Sanctuary Measured

The sanctuary must be “measured” before the city can be inhabited, but first, it must be “trampled underfoot” by the nations - Revelation 11:1-2. 

In the preceding vision, John was commanded to “prophesy again over many peoples and nations and tongues and kings,” which set the stage for the next two visions, the “measuring of the sanctuary and the altar,” and the testimony of the “two witnesses.” Both are connected by the equivalent figures of “forty-two months” and “1,260 days.

In this first vision, the angel instructs John to “measure” the “sanctuary,” the “altar,” AND “those who are rendering divine service” in it, and then the “holy city” is handed over to the “nations” to be “trampled underfoot for forty-two months.”
  • (Revelation 11:1-2) – “ And a reed like a staff was given to me, and one was saying, Rise, and measure the sanctuary of God, the altar, and them who are rendering homage in it; and the court outside the sanctuary cast outside, and do not measure, because it has been given to the nations, and the holy city they will tread underfoot forty-two months.”


The description of the measuring of the sanctuary includes verbal allusions to the vision of the prophet Zechariah. Moreover, it anticipates the book’s final vision when the city of “New Jerusalem” is measured in preparation for its full habitation:
  • (Zechariah 2:1-11) - And I lifted up my eyes and saw, and behold, a man with a measuring line in his hand. Then said I, Where do you go? And he said to me, To measure Jerusalem, to see what is its breadth, and what is its lengthAnd behold, the angel that talked with me went forth, and another angel went out to meet him, and said to him, Run, speak to this young man, sayingJerusalem shall be inhabited as villages without walls, by reason of the multitude of men and cattle therein” - (see also Revelation 21:16-26).

In Revelation, the measuring of the “sanctuary” and “altar” prepares the “holy city” for habitation, establishing the boundaries that will contain the expected population. In the interim, both the city and the sanctuary must be “handed over to be trampled underfoot” by the nations.

Sanctuary” translates the Greek noun naos, which refers to the sanctuary proper, the court just outside the “holy of holies.”

The ancient tabernacle, it included the altar of burnt offerings. It has been referred to already in the letter to the church at Philadelphia, and in the vision of the “innumerable multitude.” Both look forward to life in “New Jerusalem.”

As promised to the Philadelphians, “overcoming” believers will no longer find themselves “outside” the “sanctuary,” a verbal link to the present vision in which the “outer court” is cast “outside” to be “trampled underfoot” - (Revelation 3:12, 7:15).

As for the “innumerable multitude,” its members wear white “robes” that have been “washed in the blood of the Lamb,” an allusion to the consecrated vestments worn by the Aaronic priests in the old tabernacle - (Leviticus 8:6-7).

And the members of the “innumerable multitude” are “rendering divine service” in the “sanctuary.” That previous description uses the same Greek verb that is applied to the service of the priests in the tabernacle in the Greek Septuagint version of the Hebrew Bible, and it is applied now to the “service” of the priestly company that is “measured” in the “sanctuary” by John - (latreuô).


Unlike the Levitical priests, the “innumerable multitude” is composed of men from “every nation and tribe and people and tongue.” Likewise, in chapter 11, the group “rendering homage” in the “sanctuary” consists of “priests” serving before the “altar.” In short, the “innumerable multitude” from chapter 7 is identical to the priestly company that is now “measured” by John in chapter 11 - (Revelation 5:9-10).

The same “altar” appears when the “fifth seal” is opened and the souls of the martyrs are seen “under the altar.” They are told to “rest” until their full number “who were to be killed even as they is completed” - (Revelation 6:9-11).

In chapter 11, the “outer court” is “cast outside.” Along with the “holy city,” it is trampled “underfoot forty-two months.”

Elsewhere in Revelation, the “holy city” represents the people of God, the place where His presence dwells. The present image represents the coming persecution of the “saints” by the “Beast from the Abyss” - (Revelation 3:12, 11:4-7, 13:7, 21:2, 21:10).

Trampled underfoot” alludes to the vision of the “little horn” in Daniel, the oppressive ruler who “waged war against the saints,” profaned the sanctuary, removed the daily burnt offering, and “trampled the sanctuary and the host underfoot” - (Daniel 7:20-25, 8:9-14, 8:22-26).

Before the “holy city” can be inhabited, it must endure abuse by the nations, a bitter pill to swallow. And thus, in the preceding vision, John found the scroll “sweet as honey” in his mouth but bitter in his “belly” - (Revelation 10:11).

Although the “nations” and the “kings of the earth” remain hostile to the “Lamb” throughout the book, both groups are found among the inhabitants when “New Jerusalem” descends to the earth.

The next vision about the “two witnesses” begins to explain how this unexpected and paradoxical turn of events is achieved. The “Lamb” uses the coming war against his “saints” by the “Dragon” to achieve victory and reap the final harvest of the earth. Believers will overcome the Devil by faithfully enduring persecution, and, in the end, “New Jerusalem” will be fully populated.



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