ŇMeasure the Temple of God.Ó
Throughout the Scriptures, we are repeatedly assured of three facts: (1) Our Redeemer is in total control of the universe (John 17:2). (2.) The church and kingdom of God is safe (Matthew 16:18). And (3) the people of God will be triumphant in the end (Revelation 19:1-6).
There is a reason for these often repeated assurances. It often appears that we are losing ground, and that our defeat is inevitable. Revelation 11:1-14 assures the believer of the safety and ultimate triumph of ChristŐs church, though at times it appears that her defeat is certain. In these verses we are told what will happen during those days just before ChristŐs second coming.
Of course, the vision described in Revelation 11 is a symbolical picture. To seek, as many do, a literal interpretation of the things written in this chapter is to miss its message altogether. John was commanded to measure the temple of God (v. 1). Specifically, he was commanded to measure the sanctuary containing the holy place and the holy of holies, Ňthe altar, and them that worship therein.Ó
This temple represents the church and people of God, all those in whom Christ dwells by his Spirit. All true believers, worshipping God in spirit and truth, are measured, protected and sealed. The Lord did not command John to measure the size of the temple, as though he needed information, but simply to measure, or mark out for protection, the people of God. That is what this measuring means. Though God will inflict his judgments of wrath upon the wicked, persecuting world, his church is safe. Though GodŐs saints suffer with the world, they shall not perish with the world. GodŐs elect are protected against eternal doom.
How do we know that this is the meaning of JohnŐs vision? First, the temple of God in the Old Testament was a type of the church, which is frequently called the temple of God in the New Testament (1 Corinthians 3:16-17; 2 Corinthians 6:16-17; Ephesians 3:21). Second, the temple of God is here defined as the holy place and holy of holies, the inner sanctuary, where only the priests of God were allowed, Ňthe altar, and them that worship therein.Ó We who believe are GodŐs Ňroyal priesthood,Ó worshippers in the holy place, offering up spiritual sacrifices of prayer and praise to him through Christ Jesus (1 Peter 2:5, 9). Third, the measuring of the temple in EzekielŐs vision was for the same purpose as in this vision: The protection of GodŐs sanctuary, to separate the precious from the vile (Ezekiel 40:3-5; 22:25-26).
The outer court of the temple was not to be measured (v. 2). GodŐs special care and protection does not extend to those who are believers in name only. This Ňcourt which is without the templeÓ represents all false religion and all false professors of religion. This outer court is to be trampled under the feet of the heathen, precisely because God is determined to destroy all false religion.
The world invades the false church and possesses it. Worldly religionists welcome the ideas and principles of the world. They feel perfectly at home in the world. They are of the world; and the world loves its own. Even in the New Testament era, the true people of God were plagued with men and women in their midst who were governed and motivated by the principles and religion of the world. This condition of worldliness in the church will continue throughout the gospel age, represented by the time of 42 months.
GodŐs Two Witnesses
Many conjectures have been made as to who the two witnesses described in this chapter are. The context appears to indicate that they are another representation of the church of God. Throughout the gospel age, the church has been represented in the world by her two witnesses: pastors (elders) and evangelists (missionaries). The church functions as an organization through its pastors and missionaries, those who preach the gospel. These witnesses carry out their work for 1260 days. That is another symbolic figure. It represents a definite, long period of time, but a period of time unknown to men. This 1260 days, like the 42 months of verse 2, represents the whole gospel age, from ChristŐs ascension to his second coming.
Notice the characteristics of these two witnesses as they are represented in JohnŐs vision. First, those men who preach the gospel are, under God, the means by which his grace is bestowed upon his elect (v. 4). Like olive trees, they bring forth the oil of grace, the blessings of the Spirit, and the light of the gospel (Romans 10:13-17; 1 Peter 1:23-25). Second, GodŐs servants are under his special care and protection (v. 5). It is written, ŇTouch not mine anointed, and do my prophets no harmÓ (1 Chronicles 16:22). That which is done to ChristŐs church and his witnesses is done to him (Matthew 10:40; Acts 9:4). And, just as JeremiahŐs enemies were condemned by his word, those who oppose GodŐs kingdom today shall be condemned by the gospel we preach (2 Corinthians 2:14-16). Third, those who preach the gospel, as spokesman for Christ and his church, have power with God and power over men (v. 6; I Kings 17:1; Exodus 7:20). This power is not absolute; but it is real (Luke 10:3-12). Not only does God judge men according to the prayers of his afflicted people (Revelation 8:3-5), but he also judges them according to the gospel we preach (Matthew 16:19; John 20:21-23; Romans 2:16). Fourth, they shall finish their testimony (v. 7). GodŐs church and his servants will fulfill their mission in this world. The gospel shall be preached throughout the world (Mark 13:10; Luke 24:47). All the elect, having been redeemed by Christ, shall be brought to Christ. But this present gospel age shall come to an end. GodŐs church and his witnesses will finish their testimony (Matthew 24:14).
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