The period of 1260 days is the same length of time as the 42 months in verse 2. During that time, the enemies of Godís people will act cruelly against Jerusalem, the holy city. They will use their power in a very evil manner.
However, even during that terrible time, God will appoint two people to speak on his behalf. They are called witnesses, because they will speak the truth.
The description in verse 4 is from Zechariah chapter 4. The lampstands are lamps that burn oil. The light never goes out because they have a constant supply of oil. That oil comes from the fruit of the two olive trees that grow next to them.
In the Book of Zechariah, those two trees meant Zerubbabel, and Joshua the priest. At that time, Godís people were rebuilding the temple (house of God), although a foreign king still controlled their country. Zerubbabel organised the construction while Joshua led the prayers. They served God together so that there would again be a house of God in Jerusalem. The Bible often uses fruit as a word-picture for the results of someoneís work (for example, Matthew 7:15-20). The light from the lamps was like the knowledge of God that other people would receive because of their work.
The two witnesses in Revelation are also bringing the knowledge of God to the world (compare Matthew 5:14-16). The Holy Spirit in their lives is like the oil that gives light. Because of the work of these two witnesses, God is still present in his temple and among his people. Their words prove that God is still the God of the whole world.
The two witnesses wear sackcloth (the rough, uncomfortable clothes of a poor person). They probably do that to express how sad and serious their message is. People are acting in a very evil manner (9:20-21) and Godís judgement is against them. That is why Godís message is so severe.
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© 2016, Keith Simons.