Summary of passage: John is given a reed and told to measure the temple of God and the altar and count the worshipers excluding the Gentiles who will trample the holy city for 42 months. God will give power to His 2 witnesses who will prophesy for 1, 260 days. These are the 2 olive trees and 2 lamp stands and anyone seeking to harm them will burn. These men can make it not rain, turn water to blood, and strike the earth with plague when they are prophesying.
6a) “Go and measure the temple of God and the altar…but exclude the outer court..because it has been given to the Gentiles.”
b) The holy city will be trampled for 42 months and the 2 witnesses will prophesy for 1,260 days.
7) God says, “If anyone tries to harm them, fire comes from their mouths and devours them.” They are also given the ability to make it not rain, turn water into blood, and strike the earth with plague.
8 ) Personal Question. My answer: God protects those who speak for Him and about Him. Basically, I have nothing to fear for God will deal with the Enemy.
Conclusions: Very straight-forward lesson. Love God’s blanket of protection over believers.
End Notes: We have 2 HUGE divisions in this passage:
1) The Temple (verses 1-2)
2) The Two Witnesses (verses 3-6).
We have two main sides to the interpretation of the temple: 1) A physical temple. 2) the temple is God’s people.
Some (including the futurists) believe a physical temple will be built. Some even see two temples: one during the Tribulation and one during the Millennium. They point to Ezekiel 40-43 where a temple is measured, which scholars say is the temple of the millennial earth. The temple of Revelation 11 seems to be before the temple of Ezekiel. The temple in Ezekiel is measured extensively, including the outer courts (Ezekiel 40:17-19).
The Tribulation temple will be built for sacrifices and worship (Dan.9:27). However, in this temple, God will not accept Israel’s sacrifices nor inhabit their temple (Isa.66:3,4). Moreover, according to Daniel, the Antichrist, after three and a half years, will break the treaty, subsequently overthrow Jerusalem and desecrate the temple (Dan.9:27).
The Millennium temple shall be one where God shall inhabit and fill it with His glory, and it shall be the dwelling place of the Lord (Ez.43:5-7).
Other measuring in the Bible:
In Zechariah 2 a man measures Jerusalem, a scene possibly showing God’s coming judgment on the city. In Revelation chapter 21 New Jerusalem is measured.
In the Old Testament measuring shows ownership, protection, and preservation. When Habakkuk stood and measured the earth (Habakkuk 3:6), showing that the Lord owned the earth and could do with it as He pleased. When this temple is measured, it shows that God knows its every dimension, and He is in charge.
People are measured as well as a standard of righteousness (2 Kings 21:13; Zechariah 2:1-5). The city of New Jerusalem will be measured as well (Revelation 21:15-17).
This temple of God some scholars say represents the church. Paul describes the church as a temple in Ephesians 2:19-21; 1 Corinthians 3:16; 2 Corinthians 6:16. Peter as well in 1 Peter 2:5. In the New Testament, the temple is God’s people as we saw in Revelation 3:12 with the Roman pillars. They will be measured for protection from spiritual harm. Christ is the temple in Ephesians 2:19-21.
Hence, Christ is the cornerstone, the apostles are the foundation, and believers are the temple.
Others say the temple is the abomination of desolation prophesied by Daniel (Daniel 9:27, 11:31, and 12:11), Jesus (Matthew 24:15-16 and 24:21), and Paul (2 Thessalonians 2:3-4).
The outer court or court of the Gentiles was about 26 acres in ancient times. Scholars speculate that the outer court is the modern day Dome of the Rock, the Islamic mosque that most believe now stands where the ancient Jewish temple Solomon built that was destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD was.
The holy city is Jerusalem, which some scholars say symbolizes the nation of Israel. Jesus speaks of this trampling in Luke 21:20-24.
42 months is 1260 days (42 x 30 days) which is 3 1/2 years, which correlates to the last half of the Great Tribulation as described by Daniel 11:26-27 – when the Antichrist pours out his fury on the people of Israel (Revelation 12:13-17 and Matthew 24:15-28). We will see 42 months again in Revelation (Rev 13:5). When we see it, it represents a limited time period of tribulation, distress, and persecution. Daniel says it again in Daniel 12:7.
Fun Fact: It took the Romans 3 1/2 years to conquer and sack Jerusalem in 70 AD.
Trample has the context of “with contempt” in the Greek.
If we are the temple of God as most scholars agree, then we are called to live up to that image. To be God-like and live holy lives.
The Two Witnesses
Sackcloth in the Bible shows periods of mourning and distress (Job 16:15; Esther 4:1-3; Genesis 37:34; 2 Samuel 3:31; Joel 1:13; John 3:5-6; Matthew 11:21). It is a coarse dark cloth woven from the hair of goats or camels. The 2 witnesses are mourning for the people, their sins, and the impending judgments against them.
The two olive trees and two lamp stands comes from Zechariah’s olive trees and oil lamps (Zechariah 4:2-14). Zechariah was referring to two men: Joshua and Zerubbabel empowered by the Holy Spirit.
In ancient times oil lamps were filled directly from olive trees much like gasoline is today. Here we see continual, abundant supply.
Here, we have the Law and the prophets (Elijah and Moses). Elijah and Moses bore special protection from God and were given power from God as these two witnesses will. Elijah shut up the sky (1 Kings 17:1) and Moses brought the plagues (Exodus 7:17-21). They both appeared at the Transfiguration of Christ (Mark 9:4).
These connections lead scholars to say Elijah and Moses are the two witnesses. Most agree on Elijah who was prophesied to return before the day of the Lord (Malachi. 4:5,6). Others say Enoch or Zerubabel. In the ancient Greek, the nouns are masculine. These two witnesses will be males.
Some scholars say all of God’s servants (believers) are the 2 witnesses proclaiming God’s word and that the 2 witnesses are the Holy Spirit.
Despite the 2 witnesses identity, the message is clear: God’s will will be accomplished.
Think about it: For 3 1/2 years, 2 witnesses will wander the earth, invincible and given superhuman powers for God. They die (Rev 11:7) which we all do, but not before they finish God’s mission. And they are risen again after only 3 1/2 days (Rev 11:11). How awesome it that! And imagine: if this figurative instead of literal, this could be you and me–all witnesses for God!