Revelation 11:8

Sermon preached on June 9, 2013 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2013. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at

Unless otherwise noted, quotations are from The Holy Bible: New International Version (NIV). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.

I'd love to go to Israel some day. The series that we're doing in the Adult Sunday School class has only increased my desire. It would be wonderful to go to many of the places mentioned in the Bible—the Sea of Galilee, Nazareth, Bethlehem, Jerusalem. Jerusalem, to walk it's streets would be wonderful. In our Sunday School DVD series, we see Ray Vanderlaan preaching in various places throughout Israel. But it seems that he always preaches to people in his tour group. You don't see him preaching on street corners to the local people. There's a reason for it. In Israel there are strict laws against it. You cannot teach about Jesus in any setting where a Jew—even an atheist or 'secular' Jew—might be 'exposed' to it. Since 1978 it has been outlawed. The law made missionaries liable to five years imprisonment for attempting to persuade people to change their religion, and three years imprisonment for any Jew who converted. The law that went into effect on April 1, 1978 prohibits the offering of 'material inducement' for a person to change his religion. A material inducement could be something as minor as the giving of a Bible. The latest I've heard (from 2007) was that there were efforts underway in Israel to strengthen the law.

I was shocked when I first heard that. I've always had (and still have) an affection for the nation of Israel. After what the Jewish people suffered in the Holocaust it was an incredible blessing for them to be able to establish their own nation. But the fact that they have laws against proselytizing somewhat dampens my enthusiasm for them. They are not for Jesus. They are not neutral about Jesus. They are against Him.

It's interesting that our text tells us that there will be great opposition in Jerusalem to Jesus' two witnesses. The two witnesses are killed and gloated over in Jerusalem. The way that Jerusalem is described is also interesting. We read, (Revelation 11:8)

"Their bodies will lie
in the street of the great city, which
is figuratively called Sodom and Egypt,
where also their Lord was crucified."

Jerusalem is described in very negative terms—indeed, the worst possible terms.

It's called, 'the great city', and 'Sodom' and 'Egypt'. All three terms are noteworthy. The phrase, 'the great city' is an extremely negative one in Revelation. In every place it's used in Revelation it refers to a city opposed to God. Sometimes when the phrase is used it's also called, 'Babylon' to bring this out. In Revelation 16:19 it's also called, 'Babylon the Great'. Babylon is the great harlot (Revelation 17:1, 5) and we are told that God,

"gave her the cup filled with
the wine of the fury of his wrath…"

The whole of Revelation 18 is devoted to 'the great city' and it's doom. It is the city that become the home of demons, the city of adulteries, the city of luxury, with sins piled up to heaven. She was the city that by her magic led the world astray. It was in her that was found the blood of prophets and saints who had been killed on the earth. Commentators believe that in all these other places in Scripture 'the great city' refers to Rome. But here it can't refer to Rome because it says that it is the city where the Lord was crucified. So here it has to refer to Jerusalem.

But it is also is said to be '
spiritually' Sodom and Egypt. This is important. Although the NIV tells us that the great city is 'figuratively' called Sodom and Egypt—the Greek word is a little different. One of the Greek lexicons says, (BDAG, p. 837)

"Someth. more is involved here than mere allegory or figurative usage."

The word literally means, 'spiritually'. It's not telling us that Jerusalem is figuratively like Sodom and Egypt—it's telling us that 'spiritually' it is. This is its true nature.

Sodom was the nadir of human wickedness which deserved God's wrath. It, like Gomorrah, was so wicked and its sin so grievous that the outcry against it went up to God. God said He was going to go down to see if their sins were as bad as the outcry that had reached Him. It was and He destroyed Sodom. The people of Sodom did not want to follow God's laws. They wanted to follow their passions. They did whatever was right in their eyes.

Jerusalem is also referred to as 'Egypt'. Egypt was Israel's slave master. Egypt wanted to keep Israel from serving God. They wanted the Israelites to serve them so they enslaved, persecuted and oppressed them. They wouldn't let them go to serve God. Pharaoh an the Egyptians hated God and wanted the Israelites for themselves. The apostate Jerusalem is Egypt.

In sum, we have Sodom, ancient Egypt, Babylon the harlot (Rome) all rolled into one—Jerusalem. The bodies of the two witnesses will lie in this city. It is this city that refuses them burial. It is this city that opposes God and His work.

This tells us many things.

First of all, it shows you that

you are not to have your hope on this earth.

Your hope is not even in an earthly Jerusalem.

One of the great lessons we are taught in the Bible is that we are seeking something much better than the things of this earth. It was a lesson that God taught Abraham. Hebrews 11 says this about Abraham (verses 9–10 says of Abraham,

"By faith he made his home
in the promised land like
a stranger in a foreign country;
he lived in tents,
as did Isaac and Jacob,
who were heirs with him
of the same promise.
For he was looking forward
to the city with foundations,
whose architect and builder is God."

Hebrews 11:13–16 says of the Old Testament saints,

"And they admitted that
they were aliens and strangers on earth.
People who say such things show
that they are looking
for a country of their own.
If they had been thinking of the country
they had left, they would have had
opportunity to return.
Instead, they were longing
for a better country—
a heavenly one."

Some Christians today see a distinction between Israel and the church as far as the fulfillment of God's promises are concerned. Perhaps some of you believe that. They believe in what is called 'redemptive dualism', that is, that God has two distinct peoples, with distinct purposes for each. They believe that one of God's peoples is Israel of the Old Testament, which mainly has earthy promises and destiny. The other people of God is the Church in the New Testament, with her heavenly promises and destiny.

But the teaching of the New Testament is that God has one people of God—those that believe in Jesus Christ. In Ephesians 2:12 the apostle Paul told the Ephesian Christians that previously they were,

"separate from Christ,
excluded from citizenship in Israel
and foreigners to the covenants
of the promise, without hope
and without God in the world."

But Paul goes on to talk about how they are now one in Christ. He wrote, (verses 13-21)

"But now in Christ Jesus
you who once were far away
have been brought near
through the blood of Christ.
For he himself is our peace,
who has made the two one
and has destroyed the barrier,
the dividing wall of hostility,
by abolishing in his flesh the law
with its commandments and regulations.
His purpose was to create in himself
one new man out of the two,
thus making peace,
and in this one body to reconcile
both of them to God through the cross,
by which he put to death their hostility.
He came and preached peace to you
who were far away and peace
to those who were near.
For through him we both
have access to the Father by one Spirit.
Consequently, you are no longer
foreigners and aliens,
but fellow citizens with God's people
and members of God's household,
built on the foundation
of the apostles and prophets,
with Christ Jesus himself
as the chief cornerstone.
In him the whole building
is joined together and rises
to become a holy temple in the Lord."

So Paul could say in Galatians 3:28,

"There is neither Jew nor Greek,
slave nor free, male nor female,
for you are all one in Christ Jesus."

And in Romans 10:12 he wrote,

"For there is no difference
between Jew and Gentile—
the same Lord is Lord of all
and richly blesses all who call on him,"

So those who see a big distinction between Israel and the church in the sense of God having two people's of God—I believe are mistaken. Even ancient Israel was not to have it ultimate sight on the earthly fulfillment of God's promises.

Those Christians who have their hope on the earthly Jerusalem and the temple being rebuilt there are looking, I believe, in the wrong place. Sam Storms has written, (Kingdom Come)

"it's entirely possible, of course, that people in Israel may one day build a temple structure and resume their religious activities within it… Whether or not this will ever occur is hard to say, but if it does it will have no eschatological or theological significance whatsoever, other than to rise up as a stench in the nostrils of God. The only temple in which God is now and for ever will be pleased to dwell is Jesus Christ and the church, his spiritual body."

Our text is not decisive in deciding this issue. But what it does do is cast earthly Jerusalem in a very negative light. It is not the city of God. The glory of God has departed from it, never to return. A physical temple in Jerusalem has no place, no significance. Jesus entered the heavenly sanctuary with His blood, once and for all.

It is the city where the saints are persecuted. Dennis E. Johnson writes, (The Triumph of the Lamb, p. 173)

"this implies that the earthly Jerusalem and the anti-Jesus Judaism centered there had no claim to the honored title, 'the holy city.'"

Grant R. Osborne adds, (Revelation, BECNT; p. 427)

"Jerusalem forfeited its place as the Holy City when it rejected its Messiah, so in Revelation that is transferred to the New Jerusalem (21:2, 10)."

Our hope is not to be in this world, in earthly things.

The reason our hope is not to be in earthly things is because

the world hates Jesus, the gospel and Christians.

This world is not our home. Although it belongs to Jesus it is currently under the sway of the evil one. It is corrupted. Although God is going to purify it with fire in the future—at present it is, to a large extend, under the way of the evil one. Our hope is not to be here, but in the New Jerusalem.

The beast from the abyss killed the two witnesses. But it was the world, the inhabitants of the earth which celebrated their death. Their bodies laid unburied in great city.

The world hates the two witnesses. Jerusalem is described as 'the great city', as 'Sodom', as 'Egypt' and the place where our Lord was crucified. These descriptions are significant. These cities are rolled into one and they show us three things that war against us, our bodies and our souls.

First, it shows us that pomp, the riches, the glory of the world is opposed to us

The great city is the one where the bodies of the two witnesses lie unburied. The 'great city' refers to the great harlot Babylon, which is described in Revelation 17 and 18. Many commentators see the name 'Babylon the Great' as an euphemism for Rome. In chapter 17:9 the woman Babylon is described as seven heads which are seven hills. Rome was built on seven hills. So the reference is to Rome as well. She is described as dressed in purple, glittering with gold, precious stones and pearls. The kings of the earth as said to commit adulteries with her.

Christians, don't love riches. Don't set your heart on them. Don't be deceived by them. These things are opposed to you. Riches are not your friend. As the apostle Paul told us in 1 Timothy 6:9,

"People who want to get rich
fall into temptation and a trap
and into many foolish and
harmful desires that plunge men
into ruin and destruction."

You are to have your treasure in heaven, not on this earth. You are to be like Moses. In Hebrews 11:24–26 we read,

"By faith Moses,
when he had grown up,
refused to be known
as the son of Pharaoh's daughter.
He chose to be mistreated along
with the people of God rather than
to enjoy the pleasures of sin
for a short time.
He regarded disgrace
for the sake of Christ as of greater value
than the treasures of Egypt, because
he was looking ahead to his reward."

Do not be enticed by the wealth, the glory, the pomp of earthly things. Do not let them take you away from God.

Secondly, the depravity of the world is opposed to you.

The city is spiritually 'Sodom'. It was known for its great wickedness. Sodom flaunted God's commands. When the two angels arrived in Sodom, they appeared as men and took refuge in Lot's house the men of the city surrounded the house and demanded that Lot give them up to them so that they could have sex with them. Thus one of the great sins of Sodom was homosexuality.

Our society is a lot like Sodom. It's tells us that we should be free to do pretty much whatever we want. Everyone is to do what is right in their own eyes. The world today tells us that homosexuality is natural, that people are born that way, that it's just like being born a boy or a girl. They tell us that indulging in such behavior is good and that God would not condemn anyone for engaging in it. They want the church to accept their understanding of things.

However, God's teaching is quite different. Sinful desires, the ones we have naturally in our hearts, as we read in 1 Peter 2:11—are at war against us. Peter wrote,

"Dear friends, I urge you,
as aliens and strangers in the world,
to abstain from sinful desires,
which war against your soul."

We must not to get caught up in their depravity. Sin is against God. It is against His rule. It is against His nature. It leads to death.

Thirdly, we see that the powers of the world is opposed to you.

The great city is also likened to Egypt. Egypt tried to keep Israel from serving God. Pharaoh said that he would not let Israel go. He would not let them serve God.

What are the things in this world that keep you from serving God? Is it your job? Does that keep you so busy that you don't have time for God? Is it your family? Maybe your children don't like the narrowness of Christianity.

Or perhaps it's your desire to be liked. We all want to be liked. We all want to be well thought of. We all want to fit in.

But we must not fit in with this world and it's sin.

Does the world like you? Do your non-Christian friends like you? I heard recently a comment about how students evaluate their professors in university. A dean told university professors,

"if 10% of your students don't hate you on your evaluations, you're probably doing something wrong."

That's true to a much greater extent in the spiritual realm. In John 3:19 the apostle said,

"This is the verdict:
Light has come into the world,
but men loved darkness instead of light
because their deeds were evil."

This dark world didn't like Jesus. It hated Him. You are called to be like Jesus. If you are faithful to Jesus the world will be against you. Accept that. Be content with that.

Don't let the powers of this world stop you from serving Christ. Don't let them stop you from worshiping Him. Don't be afraid of them. Don't give in to them. Shine for Jesus.

The sum of all this is that

the things of this world are opposed to you.

They are conspiring against you. This means that you need to be very careful how you live in this world. You need to be walking hand in hand with Jesus, trusting in Him, hoping in Him, following Him. He's the only one who can keep you safe.

Money and wealth is against you. That's the great city, Babylon, Rome. Money is not a sure support. One day it will let you down. You will need something and money will not be able to purchase it.

The pleasures of this world, Sodom, is against you. One day it will let you down. It will leave you miserable, alone and empty.

The powers of this world, people, peer pressure, will let you down. Your friends who are not Christians—their ultimate allegiance is not with you. Their ultimate loyalty is not with you. Although it may not seem like it, they are slaves of sin and unrighteousness.

You cannot really depend on any of these things to be there for you in your time of need. Don't put your trust in them. They are not really on your side. At some point they will fail you. They will all let you down.

Let me illustrate. Did you ever have a tool that you were tempted to trust but really wondered about it? I was like that with a ladder one time. One day before he went to work my dad told me to take the storm windows off our house. The ones on the first story were easy but to get to the second story ones I had to use a ladder. My father told me where the ladder was but when I went to get it I had the feeling that I shouldn't trust it. It was a very old home made ladder. Even though at the time I was just skin and bones—I had doubts about whether the rungs on the ladder would hold me. But the way it was with my dad was that if he told you to do something—you'd better do it. So even though I had doubts about the ladder I put it up against the house and very carefully started to climb it. I climbed it right to the top and stepped onto the roof over the kitchen and walked up to the window of the back bedroom. I took the storm window off—it was a big heavy wooden thing—and walked back to the ladder. I put the window down on the roof while I positioned myself on the ladder to come down. I got on the top of the ladder and lifted window over on top of the ladder and just got it in place to start going down when the rung my feet were on broke and gave way. I started falling still holding onto the window and my feet hit the next rung below and that broke as soon as my feet or legs hit it, and so on all the way down. I ended up on the ground with the window on top of me. Thankfully I wasn't really hurt but the ladder was destroyed—except for the top two or three rungs all that was left were the two sides of it. Every rung that my feet or body came in contact with on the way down failed me.

The world and the things of the world are like that. They are only illusions of support. When you need support, safety the most, they will let you down. You can't trust them. You can't depend on them. They are against you.

But you can trust Jesus. There's no one like Him.

Jesus should be your heart's desire.

The riches of this world doesn't satisfy. The great city is doomed. The pleasures of this world don't really satisfy. The most that Sodom offers is temporary pleasure. In the end its ways bring misery and death. The powers of this world—Egypt, all they offer is cruel bondage. Serving anyone else rather than Jesus is futile, unrewarding, vain.

If you're not a Christian this passage shows you that that things that you are counting on, wealth, pleasure, power, earthly prestige—will all let you down. You will stand before the great Judge of the earth and you will have nothing to commend you to Him. Money, power, a life lived to the full for your pleasure, earthly prestige', lots of friends—none of those things will help you.

You need Jesus. Only He can save you. Only He can give you true satisfaction and comfort. Go to Him today. In Him is the resurrection and the life. Trust in Him today.