Summary: Measuring of the Temple in Revelation 11
Measuring Out, Marking Off: Rev 11:1-2
The Revelation of Jesus Christ is said to be the hardest book in the entire Bible to interpret; that being said, most commentators agree that Revelation Chapter 11 presents the most problems in it's interpretation. This week, we are going to spend some time with key phrases, words and imagery from that time period.
Then I was given a reed like a measuring rod. And the angel stood, saying, "Rise and measure the temple of God, the altar, and those who worship there." Rev 11:1
"Rise and measure" The "reed like a measuring rod" is a tall, tubular reed that grows in the region and was also used as a staff (like a staff, ESV, NASB) and also could be whittled down to be used as a writing instrument (3 John 13). This reed was lightweight, and could grow to a height of 20 feet making it a handy form of measurement. Measurement, at times in the Bible, would refer to ownership (Ezekiel 40-41; Zech 2:1-3) "John's measurement of the temple is a symbolic action. To measure something means to claim it for yourself. (Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary – New Testament) Today, for instance, we have land surveyed to determine what the property lines are so that there is no dispute as to whom owns what. "It is best to see it as God's measuring off Israel, symbolized by her temple, for salvation and for His special protection, preservation, and favor. The prophecies yet to be given to John will thus distinguish between God's favor toward Israel and His wrath on the pagan world." (John MacArthur, MacArthur NT Commentary – Revelation 1-11)
"The temple of God"--This is quite specific: the temple of God. As mentioned above, Ezekiel 40-41 the measurements are taken--in that case, of what is known as the Millennial Temple. This Millennial Temple will be built and used during the Millennial Kingdom following the Tribulation Period. However, this temple being measured is not the Millennial Temple, and it not Herod's Temple from Jesus' day. It is the Tribulation Temple, but not the entire temple.
"The Tribulation temple will be built early in the first half of the Tribulation under the patronage and protection of Antichrist. Many orthodox Jews today dream of rebuilding their temple, but its site is now occupied (and in the minds of many Jews desecrated) by the Islamic shrine known as the Dome of the Rock. Because Muslims believe it to be the place from which Muhammad ascended to heaven, it is among the most sacred shrines in the Islamic world. For the Jews to wrest that site away from the Muslims and build their temple there would be unthinkable in today's political climate. But during the Tribulation, under the protection of Antichrist (cf. Dan. 9:24-27), they will be able to rebuild the temple." (MacArthur).
The Dome of the Rock is a hyper sacred site to the Muslim. It is the supppsed place where Muhammed ascended into heaven, and is considered by Muslims and some Jews and Christians as the site where Abraham offered up Isaac. In short, Muslims will never give up the Dome of the Rock.
Different lines of thought come up as to what will happen to the Dome of the Rock. Perhaps an earthquake or natural disaster will claim it. It might even be that it might be destroyed by militant Israelis.
It is thought by some commentators that the Temple will be built alongside the Dome of the Rock in a bold move of "tolerance". There is actually room to build the temple on the Temple Mount without displacing the Dome of the Rock; couldn't you see many people that believe in "tolerance" today cheer at the thought?
Temple...Or Something Else?
Temple of God--The term in the original Greek is naos, used of the temple at Jerusalem, but only of the sacred edifice (or sanctuary) itself, consisting of the Holy place and the Holy of holies (from Thayer's Greek Lexicon). Since this is the case, it changes things up a bit as we will see in a moment.
"The altar"--There are two views of what this altar is. McGee notes in his Thru the Bible Commentary:
"The altar" refers to the golden altar of prayer since the altar for burnt offering was not in the temple proper but in the outer court. Even the worshipers are to be measured. John is told to rise and measure, not only the Holy Place and the altar, but also "them that worship therein." God does count the number of those who worship Him.
However, it is more likely that it is the brazen altar in the courtyard outside the temple proper. Why? Worshippers would not be at the altar inside the temple, only priests were allowed access to the altar of prayer. This would be the "Holy Place", as mentioned in the more complete description of the world naos, and those that are worshipping would not be allowed. Lasseigne, in his Unlocking The Last Days commentary, notes that it is more likely that those that are worshipers are outside in front of the brazen altar; they would be conducting sacrifices as they would not have accepted Jesus Christ and were still not saved.