Death of the Two Witnesses

TWO WITNESSES’ DEATHSNow when they have finished their testimony, the beast that comes up from the Abyss will attack them, and overpower and kill them. Their bodies will lie in the street of the great city, which is figuratively called Sodom and Egypt, where also their Lord was crucified. For three and a half days men from every people, tribe, language and nation will gaze on their bodies and refuse them burial. The inhabitants of the earth will gloat over them and will celebrate by sending each other gifts, because these two prophets had tormented those who live on the earth. (Revelation 11:7-10)

The Beast – The “beast that comes up from the Abyss” (the anti-Christ), who had been prophesied elsewhere (2 Thessalonians 2:9–11; 1 John 2:18) “will attack them, and overpower and kill them.” It is only because
their period of ministry is completed that he will succeed in killing the two witnesses. There is a touch of irony in using the word conquer (overpower) to speak of the death of the witnesses. For a very brief time it will look like the beast is victorious (Revelation 11:11–12). But these witnesses, though martyred, are conquerors through the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony (Revelation 12:11).(1)

Two Witnesses Killed – As noted before, this comes only after they have finished their testimony. God’s obedient servants cannot be touched until their work is done. The anti-Christ is now in power and wants to take over the temple. But he cannot succeed until the witnesses are out of the way. God will permit the anti-Christ to slay them, for no one will be able to make war against “the beast” and win (Revelation 13:4).(2) Prior to this it was impossible to hurt these two witnesses because the fire from their mouths consumed any who tried.(3) There is some debate as to whether this refers to literal fire or the Word of God, as in Jeremiah 5:14, “I will make my words in your mouth a fire and these people the wood it consumes.” The same was true with respect to Christ, who many times silenced His opponents with His words or simply escaped those who sought to do Him harm before His time.

Great City – Calling Jerusalem, the city where the Lord was crucified, the “great city” (the usual way of referring to Babylon the Great (as well as Sodom and Egypt) reflects how wicked most inhabitants of Jerusalem had become.(4) In biblical literature, Egypt is vilified for its oppression and idolatry, and Sodom for its wickedness and immorality.(5) The killing of the two witnesses (which parallels Jesus’ death), the desecration of not allowing them a proper burial, and the partying because of the witnesses’ death, are all a reflection of that depravity.(6)

Three and a Half Days – The days of the gloating over the dead bodies are as many as the years of the prophesying by the witnesses (Revelation 11:3). In a country where burial regularly takes place on the day of death the time of exposure and indignity would be regarded as exceedingly long,(7) and as the ultimate in shame (see Isaiah 5:25).(8) The three and a half motif is common to apocalyptic texts and often denotes a period of wrath, judgment, and tribulation.(9)

Celebration – The entire world gloats over their dead bodies. This implies some worldwide display, inconceivable in John’s day, but now made possible by satellite television and the internet. Their deaths were considered a great victory for the world ruler and Satan, and were celebrated by people sending gifts to each other.(10) The anti-Christian sentiments of the last days will probably be under the name of philosophical enlightenment and civilization (sounding all too familiar these days), but in reality, reflects man’s deification of himself (secular humanism). Fanaticism will lead anti-Christ’s followers to exult in having at last silenced (or so it seems) their Christian rebukers.(11)

Up Next – Resurrection of the two witnesses.

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References

  1. Cabal, T., Brand, C. O., Clendenen, E. R., Copan, P., Moreland, J. P., & Powell, D. (2007). The Apologetics Study Bible: Real Questions, Straight Answers, Stronger Faith (p. 1901). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.
  2. Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Vol. 2, p. 599). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
  3. Robertson, A. T. (1933). Word Pictures in the New Testament (Re 11:5). Nashville, TN: Broadman Press.
  4. Cabal, T., Brand, C. O., Clendenen, E. R., Copan, P., Moreland, J. P., & Powell, D. (2007). The Apologetics Study Bible: Real Questions, Straight Answers, Stronger Faith (p. 1901). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.
  5. Barry, J. D., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Mangum, D., & Whitehead, M. M. (2012). Faithlife Study Bible (Re 11:8). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.
  6. Cabal, T., Brand, C. O., Clendenen, E. R., Copan, P., Moreland, J. P., & Powell, D. (2007). The Apologetics Study Bible: Real Questions, Straight Answers, Stronger
  7. Faith (p. 1901). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.
    Robertson, A. T. (1933). Word Pictures in the New Testament (Re 11:9). Nashville, TN: Broadman Press.
  8. Barry, J. D., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Mangum, D., & Whitehead, M. M. (2012). Faithlife Study Bible (Re 11:8). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.
  9. Barry, J. D., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Mangum, D., & Whitehead, M. M. (2012). Faithlife Study Bible (Re 11:9). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.
  10. Walvoord, John F. (1985). Revelation. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 2, p. 956). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
  11. Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R., & Brown, D. (1997). Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (Vol. 2, p. 577). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

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