The Spirit of Prophecy, vol. 4


Chapter 11—The Two Witnesses

The suppression of the Scriptures under the dominion of Rome, the terrible results of that suppression, and the final exaltation of the word of God, are vividly portrayed by the prophetic pencil. To John the exile on lonely Patmos was given a view of the 1260 years during which the papal power was permitted to trample upon God's word and oppress his people. Said the angel of the Lord: “The holy city [the true church] shall they tread under foot forty and two months. And I will give power unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days, clothed in sackcloth.” [Revelation 11:2, 3.] The periods here mentioned are the same, alike representing the time in which God's faithful witnesses remained in a state of obscurity. 4SP 188.1

The two witnesses represent the Old and New Testament Scriptures. Both are important testimonies to the origin and perpetuity of the law of God. Both are witnesses also to the plan of salvation. The types, sacrifices, and prophecies of the Old Testament point forward to a Saviour to come. The Gospels and Epistles of the New Testament tell of a Saviour who has come in the exact manner foretold by type and prophecy. 4SP 188.2

“These are the two olive trees, and the two candlesticks standing before the God of the earth.” [Revelation 11:4.] Said the psalmist, “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” [Psalm 119:105.] 4SP 189.1

The papal power sought to hide from the people the word of truth, and set before them false witnesses to contradict its testimony. When the Bible was proscribed by religious and secular authority; when its testimony was perverted, and every effort made that men and demons could invent to turn the minds of the people from it; when those who dared proclaim its sacred truths were hunted, betrayed, tortured, buried in dungeon cells, martyred for their faith, or compelled to flee to mountain fastnesses and to dens and caves of the earth,—then indeed did the faithful witnesses prophesy in sackcloth. 4SP 189.2

But men cannot with impunity trample upon the word of God. The Lord had declared concerning his two witnesses, “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.” [Revelation 11:5.] The meaning of this fearful denunciation is set forth in the closing chapter of the book of Revelation: “I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book. And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.” [Revelation 22:18, 19.] 4SP 189.3

Such are the warnings which God has given to guard men against changing in any manner that which he has revealed or commanded. These solemn denunciations apply to all who by their influence lead men to lightly regard the law of God. They should cause those to fear and tremble who flippantly declare it a matter of little consequence whether we obey God's law or not. All who exalt their own opinions above the written word, all who would change the plain meaning of Scripture to suit their own convenience, or for the sake of conformity to the world, are taking upon themselves a fearful responsibility. The written word, the law of God, will measure the character of every man, and condemn all whom this unerring test shall declare wanting. 4SP 190.1

Notwithstanding the Lord's witnesses were clothed in sackcloth, they continued to prophesy throughout the entire period of 1260 years. In the darkest times there were faithful men who loved God's word, and were jealous for his honor. To these loyal servants were given wisdom, power, and authority to declare his truth during the whole of this time. 4SP 190.2

“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.” [Revelation 11:7, 8.] 4SP 190.3

These events were to take place near the close of the period in which the witnesses testified in sackcloth. Through the medium of the papacy, Satan had long controlled the powers that ruled in Church and State. The fearful results were specially apparent in those countries that rejected the light of the Reformation. There was a state of moral debasement and corruption similar to the condition of Sodom just prior to its destruction, and to the idolatry and spiritual darkness that prevailed in Egypt in the days of Moses. 4SP 190.4

In no land had the spirit of enmity against Christ and the truth been more strikingly displayed than in giddy and godless France. Nowhere had the gospel encountered more bitter and cruel opposition. In the streets of Paris, Christ had indeed been crucified in the person of his saints. The world still recalls with shuddering horror the scenes of that most cowardly and cruel onslaught, the Massacre of St. Bartholomew. The king of France, urged on by Romish priests and prelates, lent his sanction to the dreadful work. The palace bell, tolling at midnight, gave the signal for the slaughter to begin. Protestants by thousands, sleeping quietly in their homes, trusting to the plighted honor of their king, were dragged forth without a warning, and murdered in cold blood. 4SP 191.1

Satan, in the person of the Roman zealots, led the van. As Christ was the invisible leader of his people from Egyptian bondage, so was Satan the unseen leader of his subjects in this horrible work of multiplying martyrs. For three days the butchery went on; more than thirty thousand perished. The result caused great joy to the hosts of darkness. The Roman pontiff, sharing in the diabolical rejoicing, proclaimed a jubilee to be observed throughout his dominions, to celebrate the event. 4SP 191.2

The same master-spirit that urged in the Massacre of St. Bartholomew, led also in the scenes of the French Revolution. Satan seemed to triumph. Notwithstanding the labors of the Reformers, he had succeeded in holding vast multitudes in ignorance concerning God and his word. Now he appeared in a new guise. In France arose an atheistical power that openly declared war against the authority of Heaven. Men threw off all restraint. The law of God was trampled under foot. Those who could engage in the most Heaven-daring blasphemy and the most abominable wickedness were most highly exalted. Fornication was sanctioned by law. Profanity and corruption seemed deluging the earth. In all this, supreme homage was paid to Satan, while Christ, in his characteristics of truth, purity, and unselfish love, was crucified. The Bible was publicly burned. The Sabbath was blotted out. Romanism had enjoined image worship; now divine honors were paid to the vilest objects. The work which the papacy had begun, atheism completed. The one withheld from the people the truths of the Bible; the other taught them to reject both the Bible and its Author. The seed sown by priests and prelates was yielding its evil fruit. 4SP 192.1

Terrible indeed was the condition of infidel France. The word of truth lay dead in her streets, and those who hated the restrictions and requirements of God's law were jubilant. But transgression and rebellion were followed by the sure result. Unhappy France reaped in blood the harvest she had sown. The war against the Bible and the law of God banished peace and happiness from the hearts and homes of men. No one was secure: he who triumphed today was suspected, condemned, tomorrow. Violence and terror reigned supreme. The land was filled with crimes too horrible for pen to trace. 4SP 192.2

God's faithful witnesses were not long to remain silent. “The Spirit of life from God entered into them, and they stood upon their feet, and great fear fell upon them which saw them.” [Revelation 11:11.] The world stood aghast at the enormity of guilt which had resulted from a rejection of the Sacred Oracles, and men were glad to return once more to faith in God and his word. 4SP 193.1

Concerning the two witnesses the prophet declares further, “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.” [Revelation 11:12.] Since the French Revolution the word of God has been honored as never before. The Bible has been translated into nearly every language spoken by men, and scattered over every part of the globe. After being, as it were, thrust down to hell, it has, in truth, been exalted to heaven. 4SP 193.2