And to me was given a measuring rod like a staff, saying, “Rise and measure the temple of God and the altar and those worshiping in it. And leave out the court that is within the temple and do not measure it, because it has been given to the Gentiles, and they will trample upon the holy city for forty two months.”
We have come unto Revelation 11, and the previous post explored the overall theme of the chapter. It has been established that this timeline given of 42 months and 1,260 days would put us somewhere around the abomination of desolation – halfway through the week (Dan 9:27). The first verse is somewhat reminiscent of Ezekiel 40:3-42:20 and Zechariah 2:1-2. Why exactly the temple is being measured is unclear. In both Ezekiel and Zechariah, the measuring has to do with the restoring of the temple, and not the mere preservation. However, Zechariah 2 does have the context of the cry later expressed in Revelation 18:4, “Come out from her!”. We can compare Zechariah 2:7, “Come, O Zion! Escape, you who live in the Daughter of Babylon!” This does keep our contrast being made in the rest of Revelation 11. (It would make sense that John is not thinking of Zechariah 2 alone, but Zechariah 1-5 all being expressed throughout the book of Revelations.)
The temple of God is the literal temple. This is the only mention of the literal temple in Revelations. Exegetically, I can see no reason to suppose it is the ‘spiritual temple’ (3:12) or the ‘heavenly temple’ (7:15, 11:19, 14:15, 17, 15:5, 6, 8, 16:1, 17). There is a contrast being made in this chapter between this temple that is “trampled by the Gentiles” and the heavenly temple that shall open at the coming of Christ in verse 19. The chapter begins with the earthly temple, and ends with the heavenly temple. The reason for this is that at the seventh trumpet, the heavenly temple is the earthly temple, and the earthly temple is the heavenly temple. The two have become one, and no longer is the earthly being patterned after the heavenly reality.
If we believe this temple to somehow be the ‘spiritual temple’, and all we see here is the trampling of the Christians, this not only destroys the contrast being made, but also leads us to ask some quite perplexing questions. For example, why would John need to measure the Body of Christ? And what exactly does that even mean? How could he measure the Body of Christ? What specifically does God mean when He says to measure the temple, the altar, and to count the worshipers, if the worshipers are the temple and the altar? What does it mean that only the outer court is given to the Gentiles? Are there a specific people who are the “outer court” in the Body of Christ?
That this is a literal temple cannot be denied, but it does also cause us some complication. For they who claim a future fulfillment of this prophecy (as I do, and as I believe that John did), this brings about a tremendous premonition. Here we have a direct prophecy of a third temple in Jerusalem that will be trampled down for a third time by the Gentiles. Solomon’s temple was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar. Herod’s temple was destroyed by Titus. Now this temple will also be destroyed by some Antichrist ruler. It might very well be that at the end of Isaiah, the prophet wrote concerning this very moment, “For a little while your people possessed your holy place, but now our enemies have trampled down your sanctuary” (Isa 63:18).
This would align with what we see in Daniel, though. There will be 2,300 evening and mornings between the time that the sacrifices begin and the sanctuary is restored (Dan 8:13-14). The context is explicit in Daniel. The prophet is not talking about the time that the desolation occurs until the restoration, but from the moment of the sacrificing to the restoration. This would imply that Israel will possess the temple for only long enough to build the altar and begin sacrificing for about 3 years before it will be trampled upon and they will be scattered again through the nations. That fits perfectly with the futurist view that the last seven years will consist of Israel rebuilding the temple, and then halfway through this time that temple is desolated.
With this explained, we see what I’ve said from all along: the focus is upon Jerusalem. This second verse would actually give us credence to believing that Luke 21:24 is speaking of a future time, and not merely 70 A.D. Once again, it is incredibly simple to see the connections, and I don’t balk at the preterist for seeing those connections. My contention is in their assumption that the connections mean a historical interpretation. Because Jesus was ‘obviously’ talking about 70 A.D. the author of Revelations must also be writing about 70 A.D. The problem is that it isn’t obvious, and from what I can tell through the general scope of Scripture we are looking for a future fulfillment.
The holy city is thus Jerusalem, even though that wording is ‘only’ used for the New Jerusalem (21:2, 10). This term is not used to call Jerusalem holy, for at this time we will find in Revelation 17 that she is being called a prostitute, but to once again remind the reader of the parallel between heaven and earth. At Sinai there was smoke and fire, and in the Tabernacle we find the altar of incense and menorah. At Sinai there was an altar; outside of the Tabernacle there was the altar. In the wilderness the Israelites were fed by manna; in the Tabernacle they had showbread. The Tabernacle was a traveling Sinai. Later these things were adopted to Jerusalem, where the earthly city was considered to be the city of God. Many times in the Psalms and prophets we’re not sure if they are singing of the earthly city or the heavenly reality called “Zion”, or if they are somehow the same.
The trampling comes from Luke 21:24, which comes from Daniel 8:9-13. We can also see Isaiah 63:18, where we asserted that the short three years is that “little time” that they possess the sanctuary, and Psalm 79:1, which most likely speaks of the Babylonian siege. The 42 months appears both here and in 13:5. When speaking about the wicked, we read of the 42 months, but the righteous are spoken of with specificity: 1,260 days. However, 12:14 is a literal translation of Daniel 7:25, 12:7. Here the author wants to make no mistake about what he is saying. These are all the same measurement of time, but he wants you to know the context comes directly from Daniel, and not from Jesus alone.
This is crucial, because many have translated Daniel as being Antiochus Epiphanes. This is impossible considering that Jesus claimed this to be a future event, and now John is also claiming the same. It also causes us to reconsider the whole of Daniel in light of what John is saying. If John fully expected the fulfillment of Daniel’s prophecies to be future to him, then it doesn’t matter if he is writing before or after 70 A.D. It is still future. Titus never came to an end supernaturally, as Daniel explicitly predicts. Neither did Vespasian, nor Domitian, nor Nero come to a supernatural death “without human hands”. If we take seriously the details, none of it adds up.
This puts us at both excitement and awkwardness. It is exciting because we can thus conclude certain events will take place in the future, and as such, we take hope that Jesus shall return unto us. Yet, it places upon us an onus far too large to possibly lift. How can we predict the future without the Spirit of God revealing it unto us? Though the details are given quite explicitly, there are still some very rough patches that need to be worked through. Not only that, but we find many who desire to take these things and use them to promote propaganda and heresy. Yes, the blood moon is mentioned in Revelation 6, but that doesn’t necessitate that we should be searching for blood moons. If we’re looking for blood moons, our head is in the sand and we don’t even know it.
To get back to the 42 months, I wanted to end with a peculiar similarity. In Luke 4:25 and James 5:17, we read that Elijah caused drought to last for 3 ½ years. This is rather startling considering that when we pick up in the two witnesses we will find one of them to “be Elijah”. This man’s life is somehow a pattern for the end times, more than we can even currently know. This is what Malachi prophesies as well. Before the coming of the Lord – specifically, the Day of the Lord – Elijah must come (Mal 4:5). Jesus’ first appearing doesn’t fully express the Day of the Lord as sought by the prophets. Thus, we expect another “Elijah” to come – just like John the Baptist came in those shoes.