Plenty of confusion exists when it comes to understanding the book of Revelation so I thought I would pull a few helpful notes to illustrate that it needn’t be. Take for example the unfortunate misunderstanding of the use of “candlestick” in Revelation 11. The popular view would have you believe that two physical witnesses will be in Jerusalem at some future time, candidates most often mentioned for the position are Elijah and Enoch. Instead of injecting our own opinion into the Revelation 11 let us retreat to scripture and allow scripture to speak for itself:
The mystery of the seven stars which thou sawest in my right hand, and the seven golden candlesticks. The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches: and the seven candlesticks which thou sawest are the seven churches. (Rev 1:12-20)
If the candlesticks in Revelation 1 are a symbol of the churches why would they be limited to two physical men in Revelation 11? I’m all for furthering our theological understanding with modern works, and it is the job of the church to engage society in every generation, but we should not forget the work already completed for us.
Some helpful notes on the Candlesticks from the People’s New Testament Commentary by Barton Johnson.
Candlestick – A symbol of a church, which should be a light in the world. The seven golden candlesticks are the seven churches. A symbol of any light-giving agency.
I saw seven golden candlesticks. The first things seen when he turned to see whence the voice came were the seven golden candlesticks, which symbolized the churches (Rev_1:20).
The mystery of the seven stars. The Lord himself at once explains what the seven stars and seven candlesticks symbolize. The seven candlesticks represent the churches, or organizations appointed to “let their light shine” and become “the light of the world.”
And the seven stars are the angels of the churches. These were, I think, the evangelists of the churches.
Now back to my quesiton, if the candlesticks in Revelation 1 are a symbol of the churches why would they be limited to two physical men in Revelation 11? Simply, they cannot be limited to a two individuals but represent the witness of the church during the 1260 days time period.
And I will give power unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days, clothed in sackcloth. These are the two olive trees, and the two candlesticks standing before the God of the earth. (Rev 11:3-4)
Revelation 11 makes much more sense if it represents the witness of the church rather than two individual witnesses as Barton Johnson notes;
The olive tree was the source of the oil used to provide for the candlesticks. The candlesticks, burning the oil, gave forth light. The symbols imply that during this period of 1260 days God shall have two agencies, bearing divine witness, which shall give forth light to men. These agencies shall be filled and sustained by the Spirit.
I pray this was helpful.