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John Measures the Temple (Revelation 11:1-2)

Marcelo is the pastor of Iglesia Conexiones, and the author of Biblical Prayer for Today's Believers: Transform Your Prayer Life.

Saint John Takes the Rod to Measure the Temple. Getty Center / Public domain

Saint John Takes the Rod to Measure the Temple. Getty Center / Public domain

John Is Told to Measure the Temple (Revelation 11:1-2)

John's vision of the temple is often taken as proof that John wrote the Revelation before the destruction of the second temple in 70 AD, for (it is argued) John could not have measured the temple if the temple wasn't standing.

Moreover, John is told not to measure the court outside the temple because it will be trodden by the gentiles for 42 months. This is interpreted by some as meaning that the temple in Jerusalem will be destroyed (which happened in 70 AD).

If you read my previous article on Revelation, you know that I entertain the view that John wrote Revelation sometime before the destruction of the temple in 70 AD, and that he probably saw the vision a lot earlier than many think. But I do not hold this view because of the temple John is told to measure.

I do not think John is measuring Israel's second temple, but the third temple: the one Israel is currently hoping to build sometime soon.

Comparison with Daniel

Sometime after the first temple (Solomon's temple) was destroyed by Babylon in 586 B.C., the prophet Daniel foretold the destruction of the second temple (Daniel 9:26).

According to Daniel, a commandment would be given to rebuild Jerusalem (Daniel 9:25), but it would be rebuilt in troubling times. During those times (69 "weeks" later, or 483 years), an anointed one (the Messiah, or Christ) would be cut off violently (killed), and the people of the prince that will come would destroy the city and the sanctuary once again. This is what the Romans (the people) did; they destroyed Jerusalem and the second temple in 70 AD. (Note that from this point of view, the people and the prince do not come at the same time).

Nevertheless, Daniel also foretold that the prince that will come will cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease. In other words, a temple will be standing again when the prince comes, for there will be sacrifices and oblations offered (Daniel 9:27).

In fact, according to Daniel, the prince that will come will take away the regular offering and set an abomination that causes the temple to be desolate (Daniel 12:11). This is the abomination of desolation to which Jesus referred (Matthew 24:15, Mark 13:14). He wasn't talking about the previous abomination of desolation (Daniel 11:31), which was brought about by Antiochus IV in 586 B.C., when he sacrificed a pig in the temple.

So yes, John would have expected the second temple to be destroyed (that's the temple to which Jesus, the other disciples, and himself had been); but he would have also known about a third temple that would be standing later in history. Consequently, it is entirely possible that John was writing about the third temple that is yet to be built.

Comparison With New Jerusalem and Ezekiel

Just because John measures the temple, it does not mean that the temple John measures is the one that was standing then (the second temple). In Revelation 21:15-17, the New Jerusalem is measured. Does this mean that the New Jerusalem was standing then? Of course not.

In Ezekiel 41, an angel measures a new temple that has never before been built. While some scholars think this temple is merely symbolical, there are many scholars (and rabbis!) who believe this is the temple the Messiah will build when he returns.

John's book of Revelation is heavily influenced by the book of Ezekiel, so it stands to reason that John is following the pattern we see in Ezekiel: that he is not measuring a temple that was already standing, but (like Ezekiel) a temple that will be built in the future.

Forty-Two Months and the Holy City

According to what the angel says unto John, the holy city (Jerusalem) will be trampled by the nations for forty-two months, or three years and 6 months (three and a half years). Where does this number come from? It is obvious that John is making a reference to Daniel 9.

According to the angel (Daniel 9:24), seventy weeks (literally, seventy sevens) have been decreed upon Daniel's people (Israel) and the holy city (Jerusalem, where the temple of God is supposed to stand). After the seventy weeks, the transgression will end, sins will end, reconciliation will be made, everlasting righteousness will be brought, the vision and the prophecy will be sealed, and the most holy place will be anointed.

Now, these seventy weeks (or seventy sevens) stand for seventy periods of seven years, or four-hundred and ninety years. We know this because Daniel was inquiring about the 70 years prophesied by Jeremiah (Daniel 9:2, Jeremiah 25:11-12, 29:10). In response to his inquiry, the angel tells him about a new timeline: four hundred and ninety years.

The counting of these four-hundred and ninety years begins from the time that a commandment is given to rebuild Jerusalem and is interrupted by cutting (killing) of the anointed one, or Messiah (Daniel 9:25). By then, only sixty-nine periods of seven years, or four-hundred and eighty-three years, will have transpired.

After these four-hundred and eighty-three years, there will be several desolations (Daniel 9:26). In other words, the land will be empty (since the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD, the Israel ceased to be a nation and its people were scattered throughout the world, until Israel became a nation again in May 14, 1948).

What then happened to the seventieth week? Notice that, according to Daniel 9:27, the seventieth week begins when the prince that will come establishes a covenant with Israel for seven years. However, in the midst of the week (that is, after three and a half years), the prince will cause the oblation and sacrifices to cease, and then he will make the temple desolate once again (remember, whenever the temple has been made desolate there was a great war with Israel).

So, when John says that the holy city will be trampled by the gentiles for forty-two months, he is making an obvious reference to Daniel 9:27. After three years and six months since the prince that will come makes a covenant with Israel, the gentiles now trample Jerusalem (presumably, to destroy the state of Israel and its people).

John clearly wants us to think about Daniel 9:27.

Conclusion

The temple that John is told to measure is most likely a third temple. Daniel's prophecies imply the existence of a third temple, and the book of Revelation draws heavily from the book of Ezekiel.

The holy city is Jerusalem, it is called so because it is the city where God's temple stood and will stand. John refers to Jerusalem as the holy city because his prophecy is based on the prophecies of Daniel.

The forty-two months during which the Jerusalem will be trampled is the latter half of Daniel's seventieth week (Daniel 9). This is yet a future time.

The last matter to consider is the covenant that the prince who will come in Daniel 9 establishes with Israel. What is this covenant about? Although we may not know all the details about this covenant, it is possible that the covenant has something to do with letting the Jewish people build and/or use the third temple for worship: for we see that when the prince breaks the covenant, he targets the temple and its ceremonies.

When Will Israel Rebuild the Temple?

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2020 Marcelo Carcach