|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
11:3-13 In the time of treading down, God kept his faithful witnesses to attest the truth of his word and worship, and the excellence of his ways, The number of these witnesses is small, yet enough. They prophesy in sackcloth. It shows their afflicted, persecuted state, and deep sorrow for the abominations against which they protested. They are supported during their great and hard work, till it is done. When they had prophesied in sackcloth the greatest part of 1260 years, antichrist, the great instrument of the devil, would war against them, with force and violence for a time. Determined rebels against the light rejoice, as on some happy event, when they can silence, drive to a distance, or destroy the faithful servants of Christ, whose doctrine and conduct torment them. It does not appear that the term is yet expired, and the witnesses are not a present exposed to endure such terrible outward sufferings as in former times; but such things may again happen, and there is abundant cause to prophesy in sackcloth, on account of the state of religion. The depressed state of real Christianity may relate only to the western church. The Spirit of life from God, quickens dead souls, and shall quicken the dead bodies of his people, and his dying interest in the world. The revival of God's work and witnesses, will strike terror into the souls of his enemies. Where there is guilt, there is fear; and a persecuting spirit, though cruel, is a cowardly spirit. It will be no small part of the punishment of persecutors, both in this world, and at the great day, that they see the faithful servants of God honoured and advanced. The Lord's witnesses must not be weary of suffering and service, nor hastily grasp at the reward; but must stay till their Master calls them. The consequence of their being thus exalted was a mighty shock and convulsion in the antichristian empire. Events alone can show the meaning of this. But whenever God's work and witnesses revive, the devil's work and witnesses fall before him. And that the slaying of the witnesses is future, appears to be probable.
Verse 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; their dead body (in the singular), according to A, B, C, Arethas, and others. The plural is read in N, P, Andreas, Primasius, and others. Omit "lie upon the highway... their Lord." "The great city" is referred to in Revelation 16:19; Revelation 17:18; Revelation 18:10-19. Its signification is always the same, viz. the type of what is ungodly and of the world, and it is always consigned to punishment. Jerusalem, the type of what is holy, is never thus designated. Here we are plainly told the spiritual, that is, the symbolical nature of the designation. Sodom and Egypt are chosen as the type of what is evil (cf. Deuteronomy 32:32; Isaiah 1:10; Ezekiel 16:46; Ezekiel 20:7, etc.). It was in this city, that is, by the influence of this world power, that the Lord was crucified. In describing the fate of the Church, St. John seems to have in mind the life of Christ. His witness, the opposition he encountered, his death for a brief time at the completion of his work, his resurrection and ascension, and triumph over the devil, are all here reproduced. "The bodies lie in the street" symbolizes, according to Jewish custom, the most intense scorn and hatred.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
And their dead bodies shall lie in the street of the great city,.... Not Jerusalem, which was destroyed when John had this vision, and which will; not be rebuilt at the time it refers to; nor is it ever called the great city, though the city of the great King; however, not in this book, though the new Jerusalem is so called, Revelation 21:10; but that can never be designed here; but the city of Rome, or the Roman jurisdiction, the whole empire of the Romish antichrist, which is often called the great city in this book; see Revelation 16:19. The city of Rome itself was very large, and the Roman empire still larger, so as to be called the whole world and the antichristian see of Rome has been of great extent. Now as the street of a city denotes a public open place in it, a place of concourse and resort, Proverbs 1:20, the dead bodies of those witnesses being said to lie here, may design the publicness of their silence, disgrace, and contempt; and that the silencing and degrading them, and depriving them of all privileges, will be known all over the antichristian empire; and that they will be exposed to public ignominy and shame, their persons, their characters, their testimony, their doctrines, their writings, their churches, and families, and all that belong to them: or else this "street" may design some part of the Romish jurisdiction, and it may be Great Britain may be particularly designed; for where should the dead bodies of the witnesses lie, but where they are slain? and where can they be slain, but where they are? and where are they, at least where are there so many as in these islands? It may be objected, that Great Britain is not a part of the see of Rome, does not belong to the jurisdiction of it; to this it may be replied, that in this last war of the beast, the outer court will be given to the Gentiles, the bulk of the reformed churches will fall off to Popery, and their countries again fall into the hands of the pope, and, among the rest, Great Britain. The fears of Dr. Goodwin seem to be too just, and well grounded, that the prophecy in Daniel 11:45 respects our island, which speaks of antichrist planting "the tabernacles of his palace between the seas, in the glorious holy mountain", or "the mountain of delight, of holiness". Now where has God such a mountain of delight, or a people that are the darling of his soul, as here? where in all the globe is there such a spot where God has so many saints, so many Holy Ones, as in this island? it may have been truly called a glorious holy mountain, or a mountain of delight; and what place between the seas is there to which these characters can agree, but Great Britain? Here then antichrist will plant the tabernacles of his palace; but it will be but a tabernacle, or tent; it will be but for a short time, as it follows, "yet he shall come to his end, and none shall help him", Daniel 11:45. Now this great city, in the street of which the bodies of the witnesses will lie exposed, is that
which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt; that is, it is called so in a mystic and allegoric sense, in distinction from the literal sense; see 1 Corinthians 10:3; it is called Sodom because of the fulness of bread, plenty and abundance of all outward good things in it; as well as for the pride and idleness of the priests, monks, and friars which swarm in it; and also for the open profaneness and contempt of true and serious religion in it; and particularly for the sin of sodomy, so frequently committed here, with impunity, yea with allowance, and even with commendation. This sin was extolled with praises, as Brightman observes, by John a Casa, archbishop of Beneventum; and was defended in a book, published for that purpose, by one Mutius; and which was allowed by the bulls and letters patent of Pope Julius the Third; and it is called Egypt, because of its tyranny and oppression; as the Egyptians kept the Israelites in bondage, and made them to serve with rigour, and embittered their lives, so the pope, and his Gentiles, or Egyptians, have in a most oppressive and rigorous manner tyrannised over the souls, bodies, and estates of men; and also because of its great idolatry, Egypt being very remarkable for the number of its deities, and the meanness of them; by which the idols and idolatries of the church of Rome may be fitly expressed:
where also our Lord was crucified; that is, in the great city, which is fitly compared to Sodom and Egypt; for Christ was crucified actually in Judea, which was then become a Roman province, and under Pontius Pilate, a Roman governor, and by his order, and suffered a Roman kind of death, crucifixion, and for a crime he was charged with, though a false one, against Caesar the Roman emperor; and Christ has been crucified at Rome itself in his members, who have suffered persecution and death, and even the death of the cross there; and he has been crucified afresh, both by the sins and immoralities of those who have bore the Christian name there, and by the frequent sacrifices of him in the Mass. Moreover, by this periphrasis may be meant Jerusalem; and the sense be, that as the great city, or jurisdiction of Rome, may be spiritually or mystically called Sodom and Egypt, so likewise the place where our Lord was crucified, that is, Jerusalem; and that for this reason, because that as Jerusalem stoned and killed the prophets of the Lord, and upon the inhabitants of it were found all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, so in Rome, in mystical Babylon, will be found the blood of prophets, and of saints, and of all that were slain upon earth, Matthew 23:35. The Alexandrian copy, the Complutensian edition, the Vulgate Latin, Syriac, and Ethiopic versions, read, "where also their Lord was crucified"; and the Arabic version more expressly, "the Lord of these two", i.e. the two witnesses.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
8. dead bodies—So Vulgate, Syriac, and Andreas. But A, B, C, the oldest manuscripts, and Coptic read the singular, "dead body." The two fallen in one cause are considered as one.
the great city—eight times in the Revelation elsewhere used of BABYLON (Re 14:8; 16:19; 17:18; 18:10, 16, 18, 19, 21). In Re 21:10 (English Version as to the new Jerusalem), the oldest manuscripts omit "the great" before city, so that it forms no exception. It must, therefore, have an anticipatory reference to the mystical Babylon.
which—Greek, "the which," namely, "the city which."
spiritually—in a spiritual sense.
Sodom—The very term applied by Isa 1:10 to apostate Jerusalem (compare Eze 16:48).
Egypt—the nation which the Jews' besetting sin was to lean upon.
where … Lord was crucified—This identifies the city as Jerusalem, though the Lord was crucified outside of the city. Eusebius mentions that the scene of Christ's crucifixion was enclosed within the city by Constantine; so it will be probably at the time of the slaying of the witnesses. "The beast [for example, Napoleon and France's efforts] has been long struggling for a footing in Palestine; after his ascent from the bottomless pit he struggles much more" [Bengel]. Some one of the Napoleonic dynasty may obtain that footing, and even be regarded as Messiah by the Jews, in virtue of his restoring them to their own land; and so may prove to be the last Antichrist. The difficulty is, how can Jerusalem be called "the great city," that is, Babylon? By her becoming the world's capital of idolatrous apostasy, such as Babylon originally was, and then Rome has been; just as she is here called also "Sodom and Egypt."
also our—A, B, C, Origen, Andreas, and others read, "also their." Where their Lord, also, as well as they, was slain. Compare Re 18:24, where the blood of ALL slain on earth is said to be found IN Babylon, just as in Mt 23:35, Jesus saith that, "upon the Jews and Jerusalem" (Compare Mt 23:37, 38) shall "come ALL the righteous blood shed upon earth"; whence it follows Jerusalem shall be the last capital of the world apostasy, and so receive the last and worst visitation of all the judgments ever inflicted on the apostate world, the earnest of which was given in the Roman destruction of Jerusalem. In the wider sense, in the Church-historical period, the Church being the sanctuary, all outside of it is the world, the great city, wherein all the martyrdoms of saints have taken place. Babylon marks its idolatry, Egypt its tyranny, Sodom its desperate corruption, Jerusalem its pretensions to sanctity on the ground of spiritual privileges, while all the while it is the murderer of Christ in the person of His members. All which is true of Rome. So Vitringa. But in the more definite sense, Jerusalem is regarded, even in Hebrews (Heb 13:12-14), as the world city which believers were then to go forth from, in order to "seek one to come."
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