The description of the work of the two witnesses (Revelation 11:5-6) is carefully arranged. The verses are framed by the verb thelo , “desire.” Their enemies desire harm (v. 5); they respond with plagues and judgments whenever they desire (v. 6).

Verse 5 describes the fiery justice against those who harm ( adikeai ) them:

A. If anyone wishes to harm them

B. first comes from their mouths

C. and destroys their enemies

A’. If anyone wishers to harm them

B’. thus it is necessary that he be killed.

Verse 6 twice repeats “they have authority” (in Greek, a rhyme of sorts: exousin ten exousian ). The sentence distinguishes two zones of witness:

A. They have authority to shut up heaven . . .

B. They have authority on the waters . . . and to smite earth

Heaven and waters/earth constitute the cosmos as a whole. The authority of the witnesses is not confined to earth but stretches to the sky. The double cosmos of heaven/earth is filled out as a triple-level cosmos: heaven, waters, earth.

As often in the prophets, the judgments are classified in a list of four: fire, drought, blood, plague. A fourfold judgment stretches to the four corners.

There’s no place to hide from the authority of the witnesses. They are virtual demigods, with power over the cosmos, authority extended to the four corners, capable of transforming elements and breathing fire.

Articles by Peter J. Leithart

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