God’s Care for His Temple
Chapter eleven is considered the hardest chapter to understand in the entire Book of Revelation. And many will no doubt disagree with my interpretation. As I have said someplace else, it is important not to be dogmatic where differences such as these occur: In essentials we must not compromise, but in nonessentials we must exercise charity. I ask for that now.
I agree with those who see the “temple” referred to in these two verses as the Church of Jesus Christ and not a future rebuilt temple complete with sacrifices. My reasoning for this is that besides our Lord’s “Olivet Discourse” in which he prophesies the destruction of that physical building wherein the Jews worshiped—which prophecy was fulfilled in A.D. 70—other places in the New Testament use “temple” plainly in reference to Christ’s Church (e.g., 1 Corinthians 3:16-17; 2 Corinthians 6:16; Ephesians 2:19-22). God’s temple now consists of Jew and Gentile born from above who seek not “present Jerusalem [which] is in slavery with her children, but the Jerusalem above [which] is free, and she is our mother” (Galatians 4:25-26). The wall of separation having been broken down between us (Ephesians 2:11-22), Jew and Gentile together in Christ now “desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one…for [God] has prepared for them a city” (Hebrews 11:16).
That having been established, the “measuring rod” John is given to measure the temple, altar, and those who worship there (and how would one literally “measure” the people worshiping there with a rod?) is symbolic of God’s preservation and protection of His people (NICNT, 219). The image of God’s measuring His temple, which is His people washed in the blood of the Lamb, is similar to his sealing them on their foreheads in 7:1-8. Is not this theme of God’s preservation of his people repetitious in the Book of Revelation? Indeed, it is! Don’t you love to hear it?
But God’s preservation of His people does not mean that they will be removed from persecution. On the contrary, the “nations” will trample the “court outside the temple” and the “holy city” for forty-two months. The “nations” are unbelievers. The outer court is the world in which we live—our place of exile and sojourn. The “holy city” is the Church, for in this world, there is no holy city, not even Jerusalem (Galatians 4:25-26). “Forty-two months,” “1260 days,” and “a time, and times, and half a time” are all symbolic of that time between our Lord’s ascension and his return. This will be evident 12:1-6. In the meantime, we are persecuted but never defeated.