#27 The Most Difficult Chapter
We come this morning to what has been called by theologians, ‘The most difficult passage in the book of Revelation.’ And there are many things here that are mysterious and full of symbolism. And so we will endeavor to find out what God wants us to know as we look into His word and listen to His voice.
Here is an overview of the chapter. We have the measurement of the temple, the Holy City Trodden Down by the Gentiles: the two witnesses; their 42 month testimony, death, resurrection and ascension: the great earthquake: the third woe: the seventh trumpet ushering in Christ’s kingdom, and the song of thanksgiving by the 24 elders. This is a lot of information and as I said, much mystery fills each of these items.
Let’s get right to it. We begin in our text found in (Rev 11:1) where we hear John say, ‘Then I was given a reed like a measuring rod. One commentator says that the average measuring rod was about ten feet long. These measuring rods came from the Jordan River where the reeds grew in great abundance. This is the physical description; the reality.
Now for the symbolism behind it. We see that this reed is said to be “Like a rod,” namely, straight: like a rod of iron unbending, destroying all error, and that “cannot be broken.” (Re 2:27 Heb 1:8)
The Greek word is Hrabdos and carries with it the idea of, “a rod of straightness,” and “a scepter of righteousness”; this is added to guard against it being thought that the reed was one “shaken by the wind” This measuring rod was given to John by an angel from heaven and its measurement would be true, perfectly accurate.
God had a job for John to do with this measuring Rod as we read further; “And the angel stood, saying, “Rise and measure the temple of God, specifically the sanctuary, the altar, which was in the sanctuary and those who worship there. Some have likened this to the sealing of the 144,000 Jews in chapter 6 and they say that this is a symbol of the sealing of the elect.
Now some have speculated that this statement means that there will be a rebuilt temple in Jerusalem. As I have stated before, there are those in Jerusalem who are dedicated to building a new temple on the temple mount. Of course the problem is that the Islamic “Dome of the Rock” is standing on the temple mount now.
The Moslems say that on this place, Mohammed ascended into heaven. But unlike Jesus, he didn’t stay there because the Moslems worship at Mohammed’s tomb as well. His decomposed remains are in his grave. This is unlike our Lord Jesus Christ who ascended bodily into heaven. Jesus’ grave is empty for God would not allow His Holy One to see corruption. (Ps. 16:10)
These Jewish ‘zealots’ have been preparing the articles of worship for this new temple and have been training men to perform the temple sacrifices. Jewish archeologists have stated that the Temple can be rebuilt on the Temple mount next to the Dome of the Rock because the actual Jewish Temple was located to the side of the location of the Dome. And so from the human perspective these things are in the works. They have even bred a red heifer whose ashes are necessary for the consecration of the new Temple.
Whether a new temple is in the works from God’s perspective I don’t know. We know from the scriptures that the temple sacrifices were rendered useless and obsolete by the perfect sacrifice of God’s Son on the cross. There is no need to offer such sacrifices “For” as we read in (Heb 10:4) it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins. They are useless in regards to salvation, for bringing about a right standing with God. They were shadows of the good things to come, the reality being Jesus Christ our Lord!
And we read of this in (Heb 9:11-15) “But Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation. 12 Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. 13 For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, 14 how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?
15 And for this reason He is the Mediator of the new covenant, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, that those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance.
Peter said as much in (Acts 4:12) when he said, “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” But the Jewish people of today are like any other lost sinners; they reject Jesus as their Messiah and are still looking for the one prophesied by Moses.
It is interesting to me how people can be so easily blinded by a lie. We know from the scriptures that spiritually dead sinners cannot understand the things of the Spirit of God. Sinners think the Bible and Jesus and all of that religious stuff is stupid. But who is the real fool here?
Do you remember what lie the Priests used to cover up the resurrection of Jesus? Turn to (Matt 28:12-15). Understand the context here. Jesus is risen. The Roman guard who had been deployed to protect the tomb had fainted dead away at the sight of the angel who had come down and rolled away the stone that had covered the door.
Now understand that these men were part of the most powerful army in the world, the deadliest fighting men on the planet. They were trained to hold a four foot area of ground, were trained to fight against multiple soldiers and were successful in defeating all the armies of the known world at that time. And the scriptures say that these mighty soldiers shook with fear and became like dead men!
When they came to, no one was around, the tomb was empty and they were in trouble. And so they wandered into town and instead of going to Pontius Pilate who would have ordered their immediate execution, they came to the religious leaders for help.
They told their story these men who realized that something had gone terribly wrong. Now they had to do damage control. They had to come up with a story that would quench the news of Jesus’ resurrection. They thought hard and fast and “When they had assembled with the elders and consulted together, came up with a scheme which they thought was a winner, a scheme that couldn’t fail.
And so what they did was they gave a large sum of money to the soldiers, 13 saying, “Tell them, ‘His disciples came at night and stole Him away while we slept.’ Now consider what is being said. “Yup, Yup, Yup, we was all asleep and while we was alayin there just a’sawin logs, the disciples came in and stole that therr Jesus dude and got away. We was asleep but we saw em sure as we is standin here now!” 14 And if this comes to the governor’s ears, we will appease him and make you secure.” 15 So they took the money and did as they were instructed;
Now you’d think, “Who could ever believe such a stupid story?” That’s the dumbest thing I ever heard of. Everyone knows you can’t see anything when your asleep.” But look at the result of this scheme…“and this saying is commonly reported among the Jews until this day.” The people fell for it! Who’re the dummies now!
But Jesus warned them of this during His earthly ministry. He said in (John 5:43) I have come in My Father’s name, and you do not receive Me; if another comes in his own name, him you will receive. Jesus came in His Father’s Name, proclaiming the truth. When they heard Him speak they were hearing the voice of God. When they saw Him, they were seeing God. As they watched Him, they were beholding God in action. And yet they didn’t receive Him!
But, He said, someone is going to come in His own name, and him you will receive. Him you will reverence. You will look to him, trust in him; believe in him. This ‘one’ who is coming is the antichrist who will come with signs and lying wonders and he will be able to deceive them as easily as the soldiers did with their stupid, unbelievable story!
But the Jewish people aren’t doing anything different than they have done all along. They had God Himself as their King and when He fought for them they were invincible. He protected them from the other nations and prospered their lives and gave them bumper crops. They had everything; kind of like Adam and Eve in the Garden. But like them, the Israelites didn’t care either. Everything was not enough. They wanted a king like other nations.
And so God said, (and this was all according to divine plan) “ok, you get a king like the other nations. (De 17:14) You despise the Lord God as your king and holiness as your standard and grace upon grace for your portion!
You wan to be like the other nations who offer up human sacrifice, are into cannibalism and homosexuality! Here’s your sign! STUPID! And here’s your king.”
And they got Saul who, at the beginning was sort of ok but as time went on he became a horrible, demon possessed, raving lunatic who was so obsessed with killing David that he shirked his duties to his nation, leaving them open to attack from their enemies. And finally he died on Mount Gilboa in judgment for his sins.
In the same way the Jewish people of today want to build their temple where they can offer up their sacrifices. Outwardly they may be saying that they want to do this for their God and there may be some who are sincere in their love for God but they have rejected His Son, His scriptures, His Person. They have looked to themselves and have come up with a better way, a better plan.
And they are looking for their Messiah who will do what they want, who will measure up to their standards (from the scriptures they took out of context and twisted for their own purposes) and who will raise them up as rulers of the earth.
The antichrist may be such a man. It is said that he will deceive them into believing that he is for them. Some believe that he will make a covenant with them for seven years and in the midst of that time period will break the covenant and set himself up in the temple of God proclaiming that he is indeed God.
What a horrific outcome to the sin of unbelief. Men hate God, reject all He stands for. They believe themselves to be self sufficient. They believe that they are rich and in need of nothing when in truth they are wretched, miserable, poor, blind and naked.
They are lost and undone and the worst is, they don’t know it. They believe everything is beautiful in its own way; that we can all get along, that all we are saying is give peace a chance! But they are fools, without hope, without God, in this world.
John is told to measure the sanctuary, the holy place, the place where God’s people come to worship Him in spirit and in truth.
This is the place where truth resides, where God is loved and worshiped and honored, where holiness is a beautiful thing, where God’s word is loved and treasured and revered.
But there is another place which John is told to stay away from. We read in verse 2 “But leave out the court which is outside the temple, and do not measure it, of your measurement, literally, “cast out”; reckon as unhallowed…for it has been given by God’s appointment to the Gentiles. Consider a few passages with me. (Luke 21:24) (Ps 79:1) (Isa 63:18)
Therefore it is not to be measured. Now concerning the time of the end we read of a specific time period in which the wicked unbelieving Gentiles will be in charge of Jerusalem “And they will tread the holy city underfoot for forty-two months.” Is it a literal 42 months or merely symbolic?
Hendriksen would go with symbolism saying that this is a representative number of a prolonged period of time. Others would take a literal approach saying that it is a definite 3½ year period of time sighting Daniel with his “Time, times and half a time and 1260 days” each adding up to 3½ years.
Regardless of your view on this the main point we come back to is the fact that this world is going to end one day. Jesus Christ is coming back to this earth one day and on that day we who love His appearing, who are looking for and praying for His return, we who are alive and remain at His appearing will rejoice with a shout that will shake the world.
The unbelievers, those who hate Jesus, and Christianity, who despise the Holy Scriptures which alone are able to make one wise unto salvation will see that their whole lives have been based on a lie, that all of their wickedness comes at a high price. The wages of sin is death.
They will watch their champion, the antichrist fall just as Goliath did before God’s man David. Everything they based their lives upon will be shown to be exactly what it is, sand, worthless, foundationless and empty.
How sad it is to think of people walking around in this world thinking that they have everything under control when in reality they are one heartbeat away from an eternity in Hell. And they don’t care. They just don’t care. But we know the truth don’t we. They cannot see because they are blind. They are dead to the truth.
Unless God opens their eyes they will never see.
So what should we be doing? We know we can’t save anyone. That is God’s realm. But we can and must proclaim the truth whenever and wherever we have opportunity. We must be sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit, pray for openings in which to plant seeds of the gospel and we must lay our burdens at the mercy seat of God.
We must be watchmen on the wall whose job it is to warn people of the danger they are in. We must be faithful to sound the alarm and rest in our great God to save whom He will.
As I said, there is much mystery here but there is much that we can take for ourselves, put in our pocket so to speak and live it out in our lives for the glory of God. We know that we are of God, and the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one. (1st John 5:19)
Our duty is clear. We must live for Jesus! We must follow Him who called us with a holy calling, loving not our own lives even to the death! Only then will we truly live!