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 with its altar in John’s vision was symbolic of those Jews who continued to look to the practice of ritual sacrifice 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.
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. Thus would John be grief-stricken to see the Jerusalem of his vision.
The first century Temple
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.
Who or what is in view?
If the practicing Jews fell far short of God’s standards and enlightenment, how much more deficient would those be who live 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)
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, other nations, overtake Jerusalem? Or, that the influence of heathens will be overwhelming? 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? Is ‘treading’ the same as governing?
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) That chapter also prophesies a glorious victory for the inhabitants of Jerusalem in the day when they realize Christ is Lord. Would that Jerusalem not be the geographic one?
Nevertheless, in a broad sense, Jerusalem symbolizes the city of God, Zion, where all Messianic Jews and 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)
It is 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?
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 are in view along with hateful enemies who are not in the Remnant of Israel that seems to be indicated in the 144,000.
We had read that the ‘peoples, tongues, nations and tribes’ who stood before God’s throne had emerged from the great tribulation in Revelation 7. (Rev 7:9) We will also read in the Little Book that ‘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 with the Jerusalem that is a holy city. (Rev 11:2) Those in bondage despise those who are free. This points us to a view of Jerusalem as a symbol that is a duality.
As well, there are the natural branches of the olive tree and those grafted into it, (Rom 11:17-23) that is, both the Messianic and the ‘remnant’ Jews— and the Christians. Messianic Jews and Christians are friends, but from the perspective of the end-times, the ‘remnant ’ Jews are yet the enemies of Christians, making the two a warring brotherhood, but a new day will come. Were not both ‘born in Zion?’
These groups are in a family feud. In Posts 5 and 6 they were described, and a contrast was drawn between them, 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 the Christians’ special identity denoted by ‘the blood’ protect them from persecution? Their security in the Lord prevented them from going to hell, but it did not prevent them from dying as martyrs. (Rev 6:9-11)
They were the witnesses whom 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.
And what about the enemies who are irretrievably lost souls? The ones not in the symbolic 144,000 and the reprobate gentiles? The fate of these, too, is addressed in the Revelation, but not so much in the Little Book.
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