Friday, 14 July 2017 21:31

74. The two witnesses: dead in the middle of the street * Revelation 11:7-8 - Part 3 of 6

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7  And when they shall have finished their testimony, the beast that ascends out of the bottomless pit shall make war against them, and shall overcome them, and kill them.

8  And their dead bodies shall lie in the street of the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified.

 

PART 3

 

*** When they shall have finished their testimony ***: Revelation 11:7 starts out by giving us a time frame of when the next event will take place. The time is when the two witnesses finish their testimony. To find out when that is, we need to go back to Revelation 11:3, where we learned the two witnesses would prophesy in sackcloth for 1260 days. The events described in verse 7 and 8 will not take place until that time was over. As we've seen in study #71, the period of 1260 prophetic days (or prophetic 42 months/3.5 years) equals a literal time of 1260 years during the Dark Ages (see also studies #16, #20 and #68 for a detailed explanation). We know this because the book of Daniel also mentions this same period of time, which happened during the Roman Empire (Daniel 7:25).

*** The beast that ascends out of the bottomless pit ***: At the end of that period of 1260 years, the beast that comes out of the bottomless pit would come out and make war against the two witnesses (Revelation 11:7). This same beast is also referred as the beast coming out of the sea (Revelation 13:1-10). The expression translated as the abyss, or the bottomless pit is the Greek word abussos, which means "the abyss, unfathomable depth", and also the abode of evil spirits. It is from the bottomless pit that the enemy forces come out symbolized by the army of locusts (Revelation 9:1-2, Revelation 13:7; Daniel 7:21; see also study #57). Based on all these passages, we can understand that the war being waged against God's people and their message happened after the period of testifying in sackcloth. The attack is led by satanic powers, since the beast attacking the two witnesses comes out of the bottomless pit. But who or what is this beast? It is most definitely not an actual grotesque animal coming to attack the church. The attack is real, but we must understand the symbol in order to understand who is the attacker.

The element 'beast' was also used in the book of Daniel as a symbol for a politico and religious power that would overcome God's people for a certain period of time (Daniel 7:17, 21). This beast is not Satan, because Revelation refers to Satan as the dragon (Revelation 12:9). The beast that comes out of the sea receives power directly from the dragon (Revelation 13:2). The focus of the verse in not necessarily on the precise identification of the beast. Basically, the information given in the texts informs the reader that this beast is a demonic agent responsible for the death of the two witnesses. We will study the identity of the beast in later chapters of Revelation.

*** Dead body on the street ***: The beast coming out of the abyss ends up killing the two witnesses. We would expect that the two witnesses would each have their own body lying down where they had been killed. This is not what we read in Revelation 11:8. As Stefanovic mentions in his book*, the expression in Greek is written in the collective singular "to ptōma autōn", which means "the dead body of them". In the Greek version, Revelation 11:9 also includes this reference in the singular, and only then the text switches back to the plural form 'bodies' (ptōmata). We saw this unity of the two witnesses in Revelation 11:5, where we read the expression stated in the singular form: "the mouth of them" (tou stomatos autōn). The two witnesses are a unit. The messenger and the message, working as one to spread God's truth to the world - the faithful Church and Scripture, working together. As they lived in one accord, witnessing, they also died as one, at the hand of this political power represented by the beast that comes from the abyss. The "body of them" was lying down on the street in disgrace. In ancient times, depriving people from burial was great tragedy and a form of humiliation (1 Kings: 13:22-31; Psalm 79:3; Jeremiah 8:1-2;Jeremiah 14:16). Leaving the witnesses without a proper burial was like taking away their dignity.

*** The great city where Christ was crucified ***: According to Revelation 11:8, the two witnesses died in the same great city as Christ. The text, however, is symbolic, and it mentions two great cities, and none of them is directly stated as Jerusalem. In contrast to the two witnesses that have one body, here we have one city that has two names. As the text says, the reference is spiritual. The two cities mentioned, Sodom and Egypt, are to be understood in a spiritual context: "the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt" (Revelation 11:8). Just like Jesus, the two witnesses were rejected, and persecuted before dying.

- Sodom: this great city is known for the wickedness and immoral behaviors of its citizens (Genesis 18:20,21; Genesis 19:4-11).

- Egypt: this great city, in relation to God's people, is known for their arrogance towards acknowledging God's sovereignty, in the words of pharaoh "Who is the LORD, that I should obey his voice to let Israel go? I know not the LORD, neither will I let Israel go" (Exodus 5:2).

In a way, both cities were oppressing God's people living there. And God had to intervene in both occasions. The great city where the two witnesses died had immoral and self-sufficient arrogance, where God centered values were not upheld. Spiritual immorality refers to the engaging in false teachings that lead to the complete denial of the deity of God. That is exactly what happened in Jerusalem, when the Jewish leaders ignored all the prophecies that pointed to Jesus. They actively refused to support Jesus' message, which led them to deny the divinity of Christ. They completely rejected His sacrifice.

*** Prophetic application ***: The big clue pointing to the actual time in History when the death of the two witnesses happened is found in the prophetic period provided in the texts of Revelation 11:3,4,7 and Daniel 7:25. The witnesses would be allowed to preach for 1260 years, and then they would be killed. That period, as we mentioned previously, corresponds to the time of the Dark Ages. Based on those verses, an event would happened, where there would be a public denial of God, in an act of spiritual immorality. This means that atheistic beliefs would be widely promoted. Often in the Bible, God refers to His relationship with His people as that of a bride and a groom. It should be a relationship as solid and faithful as that of a husband and a wife. When the Israelites involved themselves with pagan rituals and broke their covenant, God compared that to adultery or harlotry (Ezekiel 16:15-59; Hosea 1:2). It is in this sense that spiritual immorality, symbolized by the city of Sodom, combined with atheistic and arrogant views, symbolized by Egypt, need to be understood. After the Dark Ages, there was a period in history where the world saw a movement with these exact characteristics during the French Revolution. Reason was being valued above all else, and the Bible and Christianity were being openly rejected and despised. The scene of the two witnesses dead on the streets of the rejection of Christ certainly apply to what happened during the French revolution. That is not where it stops, the interpretation goes beyond that. This scenario is one that will be present in different degrees until the Second Coming. This situation may become more and more intense as we approach the finals events of this world.

*** Overview ***: After the time allowed for their preaching, the two witnesses, they were persecuted and killed. God's message was despised rejected. The cult of reason took its place. It is important to understand the attack on the two witnesses not as an attack on a particular denomination at the time of the French Revolution. It was an attack on God's truth, represented by His true followers and the Bible. The emphasis on "the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt" (Revelation 11:8) tells us that we must focus on the spiritual aspect of any historical event which prophecy is pointing to. The rise of reason as a substitute for God reached a status of spiritual immorality. It was promoted in the name of peace and human enlightenment. God and His message were being rejected, just as Jesus was rejected before the cross.

 

 

* Stefanovic's Bible commentary: Revelation of Jesus Christ.

   
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