THE TWO WITNESSES (Part III)
Last week Elijah. This week Moses!
Once again, it’s important to grasp the astounding fact that Moses (and Elijah) accompanied Jesus on the mountaintop in person, with their actual earthly bodies given to them at birth. They did not yet inhabit the eternal bodies that all believers will someday be given at the Rapture’s resurrection of the dead (I Corinthians 15). If you like, please revisit the first five articles on the Eye of Prophecy blog site, pertaining to the What, Why, When, Who, and How of the Rapture.
How, then, was it possible for Moses to appear in bodily form with Jesus and Elijah if he had already died? We need not ask that question of Elijah because he was taken to heaven without dying, as last week’s article probed in some detail. To solve this perplexing puzzle, let’s begin with a few verses in the last chapter of Deuteronomy that record the death of Moses.
“So Moses, the servant of the Lord, died there in the land of Moab, just as the Lord had said. The Lord buried him in a valley near Beth-peor in Moab, but to this day no one knows the exact place. Moses was 120 years old when he died, yet his eyesight was clear, and he was as strong as ever” (Deuteronomy 34: 5-7).
Does anything in this passage strike you as just a bit unusual? If we were discussing these verses in person or by phone, I’d pause here and give you a few seconds to think about what was just read. But since most people continue reading whatever they’re reading, I’ll get right to the point; unless, you want to stop here and chew on the passage for a couple of minutes … then, by all means do so!
First, in all of Scripture or in the chronicles of mankind, where else are we told that God, himself, buried someone?! Quick, easy answer: Nowhere else. Secondly, not only did the Lord bury Moses, he also concealed the burial site. Why wouldn’t God have allowed Moses to be buried the traditional way in a conspicuous tomb where all of Israel could visit and venerate the burial site, much like Abraham, Isaac, Rebecca, Jacob, or Joseph’s graves?
Thirdly, the text strongly implies that Moses was still in good health. This inference is conveyed by the physical description of good eyesight and a (still) strong body. No reading glasses, no hearing aids, no disease, no crippling injuries, no excessive wear and tear on this rugged body of a great prophet who had wandered the Judean wilderness for some forty years … beginning at the age of eighty! When some folks tell you how old they are or how old a good friend is, they often will say, “She’s 80 years young.” And we get the picture, even if the person has wrinkles within wrinkles. Not so with Moses: when Scripture says he was as strong as ever, it means Moses was, in fact, 120 years young!
Not only that, the preceding verses of this passage tell us that Moses’ death had been planned by God for that very hour and in the exact place where God told Moses to go. If you recall the story, Moses and Joshua—and by implication the tribes of Israel—knew why Moses climbed the mountains of Moab … to see the Promised Land that he would never enter, but also to die.
Why such a mysterious passing? Why so secretive? What does it have to do with Moses reappearing over a thousand years later with Elijah and Jesus—though time in heaven is on a different measuring scale altogether … a day is as a thousand years and a thousand years as a day. (II Peter 3:8).
It’s good that you’re asking these questions! Because there are answers. And the key is found in one of most obscure, enigmatic passages in all of Scripture … one verse that has baffled even the most astute Bible scholars and students. The understanding of this passage only “came to me” (which is another way of saying that the Lord graciously disclosed it) during the enormous amount of study, research, preparation, and analysis during the writing of my book, Out of the Abyss … can the number of the beast be solved, 666?
Though I have seldom quoted from this book in the forty-seven articles written to date for the Eye of Prophecy blog site, I’d like to refer to some paragraphs from Out of the Abyss pertaining to the subject at hand. But first we’ll begin with the verse in question, one that presents a very brief but riveting scene involving two powerful angelic beings and a mighty prophet whose body was the topic of a high level earthly and/or heavenly debate. Incidentally, there’s nothing symbolic whatsoever about this passage. We see two real angels engaged in a real-life quarrel over the disposition of a real prophet’s dead body.
“But even Michael, one of the mightiest of the angels, did not dare accuse the devil of blasphemy, but simply said, ‘The Lord rebuke you’ (This took place when Michael was arguing with the devil about Moses body.)” (Jude, verse 9).
Excerpts from Out of the Abyss, Chapter 25: pages 243-246):
“Why on earth, or under the earth, or above the earth would Satan argue with the archangel Michael over Moses body? What was it Lucifer disputed?”
I then go on to answer this question.
“At this point in Biblical history, it had been the destiny of every person on earth to die, except Enoch. Man’s sin resulted in the curse of death … At the time of Moses, there had not yet been any physical evidence of bodily resurrection from the dead … the fact was then, and still is today: a person’s body stays in the grave and decays. Not until the Rapture of Christians and the subsequent Great White Throne Judgment of all unbelievers, will there be a permanent bodily resurrection from the grave….
“Why was Satan so bent out of shape over the body of Moses? The only rational, logical explanation is that Michael, on orders from God, had arrived to take the body of Moses directly to heaven. In fact, can you think of any other reason? This may also explain why no one knew where God had buried Moses. For that matter, how often does God directly bury someone himself, let alone conceal the burial site?
“Moses would be raised from the grave with his original body intact, and this didn’t set well with Satan. As we’ve seen, Satan can and does confront God, i.e. the story of Job and the temptation of Jesus. Arguing with the archangel Michael is no problem for Satan. It is entirely credible that Satan reminded Michael (and God) that the curse of sin was physical death and bodily decay. God had no right to make an exception to this rule, as it was God’s decree in the first place that Adam and Eve would surely die if they sinned.
“In no uncertain terms, Michael reminded Satan that God is in control; God has the final say in all things. If the Lord wanted to take Enoch from the earth directly to heaven and later Elijah, then the Lord would do just that. Same thing with Moses; the only difference is that Moses had died, but that’s a mere technicality with God.
“Remember, too, the Mount of Transfiguration … Since Christ had not yet died and arose from the grave, neither Elijah nor Moses would yet possess the resurrected new body given to all believers. The only explanation is that both prophets still inhabit their original bodies, albeit through some special divine preservation, not known to us this side of eternity. Actually, if a thousand years is a day in heaven, then no preservation is needed! Moses has been in heaven a little over three days; Elijah has been there approximately two and a half days.
“Thus, a strong case could be made that God, through the Archangel Michael, took Moses bodily from the grave. Whether God restored him to life before, during, or after his escort from the grave … well those of us going to heaven can ask Moses when we get there. Why else would only God know the exact burial-place of Moses in Moab?”
Moses & Elijah as the Two Tribulation Prophets
By now, I trust that God’s appointment of these great prophets to be the two witnesses of the Great Tribulation is self-evident. But to put the finishing touches on some of the most intriguing passages in the Bible (concerning the two lampstands, the two olive trees, the two heavenly beings, the two prophets, the two witnesses … all designations of Elijah and Moses), let’s briefly review the two heavenly beings who, “stand in the court of the Lord of all the earth (Zechariah 4) and the two prophets who “stand before the Lord of all the earth,” (Revelation 11) as introduced in Part I of this three-part series.
If Moses and Elijah are, indeed, the two heavenly beings and the two prophets that stand before the Lord of all the earth, then we might pose the question: Are there any other Biblical references to these two heroic prophets that would further validate and qualify them as the Two Witnesses during the Great Tribulation? I must say: I hadn’t thought of searching for additional documentation until writing this article, Part III of the series. I was and still am convinced that evidence presented thus far sufficiently stands alone as res ipsa loquitur (the thing speaks for itself). Mostly out of curiosity I reviewed more Scripture that records the remarkable lives of these two great men of God. What I found was nothing short of astonishing.
Moses: Most of us remember Moses and the burning bush. “When the Lord saw Moses coming to take a closer look, God called to him from the middle of the bush, ‘Moses, Moses!’ ‘Here I am!’ Moses replied. ‘Do not come any closer,’ the Lord warned. ‘Take off your sandals, for you are standing on holy ground. I am the God of your father—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob…’” (Exodus 3: 4-6, italics for emphasis).
Where was Moses? What was he doing? Answer: he was standing on Mount Sinai in the very presence of the Lord. Only the Lord of all the earth could ignite a bush and keep it burning indefinitely. Moses was, therefore, standing before the Lord of the earth!
Another spectacular scene: “The Lord replied to Moses, ‘I will indeed do what you have asked, for I look favorably on you, and I know you by name.’ Moses responded, ‘Then show me your glorious presence.’ The Lord replied, ‘I will make all my goodness pass before you, and I will call out my name, Yahweh, before you … But you may not look directly at my face, for no one may see me and live.’ The Lord continued, ‘Look, stand near me on this rock. As my glorious presence passes by, I will hide you in the crevice of the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will remove my hand and let you see me from behind. But my face will not be seen’” (Exodus 33: 17-23, italics for emphasis).
What an awesome privilege for anyone, even for Moses, to STAND before the true and living God! In fact, especially for Moses, who had fled from Egypt for killing an Egyptian; and then had tended flocks of sheep and goats for forty years on the back side of the desert. From a humble Shepard to a mighty Prophet … just like that!
Elijah: “Later on, in the third year of the drought, the Lord said to Elijah, ‘Go and present yourself to King Ahab. Tell him that I will soon send rain’” (I Kings 18:1).
Accordingly, Elijah sought out Obadiah–an official in charge of Ahab’s palace–to arrange a meeting with the king; which later led to Elijah’s confrontation with King Ahab and the prophets of Baal. Obadiah pleaded with Elijah to excuse him from this dangerous mission. If you’re curious as to the reason Obadiah was afraid, please read verses 7-14 of this first chapter.
Obadiah concludes his desperate appeal to dissuade Elijah with these words, “Sir, if I do that, Ahab will certainly kill me” (verse 14).
Now then, if I could pause this article and insert a video or even an audio of a drum roll, I’d certainly do so! Why? Because Elijah’s reply is yet another perfectly placed thread that would later be woven into the majestic tapestry of God’s prophetic sovereignty! Of the countless possibilities of what Elijah could have said or how he could have responded to Obadiah, here is what he said:
“…I swear by the Lord Almighty, in whose presence I stand, that I will present myself to Ahab this very day” (I Kings 18:15, italics for emphasis). Amazing! This is much more than just a figure of speech. Elijah was telling Obadiah and all readers of the text exactly what the Lord revealed to Zechariah and later to John of Revelation: Elijah (like Moses) had the unimaginable privilege of standing before the Lord of all the earth. Literally!
Which gives us a whole new understanding of why the Lord initially answers Zechariah’s question with a question. Zechariah asked the Lord, “What are these two olive trees on each side of the lampstand, and what are the two olive branches….?” (Zechariah 4:11-12). To which the Lord replies, “Don’t you know?” Zechariah answers, “No, my Lord.” (Verse 13). Then the Lord answers Zechariah’s question: “They represent the two heavenly beings who stand in the court of the Lord of all the earth” (Verse 14).
My first thought when I studied these verses in preparation for these articles was: The Lord’s question was much too hard, bordering on unfair. (It’s evident that this wasn’t a pass/fail test question from the Lord, or even that Zechariah was absolutely expected to know the answer). Nevertheless, the question was asked. How in the world could Zechariah know the answer to such a question? But he could have known! And probably did know … but not then and there off the top of his head, particularly in the context of this overwhelming scene in which the Lord is showing him these mysterious prophetic visions.
How/why could Zechariah have known? Because, as a prophet, I’m sure he was well versed in those Scriptures already written by Moses and those written about Elijah, enough to make a connection (with plenty of advance notice) between the symbolism of the two olive trees/lampstands and their actual correlation to Moses and Elijah’s standing before the Lord. Yet, no one, including the best of Bible scholars and including Zechariah, can come up with a Biblical answer to a tough question all the time at any given time … just like that!
Right then and there Zechariah didn’t put two and two together to realize that Moses and Elijah were these two olive trees … heavenly beings.
And once again for emphasis: what two men stood with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration?
Throughout Old Testament history, we often read about encounters between faithful true prophets of God and deceitful false prophets of Israel, pagan prophets of other gods, or kings—both Jewish and gentile. One example is another remarkable incident involving Elijah; which, to me, is just as impressive as his confrontation with the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel. It’s found in the first chapter of II Kings. If you have time, please read it.
A brief summary will show that Israel’s King Ahaziah needlessly sacrificed one hundred of his soldiers on the altar of pride … they were incinerated by fire from heaven called down by Elijah. All of them would have been spared and Ahaziah could have survived injuries sustained in a fall, if the king had only humbled himself just a little and politely asked Elijah to prophecy whether the King would live or die. Instead, Ahaziah first sought the advice of a non-existent pagan god; then later tried to force Elijah (have him arrested) to speak to the king. Moral of the story: There is only one true and living God, who listens and responds to the humble, but resists the proud.
Why should the Great Tribulation be any different? The absolutely unique and providential last moments of Moses’ and Elijah’s time on this earth can be attributed to the fact that God had chosen them—in addition to their monumental deeds on the earth during their time of service—to represent the Lord in a titanic battle against Satan, the Antichrist, and the False Prophet during the last days.
When evil rears its ugly head to the extent that the wicked perpetrators claim to be divine rulers; and when they perform signs and wonders to deceive those who follow them and those who don’t; and when the havoc they wreak and atrocities they inflict begin to spread exponentially; but most of all when they claim universal authority as a god or even as God, then enough is enough. God will intervene with miraculous power that will indisputably demonstrate who is God and who is not. There are numerous examples of this in Scripture, not the least of which are Moses vs. Pharaoh and Elijah vs. prophets of Baal.
In the context of all of the natural, supernatural, and otherwise apocalyptic Tribulation happenings, especially the seal, trumpet, and vial judgments, followed by the majestic return of Jesus Christ, I believe three of the most enormous events will be: (1) the amazing reappearance of the beast (Nero) from the underworld, with millions upon millions of those left behind giving him their complete allegiance, and eventually worship. (2) The authority given to the False Prophet to perform miracles (to deceive) on behalf of the Antichrist. (3) The 3 ½ years of colossal miracles and devastation administered by Moses and Elijah to rival and trump the accomplishments of the unholy trinity.
For a brief moment, God allows the Antichrist to finally defeat the Two Witnesses, over which the entire world gloats; even to the extent of giving gifts to each other to celebrate the death of, “…the two prophets who had tormented them” (Revelation 11:10). But this wild reveling will last all of three and a half days. After that period of time, “…God breathed life into them, and they stood up! Terror struck all who were staring at them. Then a loud voice from heaven called to the two prophets. ‘Come up here!’ And they rose to heaven in a cloud as their enemies watched” (Revelation 11:11-12).
Try that on for size, Mr. Six Hundred and sixty-six! Duplicate that, O False Prophet! Top that, Satan!
What do you mean, you can’t! Run out of miracles, have you? Had enough? Ready to stand down? No? Then prepare yourselves unholy trinity for a crushing defeat in that great and terrible day of the Lord. In that day you will unwittingly fulfill the words of the prophet: “Say to the nations far and wide: Get ready for war! Call out your best warriors. Let all your fighting men advance for the attack … Come quickly, all you nations everywhere. Gather together in the valley. Let the nations be called to arms. Let them march to the valley of Jehoshaphat. There, I, the Lord will sit to pronounce judgment on them all” (Joel 3: 9-12).
Heed the word of the Lord’s prophet: “Thousands upon thousands are waiting in the valley of decision. There the day of the Lord will soon arrive. The sun and the moon will grow dark, and the stars will no longer shine. The Lord’s voice will roar from Zion and thunder from Jerusalem, and the heavens and the earth will shake….” (Joel 3: 14-16).
On that day, “…at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2: 10-11). Yes, ungodly, counterfeit trinity … that includes you!
Things to Ponder
Moses and Elijah will experience yet another divine transportation and entrance into heaven. This time it will mirror the Rapture that several years earlier had taken hundreds of millions from the earth. This time their prophetic mission on earth will be complete. This time they will finally possess the everlasting glorified spiritual bodies that they were promised, and so patiently waited for.
One day soon, I and, I hope, you and millions of others (the host of heaven) will praise and worship our wonderful Heavenly Father and his Messiah, our redeemer who will rule and reign from Jerusalem. And we will have all eternity to listen to the same mighty deeds and even more stories from Moses and Elijah and David and Isaiah and Jeremiah and Daniel and Ezekiel and Noah and Paul and John and…