The Little Book of the Revelation - Eleventh in a series
In the final verse of Chapter 10 John is told he must prophesy again about many peoples and nations and tongues and kings. (Rev 10:11) This instruction is given after he has eaten the booklet and developed a sour stomach.
We begin now to consider the message of the Little Book (Rev 11:1-14), verse by verse.
- Rev 11:1
And there was given me a reed like unto a rod: and one said, Rise, and measure the temple of God, and the altar, and them that worship therein.
John is asked to measure his fellow Jews. Scholars generally agreed that The Revelation was written in AD 95, so the temple that John had known no longer stood— it had been destroyed by the Romans in AD 70. The temple in John’s vision with its altar, was symbolic of those Jews who continued to look to the practice of ritual in worship. Or if he saw a third temple, one not yet constructed, it was devoid of the light of the Gospel.
John saw that the Jews fell short of their prophesied renewal of heart and mind. (Ez 34:15) They did not measure up to God’s standard of enlightenment through embracing Christ’s atonement for their sin.
[An aside: In Revelation 21, an angel with a golden reed measures the new Jerusalem and it is 12,000 furlongs in enclosure, with its wall measuring 144 cubits—that number again! (Rev 21:15-18 KJV) Perhaps the wall speaks of those 144,000, the remnant who protected God’s law, who would also be protected by the Lord during the Tribulation. (Rev 12:14; Deut 32:11-12)]
John is told not to measure the outer court of the temple:
- Rev 11:2
And the court which is without the temple leave without, and measure it not; for it hath been given unto the nations: and the holy city shall they tread under foot forty and two months.
The Temple's outer courts are thus envisioned as occupied by gentiles, and beyond these courts, they tread on the holy city as well.
Herod the Great embellished the Temple Mount as a building project during the generation before Christ was born. More about Herod’s temple can be read here. A model of it is shown.
By Ranbar - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link
Perhaps John saw the Temple as he knew it, with its environs as Herod had embellished them. Herod had made it a crossroads of humanity for trading and a vacation spot for travelers, a place of international repute which some called the Eighth Wonder of the World.
If the practicing Jews fall far short of God’s standards and enlightenment, how much more deficient are those who live and reside outside of them? To try to measure their demonstrated ignorance would take a reed too long for anyone but the Lord to grasp. (Hab 3:6) Many cultural Jews reside today in the outer courts, figuratively, and they did in former generations as well. (Rev 2:9; Rev 3:9)
Who or what is in view?
Some would point out that Jerusalem today is under the rule of Jews, not gentiles. Retaking Jerusalem from the Arabs in the Six Day War of 1967 returned its governance to the Jews. So, does John’s vision portend a new turn of events for us today, where gentiles overtake Jerusalem? Or, is the Jerusalem of the Little Book a symbolic one?
Upon whom or what are these gentiles (heathens) treading for 42 months? Are they simply occupying the ‘holy city’— the city of Jerusalem in some future political turn of events? Are today's Jews to be viewed as gentiles?
Zechariah 12 states that Jerusalem ‘in that day’ (the time of the end of days) will become a burdensome stone for all people— “All that burden themselves with it shall be cut in pieces, though all the people of the earth be gathered together against it.” (Zec 12:3) This seems to state that the Jews will be in control of the ancient city at that time. This chapter also prophesies a glorious victory for the inhabitants of Jerusalem in the day when they realize Christ is Lord.
It may be significant that later in the Little Book, Jerusalem is referred to as the ‘great city which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified.’ (Rev 11:8) So, is the ‘holy city’ of verse 2 also the ‘great city’ of verse 8? Maybe not. Or, yes, and no.
In a broad sense, Jerusalem is the city of God, Zion, where all Christians are born and reside. This imagery is introduced in the Psalms:
- And of Zion it shall be said, This and that man was born in her: and the highest himself shall establish her. (Ps 87:5)
Paul speaks of two Jerusalems, one on earth still in bondage with her children (Gal 4:24-25), that is, those measured by John in the Temple or perhaps in the outer courts, who adhere to the covenant of Mount Sinai, and one above which is free, the mother of the children of the promise. (Gal 4:26-28) In the Little Book both Jerusalems, their inhabitants, are in view.
We had read that the ‘peoples, tongues, nations and tribes’ had emerged from the great tribulation in Revelation 7. We will also read in the Little Book that ‘the people and kindreds and tongues and nations’ hate the people of God. (Rev 11:9) A dilemma of language is in play. Yet, this confusion of groups may assist to contrast the Jerusalem that is trodden under by gentiles (Rev 11:2) with the Jerusalem that is a holy city. Those in bondage despise those who are free. This points us to a view of Jerusalem as a symbol that is a duality.
In Posts 5 and 6 two groups were described, and a contrast was drawn between the Jews and the Christians, with the Jews having a mark from God to protect them, but the Christians would not need such a mark, for they are already marked for security by the blood of the lamb.
But would this special relationship denoted by ‘the blood’ protect them from persecution? Their security in the Lord prevented them from going to hell, but did it prevent them from dying as martyrs?
Were they not the witnesses that the Jews needed to see, to understand what it means to be saved?
We will consider the portion of Scripture that describes the two witnesses in the next post.