Then, when they have completed their testimony, the wild (dangerous) beast ascending out of the abyss will battle with them and overcome them, and he will put them to death.
And their corpse is upon the open square of that great city, the same one spiritually called Sodom and Egypt, and also where their Lord was crucified.
And those from the peoples, and tribes and tongues and ethnicities behold their corpse three and a half days, and they do not release their corpses to be placed into a grave.
Then, the ones dwelling on the earth are rejoicing over them and celebrating, and gifts will be sent to one another, because these two prophets tortured the ones dwelling on the earth.Revelation 11:7-10
Parallel Time Periods
Do you notice the timeframe? The witnesses will testify for three and a half years and then they will lie dead for three and a half days. To the astute Bible reader, the mind leaps instantly to Jesus’s three and a half years of ministry followed by three days in the tomb. If the pattern is to be completed, we will expect a resurrection of some kind to follow.
Notice also that when their testimony has been fully conveyed, with uncanny (!) precision, a wild and dangerous beast will rise up out of the abyss.
The Beast Ascending
Remember that we were introduced to the abyss a while back, when the fifth trumpet was sounded.
A star fell to the earth and the key to the abyss was given to him (so the star is a sentient being of some kind). Sure enough, the fallen star opens the abyss, and out of it belches noxious, sooty fumes. The black abysmal haze is so thick it obscures the sun and chokes the air. But worse still is what comes out of that oily smog.
A massive swarm of locusts, also sentient, whirrs over the whole earth for five months with instructions to torment but not slay all those who have not been sealed with God’s protection. With their diabolical scorpion tails, they are able sting with such exquisite pain, their victims will shriek for death. But none will find it.
Evidently, the abyss was left unlocked.
From its deepest depths, a terrifying creature has been crawling its way up and up and up and up, until finally, at just exactly the right moment, when the last clarion call to salvation has been cried out, God’s mysterious and divinely empowered witnesses have finished their testimony, this wild and dangerous monster crashes through.
It has been given no instructions, no limitations. It can rampage freely, and it does.
The Beast in Battle
It immediately senses its target, God’s two prophetic attestors, and it attacks. We are not given the details of the beast’s assaults, but the Greek word πόλεμος | polemos (where the word “polemic” comes from) means “battle,” “combat,” or “war.” Some have imagined the two prophets spewing volcanic fire on the beast, but only managing to singe its infernal hide.
The beast has the victory. It slays both witnesses.
But here is where it gets downright gruesome. Whether or not the battle takes place in the city square, that is where the mangled corpses of these two men will lie for three and a half days. I suppose each day represents a year of their ministry. We will not try to imagine (very hard) what the hot sun will do to these bodies, or rain, or animals, or three days’ worth of decomposition. But there it is.
It will be such a public spectacle that people the world over will behold their putrefying flesh. No one will release their bodies for burial. No reason is given as to why.
- Was this a result of evil elation?
- Or were the nations paralyzed with stunned horror?
- Was the dangerous creature still on the prowl, and no one dared enter its arena to take the bodies away?
- Or were all the peoples of the earth exulting over the demise of these two prophets? After all, up until this point, anyone who tried to oppose them was burnt instantly to a crisp by the divine fire that emanated from their lips.
Two more compelling details are given: the city where the witnesses are left to rot in open exhibition has two spiritual names: “Sodom,” “Egypt.” It is also given one actual name: “where their Lord was crucified.” I mean, if we puzzle over the first two names, if we have to rifle through the scriptures to get some understanding about what those names represent spiritually, there is little guesswork involved in that third name.
Because of several well-known publications, the scholarly view that looks to the future is perhaps the most familiar to readers of Revelation. The Beast, in particular, and the Antichrist (who will show up soon, in upcoming chapters) havecaptured our imagination.
Commentators note the Beast will be referred to thirty-six more times in John’s Apocalypse, though there is not consensus as to whether there is one beast or perhaps more. One interpretation sees three:
- This first creature, rising up from the depths of the abyss, would be Satan.
- Another beast will rise up out of the sea and become a world dictator.
- Shortly thereafter a beast is again mentioned, but now as a religious leader.
This interpretation likens the three depictions of a beast as an “unholy trinity” cast in contrast to the triune Godhead of Father, Son, and Spirit.
Other expositors see the same beast in these portrayals, the Roman Empire in new guise, perhaps personified in what will be the future version of Caesar.
God’s witnesses remain protected and impervious to every attack, even of the Beast, until they complete the mission God gave them. The Beast, as dangerous and evil as it is, cannot breach the boundaries God places around it.
Nevertheless, the moment the last word of the witnesses’ testimony is delivered, the Beast will wage its war against them, and will prevail.
In the context of God’s increasingly painful calls to repentance, those who resist would be belligerently opposed to God and all that is holy and good. Such a crowd would crow with jubilation over the witnessing prophets’ destruction. Their insistence on leaving the Beast’s victims unburied would be in pointed desecration of God’s own.
Because John makes a point of describing all people groups and associations, language groups and ethnicities, it seems evident this will be a global event, broadcast around the world, an international event that none will miss.
The general consensus is one of an implacable hatred that is not satisfied with the deaths of God’s witnesses but must continue to sate itself with constantly viewing their decomposing bodies.
The four perspectives taken from Revelation: Four Views A Parallel Commentary, edited by Steve Gregg