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The ninth chapter of Revelation covers the rise of Islam from 612-1453, along with the fall of the Constantinople and the Eastern Roman Empire. These are the first two “woes” of Rev. 8:13. The third woe, which is the seventh trumpet, does not begin until Rev. 11:15. Hence, the historical events described in the tenth chapter of Revelation tell us of more positive works that God was doing to build His Kingdom during the time of the second woe.
In order to establish His Kingdom, the citizens of that Kingdom must be prepared through an understanding of the word, that is, by opening the little book. The Kingdom must be established with divine revelation and understanding of His ways, that is, His laws. Indeed, men did begin to study the divine law.
Men like John Calvin in Switzerland and John Knox in Scotland searched the Scriptures to learn how to implement the laws of the Kingdom.
Calvin’s “Geneva Experiment” was followed by Knox’s writings that had a great influence on the laws in the American colonies. Their understanding was not complete, for without a clear understanding of the difference between the Old and New Covenants, it was hardly possible to implement the laws of God with the mind of Christ. For this reason, in 1553 Calvin sentenced his opponent, Michael Servetus, to be burned at the stake for heresy, in accordance with the value system that he had learned in his earlier life in the Roman church.
In spite of such serious errors in understanding, the open book gave many the opportunity to learn the ways of God, rather than relying on the ways of the church. Moreover, it gave them the choice of placing their faith in Christ or in the church. Yet the revelation of the word would come slowly, and meanwhile, the spirit of Saul (rule by men) continued.
When men lost faith in the Roman church, most of them simply transferred their allegiance to a new denomination which they hoped would be “the true church.” While these new denominations may have made some improvements (“reforms”) in doctrine or in church practice, they were, nonetheless, still ruled by men.
Although understanding would come progressively, the gospel—to the extent that it was understood—began to spread to “many peoples and nations and tongues and kings” (Rev. 10:11). As knowledge of the word increased, the new Temple of God began to take shape. This, then, is the first topic of the eleventh chapter of Revelation.
1 Peter 2:4, 5 says,
4 And coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected by men, but choice and precious in the sight of God, 5 you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
Christ is the “living stone,” and we, as believers are “living stones” as well. Peter goes on to say that the main Stone, Jesus Christ, is the “precious corner stone” (1 Peter 2:6), whereas we ourselves are the other stones being shaped and prepared to be placed in the walls of this new Temple. Paul spoke of this as well in Eph. 2:20-22. This spiritual temple, constructed out of “living stones,” is the temple prophesied by Ezekiel and Haggai, whether they understood it or not. The shekinah had lifted from the first temple in Ezekiel 11:23, and Jer. 7:12-14 decreed that it would be “as Shiloh,” never again to return either to Shiloh or to Jerusalem.
This was why the second temple, when completed in the time of Zerubbabel, was not glorified by the presence of God in the way that Solomon’s temple had been glorified. The decree of God forbade it. As with Shiloh, from which place the glory had first departed (1 Sam. 4:20, 21, 22), God had written Ichabod on the earthly Jerusalem as well. The glory, then, did not return until the day of Pentecost, when it fell, not upon the people at Herod’s temple, but upon the disciples in the upper room. These disciples were the first “stones” of the new temple being built upon the foundation of Christ.
The manner of building this new Temple was prefigured in the construction of Solomon’s temple. We read in 1 Kings 6:7,
7 And the house, while it was being built, was built of stone prepared at the quarry; and there was neither hammer nor axe nor any iron tool heard in the house while it was being built.
The old temple was built of physical stones, which were eventually torn down; but the new Temple is of living stones which will endure forever. The stones of Solomon’s temple were quarried from a mountain and shaped off site. The reason is because the law in Exodus 20:25 says,
25 And if you make an altar of stone for Me, you shall not build it of cut stones, for if you wield your tool on it, you will profane it.
In his wisdom, Solomon applied this law to the temple itself, which is a greater “altar of stone.” It was necessary to shape the stones with iron tools, but the work was done offsite so that the sound would not be heard at the temple site itself. This unique application of the law was revealed by God, and it prophesied of things to come.
The living stones in the True Temple were shaped off-site by the iron kingdom of Rome, mostly through persecution. This continued throughout the era of the “little horn,” which was the extension of the iron kingdom. Recall that the little horn was to wage war with the saints until the transfer of authority to the saints of the Most High. All of this opposition and persecution helped to shape the living stones so that they might fit smoothly one upon the other in true unity with Christ.
The true altar of God is not really made of physical stones either. The heart is the true altar, and if we try to shape our own heart by carnal methods, we will only pollute it. The law allowed only naturally-shaped stones—that is, stones shaped over time by God Himself.
This teaches us that only the Holy Spirit can change the heart. We may regulate our behavior, but only God is capable of changing one’s heart.
The church, by its coercion and persecution, tried to shape men’s hearts by the iron tools at its disposal, but all they did was to pollute the hearts of men with warped ideas about the mind of Christ. Yet even this was used by God to accomplish a higher purpose in the big picture of the overall Temple.
The manner in which Solomon’s artificers used iron tools to shape the stones seemed to violate the law, but yet it did not. So also, when God shaped the living stones using the tools of the iron kingdom, this too was acceptable in the divine plan (boulema), even though it was a great sin in regard to the will (thelema) of God.
Revelation 11:1, 2 says,
1 And there was given me a measuring rod like a staff [kalamos, “reed”]; and someone said, “Rise and measure the temple of God, and the altar, and those who worship in it. 2 And leave out the court which is outside the temple, and do not measure it, for it has been given to the nations; and they will tread under foot the holy city for forty-two months.”
To measure something is to understand or comprehend something prophetically, especially in terms of time. Distance and time are both measured by numbers according to an established standard of measure. In Scripture, distance is measured in cubits, handbreadths, and reeds. Time is measured in days, weeks, years, and Jubilees in Sabbatical increments (sevens). Distance and time often correlate in prophecy, because distance often represents time (usually years).
For example, when Israel crossed the Jordan into the Promised Land, priests were to carry the Ark into the midst of the river, and the people were to follow two thousand cubits behind the Ark (Joshua 3:4). The Ark represents Christ, who was baptized at that very spot in the Jordan, and the people were to enter the Kingdom two thousand years later. This is a simple example of how the distance of two thousand cubits represented a time of two thousand years.
In Revelation 11, John gives us the key by which we are to correlate the measurement of the temple with the time of its fulfillment. The standard of measure used here is a reed. A reed was a “staff” or stick measuring 42 handbreadths. This length, in turn, was six sacred cubits, each being seven handbreadths in length.
So in Ezekiel 41:8, when the prophet was measuring the temple envisioned in his day, he spoke of “a full reed of six great cubits” (KJV). The temple was being measured in sacred cubits, which was actually one handbreadth longer than a regular cubit. The prophet makes mention of this in Ezekiel 43:13, “And these are the measurements of the altar by cubits (the cubit being a cubit and a handbreadth).” He was informing us that the sacred cubit was equal to the length of a regular cubit plus an extra handbreadth.
The reed was the common denominator of both the sacred and the regular cubit. At 42 handbreadths, a reed was six sacred cubits or seven regular cubits. Hence, a reed was a handy tool for measuring things in those days.
John, who no doubt had used these tools of measurement in his day, gives us the correlation of distance and time in Rev. 11:1, 2. A reed is equal to forty-two months. Hence, a handbreadth is equal to one month in prophecy. And because a prophetic month is, in turn, thirty days—and a day can equal a year—we can also say that a handbreadth may be either one month or thirty years.
This, then, is how we must understand the measuring of this spiritual Temple that God is building out of living stones. It is confusing for those of us who use meters or yards and are unfamiliar with biblical measurement systems. However, if we hope to understand this aspect of Scripture—and especially prophecy—we must take the time to learn these biblical measures.