The Great City – Rev 11:7-14

And when they shall have completed their testimony, the beast coming out of the abyss will make war with them and overcome them and will kill them. And the their bodies will be upon the street of the great city, which is called spiritually Sodom and Egypt, where also the their Lord was crucified. And the peoples and tribes and tongues and nations gaze upon their bodies for three and a half days, and their bodies they will not allow to be put into a tomb. And those dwelling on the earth rejoice over them and make merry, will send gifts to one another, because these two prophets have tormented those dwelling upon the earth.

Who is this beast that kills the two prophets? The answer to that should be rather obvious, but just in case it is not, we can compare Rev 9:11, 13:1-2, 17:3, 8, and 13:7. This is the Antichrist, and a favorite way of expressing this man by our author. These clauses in verse 7 are an independent translation of Daniel 7:1-2, 21, and 25.

As for the identity of the great city, we merely need to ask where the Lord was crucified. While it is true that Nineveh is called the Great City in Jonah 1:2, the context of our particular passage is quite impossible to avoid. Though this city is being called Sodom and Egypt, it is indeed Jerusalem. We shall see with a little more depth, and hopefully clarity, when we reach chapter 17 that this “great city” and “great prostitute” is both Jerusalem and Babylon at the same time. There is a duality to this, and that shouldn’t be neglected. However, for they who desire to claim Rome to be Babylon, they miss entirely the poetry and force of what John is expressing.

We find that in almost every situation within the book of Revelations the wording “the great city” is in reference to Babylon: 14:8, 16:19, 17:5, 18:2, 17:18, 18:10, 16, 18, 19, and 21. It comes from Genesis 10:12. We read in Genesis 10 of “the table of nations”. The man Nimrod was mighty against the Lord. The word ‘before’ in the old English context would actually mean against, and the Hebrew agrees with this translation. Nimrod was not a mighty warrior on behalf of the Lord, but against the Lord. He was the man who founded Nineveh, and even built up the area of Shinar – which is where the tower of Babel was erected and was later called Babylon.

While the obvious translation of this “great city” according to all other usages within Revelations would point to Babylon, which many would then submit is to be translated as Rome, our immediate context would suggest otherwise. The temple was in Jerusalem, and not in Rome. The Lord was crucified outside of Jerusalem, and not in Rome. To help us, or depending on the bias to cause us difficulty, we find 1 Peter 5:13 expressing that Jerusalem was called Babylon. Peter might have traveled outside of Jerusalem, this is true, but the evidence seems to be overwhelming from the book of Acts and that Paul calls him the “apostle to the Jews” that Peter was located within Jerusalem. This is why he is writing to those who have been scattered throughout the world – the Diaspora.

We see in Isaiah 1:9-10, 3:9, Ezekiel 16:46, 48, 49, 1 Kings 9:15, and 10:14 that Israel is likened unto Sodom and Egypt in the prophets. In regards to 1 Kings, we see that Israel has become the “new Egypt” by enslaving the nations. Jeremiah 23:14 also speaks of the sins of the prophets of Jerusalem being like Sodom and Gomorrah.

In verse 9, either these are some from every nation that are present in Jerusalem, or they are figurative representative as in the 10 kings somehow representing the whole world. The context is still within Jerusalem, however there is possibility that this event will be celebrated throughout the world. As for the refusal of burial, we can compare Psalm 79:3, and 1 Kings 13:22.

With verse 10 we can compare Esther 9:19, 22, and Nehemiah 8:10, 12. The giving of gifts in these compared verses are of the righteous who have been delivered and vindicated. However, the same ideology – and indeed the same wording – is used here. Notice that the word claims these men to be “tormentors”. Could anything be further from the truth? These two men are the very representatives of heaven. What they say is the word from heaven, and the way they act is in keeping with that of heavenly protocol. They are meek. They cry. They hurt when they inflict hurt. They seek reconciliation and repentance. They are human. In all ways, they are by no means tormentors without conscience. In fact, the very reason that God would choose these two men is because of their unwillingness to compromise. They don’t relent because they seek for heaven to be manifest upon the earth – not because they delight in dissention and rebuke.

And after the three and a half days the spirit of life from God entered into them, and they stood upon their feet, and great fear fell upon those beholding them. They heard a great voice out of heaven saying, “Come up here.” And they went up to heaven in the cloud, and their enemies beheld them. And in that hour there was a great earthquake, and a tenth of the city fell, and seven thousand names of men were killed, and the rest became terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven. The second woe has passed. Behold, the third woe is coming quickly.

Verse 11 is reminiscent of Ezekiel 37:10. The τας refers back to 11:9. This breath of life seems to be the ruach chaim, however, it has much more significance (Genesis 6:17 has the term). Nephesh also seems to fall short, because we aren’t simply talking about life, but resurrection. Much more likely is Ezekiel 37:5, 10. Also see 2 Kings 13:21.

‘Fear fell upon’ is a Lucan phrase. See Luke 1:12, Acts 19:17. Also, Exodus 15:16, Psalm 55:5.

We see verse 12 has a ring of 2 Kings 2:11 to it: “As they were walking along and talking together, suddenly a chariot of fire and horses of fire appeared and separated the two of them, and Elijah went up in a whirlwind.” The obvious differences would be that these two witnesses are taken up in a cloud, like Jesus in Acts 1:9, and they are resurrected, and not taken into heaven without death. Another possibility is the literal sight of 1 Thessalonians 4:16 in the case of these two witnesses – that the dead shall rise first.

In regard to this earthquake, we can see in Ezekiel 38:19-20 that there shall be an earthquake to precede the coming of Jesus. Yet, the puzzle is why people are glorifying God… If this is before the coming of Jesus, then why are the very people who rejoiced at the death of these two witnesses now glorifying God? Wouldn’t they be cursing Him for allowing these “tormentors” to live again? In Ezekiel 38, the earthquake does not have this effect. Yet, it is an earthquake before the return of Christ in Ezekiel 39.

It is possible that those who give glory to God are Jews that served the Antichrist, now turning from their sin to embrace righteousness. It could also be that somehow these are Jews and/or Christians who are able to somehow be preserved in Jerusalem for this 3 ½ year period of time. Some have scoffed at the idea that this could possibly be the conversion of Jewish people unto the “God of heaven”, however Ezra 5:12 speaks of provoking the God of heaven. This would imply the need for repentance and conversion to the God of heaven.

In all, the details within this segment are quite extraordinary and difficult to nail down. Yet, they are also quite self-explanatory once the allusions and quotes are understood and searched out. Like all these passages in Revelations, we must go back to the original text that is being referenced and seek to understand the original context. If that doesn’t help us, then we seek to understand the immediate context around. Overall the chapter isn’t too difficult to comprehend, but the details are giving nuances that are quite compelling and staggering.

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2 thoughts on “The Great City – Rev 11:7-14

  1. Hi Justin.
    A few points to consider. The only 3 mentions of “Jerusalem” in Revelation are references to the “Heavenly Jerusalem”. The physical city of Jerusalem is not named but hinted at via clues. The statement “the great city where the Lord was crucified”, points towards Jerusalem, not any other city. Yet another clue is that the “great city” had the blood of “holy men”. Jesus accused only Jerusalem of this crime (Matthew 23:37), so its strange that some people try to make Rome the “bad guy” of Revelation.

    Also John was essentially recycling Ezekiels description of Oholibah’s (Jerusalem) punishment in Revelation 17. Notice the parallels between Ezekiel 23 and that of Revelations 17:

    Ezekiel 23: I will stir up your lovers against you…I will direct my jealous anger against you, and they will deal with you in fury…
    Revelations 17 : For God has put it into their hearts to accomplish his purpose…The beast and the ten horns you saw will hate the prostitute…
    (the 10 horns are the whores lovers as written in Revelation 17:2)

    Ezekiel 23 :They will also strip you of your clothes and take your fine jewelry.
    Revelations 17 :They will bring her to ruin and leave her naked;

    Ezekiel 23 :They will cut off your noses and your ears…and those of you who are left will be consumed by fire.
    Revelations 17 : they will eat her flesh and burn her with fire.

    The peculiar motif about angry ex-lovers killing a whore also appears in Jeremiah 4
    “And you, O desolate one, what will you do? Although you dress in scarlet, Although you decorate yourself with ornaments of gold, Although you enlarge your eyes with paint, In vain you make yourself beautiful; Your lovers despise you; They seek your life. I hear a cry as of a woman in labor, a groan as of one bearing her first child-the cry of the Daughter of Zion gasping for breath, stretching out her hands and saying, “Alas! I am fainting; my life is given over to murderers.” -Jeremiah 4:30-31

    As for the “gold, purple scarlet” imagery of the whore, I believe they are references to the priestly clothing of the same color described in detail in Exodus 28. Perhaps these colors on the whore represent an inverted version of the priesthood that once served God.

    My 2 cents.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I also believe the ‘great city’ to be Jerusalem. There is a profound mystery at play. When the unrighteous are ruling the city of God (Jerusalem) it is likened to Babylon. Somehow she is called by Jesus the city that slew all the prophets, and yet we know Jeremiah died in Egypt, there were prophets of the northern kingdom, and there were even prophets before Jerusalem was a part of Israel (like Samuel or Abraham). All that to say, somehow God holds Jerusalem responsible, but this Jerusalem is the whore and not the glory that God has established her to be.
      Grace and peace, dear friend.

      Like

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