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The law of time is set forth in the law of equal weights and measures—the measures in particular, because time measures the distance between events. One of the most basic tools of measurement is the cubit.
Some years ago, as I was driving and through Montana and praying as I went, I suddenly made the connection in Revelation 11 about prophetic time and linear measurements.
A Prophetic Reed
Revelation 11:1 KJV says,
1 And there was given me a reed like unto a rod; and the angel stood, saying, “Rise, and measure the Temple of God, and the altar, and them that worship therein.”
Verse 2 then speaks of “42 months.”
It is no coincidence that a reed is equal to 42 handbreadths (the width of one’s hand). This, I believe, is the key to understanding how biblical measurements of distance are applied to time. A handbreadth represents one month (or 30 days) in prophecy.
In Revelation 11:1 KJV, John was told to “measure the Temple of God and the altar, and them that worship therein.” Later, in Revelation 21:15 KJV, an angel was given “a golden reed to measure the city, and the gates thereof, and the wall thereof.” This city is the Jerusalem, coming down from heaven (Revelation 21:2).
It is clear that this reed is not just a tool to measure linear distance, because in verse 1 it is also used to measure the worshippers themselves. It is not likely that John was to see how tall they were, but rather to see if they had attained spiritual maturity, “to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13). These are, after all, the living stones being built into the Temple of God (Ephesians 2:21).
In a personal sense, each is a complete temple in his own right, but each is also a fractal of a larger temple where the stones fit perfectly with all of the others (1 Peter 2:5). This company of living stones are quarried out of many generations, and so it takes time for this temple to be completed. Only when we reach the fullness of time will the measure of the city, altar, walls, and gates be expressed in terms of a reed. Only then will the worshippers themselves reach the full maturity of this reed.
Two Types of Cubit
There are three basic units of measure in Scripture: (1) a handbreadth, (2) a cubit, and (3) a reed.
This is made a little more complex by the fact that there are two types of cubit in Scripture. A regular cubit is 6 handbreadths long, while a “great cubit” is 7 handbreadths. The great cubit, used to measure the sanctuary, is specifically defined in Ezekiel 43:13 KJV” “The cubit is a cubit and an hand breadth.”
In other words, a sacred cubit is a regular cubit plus an extra handbreadth.
Six sacred cubits is a reed, where each cubit is 7 handbreadths (6 x 7 = 42). So in Ezekiel 40:5 KJV, the rebuilt Temple was measured with “a measuring reed of six cubits long by the cubit and an handbreadth; so he measured the breadth of the building, one reed.”
So Ezekiel 41:8 tells us,
8 I saw also the height of the house round about: the foundations of the side chambers were a full reed of six great cubits.
If they had been using the regular cubit, Ezekiel would have written, “a full reed of seven regular cubits.” It was convenient that a reed was the common denominator of the two types of cubit. A reed was either 7 regular cubits or 6 sacred cubits.
Ezekiel’s temple was the same one that John was measuring in Revelation 11:1. It is not a physical temple in the earthly Jerusalem but the spiritual temple in the heavenly city, which Paul set forth in Ephesians 2:20-22.
We see, then, that the cubit used to measure the altar in Ezekiel's prophecy is the longer sacred cubit, not the shorter regular cubit.
To be less confusing, I will confine this discussion to great cubits (sacred cubits) and ignore the regular cubit. After all, both Ezekiel and Revelation 11 are dealing with measurements of the “temple,” and so the sacred cubit is really all that matters for prophetic purposes.
Handbreadth = the basic unit of measure, about the width of one's hand.
Sacred Cubit = 7 Handbreadths
Reed = 6 Sacred Cubits, or 42 Handbreadths
Going back to Revelation 11, take note that the unit of measure is the “reed,” which is 42 Handbreadths, and that it correlates with 42 months. This means one linear Handbreadth translates to one month of time.
1 Handbreadth = 1 Month
42 Handbreadths = 42 Months
Ezekiel 40 and Revelation 21 ought to be read together in order to get a proper understanding of the final temple that God is building out of living stones. Ezekiel’s temple was not a physical temple being built in the latter days. It was a temple in the New Jerusalem, “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone” (Ephesians 2:20). This temple is no more physical than the city in Revelation 21 with walls that are 144 cubits high (Revelation 21:17 KJV).
A Cubit is Seven Months in Prophecy
If a handbreadth is one month, then a cubit is 7 months of time. It is the amount of time it takes to complete the full set of feast days given under Moses. A regular cubit of 6 handbreadths is only 6 months and thus does not include the feasts of the seventh month: Trumpets, Atonement, and Tabernacles.
That is why it was important to measure the altar and its worshippers using a great cubit. It was part of the revelation. To truly worship God, one must not only keep Passover (by faith in the blood of the Lamb) and Pentecost (be filled with the Spirit), but one must also keep the Autumn feasts that describe the second coming of Christ. The New Covenant manner in which we keep those feasts has already been covered previously in our Kingdom Vision series.
Next, we find that we can break this down into DAYS, rather than MONTHS. The book of Revelation does this, for there we find that 42 months is the equivalent of 1,260 days (or 3 and a half “times” in the book of Daniel). In other words, a prophetic month is 30 days. 42 x 30 = 1,260 days.
A day can also mean a year. The Hebrew word yom (singular) or yammim (plural) often means a year or years, such as we see in Exodus 13:10, Leviticus 25:29, Joshua 13:1, etc). This is the biblical basis of the principle establishing a day for a year (Numbers 14:34; Ezekiel 4:4, 5). A day may also be 1000 years (Psalm 90:4; 2 Peter 3:8), depending upon the particular application.
A Cubit is 210 Days
If a handbreadth is a month, and if a month is 30 days, then 7 handbreadths (or 7 months) total 210 days (7 x 30 = 210).
As we have already shown, the number 210 is one of the most important numbers in Bible prophecy. It is “the time of Jacob's distress” (Jeremiah 30:7), because it is built upon a 21-day/year period. Daniel fasted for 21 days (Daniel 10:2, 13)), during which time the “prince of the kingdom of Persia” withstood the angel that was sent to give Daniel some key revelation.
The number 210 is expressed in linear measurement by 1 great cubit. Twelve of these cubits is 2,520 “days” (or years). We find this in the seventh chapter of the book of Numbers as well, when Moses dedicated the altar for the tabernacle, as written in the law. The temple was later measured in the prophets—Ezekiel, in particular, and finally John was told to measure the altar in Revelation 11 and the city in Revelation 21.
If we put all of these prophetic things together, we see how God uses all of these numbers to weave a seamless robe. The seven times (2,520 days/years) are also like the seven months that it takes to complete the original feast days. The seven months are seven regular cubits (i.e., a reed) to measure the altar, the temple, and the city.
Each great cubit of the sanctuary is a month in time, and seven of these months is 210 days. By reaching the end of 210 days (7 months of feasts), we reach the end of Jacob’s distress, through the fulfillment of the feasts of the seventh month.
As we showed earlier, 12 x 210 = 2,520, a period of “seven times.” In short-term prophecy, this can be reckoned in terms of days (i.e., 7 years). But in long-term prophecy, such as the tribulation of Samaria and Jerusalem, a day is reckoned as a year (i.e., 2,520 years).
Most of today’s prophecy teachers have little understanding of these things, and so they think in terms of a seven-year tribulation that is yet future. With that mindset, they miss the entire panorama of prophecy that has been taking place since the fall of Samaria and Jerusalem.
Every prophet needs to know these things in order to know how to interpret the word that God gives them. When God speaks of Israel, he is not often talking about the modern Jewish state but of the so-called lost tribes, including Ephraim, the holder of Joseph’s Birthright. We need to learn God’s language and adopt His definitions of these important terms, so that we do not misapply prophecy. And every prophet and teacher of prophecy needs to know something about timing, which is based on handbreadths, cubits, and reeds.