Revelation 10 revealed that when the seventh trumpet sounded the things spoken by the prophets would be fulfilled. The book of Revelation has shown us partial judgments occurring against a nation for its sins. Chapter 9 revealed the Roman Empire being unleashed by Satan to be the instrument of this destruction. Chapter 10 showed us the angel who took an oath about this disaster saying there would be no more delay. In Daniel 12:7 the angel said that there would be “a time, times, and half a time” before the shattering of the power of the holy people would be complete. Revelation 10 told us that this shattering would be fulfilled when the seventh trumpet sounded.
Measure The Temple (11:1)
John is instructed to measure the temple of God, the altar, and those who worship there. John is given a measuring rod to do this measuring. The image of measuring is used in a number of places in the scriptures. Sometimes the imagery is used of a plumb line as the people are measured against the standard of God’s laws.
And I will stretch over Jerusalem the measuring line of Samaria, and the plumb line of the house of Ahab, and I will wipe Jerusalem as one wipes a dish, wiping it and turning it upside down. (2 Kings 21:13 ESV)
Sometimes the imagery is used to measure those who are righteous.
And I lifted my eyes and saw, and behold, a man with a measuring line in his hand! 2 Then I said, “Where are you going?” And he said to me, “To measure Jerusalem, to see what is its width and what is its length.” 3 And behold, the angel who talked with me came forward, and another angel came forward to meet him 4 and said to him, “Run, say to that young man, ‘Jerusalem shall be inhabited as villages without walls, because of the multitude of people and livestock in it. 5 And I will be to her a wall of fire all around, declares the LORD, and I will be the glory in her midst.'” (Zechariah 2:1–5 ESV)
At the end of the book of Revelation we will see the city called New Jerusalem, representing the people of God, being measured.
And the one who spoke with me had a measuring rod of gold to measure the city and its gates and walls. 16 The city lies foursquare, its length the same as its width. And he measured the city with his rod, 12,000 stadia. Its length and width and height are equal. 17 He also measured its wall, 144 cubits by human measurement, which is also an angel’s measurement. (Revelation 21:15–17 ESV)
In Ezekiel 40:3 the prophet Ezekiel sees a vision of a person with a measuring reed in his hand. He is measuring the new temple of God and Ezekiel is to prophesy about the coming glory of the new temple.
The temple in the New Testament represents the true, holy people of God. In Revelation 3:12 we read that those who conquer will be made “a pillar in the temple of my God. Never shall he go out of it.” Paul also repeatedly taught that the people of God are God’s temple.
Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? (1 Corinthians 3:16 ESV)
What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, “I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. (2 Corinthians 6:16 ESV)
This is one of the great interpretative failures of those who take a futurist method of interpretations to the book of Revelation. They see the images of the temple in Ezekiel 40-48 and Revelation 11 and declare that a physical temple will have to be rebuilt one day to fulfill these prophecies. They fail to see that what Ezekiel prophesied had found its fulfillment through Christ and being joined to him.
So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. (Ephesians 2:19–21 ESV)
Christ is the cornerstone of this temple. The apostles and prophets are the foundation of the temple. We are being built into the holy temple of the Lord. We should not think that only a small group of Christians see this temple as a spiritual temple to the Lord. Even the Qumran community, those who wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls, also spiritualized Ezekiel’s temple. They declare the temple in Jerusalem as an apostate, false temple and considered themselves the true spiritual temple (1QS 5:5-6; 8:4-10; 9:3-6; 11:7ff; CD 3:19-4:6; 4QFlor 1:2-9). They even used measurement imagery to describe the security of this temple (1QH 6:26).
Therefore, we read about the temple of God in Revelation 11:1 we are reading about the true people of God. They are measured for protection from spiritual harm. As we have already seen in the book and will see again later in this chapter, the measuring cannot mean that they will not be killed. The seals have revealed that the servants of God would be killed but their salvation is secure even if they die. The measuring of the worshipers is a guarantee that they are members in the heavenly spiritual temple no matter what happens to them on the earth.
Trample The Holy City (11:2)
Notice that John is instructed not to measure the court outside the temple. The reason is that the court outside the temple has been given over to the nations and the nations will trample the holy city for 42 months. If the temple of God is a reference to the servants of God, God’s holy people, then the holy city cannot be spiritualized to also mean the holy people of God. The holy city must be a reference to the physical city of Jerusalem. To be more accurate, the holy city represents the physical nation of Israel. The nation of Israel is coming under God’s judgment but the true people of God (the temple) is spiritually preserved.
This interpretation fits what we have seen in Revelation 9-10. In chapter 9 we saw the locusts, which the scriptures use to represent a world power/nation destroying another nation, being unleashed against a nation. The world power at the time of the writing of the book of Revelation is the Roman Empire. Chapter 10 showed that the angel promised that the power of the holy people would be shattered, referring to the Jewish nation (Daniel 12:1,7). Revelation 10:6-7 shows the angel saying that there would no longer be any delay for this national judgment. Chapter 11 clearly reveals that the city of Jerusalem, symbolizing the nation of Israel is destined for national judgment. Revelation 6:12-17 predicted lights out for the nation. Now we know the nation is the Jewish nation. The Jewish nation will be given over to the Roman Empire for judgment.
The writers of the scriptures also made this distinction between the true people of God and the physical nation of Israel. Paul made this distinction in Galatians 4:21-31. Hagar represents Mount Sinai and physical Jerusalem (Galatians 4:24-25). Sarah represents the Jerusalem from above who are the children of promise (Galatians 4:26,28). Paul distinguishes the physical nation from the spiritual people of God. The writer of Hebrews makes the same distinction. In Hebrews 12:18-29 the writer contrasts Mount Sinai with Mount Zion. Zion represents the new covenant and heavenly Jerusalem. Mount Sinai represents the old covenant and the physical nation. Notice the writer’s point:
This phrase, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of things that are shaken—that is, things that have been made—in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain. (Hebrews 12:27 ESV)
The physical nation, Mount Sinai and the old covenant, are the things shaken. These things were going to be removed so that the things that cannot be shaken, Mount Zion and the new covenant, the heavenly Jerusalem, can remain.
The trampling of the holy city by the nations occurs in one other place in all the scriptures. Jesus said these words to his disciples.
“But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation has come near. 21 Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, and let those who are inside the city depart, and let not those who are out in the country enter it, 22 for these are days of vengeance, to fulfill all that is written. 23 Alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days! For there will be great distress upon the earth and wrath against this people. 24 They will fall by the edge of the sword and be led captive among all nations, and Jerusalem will be trampled underfoot by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.” (Luke 21:20–24 ESV)
Notice that Jesus spoke of the same event, the destruction of Jerusalem and the judgment of the physical nation of Israel, in the same terms that is revealed to the apostle John in Revelation 11:2. We must be reading about the same event in Revelation 11:2.
42 Months (11:2)
One final thing to consider in our lesson is the time marker. The trampling of the holy city is going to take place for 42 months. It is certainly fascinating that the time of the invasion of the Roman Empire against Judea was approximately three and a half years. But we cannot begin to take some numbers literally and some figuratively simply because we want one number to be literal and another to be figurative. We must keep with our interpretation model given to us in the first three verses in chapter 1. The book was put into symbols and we must take the numbers as symbolic unless something in the text demands otherwise. For example, there are seven actual churches in Asia because each city is named. All other numbers has been symbolic. The same is true concerning the 42 months. This is especially the case because the same time marker is used repeatedly in scriptures to describe different events. We read in Daniel 12 about “a time, times, and half a time” where a time equals one year. Therefore, “a time, times, and half a time” represents three and a half years. We read in Revelation 11:2 about a 42 month time frame. Revelation 11:3 speaks of 1260 days which is also 42 months. Three and a half is half of seven, and seven represents perfection. Notice that when three and half years, 42 months, or 1260 days is declared, it is referring to a time of distress, tribulation, persecution, or destruction.
Notice in Daniel 12:7 that the time, times, and half a time refers to the time of the shattering of the power of the holy people. In Revelation 11:2 the trampling of the holy city is 42 months. In Revelation 13:5 we read about the beast exercising authority for 42 months. Forty-two months, 1260 days, and a time, times, and half a time all represent a limited period of time that will be full of tribulation, distress, and persecution.
We are the temple of the living God. What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, “I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. (2 Corinthians 6:16 ESV) Being the temple of the living God means that we must live pure, holy lives. We cannot be in fellowship with sinful things of this world. Being the temple of God means that we are in a relationship with the holy God who is dwelling among us. We are to be his people and we must live up to the calling of being his holy people.