John recounts in more detail events that take place during the first half of the tribulation including his call to “measure” and the ministry of God’s two specially-appointed earthly witnesses.
v.1-2 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. But leave out the court which is outside the temple, and do not measure it, for it has been given to the Gentiles. And they will tread the holy city underfoot for forty-two months.”
Israel’s future temple is in view here. But there are two temples in Israel’s future, so we need to make a distinction, look at God’s word to explain the meaning for the measuring, and then determine which temple is in view here.
The first yet-future temple concerns the Tribulation. According to Daniel, the nation Israel, in a treaty it signs with the head of a confederation of European nations during the first half of the tribulation, will be allowed to rebuild a Jerusalem temple in which it can worship and conduct sacrificial offerings according to the Mosaic Law (Dan.9:27). However, during this time God will neither accept Israel’s sacrifices, nor will He inhabit their temple (Isa.66:3,4). Moreover, according to Daniel, the Antichrist, after three and a half years, will break the treaty, subsequently overthrow Jerusalem and desecrate the temple (Dan.9:27).
The second yet-future temple is constructed for the Millennium. But unlike the tribulation temple, God shall inhabit and fill it with His glory, and it shall be the dwelling place of the Lord (Ez.43:5-7).
For the “measuring”, we’ll consider two other times it was mandated. The prophet Ezekiel watched a measurement of the millennial temple and Zechariah saw a measurement of the city of Jerusalem. And in both instances, the measuring was in anticipation of the Lord’s dwelling amongst His people, and thereby signified a preparation for it (Ez.40-48; Zech.2:1-5). So it was with John. He was instructed to measure in anticipation of the Lord’s Coming to make it ready for the King.
What John measures concerns that which must be cleansed in the first yet-future Tribulation temple in anticipation for the second temple that ultimately becomes the dwelling place of our Lord during the Millennium.
Okay, now let’s look at what John is told to measure.
- The “temple of God” – This would consist of the “inner court” of the temple, where the Holy Place and Holy of Holies are located
- The “altar” – This is a furnishing located inside the Holy Place where incense is burned to symbolize the prayers of the people
- “Those who worship there” – The Jews. Showing them as separated unto God, but with hearts that must be prepared by judgment that they might become the true Israel.
On the other hand, John is strictly forbidden from measuring the court outside the temple, which speaks of the “outer court” outside the Holy place of the temple. God has not separated it unto Himself, but instead has given it to the Gentiles to tread underfoot for forty-two months (three and a half years), or the entire second half of the Tribulation.