In the context of Revelation 11:8 and the witnesses being slain and their bodies lying in “the” street of the great city, the Angel seems to be identifying those guilty of their slaying (cf. Matthew 23:34-35). Why else would he claim their dead bodies would lie in THE street of the great city? Surely the Angel knew Jerusalem had more than one street. Yet, he reckons it THE street, as though there were only one. Moreover, they wouldn’t be buried for 3 ½ days. If that were literally true, Jerusalem would have been defiled. It was the practice of the Jews to bury the dead on the day they died, and that before sundown. Otherwise, the city would be defiled. Notice:
Deuteronomy 21:22-23 And if a man has committed a sin worthy of death, and he is to be put to death, and you hang him on a tree: (23) His body shall not remain all night upon the tree, but you shall surely bury him that day; (for he that is hanged is accused of God;) that you land does not become defiled, which the LORD your God gives you for an inheritance.
This Scripture shows that the land would have become defiled, if the dead lay unburied overnight, so the authorities in Jerusalem would have made every effort to bury the witnesses, no matter how much they hated them, if they had been literally killed in Jerusalem (cf. John 19:31). Moreover, Deuteronomy 21:1-9 shows that the land became defiled with the body of a dead man that lay unburied, and the guilty party was assumed to live in the nearest city to where the dead body was found. The elders or authorities of that city needed to come before the Lord and show, through their obedience to the Law, that their hands were clean, as it pertains to the shedding of the blood of the innocent.
This shows us that the Lord is interested in identifying the guilty party, no matter where the body, itself, was found. Therefore, in the context of Revelation 11:8, it is not that the witnesses’ dead bodies lay in THE street of Jerusalem, but that Jerusalem was the guilty party in their being slain. It was the fact that Jerusalem was guilty of shedding innocent blood all over the Roman Empire that she had become defiled (Matthew 23:34-35), and the only way the land could be cleansed was through the judgment and execution of the guilty party (cf. Numbers 35:33-34).
The Lord had made every reasonable effort to get Jerusalem to repent, so she wouldn’t have to be judged, but she simply refused to do so (Revelation 9:21). As I showed in previous studies of the Apocalypse, the Lord intensified his own discipline of the Jewish nation, just as they intensified their own efforts at destroying his disciples. Nevertheless, the nation as a whole, with its leaders, remained unrepentant. Their persecution of the holy city (Revelation 11:2) puts them in the place of the enemies of God, so much so that they are there referred to as gentiles in the context of how the word is used in Amos 9:7-8.
In Revelation 11:2 Jerusalem is called the holy city, but, here, in Revelation 11:8 she is referred to as that great city. When the term great city is used in the Bible, it is almost always used for an enemy of God or his people (cf. Joshua 10:2; Jonah 1:2; 3:2-3; 4:11). It is even used of unrepentant Jerusalem after the Lord’s judgment of her in Jeremiah 22:8. In the book of Revelation the term is found ten times and always referring to Jerusalem, nine times as physical Jerusalem (Revelation 11:8; 14:8; 16:19; 17:18; 18:10, 16, 18, 19, 21) and once as the new Jerusalem coming down from heaven from God (Revelation 21:10). This final reference is the only time the term is used benevolently.
Jesus said that if a man wished to be great he needed to become the servant of others (Matthew 20:26). On the other hand Simon of Samaria (Acts 8:9) sought to be a great one (same Greek word – G3173), but he bewitched the people in an effort to have them serve him—the opposite of what Jesus calls great. In the context of Revelation 11:8, the authorities at Jerusalem wanted to be considered great, in that they wished others to serve them, i.e. in the context of Simon’s efforts (Acts 8:9; cf. Revelation 9:21). They bewitched the people into turning on the disciples of Jesus for no good reason. It was all done in order to destroy the Gospel. However, in the context of Revelation 21:10, the new Jerusalem serves mankind in the sense that Jesus did (cf. Matthew 20:26-28).