Why Does John Measure the Temple in Revelation 11:1-2?

In the first two verses of Revelation 11 John is commanded to measure the Temple of God, the altar and the people who worship there. This may seem unrelated to the rest of the chapter, but these verses serve as a transition between chapter 10 and 11. John ate a scroll representing the word of God at the end of chapter 10. This scroll is sweet but turns bitter in his mouth, a clear allusion to the call of the prophet Ezekiel at the beginning of his book (Ezek 1-3).

The end of book of Ezekiel is similar to Revelation 11:1-2. In Ezekiel 40 the prophet is taken to a high mountain from which he can observe events in Jerusalem. He meets an angel (a man with the appearance of bronze) with a measuring rod in his hands. The following chapters describe Ezekiel measuring the city and the temple area. After the measuring is complete, the glory of the Lord returns to the temple.

It is not coincidental both of these interludes between the sixth and seventh trumpet are related to Ezekiel, the first from the beginning of his ministry and the second at the conclusion. Ezekiel’s ministry was to describe the departure of the glory of the Lord from the temple at the time of the fall of Jerusalem in 586 B. C. and its return at the time of the establishment of the kingdom. Perhaps the patterning of these two sections after Ezekiel is to highlight the return of the glory of the Lord at the end of Revelation.

What does the act of measuring the Temple mean? There are parallels in the Old Testament implying both preservation (Zechariah 2:1-5) and destruction (Amos 7:7-9). In the context of Revelation 11:1-2, it appears the image describes preservation, since the outer court is not measured and is overrun by the Gentiles for 42 months. The Temple, the holy place, and the worshipers are all measured. It might sound odd to measure the worshipers, but the word (μετρέω) can mean measure, count, or mete out. David Aune suggests this is an example of the figure of speech known as zeugma, one verb with two direct objects, only one of which fits the verb.

Prior to A.D. 70, many Jews believed the temple area of Jerusalem would never fall to an enemy. During the Jewish War, zealots retreated into the Temple thinking they would be preserved because they were in the temple. Instead, 6000 died when the Romans destroyed the temple. Second Baruch 6:3-9 records a legend that an angel took all of the temple objects just before the fall of the city and buried them until the end times.

Second Baruch 6:3-9 And behold, suddenly a strong spirit lifted me and carried me above the wall of Jerusalem. 4 And I saw, and behold, there were standing four angels at the four corners of the city, each of them with a burning torch in his hands. 5 And another angel came down from heaven and said to them, “Hold your torches and do not light them before I say it to you. 6 Because I was sent first to speak a word to the earth and then to deposit in it what the Lord, the Most High, has commanded me.” 7And I saw that he descended in the Holy of Holies and that he took from there the veil, the holy ephod, the mercy seat, the two tables, the holy raiment of the priests, the altar of incense, the forty-eight precious stones with which the priests were clothed, and all the holy vessels of the tabernacle. 8And he said to the earth with a loud voice: Earth, earth, earth, hear the word of the mighty God, and receive the things which I commit to you, and guard them until the last times, so that you may restore them when you are ordered, so that strangers may not get possession of them. 9For the time has arrived when Jerusalem will also be delivered up for a time, until the moment that it will be said that it will be restored forever. And the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up. (OTP 1:622–623)

Why 42 months? This is the thrice repeated number that is associated with the time of the tribulation. 42 months of 30 days each = 1260 days, and 42 months are exactly 3 and a half years (a time, times and half a time.) That the Gentiles are allowed to overrun the outer court for 42 months is an indication Jerusalem will not be a city of peace.

 

11 thoughts on “Why Does John Measure the Temple in Revelation 11:1-2?

  1. To start off, I very much enjoyed reading this article and the continued learning of the connection between Revelation and Ezekiel. Overall, the connections between the two books is outstanding! I really liked your statement, “perhaps the patterning of these two sections after Ezekiel is to highlight the return of the glory of the Lord at the end of Revelation.” I think this is really good theory and opinion! Amen! I also didn’t know that Jews would hide inside temple with the belief that it could not be destroyed and they would be protected!
    Furthermore, I have finally found my answer to where the Arc of the Covenant is! According to Second Baruch, an angel grabbed the Arc (2 Baruch 6:7) and the earth swallowed it up (2 Baruch 6:9)! I must say it is a massive relief to have answered such a long-desired and sought-after question beginning in my India Jones days.
    Moving forward, as far as the measuring of the Temple. I find it interesting that John is told not to measure the outer court (Rev. 11:2). On this matter, Blackwell states that before John even has a chance to act upon this command, the voices move to the two-witnesses, who prophesy for a length of time, 1,260 days, that corresponds to the time the gentiles will be trampling the courts, forty-two months (Blackwell 102).

    Bibliography:
    Blackwell, Ben C. and Goodrich, John K. Reading Revelation in Context: John’s Apocalypse and Second Temple Judaism. Grand Rapids, MI; Zondervan. 2019.

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  2. Ezekiel is a book that I haven’t really studied at all so seeing that there is similarities with the book of Revelation is neat. I have looked at Ezekiel 40 on multiple occasions to see the dimensions of the third temple that will be existing during the seven year tribulation period and I have to say, I’m so impressed with the detailed accuracy of the dimensions. According to my pastor, the technology that is needed in order to build a temple so precis was never possible until the 18th century. How cool to know that scripture can be validated in other areas such as this. But switching gears to Revelation 11 and the Baruch 6 passage, the holy of holies is apart of the third temple as well which is a simple observation. I really find it interesting that they counted the worshippers; the only thing I can compare that to today is keeping track of attendance at a church. Lastly, the Hebrew calendar having 360 days times the 3 ½ years of tribulation equals 1,260 which is also 42 months. This could be a similarity to what we see in Daniel.

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  3. In Amos chapter 7:7-9, we are told how the Lord God was “standing beside a wall built with a plumb line, with a plumb line in His hand”. This is significant for several reasons. Firstly, it is interesting to note how God has manifested Himself in such a way to Amos that he bears, or at least appears to bear, human-like characteristics, namely, “standing beside a wall”, and “holding” a plumb line “in His hand”. While we do not have a perfect answer as to why God did this, perhaps it can be surmised that He wanted to appear to the Amos in this make to make a very important point to him. A plumb line is a tool in which something else can be measured against for accuracy as well as quality. Essentially, it has a standard it must reach or at least be reasonably close to. God here was showing Amos how fall the nation of Israel and fallen into sin, and well as blatantly rejected and forgotten about God and what He had done for them. Amos, upon listening to God in this passage, does not even attempt to ask God not to depart from Israel, as he himself can see how corrupt and “out of alignment” they have become (ESV, p. 1671, footnote 7:7-9). Amos, a faithful servant of God, was later falsely accused by Amaziah the priest of Bethel, who disliked the prophet’s message from the Lord about the sinful situation there. Later, here in the book of Revelation, the temple is measured again, not with a plumb line but instead with a “measuring rod”. Here however, measurements of the temple refer instead not to the destruction of it but instead to preservation. While spiritual protection is present, it does not mean there will not be suffering though, as the two witnesses will die before being resurrected by God, as well as a tenth of the city being destroyed with seven thousand perishing (ESV, p. 2478-2479).

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  4. Why does John measure the temple in Revelation 11:1-2?
    The blog post talks about how there is a parallel between revelation 11 and Ezekiel, first about how they both ate a scroll, then measured something. This reminds of my other recent comments. In the blog post about the 7 trumpets and the relation to the 10 plagues in the book of exodus. I mentioned that there is a lot of foreshadowing when it comes to the old and new testaments. Just like Christologies. Or my example of the red sea and how it can be seen as an allegory for what Jesus did on the cross. In this case, we see that John is measuring the temple just like Ezekiel did, but what caught my attention was that the word measuring could also mean count. Then PLong mentioned the word mete, which also means count or measure. This reminds me of Daniel and the writing on the wall. This word was also written on the wall. But that is beside the point. We realize that he is counting the time the gentiles were outside the temple, and that is for 42 months, which ends up being 3 and ½ years. If this is the case then the city of Jerusalem will not be peaceful.
    although it may be difficult sometimes to interpret the bible, once you do enough research and put in some effort a lot of things can be revealed to us. we just have to got the next step.

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  5. The parallels that are found between Ezekiel and Revelation are quite interesting. I had been aware of Revelation 10 and Ezekiel being similar to each other as both John and Ezekiel had eaten a scroll that had been sweet as honey, but the correlation between the two books in regard to measuring the temple is new to me. With both the end of chapter 10 and the beginning of chapter 11 being related to Ezekiel, it makes the perfect transition between the chapters and doesn’t make the measuring of the temple seem as out of place. It is a strange little detail, but the one thing that really stood out to me about the measuring in Ezekiel is that he was taken into a high mountain in order to fulfill the measurements. A bird’s eye view of the city would make the measuring/counting processes so much easier as the demotions of the city would suddenly look so much smaller. This makes me wonder if John was also looking at the temple from a loftier perspective as well. It seems like a little detail which would make the process a little bit easier for John. However, with measuring the temple, it is cool to look at how God in all of the chaos will preserve his people and the temple in the 3 ½ year tribulation period. The Gentiles are only to be said to be in the outer court during this time, making it sound that the temple is a safe haven for God’s people. Although it will not be a time of peace, God is faithful to those who love him.

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  6. The act for John to measure the temple of God, the altar and those worshiping in it, has a classic interpretive crux, locations and characters (Blackwell 102). It is say, in the ESVB footnotes, the dispensationalists understand the Jewish temple will be rebuilt during the tribulation period (2478). The following verse says there will be two witnesses with authority to prophesy for 1260 days, given the same with 42 months. It is most likely, this temple with those worshiping in it is a symbol of the saints during the tribulation period. My question on this is, why only measure the temple of God, the altar and the worshipers? Is this like a remnant of God’s people who will endure and keep the promise alive? This section is an interlude between the 6th and 7th trumpet. What if the outer court of the temple can symbolize the body, the physical portion? Instead, being measure of the flesh, we are measure by the spirit. I’m trying to see if I can understand this in a more spiritual sense. These verses have its complexity and more likely as mentioned on the blog, it is for preservation.

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  7. I think it’s interesting that we see here a second reference from John to an image from Ezekiel. When you think about these similar stories as transition pieces, it makes a bit more sense and it’s easier to place them in the overall story in a way that is less confusing. I also think it’s interesting that John can only measure the Temple, not the outer courts. This means the holy place and the worshippers are included, but not the Gentiles or those on the outside. It seems like this could be a reference to the end times as further described in Revelation, where only those that obey God and reject the beast are chosen or “counted” for heaven. We also see the prediction that the outer courts would be “trampled” for 42 months (11:2), where the two witnesses will prophesy for 1260 days. Although this would likely mean unrest and conflict in Jerusalem during this time, the Temple/the holy place would seem to be a safe place for believers. The use of the word “worshippers” makes me think that they would actually be in the Temple worshiping. It’s cool to see another example in the book of Revelation where people are praising God despite what is happening around them.

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  8. P. long’s blog post on Revelation 11:1-2 and why John measured the temple is a thorough and helpful explanation behind such an odd passage. I personally had never realized the importance in Ezekiel’s role in describing the leaving of God from the temple and the return of the messiah at the end of times. I certainly knew people thought and asked John the Baptist if he was Ezekiel but John the Baptist denies any such claim as to being John the Baptist. P. Long, from your post, it seems to imply Ezekiel will still return and proclaim the establishment of the kingdom, is that a dispensationalist expectation for the end of times? That Ezekiel will return to proclaim the coming kingdom?

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  9. The article above states that the reason Ezekiel measured the temple was to “describe the departure of the glory of the Lord” and to indicate that He will be returning. When did Ezekiel think that the glory of the Lord was going to be returning? I suppose, depending on your view of eschatological events, Ezekiel could have been referring to the coming of Jesus in Revelation. The kingdom, of course, and the temple will never be fully restored until these events take place. In the end, the temple will not be a building, but God Himself–and this will not happen until the end times. So, perhaps John is rooted in the Ezekiel text because the prophecy he is telling us about is precisely the fulfillment of it. In fact, the whole book of Revelation is not some disconnected piece of literature, but is an integral part of the Bible. That is why John drew so much from the Hebrew Scripture–because all of the prophecies he was receiving was grounded in it. So, this “measuring” of the temple, meant to depict the preservation of the temple, is simply another example of an allusion uniting the Hebrew Scriptures with the eschatological events of Revelation.

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  10. In Revelation, it really seems that sometimes there is nonsense going on. It is easy to say that many things are either over-spiritualize or are not. One example would be that the gems in the throne room scene in Revelation 4 each represent something like God’s sovereignty or God’s love. This would be over-spiritualizing something. This scene, however, with many similarities to Old Testament prophets like Amos, Ezekiel, and Zechariah, must hold some significance. There is definite importance whether it be like you said preservation or destruction. I would agree with you in that “it appears the image describes preservation since the outer court is not measured.” This might mean preservation of God’s people or a separation between where his people may reside and where the Two Witnesses mentioned Revelation 11:3 would be. It would seem that they would have protection even in the midst of the Gentiles.
    As for the 42 months mentioned in Revelation 11:2, the significance seems unknown. Numbers in Revelation have caused a ruckus in the realm of theology. The numbers in Revelation have caused some to try to predict when the end of days would come upon us and others have tried to map out how the end of days will play out. This number mentioned multiple times throughout Revelation is important but maybe unknown to us and I am comfortable with landing on the fact that I do not need to know what the significance is. There is some knowledge that is not necessary to know to live a glorifying Christian life. This, I believe, is one of them.

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