For those familiar it may be apparent by the title alone that this is a biblical painting depicting one of the final resulting scenes from Revelations. I would like to delve more fully into the symbology that comprises ‘The Two Witnesses.’
Providing context for those who may be unfamiliar with this Christian story of the Apocalypse, it reads:
“These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth. And if anyone wants to harm them, fire pours from their mouth and consumes their foes; anyone who wants to harm them must be killed in this manner. They have authority to shut the sky, so that no rain may fall during the days of their prophesying, and they have authority over the waters to turn them into blood, and to strike the earth with every kind of plague, as often as they desire.
When they have finished their testimony, the beast that comes up from the bottomless pit will make war on them and conquer them and kill them, and their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city that is prophetically called Sodom and Egypt, where also their Lord was crucified. For three and a half days members of the peoples and tribes and languages and nations will gaze at their dead bodies and refuse to let them be placed in a tomb; and the inhabitants of the earth will gloat over them and celebrate and exchange presents, because these two prophets had been a torment to the inhabitants of the earth.
But after the three and a half days, the breath of life from God entered them, and they stood on their feet, and those who saw them were terrified. Then they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, “Come up here!” And they went up to heaven in a cloud while their enemies watched them. At that moment there was a great earthquake, and a tenth of the city fell; seven thousand people were killed in the earthquake, and the rest were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven.”
— Book of Revelation, 11:1–13
I chose to depict the Two Witnesses as a man and woman couple as this always seemed correct to me while reading Revelations in my youth. They are dressed in Babylonian garb, their colors reflecting the power over both water and fire (red symbolizes fire and purple represents both water and fire). They dress like this as a kind of mocking of their current society’s attempt to be like the old Babylon. When one hunts a deer, the hunter may choose to keep the deer’s head as a trophy, and make clothing out of the hide. So too with the Two Witnesses. They hunt, kill, wear, and mock the most animalistic and profane, as their end marks a beginning for God’s innocent. Their garb is also evoking the ancient past when angels walked on earth.
The seemingly man-made bonfire in the foreground is in contrast with the fire caused by the red dragon, the angel Sammael, in the background, overcast by an eclipse as one of the signs in heaven of the end times. The background fire is magically or divinely created since it is being caused by a dragon. The fire in the foreground is implied as being man-made by magical individuals. The man holds a stick to the fire as if he is a magician, but also as if he started the fire himself by traditional human means. It did not have to be hand built since these Two now have power over fire. They could have used their magical power to light a fire, but chose not to.
They are taking a moment to enjoy each other’s company. They are in the world, but they are not of it. They are indulging in an activity that they would of done in their former lives prior to being called up to heaven and being granted supernatural power, as a token of nostalgia.
Both the man and the woman are in a playful state. The man sits while poking at the fire with a stick or wand, and the woman dances in the euphoria of the end age, a dance of death. Her hand is out stretched toward any who would approach, as if to say, “Come join me in my dance. Come join us in our victory.” The man is turned slightly toward his woman in full support of her, and she is turned slightly toward her man, even though her hand is outstretched toward the viewer. It is meant to indicate that even though they are physically apart they are still very much enjoying each other’s company.
Both figures have halos about their heads to denote their divinity. The woman in particular has the same halo and posture as the Statue of Liberty. This is symbolizing that the Two Witnesses are in America, that this is the newest Babylon, and where the destruction is beginning to take place. The inclination towards a divine trinity: mother, father and son, is also implied between the man and woman couple and the red dragon.