I was asked by a reader a while back to provide my thoughts on Revelation 11:8-9, which concerns the reaction of the world to the death of the Two Witnesses. Revelation 11:8-9 states:
“(8) And their dead bodies shall lie in the street of the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified. (9) And they of the people and kindreds and tongues and nations shall see their dead bodies three days and an half, and shall not suffer their dead bodies to be put in graves.” (Revelation 11:8-9)
Before I focus on Revelation 11:8-9, here is an overview of the Two Witnesses’ ministry to provide some context. To counter the False Prophet’s propagation of Antichrist’s religion, God will assign two individuals (Two Witnesses) to prophesy for 1260 days:
(3) And I will give power unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days, clothed in sackcloth. (4) These are the two olive trees, and the two candlesticks standing before the God of the earth.” (Revelation 11:3-4)
These two individuals will essentially be invincible during the 1260 days of their ministry. Therefore, it will be futile for anyone to try to harm them during this period. Anyone who tries to harm them will die. In addition, they will have authority to punish the Earth with a variety of plagues:
“(5) And if any man will hurt them, fire proceedeth out of their mouth, and devoureth their enemies: and if any man will hurt them, he must in this manner be killed. (6) These have power to shut heaven, that it rain not in the days of their prophecy: and have power over waters to turn them to blood, and to smite the earth with all plagues, as often as they will.” (Revelation 11:5-6)
At the end of the Two Witnesses’ ministry, the beast from the abyss (Antichrist) will make war with them and kill them (verse 7). The two corpses will lie in Jerusalem, which is the city where the Lord was crucified (verse 8):
“(7) And when they shall have finished their testimony, the beast that ascendeth out of the bottomless pit shall make war against them, and shall overcome them, and kill them. (8) And their dead bodies shall lie in the street of the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified.” (Revelation 11:7-8)
Revelation 11:9 says that “people and kindreds and tongues and nations shall see their dead bodies three days and an half” (I believe it will be literally three and half days):
“And they of the people and kindreds and tongues and nations shall see their dead bodies three days and an half, and shall not suffer their dead bodies to be put in graves.” (Revelation 11:9)
The initial impression one might get from reading Revelation 11:9 is that the text suggests that everyone on Earth will be able view the dead bodies in person since “people and kindreds and tongues and nations” covers virtually every way you can distinguish people from one another. However, some Bible commentaries analyzing the Greek language in Revelation 11:9 come to the conclusion that the text is conveying the idea that some people from each group referenced (kindreds, tongues, nations, etc) will view the dead bodies of the two witnesses in person rather than everyone in the world coming to the great city to view the dead bodies in person. For instance, here is a passage from Albert Barnes’ Notes on the New Testament concerning Revelation 11:9:
And they of the people. Some of the people; a part of the people –~ek twn lawn~. The language is such as would be employed to describe a scene where a considerable portion of a company of people should be referred to, without intending to include all. The essential idea is, that there would be an assemblage of different classes of people to whom their carcases would be exposed, and that they would come and look upon them.
I’m not an expert on the Greek language, but the idea that some people will view the dead bodies in person instead of everyone in the world viewing the dead bodies in person makes sense to me. However, if you believe that Revelation 11:9 actually suggests that everyone in the world is going to view the dead bodies then imagine the amount of media coverage the death of the Two Witnesses is going to attract worldwide.
I imagine that the death of two of the wicked world’s main adversaries is going to be a news event that will attract a lot of media attention. I imagine the media will broadcast images of the dead bodies worldwide to show people tangible proof that the two witnesses were indeed killed. In this sense, virtually everyone in the world will be able to view the dead bodies.
The detail that the dead bodies will lay in the streets unburied and on display gives some indication of how much the wicked people of Earth will despise the Two Witnesses. The people of Earth will show disrespect to the bodies by not giving them a respectable burial. The dead bodies will be on display so people can derive joy from the slaying of the Two Witnesses. In fact, Revelation 11:10 suggests that people will party (make merry) and send gifts to each other in happiness because their tormentors have died:
“And they that dwell upon the earth shall rejoice over them, and make merry, and shall send gifts one to another; because these two prophets tormented them that dwelt on the earth.” (Revelation 11:10)
However, the celebrations on Earth will only be temporary. The wicked on Earth viewing the dead bodies will receive quite a startling “surprise” in just three and a half days after the Two Witnesses’ death. The Two Witnesses will ascend to Heaven and a great earthquake will destroy 1/10 of the great city (Jerusalem-Revelation 11:8):
“(11) And after three days and an half the Spirit of life from God entered into them, and they stood upon their feet; and great fear fell upon them which saw them. (12) And they heard a great voice from heaven saying unto them, Come up hither. And they ascended up to heaven in a cloud; and their enemies beheld them. (13) And the same hour was there a great earthquake, and the tenth part of the city fell, and in the earthquake were slain of men seven thousand: and the remnant were affrighted, and gave glory to the God of heaven. (14) The second woe is past; and, behold, the third woe cometh quickly.” (Revelation 11:11-14)
I hope this article was insightful for you. For more, I have an article about the identity of the Two Witnesses.