Revealing Fully What the Prophets Only Saw In Part
Primary Truth Taught– God keeps His Church secure while ultimate victory is realized through suffering
This section corresponds to the visions of the 144,000 and the Great Multitude who were sealed by God. So, it’s placement, its content, and its OT allusions provide us with an interpretive basis. As we continue looking at this great book we see this interlude which is the same interlude shown in Chapter 7 being between the 6th and 7th cycle of the seals and the trumpets. Remember, we saw between the 6th and 7th seal judgment an interlude that was God’s way to encourage and equip His people to endure through persecution by reminding them and us that we are sealed. So too we see that today’s text shines more light on that time where God desires to ready His church for persecution and struggle that she will experience throughout history from John’s day and continuing through until the end.
In this section the prophecies of two OT prophets are highlighted then fulfilled in an amazing way. I always find it interesting how the New Testament writers present OT prophecies and then place a New Covenant twist on them and what we’re left with is a completed picture where the prophets only saw the portrait partially complete.
Today, we’re going to see how John brings two OT prophets into the New Covenant to show how their prophecies are fulfilled namely in the New Testament Church and that the people of God are eternally secure in their salvation. While everything may come crashing in and hell itself attacks God’s people are eternally secure.
Human Need Met
We need to live in light of God’s timing and faithfulness. Here in this section we are to be encouraged to continue as witnesses for Jesus Christ. You see, the Word of God is for the people of God throughout all generations. This is very evident as we see how history is unfolding in this great Book.
11 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, 2 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.
We notice right away that John mentions the Temple of God. Now there are many places in the Bible where the word Temple refers to a literal Temple where the presence of God was to be found in a special way and the place where God’s people would meet to worship and pray.
By the time we progress to the later writings of the New Testament the Temple symbolizes the people of God. This is not spiritualizing the text but simply following Paul, Peter and John and their use of the word.
Jesus visited the literal temple in the Gospels but by the later writings the temple is becoming less and less important because the people of God are where God dwells not in a building made of stone.
The New Testament shifts its focus from that of the Old. While the OT was interested in the Temple and life surrounding it, the NT shifts from that to the people of God as being the place where God dwells. The NT writiers in multiple places expound this truth.
From the time of Jesus’ first coming till the time of His second coming the people of God are the temple so it is very fitting that John would be told to measure the people because Revelation is, in fact the time period between the first and second coming. So we see the covenant community made up of Jew and Gentile who come to God through Jesus Christ are being marked off or measured for protection by God during this great time of persecution and suffering.
1 Corinthians 3:16–17 (ESV)
16 Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? 17 If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.
This passage very much parallels our text in Revelation today. God’s people are His temple and to destroy or kill one of God’s saints is to awaken the wrath of God.
Ephesians 2:18–22 (ESV)
18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.
We could look at 1 Cor. 6:19; 2 Cor. 6:16; 1 Peter 2:5…
Even here in the Book of Revelation itself we have an allusion to the people of God as forming a symbolic structure…
Revelation 3:12–13 (ESV)
12 The one who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God. Never shall he go out of it, and I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name. 13 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’
Very clearly in literal terms the writers solidly declare that the temple of God is not a building as in the OT but during the time of the last days, the time between the first and second coming, the temple is made up of all of God’s people…true Israel which is made of Jews and Gentiles who come to the Father through Jesus, the Son.
So what John is doing is once again showing the Church that she is sealed and protected.
We should do some biblical theology if we are to understand correctly what John is doing.
The first clue we need to examine is the parallel passage found in Ezekiel 40-48 where Ezekiel is taken to a high mountain and watches while an angel measures the new future temple of God. We also must understand that the Book of Ezekiel is presented in figurative symbolic language.
We also know that given the nature of the Ezekiel text that he is not measuring Herod’s temple nor Solomon’s temple but rather a future temple. We also know that the physical temple had been destroyed in 70 AD so John is not measuring the OT temple either because it no longer existed by the time Revelation was written.
Just as the Scroll, which is opened is the Daniel Scroll, which was to remain, sealed until the Last Days, so to is John opening or revealing more than Ezekiel understood in regard to the Temple.
When the Bible speaks of measuring as it does in Ezekiel and here in Revelation it has in mind measuring in order to supply borders or a certain area where God promises protection because His presence is found there in a special way. Whatever God measures is eternally secure.
So, John is told to measure something Ezekiel isn’t…the Temple of God and the Altar and those who worship there. Now we have a twist. What took place at the OT altar? Atonement was made for God’s people. Because this is now referring not to a stone temple but the people of God we realize John is sharing with the Church of God that no matter what happens our atonement is eternally secure. Through Jesus Christ we are forever God’s people. He’s doing something different than simply measuring a building like Ezekiel saw, but God tells him to measure the worshippers. This is a big clue. You can measure a building but you can’t really measure worshippers but you can count them. When worshippers are measured all of God’s people are numbered and accounted for and none will be lost. God knows your name as one of His and He will not forget you or allow you to slip away. Everything measured and accounted for will remain.
John 17:12 (ESV)
12 While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled.
Also, we see where we are in the midst of this interlude time and looking back to the same interlude in Chapter 7 this measuring or marking off coincides with the sealing of God’s people, again, the same event from a second perspective. Measuring the temple and sealing of God’s people is the same event from two different perspectives. God’s people are secure and safe spiritually. We are sealed and marked off as His because very literally, we are the Temple of God…the place where His Spirit dwells.
What John measures are the people of God those marked off for protection the same way that God sealed them. What is left out or not measured, here in this case is the outer court which is left unprotected and open to be, as the text says, will trample the holy city for forty-two months.
The temple was destroyed by the Gentiles in 70AD and has been trampled under foot ever since. This will continue until the time of the Gentiles is over.
Luke 21:20–24 (ESV)
20 “But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation has come near. 21 Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, and let those who are inside the city depart, and let not those who are out in the country enter it, 22 for these are days of vengeance, to fulfill all that is written. 23 Alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days! For there will be great distress upon the earth and wrath against this people. 24 They will fall by the edge of the sword and be led captive among all nations, and Jerusalem will be trampled underfoot by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.
John reports that this will happen for 42 months and in verse three we’ll see the same time period calculated in days not months. Many attempts have been made to promote these as literal months and days and then to assume that they represent ½ of the tribulation period. As in keeping with consistent apocryphal interpretation these are not representing a literal 3 ½ year period but rather the entire church’s ministry throughout the Last Days.
3 And I will grant authority to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth.”
4 These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth. 5 And if anyone would harm them, fire pours from their mouth and consumes their foes. If anyone would harm them, this is how he is doomed to be killed. 6 They have the power to shut the sky, that no rain may fall during the days of their prophesying, and they have power over the waters to turn them into blood and to strike the earth with every kind of plague, as often as they desire. 7 And when they have finished their testimony, the beast that rises from the bottomless pit will make war on them and conquer them and kill them, 8 and their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city that symbolically is called Sodom and Egypt, where their Lord was crucified. 9 For three and a half days some from the peoples and tribes and languages and nations will gaze at their dead bodies and refuse to let them be placed in a tomb, 10 and those who dwell on the earth will rejoice over them and make merry and exchange presents, because these two prophets had been a torment to those who dwell on the earth. 11 But after the three and a half days a breath of life from God entered them, and they stood up on their feet, and great fear fell on those who saw them. 12 Then they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, “Come up here!” And they went up to heaven in a cloud, and their enemies watched them. 13 And at that hour there was a great earthquake, and a tenth of the city fell. Seven thousand people were killed in the earthquake, and the rest were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven.
14 The second woe has passed; behold, the third woe is soon to come.
Here, Jesus is giving authority to His two witnesses. In the Book of Revelation as elsewhere in the NT, the Church is to be Jesus’ witness. The Church carries on her witnessing until the end. The saints continue to witness boldly for Christ through pain and suffering and even in the face of death.
John explains to us that these Two Witnesses represent the saints of God throughout the Last Days…
Revelation 11:7 (ESV)
7 And when they have finished their testimony, the beast that rises from the bottomless pit will make war on them and conquer them and kill them.
Revelation 13:7 (ESV)
7 Also it (the Beast) was allowed to make war on the saints and to conquer them. And authority was given it over every tribe and people and language and nation,
The number two is important because in order to have a quorum, two witnesses had to confirm the same story or account.
Deuteronomy 19:15 (ESV)
15 “A single witness shall not suffice against a person for any crime or for any wrong in connection with any offense that he has committed. Only on the evidence of two witnesses or of three witnesses shall a charge be established.
So, here the number two shows that their witnessing is true. In other words like Elijah and Moses who wielded powerful signs and wonders…the plagues in Egypt and the shutting up of the heavens while called for repentance and obedience so too the church’s witness must be the same. Just like Elijah and Moses remained faithful in a time of great resistance we too must remain faithful and remember that God will keep us and we are secure.
The Time Period-
The time period in which the two witnesses carry on their ministry of proclamation is symbolized in a way that equates it with the entire span of the dragon’s aggressive but frustrated attempts to eradicate the church from earth. The time span is described in three ways…it is not a time period to count but symbolic for the time in which the Church suffers resistance, persecution and martyrdom.
42 Months…11:2; 13:5
1260 Days…11:3; 12:6
A Time and Times and Half a Time…12:14
The last description comes from Daniel 7:25 describing ½ the Sabbath Year cycle…1 year, 2 years, ½ a year or 3 ½ years.
These three designations all measure the same amount of time…3 ½ years. 30 days in a Jewish month, 360 days in a Jewish year…42 months, 1260 days, 3 ½ years all the same period of time. These are marking and complementing the same era of history. We will discover as we work through the Book that this is the same time period that the beast tries to eliminate the Church of Jesus Christ and most accurately is not a number of days to be counted but the time equated as the Last Days and sometimes called the time of the Gentiles .
Luke 21:24 (ESV)
24 They will fall by the edge of the sword and be led captive among all nations, and Jerusalem will be trampled underfoot by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.
The common thread, as we’ll see running through all these are persecution and God’s protection.
The two witnesses cannot be killed as long as their prophetic ministry remains. God protects them through the period of proclamation.
Most reformed scholars believe the reason John calls this time period between the first and second coming a period of 3 ½ years is because this is the time frame in which our Lord’s ministry lasted and the church is to carry on His ministry until He returns.
4 These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth.
Here we have a direct allusion to Zechariah’s prophecy…
Zechariah 4:1–3 (ESV)
4 And the angel who talked with me came again and woke me, like a man who is awakened out of his sleep. 2 And he said to me, “What do you see?” I said, “I see, and behold, a lampstand all of gold, with a bowl on the top of it, and seven lamps on it, with seven lips on each of the lamps that are on the top of it. 3 And there are two olive trees by it, one on the right of the bowl and the other on its left.”…
Zechariah 4:14 (ESV)
14 Then he said, “These are the two anointed ones who stand by the Lord of the whole earth.”
Again, based on John’s identification of these witnesses, they represent the saints of God. Zechariah’s lampstand and olive trees are, in fact, the church that witnesses faithfully until the end.
Even in what looks like ultimate defeat the church is victorious and as our Lord promised to Peter, the gates of hell will not prevail…
7 And when they have finished their testimony, the beast that rises from the bottomless pit will make war on them and conquer them and kill them
Even though the saints of God have been through the centuries persecuted and even killed God still keeps them. The saints of God experience the ultimate victory at their resurrection…
11 But after the three and a half days a breath of life from God entered them, and they stood up on their feet, and great fear fell on those who saw them. 12 Then they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, “Come up here!” And they went up to heaven in a cloud, and their enemies watched them.
Much more could be said but lets move on to some application points…
How do we appropriate the truth that God has marked us off as belonging to Him in much the same way that a surveyor marks off boundaries declaring ownership?
Not everyone who claims to be a Christian is a Christian. Not everyone who attends church is a Christian. So, there are some people who are pretending to be Christians who really are not. Those people are not measured and marked off by God as His possession. But to all who are true believers, who are trusting in the name of Christ will be kept by God for all eternity.
John 6:37–40 (ESV)
37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. 40 For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”
If God has granted to you the ability to believe in Christ and have faith that He has saved you from your sin you have eternal life. To keep in the context of our passage, you are marked off and sealed. I pray you find encouragement in the fact that if you’ve trusted in Christ for salvation you are His and will always be His.
John 10:27–29 (ESV)
27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.
There is not anything anyone can do to change your eternal standing with God. He searched you out, He sent His Son to rescue you by His own blood, He has brought you to life, He has given you the Gospel, He has given you saving faith, He has made you one of His, He has given you the seal of the Holy Spirit, He has loved you with an everlasting love, He will keep you, He will equip you for every good work, He will raise you up on the last day, You will always be His.
Declaration of Grace
In the mercy of almighty God, Jesus Christ was given to die for us, and for His sake God forgives us all our sins. To those who believe in Jesus Christ He gives the power to become the children of God and bestows on them the Holy Spirit. May the Lord, who has begun this good work in us, bring it to completion in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.