Measurements

MEASUREMENTSI was given a reed like a measuring rod and was told, “Go and measure the temple of God and the altar, and count the worshipers there. But exclude the outer court; do not measure it, because it has been given to the Gentiles. They will trample on the holy city for 42 months. (Revelation 11:1-2)

Measuring the Temple – John is likely using the Jerusalem temple as
an illustration. Though the temple was probably destroyed (by Titus in 70 AD) by the time John wrote the Apocalypse, it had previously functioned as the ultimate gathering place for the people of God.(1) Many believe that a new temple will be constructed that will enable orthodox Jews to once again offer sacrifices in accordance with Mosaic Law during the first half of the seven-year period known as Daniel’s 70th week. At the beginning of the 42-month (see below) Great Tribulation, however, the sacrifices are expected to stop. The rebuilt temple will be desecrated (abomination of desolation) and become a shrine for the world ruler (the anti-Christ) of the Great Tribulation who will put an idol in it and proclaim himself to be God (Daniel 9:27; 12:11; 2 Thessalonians 2:4; Revelation 13:14–15).(2)

Measuring is suggestive of God’s protection on the people located within the measured area (see Zechariah 2:1–5; Ezekiel 40–42). Their preservation from spiritual harm recalls the sealing activity of Revelation 7, where the 144,000 are protected prior to the opening of the seventh seal, the unleashing of the trumpet judgments, and the release of the demonic forces (Revelation 9:4). The courtyard outside of the temple refers to the court of the Gentiles, the designated space for non-Jews visiting the temple. Gentiles who ventured beyond its confines into the holy place risked death if caught. Contrasted with those who worship in the sanctuary, the Gentiles here represent unbelievers, upon whom judgment is coming.(3) To measure something can also mean to claim it. Though the forces of Satan have taken over the Jewish temple, Christ will claim it again and restore it to His people.(4)

Measuring the Remaining Time – This period appears in three forms in the apocalyptic literature: 1) forty-two months (Revelation 13:5); 2) twelve-hundred and sixty days (Revelation 11:3, Revelation 12:6); 3) a time, times half a time, or three and a half years (Daniel 7:25; 12:7).(5) Negative references to persecution and the activity of Satan and the two beasts are consistently called “42 months” (Revelation11:2; 13:5), whereas positive references to the sustaining hand of God or the prophetic testimony of His two witnesses are called “time, times and half a time” (Revelation 12:14), or “1,260 days” (Revelation 11:3; 12:6).(6)

Some spiritualize the 42-month length of the Great Tribulation. Others believe it should be taken as a literal period, as confirmed by the 1,260 days of Revelation 11:3, which are 42 months of 30 days each. From this it may also appear that “the times of the Gentiles” (Luke 21:24) will not end until the second coming of Christ to the earth to set up His kingdom. Though Jews may possess Jerusalem temporarily, as they recently have, they will lose possession of it in the Great Tribulation.

Still others believe that the 42 months refer to the first half of Daniel’s 70th week (Daniel 9:27). While it is not totally clear, the evidence surrounding this passage in Revelation seems to refer to the final three and one-half years. This also seems to be confirmed by the fact that in the first half of the last seven years the Jews will actually possess the city of Jerusalem and worship in their temple, whereas here the context indicates that this is the period when Gentiles will “trample on the Holy City,” with the consequent ill treatment of the Jews (once again) and desecration of the temple for a third time (the first Temple by Antiochus Epiphanes, the second Temple by Titus and a future rebuilt Temple by the anti-Christ).(7)

Measuring Spiritual Condition – From a figurative perspective, measuring is often a reference to evaluating spiritual condition. Some have taken the temple as a reference to the Church and that much like the seven churches were evaluated earlier, the end-time Church is being measured, “having a form of Godliness but denying its power (2 Timothy 3:5)”

Next Up – Two Witnesses’ Ministry.

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References

  1. Barry, J. D., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Mangum, D., & Whitehead, M. M. (2012). Faithlife Study Bible (Re 11:1). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.
  2. Walvoord, John F. (1985). Revelation. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 2, p. 955). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
  3. Barry, J. D., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Mangum, D., & Whitehead, M. M. (2012). Faithlife Study Bible (Re 11:1). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.
  4. Wiersbe, W. W. (1992). Wiersbe’s expository outlines on the New Testament (p. 827). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
  5. Vincent, M. R. (1887). Word studies in the New Testament (Vol. 2, p. 517). New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons.
  6. Dockery, D. S., Butler, T. C., Church, C. L., Scott, L. L., Ellis Smith, M. A., White, J. E., & Holman Bible Publishers (Nashville, T. . (1992). Holman Bible Handbook (p. 799). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.
  7. Walvoord, John F. (1985). Revelation. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 2, p. 955). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

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