THE BOOK OF REVELATION
THE CHURCH'S TRIUMPH THROUGH CHRIST
Sermon #39 - John Measuring the Temple of God - Revelation 11:1,2
INTRODUCTION - In the book of Revelation, John has been presenting to us great pictures of destruction and judgment being poured out on first century Israel for their rejection of the Lord Jesus Christ. Yet even as he speaks of this coming judgment, his message is still extremely optimistic as he keeps the church in view at all times. John will speak about the new Temple, the new Jerusalem, the new people of God, all of which rises out of the ruins of the old. Thus, the Church takes preeminence as its triumph is recorded and as it is encouraged to go forth as the people of God. No longer are God's people to look towards a defeated city and temple in the Middle East. Instead, the church has become the New Jerusalem and the New Temple where God is worshipped and glorified. This is the theme which will take up the next picture presented to us in the book of Revelation.
1) JOHN'S MEASURING OF THE TEMPLE OF GOD - Revelation 11:1,2 - As the early church would read this next scene of John measuring the Temple, it would once again remind them of pictures from the Old Testament.
A) A REFLECTION OF THE BOOK OF EZEKIEL - In Revelation 10, we already saw a symbolic picture taken right out of the book of Ezekiel. John was told to eat a book which would be sweet to the taste but bitter when digested. The prophet Ezekiel was told to do the same thing, thus, John becomes a New Testament Ezekiel, prophesying against the people of Israel and the nations around her. The Word of God would be sweet to the taste of the prophet, yet its message of doom and wrath would bring forth bitterness, even to the bearer of the message. Thus, both Ezekiel and John experienced the bitterness of delivering the message of God's wrath. Now, as we see John called to measure the Temple, another scene from the book of Ezekiel comes to mind. In Ezekiel 40 to 43, an angelic messenger is given a measuring rod and, like John, is told to measure the Temple. What is Ezekiel looking at in the Old Testament? He is certainly not looking at the Temple of his day, for it lay in ruins having been destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar. Instead, Ezekiel is given a vision of the new Temple and the new City to come. The whole prophecy of Ezekiel ends with a description of this place. It is called, "The Lord is there" (Ezekiel 48:35). The City and Temple are referred to in the covenantal terms of "God with His people." This is the description of that which was to come. We must therefore realize that what Ezekiel foresaw in his day was an actual reality in the days of John. The Apostle was measuring the new Temple of the Lord.
B) WHAT TEMPLE IS JOHN TOLD TO MEASURE? - Certainly the old Temple in Jerusalem was still in existence as John wrote the book of Revelation. The Jews were still worshipping there, even after rejecting and killing the Lord Jesus Christ. Their sacrifices were certainly an abomination to Jehovah and in 70 AD the entire place would be destroyed. Yet, is this the Temple which John is asked to measure? Is he being told to measure the Temple which God has rejected and Christ had condemned? By looking at the text before us, and gaining an understanding of the New Testament view of the Temple, we shall see that John is not at all concerned with the building in existence in Jerusalem, but with something far greater.
C) THERE IS A SEPARATION TAKING PLACE BETWEEN THE TEMPLE AND THE OUTER COURT - We have seen "division" taking place already in this book. In Revelation 7 there was a division between true and false Israel, between true and false worshippers. We see the same thing happening again as John distinguishes between those who worship in the Temple of God and those who are outside of that true Temple. Here we are given an incredible picture of first century history. The Jews who thought they worshipped God are cut off. They are pictured in the outer court, outside of the Temple. This group will be "tread underfoot by the Gentiles." It is only those within the Temple who will be spared. Now, as we know historically, even the Temple was not spared in the 70 AD destruction. Thus, John is not speaking of the literal Temple, rather he is referring to those who worship God in the spiritual Temple, the true Temple of the Lord. It is interesting to note that the city will be trampled for "forty-two months" (three and a half years) for this was the exact time of the campaign of Vespasian and his son Titus against the city of Jerusalem. It was a war which took place over three and a half years before the final fall in 70 AD. Yet the point which John is making here is that those who worship in the true Temple are spared this destruction. Such was the case historically with the Christians who escaped Jerusalem. John is not measuring the old Temple, rather, he is dividing between true and false worshippers.
D) THE TRUE TEMPLE, THE TEMPLE WHICH JOHN IS TOLD TO MEASURE, IS REVEALED FURTHER DOWN IN THE TEXT - In Revelation 11:19, after the seventh trumpet is blown and Christ is seen as King of kings and Lord of lords, we are also given a picture of the Temple of God. It is not the building in Jerusalem, rather it is His holy dwelling place in heaven, a spiritual Temple, where the people of God gather to worship. This is the true Temple of God. This is where we gather this morning to worship.
E) WHAT IS THE NEW TESTAMENT VIEW OF THE TEMPLE? - It is vital for us to have a New Testament understanding of the Temple. We must think like first century Christians in this regard. There is too much hype and concern for the old ruined building in Jerusalem today. "End times" paranoia centers upon the rebuilding of that place and some Christians rejoice at such a prospect. Yet this reflects a poor understanding of the New Testament's view of the Temple. New Testament Christians did not embrace the Temple as some Christians do today. Instead, they saw it as finished and past its use. To rebuild it would be an abomination and blasphemy for it would oppose the true place of God's worship. The New Testament writers are aware of the Temple's impending destruction and we see in their writings a definite move away from that place as a center of worship. How should we understand the idea of "Temple" in a New Testament framework?
First, the Lord Jesus uses some rather fascinating words to describe Himself in John 2:19-22. Although He is speaking of the resurrection of His own body, He does use the word "temple" to describe that event. In reality, in the resurrection of Christ we also find the resurrection of the church, for that new life spreads to all of His people. As the church is the body of Christ, so we may actually say that the new Temple was raised and begun at the Lord's resurrection. In the writings of Paul, we find that he is not concerned with the old Temple in Jerusalem. Instead, he defines the Temple today in terms of the people of God (I Corinthians 3:16,17; 6:19). Paul tells us that the church is the Temple and that it is to be a holy place, suitable for the habitation of God Almighty. Then, in II Corinthians 6:16, Paul actually uses Old Testament covenantal language to describe the relationship of the church, the new Temple, to God. The promises made to Abraham have become the promises of the church, for we are the new Israel, the new Jerusalem, the new Temple. In Ephesians 2:19-22, the very structure of the new Temple is described, built upon the foundation of Old Testament prophets and New Testament Apostles, Christ Himself being the cornerstone. Once again we are described as being the Temple of God. So we shall find throughout the New Testament (I Timothy 3:15; I Peter 2:5; Revelation 3:12), the old Temple has been set aside for the better and New Temple in Christ. To return to the old Temple would be an insult against the work of God today. Thus, John is not measuring the old Temple in Revelation 11, rather he is looking at the fulfillment of Ezekiel and the focus of the New Testament. Are you a member of that Temple? Are you a true worshipper to be found in the Temple of God?