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Are the two witnesses literal?

by Stephen Davey

Danny from Tennessee asked: “I was taught that the two witnesses who were killed in Revelation were an allegory for the New Testament and the Old Testament. Is that true, or are they literal people?”


I take the Bible literally. But a literal interpretation requires that we interpret according to the genre and take into account any figures of speech. So, I would literally interpret a metaphor as a metaphor, interpret a parable as a parable, etc. In Revelation 11, when you read about the two witnesses, is it a metaphor? Is this an analogy? It’s a good question to ask because it helps us come to a proper interpretation.

I think that when you read that passage, you find that John speaks of them as literal men. For example, they are giving testimony to God, and a war is raged against them. Those things could relate to the New Testament and the Old Testament. But as you read on, they are killed in verse eight, and their dead bodies will lie in the street. Then we read this:

Revelation 11:9–11 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, 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. But after the three and a half days a breath of life from God entered them, and they stood up on their feet, and great fear fell on those who saw them. (ESV)

These verses can’t relate to the Old Testament and the New Testament. The language indicates that these are two literal men, with literal bodies, who will experience literal death, and literal resurrection.

Thanks for your question,


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