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Measuring the Temple

After eating the scroll (which represents the testimony of Jesus), John was told to “prophesy again” and it is this final proclamation of the true gospel of Christ that will determine the size of the inner court of the temple (those near to God). “I was given a reed like a measuring rod [a yardstick] and was told, ‘Go and measure the temple of God and the altar, and count the worshipers there.’” (Revelation 11:1) The difference between the inner court and the outer court of the temple warrants a little explanation. Prior to its destruction in A.D. 70, the temple had two courts. “Pure Jews” could enter the inner court (the area closet to God) and Gentile converts, considered “impure Jews,” had to stay in the outer court (an area farther away from God). This practice stemmed from the law of Moses: “No one born of a forbidden marriage nor any of his descendants may enter the assembly of the Lord, even down to the tenth generation. No Ammonite or Moabite or any of his descendants may enter the assembly of the Lord, even down to the tenth generation…. Do not abhor an Edomite [the descendants of Esau], for he is your brother. Do not abhor an Egyptian, because you lived as an alien in his country. The third generation of children born to them may enter the assembly of the Lord.” (Deuteronomy 23:2,3,7,8, insertion mine)


John was given a yardstick and told to measure the inner court. Putting the pieces together, this language means the 144,000 will proclaim the gospel again and their plumb line of God’s Word will determine who is close to God and who is not – regardless of religious background. Those who listen to the Holy Spirit and receive the Truth will be counted as the inner court. Those who reject the law of God and the Holy Spirit will not be counted as God’s children. In fact, the outer court (people having some form of godliness) will not be counted because these people refuse to “line up” with the plumb line of God’s Word. Obviously, a person cannot obey the Holy Spirit and reject the law of God. This is why John was told, “But exclude the outer court; do not measure it, because it has been given to the Gentiles. They will trample on the holy city for 42 months.” (Revelation 11:2)


During the Great Tribulation, people who love Truth and righteousness will openly denounce their past religious views and embrace the gospel of Jesus. Speaking figuratively, these honest-hearted people will then enter “the inner court” of God’s temple (the area closes to God) and God will recognize them as “pure Jews.”

(Revelation 2:9) Because of their faithfulness to the demands of the gospel, the righteousness of Christ will be imparted to these sinners (their carnal natures removed) and they will receive the wedding garment, the seal of God. There is no need to “measure up” to the righteousness required for salvation. Remember the fate of the man at the wedding banquet who did not have the wedding garment?


Two Holy Cities


Currently, God has two holy cities. One in Heaven and the other is on Earth. The one in Heaven has physical dimensions (Revelation 21:15-17) and its construction includes precious metals, pearls, and gemstones. (Revelation 21: 18-21) The city in Heaven is called “New Jerusalem” because it replaces the original Jerusalem. God’s second holy city is on Earth, but it is not a physical city. It is a group of honest-hearted people who live all over the world. These people are called citizens of God’s kingdom on Earth.

(Ephesians 2:19)


Many people erroneously think that the “holy city” trampled on in Revelation 11:2 is the original city of Jerusalem. They believe a large horde of Gentiles (Palestinians, Arabs, Russians, etc.) will attack Jerusalem at some point during the Great Tribulation. It is always possible that Jerusalem will experience another attack. Jerusalem has been attacked countless times throughout the centuries, but the “holy city” mentioned in Revelation 11:2 has nothing to do with the city of Jerusalem. The “holy city” in Revelation 11:2 represents God’s people.


When Israel rejected the Messiah, Jesus redefined Israel. For the past 2,000 years, the Bible declares a “Jew” to be anyone who submits to the teachings of Christ. (Romans 2:28,29; Galatians 3:28,29) Conversely, a Gentile is defined as anyone who refuses to submit to the teachings of Christ. This means that the city of Jerusalem today for the most part is a Gentile city, since most Jews do not believe in or submit to Jesus Christ. Therefore, most of the people living in Jerusalem today are Gentiles in God’s sight!

(Revelation 2:9)


There is another city mentioned in the book of Revelation. It is called “Babylon, city of power.” (Revelation 18:10) This title reflects the great authority and power that Babylon will impose on the people of Earth.


In its day, ancient Babylon was a “city of power.” Until he spent seven years eating grass, the king of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar, had no equal in arrogance and authority. (Daniel 5:18-21) Babylon (the Gentiles) will persecute God’s people (the holy city) for forty-two months. No one will be able to withstand the persecution unless the Holy Spirit enables them to stand firm in their faith!


Babylon’s forthcoming persecution and destruction of the saints parallels the experience of Jesus. The Jews did everything possible to destroy Jesus, but Jesus overcame them by going to His death. In this fallen world, victory is pinned on life, but in God’s economy, victory is pinned on dying without guilt. (1 John 5:4; Revelation 12:11) A God of love will permit the devil and his forces to conquer and kill millions of saints because He wants the universe to see that life itself must ever remain secondary to the law of love. Truth and righteousness are greater than life and they must be loved more than life. When a person allows the Holy Spirit to take control of his life, that person is given grace to live and die (if necessary) for something grater than himself. This produces a huge contrast. The wicked will prostitute their core beliefs and receive the mark of the beast to avoid death, but the saints would rather die than give up their love and faith in God.


The Two Lampstands and the Two Olive Trees


“And [Jesus said to John] I will give power to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy [on my behalf] for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth [a coarse fabric, not pleasant to wear, indicating a time of great upheaval and distress]. These [the Two Witnesses] are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand [that is, they’re positioned] before the [throne of the] Lord of the earth.” (Revelation 11:3,4)  How can two lampstands and the two olive trees (four objects) in Heaven serve as Two Witnesses on Earth? Before we address that question, a short study from the book of Zechariah is necessary because the identity of the Two Witnesses is explained and demonstrated there.


A Really Neat Story


The Babylonian Empire fell to the Medes and Persians in 539 B.C. About two years later, Darius I (the king of the Medes who ruled over the province of Babylon) died. The death of Darius I enabled Cyrus (who had been king of the Persians for several years) to become sovereign over the province of Babylon. When Cyrus learned (perhaps through Daniel) that the Most High God of the Jews had called him by name 150 years before he was born and appointed him to rebuild His temple, Cyrus was deeply impressed with the God of the Jews. (See Isaiah 44:28, 45:1-6.) The timing of Darius’ death could not have been more perfect because Cyrus inherited the province of Babylon. In other words, a Persian king was put in a position where he could set the Jews free from a province that was formerly governed by a Mede and restore them to Judea. Because Cyrus ruled over Judea and Babylon during the seventieth year of Israel’s captivity, the restoration of the Jews became possible through one man. With God, timing is everything.


“In the first year [536 B.C.] of Cyrus king of Persia [that is, as ruler over the province of Babylon], in order to fulfill the word of the Lord spoken by Jeremiah,’ the Lord moved the heart of the Cyrus king of Persia to make a proclamation throughout his realm and to put it in writing: ‘This is what Cyrus king of Persia says: “The Lord, the God of Heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and he has appointed me to build a temple for him at Jerusalem in Judah. Anyone of his people among you – may his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem in Judah and build the temple of the Lord, the God of Israel, the God who is in Jerusalem.”’”

(Ezra 1:1-3, italics mine and insertions mine)


Get out of Jail!


After Cyrus issued the decree, an excited group of 42,360 Jews departed Babylon for the ruins of Jerusalem. (Ezra 2:64) However, their excitement soon turned into despair because during their absence from Judea, powerful warlords had overtaken their homeland. Of course the squatters did not want more Jews returning to Judea, so they made the lives of the arriving Jews a difficult and miserable as possible. Nevertheless, the Jewish king, Zerubbabel, and Israel’s high priest, Joshua, appointed Levites to begin rebuilding and restoring the temple. There was great rejoicing and celebrating among the Jews that following spring when the foundation of the temple was laid, but their joy didn’t last long.


“Then the peoples [the warlords and the Canaanites] around them set out to discourage the people of Judah and make them afraid to go on building [the temple and the city]. [For many years] They hired counselors [lobbyists] to work against them [the Jews] and frustrate their plans during the entire reign of Cyrus king of Persia and down to the reign of Darius [II] king of Persia. (Ezra 4:4,5 insertions mine)


Note: The resentment and actions of the squatters and warlords explains why three Persian kings had to issue four decrees to rebuild and restore Jerusalem and the temple over a period of ninety-three years. Cyrus gave the first decree in 536 B.C. Darius II, king of Persia (not to be confused with Darius I< the king of the Medes who put Daniel in the lion’s den) issued a second decree in 519 B.C. Sixty-three years later, the Persian king, Artaxerxes, issued two decrees. His first decree was issued in 457 B.C. and the second was issued in 444 B.C.


Each time the Jews received permission to move forward, the devil found a way to thwart God’s work and bring the process of rebuilding to a halt. Finally, in 515 B.C., the temple was completed. It was dedicated the following year (the Sabbath year of 514 B.C) even though enhancements to the temple and the city of Jerusalem would not be completed for another seventy-five years. “… They [the Jews] finished building the temple [the basic structure] according to the command of the God of Israel and the [four] decrees of Cyrus, Darius and Artaxerxes, kings of Persia. The temple was completed on the third day of the month Adar, in the sixth year of the reign [515 B.C.] of King Darius [that is Darius II, king of Persia].” (Ezra 6:14,15, insertions mine)


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