SYNOPSIS: The sanctuary is “measured” in preparation for the prophetic ministry of the Two Witnesses – Revelation 11:1-2.
The saints are now represented with an image that is based on the ancient Tabernacle erected in the Wilderness, not on the Temple building in the city of Jerusalem. The image of the sanctuary and altar used throughout the book of Revelation is, likewise, based on the Tabernacle, not the Temple. The features in this next image are derived from that wilderness Tabernacle. Compare the following passages:
- (Revelation 11:19) – “And the sanctuary of God which is in heaven was opened, and the ark of his covenant in his sanctuary appeared, and there came to be lightnings, and voices, and thunderings, and an earthquake, and great hail.”
- (Revelation 13:6) – “And he opened his mouth for blasphemy against God, to blaspheme his name and his tent — them who in heaven were tabernacling.”
- (Revelation 15:5) – “And after these things I saw, and the sanctuary of The Tent of Witness in heaven was opened.”
- (Revelation 21:3) – “And I heard a loud voice out of the throne, saying — Lo! the tent of God is with men, and he will tabernacle with them, and they shall be his peoples, and he shall be God with them.”
Moreover, the sanctuary John now sees houses the “Ark of the covenant” that was lost long before the Second Temple was built following the Babylonian Captivity (see, Revelation 11:19).
- (Revelation 11:1-2) – “And there was given unto me a reed, like unto a staff, saying — Rise, and measure the Sanctuary of God and the altar and them who are doing homage therein; and the court that is outside the Sanctuary, cast thou outside and do not measure it, because it hath been given unto the nations, and the holy city shall they tread under foot, forty and two months” – (The Emphasized Bible).
Three things are to be measured by John: The Sanctuary, the Altar, and the “Them who worship in it.” The Greek term used for “sanctuary” is naos. It refers to the inner “sanctuary” of the Tabernacle, not to the entire structure. Note well the distinction found in Revelation 15:5, “After these things I saw the sanctuary (naos) of the tabernacle (skené) of the testimony in heaven was opened.”
What John is to measure is the inner sanctum of the Tabernacle located just outside the Holy of Holies. In the ancient structure, only priests could enter this court where they made offerings and sacrifices.
The “altar” to be “measured” is the golden altar of incense seen previously at the commencement of the seven trumpets. This was the only altar found in the sanctuary of the wilderness Tabernacle; the altar of burnt offerings was in its outer court. On it, incense was offered to Yahweh in front of the veil that covered the Holy of Holies. In the book of Revelation, this “altar” is seen before God and His Throne, not in the Temple of Jerusalem (Revelation 8:3-5, 9:13, 14:18, 16:7).
In this and the following vision, the language used echoes verses from the book of Zechariah. The image of a man measuring the sanctuary alludes to Zechariah 2:1-4 where a man with a measuring line is sent “to measure Jerusalem, its breadth and its length.” An angel explained that this act demonstrated that “Jerusalem will be inhabited as villages without walls, by reason of the multitude of men and cattle in it.” In Zechariah, the measuring portrayed Jerusalem as fully populated and without walls, indicating peace.
Another “measuring” is found in the vision of New Jerusalem where an angel measures that city with a golden reed. In New Jerusalem, there is to be no temple, “for the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb are its sanctuary.” The nations and the kings of the earth are in this “city” and its gates are never shut (Revelation 21:15-27).
The description of a group, “them worshipping” in the sanctuary, refers not to men on the earth in the old Temple. This group is not accessible to any assault by the “nations.” In Revelation 13:6-7, the Beast opens its mouth to blaspheme God, his tabernacle, “even them that dwell in the heaven.” But it carries out its threats by making war on the saints on the earth (“to overcome them” – 13:7). The Beast executes his war because “authority was given to him over every nation.” If the Beast was intent on destroying any priestly company found in the sanctuary of the earthly Temple in Jerusalem, nothing would prevent him from doing so.
“The court without” refers to the outer court of the Tabernacle in which the people of Israel assembled for worship. It is “cast out,” that is, given over to be trampled by the nations. This parallels the passage from Revelation 13:6-7 where it was “given” to the Beast to war against the saints and to overcome them.
A second passage echoed here and in the next vision is Daniel 7:19-25, the “little horn” with a “mouth speaking great things” that appeared on the head of the fourth beast of Daniel’s vision. It was “exceedingly terrible with iron teeth and brass nails. It devoured, broke in pieces and trampled the residue with its feet.” This figure “made war with the saints and prevailed against them,” a clause from Daniel 7:21 that occurs several times in this section of the book of Revelation, as follows:
- (Revelation 11:7) – “And as soon as they have completed their witnessing, the wild-beast that is to come up out of the abyss will MAKE WAR WITH THEM AND OVERCOME THEM and slay them.”
- (Revelation 12:17) – “And the dragon was angered against the woman and went away TO MAKE WAR WITH THE REST OF HER SEED — with them who were keeping the commandments of God and holding the witness of Jesus; — and he stood upon the sand of the sea.”
- (Revelation 13:7) – “And it was given unto him TO MAKE WAR WITH THE SAINTS AND TO OVERCOME THEM; and there was given him authority against every tribe and people and tongue and nation.”
This “little horn” from Daniel was to prevail over the saints until “the time came that the saints possessed the kingdom.” It symbolized a kingdom that would “devour the whole earth and tread it down.”
The passage from Daniel is the source of the chronological figure now given by Revelation, that is, “forty-two months” or a “thousand two hundred and sixty days.” The “little horn” in Daniel’s vision sought “to change the times and the law, and they will be given into his hand until a time and times and part of a time.” But he lost his dominion when judgment came, then the “kingdom will be given to the people of the saints of the Most High: his kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him” (Daniel 7:25-27, Revelation 11:1-2).
This same background from Daniel is used in the vision of the Beast seen ascending from the sea. That is, the same reality is viewed from different aspects; John expects his readers to recognize the verbal links. The Beast from the sea had several heads, one of which was “smitten to death, and his death-stroke was healed.” To it was given a “mouth speaking great things and blasphemies, and authority to continue forty and two months.” This mouth blasphemed God, “his Tabernacle and them that dwell in the heaven. And it was given to him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them” (Revelation 13:1-10). The period of “forty-two months” links the present vision to the one about the Beast from the sea.
The “holy city” is not old Jerusalem in Palestine. That city is nowhere called “holy” in the book of Revelation and is, very likely, not mentioned at all. The only possible reference to Jerusalem is in the description of the corpses of the two witnesses who lay in the street of the “great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also their Lord was crucified” (Revelation 11:8).
Whatever “great city” is meant, it is not “holy” and compared to Sodom and Egypt. More likely, “great city” refers to end-time “Babylon” (compare, Revelation 11:13, 14:8, 16:19, 18:18).
Elsewhere, the “sanctuary” is seen in heaven or in New Jerusalem, not on the earth, and at the end of the seven trumpets, the sanctuary is seen “opened” in heaven (Revelation 3:12, 7:15, 11:19, 13:6, 14:15-17, 15:5-8, 16:1, 16:17, 21:22).
For the church to carry out its task and prophesy to the nations, it must be exposed to abuse by the “inhabitants of the earth” and, therefore, it is “cast out to be trampled underfoot” for forty-two months. Before its time of witness can begin, it must be “measured” to prepare the church to endure whatever the “inhabitants of the earth” will do to it. But however difficult the period may be, there will be an end to it.