Revelation 11:1-2: Measuring the Temple


  • The temple
  • The trials


The temple of Jerusalem is a hot bed of speculation and division. This is due to the OT presenting the New Creation in a Jerusalemocentric and temple worship style idealism. The perfect future of God’s people was always a projected perfect present which was very Jewish with a distinct separation from Gentiles, it was geographically located in Israel and not encompassing the whole world, it was represented in terms of a perfect temple worship and priesthood and not in light of the finished work of Christ, and it had other cultic aspects such as the OT Sabbaths. The question of literal interpretation causes many divisions. As we come to Rev. 11 with its mention of the holy city and the temple and altar we have to revisit our hermeneutic for how to read OT prophecies. The way this section is read is very different across the various schools of thought.

The Historicist sees chapter 11 as describing the Church during the Reformation. The temple they take to be the true church, the outer court is the apostate RCC. The measuring of the church’s temple, altar and worshippers is God sifting the true from the false. The measuring of the altar is thought to be the correct teaching on justification and how sins are forgiven. The measuring rod is thought to be held by Luther and authorised by God to overhaul the church. The two witnesses are thought to be the faithful few such as the Albigensians and the Waldensians who resisted the papal corruption of the truth. The 1260 days = 1260 years, the approximate time of papal supremacy in the church.

The Preterists see these verses as describing the Fall of Jerusalem. This is connected with the Fall of Jerusalem because Ezekiel also measured a temple and prophesied the fall of Jerusalem. The measured part of the temple is the believing Jews who followed Christ, the measuring = their preservation from Titus and his armies crushing Jerusalem and them fleeing to Pella. The trampling of the outer courts = the judgement of the unbelieving Jews who are spiritual Gentiles for rejecting their Messiah. The 1260 days is thought to be either the 3 ½ year persecution of Nero, or the 3 ½ year Jewish war which climaxed in the fall of Jerusalem. Some allow for the 3 ½ years to be symbolic of Elijah’s ministry and that it indicates a limited period of apostasy and not necessarily literal. The two witnesses could be the collective OT witness to Christ.

The Dispensational Futurist view tends to take everything in this chapter literally. They see these verses as occurring in the future in the 7 year period known as Daniel’s 70th week after the Rapture. They believe that the 1260 days represents the second half of the tribulation and represents an intense period of trial for Jewish believers. They view the temple being measured as the rebuilt temple of Ezekiel where the antichrist will set up a throne. And they see the two witnesses as two literal witnesses who literally have fire come out of their mouths. These are most likely Elijah and Enoch, because they had not died their one death yet, but others suggest Elijah and Moses.

Our reading is different. Recognising that there is a parallel between this interlude and the one in chapter 7, where we have six judgements, a two-fold structure interlude and then a 7th, we will read this interlude in parallel to chapter 7 positing that these 2 interludes both have similar concerns. Both have to do with the preservation of the church. This chapter progresses the idea in highlighting the fact that the church is both preserved and persecuted simultaneously. We see the notion of God sealing His people, and the actions of measuring them and raising them both indicating God’s preservation of His people.