After John encounters the mighty angel and is given a little book and told to eat it, we move to Revelation 11 as we learn about the 2 witnesses and their ministry as well as the 7th trumpet judgment later in the chapter. In Revelation 11:1-2, John is given a measuring rod and told to “‘Rise and measure the temple of God, the altar, and those who worship there. But leave out the court which is outside the temple, and do not measure it, for it has been given to the Gentiles. And they will tread the holy city underfoot for forty-two months.’”
The importance of John’s measuring of the temple of God, the altar, and the worshipers there can be difficult to discern on the first read, but this act of measuring isn’t new to the bible. We can see similar actions taken in Zechariah 2:1-3 where Jerusalem is measured, in Ezekiel 40:3-49 where the 4th temple – built during the millennial reign of Christ – is measured, and in Revelation 21:15-17 with the measurement of New Jerusalem.
John Walvoord in his book, The Revelation of Jesus Christ, makes his case as to the purpose of the measuring stating, “The act of measuring seems to signify that the area belongs to God in some special way. It is an evaluation of His property,” (The Revelation of Jesus Christ, 120). Dr. Thomas L. Constable in his commentary on the book of Revelation also alludes to the same idea that “the act of measuring probably signifies that “the temple” is God’s possession, and that He is resuming possession of it. One carefully measures what is one’s own personal property (cf. 2 Sam. 8:2; Ezek. 40:3—42:20)”.
Dr. Constable continues to expound on this point as he relates the act of measuring in the bible to judgment or protection and how it also relates to being excluded or included in God’s favor.
Sometimes, “measuring” in Scripture anticipated judgment (2 Sam. 8:2; 2 Kings 21:13; Isa. 28:17; Lam. 2:8; Amos 7:7-9). A few references to measuring involve protection (Jer. 31:39; Ezek. 40:2—43:12; Zech. 1:16; 2:1-8), but this can hardly be the connotation here, in view of the context (v. 2). However, since John received instruction not to measure profane (common or Gentile) areas (v. 2), this measuring of the temple itself, here in verse 1, is probably an indication of God’s favor and approval. ‘In other words, John’s future prophecies will distinguish between God’s favor toward the sanctuary, the altar, and their worshipers and His disapproval of all that is of Gentile orientation because of their profanation of the holy city for half of the future seventieth week…”Leave out” (Gr. ekballo, lit. “cast out”) implies removal from divine favor (cf. Matt. 22:13; 25:30; 3 John 10)…Not measuring signifies exclusion from God’s favor, whereas measuring signifies enjoying His favor (v. 1).
The Times of the Gentiles
The mention of gentiles treading the holy city for 42 months is another important idea that alludes to the end of the age of the gentiles and the beginning of the millennial kingdom of Christ. We see Jesus speak to this same idea in Luke 21:24, “And they will fall by the edge of the sword, and be led away captive into all nations. And Jerusalem will be trampled by Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled“.
Although the 42 months given to us in Revelation 11:2 for the duration of time the gentiles will trample Jerusalem and the 1,260 days given to us in Revelation 11:3 where the two witnesses will act in their ministry isn’t specified to us as either the first or second half of the tribulation, Luke 21:24 leads one to believe the initial reference to the 3 1/2 years within the tribulation first mentioned in verse 2 refers to the latter half of the tribulation.
This point is made clear as Jesus says this trampling down of Jerusalem will continue “until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled”. The full meaning of the time of the gentiles as well as what comes after is nowhere as well illustrated as we see it in Daniel 2 with Nebuchadnezzar’s dream concerning his statue and the various layers of colors (head of gold, chest, and arms of silver, belly, and thighs of bronze, legs of iron, and feet of partly iron and partly clay – Daniel:2:32-33) alluding to the various rise and falls of kingdoms throughout human history leading up to the millennial kingdom of Christ (Daniel 2:31-45).
We’re told that each colored layer of the statue represents a kingdom which will follow one another in succession with the head of Gold representing the Babylonian empire (Daniel 2:38), the chest and arms of silver representing the empire of Media-Persia (Daniel 2:39, Daniel 5:25-30, Daniel 8:20), the belly and thighs of bronze representing the Greek empire (Daniel 2:39, Daniel 8:21), the legs of iron representing the Roman empire (Daniel 2:33, Daniel 2:40, Daniel 11:1-4), and finally the feet of part iron and part clay representing the empire of the last days headed by the antichrist.
It’s after the kingdom of partly iron and partly clay where Daniel reveals a final kingdom that will last forever, a kingdom set up by God himself (Daniel 2:44-45), “And in the days of these kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people; it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever. Inasmuch as you saw that the stone was cut out of the mountain without hands, and that it broke in pieces the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver, and the gold—the great God has made known to the king what will come to pass after this. The dream is certain, and its interpretation is sure,” (Daniel 2:44-45).
This is the millennial kingdom of Christ – portrayed here as a “stone” “cut out of a mountain without hands” – which will consume all other gentile kingdoms that came before it. This is the “times of the Gentiles” Jesus is speaking to us about here in Luke 21:24. Daniel has a similar vision concerning these coming kingdoms in Daniel 7 except this time they’re portrayed as “beasts” or various animals that come out of the sea (Daniel 7:15-17) with the fourth beast correlating to the feet and toes of Nebuchadnezzar’s statue as well as the beast from the sea in Revelation 13. Although I can’t go into depth here concerning this interpretation, you can find it in the aforementioned article here.
In Daniel 2:34-35, 44-45, and Daniel 7:11, 21-22, 26-27 we see a “timeline” of sorts given to us concerning the rise and fall of this kingdom, fourth beast, or beast from the sea. It will come after the others before it, be different, trample and devour the earth, but we see what follows it immediately in both chapters of Daniel is judgment by God and then God’s kingdom on the earth.
Likewise, we can see similarities with the beast of the sea in Revelation 13 and that it meets its demise the same way in Revelation 19:17-21 and then God’s kingdom (Christ’s millennial reign) follows after in Revelation 20:4-6. This leads us to believe that this truly will be the final gentile kingdom of the last days. Keeping these facts in mind helps guide us towards the interpretation that the 42 months mentioned in Revelation 11:2 is in reference to the final 3 1/2 years of the tribulation which will also mark the finality of the times of the gentiles.
John Walvoord also makes his case concerning the end of the times of the gentiles per Luke 21:24 by saying, “The statement that the holy city is under Gentile control is borne out by the prophecy of Christ in Luke 21:24 where He predicted of the people of Israel, “They shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.” The times of the Gentiles end at the second coming of Christ when Gentile dominion is destroyed and Christ establishes His kingdom. This is predicted in the seventh trumpet revealed later in this chapter. The first two verses then signify that while God is permitting Gentile dominion and persecution of Israel, God Himself will be the judge of her persecutors,” (The Revelation of Jesus Christ, 120).
The Third Temple
Revelation 11:2 also shines a critical piece of prophetic information for us as we’re essentially told there will be a future temple during the tribulation. The time markers of “forty-two months” in which the court outside the temple will be given to the gentiles so that they may “tread the holy city underfoot” as well as the 1,260 days the two witnesses will preach (Revelation 11:3) gives us the context that this temple exists during the tribulation.
We see this similar language of forty-two months and 1,260 days used throughout the book of Revelation and also in the book of Daniel as it prophesizes concerning this future time of distress. Forty-two months and 1,260 days are used to denote a span of 3 1/2 years. Similarly “a time, times, and half a time” is used to denote this same period of time). We can see this same language being used in the below passages:
The third temple is a great indicator of the nearness of the tribulation period. The verses in Revelation 11 show us that this temple exists during the tribulation, however, the bible gives us more indicators as to when it must be built. Daniel 9:27 gives us details concerning a covenant that will be confirmed by the antichrist for a period of a “week” or 7 years which he will then break halfway through, “Then he shall confirm a covenant with many for one week; But in the middle of the week He shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall be one who makes desolate, Even until the consummation, which is determined, Is poured out on the desolate,” (Daniel 9:27).
It’s this covenant which begins the 7-year tribulation but we also see mention of something else important, that 3 1/2 years into this covenant (and tribulation period) the antichrist will put “an end to sacrifice and offering”. This is a reference to the sacrificial system that occurs in the temple. This prophecy presupposes the existence of a temple in the future.
In Matthew 24, Jesus touches on this event – known as the abomination of desolation – to his disciples as he instructs them what to do once it occurs and expounds on what comes after – great tribulation.
Therefore when you see the ‘abomination of desolation,’ spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place’ (whoever reads, let him understand), ‘then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let him who is on the housetop not go down to take anything out of his house. And let him who is in the field not go back to get his clothes. But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days! And pray that your flight may not be in winter or on the Sabbath. For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be. And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake those days will be shortened. (Mathew 24:15-22)
Jesus refers to Daniel 9:27 and speaks of it as a yet future event. He also mentions that this occurs within the “holy place”, a location within the temple itself. Knowing these details aids us in understanding the prophetic significance of the third temple as it functions as a time marker of sorts in helping us identify the nearness of the tribulation. Earlier I also explained why I believe the 42 months mentioned in reference to the gentiles trampling Jerusalem is concerning the latter half of the tribulation.
With the finality of the time of gentiles in mind as well as the prophecy regarding the abomination of desolation, scripturally, it’s clear that the third temple must be built with a sacrificial system in place at least before the midpoint of the tribulation.
John Walvoord also elaborates on the same viewpoint that the 42 months mentioned is better interpreted as the latter half of the 7-year tribulation by calling attention to the Daniel 9:27 covenant and sacrificial system as well as the end of the times of the gentiles stating, “It would seem that under the covenant relationship between the beast and the children of Israel they are given considerable freedom in their worship for the first three and one-half years, and this would probably preclude the Gentiles trampling on the outer court, even though the holy city as such is under Gentile dominion. Since the Gentiles are said to tread the holy city underfoot only forty-two months, this ill-treatment better fits the latter half of the week. If the former half were mentioned, Jerusalem would be trodden underfoot for the entire seven-year period rather than for only forty-two months. The passage seems to anticipate freedom from Gentile dominion after the three and one-half years have run their course, which would mean that the second half of the seven-year period is in view,” (The Revelation of Jesus Christ, 120).
This is an updated edition of a post originally published on Himitsu | End Times Study.