NT Eschatology—Letters 15
This is our third post about the book (letter) of The Revelation. There’s so much in this post but we’ll try not to make it too long.
Then I was given a measuring rod, which was like a pole. And I was told, “Get up and measure God’s temple, the altar, and those who worship there. But don’t measure the court outside the temple. Leave that out, because it has been given to the nations, and they’ll trample the holy city underfoot for forty-two months.
We point this passage out because it seems that people either don’t know it’s in there or they twist it to be something else.
Note here that John was told to measure “God’s temple, the altar, and those who worship there.” Of course, the question that comes rushing to the fore is, “Which temple?” Some think this is the temple of God in “heaven,” but that can’t be right. Verse two states that John’s not to measure the outside temple court because it’s been “given to the nations, and they’ll trample the holy city underfoot.” That’s not a picture of God’s space. It has to be a Temple here, in our space.
Others believe that it’s a rebuilt temple. They hold to this view for a couple of reasons. The primary reason is they believe Revelation was written after the Second Temple was destroyed by the Romans. Therefore, the temple mentioned above is a rebuilt Temple. What I find intriguing about this view is that everything that the Second Temple was (i.e., the Temple in Jesus’ day) must be copied for the rebuilt temple—the size, the decoration, the altar, the sacrifices, the tools, the clothes, etc. In other words, this supposed third temple has to be an exact replica of the Second Temple, not only in the minutest details, but also in function. The question that must be asked here is, “Why?” This supposed third temple not only looks like the Second Temple, but the services must be ancient, too. That is, everything must be exactly like it was when Jesus walked the earth. Again, “Why?”
The answer is because everything about this letter—and, as we’ve seen, all of the eschatology of the New Testament—points to the situation of the first century followers of Jesus when the Second Temple was still standing. So, the logic runs something like this: The Second Temple (i.e., the temple of Jesus’ and the apostles time) was supposedly destroyed before Revelation was written. But Revelation paints a picture that looks exactly like the situation of the first century and the war between the Jews and the Romans. Therefore, for Revelation to be about our time and our situation, there must be a new Israel, a new temple, and a new Roman empire so that warnings make sense.
Now, let’s think about this for a moment.
This “futurist” view of Revelation (and by that I mean those who hold to this view see Revelation dealing with, not first century issues but, our issues or our time) needs to reconstruct the first century situation to have it work. That’s why you have many, many people blindly supporting Israel. In their eyes, Israel can do no wrong.
Because those who espouse this view must have Jewish people return to the land; rebuild the temple (the supposed third temple), re-establish the priesthood, and reconstitute the Old Covenant Jewish sacrificial system. Therefore, whatever Israel has to do to fulfill this view is acceptable.
So that the Jews are firmly established in the land of Israel. So that everything will be like it was in the “good ol’ days” of Israel when Jesus walked the earth.
Meanwhile, a new Roman Empire must be formed. It’s sole purpose is to rule the “world” again, like it’s first century ancestor. When it’s a super power once more, it will turn its eyes to Israel so that the...wait for it… war with the Jews can happen again!
That is, the whole futurists paradigm is about repeating the events of the first Jewish / Roman war! Now, they may not want to admit that, but that’s exactly what this theology teaches.
But, there’s an alternative. One that doesn’t require us having to jump through all of these hoops. It’s simply this: John was told to measure the temple that was still standing—The Second Temple. The one Jesus talked about. The ones the disciples asked about. As we noted before, if we keep the Jewish / Roman war as a viable option for the fulfillment of the New Testament’s eschatology, then all of these problems fall away.
This view is clearly seen in the follow verses.
“And I’ll allow my two witnesses to prophesy for one thousand two hundred sixty days, wearing mourning clothes. These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth. If anyone wants to hurt them, fire comes out of their mouth and burns up their enemies. So if anyone wants to hurt them, they have to be killed in this way. They have the power to close up the sky so that no rain will fall for as long as they prophesy. They also have power over the waters, to turn them into blood, and to strike the earth with any plague, as often as they wish.
“When they have finished their witnessing, the beast that comes up from the abyss will make war on them, gain victory over them, and kill them. Their dead bodies will lie on the street of the great city that is spiritually called Sodom and Egypt, where also their Lord was crucified.”
Here we’re introduced to the “two witnesses.” Like the speculation about which temple John was told to measure, there have been a lot of conjectures about the “two witnesses.” But, once again, the text offers the best interpretation.
It’s said that these two before the “Lord of the earth.” They’ve been given the “power to close up the sky” so it won’t rain and they have “power over the water, to turn them into blood, and to strike the earth with any plague.” Who does this sound like? Who could that possibly be?
Elijah and Moses.
Elijah prophesied that there wouldn’t be “dew nor rain” until he said so (1 Kings 17.1). And the whole story of the Exodus has Moses turning the water to blood and striking the earth with different plagues (Exodus 7ff). Furthermore, it was Elijah and Moses who appeared to Jesus on the “Mount of Transfiguration.” They were discussing Jesus’ “departure, which he would achieve in Jerusalem (Luke 9.28-36).
“Wait a minute,” I hear someone objecting. “Elijah and Moses weren’t prophesying in the streets of Jerusalem before or during the Jewish / Roman war.”
Are we sure about that?
Remember, when we started this series we talked about “apocalyptic” language? We noted that it’s more like poetic language—it uses images to represent something else. The question we want to ask here is, what would the images of “Elijah and Moses” represent?
The Law and the Prophets.
And that’s exactly what was “read aloud every Sabbath in every synagogue” (Acts 15.21). In Luke 16, Jesus told a story about the “rich man and Lazarus.” When Jesus told his story the rich man was in a place of torment and wanted “Abraham” to send messengers to his family to warn them. This is the end of the conversation between Abraham and the rich man:
Abraham replied, “They have Moses and the Prophets. They must listen to them.” The rich man said, “No, Father Abraham! But if someone from the dead goes to them, they will change their hearts and lives.” Abraham said “If they don’t listen to Moses and the Prophets, then neither will they be persuaded if someone rises from the dead.”
That story was told to a group of Pharisees, the ones who saw themselves as better than others around them. The ones who had colluded with the Roman Empire at the expense of their people. The ones who brought the false charges against Jesus and delivered him over to the Romans for his crucifixion.
And that last point ties into Revelation 11.8, “Their dead bodies (i.e., the Law and Prophets) will lie on the street of the great city that is spiritually called Sodom and Egypt, where also their Lord was crucified.”
Here we see the depths to which Jerusalem had fallen. It’s spiritual state was likened to “Sodom and Egypt.” Contrary to the opinions of some, the sin of Sodom was not homosexuality. The sins of Sodom were, “pride, gluttony, and laziness, while the poor and needy suffered outside her door” (Ezekiel 16.49; NLT1). And, as we know, the sin of Egypt was they were the great slave master to Israel when she was an infant. They were the ones who were the “world power” at the time. They kept Israel enslaved so they could continue their socio-economic separation and power.
And there’s no mistaking that this is Jerusalem—it’s the place “where also their Lord was crucified.” Again, this points to the city and Temple of Jesus’ day. Showing once more that Revelation 13, and the entire letter, was written before 70 CE and was about the fall of the city and Temple during the Jewish / Roman war.
Next time, we’ll finish our look at the passages from Revelation and then, after that, we’ll conclude this series.
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In the Love of the Three in One,
Br. Jack+, LC
1. Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996, 2004, 2007, 2013, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.