Southampton, Pa., March 5, 1898.
“What are these two olive trees upon the right side of the candlestick, and upon the left side thereof? * * What be these two olive branches, which through the two golden pipes empty the golden oil out of themselves? * * These are the two anointed ones, that stand by the Lord of the whole earth.” – Zech. iv.
“And I will give power unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and three score days, clothed in sackcloth. These are the two olive trees, and the two candlesticks standing before the God of the earth.” – Rev. xi.
It is by special request that I, with fear and trembling, am moved to write upon the meaning of these wonderful Scriptures. Unless the Lord Jesus is pleased to open my understanding, I must fail to write unto edification and instruction; therefore my prayer is for divine illumination.
The fact that godly men of ability have differed upon these Scriptures, and whose writings upon them have rather confused me, tends to make me the more fearful that I may only obscure their divine and precious meaning. Rather than this would I, as a child, be still. When the request came, it seemed impossible for me to comply; but the subject was impressed upon my attention with deep and prayerful interest, and also with comfort; so now my spirit moves me to write, trusting in the Lord to give me to see light in his light, and that the children of Light may rejoice in the light. It is true that the sacred Scriptures are their own best interpreters; therefore the inspired servants of the Lord “compared spiritual things with spiritual.” Following their divine example, and the Spirit taking the things of Jesus and showing them unto us, we may hope to understand the divine meaning of the texts.
The two olive trees and the two witnesses are the same, or they represent one and the same divinely glorious realities and personages. The divine angel so stated to the apostle John. Both the two olive trees and the two witnesses stood by the Lord God of the whole earth. The two olive trees were upon the right side and the left side of the candlestick of pure gold, with its golden howl upon the top of it, and its seven golden lamps. So it is seen that both the candlestick of gold and the holy God are between the two anointed ones, and these two anointed witnesses stand by the Almighty, both to execute the will of God and to testify of him. First, let us consider the beautiful and wonderful candlestick, with its bowl and seven lamps, all of gold, and seven golden pipes, uniting the lamps and bowl and candlestick, all in one. Yea, also the two olive trees were united with the candlestick of gold, by two golden pipes, and through these, the two olive trees and two olive branches, emptied the golden oil out of themselves, into the golden bowl, and thus supplied the seven lamps of this candlestick. The mere statement of these things suggests a fullness of beautiful meaning. The two olive branches show that the two olive trees are living, and sending forth life and light. How complete and wonderful was all this! Without might or power of man, here was perpetual and living light, united with durability and perfection. What, then, did this glorious vision represent? “This is the word of the Lord unto Zerubbabel, saying, Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord of hosts. * * The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house, his hands shall also finish it.” Thus spoke the angel of God to Zechariah, to whom was given this vision of spiritual realities. This candlestick of gold, then, represented the house of the Lord, the church; the golden bowl upon the top of the candlestick, ever filled with pure oil from the two living olive trees and branches, shows the abounding fullness of the new covenant of grace; and the seven golden lamps, all of which received the everflowing golden oil from the golden bowl, and burned with the light of life, beautifully presented the fullness and glory of the completed church, the house and temple of the living God. “And he shall bring forth the headstone thereof with shoutings, crying, Grace, grace, unto it.” This was said of Zerubbabel, and he was a type of our only Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. His hands laid the foundation of the ever-abiding spiritual house of our God, and his hands shall also finish it. His word is, “And upon this Rock I will build my church.” “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord of hosts.” “For through Christ Jesus we both [the Jewish and Gentile church] have access by one Spirit unto the Father. Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God; and are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; in whom all the building, fitly framed together, groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord; in whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.” – Eph. ii. Now these words of the Lord Jesus, and of his servant Paul, reveal the divine meaning and glory of the candlestick of gold, and its bowl and lamps, oil and light.
As in the heavenly visions shown to Zechariah and John, both the candlestick of gold and the glorious God were between the two olive trees, and the two witnesses and anointed ones, to whom the candlestick was united in living union of life and light, so is the church “in God the Father,” and it is his dwelling-place and temple. To the church Paul says, “For ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” – 2 Cor. vi.
As the church is in sacred union with God the Father, so also is it united with both the Son and Spirit, from whom the entire church receives all its life and light. The two golden pipes made the candlestick one with the two olive trees; so the church of God is in everlasting union with the Son and Spirit in the two-fold golden bond of the everlasting covenant and life eternal; the covenant of life and peace. It is in virtue of this two-fold and sacred union that the church was redeemed and is sanctified by the two anointed Ones: the holy child Jesus, and the Holy Spirit.
The golden oil, that flowed spontaneously and freely, lighting up the candlestick in all its seven lamps with living light, beautifully represents the freeness and preciousness of abounding grace. As the candlestick and its seven lamps had no power to supply themselves with oil and light, but were dependent upon the two olive trees for this unfailing supply, so likewise is the whole church dependent upon our Lord’s sufficient grace for all her spiritual life and light. For all spiritual blessings are in Christ, and they flow to the church from him only, and by the Spirit. Therefore, now and evermore, all the praise of salvation is “to the praise of the glory of his grace;” and it is in the grace of God only that the church is accepted in the Beloved, whether on earth or in heaven. To say and teach otherwise, is to ignore and deny all the meaning and force of the golden candlestick and the two olive trees. Its divine lesson is: “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord of hosts.”
Now, coming to God’s two witnesses, to whom he gave power, he says, “These are the two olive trees, and the two candlesticks standing before the God of the earth.” How remarkable, that here two candlesticks are mentioned, and these two are identified with the two olive trees and the two witnesses of God. That the candlesticks represent the church there is no doubt, as already shown, and as is also expressly explained by our Lord in Revelation i. John here records that he saw seven golden candlesticks. These answer to the seven golden lamps of the one candlestick of gold: the one church in all her complete fullness. The two candlesticks may fitly represent the Jewish church, and the Gentile church, two, yet one, as the seven are one completed candlestick, all of gold. Of itself the candlestick has no light, yet its excellent use is to bear and shed forth the light that is bestowed upon it as the instrument or vessel of light. “Ye are the light of the world,” said Christ to the body of his chosen disciples.
Let us now specially consider the two witnesses, of whom God said he would give to them power, or authority, and they should prophesy twelve hundred and sixty days, clothed in sackcloth. Let us remember that, in the two texts, the two witnesses of God are identified with the two olive trees, the two anointed ones, and the two candlesticks, and these two anointed ones shall prophesy. Here please read what more is said of them in Revelation xi. They have power to shut heaven, that it rained not in the days of their prophecy; power over waters to turn them to blood, and to smite the earth with all plagues, as often as they will. “And if any man will hurt them, fire proceeded out of their mouth, and devoureth their enemies.” From this it is evident that the two witnesses are divine, and possess the power of God himself. Therefore, Christ, the Redeemer, and the Spirit, the Sanctifier and Comforter, are the two witnesses. They testify of God the Father; they have authority and power to execute and do the will of God: they are officially and pre-eminently God’s two witnesses, and by them he is revealed and made known to the church. This revelation is through the inspired prophets and apostles, as represented by the two golden pipes. For the apostles and prophets are next to Christ and the Spirit of anointing, and through them is ministered to the church and house of God the golden oil of grace and gospel light and peace. (For oil-olive is the symbol of light and peace, and it ministers healing and comfort.) The apostles and prophets are in and of the household of God, and they are also in the Lord Jesus and in the Holy Spirit. So the apostles and prophets and the entire church, Jewish and Gentile, are all united to Christ and the Spirit in one purified, anointed and living body, receiving and giving light, the holy, heavenly light from the Sun of righteousness, shining with divine glory in all the temple of God.
Two witnesses are required in both the law and the gospel. That the holy Son of God is one of his divine witnesses is plainly declared in the holy Scriptures. In Revelation i., Jesus is called “the faithful witness;” and in Revelation iii., “the faithful and true witness.” Malachi spoke of Christ as “the messenger of the covenant;” and he is called “the minister of the sanctuary,” and the Anointed. As the Anointed, Jesus is pre-eminently the Prophet, and God gave him power to open the seven-sealed book and reveal the wonderful things therein. He is on the right hand of God; and in this Jesus are all the treasures of divine wisdom and knowledge; yea, in him is the fullness of truth and grace and glory, and he is the Head of all principality and power, the Fountain of holiness and salvation, life and light, the Apostle and High Priest of our profession. As one of God’s two witnesses Jesus had power over all flesh, all power in heaven and earth, and power or authority to do all the great and mighty works ascribed to God’s two witnesses.
The Holy Spirit, too, has all this authority, power and glory. And the Spirit is also expressly mentioned as God’s witness. To each of the seven angels of the seven churches Jesus said, “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.” When the Son of God was baptized in Jordan, the Spirit abode upon him in bodily form as a dove (symbol of peace), anointed him with the fullness of the Holy Ghost, and thus witnessed that he is the Son of God. To the apostles Jesus said, “And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you forever; even the Spirit of truth. * * * But the Comforter, the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.” (John xiv.) “But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me.” (John xv.)
“When he, the Spirit of troth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself, but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you.” (John xvi.) Thus we see that the Spirit is equally with the Son, God’s witness, and that by these two the Father, and his truth, and power, and glory, are made known and witnessed to the church and in his people.
“And they [the apostles] were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.” Please read Acts ii. The apostles said, “This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses. Therefore, being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear.” At this time great grace was upon the apostles, and all the church. Thus the oil or grace of life flowed freely from the two olive trees, and the holy light of heaven burned brightly in the candlestick of gold. And all this glorious work and testimony in the church was not by might, nor by power of men, but purely by the Lord’s Spirit. So the apostles testified of the Lord Jesus, saying, “Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Savior, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins. And we are his witnesses of these things; and so is the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey him.” “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God,” says Paul. Again, speaking of Jesus, Paul says, “For through him we both (Jew and Gentile) have access by one Spirit unto the Father.” “There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.” (Eph.) Our apostle here shows the fullness of the visions in the two texts at the head of this writing. The apostle John also says, “And it is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is truth. * * * He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself.” (I John v.) So then the Son and the Spirit are essentially and pre-eminently the Father’s witnesses to the church and people of God. The power of the Almighty Father is in the Son and Spirit, and they execute and fulfill all the will of God. The power given to them, as recorded in Rev. xi., resides not in men; therefore in this primary and real sense, the prophets and apostles were not the two olive trees and two witnesses, neither were any of them, as Moses or Elijah, Peter or Paul, because they were not as the two olive trees, the two anointed ones, having life and light-giving power in themselves; neither did any of the servants of God inherently possess in themselves the authority that God gave to his two witnesses, to kill, and to make alive, “And to smite the earth with all plagues, as often as they will.” If this divine power were vested in men, then they might send forth life and light, and be the efficient agents in salvation. Men may vainly claim such power, but the symbol of the two olive trees sending forth the golden oil out of their own life, to give light to all the candlestick, and the word of the Lord, saying, “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit,” forever veto the claim.
“These are the two olive trees, and the two candlesticks standing before the God of the earth,” said the angel to John. Therefore, as we have seen, the church is blessedly united and identified with the two living and light-giving olive trees, the two life-testifying witnesses, the Son and Spirit; and their divine and saving-power of grace and truth are freely ministered in and made known to the church. Jesus and the Spirit are with the church and in it, for it is the body of Christ, and the temple of the Holy Spirit. So then the two candlesticks, (showing the Jewish and the Gentile church) the two olive trees, the two olive branches, and the two anointed ones, all represent and personate God’s two witnesses; and hence the two-fold church, as represented by the Old Testament prophets, and the New Testament apostles, embodies the two witnesses. For in truth Christ and the Spirit dwelt in the martyred prophets and apostles and saints; and the testimony of those who spoke in the name and faith of Jesus as the Spirit gave them utterance, was and is the testimony of the two witnesses.
It is certainly true that the candlestick of gold, the sons and daughters of Zion, comparable to fine gold, are one with Christ, who lives in them, and one with the Spirit, who quickens and comforts them; therefore whatever is done against the members and body of the Son and Spirit, is also done against God’s witnesses. Thus did those who killed Stephen resist the Holy Ghost; and so Jesus said to Saul, “Why persecutest thou me!” “Your bodies are the members of Christ,” wrote Paul to the church. Thus and in this way the two witnesses prophesy, clothed in sackcloth, until they finish their testimony, and thus are they put to death. “And when they shall have finished their testimony, the beast that ascendeth out of the bottomless pit shall make war against them, and shall overcome them, and kill them.” This is done in making war against the saints, and in overcoming and killing the servants of God, in whom is manifested the sanctifying power of the Spirit and the life of Jesus. For whatever is done against the members and body of Christ, is done against himself. In the unity of the Godhead, Father, Son and Spirit, Paul did truly say to the ministry, “Feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.” This was the blood of God’s covenant with his people, the blood of the crucified body of the man Christ, the Mediator of the New Testament. For by virtue of his personal unity with God, the words and works, the life and death of the suffering Man of sorrows, were truly attributable to God, and all that Jesus did and suffered in his body truly possessed all the divine dignity and excellence, authority and infinite merit of the only blessed God himself; for God sent forth his Son, and was with him and in him. And so Jesus said, “The words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself; but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works.” In view of this truth John says, “Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us;” yet it was the body of Christ that died. So it is in this manner, as united with and personated by the two candlesticks, that the two witnesses shall be overcome and put to death, when they shall have finished their testimony. How precious the divine assurance that not until they have finished their testimony shall the beast overcome them, and kill them. Then, even after they have thus resisted unto death, and have sealed their testimony with their blood, how glorious shall their final triumph be! For the context says, “And after three days and an half the Spirit of life from God entered into them, [into their dead bodies] and they stood upon their feet; and great fear fell upon them which saw them. And they heard a great voice from heaven saying unto them, Come up hither. And they ascended up to heaven in a cloud; and their enemies beheld them.” Thus did the anointed man Christ ascend up to heaven in his own quickened, risen, living body, “and become the first-fruits of them that slept,” “the first-born among many brethren.” “For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit.” (1 Peter iii.) Thus shall it be with all in whom dwells the Spirit of life, who “have an unction from the Holy One,” and who are put to death in the flesh “for the testimony of Jesus Christ.” For dying with him they shall also live with him; suffering with him they shall also reign with him.
It is certain that all those wonderful things prophesied of the two witnesses, have not yet been accomplished, but at the time appointed the vision will speak, and all things written shall be fulfilled; for God hath spoken. Vain is the power of the beast, which makes war against the witnesses of the living God; vain the rage of the heathen, and the strivings of the people against the camps of the saints; for the Lamb, who sitteth upon the glorious high throne, shall overcome them. “For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.” “Then cometh the end.” Great and marvelous events shall yet be before the time of the end, which are sealed up to us now; but they shall be seen and known in their time. For many things written in the book of Revelation are prophetic, symbolic and future. And so after the witnesses shall have finished their testimony, and been killed, their dead bodies shall not be suffered to be put in graves. “And they that dwell upon the earth shall rejoice over them, and make merry, and shall send gifts one to another; because these two prophets tormented them that dwelt on the earth. And after three days and an half the Spirit of life from God entered into them, and they stood upon their feet.” That is, entered into their dead bodies, and as thus made alive from the dead, “they ascended up to heaven in a cloud.” But when the three days and an half shall be fulfilled, is not given to us to know. Just before the risen and immortal Christ went up to heaven, he said to the apostles, whom he left as the witnesses of his resurrection, “It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power.” John writes, “I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held: and they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth? And white robes were given unto every one of them; and it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellow-servants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled.” (Rev. vi.) These are solemn things, and true, although figurative, and the time when they shall be fulfilled is with God, and he will then righteously judge them that dwell on the earth, and avenge his own elect, who cry unto him, and his Spirit of life shall quicken, sanctify and glorify them. Until then the anointed Son and the anointing Spirit shall continue to give the light of life to the candlestick of gold, the precious body of Christ, and these two prophets shall prophesy in the ministers of the Word and the Spirit, clothed in sackcloth— clothed in affliction and mourning. So were the prophets of old, John the Baptist, Jesus and the apostles. “Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves,” is the solemn word of the Master;” and, “He that loseth his life for my sake, shall find it.” His witnesses have ever found it thus. May we not learn from the wonderfully solemn text, that a time of fearful persecution and tribulation shall come upon the church in the close of the gospel dispensation, and that those who keep the faith of Jesus and the testimony of God shall be killed, as their brethren of old were!
“And they of the people, and kindreds, and tongues, and nations, shall see their dead bodies three days and an half, and shall not suffer their dead bodies to be put in graves.” It is hard to truly understand what is here intended or meant, and our writers have presented various opinions, yet like all the inspired prophesies, it has a definite and true meaning. But it is not really necessary that we should understand it before the time; but we are sure that the great Prophet knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, and that he as our Advocate with the Father maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God. We are comforted in the blessed assurance that the time when the witnesses of God shall be overtime and killed is limited, and that all the wars and calamities which shall come upon the militant church, to try the saints as gold in the fire, shall come to an appointed end in the triumphant victory of the two witnesses and their dead bodies. The merry making of the peoples of the earth over these two prophets that tormented them shall be short, as signified by three days and an half. The dead bodies of these two prophets may mean that they are judicially or officially dead, dead as to the influence and weight of their testimony, so that they are no longer in the way of, nor a torment to the religious peoples of the earth, but are made a byword and jest. This is very much so in our own time. “But be of good cheer; I have overcome the world,” says the Lord’s Anointed.
Your brother in the kingdom and patience of Jesus,
Signs Of The Times
Volume 66., No. 7
April 1, 1898.