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
Douce Apocalypse – Bodleian Ms180 | By Anonymous – [1], Public Domain

Yesterday’s post briefly outlined the futurist perspective on this passage. Today explores the other three views.


A number of commentators who see fulfilment of John’s Apocalypse throughout the course of Church history allow for a broad interpretation of the witnesses’ deaths and the ascendancy of the Beast. There have been eras of severe persecution in which opponents to truth have sought to silence God’s voice by martyring God’s witnesses. In fact, according to the Cato Institute, Christians today are the most persecuted of all religious refugees.

The group Open Doors USA figures that 360 million Christians last year lived in countries where persecution was “significant.” Roughly 5,600 Christians were murdered, more than 6,000 were detained or imprisoned, and another 4,000-plus were kidnapped. In addition, more than 5,000 churches and other religious facilities were destroyed.

Doug Brandow, “Christianity Is the World’s Most Persecuted Religion, Confirms New Report,” Cato Institute, March 7, 2022

During the twelfth century, for example, Pope Innocent III attempted to eradicate all resistance to his authority and the jurisdiction of the Roman Catholic Church.

Evidently, the third Lateran Council of 1179, and subsequent Inquisitions not only killed many alleged heretics, but also would not permit their victims to be given a Christian burial (i.e., be interred in holy ground)— as prophesied in Revelation. Instead, their bodies were cremated and their ashes dumped. Some martyrs were even exhumed in order to be burned and scattered.

By the sixteenth century, it seems this pogrom was successful. With eerie overtones of John’s oracle, Pope Leo X called for a celebration in 1514 to exult over the annihilation of heresy in the Church through three hundred years of relentless torture and execution.

“That great city,” in this scenario, would have been the Holy See in Rome.

By Phillip Medhurst – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0


Interpreters who concentrate on the Jewish War of 66-70 CE also take a broad view of the two witnesses, likening them to the long line of Hebrew prophets who were rejected and killed for proclaiming God’s word.

… were tortured, refusing to accept release, in order to obtain a better resurrection. Others suffered mocking and flogging and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned to death; they were sawn in two; they were killed by the sword; they went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, persecuted, tormented—of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains and in caves and holes in the ground.

Hebrews 11:35-38 (NRSV)

We have their testimony today because God preserved them until their mission was completed.

Other scholars with this viewpoint liken the witnesses to the Jewish religious ruling authorities and the Roman civic government in first century Judea. These were to bear testimony to God’s sovereignty and righteousness, but then Jesus was crucified.

The Jewish situation began to rapidly unravel after that.

What should have been their reception of Christ became rejection of God’s Messiah. The temple elite came to mock and gloat at the cross of Christ as Roman soldiers gambled for His clothing, and Pilate and Herod forged a lifelong friendship. Even one of the criminals hanging by Jesus’s side jeered at Him.

These elements that rejected, ridiculed, and rejoiced over Jesus’s death represent the Beast, the evil, dark power that opposes the Light and Love of the Lamb.

That Great City

Spiritually, its names are Sodom and Egypt. Isaiah accused all Israel of becoming like Sodom at the beginning of his career.


Hear the word of the Lord,
    you rulers of Sodom!
Listen to the teaching of our God,
    you people of Gomorrah!
What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices?
    says the Lord;
I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams
    and the fat of fed beasts;
I do not delight in the blood of bulls
    or of lambs or of goats.

When you come to appear before me,
    who asked this from your hand?
    Trample my courts no more!

Isaiah 1:10-12 (NRSV)


By applying an overlay of God’s plagues on Egypt to the woes accompanying God’s call to repentance in Revelation, John was likening first century Judea to the Egypt of Moses’s day, and perhaps first century Christians as those brutalized and poised for exodus—which they literally gained before Rome’s siege of Jerusalem sealed their route of escape.

To the preterist, there is no guesswork in the name of “that great city.” It is where “their Lord was crucified,” in God’s holy city now made profane, Jerusalem.


Theologians who take the spiritual perspective also liken the Beast to all those principalities and personages which have tried to oppress and destroy the Church.

“War” is the key word.

Conflict has broken out between that great company—“cloud”—of witnesses who urge on believers in their lives of faith, and the opponents of God and God’s people. Often this conflict has literally become lethal combat, both sides armed and armored for battle.

At times, when the Church’s mission has been fulfilled in a time or place, God has permitted what appears to be defeat. The forces of darkness have the ascendency. The Church in that area is expunged. “The Lost History of Christianity,” for instance, describes the erasure of the Church in the East during late antiquity.

In comparison to the long history of the Church, such defeats are only “days” long but will last just long enough to seem final to those who are jubilant in their apparent victory. Some theologians add that Revelation indicates a crescendo of assaults on the Church towards the end of human history, but darkness will not ultimately prevail. Their exuberant festival, the exchanging of celebratory gifts, and days-long merriment will stand in contrast to their shock in days to come.

One expositor points out a peculiar detail in the Greek text.

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. 

Revelation 11:8-9

Twice, the dead bodies of the two witnesses are referred to in the singular. Perhaps this indicates a group seen as a single entity, rather than two individual prophets.

“That great city” is not a specific place but rather represents all those who oppose God. It stands opposite the city of God, New Jerusalem, which Jesus spoke of at the beginning of John’s Revelation.

“The one who prevails and gets the victory I will make that one a pillar in the temple of My God, and never will that one go outside again, and I will write upon that one the Name of My God and the Name of the City of My God—of the New Jerusalem, the one descending out of heaven from My God—and My New Name.”

Revelation 3:12

John will describe New Jerusalem at the end of his Apocalypse.

Château d’Angers; Angers; Pays de la Loire, Maine-et-Loire; France; Tenture de l’Apocalypse; no 30, Les deux témoins; Cultural heritage; Cultural heritage|Tapestry; Europeana; Europe|France|Angers; Hennequin de Bruges (Jan Bondol en flamand); connu également sous les noms de Jean de Bruges ou de Jean de Bondol ou encore Jean de Bandol;;; Ref.: PMa_ANG026_F_Angers | By PMRMaeyaert – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0

The four perspectives taken from Revelation: Four Views A Parallel Commentary, edited by Steve Gregg

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