It may give us a shock that the Bible describes any city by the names ĎSodom and Egyptí. Sodom was the city that God destroyed because of its wicked acts at the time of Abraham (Genesis chapter 19). Egypt is the country where Godís people lived as slaves at the time of Moses (Exodus 1:8-14). Therefore, John is describing a city whose inhabitants have chosen to oppose Godís people in a cruel and wicked manner.
It disturbs us even more to think that John could be referring to Jerusalem. John has only just referred to Jerusalem as the Ďholy cityí, in verse 2. That was where Godís house, the temple, was. Psalm 48 describes its situation as beautiful, the joy of the whole earth. However, Jerusalem is also a place where many evil acts have happened (Luke 13:33-34). Christ died just outside the city (Hebrews 13:12). Revelation 11:2 describes how, at this time, foreign nations will show great cruelty towards Jerusalem.
However, there are also references to other cities in Revelation 11:8. In the Book of Revelation, Ďthe great cityí usually refers to Babylon (14:8). Babylonís army caused Israelís people to suffer greatly at the time of Jeremiah. However, in the Book of Revelation, Babylon is itself a word-picture for Rome (see Revelation 17:9; Rome stood on 7 hills). Rome was the most powerful city in the world at the time of John. Romeís government caused Godís people (both Israelís people and the first Christians) to suffer greatly.
In fact, the city in Revelation 11:8 could even be a word-picture for the whole world. The whole world is responsible for Christís death (Romans 3:19; Galatians 3:13-14). In the same manner, the whole world will be responsible for the deaths of the two witnesses. People across the world will be glad at their deaths (verses 9-10).
Next part: When happiness is evil (Revelation 11:9-10)
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© 2016, Keith Simons.