It would seem that among the eschatology teachings, there are two different theories as to when the two witnesses of Revelation prophesy to the world. The pre-tribulational camp says that it is in the first half of the seven year period known as Daniel's 70th week. Other views place it in the second half. So which is correct? Tied into this is the timing of the Day of the Lord. From what I have been able to gather, the pre-trib camp places the Day of the Lord at the mid-point of the 70th week, hence the reason they must place the two witnesses in the first half, as the Scriptures teach “Behold I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD.” Malachi 4:5. Because they place the Day of the Lord at the mid-point, Elijah and his companion are relegated to the first half of the week by necessity to defend their belief, but not by Scripture.
First we will look to see what is said about these two men. First as mentioned above, they must come before the Day of the Lord. So, if Scripture indicates that they are in the second half, pre-trib has a serious problem, as one of their main tenets has been disproved, thereby putting their belief in jeopardy. The only place there is mention of these two men is found in Revelation 11. Let us look to see exactly what is said about them.
“And there was given me a reed like unto a rod: and the angel stood, saying, Rise, and measure the temple of God, and the altar, and them that worship therein. But the court which is without the temple leave out, and measure it not; for it is given unto the Gentiles: and the holy city 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. These are the two olive trees, and the two candlesticks standing before the God of the earth. 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. And after three days and an half the Spirit of life from God entered into them, 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. And the same hour was there a great earthquake, and the tenth part of the city fell, and in the earthquake were slain of men seven thousand: and the remnant were affrighted, and gave glory to the God of heaven. The second woe is past; and, behold, the third woe cometh quickly. And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever. And the four and twenty elders, which sat before God on their seats, fell upon their faces, and worshipped God, Saying, We give thee thanks, O Lord God Almighty, which art, and wast, and art to come; because thou hast taken to thee thy great power, and hast reigned. And the nations were angry, and thy wrath is come, and the time of the dead, that they should be judged, and that thou shouldest give reward unto thy servants the prophets, and to the saints, and them that fear thy name, small and great; and shouldest destroy them which destroy the earth. And the temple of God was opened in heaven, and there was seen in his temple the ark of his testament: and there were lightnings, and voices, and thunderings, and an earthquake, and great hail.”
We see that the chapter starts by talking about the temple. The angel hands John a measuring rod and tells him to measure the temple and the altar. This indicates that the temple is up and running. So this crucial piece of information must be kept in mind. Now we are told that John is not to measure the courtyard, for “it is given unto the Gentiles: and the holy city shall they tread under foot forty and two months.” We are told that the temple is about to be trodden underfoot by the Gentiles for forty-two months. That is three and a half years or half of the 70th week of Daniel. Now immediately after that we are told “ I will give power unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days.” So, in association with this forty-two months of the city being trodden by the Gentiles, we are told that the two witnesses will also be prophesying for 1260 days, which just happens to be the exact same amount of time. This is no coincidence. So this is telling us that the temple will be up and running, as it is built and John is able to measure it before the two prophets come on the scene. Now the problem becomes for pre-trib, if this is in the first half of the 70th week, then the temple must be built long before they come on the scene. If so, then the rapture is not imminent, as the temple is not built. However that is not the case as we will see. Another problem seems to be that this is referring to a period when the city will be overrun by Gentiles. This does not correspond to the first half of the 70th week if peace is to be reigning at that time and Israel finally has her temple worship back. It sounds more like the second half. Is there any verification of this supposition? Actually there is. It is found in Luke 21.
In verses 21-24 we find Luke relating the Mount of Olives discourse when Jesus spoke of the signs that were going to happen before His return. “And when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh. Then let them which are in Judaea flee to the mountains; and let them which are in the midst of it depart out; and let not them that are in the countries enter thereinto. For these be the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled. But woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck, in those days! for there shall be great distress in the land, and wrath upon this people. And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.”
Here we see that God gave us a clue as to the timing of the two witnesses by using the same exact statement. He told us both in Luke and in Revelation that Jerusalem will be trodden down or underfoot by the Gentiles. In this case it is until the time of the Gentiles is fulfilled. Revelation tells us that the time of the Gentiles will be fulfilled exactly forty-two months after this being trod upon begins. So when does this start? Luke tells us after Jerusalem is compassed with armies, the desolation occurs, and there is great distress. This is speaking of the abomination of desolation at the mid-point of the 70th week. If we have any doubt, we can check Matthew's recounting of this same discourse. Matthew 24:15-21 “When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:) Then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains: Let him which is on the housetop not come down to take any thing out of his house: Neither let him which is in the field return back to take his clothes. And woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days! But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the sabbath day: For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.” Matthew is a little less vague about the events. He calls it the abomination of desolation, leaving no room for doubt. Then he talks about those in Judea fleeing into the mountains, and those with child and nursing children. Clearly this parallels Luke's account exactly, so we know that Luke is definitely speaking of the mid-point. So now we see that this is referring to the second half of the week after the abomination of desolation, which also puts the two witnesses in that same time frame.
So now that we have them in that time frame, what about the Day of the Lord? When does that begin? First we need to see what the Bible says about the Day of the Lord to get a clear picture of what it is.
There are a multitude of verses about the Day of the Lord, but there are some that give some very specific signs that cannot be missed. We will look at these verses and then look for the Day of the Lord in the gospels and Revelation. Below are the Scripture references and the signs that these verses indicate are ones that will herald the coming of the Day of the Lord.
Isaiah 2:17,19,21 - men hide in rocks and caves for fear of the Lord, Lord alone exalted\
Isaiah 13:9-10,13 - sun, moon, stars go dark,
earth & heavens shake
Joel 2:10 - sun, moon, stars dark, earth & heavens tremble
Joel 2:31 - sun dark, moon blood before the Day of the Lord
Zephaniah 1:15 day of wrath, desolation, darkness
Malachi 4:5 - Elijah comes before the Day of the Lord
Acts 2:20 - sun dark, moon blood before Day of the Lord
From these few verses we see that there will be some very specific heavenly signs. The sun, moon, and stars will stop giving their light. Some people believe this will simply be eclipses. The problem with this is that 1) eclipses are not seen the world over, nor do solar and lunar eclipses happen at the same time, and these signs are and do, meaning they are not ordinary eclipses. Something is either coming between the earth and moon and the sun to cause this, or the sky is covered by something the entire world over that prevents everyone from seeing the sky. In either case, it will be unmistakeable and something that will only occur at that time. Otherwise how could it only be the sign of the Day of the Lord and not a common random occurrence? 2) People do not run into the caves of the earth to hide from mere eclipses of the sun or moon. These things happening are not only life threatening, they threaten the very existence of the planet as far as people are concerned. The earth and heavens will both shake. The earth will literally shake with earthquakes, and the heavens, both literally and spiritually as the heavenly bodies are disrupted and the spiritual world will be at war. There will be incredible destruction of the earth and people will try to hide in caves or anywhere they can for fear of what is coming. Elijah's ministry will precede these signs. When he appears, people can know that the Day of the Lord will follow after.
So we see that there are some extremely specific signs. This helps us, in that we can look for these very specific signs to see if they are found anywhere else. And indeed they are. We find them again in the Olivet Discourse, in the gospels. We will also find them in Revelation.
Matthew 24: 29 “Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken.”
Mark 13:24-25 “But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, And the stars of heaven shall fall, and the powers that are in heaven shall be shaken.”
Luke 21:25-26 “And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; Men's hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken.”
Now these three gospels put these signs after the tribulation is cut short. They parallel the Scriptures above exactly, including men's hearts failing them for fear.
Revelation also has these signs. They are found in the sixth seal. Revelation 6:12-17 “And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood; And the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind. And the heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places. And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains; And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?”
Again we see these same signs, including the men hiding in the caves and rocks of the mountains for fear of what is coming. The Day of the Lord is considered a day of God's wrath and that is what people are yelling. They know that the wrath of God will soon be upon them, as these are the signs that will herald its approach.
So now we know that the two witnesses do not start to prophesy until the mid-point of the 70th week. Then the tribulation has to run its course and be cut short, and then and only then will the signs of the Day of the Lord occur. This puts the beginning of the Day of the Lord sometime into the middle of the second half of the 70th week at earliest. As pre-trib teaches that they are raptured to escape God's wrath, and it is clear that the Day of the Lord does not start until well into the second half of the 70th week, one has to wonder why they feel they should be raptured so many years before this. Also, they are completely wrong about the timing of the witnesses. If they have this wrong, how much else do they have wrong? When one predicates one's beliefs on false assumptions, one ends up with a false belief. Scripture bears out that their belief that the two witnesses are in the first half is incorrect. If it were, they would still have a problem, as the temple is up and running before they show up on the scene, so therefore they still have a problem with imminence. No matter what they do, they have a problem, and this is not the only problem they have. One needs to be very careful about lining up all the Scriptures in one's exegesis of the Bible. False assumptions can lead away from truth, as can be seen here.