The short answer is that the two witnesses appear AFTER the rapture at the end of the 3½ year period of the tribulation, the midpoint which is marked by the end of the Two Witnesses ministry.
“And I will give power unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days, clothed in sackcloth”. Revelation 11:3
There are five viewpoints on the tribulation, each refers to the Rapture.
There are five viewpoints on the tribulation:
Meaning all Saints alive at the time the tribulation begins will be taken up bodily to meet Christ in the clouds and subsequently go to Heaven. This is referred to as the Rapture or the First Advent of Christ (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; 1 Corinthians 15:50-55). Those who become believers after the tribulation begins, do so by refusing the mark of the beast and being killed off (Revelation 13:15-18).
Meaning the Rapture will occur during the Tribulation at the Midpoint (3 1/2 years in)but before the Seven Vial Judgments.
Seven Trumpet Tribulation
The Rapture occurs at the sound of the seventh trumpet (Revelation 11:15; 1 Corinthians 15:52)
Rapture occurs at the 3½ year point, before the harsher aspects of the tribulation unfold.
No one is taken to Heaven at all. Everyone is gathered on Earth by Christ into the thousand year reign at the end of the tribulation.
The rapture is the rejoining of the Spirit of a man with his physical body. The body becomes a glorified version of itself, having no blood in it. No blood is also referred to as corruption, meaning decay (1 Thessalonians. 4:13-18; 1 Corinthians 15:50-55).
The Rapture is distinct from the resurrection because it happens only once and happens to people who are dead, as well as those who are alive at the time of the event. The resurrection takes place with dead people first. Both companies go to Heaven in glorified bodies, and both return to earth with Christ during Armageddon the 2nd Advent.
Those who are raptured are unique in their dispensation, because this group will never experience death like everyone else does. They are transformed alive. In some way, this transition must cause physical death and resurrection simultaneously, or within moments of one another. The reason for this assertion is that it is written..
“It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” Hebrews 9:27
Those experiencing the Rapture are unique, having this isolated exception to the way they transition from physical life to Heaven. These will be those who never entered Heaven in Spirit form without their bodies.
Those from the tribulation, are thought to be reunited with their bodies at the time of the Great White Throne Judgment. This is the only time, according to scripture, that the opportunity is given for such a reconciliation.
“And I saw the dead small and great stand before God, and the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hell delivered up the dead which were in them” Revelation 20:12-13
The sea giving up the dead and death delivering up its dead, refers to the bodies of those dead, being regenerated and given back to those people so they can stand before God, just like the Rapture is played out for the Believers. Hell delivering up its dead are the Sprits of men who were in Hell all this time have their bodies and Spirits reunited.
When John speaks about..
“the souls of them beheaded for the witness of Christ” Revelation 20:4
He is talking about the people that died during the tribulation and went to Heaven. What John did not say, is that he saw their “bodies”. He used the word “souls”. The Greek word for souls is “Psuche”/ Psoo-Khay, meaning an inanimate breeze, a breath, a sentient in principle only, vitality, life, mind, spirit. The Hebrew word for soul is “Ruwach” meaning by resemblance, breath or unsubstantial, resemblance of a spirit, air, mind, or a breath. Another Hebrew word is “Nephesh”/ Neh-fesh, meaning a breathing creature, ghost, man, mind, will.
This means what John saw were the “Spirits” of those who were in Heaven and the Earth during the thousand year reign of Christ. As such, these people were distinguished from among the other believers as those coming out of the tribulation and did not have bodies. This group is not reconciled with their bodies until after the thousand year reign, and just before the final judgment of God at the Great White Throne. Any other assertion, would be guess work, not Biblical.
“But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection” Revelation 20:5
The rest of the dead refers to those in Hell. There are four companies included in this group, depending on the dispensation of life:
1. Those who died from the time of Adam, to the time of Christ who did not believe on the coming of the Messiah, nor gave sacrifices for the remission of sins. This ordinance started with Adam, after he was driven out of the Garden of Eden. God taught Adam and his sons Cain and Able about the sacrifice (Genesis 4:1-7; Hebrews 11:4). It also refers to those who died after the order of Moses, who did not keep the ordinances of God (Exodus 19:3-25, 20:1-26, 21-23).
2. Those who died during Christ lifetime and did not receive Him as the Messiah, while believers, continue to give sacrifices until His resurrection.
3. Those who died after Christ resurrection while He was on Earth for forty days following His resurrection, and did not believe on Him. Believers are no longer giving sacrifices at this time.
4. Those who died from the time of Christ ascension to the Rapture, who do not believe on Christ, do not accept Him as Lord, do not believe He came as a man, died, rose on the third day, and is seated on the right hand side of God on a Throne in Heaven. They do not believe that He will return as promised in the clouds and take those who believe in Him to Heaven. The First Advent.
These four companies of unbelievers are not part of the first resurrection.
The tribulation is the seven year period of judgment on man and the planet that occurs prior to the second advent of Christ, which is depicted in Revelation 4:19. The Second Advent is commonly referred to as the battle of Armageddon (Revelation 10:11-21). The “end of the world” as it is commonly known.
The seven years of tribulation is divided into three periods, one 3 ½ year period, a mid-point, followed by a second 3 ½ year period (Revelation 12:14). This period is also expressed as “a thousand two hundred and three score days “or forty-two months. The expression three score means sixty.
A prophetic month averages thirty days. When reading the reference of 1260 days, it is equal to 42 months or 3 ½ years. So, whenever you see these references, simply think in terms of 3 ½ years.
There is a reference in Daniel 12:11 of 1290 days. There is a calculation of a leap year or leap month adjustment to keep in mind. This is also referred to as an intercalary leap adjustment. This means the adding of a day, week or month to the calendar year allows the calendar to follow the seasons with respect to the moon phases. This matters in the calculation of the date of some prophesies like Daniels 70 weeks.