminds us of Moses and Elijah. These two represent the Old Testament 'law and prophets'. The same two showed up at the Mount of transfiguration (Matt 17:1-6), a picture of His coming Kingdom, and spoke with Jesus. Do I think they will come again? Yes I do. It is possible that the two who come, come in the 'spirit of Elijah and Moses', just as John the Baptist came in the same spirit? It's possible. But I believe it will be those two themselves.
All the best. Hope it helps.