Persecuted by the impenitent “inhabitants of the earth,” the “two witnesses” lie dead on the main street of the “Great City” – Revelation 11:8-14.
The “second woe” does not end until the “two witnesses” have completed their “testimony” and their “corpse,” singular, lies on the streets of the “Great City.” Only then, will the final trumpet sound and usher in the “Day of the Lord,” the hour of judgment. But the completion of their task also triggers the ascent of the “beast from the Abyss” who will kill them.
It is the martyrdom of the “two witnesses” that puts the end into motion, and thus, seals the final doom of the “Dragon.” God will vindicate their “testimony” by raising them from the dead, just as he promised to “vindicate” the martyrs seen “underneath the altar” when the “fifth seal” was opened – (Revelation 6:9-11).
- (Revelation 11:8-10) – “And their corpse lies on the broad-way of the great city, the which is called spiritually Sodom and Egypt, where their Lord also was crucified. And some of the peoples and tribes and tongues and nations see their corpses three days and a half, and their corpses do they not suffer to be put into a tomb. And the inhabitants of the earth rejoice over them and make merry and send gifts to one another because these two prophets tormented them the inhabitants of the earth.”
Their “corpse” was left lying on the main street or “broad-way” of the city, its very heart, and the focus of its political, economic, and social activities. In the first instance, “corpse” is singular to stress the unity of the “two witnesses.” They symbolize the “saints” as one group engaged in “testimony” against the city and its “inhabitants.”
The “Great City” is the place called “spiritually Sodom and Egypt.” Neither the language nor the geographical location is literal. “Spiritually” signifies either a metaphorical or allegorical interpretation. For that matter, Egypt is a nation, not a city. The identifications with “Sodom” and “Egypt” provide scriptural background. First, from Israel’s exodus from Egypt, which is the same backstory for the “seven trumpets.” And second, from the destruction of “Sodom” for its egregious sins.
Elsewhere, the “Great City” is none other than the “Great Harlot, Babylon.” In the present passage, she is contrasted with the “holy city” that was “trampled underfoot by the nations” – (Revelation 11:2, 14:8, 14:20, 16:19, 17:18, 18:16-21).
“Where the Lord was crucified.” Jesus was killed outside the walls of Jerusalem, and in Revelation, all the shed blood of the prophets and saints, and of all those “slain upon the earth,” is found in “Babylon,” which is populated by the “inhabitants of the earth” – (Revelation 18:24).
Their “corpses” lay unburied for “three days and a half.” The figure echoes the three days and nights that Jesus spent in the grave before his resurrection. Thus, the life and death of the “two witnesses” emulate the life and death of the “slain Lamb.”
After John “measured” the “sanctuary” and the “altar,” the “holy city,” those who were “rendering divine service” before the “altar,” was delivered to the “nations” to be “trampled underfoot” for “forty-two months.” Likewise, the “two witnesses” endured opposition that culminated in their martyrdom for “twelve-hundred and sixty days,” the functional equivalent of the “forty-two months.” Thus, the “war” against them by the “inhabitants of the earth” and the “beast” describes how the “holy city” was “trampled.” The “two witnesses” are the “holy city.”
The residents of the “great city” rejoiced over their deaths because the “two witnesses” had “tormented the inhabitants of the earth.” The same verb for “torment” was used when the “fifth trumpet” sounded, unleashing the locust-like horde to “torment the inhabitants of the earth.” So also, the words of the “two witnesses” proceeded like “fire devouring their enemies,” and had the “power to turn water into blood,” and to “smite the earth with every plague.” It was their “testimony” that “tormented” men – (Revelation 9:5, 11:5-6).
The “two witnesses” were “prophets” sent to “prophesy” to the “inhabitants of the earth” until they “finished their testimony.” This fulfilled the words given to John when he received the “little scroll” – “In the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he begins to sound, the mystery of God should be finished, just he declared to his prophets” (Revelation 10:7).
“And the inhabitants of the earth made merry.” The same idea occurred at the end of the “sixth trumpet” when the “rest of men not killed by the plagues” refused to repent. Instead, the impenitent “inhabitants of the earth” rejoiced over the deaths of God’s prophets.
- (Revelation 11:11-13) – “And after the three days and a half, a spirit of life from God entered them, and they stood on their feet, and great fear fell upon them who were beholding them. And they heard a loud voice out of heaven, saying to them: Come up here! And they ascended to heaven in the cloud, and their enemies beheld them. And in that hour, there came to be a great earthquake; and a tenth of the city fell, and there were slain in the earthquake names of men seven thousand. And the rest became greatly afraid and gave glory to the God of heaven.”
The vision now pulls together the threads from the stories of Egypt, Elijah, and the entry of Israel into Canaan, but in an ironic fashion. In the tenth plague of Egypt, the angel of death killed the firstborn throughout the land, but now, it is the “corpses” of the “two witnesses” that lie dead in the “great city,” which is spiritually called “Egypt” – (Exodus 11:1-10).
Before Israel left Egypt, the Egyptians gave them gifts of gold and jewels; now, in the “great city,” residents exchange gifts and rejoice over the deaths of the “witnesses.” When he complained about his isolation, Yahweh told Elijah that He had reserved “seven thousand men who had not bowed the knee to Baal.” Now, when a tenth of the “great city” falls, seven thousand men are killed, but the rest become fearful and give glory to God.
Elisha witnessed Elijah taken up into the heavens and cried out, but when the “inhabitants of the earth” see the “two witnesses” rise to heaven, they give glory to God. The description of their “ascent… in a cloud” also parallels the ascent of Jesus, who was “taken up and received by a cloud.” As the death of the “two witnesses” emulated the death of Jesus, so does their vindication – (1 Kings 19:18, 2 Kings 2:11, Acts 1:9).
Israel’s conquest of Jericho is behind the image of the city’s fall, indicated by the series of “seven trumpets.” Israel was commanded to march around the city once each day for six days. On the seventh day, she marched around Jericho seven times, the priests blew their horns, the people shouted, and the “wall of the city fell down flat” – (Joshua 6:1-10).
“Great earthquake” is a verbal link to the “sixth seal” and the “seventh bowl of wrath.” When the former was opened, the “day of the wrath of the Lamb” was accompanied by the “great earthquake” that shook the entire creation. Likewise, the last “bowl of wrath” caused the “great earthquake” that divided the “Great City, Babylon” into three parts – (Revelation 6:12-17, 16:17-21).
The “second woe” has concluded, and the stage is set for the final trumpet blast, the arrival of the “Day of the Lord.” The series of “seven trumpets” will end at the same point as the “seven seals.” Just as the “sixth seal” opening announced the time of the “wrath” of the “Lamb” and of “he who sits on the throne,” so the “seventh trumpet,” the “third woe,” will usher in the time of judgment, for God will vindicate the righteous, and condemn the wicked.
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