I've met the two witnesses several times
The writer pastors
the Church of God Big Sandy and is a regular columnist for The Journal.
By Dave Havir
BIG SANDY, Texas--Years
ago the Church of God introduced me to the prophecy of the two witnesses
of Revelation 11:3-13. Since that time I have heard dozens of theories
about which two individuals would be the ones to fill their role.
got even more exciting than that. In my life I have met people who
claim to be the two witnesses. (I am not talking about people claiming
that two of their leaders are the two witnesses. I am talking about
people telling me directly that they were one of the two witnesses.)
In fact, I have
met eight people who each claimed to be one of the two witnesses.
Ponder that for
a moment and consider the following questions.
accept what these people said just because they said it?
the eight are really the two witnesses?
of the eight people one of the two witnesses?
with meeting eight of the two witnesses has helped me understand
the personal responsibility of each saint to recognize servants
Do I have to accept
their claim just because they said it? Hardly. I have formed an
opinion about all eight of them. For the record, I do not believe
that any one of those eight people is either of the two witnesses.
Since that opinion
is a subjective judgment, I will not stake my eternal life on it.
If two of those
people are really the two witnesses whom God will reveal, then I
will accept that truth when God reveals them. Until then I make
a personal judgment.
Years ago I made the mistake of placing too much emphasis on a select group of men.
This created two
I placed too much emphasis on some men, I accepted their errors
I placed too much emphasis on some men, I ignored truth that was
emanating from people all around me.
Now I seek to
learn from anybody. Well, almost anybody. I have to admit I do not
listen to certain people. Let me be more specific.
(clergyman or parishioner) dogmatically gives his theories and opinions
as directly coming from God, I immediately question his credibility
and lose interest quickly. (For the record, in the past people who
viewed themselves as the clergy were the self-appointed speakers
for God. Now many former parishioners appoint themselves as speakers
Someone may ask:
Aren't you afraid you will reject God's personal spokesman?
My response: If
I regularly avoid the theories of people who claim to speak directly
for God, I may do the following two things.
I may temporarily
reject a true prophet of God (when He sends one or more).
I may avoid
being conned by the thousands of false prophets (including leaders
among the Churches of God) who run around exalting themselves.
It is my opinion
that God would prefer me to temporarily reject a true prophet of
His than to mindlessly accept theories from anyone who claims to
At this time let
me share five simple concepts about recognizing servants of God.
First, God gives
gifts to people so they can serve.
Some people claim
1 Corinthians 12:28 and Ephesians 4:11 describe ecclesiastical ranks
of authority. But have you seen what the Bible says?
In 1 Corinthians
12:28 Paul listed the gifts of apostles, prophets and teachers with
the gifts of miracles, healings, helps, governments and diversities
4:7-8 Paul wrote that God gives gifts. In verse 11 he lists some
of those: the ability to serve as apostles, prophets, evangelists,
pastors and teachers.
Someone may ask:
What is the difference between calling these words ranks and calling
My response: The
difference is more than words. Some people talk about the servant-leadership
behavior of Jesus, but they demonstrate the empty structure of the
of ranks influences people to emphasize dominion and authority.
of gifts influences people to emphasize service.
of ranks influences people to believe that men have dominion over
the faith of saints.
of gifts influences people to understand that men (and women) can
be helpers of someone's joy and they do not have dominion over the
faith of saints (2 Corinthians 1:24).
More than claiming
Second, just because
an individual claims to be a leader does not mean God gave a gift
about false apostles (2 Corinthians 11:13).
about many false prophets (Matthew 7:15; 24:11).
about false teachers (2 Peter 2:1-3).
More than credentialing
Third, just because
a group of men claims someone is a leader does not mean God gave
a gift to him.
In other words,
not all credentialed representatives of a group have a gift. Not
all people who have the title of leader have a gift.
In fact, many
people have gifts from God without having any title or credential.
saints that recommendations (or credentials) from men were not necessary
to preach the gospel (2 Corinthians 3:1-6).
that he was not concerned about whether those "who seemed to
be somewhat" in Jerusalem accepted his using the gift that
God gave him (Galatians 2:6).
amazed with Jesus' teaching because He did not live up to their
method of credentialing (John 7:15). Notice His response (verse
leaders were angry at Jesus for not coming under their authority
and dominion. He taught His disciples that they should not practice
a system of authority and dominion (Matthew 20:25-28).
leaders were angered that Jesus would not accept their position
over Him. He criticized a system in which men sought to be over
other people (Matthew 23:5-13).
Making a judgment
Fourth, each saint
decides if he accepts the leadership of a person who claims God
gave him a gift.
that each saint should not let any man deceive him (2 Thessalonians
about apostles who lie (Revelation 2:2).
that each saint should not let any man take his crown (Revelation
preached, some people rejected Him and sought to kill Him (Luke
4:28-29; John 11:53), and other people accepted Him and sought to
follow Him (John 17:6-17).
preached, some people rejected him and sought to kill him (Acts
14:19), and other people accepted him and hugged his neck (Acts
Fifth, each collection of saints decides if it accepts the leadership of a person who claims God gave him a gift.
(The group's acceptance
or rejection of a person is not the final judgment on the matter,
but the group members make decisions.)
that some people did not accept his service as an apostle to them,
and he knew that a group in Corinth did accept his service as an
apostle (1 Corinthians 9:2).
chose to support Barnabas in preaching the gospel to the gentiles,
and others supported Paul in preaching the gospel to the gentiles
Let's look at
a few questions about the clergy.
a church group establish ecclesiastical ranks and impose them upon
Question: If a
person receives a rank in one Church of God group, does his rank
transfer to our group?
ranks are man-made distinctions, they may sometimes transfer from
group to group. The men who make ranks and accept ranks will decide
the matter. If you do not believe in ecclesiastical ranks, those
labels will have little bearing on you.
ranks within religious organizations help them keep order among
Answer: Yes. In
employment situations, seniority (sometimes identified as ranks)
is often used to determine personnel assignments and compensation
packages. However, if you do not work for those organizations, those
ranks have little influence on you.
Question: If a
church group that believes in apostolic succession chooses a man
and adds him into its religious class system, does he have authority
Answer: No. Just
because religious leaders say they have authority over you does
not mean they really do. Do you accept the pope's authority over
you? I didn't think so. Why would you accept the hundreds of imitations?
I personally do not believe in a rank system, the leaders of my
church practice a rank system. Should I leave?
Answer: Each person
should attend the group that best serves the needs of his family.
The rank system in your group may have some residual influence upon
you at church functions, but it will not affect you in your daily
Christian life, which is practiced away from the watchful eyes of
the ecclesiastical officers.
Question: If a
small fellowship group recognizes a leader in its midst, is he automatically
a leader in our small fellowship group?
Answer: No. You
are under no obligation to accept the claim of his gift or function.
with a title comes to your congregation, you may or may not recognize
the same gift.
with a title comes to your congregation, you may recognize the same
gift, but you may have people in your congregation who have that
particular gift, and therefore your congregation may not need that
person to utilize that gift in your congregation.
this. If a person in another group calls himself a bookkeeper, he
is only a practicing bookkeeper to your group if you desire his
if a person in another group calls himself an elder, evangelist
or teacher, he is only a practicing elder, evangelist or teacher
to your group if you desire his service.
Many of us are
finished supporting men who seek to have the preeminence over the
We thank God for inspiring servants who humbly display God's gifts toward His people.
© The Journal: News of the Churches of God