The Protected and Measured Temple
Last week we covered an entire chapter of Revelation in one night, but we won’t be able to do that this week.
It is tempting to tackle the second half of this interlude all at once, but I believe the first couple of verses of chapter 11 require us to deal with them separately.
The reason that we need to do this is that Revelation 11:1-2 brings us to a point of major divergence.
I put my cards on the table with you all back in September that I would be teaching through Revelation from the “Idealist Perspective.”
And I have done that.
I have taught Revelation as a book that is not so much chronological, but a book showing you the same events from seven different perspectives in seven different cycles.
I have taught it with the understanding that much of what we see in the book is happening right now.
I have taught it as being a picture book that is filled with images requiring us to go back to the Old Testament in order to understand their meaning.
And I have taught it as a book that can be understood with just that—your Old Testament in hand.
While some diagrams might be helpful, we don’t need charts and timelines
We need the same thing that the original audience in Asia Minor needed—the Holy Spirit and our Old Testament
This idealist perspective is quite different from the futurist and preterist perspective.
The futurist perspective, which includes the popular Left Behind view, otherwise known as dispensationalism, sees most of the book as occuring in the future.
The preterist perspective sees much of the book as being fulfilled in 70 AD.
I don’t think we have too many preterists in the room tonight. Maybe a couple.
But I know we have plenty of futurists. And I hope you have noticed that I haven’t argued with you much. I don’t have interest in arguing about whether or not the Left Behind view is correct.
If we get to the end of this study and you all understand Revelation from the Idealist Perspective, disagree with it, but gleaned a bunch of great knowledge and application along the way—praise God!
If we get to the end of this study and you have been convinced that this is the correct way to understand Revelation, and you also gleaned a bunch of knowledge and application along the way—praise God!
Dr. John MacArthur has had as much of an influence in how I teach and preach and think about the Bible as anyone on earth. He would say I am totally wrong because he is a futurist—a dispensationalist.
My friend Peter Hess is teaching through Revelation at Christ Fellowship in Williamsburg. He is teaching from the futurist perspective.
But then there are men from JI Packer all the way back to Augustine who would agree with my approach.
I say all of this just to remind us that this great content for learning and growing and understanding but it should not be content we fight about as Christians.
And all of that disclaimer was necessary because this point of divergence tonight is about the temple and whether or not it needs to be re-built in Jerusalem before Jesus returns.
And people get very emotional about this because it touches politics and it can impact how we view the physical nation of Israel.
And since this can be an emotionally charged issue, I wanted to take time with it.
And I also think that these two verses have an incredible application that you can get excited about whether or not you agree with the Idealist approach in understanding these verses.
A little reminder of the context.
We are getting toward the end of the third of seven cycles in Revelation.
The first used the seven churches of Asia Minor to show us how things would be until Jesus returns and how the church will be rewarded if she remains faithful.
The second used the seven seals to show us what history would be like until Christ returns.
Now the third cycle uses the seven trumpets to do the same thing.
We have seen six of the seven trumpets.
We are now in this interlude which takes place in chapter 10 and the first half of chapter 11.
In chapter 10, the interlude served to show how this is the final reprieve. This time in between the 6th and 7th trumpets is the final opportunity to repent.
John is to eat the scroll, internalize the message himself and then take it to the nations and tell them
In chapter 11, we are going to see how the church goes about being a witness for Christ during this time in between the 6th and 7th trumpets.
How we will proclaim and we will also suffer.
Let’s pick up the passage in chapter 11 and read the first two verses.
Then I was given a measuring rod like a staff, and I was told, “Rise and measure the temple of God and the altar and those who worship there, but do not measure the court outside the temple; leave that out, for it is given over to the nations, and they will trample the holy city for forty-two months.
THE VIEWS & THE TEMPLE
THE VIEWS & THE TEMPLE
Part of the reason I wanted to take time with this is because I don’t want to just teach the Idealist View tonight.
I don’t have the time to give every view on every verse of Revelation.
I also think that would make for a miserable sermon series.
You want me to preach, so I am preaching from the perspective that seems to make the most sense to me.
However, at a major point of divergence like this, I think it is worth it to stop and parse out the views. So I will do that tonight since these verses can be so controversial.
Let me actually start with the view that I think most of us have little interest in. That is the Preterist View.
Many Preterists read this and say that all of this is about the destruction of the temple in 70 AD.
I won’t spend too much time on it, but I will say that in order to believe that, you have to believe that John wrote all of Revelation before 70 AD and that Revelation is mainly about the church suffering under Nero.
He reigned from from 54 to 68 AD.
The problem with that view is that the early church uniformly agreed that Revelation was written after 90 AD.
And we haven’t really discovered any reason to disagree with them.
So I don’t think we need to spend too much time dealing with that view, but I do think we should stop and deal with the Futurist view.
First of all, let’s remember that there are two types of futurists.
There are dispensationalists, who see two separate plans of salvation for Israel and the church.
Then there are historical/classic premillennialists who do not believe there are two programs of salvation.
They would see the Church as THE New Covenant people of God, filled with Jews and Gentiles
And a historic/classic premillennialist would actually agree with me on the interpretation of this passage. They would NOT on Revelation 20. We will get there later this year—Lord willing.
They would disagree with the Futurist Dispensational view or the Left Behind View.
This text is speaking about three areas—the temple, the altar and the outer court.
The dispensational view sees this as a literal building that will be constructed in the future.
This refers to the Holy of Holies and the Holy Place, not the entire temple complex. A rebuilt temple will exist during the time of the Tribulation. -John MacArthur
This belief is very much connected to the idea that when God speaks about Israel, he means Israel and not the church.
When He speaks about the church, He is talking about the church and not Israel.
And in light of that, since the two are separate bodies, God is doing different and unique things for each.
That is why I say that dispensationalism sees two fundamentally different programs of salvation in how God is dealing with Israel and the church.
Dispensationalists argue that the temple that John is measuring in chapter 11 is a literal building that will be rebuilt on Mount Zion at some point in the future by a re-constituted Israelite state.
As of right now, the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa mosque are occupying that space, so if dispensationalists are correct, those structures will have to be destroyed and then replaced by a Jewish temple before Jesus comes back.
Here is Joel Beeke talking about this:
When the Jewish state of Israel was established in 1948, and when Jerusalem was captured by Israel in the Six Day War of 1967, dispensationalists viewed these events as signs of the imminent return of Jesus Christ. This is one reason why the futurist view became popular among many evangelicals in the 20th century.
I am not convinced that John is measuring a literal temple in this text. And for me that has to do with the context of Revelation, as well as what the temple means in the Bible as a whole.
The first temple you really see in the Scriptures is Eden.
I say that because Eden shows us worship before the Fall.
God in perfect relationship with His creation—in particular with Adam and Eve, pouring out joy upon them as they obey Him.
Adam and Eve serving God without the stain of sin.
But after being ousted from Eden, we see God using the tabernacle to dwell among His people.
And let them make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell in their midst. Exactly as I show you concerning the pattern of the tabernacle, and of all its furniture, so you shall make it.
And then, Solomon was allowed by God to do that which his father David longed to do—he built a permanent temple. A permanent place for the people to meet with God.
In the four hundred and eightieth year after the people of Israel came out of the land of Egypt, in the fourth year of Solomon’s reign over Israel, in the month of Ziv, which is the second month, he began to build the house of the Lord.
In the building of the tabernacle and the temple, the people of God were seeking to recover what was lost in Eden—a place to joyfully serve and worship God
A place to rest in the reality that we are His people and He is our God.
But when Christ comes, He fulfills and replaces the temple, because as God, He is dwelling with man.
John 1:14 says
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
The Greek word for dwelt literally means “To shelter with,” or “to tabernacle with.”
And Christ not only fulfills the temple, but fulfills the sacrificial system and brings it to and end.
You see both of these realities in Hebrews 9—Christ as the fulfillment of the tabernacle, and by extension the temple, and Christ as the fulfillment of the sacrificial system.
But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.
And then, what have we seen in Luke on Sundays? We see that the resurrected Christ ascends to heaven and leaves the church with the gift of the Holy Spirit.
And as the Spirit dwells in the church, the church becomes the temple of God.
For it is now in the body of Christ, that God dwells with man and man dwells with God.
And one day, Christ will return and the whole of creation will the temple. That is what we see in Revelation 21-22…Eden is restored in the new heavens and the new earth.
So as Jim Hamilton says:
The goal of this whole trajectory is not a rebuilt temple in Jerusalem, but a day when the whole of creation will be like the Holy of Holies in the new heavens and new earth.
It should be noted that Hamilton is not an Idealist. He is a Futurist—just not a dispensationalist.
But summing that up, I think when you look at this passage within the context of Revelation, where so much is symbolic, and when you understand the temple’s purpose in the Bible as a whole, that we do not need to be concerned with a rebuilt temple in Jerusalem.
There are other reasons that I hold this conviction as well, and I’d like to share them so that if you are mad, you fully know what you are mad at. Or on the other hand, if you are agreeing, you fully know what you are agreeing with.
First of all, Jesus does not predict a rebuilt temple in His Olivet Discourse, but He does predict a destroyed temple.
It seems like He would have said it because He is talking about other things that must take place before His return.
But I am not surprised He doesn’t say it because He is making predictions about what will happen after His death.
And after His death, there is simply no purpose for a priesthood or a temple any longer.
Secondly, in 70 AD, the Lord destroyed the temple by Roman hands and this was part of the judgment that came down on Jerusalem for rejecting the Messiah and His atonement.
If the temple is destroyed in judgment because it was a symbol of Israel’s rejection Christ’s death and their insistence to keep the sacrificial system going, why would it be rebuilt?
Why would God erect a monument of Israel’s rejection as a sign of their revival?
Third, I don’t think this is about the rebuilding of the temple because Jesus had told us how New Testament worship will go down until He returns. It will not have to take place in a certain building or address.
But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”
So then what is it about? What is John measuring if it is not a literal building?
I believe it is the church. He is measuring the church to see who belongs and who does not.
In the rest of the chapter, we will see the church witnessing.
Who does that witnessing? It is those who are measured.
We get a clue that we are dealing with people and not a building because John is told to rise and measure “those who worship there.”
If we were talking in literal terms, the command to measure people would be odd.
But we aren’t. These are symbolic terms to communicate to us that God is keeping track of His people.
THE CHURCH IS THE TEMPLE
THE CHURCH IS THE TEMPLE
First of all, He is the measure the “temple.”
This refers to the church in the sense that we are the temple of the living God because of the Spirit who dwells in us.
We get this teaching from Paul and Peter in the New Testament.
Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.
built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.
Here is Peter teaching about this in his epistle:
As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
The Spirit dwells in us, just as God promised it would when He told Ezekiel of how things would be in the New Covenant:
And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.
As we receive the Spirit of God, we become living stones, stacked with the other Living Stones to make up the church of God.
Therefore, The New Testament Church is the temple of God.
Secondly, he measures the altar.
This is referring to the altar of incense, which was a sign of the priest’s devotion to God.
And that is because it is an altar that they approached daily. They would burn a combination of spices and tree resin every morning and evening.
Well as New Testament believers, the Lord has made us a priesthood.
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.
Revelation 20 says this about believers:
Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! Over such the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years.
John will measure the church as an altar and not just as a temple because the church is devoted to the Lord night and day like the priests at the altar of incense.
And in our devotion, we graciously are given full access to God by the blood of Christ.
And lastly, John is to measure the church as worshippers.
Spirit and truth worshippers.
But notice that John is not to measure the outer court.
The court outside the temple would have been the court of the Gentiles.
John is not to measure this court because these are not God’s people.
These are unbelievers.
In the Old Testament, the difference between Jew and Gentile was most often recognized in the flesh—in the mark of circumcision.
But now the question is one of whether or not the heart is circumcised.
In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses,
So now, the true Jewish person is one who has Abraham’s justifying faith and God and has a circumcised heart.
The Gentile is the person who does not believe God, rejects His Son and have a dead, uncircumcised heart.
John is not to measure the outer court because it is filled with Gentiles.
Unbelievers who do not have circumcised hearts and do not belong to the household of God.
THE TRAMPLING OF THE NATIONS
THE TRAMPLING OF THE NATIONS
So with that in mind, look in verse 2 where John says that the court outside the temple is given over the nations and that they will trample the holy city for forty-two months.
I don’t care what you believe about Revelation—things get hairy here.
And this is another place of divergence where I will not just present my understanding of the passage.
So the standard Left Behind view would be that the reference to 42 months here is a literal period of time.
But just as I believe that the temple is a symbol of God’s people, I also believe this period of time is symbolic.
And I am going to lean on Dr. Jim Hamilton heavily in my explanation here. He is a futurist. He is a historic premillenialist. He would disagree with me about my views on Revelation 20, but he agrees with me on Revelation 11...
Forty-two months is 3 and 1/2 years.
36 months = 3 years
6 months = 1/2 a year
To understand the meaning of this time period, we need to look at Daniel 9.
“Seventy weeks are decreed about your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to put an end to sin, and to atone for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal both vision and prophet, and to anoint a most holy place. Know therefore and understand that from the going out of the word to restore and build Jerusalem to the coming of an anointed one, a prince, there shall be seven weeks. Then for sixty-two weeks it shall be built again with squares and moat, but in a troubled time. And after the sixty-two weeks, an anointed one shall be cut off and shall have nothing. And the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. Its end shall come with a flood, and to the end there shall be war. Desolations are decreed.
Seventy weeks is better translated seventy sevens or seventy times seven, which is 490.
Gabriel tells Daniel that there are going to be 69 weeks from “the going out of the word to restore and build Jerusalem to the coming of an anointed one.”
If we take “the going out of the word to restore and build Jerusalem,” as the call on Nehemiah to rebuild and we take the anointed One to be Jesus, then this 69 week period is referring to the time between Nehemiah and Jesus.
Historian Harold Hoehner has even shown that if you adjust for leap years and calendar variations, there are exactly 483 years from Nehemiah to Jesus’ Triumphal Entry.
So if all this is true, Daniel 9:24 is Gabriel explaining that 70 sevens are decreed.
Daniel 9:25-26 are Gabriel explaining what will happen in the first 69 weeks.
And then in Daniel 9:27, we read:
And he shall make a strong covenant with many for one week, and for half of the week he shall put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall come one who makes desolate, until the decreed end is poured out on the desolator.”
Notice how the last week is split up.
He makes a strong covenant with many for a week.
For half of the week, he puts an end to sacrifice.
I believe this is referring to Jesus’ death where He made the final sacrifice for sin.
For half of the week, you have someone coming who makes desolate.
This is Satan. And he is causing desolation all around in this time where we are waiting on Christ to return.
So to sum up on Daniel 9...
The first 69 weeks refer to the time in between Nehemiah and Holy Week.
The 70th week refers to the time of the New Covenant
In the first half of the week, Jesus dies for us and makes atonement
The second half of the week, it is the church age. A time where the church is proclaiming the Gospel, but Satan is in the nations causing conquest, war, famine, death and the persecution of the church.
Now, bringing it back to Revelation 11:2 and the 42 months, I believe this is a reference to the last half of Daniel’s 70th week.
42 months is 3 and 1/2 years or “half of seven years.”
Each of Daniel’s weeks represents seven years, apart from the last one, which we are interpreting as a perfectly alloted period of time in which the church is witnessing and Satan is opposing us.
The trampling that is taking place in verse 2 would be a reference to that. To the persecution that comes from Satan making war against the church.
“Holy city,” in verse 2 is another reference to the church.
Just like the title of Israel now belongs to anyone who has Abraham’s faith
Just like the title Gentile now belongs to anyone who rejects faith in the Lord
Just like the term priest now refers to any believer who has access to God through Christ
Just like the term temple now refers to the church, which the Spirit dwells in
The term holy city no longer belongs to Jerusalem. Now it is an expression that refers to the people of God.
The bride who makes up the New Jerusalem
And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
How can a city be prepared for her husband unless she is a people?
This understanding of the last half of Daniel’s 70th week being the church age squares with the rest of Revelation.
Next week, we will see the two witnesses—which I will argue is the Church—and as they are prophesying for the Lord, they do it for 1260 days.
If you do the math, 1260 days = three and half years or 42 months.
It is the same period of time.
It is the 2nd half of Daniel’s 70th week where the church is a witness and the nations are responding with vitriol.
In 12:6, the people of God are nourished for 1260 days until Jesus returns—same idea
And then 12:14 says:
But the woman was given the two wings of the great eagle so that she might fly from the serpent into the wilderness, to the place where she is to be nourished for a time, and times, and half a time.
When we get to that passage, we will see that the woman is the church and she is protected from the serpent, who is Satan.
And how long is she protected? For a time, times and half a time.
This is a reference to the aforementioned numbers:
1260, 42, 3.5 years.
There were times in my sermon prep where I was sitting with seven different books open, all not in total agreement on this passage.
And I had a calculator out, crunching numbers and calculating the time in between Nehemiah and Jesus for myself.
This is a whirldwind. I know it.
My only prayer is that I sew the whirlwind and you somehow get clarity. I don’t want you to reap the whirlwind.
So to that end, allow me to summarize and do some application as we close.
John is measuring who belongs to the church.
The church is expressed in terms of temple, altar and worshippers.
John is not measuring those in the courtyard of the Gentiles.
They oppose the church and the Gospel and they are trampling the holy city, which is the church, for forty two months.
The forty-two months is a 3 and a 1/2 years.
This is a reference to the 70th of Daniel’s 70 weeks.
The first half of those 69 sevens play out between Nehemiah and Jesus.
The final week is symbolic and refers to the time in between Christ and His death for sin and His return.
The first half of that final week is Holy Week. The time in which Jesus accomplishes our salvation.
The second half of that final week is what we are presently living in.
Satan, who brings desolation, is inspiring the nations in their war against Christ and His Church.
All that from Revelation 11:1-2? Yep.
And that is what makes it such a special book.
THE CHURCH WILL NOT BE DESTROYED
THE CHURCH WILL NOT BE DESTROYED
And Even if you disagree with every interpretative decision I have made thus far in chapter 11, you will be able to rejoice in the application that I am going to lay down as we close up.
When you look into the origin story of the church, we were forged in blood, were we not?
Our Lord was crucified and it is His bloody death that we point to as our source of life.
And then as the church begins, it begins with persecution.
We see the Gospel preached and thousands coming to Christ at Pentecost, but it doesn’t take long for the religious authorities to charge the apostles to stop their preaching
When the church continues to herald the Gospel, the authorities take action and the first Christian martyr is killed in Acts 6-8.
And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep. And Saul approved of his execution. And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles.
And this has been the pattern ever since.
We preach. Some respond, but more are angry. Not just dismissive, but angry.
And Satan uses that anger to bring pain to the body of Christ. To try and trample the Bride of Jesus.
Wherever the Gospel is growing, you can check the ground and find someone who bled for that growth.
The Gospel is growing in South Korea, but check the ground and find the blood of the believers in the 1700’s who learned of Christianity in Beijing and secretly brought it back and began spreading it.
The blood of men like Kim Taegon, the first Korean to be ordained as a priest.
He was arrested and then had his head cut off three months later for his faith.
His final words were, “I leave you my kiss of love.”
We will see him in heaven.
The Gospel is growing in the Philippines, but you can check the ground and find the blood of Martin Burnham, a missionary who was taken hostage and killed for his faith by Muslim extremists in the Philippines in 2002.
Other hostages who survived say that Burnham was totally unafraid to die and spent his final days comforting the other hostages and praying for them and even trying to share the Gospel with his captors.
We will see him in heaven.
The Gospel is growing in Yorktown, VA, but you can check the ground and find the blood of thirty Baptist preachers who spent 1768-1770 in jail in Virginia because the official church of Virginia was Anglican and they would not baptize their babies.
There are more than 800 churches in our state convention and every single one of the owes a debt of gratitude to those men.
The point is that empires have come and gone. Centuries have come and gone.
And time and time again, Satan has incited violence against Christ’s church through sinful men.
And how often have those men thought they had it within their power to eradicate the Gospel?
Only to find that while you might weaken the church here and there, she will not perish.
And that is because God has guaranteed her survival and success.
And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
So the trumpets are sounding and wars are raging and opposition is all around. But until the 7th trumpet blows, the church will continue on.
And we know that because of who is caring for us.
God has John measure who the church is so that those who are measured would be cared for.
Down to the individual, he knows who we are.
And while the nations trample us and we are broken down, we are not abandoned or crushed. We are not destroyed.
The sealed saints of God will continue on in their mission as the Lord’s witness, which we will see next week.
So whether you take the numbers and images of Revelation 11 as being literal or symbolic, you can celebrate what we are gleaning from this text.
God knows His church. God dwells with His church. God will protect His church.
As we witness, Satan will rile up the nations to run us down and run us over, but the strength of Christ we will just get back up and point to Christ crucified and resurrected all over again.
We will continue on next week. Let’s pray.