In the Bible, the two olive trees are mentioned in Zechariah 4 and Revelation 11. They hold deep symbolic meaning and have been interpreted in various ways by Bible scholars. In this comprehensive blog post, we will explore the different interpretations of the two olive trees throughout Scripture and what they represent.
In Zechariah’s vision in Zechariah 4, he sees a solid gold lampstand with seven lamps and two olive trees on either side, providing oil to the lamps. Later in Revelation 11, two witnesses are described as the “two olive trees” and the “two lampstands.”
These mysterious olive trees have been given several interpretations over the years. Some see them as representing Joshua and Zerubbabel, the religious and civil leaders who helped rebuild the temple. Others view them as the offices of priest and king. Some equate them with the Old and New Testaments. In Revelation, they are said to represent the two witnesses, often interpreted as Elijah and Moses, or the church and Israel.
Overall, the olive trees seem to symbolize the constant supply of the Holy Spirit that allows God’s light to keep burning brightly. They empower God’s people to shine spiritually and spread His truth. As we explore the meaning of the two olive trees throughout Scripture, here are some key takeaways to keep in mind:
- In Zechariah, the olive trees provide oil to keep the lampstand shining, representing the Holy Spirit empowering God’s people.
- They are described as “two anointed ones” in Zechariah, denoting a spiritual role.
- In Revelation, they are linked to the two witnesses who prophesy during the tribulation.
- The olive trees are a recurring image of vitality, annointing, and the Spirit’s work in Scripture.
- They represent the means by which God sustains the faithful and empowers them for spiritual service.
With this background in mind, let’s take a deeper look at what the two olive trees represent in their contexts of Zechariah and Revelation.
The Two Olive Trees in Zechariah
The prophet Zechariah lived during the rebuilding of the temple after the Jewish exile in Babylon. In a vision, he saw a solid gold lampstand, representing the temple, with two olive trees on either side (Zechariah 4:3). An angel explains that the olive trees represent “the two anointed ones” (v. 14) who stand by the Lord of the whole earth.
This vision is speaking encouragement to Zerubbabel, governor of Judah, that he will finish rebuilding the temple by the power of God’s Spirit, represented by the olive oil. The two olive trees likely represent Joshua the high priest and Zerubbabel the governor—the religious and civil leaders God uses to revive the nation.
Just as olive trees produced oil for the lamp, these two anointed leaders would be empowered by the Spirit to lead the people in rebuilding the temple where God’s presence dwelled. God would use Joshua and Zerubbabel to bring light back to Israel through His Spirit.
The olive trees producing oil depict the Holy Spirit supplying what is needed to keep God’s light shining. Though the temple had been destroyed, God promises Zerubbabel to rebuild it by His Spirit:
“Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the LORD of hosts.” (Zechariah 4:6 NKJV)
The olive trees represent the means by which God would empower and sustain His people to rebuild the temple despite all odds. They speak of the Spirit’s constant supply to enable God’s people to let their light shine brightly for Him again.
The Two Olive Trees in Revelation 11
The image of the two olive trees reemerges in Revelation 11, where two witnesses prophesy for 1,260 days. They are called “the two olive trees and the two lampstands standing before the God of the earth” (v. 4). Here, the olive trees and lampstands represent the two witnesses empowered by the Spirit to testify before the nations.
These two witnesses have been given several interpretations. Some believe they represent Elijah and Moses, or the offices of priest and king. Others see them as representing the Jewish and Gentile segments of the church. A common view is that the two witnesses symbolize the universal church empowered by the Spirit to proclaim God’s truth to the nations during the tribulation.
The image echoes back to Zechariah 4, now applied to God’s final two witnesses on earth. Though they face fierce opposition, they are sustained and empowered by the Spirit to shine God’s light until their witness is complete. Then the beast kills them, but after three days they are raised and vindicated before their enemies (Revelation 11:7-12).
This demonstrates that the more the world tries to extinguish the church’s witness, the more God will raise it up again by His Spirit. throughout history, persecution has only caused God’s light to burn brighter through new witnesses empowered by the same eternal Spirit. Just as the olive trees supplied oil to the lamps, the Spirit supplies power to God’s people, enabling the light of their witness to keep shining.
Synthesis and Summary
What do we make of the mysterious two olive trees across Scripture? Clearly, they carry symbolic meaning related to the Holy Spirit sustaining and empowering God’s people for spiritual service. In Zechariah, the olive trees represent the kingly and priestly offices fulfilling God’s purposes by the Spirit’s power. In Revelation, they depict the church shining as lights for God against the darkness by the Spirit’s working.
Some key insights emerge:
- The olive trees represent the means of power and annointing by God’s Spirit undergirding His people. Just as natural olive trees produced oil for light, these trees spiritually supply the power from God to let His light shine.
- They speak of the Spirit’s empowerment for spiritual leadership, whether civil or religious. The trees stand by the Lord as His “two anointed ones” to lead God’s people and revive light where darkness has fallen.
- Across contexts, the trees point to the vital supply of the Spirit to enable the faithful to shine. He keeps our lamps filled and lights burning even when all seems lost.
- They depict how God takes what the enemy intends for evil and turns it for good. Both the temple and the final witnesses are attacked and killed, but God raises them up more gloriously than before by His Spirit.
- Most importantly, the olive trees show it is not by human might or power, but by God’s Spirit that His purposes advance (Zechariah 4:6). He keeps His light shining against all odds through the working of His eternal Spirit in and through us.
So in summary, the two olive trees in Scripture represent the all-sufficient power and provision of the Holy Spirit to empower God’s people for spiritual service. Whatever God calls us to, His Spirit supplies what is needed to shine for His glory. We are merely clay vessels, but the eternal power within sustains our witness and advances God’s kingdom (2 Corinthians 4:7). Thanks be to God for the gift of His Spirit!
Key Scriptures About the Two Olive Trees
Here are some key verses on the two olive trees:
- “So he answered and said to me: ‘This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ Says the LORD of hosts.’” (Zechariah 4:6 NKJV)
- “These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands standing before the God of the earth.” (Revelation 11:4 NKJV)
- “And I will grant authority to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth.” These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth.” (Revelation 11:3-4 ESV)
- “What are these two olive trees on the right and the left of the lampstand?” And a second time I answered and said to him, “What are these two branches of the olive trees, which are beside the two golden pipes from which the golden oil is poured out?” (Zechariah 4:11-12 ESV)
- “So he said, ‘These are the two anointed ones, who stand beside the Lord of the whole earth.'” (Zechariah 4:14 ESV)
These key verses help illuminate the role and meaning of the two olive trees within Scripture, showing how they represent the empowering of the Holy Spirit.
In closing, the two olive trees in Scripture carry deep symbolic meaning regarding the sustaining work of the Holy Spirit empowering God’s people. He enables our witness to shine like lamps before a dark world. Whatever God calls us to as believers, we can have confidence that His Spirit will supply what is needed, even when opposition arises.
My prayer is that this overview on the biblical meaning of the two olive trees has provided helpful insight into this rich Scriptural imagery. May we rely always on the Spirit’s endless supply, not our own strength, knowing He will bring God’s purposes to pass through yielded vessels. God keep our lamps burning bright for the glory of Christ!