Exploring the Corporate Nature of the Two Olive Trees and the Two Candlesticks
As explained in the first part of our series of the account of the two witnesses, we are going to further show that the two olive trees and the two candlesticks were not two literal people. In summary of our conclusion from the first part we focused first on the repetition of the word two and its use in the Bible as a symbol for witness and testimony and that the Greek words for these two words are rooted in the word martyr. With the repetition of these “two” witnesses being two olive trees and two candlesticks we saw that there was/is something bigger here at play. Two people do not make 4 “things”, it makes two people. Since our conclusion showed it was not two literal people, we had to find out what exactly the two olive trees and the two candlesticks were symbolically, using Scripture as the lens to view this topic through. Thus we leaned strongly on the probability that the repetition of the number 2 was symbolic of witness and testimony while then finding out who the two olive trees and the two candlesticks were symbolic of Israel and the Church. Having concluded that the olive tree is Israel, and that the candlestick is the Church, we can now move on to part two and show exactly what the grouping of two olive trees and two candlesticks means; a corporate nature.
It’s All Greek To Me
One of the biggest mistakes I have found myself and other people make (regardless of religious affiliation) is their literal use of the English translations and calling it a day when we have read the verse and say “well a plain reading says this, so it is this…..” while walking away brushing the invisible dust off our hands. As I remind myself all the time, the Bible was originally written in three languages and one of those languages was not English! Most Christians do know this and for one reason or another, they refuse to dig into the Hebrew, Aramaic (Old Testament) or Greek (New Testament). This is extremely unfortunate as the original languages are far more rich in what they say than our confusing and many times misapplied English language. Personally, I think many of these misapplications are Satan’s doing and a way to keep the masses confused. Thank the LORD though that He is in control and in the last days, just like He said in Daniel 12:4, many would run to and fro and knowledge shall be increased! Knowledge is increasing at a rapid pace (good and bad) as God is unsealing His Word and the biggest way is the advent of mass transfer of knowledge via the Internet and the passing of that knowledge through social networking.
Thankfully, some good brothers and sisters in Christ have built some massive databases of Biblical text along with references to the original languages through a concordance such as Strong’s. Having included them on popular Bible websites like biblehub.com, you can choose from many different translations of the Bible but also check and compare the original text against that translation! This is great news for those seeking the truth and do not have one of those giant concordances in their possession. When using the concordance this way, you can see how good or bad a translation is; you will find that many modern versions are just as bad as owning a copy of the New World Translation put out by The Watchtower (Jehovah’s Witnesses bible)! Before we wander to far off topic here though, I think you get the point; get a concordance and use it!
When the Plural Becomes a Singular Problem
As stated, mistranslations happen whether on purpose or not. They are in every English translation of the Bible; even the beloved King James Version. The two witnesses account is one such place in Scripture this takes place and it is incredibly profound when looking at the Greek, what God revealed to John in the account of who the two witnesses are! Let’s take a look below:
And if any man will hurt them, fire proceedeth out of their mouth, and devoureth their enemies: and if any man will hurt them, he must in this manner be killed. These have power to shut heaven, that it rain not in the days of their prophecy: and have power over waters to turn them to blood, and to smite the earth with all plagues, as often as they will. 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. And their dead bodies shall lie in the street of the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified. 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. 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. Revelation 11:5-10
The word of focus in the passage above is the word bodies. Slam dunk, right? It’s two literal people, right? From a plain reading of English the word bodies is clearly plural and thus, many people rest their case. Considering the evidence of who the two olive trees and the two candlesticks are, the word bodies doesn’t throw that much of a wrench in our case that the two witnesses are two people; it still works but we will soon show it (bodies) is erroneous in 2 out of three uses. What we do find when we look at the Greek though is something that throws a major wrench in the case of those who espouse the two literal persons narrative but solidifies our case. Let’s look at the word that is actually in the Greek for the English word translated bodies:
Strong’s 4430 Ptoma: a fall; a carcass, corpse, dead body
The original Greek word is singular! It was translated not once, but twice as plural in Revelation 11 when it clearly isn’t in the original text. To further the case for the mis-translation here we look at other verses in the Bible that use ptoma and how it was translated.
And when his disciples heard of it, they came and took up his corpse [ptoma], and laid it in a tomb. Mark 6:29
And when he knew it of the centurion, he gave the body [ptoma] to Joseph. Mark 15:45
And his disciples came, and took up the body [ptoma], and buried it, and went and told Jesus. Matthew 14:12
For wheresoever the carcase [ptoma] is, there will the eagles be gathered together. Matthew 24:28
As we can see in the above verses, not once was the word ptoma plural, and rightly so as the word ptoma is not plural. Yet, the translators chose to use bodies two out of three times when referring to the two witnesses in Revelation 11. Either someone was up to shenanigans or they just thought it better for the English translation to grammatically say bodies versus body, carcasse, corpse. Never mind that the original text is God breathed and that it is the final authority! Now, you could object and say the context calls for making the word ptoma plural, but as we pointed out in part one of the two witnesses series, the context shows that the two is not literally two people. Couple this with the fact that the word ptoma is always singular elsewhere in Scripture! Let’s look at the verses with the Greek in [brackets]:
And their dead bodies [4430 ptoma] shall lie in the street of the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, wherealso our Lord was crucified. Revelation 11:8
And they of the people and kindreds and tongues and nations shall see their dead bodies [4430 ptoma] three days and an half,and shall not suffer their dead bodies [4430 ptomata]to be put in graves. Revelation 11:9
As we can see in verse 8, the word should have been translated body, carcass or corpse but it was rendered dead bodies. In verse 9 is where strange things happen; the first part of the verse is singular in the Greek while the second part is plural in the Greek. The translators decided to translate both instances as bodies when the Greek does not say that in the first part of the sentence. Let’s take a look at exactly how these verses should have actually been translated!
And their DEAD BODY [4430 ptoma] shall lie in the street of the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, wherealso our Lord was crucified. Revelation 11:8
And they of the people and kindreds and tongues and nations shall see their DEAD BODY [4430 ptoma] three days and an half,and shall not suffer their dead bodies [*4430 ptomata]to be put in graves. Revelation 11:9
The second half of Revelation 11:9 (in the Greek!) shows us that there is something of major note here; it shows the corporate nature of the two witnesses. It also proves that you must dig deeper into the original texts to see what is really going on for it is an odd thing to say “their dead body” and then called it “their dead bodies”. They have a dead body because they are corporate; they have dead bodies, because there are many of them as seen in the two olive trees and two candlesticks; more on them shortly!
We will show some grace to the translators though and say it was an honest mistake in that what they were translating was still (mostly likely) hidden from view; the mystery hadn’t been unsealed by God just yet.
Why is understanding the above important? Because the two olive trees and the two candlesticks are a vast body i.e. not two literal people. As my author friend Doug Krieger likes to say, these guys are not two super-hero X-Men, but a body of believers who bear testimony, the witness of Jesus! What we see in the two olive trees and the two candlesticks though is the Body of Christ! All the symbolism we have seen thus far; the use of the number two not once but three times to describe the two witnesses, the fact that they are described as the two olive trees and the two candlesticks (of which a mystery was attached to in Rev. 1:20) points to something other than two literal people.. Remember, 2 does not equal 2 + 2 (two witnesses who are the two olive trees and the two candlesticks) unless you are narrating some kind of puzzle that needs to be solved. The original readers of this passage would have never seen the two witnesses as two literal people because the description, with a plain reading in the Greek, does not render two individuals, but a corporate body. Having read Revelation 1:20, they would have realized that it was an expanded explanation of what the prophet Zechariah wrote of in Zechariah 4 revealing that centuries old secret!
The Two Olive Trees and the Two Candlesticks; Israel the Church
There have been a lot of fine efforts over the years to get to the bottom of the two witnesses and I can say after searching around, some of these answers haven’t been so far off. As we look at the two olive trees and the two candlesticks, we will see that there is much more going on than just two witnesses. Having uncovered that the two olive trees are the witness of Israel and the two candlesticks are the Church, we begin to see some overlapping going on that makes them seem as though they are the no different than each other. What I want to make extremely clear right now is that I in no way endorse replacement theology i.e. the thought that the Church inherited the promises that were directly for Israel leaving the Church as Israel. The only thing I intend to do is point out the corporate nature of the two witnesses and how their agenda is fully cooperative while still being two distinct groups; the two olive trees and the two candlesticks are the 4 who are one, but really two distinct groups! In order for Biblical prophecy to be fulfilled, there must be these two groups with the same common purpose and thank our Lord Jesus, they both exist!
To give an example of what I am getting at, we have to go back and look specifically at the make up of the olive tree. Now we know that Israel through various verses is described as an olive tree; even in Romans 11 but with one major caveat. In Romans 11 we see this:
And if some of the branches be broken off, and thou, being a wild olive tree, wert grafted in among them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree; Boast not against the branches. But if thou boast, thou bearest not the root, but the root thee. Thou wilt say then, The branches were broken off, that I might be grafted in. Well; because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not highminded, but fear: For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee. Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off. And they also, if they abide not still in unbelief, shall be grafted in: for God is able to graft them in again. For if thou wert cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and wert grafted contrary to nature into a good olive tree: how much more shall these, which be the natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree? For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in. Romans 11:17-25
From the verses above we see a distinction between two types of olive trees; one is the natural olive with it’s own natural branches, the other being a wild olive tree. The natural olive tree Israel, saw many of its own branches broken off because of unbelief and rejection of the Messiah who came in Jesus thus creating a way for the Gentiles to be grafted in and partake of the root and fatness of the olive tree. Together, because of Jesus, Jews and Gentiles through our faith in Christ, receive Salvation. Because God chose the Israelites to be the people he would show Himself to the world through, they are the healthy, natural tree from which springs eternal life. The promise came down through them and in order for the Gentiles to receive the blessing of Salvation, they had to be grafted in to the natural tree.
Now going back again we restate that in order for the Gentiles to be grafted in, Israelites in unbelief had to be broken off (Romans 11:20-21). After breaking off the dead branches, the grafting in of the Gentiles happened en mass (after Pentecost); this is where we see two distinct groups becoming one in Jesus, the promised Messiah. We know there is a limit to this time frame that allows the Gentiles to partake of the fatness of the root (the fullness of the Gentiles) and then we see, just like those in Israel in unbelief after Pentecost, those in the Church who are lukewarm (a state of non committal) too will be broken off to make room for those of Israel who come to belief at the end of the age (all Israel will be saved). The clearing away of the unbelieving church can be seen in the warning letter to the lukewarm Laodicean church. Jesus challenges them to make a choice; get in or get out and if you choose neither, I will vomit you out (Revelation 3:16)!
What we see in the olive tree of Romans 11 is a somewhat of a paradox for the olive tree is Israel, but it is also the Gentile Church grafted in to the promise of Messiah. Likewise, Israel is part of the Church, just like the Gentiles but they are still Israel! Never once do the Gentiles become literal Israel or take the promises God promised directly to them; at the end of the last days generation, all literal Israel will be saved. Again, the Gentiles are only corporate with Israel in the fact that they share the same Messiah and promise of salvation through Him. A plain reading of Romans 11 shows that all Believers, Jewish or Gentile, are Israel, the Church. The Root that we all benefit from is the Lord Jesus Christ (a Jew and Head of the Church) himself!! Israel the Church; one body with two distinct parts that are nothing without their Messiah’s witness and testimony!
The corporate nature of the two olive trees and the two candlesticks is a rather profound subject and one that can be hard to wrap one’s mind around. Having only scratched the surface here, we can see the truth that Israel the Church is one body with two distinct parts; faithful, believing Israel who are part of the Church and faithful, believing Gentiles who have been grafted into the olive tree, Israel. Israel, the Church; solid proof that the two witnesses are a vast body of believers in Christ and not two “super-hero, X-Men”!
In part three of our series we will delve into the timeline brought forth in Revelation 11 using our examples from part one (brush up if you haven’t!).
*Many translations use ptoma 4430 in all instances of the word bodies in Revelation 11. Some use ptomata 4430. The contradiction of body vs. bodies in the Greek (in the same sentence!) is that much more powerful when looking at what the two witnesses are.