In Jewish wedding ceremonies there are two friends of the bridegroom that act as two witnesses. One is a special help to the groom and the other is a special help to the bride. The special witness of the groom/Jesus at his wedding to the bride/Church is the Father. The special witness of the bride, whose role is to assist her and lead her to the ceremony, is the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit is primarily in heaven during the wedding festivities and is the barrier that once removed, allows the mystery of iniquity to be fully manifest on earth.
There is a difference in some narratives whether there were two friends of the bridegroom or one. Apparently, there is this difference in customs between those in Judea and elsewhere. Either way, the above conclusions stand as the role of one of these witnesses was to act as a special go-between with info from the groom to the bride during their betrothal period and this fits in quite well with what exactly the Holy Spirit's role is in the church age. This "friend" is also to accompany the bride to the wedding. Many people believe Moses fulfilled this role as he led the Israelites out of Egypt.
The two witnesses on earth are the law and the prophets. The two greatest examples of these are Moses and Elijah.
Some people believe that the two witnesses will be Elijah and Enoch. They come to this conclusion based on Hebrews 9:27: "And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment," and note that the scriptures only speak of two who were translated without physical death. But is this verse speaking of physical death? If so, what happened to Lazarus? He died, was raised and then died again (this last is an assumption on my part, but I believe if Lazarus had been taken up to heaven without dying again there would have been mention of it somewhere in the Bible. The fact that nothing more is said of him is indicative that there was nothing else extraordinary about this man.)--he died physically twice. I think this passage deals with more than just physical death.
Besides the above, I believe that both witnesses will have to be Jews and Enoch does not qualify. Enoch is, however, a picture of the rapture of the church--"Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him" (Gen 5:24). I would not know how to recognize Enoch if he were to be one of the witnesses.
Another reason I believe the two witnesses to be Elijah and Moses is that there is no one on earth now who knows exactly what Elijah and Moses looked like so physically we can't prove who they are, but if two people were to come who did the works of Elijah and Moses then we would be able to identify them. The following in Revelation describe the two witnesses (and who better to witness of these coming things than those who performed them the first time):
Rev 11:5 -- 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.
Rev 11:6 -- 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.
For more on plagues of the last days, see leprosy and its parallels with the mark of the beast.
Moses betook himself to the encampment [at the foot of Mt. Sinai] and awakened them with these words: "Arise from your sleep, the bridegroom is at hand, and is waiting to lead his bride under the marriage-canopy." Moses, at the head of the procession, hereupon brought the nation to its bridegroom, God, to Sinai, himself going up the mountain.
(After the first tablets of the ten commandments are broken, Moses pleads for the people.) God replied: "Thou desirest Me to forgive them. Well, then, I shall do so, now fetch Me hither tables on which I may write the words that were written on the first. But to reward thee for offering up thy life for their sake, I shall in the future send thee along with Elijah, that both of you together may prepare Israel for the final deliverance."
(Legends of the Jews, Louis Ginzberg, Book 3)
Such was the prospect which, from that mountain-top, spread before Moses. And when he had satiated his eyes upon it, he descended into that valley apart to lay him down to rest. Into the mysterious silence of that death and burial at the hands of Jehovah we dare not penetrate. Jewish tradition, rendering the expression (Deuteronomy 34:5) literally, has it that "Moses the servant of Jehovah died there... at the mouth of Jehovah," or, as they put it, by the kiss of the Lord. But from the brief saying of Scripture (Jude 9) may we not infer that although Moses also received in death the wages of sin, yet his body passed not through corruption, however much "the devil," contending as for his lawful prey, "disputed" for its possession, but was raised up to be with Elijah the first to welcome the Lord in His glory? For "men bury a body that it may pass into corruption. If Jehovah, therefore, would not suffer the body of Moses to be buried by men, it is but natural to seek for the reason in the fact that He did not intend to leave him to corruption."*
(The Bible History, Old Testament, Alfred Edersheim)
Moses the giver of the law, and Elias one of the chief of the prophets...The Jews sometimes speak of these two as together...Yea, they expect that these two will come together in future time; for so they represent God as saying to Moses; Moses, as thou hast given thy life for them (the Israelites) in this world, so in time to come (the days of the Messiah) when I shall bring Elias the prophet, you two shall come together. (Debarim Rabba, sect. 3. fol. 239.2.)
(The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible)
[Referring again to the above regarding how to recognize the two witnesses, the following explains why the Jews believe that Moses had a lisp.]
Moshe [Moses] said to God, "Forgive me, my God, but I am not a man of words, neither yesterday nor since You have spoken to Your servant; I have a 'heavy' mouth and a 'heavy' tongue." (Shemos 4:10)
The simple explanation is that Moshe had a lisp. The midrash says that when Moshe had been a baby in Paroah's [Pharaoh] court, an incident occurred that had permanently impaired his speech. When Moshe had been three years old, he had been sitting on Basya's [the daughter of Pharaoh who had saved Moses from the water] lap with Paroah close by. Moshe had climbed down off Basya's lap and walked over to Paroah. He then took the crown off Paroah's head and put it on his own.
Everyone in the court had been stunned. At another point in history, had the baby been the true heir to the throne, and the prophecy of a Jewish redeemer not been hanging over Paroah's head, what Moshe did might have been considered cute. However, for Paroah and his court, the nagging question had to be: Was this a sign of things to come?
To find out, Paroah had devised a test for the baby Moshe: a brilliant diamond and a glowing coal was to be brought and placed before Moshe. Should he pick up the diamond, then it would be clear that Moshe worked with thought and cunning. However, should Moshe pick up the burning coal, then it would be clear to all that Moshe was just like any other baby that indiscriminately reaches for anything that glitters.
Of course Moshe had reached for the diamond. However, God had sent the angel Gavriel [Gabriel] to redirect Moshe's hand, so that he reached for the coal instead, which he had promptly put into his mouth, burning it. As a result, Moshe's life had been spared, but not his tongue.
(From Redemption to Redemption, Rabbi Pinchas Winston, http://www.torah.org)
In resignation to the will of God, Jacob awaited his end, and death enveloped him gently. Not the angel of Death ended his life, but the Shekinah took his soul with a kiss. Beside the three Patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, only Moses, Aaron, and Miriam breathed their last in this manner, through the kiss of the Shekinah. And these six, together with Benjamin, are the only ones whose corpses are not exposed to the ravages of the worms, and they neither corrupt nor decay.
(Legends of the Jews, Louis Ginzberg, Volume 2)
Legend states that Moses was born and died on Adar 7.
And after six days Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into an high mountain apart, And was transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light. And, behold, there appeared unto them Moses and Elias talking with him. -- Matthew 17:1-3
Having been schooled in this world until innocence was turned into virtue, each individual in due time would have been transformed into a higher state no longer dependent upon time and space, and without passing through death at all, as Enoch appears to have been. In the case of Enoch, we are merely told that he "was not," for God "took him." This has always been understood to mean that he passed out of this sphere without dying. Jesus Christ, on the other hand, deliberately surrendered this possibility. The significance of the events which took place on the Mount of Transfiguration is variously interpreted. This much seems fairly certain. We see here one man who has come to manhood without being touched by sin. Having thus fulfilled the task of passing from innocence of childhood to the virtue of perfect manhood without fault, this man might have been transformed and passed immediately into a higher state at that point without seeing death. But the subject of His conversation on the Mount of Transfiguration seems rather to have been related to the fact that He was deliberately setting aside this privilege, which was now His right, in order to become subject to death in a unique way. This scene is therefore taken by some to be a picture of what would be the "end" of each individual's period of schooling in this world if it were not for the fact of sin and death. Such is one possible reconstruction of the original divine plan, until death was introduced (Rom. 5:12), because this plan was thwarted. Thus death is now appointed for each individual.
Thus, in the incarnation the LORD Jesus Christ revealed three great truths: the nature of God, the nature of Adam (as unfallen man), and the nature of man in his present state. He showed what God was like because He was God. He showed what Adam was like because He was a second Adam. He showed what we are like now because we crucified Him. And finally He opened the way for man who is dead to live again, not just in some future world and without the "encumbrance" of a body, but here and now as a whole man quickened as to his mortal body (Rom. 8:11), renewed as to his mind (Eph. 4:23), and recreated as to his spirit (John 3:3). Whereas the New Testament makes it clear that the body can be more of a curse than a blessing to us as we are now constituted, this was not true at all in the case of the Last Adam. It would have been entirely inappropriate for the LORD of Glory to be incarnate in a body like ours, subject to sickness and disease, senescence and death. But it was entirely appropriate that He should be incarnate in a body like Adam's, which initially was subject to none of these things. Indeed, only by properly understanding the real nature of the body that was prepared for Him (Heb. 10:5) and which He indwelt throughout His earthly ministry can we grasp the significance of what happened at the very end when He purchased our redemption on the Cross. And what happened there sheds its own wonderful light on the constitution of a truly human body untainted by sin. The Cross was the inevitable termination of the life of the Second Adam in the light of the First Adam's fall. On the other hand, the Transfiguration of the Second Adam would have been the logical termination of the life of the First Adam if he had not fallen. Both events shed light on Adam's destiny, as a fallen creature, and as an unfallen one. At this point, however, it is the Transfiguration that concerns us.
The circumstances surrounding the Transfiguration as recorded in Matthew 17:1-9 are very important for the light they shed. Jesus Christ, the Second Adam, had lived a life of sinlessness, and now He had reached the perfection of maturity through the things which he had experienced--the things which He had "suffered," as Hebrews 2:10 puts it. Complete innocence had grown into unchallengeable virtue. He was now ready to enter into the joy of a higher order of life, not by being freed from His body as though embodiment was a disadvantage in itself, but by being transformed in it and with it into a more glorious quality of human existence.
[H]aving so lived a perfect life and received on the Mount a signal evidence of His Father's complete approval, Jesus had reached that first potential terminal point of His human existence and might have passed on into glory by a simple transformation which seems already to have begun to take place, filling His body with light. This was the joy which had been set before Him, and this was the joy which would have been the lot of every man if sin had not entered and by sin death (Rom. 5:12). As the Jewish commentators long ago had perceived: "Had it not been for the Fall, death would not have been so terrible and painful, but a joyful incident in man's career," for God had created man with the capability of immortality (Wisdom of Solomon 2:23). But we are told in Hebrews 12:2 that instead of the joy that was set before him [he] endured the cross. The Authorized Version reads here, "for the joy that was set before Him...." But in fact the original Greek should be rendered more precisely, "over against," "in place of," or "instead of." In short, rather than going on into glory, which might have been His normal expectation as man made perfect, He returned to His earthly career and told the disciples who were with Him what would be the outcome of this decision (Matt. 17:9). It is worthy of note that the Williams translation reads here: "who, instead of the joy that was set before Him...," and the version produced by Smith and Goodspeed reads: "who, in place of the happiness that belonged to Him, submitted to a cross."
In other words, the Second Adam achieved the perfection of maturity as a human being which Adam and all his other descendants utterly failed to do, and then having set aside this joy which was the natural terminus of a sinless life, He came back into the stream of history again with the deliberate intent of experiencing death voluntarily, without compulsion, and for our sakes.
(The Virgin Birth, Arthur Custance, http://www.custance.org )
"Perhaps the coming of Moses and Elijah on the Mount of Transfiguration should be viewed as portraying the in-breaking of God's redemptive activity. In one homiletical midrash which preserves holiday sermons and traditional Jewish teachings from the ancient synagogue, a message is given in which both Moses and Elijah fufill a mission in the process of redemption.
'You find that two Prophets rose up for Israel out of the Tribe of Levi; one the first of all the Prophets, and the other the last of all the Prophets: Moses first and Elijah last, and both with a commission from God to redeem Israel; Moses, with his commission, redeemed them from Egypt, as is said "Come now, therefore, and I will send unto Pharaoh" (Exod 3:10). And in the time-to-come, Elijah, with his commission, will redeem them, as is said "Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet (Mal 3:23). As with Moses, who in the beginning redeemed them out of Egypt, they did not return to slavery again in Egypt; so with Elijah, after he will have redeemed them out of the fourth exile, out of Edom, they will not return and again be enslaved--theirs will be an eternal deliverance.' [Pesikat Rabbati, Piska 4:2 (Braude, trans., Pesikta Rabbati, 1.84-85)]
(Young, Brad. Jesus the Jewish Theologian, p. 208.)
Genesis 31:44 -- Now therefore come thou, let us make a covenant, I and thou; and let it be for a witness between me and thee.
Deuteronomy 4:26 -- I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day, that ye shall soon utterly perish from off the land whereunto ye go over Jordan to possess it; ye shall not prolong your days upon it, but shall utterly be destroyed.
Deuteronomy 17:6 -- At the mouth of two witnesses, or three witnesses, shall he that is worthy of death be put to death; but at the mouth of one witness he shall not be put to death.
Deuteronomy 31:26 -- Take this book of the law, and put it in the side of the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God, that it may be there for a witness against thee.
Joshua 24:27 -- And Joshua said unto all the people,
Job 16:8 -- And thou hast filled me with wrinkles, which is a witness against me: and my leanness rising up in me beareth witness to my face.
Psalms 89:37 -- It shall be established for ever as the moon, and as a faithful witness in heaven. Selah.
Micah 1:2 -- Hear, all ye people; hearken, O earth, and all that therein is: and let the Lord GOD be witness against you, the Lord from his holy temple.
Matthew 24:14 -- And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.
John 1:7 -- The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe. 8 He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light.
John 1:15 -- John bare witness of him, and cried, saying, This was he of whom I spake, He that cometh after me is preferred before me: for he was before me.
John 5:36,37 -- But I have greater witness than that of John: for the works which the Father hath given me to finish, the same works that I do, bear witness of me, that the Father hath sent me. And the Father himself, which hath sent me, hath borne witness of me. Ye have neither heard his voice at any time, nor seen his shape.
John 8:18 -- I am one that bear witness of myself, and the Father that sent me beareth witness of me.
John 15:27 -- And ye also shall bear witness, because ye have been with me from the beginning.
Acts 5:32 -- And we are his witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey him.
Acts 7:44 -- Our fathers had the tabernacle of witness in the wilderness, as he had appointed, speaking unto Moses, that he should make it according to the fashion that he had seen.
Acts 10:41 -- Not to all the people, but unto witnesses chosen before of God, even to us, who did eat and drink with him after he rose from the dead.
Acts 10:43 -- To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins.
Acts 15:8 -- And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us;
Romans 2:15 -- Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another;)
Romans 8:16 -- The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:
Hebrews 2:4 -- God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will?
Hebrews 11:4 -- By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaketh.
1 John 5:6 -- This is he that came by water and blood, even Jesus Christ; not by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is truth.
1 John 5:8,9.10 -- And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one. If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater: for this is the witness of God which he hath testified of his Son. He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself: he that believeth not God hath made him a liar; because he believeth not the record that God gave of his Son.
Revelation 1:5 -- And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood,
Revelation 11:3 -- And I will give power unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days, clothed in sackcloth.
Thus God is purifying us. The furnace was provided in the eternal purpose. We were not in a moment to be transferred to the glory above, as soon as we were begotten again to the lively hope. We were not to be instantaneously perfected and purified, so that sin should be utterly expelled from us, and we should have no more need of the blood; no more need of the daily discipline. God's purpose was, that our preparation should be by a process, not by an act: that by gradual progress we should be the occasion for drawing out the power and grace of God. Instantaneous perfection seems to some more glorifying to God than gradual improvement. But God does not think so. He wants to show us what sin is, what the power of evil is, what a human heart is, what the blood of Christ can do, what the power of the Spirit can do. And so He purifies us gradually. He has done so from the beginning; and there is not one instance in Scripture of instantaneous perfection, nay, not one instance of perfection at all. The law of the kingdom is expressed in the following prayer of the apostle:
Thus God is making us His witnesses. Ye are my witnesses, He says to us. Witnesses of whom? Of the Christ of God. We testify of Him; we reflect His light; we radiate His glory. We are His mirrors here. We are like the moon, giving back some of the light He sheds on us; like the sea, shining with His brightness; like the mountains, telling of His greatness; like the wind, speaking of His power; like the flowers, displaying His beauty; like the blue arch, proclaiming His vastness; like the sands, symbolizing the years of His eternity; like the rainbow, unfolding His varied perfections; like the rivers, reminding men of the ceaseless roll of His providence; like the rain, showing His refreshing bounty; like the harvest field, displaying the exuberant fulness of His love.
Thus are we in these ways, and in a thousand more, His witnesses: telling out all His glory, and power, and holiness, and love. Our life is to be one continuous witness-bearing to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the Christ Himself, who, when He left this earth, left us behind Him to represent Him here. Let our testimony be full; let our representation be worthy of Him whose representatives we are.
We are left here to bear witness to the Christ of God. Let us see that we do it well.
The world needs our testimony, for it knows Him not, neither cares to know Him. Let our lives be such a testimony as shall win the very worst, and attract the most distant and heedless. Let that testimony be full; let it be consistent: for who can tell the injury that has been done by inconsistent testimony,--by the lives of Christians who were far more like the world that they professed to have forsaken, than the Lord to whom they had joined themselves?
The Church, too, needs consistent witness-bearing. It needs to be lifted up; and who is to lift it up? It needs to be more completely unworldly and unearthly; and who shall help to make it such? It needs to be roused and quickened; but who shall rouse and quicken it, if all be slumbering and sleeping? It needs to start upon a new career of devotedness, and fervent self-denial, and holiness, and love; but who is to begin?
(The Christ of God, Horatius Bonar)
This concept of Eliyahu's [Elijah] coming as a herald of Mashiach Ben- David [Messiah, son of David] is supported not only in the Tanakh [Old Testament] and the B'rit Chadashah [New Testament] but also in our Jewish literature:
It was even taught that Eliyahu had three cities in Y'hudah [Judah] from which he would again begin his ministry. The discussion follows:
It [one of the three cities of Eliyahu in Y'hudah] was called 'Zenan' because he [Elijah, its owner] was a buckler (zinah), and 'Hadashah,' because God would renew him (me-hadesho) in the millennium. It was called 'Migdal-gad,' because from there God would one day go forth and cut down (magdid) the foundations of Esau. (Midrash footnote: Warsaw ed. reads "the foundations of the heathen"--the meaning is the same.) [Midrash Rabbah Exodus]
Zenan and Hadashah were lowland cities about 50 km (31 miles) from Y'rushalayim. Migdal-gad was located about 38 km (24 miles) west of present-day Hebron. According to Jewish expectation, Eliyahu will emerge before the resurrection from one of these cities (ruins) and not in the desert as was Yochanan the Immerser [John the Baptist].
One more interesting fact: According to Jewish expectation, Eliyahu will come with Mosheh [Moses]. In the ancient Jewish writings of the Midrash Rabbah, we join a discussion in progress, one not linked to some special revelation but rather a drash which is a Hebrew form of storytelling. The discussion focuses upon a dialogue between G-d and Mosheh. After Mosheh brings the second set of stone tablets up to G-d for His signature, G-d says:
Moses, I swear to you, as you devoted your life to their service in this world, so too in the time to come when I bring Elijah, the prophet, unto them, the two of you shall come together. [Midrash Rabbah Deuteronomy]
...I believe Eliyahu and Mosheh will return in the flesh prior to the resurrection and rapture on the Day of the L-rd. How soon before the Day of the L-rd will they appear? I am not sure about Mosheh but I think Eliyahu will come six months before the resurrection because Yochanan (a type of Eliyahu), who was a forerunner of Mashiach, was six months older than Y'shua. And if Y'shua comes for His bride at Rosh Hashanah then Eliyahu will appear in Israel at Pesach. Why Pesach? Because that is when Eliyahu is expected. For almost 2,000 years, Jews every year at the annual celebration of Pesach prepare a table-setting for him.
In the ancient Jewish writings including the Tanakh the resurrection is scheduled for the Feast of Trumpets (Rosh Hashanah) which is called an "appointed time," or in Hebrew, a Moed.
Signs in the Heavens
Online Bible Hebrew Lexicon: