The Book of Revelation is not given to easy interpretation. It cannot be deciphered in a literal or fundamentalist manner that seeks to make quick and easy contemporary correlation. We have to appreciate it as a particular form of literature that utilizes symbolic and allegorical phraseology. Similar such writings of this genre appear in Daniel, Zechariah, and Ezechial. While many will interpret it strictly in terms of future events, it actually has a great deal to say about the crisis in the early Church and her future hope.
11:7 – “And when they have finished their testimony, the beast that ascends from the bottomless pit will make war upon them and conquer them and kill them, . . . ”
This beast was understood to be the antichrist, the one who symbolizes evil in his own person, the Roman emperor, Nero. Christians witnessed to their faith by shedding their blood. (See Rev. 13:1-8; 17:8).
11:8 – ” . . . and their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city which is allegorically called Sodom and Egypt, where their Lord was crucified.”
While it is geographically true that Jesus was crucified in Jerusalem, this is not the thrust of the apocalyptic text here. Rather, the emphasis is upon the figurative Jerusalem that repudiates God and his witnesses. This is clearly the new “Babylon”, another code word for pagan Rome. See chapters 16 through 18. (Anti-Catholics go so far as to make the leap in logic that the beast and his city are not the pagan emperor and Rome but rather the pope and the Roman Catholic Church. Such a view violates the meaning of the text and defames the sacrifice of early Catholic Christians.) Ken is quite right that “Sodom” and “Egypt” are symbols for immorality (cf. Isaiah 1:10) and for the oppression of the people of God (cf. Exodus 1:11-14). The authority of Rome crucified Christ through its emissaries. Christ is being crucified anew in his members. It is an early holocaust of the Christian believers at the hands of a bloodthirsty pagan Rome.
The Book of Revelation is composed to deal with a specific crisis. Believers of Christ are dying in droves and the inspired author is urging the Christian community not to abandon hope or to betray the Lord. Jesus’ promise comes to mind: ” . . . and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age” (Matthew 28:20). Christians are reminded that God has not abandoned them.
Hope this helps, although it hardly exhausts the layers of meaning here.
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