Golden Lampstands Beside the Throne
"And I will empower my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for a thousand two hundred sixty days, clothed in sackcloth." These witnesses are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth.
Both the olive tree and lampstand symbolism show up together in one of Zechariah's visions. We read:
Then I asked him, "What are these two olive trees on the right side of the lampstand and on the left side of it?" I asked him the second time, "What are these two olive branches, which are beside the two golden spouts, that pour the golden oil out of themselves?" He answered me, "Don't you know what these are?" I said, "No, my lord." Then he said, "These are the two anointed ones who stand by the Lord of the whole earth."
Every Sinner Must Die
That being said, there is a strong possibility that the witnesses will be holy men who were taken into heaven without experiencing death. The Bible contains at least one reference to a prophet being permanently assumed into the spiritual realm. This presents us with a problem because the Word clearly teaches that the penalty for sin is death (Rom. 6:23; Ezek. 18:4, et al.), and, unfortunately, everyone sins. "All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God," said Paul (Rom. 3:23). And again,
For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, as it is written:
“None is righteous, no, not one;
no one understands;
no one seeks for God.
All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
no one does good,
not even one.”
The solution as I and other theologians see it is that anyone taken into heaven must return and die. The two nameless witnesses of Revelation 11 are most likely two men who had their deaths delayed by being translated to the third heaven. Because of the supernatural powers granted to them when they return to the earth, no one will be able to harm them. Nevertheless, they will perish at the hands of the Antichrist (Rev. 11:7) because the wages of sin must be paid.
Unfortunately, Moses can't possibly be one of the witnesses because his death was recorded in the Torah. Immortal spirits even argued over his corpse (Jude 1:9).
"It is appointed for men to die once, and after this, judgment," says the Word (Heb. 9:27). We're talking here about long-term death, as in returning to dust. Sure, Lazarus and a handful of others throughout history returned from death days after passing, and many people have been resuscitated, but none of them turned to dust. There ain't no coming back from dust! Until the Resurrection, that is, when a whole new, immortal body is constructed. Moses isn't going to receive a new, mortal body and then be asked to die again.
The Hebrew term which we translate into English as heaven does not always mean "the spiritual realm where YHVH lives." It also means "the sky." Evidently Elijah was transported by air to somewhere else on earth in a manner similar to the teleportation of Phillip from Gaza to Azotus (Acts 8:26-40). Elijah probably died and was buried some years later.
Then, in the New Testament, we find quite an enigmatic statement about Melchizedek: "Without beginning of days or end of life, resembling the Son of God, he remains a priest forever" (Heb. 7:3). Some have used this verse to speculate that Melchizedek remains alive to this day, and therefore could be one of the end-time witnesses.
I disagree. The author of Hebrews is not claiming that Melchizedek is God, the Ancient of Days, which he would have to be if he had no beginning. No human could be legitimately described as being "without beginning," but that is exactly what Hebrews says. Hebrews 7:3 makes perfect sense once we realize that the author is talking about the way Melchizedek busts into the Genesis narrative with no introduction, no mention of his lineage, and no description of his death. It's about the textual presentation of this character, not the man's real life.
By faith Enoch was taken away without experiencing death. He could not be found, because God had taken him away. For before he was taken, he won approval as one who pleased God.
Baruch was a prophet who lived during the time of the Babylonian invasion. He and his son survived the siege of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar and were not taken as prisoners to Babylon. They remained in the ruined city with but a remnant of the population. The remnant mourned and sought YHVH, who provided words of comfort and instruction through Baruch. Unfortunately for the remnant, Baruch was not allowed to stay with them for very long because YHVH decided to remove him from the scene. He received notice of this fact beforehand:
There are many eternal consolations for you. For you shall depart from this place, and you shall pass from the regions which are now seen by you, and you shall forget whatever is corruptible, and shall not again recall those things which happen among mortals.
(2 Bar. 43:1-2)
But with regard to the word that I was to be taken I did not make it known to them or to my son.
(2 Bar. 46:7)
After the meeting, the Spirit drew Baruch to Hebron, where he fasted for seven days. YHVH then conversed with Baruch, and during the conversation said, "Therefore you shall surely be taken up, as I before told you" (2 Bar. 48:30).
Later in the book this promise is reiterated and expounded upon:
For you shall surely depart from this earth, nevertheless not unto death, but you shall be preserved unto the consummation of the times.
(2 Bar. 76:2)
Can you imagine how encouraging it will be to see Enoch and Baruch fighting end-times Babel and exposing the Beast for what he really is? Talk about a shot in the arm!