The Measuring of the Temple and the Worshippers
November 22, 2015 | Speaker: Bro Jurem Ramos
The bulk of the book of Revelation is about the Tribulation period, the 7 years of intense suffering as God pours His judgment upon this rebellious world before the second coming of Christ. These divine judgments come in a sequence of three sets of judgments: the first is seven seal judgments, followed by seven trumpet judgments, and then seven bowl judgments.
Here is a simple illustration I got from www.biblestudytool.com
that will show you how the judgments relate to one another. Imagine going to an aerial fireworks show, e.g., as what you may see in SBMA every New Year’s eve. Giant rockets are shot into the sky exploding into a great ball of fire. As this falls toward the earth, this great ball of fire bursts into a great number of ball of fire of various colors which, as they fall further toward the earth, burst again into smaller balls of various colors. That is how it is with these sets of judgments from God. “At first we see nothing but a sealed scroll. As the seals are removed each one appears to be a judgment and we would expect that when we come to the last seal, it would be the last judgment. But, instead, the last seal discloses seven angels, each with trumpets. These, in turn, are various judgments, and the seventh trumpet, in turn, reveals not another single judgment, but seven bowls of the wrath of God. In both instances there is a series of seven with the last disclosing seven more.”
While we were looking at the seal judgments, we observed that between seal #6 and seal #7, there was an interlude
(or a pause, an interval, a break). Then again when we were into the seven trumpet judgments, we again encounter another interlude between trumpet #6 and Trumpet #7. We learned that in the interlude, God reveals His intention to bring hope and encouragement to believers who will find themselves living during the Tribulation period.
We are now in the interlude between the 6th
and the 7th
trumpet judgments. I mentioned before that this interlude is divided into two parts. The first part, which is from Rev 10:1-11, has something to do with John’s vision of a mighty angel who had a little scroll in his hand. This angel makes an oath or announcement that there would no longer be any delay and the mystery of God would be fulfilled when the 7th
trumpet is blown. John was instructed to take the little scroll from the angel and to eat it. The eating of the scroll may be literal but it is a symbolic act of receiving God’s word in his heart. After eating of the scroll, which was sweet in his mouth but made his stomach bitter, he was told that he was again to prophesy about many peoples and nations and languages and kings. This is a renewed commission for John to write the rest of the book of Revelation, which is a prophecy that will involve a message that is both sweet and bitter.
The message that John wrote for the nations was sweet
because it was a message of fulfillment of all the longings of the godly for the vindication of the righteous, the destruction of God’s enemies, and the establishment of God’s kingdom. Finally, the kingdom of this world will become the kingdom of God and His Son Jesus and He will reign forevermore (Rev 11:15). But the message will also be bitter
because in the process of God’s taking back this world from the hands of His enemies and establishing His kingdom, He will also pour His wrath upon all of those who continue in their rejection of God. And then finally, the unrepentant will suffer in the lake of fire forever.
Now let us come to the second part of interlude. This section actually covers Rev 11:1-14, but today, we will begin to look at these two verses. We will take our time in looking at these verses, especially because, as I said, many Bible teachers consider this portion as one of the most difficult parts of Revelation.
Today I will entitle our study of Rev 11:1-2 as The Measuring of the Temple and Worshipers, part 1.
Why is it this portion of Scripture notoriously difficult to interpret? Here the different views:
- Some Bible teachers interpret the events in this chapter as describing ancient history and not the present or the future. This means that these interpreters believe that when John wrote the book of Revelation the literal Temple of the first century was still standing but predicted its destruction in A.D. 70. This is what is called the preterist view, (the Latin of the past). This means that, from our point of view, the events found here have already been long fulfilled in “the past,” particularly in A.D. 70.
- A second interpretation takes the details in this chapter as describing the church in a symbolical or metaphorical way during its final period of opposition and persecution. The references to the "temple" and the "altar" and "Jerusalem" are taken to be references to the church in the midst of a hostile world. The "measuring of the temple" is a metaphorical way of saying that God is guaranteeing the church’s protection. The "outer court" is a metaphor for the danger, the trouble, and the persecution that the faithful church must suffer in this world. The 42 months, or three and a half years, is a numerical symbol for a limited period of time in which the church will suffer tribulation.
- The third interpretation takes the literal and futurist approach to this chapter. This means that the references to the temple to refer to a restored temple and Jewish worship during the tribulation. This also views those worshipping there to be the believing ethnic Jews.
I am taking the literal and futurist approach to the book of Revelation which includes this chapter. This is not to say that we will be fully satisfied with all the explanation from this point of view, but for me, this is a better approach than preterist and the metaphorical approaches of interpretation. Listen to Donald Grey Barnhouse’s explanation why he thinks that the literal approach is better than the metaphorical approach:
One commentator has brought together on one page the interpretations of his fellows in a way that will explain much of the confusion that has arisen out of this passage. He points out that almost universally the commentators have tried to force the church into the picture that is painted here when, of course, the church is not in view at all. “The temple is here figuratively used of the faithful portion of the church of Christ.” The command is given to John “to measure the temple of God” in order to call his attention to “the size of the church of God.” The “altar” is again, in the mind of one commentator, “the church.” The “outer court” signifies “a part of the church of Christ.” The “Holy City,” according to these expositors is “always in the Apocalypse the title of the church.” The “two witnesses” represent “the elect church of God,” says one (embracing both Jew and Christian), “and the witness which she bears concerning God, especially in the Old and New Testaments.” “The twelve hundred and sixty days” constitutes the period “during which the church although trodden under foot, will not cease to prophesy.” Concerning the war of the beast against them we are told, “The whole vision is symbolical, and the intention is to convey the idea that the church, in her witness for God, will experience opposition from the power of Satan” and so on and on and on. . . . “What wonder, when such diverse expressions are forced to mean the same thing, if there be endless confusion. Literalism may not solve every perplexity, but it does not lead into any such inexplicable obscurity as this.”
When I say literal interpretation, I recognize the different figures of speech, such as the many similes that begin with the word "like." I also recognize that there are symbols that obviously cannot be taken literally. You will observe that in several instances these symbols will even be interpreted to us. For example in chapter 1 John says that in the hand of Jesus are seven stars. But chapter 1:20 explains, "the seven stars are the seven angels (or messengers) of the seven churches. So I will attempt to interpret Revelation chapter 11 using a literal and futuristic approach that is not irrational or absurd. I will interpret it to the extent that the Bible will allow it to be literally interpreted. As I said, for example, there were some animals that spoke in the OT such as the serpent that tempted Eve in the garden and the donkey that rebuked a false prophet. So what is wrong in taking literally the eagle that cried out with a loud voice in Rev 8:13? The prophet Ezekiel in Ezekiel chapter 3 was commanded to eat a scroll, so why can't we take the command to John to eat the little scroll literally in Rev 10:10? There were angels who measured places or buildings using a measuring rod as we shall see later. So why can’t we take the command for John to measure the Temple and the altar literally? The is nothing wrong with using the literal approach in interpreting the book of Revelation, especially chapter 11.
Now let’s look at these two verses and I’ll use this outline
to guide us:
- John given a measuring rod (11:1a)
- John told what to measure (11:1b)
- John told what not to measure (11:2)
I. John Given a Measuring Rod (11:1a)
John tells us first, I was given a measuring rod like a staff.
In Revelation John received a lot of visions and he would often be only a spectator recording what he saw. But sometimes, God would involve him in the vision as in the case in chapter 10 where he saw a mighty angel who had a little scroll in his hand, and he was told to take the little scroll and to eat it. Here in Rev 11:1-2 John again became involved in the vision he was recording. He is given a measuring rod and told to measure three things: the temple, the altar, and those who worship there. We’ll look at these in a little while.
The measuring rod
that John was given was a bamboolike cane that grew in the Jordan valley sometimes to a height of 15 to 20 feet. This was often used as a walking staff because it was sufficiently long, rigid, and light weight. The same plant was also used for measuring.
John does not tell us who gave him the measuring rod or commanded him to measure. Probably it was the strong angel who last spoke to him in Rev 10:9 and who said, “Take and eat it; it will make you stomach bitter, but in our mouth it will be sweet as honey.”
“No one has entered or left the scene since then. Only the angel was present to give John the reed, so he must also be the one giving him the added instructions in 11:1-2” (Robert Thomas). I think if it were God or Christ who spoke, John would have probably identified Him.
II. John Told What to Measure (11:1b)
and I was told, “Rise and measure the temple of God and the altar and those who worship there,
The angel’s word to John is for him to rise and measure the temple of God, the altar, and the worshipers in the temple. I think that the instruction to John is no different from the instruction that is sometimes given to the prophets of the Bible, which is to perform a symbolic act to dramatize their message. For example,
- In Isaiah 20:2-5, God commanded Isaiah to walk naked and barefoot as a sign against Egypt and Cush that they will walk naked and barefoot when Assyria takes them captive.
- In Ezekiel 12:1-7, God commands Ezekiel to dig through the wall and carry his belongings out in the sight of Israel as a sign of what will happen to them in the coming exile.
- In Acts 21:10-11, the prophet Agabus tied his feet and hands with Paul’s belt to show that the apostle would be bound by the Jews at Jerusalem.
And so those are examples of symbolic acts of prophets to dramatize their message. Now what is John symbolizing here when he is told to measure the temple of God, the altar, and the worshipers?
There are two things that are often symbolized by measuring in the Bible: one is judgment and the other is ownership.
- In the OT, sometimes God has measured out something for destruction as in Lamentations 2:8, "The Lord determined to lay in ruins the wall of the daughter of Zion; he stretched out the measuring line; he did not restrain his hand from destroying..." It's a way of saying, "I'm confining My destruction to this particular area, or this particular city, or this particular location, or this particular people.
- Sometimes the purpose of measuring is to symbolize something that is owned by God. This area or place that is measured is marked as God’s personal possession. For example, you find measuring in Eze 40:2—43:12; Zech 2:1-8; and Rev 21:15-17. In Ezekiel’s vision, an angel measures the Millennial Temple using a measuring rod (Eze. 40:2ff). Similarly, in Zechariah vision, “man with a measuring line in his hand” (Zec 2:1) measures the dimensions of Jerusalem. The purpose of this measuring is to mark what belongs to God.
The measuring in Rev. 11:1 seems to be an act of defining the parameters of God's property, what and who belongs to Him, while the portion in verse 2 that is not measured is what God rejects. It seems the measuring of the temple of God, the altar, and the worshipers are is a sign that God has secured these for blessing and preserved from spiritual harm or defilement. In Rev. 21:15-17, John similarly depicts the angel's measuring of the heavenly city with a golden rod, apparently to mark off the city and its inhabitants from harm and defilement (21:27).
You will observe that all the things that John is told to measure had something to do with Israel; he was told to measure the temple, the altar, and those who worship in it. So God is measuring off Israel for salvation and His special protection, preservation, and favor. The prophecies yet to be given to John will distinguish between God’s favor toward Israel and His wrath on the world.
Let’s look at the three things that John is told to measure:
(Portions here are taken from John MacArthur’s teachings.)
First, John is to measure the temple of God
. There are two Greek words used in the NT for temple. One is hieron
a broad term that refers to the whole structure of Herod’s temple including the buildings, balconies, porticos, courts belong to that of the men of Israel, that of the women, and that of the priests). But there is another word for temple which is naos,
a narrower term and it refers to the sanctuary or inner temple made up of the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies, where only the priests were allowed. Naos
is what is referred to here in 11:1, the inner temple and not the entire temple complex.
Second, John is also to measure the altar
. This altar is probably the brazen altar in the courtyard outside of the sanctuary, not the altar of incense in the Holy Place. It was around the bronze altar that the worshipers gathered. They couldn't go into the Holy Place because only the priests could go in there. They had to stay on the outside. So when John says that he was commanded to measure the altar,
he means the "bronze altar" in the outer area where the people could go to express their worship and offer their sacrifices.
Third, John was also told to measure those who worship there
. This refers to the remnant of believing Jews (Ro 11:4-5) worshiping God in the rebuilt temple during the Tribulation period. Among them are probably those who will come to Christ through the ministry of the 144,000 Jews and the two witnesses in Rev 11.
Now the measuring of these three literal Jewish places and worshipers is the reason why Bible scholars believe there will be a rebuilding of the temple during the time of the Tribulation.
Now remember, at the time John wrote this there was no temple. It was literally leveled to the ground. This happened 25 years before John received this Revelation. In 70 A.D. Jerusalem had been literally overrun by the Romans, 1,985 towns have been devastated by the Romans and over a million Jews have been massacred by the Romans. So when John is told to go and measure the temple of God, it must have struck him that at this particular time in prophetic history there would be a temple again.
It is clear that the Bible shows that there will be a temple during the Tribulation period, which will be desecrated at the midpoint.
- Daniel 9:27 And he shall make a strong covenant with many for one week, and for half of the week he shall put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall come one who makes desolate, until the decreed end is poured out on the desolator.
This verse says that the Antichrist will make a pact with Israel for one week, i.e., for seven years. But in the middle of the week, i.e., in the middle of the seven years, or three and a half years, he'll put an end to sacrifice and offering.
If during the week of the Tribulation the Antichrist will put an end to sacrifice and offering then that means that there is a Temple because the sacrifices and grain offerings can only happen legitimately in the temple. That leads us to believe that during that seven-year period a temple will be rebuilt. It will be rebuilt in the early time, the pact with Antichrist will give the Jews the freedom to worship in their own temple, only in the midweek he will stop that worship and he will do what is called the abomination of desolations and he will move into the temple, desecrate it, throw the Jews out and [present] himself as God. The temple needs to be there if that's to happen.
- Daniel 12:11 says, "And from the time that the regular burnt offering is taken away and the abomination that makes desolate is set up, there shall be 1,290 days.” This will happen during the Tribulation period. The mention of the "regular burnt offering" means that there is going to be a temple during the Tribulation period.
- The NT also indicates that there must be a temple during the Tribulation. In Matthew 24:15, referring back to Daniel, "You will see the abomination of desolation spoken of through Daniel the prophet."
In 167 B.C. a Greek ruler by the name of Antiochus Epiphanies set up an altar to Zeus over the altar of burnt offerings in the Jewish temple in Jerusalem. He also sacrificed a pig on the altar in the Temple in Jerusalem. This event is known as the abomination of desolation.
In Matthew 24:15, Jesus was speaking some 200 years after the abomination of desolation described above had already occurred. So, Jesus must have been prophesying that some time in the future another abomination of desolation would occur in a Jewish temple in Jerusalem. Most Bible prophecy interpreters believe that Jesus was referring to the Antichrist who will do something very similar to what Antiochus Epiphanies did. This is confirmed by the fact that some of what Daniel prophesied in Daniel 9:27 did not occur in 167 B.C. with Antiochus Epiphanies. Antiochus did not confirm a covenant with Israel for seven years. It is the Antichrist who, in the end times, will establish a covenant with Israel for seven years and then break it by doing something similar to the abomination of desolation in the Jewish temple in Jerusalem.
- 2Thessalonians 2:3 speaks of the “son of destruction,” “the man of lawlessness.” That is the Antichrist. It says in verse 4 that he “opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God.” That's what the abomination is. He makes a pact and the Israelites think they're getting protection from this world leader. They're getting safety and he lets them have their temple and have their worship and he gives them that freedom and they think that he's protecting them. In the middle of the seven years, he comes in, destroys their worship, desecrates their temple, takes his seat in the temple and demands that the whole world worship him.
As all those passages conclusively show that there is going to be a rebuilding of the Temple during the Tribulation period.
Did you know that many orthodox Jews today dream of rebuilding their temple. For example, in the website www.templeinstitute.org.
The words that welcome visitors are these:
SHALOM AND WELCOME
to the official website of the TEMPLE INSTITUTE
in Jerusalem, Israel. … The Temple Institute's ultimate goal is to see Israel rebuild the Holy Temple on Mount Moriah in Jerusalem, in accord with the Biblical commandments.
The mission of the Temple Institute
is to educate and make both the Jews and Gentiles to be aware of the traditions concerning the Holy Temple. “As this knowledge takes root and the movement for the rebuilding of the Holy Temple grows, it will make its way to the forefront of the world's agenda.” You may be surprised the Gentiles are mentioned but it is clear from Isaiah 56:7 that the house of God “shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.”
I visited another website, www.universaltorah.com,
and it has several video studies regarding the Holy Temple delivered by Rabbi Chaim Richman. I watched three of the videos. The rabbi said that it was significant that the first video was posted on the 9th
of the month of Av. The month of Av is traditionally regarded as the most tragic in the Jewish calendar. On the first day of this month, Aaron (the first High Priest of Israel) died, and on the 9th
of this month, both of the Holy Temples were destroyed. The ninth of Av is the lowest point of a three week period of mourning, and during this period many Jews refrain from marriages and other pleasurable activities such as listening to music, dancing, taking vacations, and even shaving. This month constitutes a time of corporate reflection and mourning over the destruction of the Temple that is intended to lead Israel to repentance.
The website explains the details of the sacred vessels and vestments which are not found in Scripture but they claim is given in the oral tradition.
This website also solicits donations for the rebuilding of temple. There is a wall in their website where all the names of the donors are posted. They believe that the Israelis who are not actively doing anything to promote the rebuilding of the Temple in this generation are sinning. They believe that the written and oral tradition clearly teaches this. And so they encourage the Jews to rebuild the temple this year. If that doesn’t happen they will again fast and mourn in the 9th
of Av next year and exert all effort to be able to build the Temple. Wow! The only thing that they do not realize is that this temple will not be built unless the Antichrist is revealed and he will support the rebuilding of the Temple.
Unfortunately the site in Mount Moriah is now occupied by the Islamic Dome of the Rock. Because Muslims believe it to be the place from which Muhammad ascended to heaven, it is among the most sacred shrines in the Islamic world. For the Jews to take that site from the Muslims and build their temple there would be unthinkable in today’s political climate. But during the tribulation, under the protection of Antichrist (Daniel 9:24–27), they will be able to rebuild the temple. (MacArthur)
The remaining portion of this comes from John MacArthur’s sermon in the 1990s. I was surprised to read about his insights. And I am sure that when he preached this, the Universal Torah Network
was not yet in existence. And yet MacArthur’s insights hit the target. Here is what he says.
Now follow this. The Jews then before the midpoint will have their sacrificial system back. And they'll be doing the sacrifices according to Old Testament law. What that's going to mean is that early in the Tribulation the Jews are going to go back to their old style of worship. And I believe this is part of God preparing them to look again for their Messiah.
You know how many secular Jews we have in the world today? Most of the Jews are secular Jews, the orthodox Jews are a very small group. Most of the Jews are only into the traditions. They have forgotten the significance of the sacrificial system. But when it's all reinstituted and they all flood back to it because of the love of Tradition, they're going to have to come face to face with the fact that they have sins. Those sins need a sacrifice, and that those sacrifices which they offer on that altar do not take away sin and do not transform their lives. And all of a sudden the New Testament reality of the gospel being preached by 100,000 Jews and an innumerable number of Gentiles is going to come to bear heavy on their hearts. The reinstitution of the offerings and sacrifices and the preaching of the gospel [are going to be vital components] in God's redeeming the people of Israel, as Romans 11 says, "Yes, so all Israel will be saved."
And I really believe that as that temple begins to work, and as the Jews start to move back toward Jehovah God, and show some interest in their Messiah again, the Antichrist is going to say, "That's enough." And he's going to step in and abominate the place, halt the worship, and demand that the whole world worship him. And all of those who don’t worship the beast will be killed.
But the institution of Judaism again in the temple is going to stimulate the hearts of Jewish people toward their Messiah and I believe will refocus them so that what Zechariah says will become reality.
Zechariah 12:10 “And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and pleas for mercy, so that, when they look on me, on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a firstborn.
And Zech 13:1, “On that day there shall be a fountain opened for the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, to cleanse them from sin and uncleanness."
I believe what's going to happen is they go back to the temple. They go back to focusing on what's happening in the temple, seeing what's going on brings the reality back that they need a redeemer, they don't have one. They look back at all the New Testament says about Christ, they start to look on Him whom they have pierced. They hear the preaching of the hundred and forty-four thousand and there's a tremendous stimulus.
So, in Revelation 11:1, when John is asked to measure out a temple for the Tribulation, it means that God is going to do something in this place. God has plans for it. And those plans have to do with God's purpose in the redemption of Israel.
I believe, God is going to begin to initiate longings in the hearts of Jews as they go back to their worship patterns of the Old Testament and the sacrificial system and they are going to cry out and long for a true Lamb who can really take away their sins. And in the midst of it all they will be bombarded by a 144,000 invincible converted Jews and a lot of converted Gentiles, all preaching the gospel. In the middle of the seven years their temple is going to be desecrated and abominated but their hearts will still be opened. And then will come along these two witnesses who preach for the last half, twelve hundred and sixty days, that's three and a half years, and they are preaching repentance and warning about judgment and proclaiming the gospel. And I believe all of these things work together to lead Israel to repentance.
So John measures the temple in order that it might be set apart for divine purposes.
We will continue with Rev 11:2 next time. But I just want to close by reading Romans 11:25-36 where Paul talks about God’s plan to save the Jews in once the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. [The comments below are ideas taken from the ESV Study Bible notes.]
25 Lest you be wise in your own sight, I do not want you to be unaware of this mystery, brothers: a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. 26 And in this way all Israel will be saved, as it is written,
“The Deliverer will come from Zion,
he will banish ungodliness from Jacob”;
27 “ and this will be my covenant with them
when I take away their sins.”
28 As regards the gospel, they are enemies for your sake. But as regards election, they are beloved for the sake of their forefathers. 29 For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. 30 For just as you were at one time disobedient to God but now have received mercy because of their disobedience, 31 so they too have now been disobedient in order that by the mercy shown to you they also may now receive mercy. 32 For God has consigned all to disobedience, that he may have mercy on all.
In Romans 11:25 Paul discloses a mystery to the Gentiles to prevent them from being proud. The word “mystery” means that something that was previously hidden and is now revealed. The mystery here has three elements:(1) at this time in salvation history the majority of Israel has been hardened; (2) the unbelief of the Israel has benefited the Gentiles, i.e., this is the period of history in which Gentiles are being saved, while most of Israel remains in unbelief. (3) When all of the elect Gentiles are saved, God will do a new work in the future in which he will save all “Israel” in accordance with God's electing promise given to their forefathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
Paul concludes this section and the whole of Romans chs. 1–11 with a doxology:
Ro 11:33-36 Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!
34 “ For who has known the mind of the Lord,
or who has been his counselor?”
35 “ Or who has given a gift to him
that he might be repaid?”
36 For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.