Monday, February 24, 2014

REVELATION 11: 1-2 "MEASURING THE TRUE TEMPLE"

Chapters ten and eleven form an ‘interlude’ between the blowing of the 6th and the 7th trumpet. We have seen a similar pattern in Chapter 7 where the seventh chapter forms an interlude between the breaking of the 6th and seventh seal.  Last week we considered Chapter 10 and saw there, firstly, the mighty angel announcing the inevitability of God’s judgment on the earth. Secondly, we saw that John was given a little scroll to eat (i.e. to internalize) and to speak its contents - to prophesy about many peoples and nations and languages and kings (10:11).
Now in Chapter 11, which at face value is not the easiest to understand, two things happen before the 7th trumpet is finally blown in 11:15.

(i)                John is given a measuring rod to measure the temple of God and the altar and those who worship there. In this process He must exclude the court outside  the temple
(ii)              John is given insight into the work of two mysterious witnesses, who are killed by the beast arising from the bottomless pit, but who are miraculously resurrected by God after 3 ½ days.

Whatever we do not yet  understand about  this 11th Chapter, I want to remind you that the book of Revelation  is essentially  the Revelation of Jesus Christ (1:1)  given  for the comfort  of  the church in tribulation. We have said this number of times and we say it again:  The Lord Jesus Christ is in charge of history!  Therefore do not fear about that which is happening or that which is about to happen.

Today, we only have enough time to consider the first 2 verses.  Here, John is given a measuring rod and he is told to do two things:

(i)                He is told to measure the temple of God (Gr. naos) and the altar and he is told to count the worshippers there.
(ii)              He is told to ignore the outer court of the temple and the holy city. These, he is told have been given to the nations (gentiles) to be trampled upon for 42 months.

We shall see then in the first place in the scheme of things to come that the temple alone will remain undefiled, while the outer court of the temple and the Holy city will have been surrendered to the nations/ gentiles.  The question now arises:  What is the meaning of the temple and the outer court and the holy city? Must we understand the temple in a literal sense, as it stood until 70 A.D. when it was destroyed by the Romans, or must we understand it in a symbolic sense? What temple was John to measure?  At this point he could not have literally gone and measured the temple in Jerusalem. Firstly, he was on the island of Patmos (1:9) far away from the temple. But more significantly, there was no temple to measure, because the temple was destroyed in AD 70,   and John received this  revelation  around AD  95 when the temple   had been destroyed already for 20 -25  years! So, what temple are we speaking about? 
I will argue for John being called to measure a spiritual temple - the church,   although some who would not agree with this view.

One view (let us call them the literalists) maintains that at this time at which John sees this vision, the church is already taken out of the world and in heaven. This view holds to the rapture theory, namely that the church is taken out of the world, before what they call, the great tribulation.  This view believes that the call of John in 4:1 “to come up here…”   is synonymous with the rapture of the church to heaven. In effect this means  that everything  after Chapter 4 becomes irrelevant for the church , and therefore everything from  4:1 is  considered  to be still in the future ,since clearly, the church has not yet been caught up to heaven!  Literalists maintain that when the church is taken out of the world, the Lord will resume His work among the Jews, and at this time the temple will be restored. The Jews shall be converted in a large scale and they shall worship again   on Mt. Moriah where presently a Mosque is located. Some maintain that the sacrificial system will resume. At this time, they say, the Anti- Christ shall capture the Holy City and take possession of the outer court. The sanctuary (the temple proper) will be spared, and out of this sanctuary will come the two witnesses who are killed by the beast from the abyss.

I   cannot go along with this interpretation for a number of reasons. With respect to the theory of the rapture of the church before the great tribulation, there is no explicit teaching of this in Scripture.[1]  All indications are that all true believers will persevere in the midst of tribulation, because God keeps them.  Jesus taught us that in this world we will have tribulation (John 16:33).  The comfort lies in the fact that in Christ we need not fear what Satan or man may do to us. This will be true until the second coming of the Lord. Even the martyrs who die for the sake of Christ   are safe with Jesus (6:9-11).
Furthermore, in the entire New Testament we find no mention made of the future of a physical temple being built again in Jerusalem. Jesus spoke of the destruction of the temple (Matt.  24:1,2) but never of the rebuilding of   such a temple. The temple had served its purpose. In the death of Christ the sacrificial system has become obsolete. Jesus, the Lamb of God has died once and for all times.[2]  Now the apostle Paul speaks of the New Testament church as the temple of God, which he calls ‘a spiritual temple’ (1 Cor.  3:16; 2 Cor.  6:16; Eph. 2:20-22).  In a similar way, the holy city is never mentioned in the literal or physical sense. Paul only speaks of the “Jerusalem that is above … which is our mother.” (Gal. 4:25, 26). The writer to the Hebrews speaks of the ‘heavenly Jerusalem’.  

John in the Revelation does not have a literal temple or city in mind. In 3:12   the Lord Jesus, speaking to the church in Philadelphia says: “The one who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God. Never shall he go out of it, and I will write on  him  the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem  which comes down from my God out of heaven…”. Needless to say that neither a literal pillar nor a literal temple nor a literal city is envisaged here.  The holy city spoken of in Rev 21:2 is said “to come down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband” is a picture of the church. We know from numerous N.T.  Passages that the church is the bride of Christ![3]

A SYMBOLIC INTERPRETATION REQUIRED

The New Testament  temple  is not made up out of physical stones, but out of ‘living stones’  (1 Peter 2:5) : The language is deliberate : ”… you yourself like living stones  are being built  up  as a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ .”   This is the true temple to be, the true church in which the Lord Jesus lives by His Spirit. It is this temple   then that John is required to measure!  Let’s try to see this all in New Testament perspective:

Jerusalem – the city in  its broadest sense   is the  representation  of the N.T. manifestation of the entire church, that  includes  all nominal Christians  in the same way in which all the citizens of Jerusalem  in O.T. times were all  citizens of Israel. Within this great city of the nominal Christian world we may   find three classes of people. You will recognize them:  

(i)      The false church: these are the people that call themselves “Christian” simply because they are not Muslim, Hindu or Buddhist. This is a church without a message.  She keeps Christmas with Santa Claus and Easter bunnies, but there is no message about sin and the corporate guilt of mankind before God. There is no message about the importance of Christ’s death on the cross. There is no message of redemption.  There is no spiritual power and therefore there is no practical difference between her people and the non- Christian people in her society. 

(ii)    The show church:  This is the church of the outer court. She seems to be orthodox in her confessions. She says that she believes in the great central Christian truths. She has a reputation of being alive, but she is dead (see Sardis in Rev. 3:1). Her members go to church. They say that they worship there, but in reality they never enter into the holy of holies. 

(iii)   The true church:  This is the assembly of the true people of God. They worship in the holy of holies at the altar of Christ’s sacrifice.

So then, these are   the three distinctions that existed in old Jerusalem: the city, the outer court, and the temple. These three distinctions exist in the modern world:  the broad church, the show church and the true church.  Now, John is called to measure only the inner sanctuary of the temple (the naos) where the true worshippers worshipped.

THE MEASURING AND ITS MEANING:

John was to measure the size of the true church. He must measure the size of Christ’s true spiritual body on earth. The outer court and the city are given to the nations (gentiles) to be trampled upon.
We are thus reminded that we must not expect all of Christianity to be counted. Worldly Christians and hypocritical Christians do not count in God’s eyes as sheep. Jesus reserved very strong and stern words for these (Matt 7:21-23). God is never confused about the destiny of false Christians, who in truth undermine the message of the gospel, who are in reality “enemies of the cross of Christ” (Philippians 3:18). They have trampled upon the truth.
And so a time is coming when the false church and the show church will no longer act as hypocrites and pretenders. They will   become what they are. Remember,   that this is the time before the 7th trumpet shall sound. The 7th angel will soon announce it (10:7 --> 11:15). At this time these false Christians (some of whom we thought that they were church members), will begin to show themselves as enemies of the true church and of Christ. I do not need to remind you that within the history of the church some of the worst persecutors of the true church have been those who were ‘religious’.

As to the 42 months (v.2), given here as the time frame in which all this must happen, it is the same as the 1260 days (v.3) or the time, and times and a half a time (12:14)[4]. Where does this period fit in?  It covers the time between Christ’s ascension and His descension. These 1260 days are symbolic of the entire period in which we are now in fact living. For 42 months the true temple, the true church shall have to endure the false church and the hypocritical show church.  During this time, John tells us, the  spirit of the anti- Christ will be  at work  and in the very last days before Christ’s coming  he shall openly reveal himself, and publicly and intentionally trample upon the church ,  as he has in fact  done undercover all the time. The persecution of the church will increase before the second coming of Christ.

So in our days much of what   appears to be Christian is given to the nations / gentiles. Note, it is given! God allows this, and history is not in the hands of evil principalities! It is providentially allowed by God. These things must be.  So, do not be surprised, do not be afraid. Remember that the power of the anti- Christ has been limited. Satan is on a leash. And in the darkest night, when it seems that the anti-Christ has extinguished the light of the church, the mighty Christ will cut his days short, and execute judgment. But more about that next time ….
AMEN!




[1] Some maintain  that  text like  1 Thessalonians 4:13-17  and  Matthew 24:40,41  teach  the  rapture  of the church, but a close examination of both these texts  will  confirm that this is in reference to the  coming of the Lord in His final judgment  when he separates the sheep from the goats
[2] Hebrews 7:27; 9:26,28;  10:10,14
[3] Matt 9:15; 25:1-10; Jn.  3:29; Rev  21:9
[4] See also Daniel 7:25; Rev 12:6; 13:5.  3 ½  years = 42 months= 1260 days

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