Home > Hermeneutics > In not a few instances the Scriptures possess both a literal and a mystical force: Example 10

In not a few instances the Scriptures possess both a literal and a mystical force: Example 10

There is another class of passages, somewhat different from those noticed above, which needs to be considered under this head of the spiritual import of verses in the Word. These may be suitably introduced by a statement in Revelation 11:8,

“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.”

As might well be expected, even by those who have only a comparatively slight acquaintance with the numerous works on the Apocalypse, with their manifold interpretations, commentators differ widely in their explanations of this verse. We do not propose to add to their number by attempting to identify the “two witnesses” or to determine if the “great city” where they are slain is to be understood literally or symbolically, nor whether the reference be to some place or some thing in the past, the present, or the future, for such speculations possess no practical value, offering not the slightest aid in fighting the good fight of faith. It is sufficient for our present purpose simply to call the reader’s attention to the words we have italicized, and to point out how that clause establishes once more the principle of exegesis which we are here illustrating.

By saying that the “great city” of Revelation 11:8, is spiritually called Sodom and Egypt, the Holy Spirit intimates that it is characterized by the same evils which Scripture teaches us to associate with those places, that the filthiness of Sodom and the harshness of Egypt, in embittering the lives of God’s people of old, marked the scene where the two witnesses testified for God and were slain for their fidelity. It is probable that the language of Revelation 11:8, contains a designed allusion to Ezekiel 16:44-59, where repeated mention is made of a mystical Sodom. “Mystical” we say, for when the Lord declared, “When I shall bring again their captivity, the captivity of Sodom and her daughters” (v. 53), and the question be asked whether there will yet be a restoring of the historical Sodom and the other cities of the plain, that is but to carnalize what is to be understood spiritually (by literalizing what is figurative), and would be to transfer the subject there spoken of from the moral government of God toward men, for the merely natural reign of the Divine providential arrangements respecting the material world.

When the Lord said to the inhabitants of Jerusalem,

“Thou art thy mother’s daughter, that lotheth her husband and her children.. your mother was an Hittite, and your father an Amorite” (Ezekiel 16:45),

He was charging them with being guilty of the same abominations that marked the original dwellers in Palestine, who at a very early date apostatized from God, being among the first idolators after the great deluge.

“As I live, saith the Lord God, Sodom thy sister hath not done, she nor her daughters, as thou hast done, thou and thy daughters. Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fullness of bread, and abundance of idleness” (16:48, 49). God spoke thus to the backslidden and corrupt Jewish nation because she trod the polluted way and imitated the sins of the ancient city of ill fame.

To designate the covenant people “Sodom,” because the state and manners of the one were identical with the other’s, was one of the most solemn and impressive ways that could be taken to describe their inveterate depravity and vile character. Clear, then, it is that “Hittite,” “Amorite” and “Sodom” in those verses are no more to be taken literally than is “David” in Ezekiel 34:23, or “Balaam” and “Jezebel” in Revelation 2:14, 20.

Arthur W. Pink-Interpretation of the Scriptures

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