The Unveiling of Jesus Christ
The Concordant Version
And a reed like a rod was given me, and one said, "Rouse, measure the temple of God and the altar and those worshiping in it.
2And the court outside of the temple cast outside, and you should not be measuring it, for it was given to the nations, and the holy city will they be treading forty-two months."
THE TEMPLE TRANSFERRED
THE political redemption of the earth and the supremacy of the priest nation must be based on the sacrifice of Christ and the worship of God. During the present eon there has been many a struggle between church and state for supreme power. We try to convince ourselves that the ideal government keeps them distinct. While this is expedient now, many of the failures of government are due directly to a lack of the religious element. Even men of the world have began to see that government cannot make men moral. It is powerless to reach their consciences. Some actually say that law should encourage religion. If the devitalized "religion" of today is a better deterrent of crime than the civil power, how great will be the divine religion of the day of the Lord!
These reflections are suggested by the measuring of the temple and altar and the worshipers (11:1), which is John's next prophetic action. This section of the Unveiling, is primarily concerned with rule, not with religion. Yet the kingdom does not commence by the seizure of a capital for its King, or a throne for His court, or an army for its defense, but by the forcible occupancy of the temple area and the altar, and the drafting of worshipers for its maintenance. No man is fit to rule his fellows who is not fit to represent them before God. That is why Christ is not only a king, like David, but also a priest, like Aaron. His is a Melchisedec combination, a sacerdotal sovereignty. Let us learn this lesson well. The political leadership of Israel is firmly founded on their priestly supremacy.
The first territory to enter the sphere of the kingdom is the temple. The first piece of furniture to be claimed by it is the altar. Its first subjects are characterized as worshipers. Of course the kingdom has not really commenced, Christ has not come. There is no rule over the nations. There is no priestly intercession for them. But Satan's sphere has been invaded. A base of operations has been seized. It is held against all the attacks of the enemy until the kingdom arrives. Behold the astounding picture which it presents! Practically all earthly power, controlling all territory except a few square rods in Jerusalem, ruling all people but a handful of pious Jews, commanding such armies as earth has never yet knownall of this is unable to dislodge God's pioneers from the temple precincts, or retake the territory covered by the sanctuary. God's weakness is stronger than man's utmost might.
John was given a special kind of standard for his survey. The length of his measure is not given. The dimension of the temple are not known. They are not in point and they are purposely omitted. The signifying of the action lies in the survey itself and in the character of the standard used. The act of measuring tells its own tale. More than once have I measured land, and it has always been in the course of its transfer. I either sold it or bought it. But the measuring was the most important when only a part of parcel of land was to be deeded to another. Then the fixing of the exact boundaries was essential. So will it be in the end time. God, of course, claims all who worship Him and rejects all who worship the beast. But now He claims a place on earth for His worship, unpolluted by the prevailing apostasy. He maintains an altar dedicated to His service, and a people devoted to His worship.
As no dimensions are given, the measuring has naught to do with the size of the temple as, indeed, would be most incongruous in connection with the worshipers. The true significance of the act comes out in the negative direction not to measure the outside court, because it is given to the nations. The temple and the altar and the worshipers are given to God. They become His public property.
The reed was "like a rod" or a mace. This is the word used of the iron rod with which Christ will rule all nations. It was usually a stout club, studded with spikes, which the shepherd had hanging from his wrist by a throng, and with which he defended the sheep from their enemies. In this scene the great Shepherd does not appear, but we see the sheep, and we see the club, and we see the enemies of the sheep menacing the fold, but they are unable to cross the line laid down by the rod. There can be no dispute as to the title of the area measured by the rod. It not only belongs to God in creation and redemption, neither of which are recognized by the powers of darkness of those days, but will be upheld by forceand that is a guarantee which even they will understand and acknowledge.
That such is the significance of the symbolic action is settled by the succeeding statement. John was not allowed to measure what was not sacred to the service of God. The outer court was omitted because it was left to be trodden by the nations until the advent of Christ. This accords with our Lord's statement that Jerusalem shall be trodden by the nations until the era of the nations may be fulfilled (Luke 21:24). These are to end only when the Son of mankind comes with much power and glory. The very fact that the term "gentile" or nations is used here is illuminating. One nation only is recognized as the people of God. All others are outside the pale. The great truth of the present no longer applies. The "middle wall of partition," the central barrier of the enclosure, is again set up and is maintained by all the force that is symbolized by the iron club.
This era is measured by days and months, and seasons. The two witnesses testify "a thousand, two hundred sixty days" (11:3). The faithful woman is nurtured in the wilderness for a like period (12:6). The wild beast is given authority to do its will for forty-two months (13:5). As we have seen, the nations are to tread the holy city for the same lunar period (1:2). Again, the persecuted woman is nurtured "a season and seasons and half a season." Why should the same duration be measured in such a variety of ways?
The final period of gentile domination will last for forty-two months. It might be supposed that this notable era is measured by such a variety of standards to preclude the possibility of "spiritualizing" or otherwise distorting or stretching it. But even such precautions are no safeguard with those who are determined that God never means what He says, or says what He means. This period is by far the most important in the whole realm of prophecy. It is probably the length of our Lord's ministry. But in the consummation of this eon, there is a special era called the conclusion, in which is the harvest (Matt.13) and all those marvelous signs that accompany its close. From all this it is evident that it must be a brief period. It cannot be twelve hundred and sixty years. Such terrific judgments as it embraces could not be endured for such a period by the human race.
Once we see the delightful concord between the various standards and the aspect of this era to which they refer, we cannot compel ourselves to reduce months into days and distort days into years. When the tenure of the powers of darkness is to be measured, what standard is there but the moon? The sun does not shine at night. The wild beast reigns in darkness and his dominion is measured by the moon. His authority is limited to forty-two months (13:5), precisely the same period, both in character and length, as the treading of the holy city by the nations. This is proof positive that the era of the nations (commonly called "the times of the gentiles") have not ended. The culminating era of gentile rule cannot commence until the wild beast comes upon the scene, and the temple of that day is no longer profaned by the alien.
The saints will not be in darkness. They are sons of light. Hence the sojourn of the two witnesses and the nurturing of the sun-clothed woman in the wilderness is measured by days. The actual duration is forty-two months, but it is counted by the daily, unchanging advent of the sun. This is especially apt in connection with the two witnesses, for they are luminaries themselves, God's warning flares during the final inflictions of His indignation.
The "season, seasons and half a season" is also three and a half years, but measured with regard to the harvests which are replaced by God's provision, when He nurtures the woman in the wilderness.
As the next section of this unveiling is especially concerned with the temple and its worshipers we must turn to it to identify the ones who are here referred to. Indeed this whole scene borders so closely on the next section that it introduces the wild beast (11:7) somewhat prematurely, for it is not formally presented to us until we reach the thirteenth chapter. In the fourteenth chapter we have the clue to the worshipers who are measured by John. There the Lambkin stands on Mount Zion with a hundred forty-four thousand. We have already seen that these are sealed (7:2-8). A part of their protection seems to be this sanctuary on Mount Zion into which the wild beast cannot come. So that the hundred forty-four thousand are here "measured" and set aside for God.
Some confusion seems to be introduced by the term "mount Zion." Solomon's temple and Herod's shrine were on mount Moriah, north-east of mount Zion. It is true that the term Zion is often used in a general way for Jerusalem, of which it was a part. As it was the stronghold of David and the most easily fortified quarter of the city, it suggests strength and safety, the very thoughts which are foremost in the measuring of the temple. Moreover, the tabernacle was set up on mount Zion in David's day and the sanctuary was not removed to mount Moriah until Solomon finished his temple (1 Kings 8:1; 2 Chron.5:2). Solomon and the temple are types of the kingdom. But even then the temple will not be on Moriah, but in the holy oblation. The days of David typify the days preceding the kingdom. Hence it is far more fitting to find the temple on Zion than on Moriah. Perhaps this will be the solution of the grave problem presented by the mosque of Omar and the fierce prejudice of the Mohammedan world.
There is much in this notable scene which should strike us strongly by way of contrast. It has all the elements which are absent from the present grace. There is the club, the temple, the "middle wall of partition," none of which can possibly have any place today. The club speaks of rule by force. We submit to rulers. We proclaim peace and dispense with all displays of force. The temple is the seat of ritual. The altar is the place of sacrifice. Nothing of this nature can claim a right to our support in this day of spiritual realities. Now the distinction between Israel and the nations vanishes. All have access unhindered into the presence of God. Any line of demarcation such as is suggested here is a radical reversal of the truth which prevails in this economy.
The bearing of this is so important on the interpretation of the whole Unveiling that it will be profitable to linger here awhile. The majority of expositors have many and diverse explanations of this scroll, based on the principle that it consists of a cover, which they must remove. In effect, they deny that it is an unveiling and insist that their exposition is the real unveiling. All is wrenched out of the day of the Lord and imposed upon the day of man. Everything possible (and impossible) is made to mean "the church," by which the present administration of God is usually designated. In this place we are asked to believe that the temple means the church, the altar Christ, the porch without heretics. One of the leading lights sums up the efforts to explain the time periods here spoken of by saying "no solution at all approaching to a satisfactory one has ever yet been given of any one of these periods." We might add that no solution ever will be satisfactory, because none is necessary.
We thank God for those few expositors who have repudiated the false principle of applying all to the present and of distorting everything by force to fit their misconceptions. May God give us faith to believe that the temple is the temple, the altar the altar, and that a day, a month, or a season are those divisions of time which are so designated in the dictionary. Then all the "undeniable difficulties" vanish. The fantastic mirage of human speculation fades away and the sober and solid and satisfying substance of fact remains. The most spiritual interpretation is that which refuses to "spiritualize."
One whose spirit has been acclimated in the unclouded sunshine of God's grace cannot feel comfortable in the murky atmosphere and stormy scenes of the Unveiling. All is alien and forbidding. And not only is the general impression foreign to our spirits, but every detail, once we observe closely, is in contrast with that to which we are accustomed. The measuring of the temple and its worshipers may serve as a sample. The very thought of measuring any portion of earth's surface is entirely outside the prospect of the believer today. He has no allotment on earth. His place is among the celestials. If we keep this thought within its proper sphere, as introductory to the establishment of Messiah's kingdom on earth, it is luminous. Apply it to ourselves, and it becomes darkness. Our allotment is not on earth, and we have no immediate interest in this action, even if it does restore to God the most sacred spot the earth has ever known.
Were we commissioned to capture Zion's mount for God, we could never use a club. All physical force is foreign to the spirit which characterizes the present administration. God's weakness is our armory, even as His folly is our wisdom. The present grace is an era of such imperative peace on God's part that we may say with all reverence that He cannot use a club. Paul in his Roman prison, accredited ambassador from the high court of heaven, exhibits not only the extreme of human antagonism to God, but also portrays the divine insistence on peace in spite of the utmost provocation. God's present attitude is conciliation and He refuses to recognize the most offensive of human acts. Then His attitude will be the very reverse. It will be the day of His indignation. He still desires peace, but He fights for it. He grasps the shepherd's club and cudgels mankind into submission.
To the spiritual eye the blackened debris which covered the temple site after its destruction by Titus is far more beautiful than even Solomon's magnificent shrine. The loveliness of form, of gleaming stones, of glittering gold, and the pomp and pageantry of ritual, all conspired to conceal the God within. It proclaimed Him distant, inaccessible. Such approach as was possible was laborious and led only to the vestibule of the abode of the shekinah. The nations were denied access even to the outer courts proper. But when the temple was demolished the most abject of the human race could stand on the very spot sacred to the Deity alone, into which even the chief priest dared not enter except for the annual covering of sin. In the scene before us there is a return to former times. The temple is rebuilt. Its precincts are sacred. Its ritual is exclusive.
Though we, sinners of the nations, have access now into the very presence of God, all is in spirit, not in flesh. We could not enter into the temple, that is to be in that day. The nearest we could come is the outside court, which is given to the nations. Now all such distinctions are abolished. Jew and Greek, Israel and the nations, Circumcision and Uncircumcision are all one in the new humanity which is in Christ Jesus. Then these distinctions will be reestablished and enforced as never before.
Such is the setting for the section concerning the two witnesses, which will next take our attention. A rather amusing incident comes to my mind whenever these are mentioned. Some time ago, in a gathering of saints, there had been some discussion of various religious leaders who had pandered to popularity by professing to be some biblical character, or at least assuming some sacred name. This, it was argued, gave them immense prestige with the people. As there were two of us witnessing for present truth, one brother proposed in jest that we pose as the two witnesses of Revelation! As we hardly cared to be sentenced to death in three and a half years, we declined, with thanks. Yet it brought vividly to our minds the unbridgeable chasm between their testimony and ours, and a feeling of profound thankfulness that we had been entrusted with a testimony so delightfully superior in character and scope and Godlikeness.
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