Those expositors, who believe in the literal sense of this chapter and these two witnesses are actual persons, are divided in the view whether they are Enoch and Elijah or Moses and Elijah. A few have always held they are Elijah and John, and we agree with those of the last view. A sect called “Seekers” under Cromwell expected John, the apostle, to be the forerunner of the second coming of Christ. Our reasons are as follows.
First and mainly, we cannot otherwise understand John when he introduces himself as part of a vision which has not yet been fulfilled. He takes the book from the Archangel’s hand, who has just announced “there shall be no more delay” of events not yet arrived. The angel clearly fixes John’s taking the book and receiving a commission as occurring at the end of this dispensation, not as belonging to the time when he saw the vision on Patmos.
Secondly, the mysterious prophecy of Jesus Christ, “If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee” (John 21:22) means something. Jesus never uttered idle words. No adequate explanation has been found unless it is in the teaching that John is not to die until Christ comes to translate His saints. If this thought necessitates the view that John must have been translated as Elijah and Enoch in order to return and suffer physical death, then we can only say no proof exists that John ever died. The rumor has always persisted that he did not. Sir William M. Ramsey says, “When history began for the Christians late in the second century, hardly any historical authorities later than the Acts of the Apostles remained. Also, the events of Christian history during a long period after A.D. 62 had perished from memory.
Thirdly, coming half-way between the law and the latest Old Testament prophets, John, an executor of judgments, might well represent both the law and the prophets while John is the best representative possible of the Gospel. These appear at the moment in history when the “mystery of God is finished,” and Jewish and Gentile Christians form one body. It seems suitable that a representative of the Gospel as well as the law should be seen engaged in preparing for the Lord’s return, particularly since both are Jews.
Fourth, the style John adopted at this place is historical rather than descriptive of a vision. This approach suits the thought he is telling something which concerns him as well as the abrupt introduction of the two witnesses. This impersonal manner of speaking of himself is like the disciple in his Gospel who spoke only of “that disciple whom Jesus loved.”
Fifth, in his vision, an Archangel expressly told John he must “prophesy again.” That Archangel does not appear at the spot where John receives his commission until the end of this dispensation. Therefore, these words cannot apply to John’s writings within the first century of this dispensation.
Sixth, John finds the little book (roll), which he eats, very bitter in his stomach (Revelation 10:9-11). Receiving a roll (little book) and eating it is the commissioning of a prophet as well as the words of that commission spoken by the Angel (Ezekiel 3:1-3, Jeremiah 15:16). Nothing could have been sweeter to John, the apostle, who wept that no one was found worthy to break the seven seals of the great roll (Revelation 5:2-4) than this prophecy related to Christ’s return to finish His redemption. Nothing could have been more bitter to the “Apostle of Love” than to be sent to execute judgments upon the wicked in preparation for that return.
Seventh, John saw himself descend from heaven to earth to take that roll from the angel’s hand. The words should be translated: “And I went away (to earth) unto the Angel, and said unto Him, Give me the little book.” John’s previous statement translated, “I saw another mighty Angel come down from heaven,” in the original does not contradict the idea that John sees this action from heaven since the words mean properly “descending from heaven.”