Bible Study with Jairus – Revelation 11
The Maturity of the Church Opens up the Heavenly Temple and the Ark of the Covenant
Revelation 11 talks about John measuring the temple, the altar, and the worshipers. He does not measure the outer court, because it has been given to the Gentiles to trample for three-and-a-half years. The chapter also mentions two witnesses prophesying for three-and-a-half years. Are these two facts related? The three-and-a-half years in which the Gentiles trample the outer court are the last three-and-a-half years of the seven-year tribulation mentioned by Daniel in his vision. However, the three-and-a-half years when the two witnesses prophesy may be the first three-and-a-half years of the tribulation. What is the purpose of the first three-and-a-half years? To prepare for the disasters that will come during the last three-and-a-half years. The last three-and-a-half years of the tribulation are the ultimate judgment of mankind. They are the final labor pains of the universe before it gives birth to a new creation. The birth of the male child in Revelation 12 represents this new creation and initiates one of the greatest transitions in Revelation. When the bride of Christ gave birth to a baby boy (representing the overcomers mentioned throughout the book of Revelation), Satan and his evil angels recognize that these overcomers will judge the evil spirits. Satan and the evil spirits are so furious that they begin to destroy the world. Their anger lasts three-and-a-half years. They persecute the world and resist God’s judgment on themselves, which will be carried out through the church. However, their fate cannot be changed. At the end of the book of Revelation, the evil spirits are judged, and Satan and his followers are thrown into the lake of fire.
As we studied last time, God’s judgment falls onto the house of God first, then on the world, and finally on the evil spirits. The house of God was judged through the admonitions in the letters to the seven churches, and through the seven seal judgments. The world is judged during the seven trumpet judgments. After the seventh trumpet, the focus of God’s judgment turns to evil spirits.
We can see the positive outcome of God’s judgment on the world by looking at the encouraging vision inserted between the sixth and seventh trumpets: “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever” (Revelation 11:15). The kingdom of God was born long ago in the hearts of his children; the Morning Star rose in the hearts of his followers (2 Peter 1:19). This internal experience mirrors the experience of worshipers in the Holy of Holies. But the kingdom of God has continued to manifest itself outwardly until the outward, earthly kingdom has also become the kingdom of our Lord and Christ. God’s presence has moved outward to the Holy Place.
Finally, after the seventh trumpet sounds, God reclaims the outer court. Although the outer court is temporarily trampled by the Gentiles (the Gentiles are the tools used by evil spirits) for three-and-a-half years, God purges and purifies all of creation and brings in a new heaven and new earth. God’s presence moves from an inward kingdom that regenerates people’s souls (John 3:16) to an outward kingdom that transforms people’s lives (Romans 12:1) to eventually a victorious kingdom that redeems all of creation (Romans 8:23). As the church matures and becomes victorious, God’s victory spreads to all of creation, and the temple of God and the Ark of the Covenant are opened.
The Significance of John’s Measurement
Why is John given a reed (NKJV) to measure the temple? Perhaps the reed is a living tool that is used to measure the living temple of God built out of living stones (believers). Measurement represents judgment and sanctification. Things that are measured by God have been judged and sanctified by Him. As we mentioned above, John measures the temple, altar, and worshipers, but not the outer court. This shows that God’s judgment starts first with the house of God. The temple and the church (the worshipers) will be judged and sanctified first. Secondly, God judges the world, including people who have come to faith but are still deeply trapped in the world. God’s judgment on the world will free these people from the domination of the world. Finally, God judges evil spirits. This judgment allows repentant people to be liberated from the domination of evil spirits so they can receive salvation. Those who refuse to repent are thrown into the lake of fire along with the evil spirits. These are God’s three steps of judgment and sanctification.
The three courts of the temple also remind us of God’s salvation of the soul. God first cleanses the Holy of Holies, which represents the inner sanctuary of our spirits which have been saved by God. He then cleanses the Holy Place, which reminds us of the renewal of our souls. Finally, he cleanses the outer court, which reminds us of the redemption of our bodies.
In this phase, John only measures the temple, the altar, and the worshipers because the time of final redemption of all creation has not yet arrived. At this point, the outer court has been given to the Gentiles to be trampled on for 42 months. These 42 months are the last three-and-a-half years of the seven-year tribulation that Daniel speaks about, also mentioned in Revelation. During this time, the Antichrist will break the covenant and ruin the worship of God (Daniel 9:27). But God will eventually judge all evil spirits and unrepentant sinners.
Perhaps the measurements are also intended to preserve and protect. Perhaps those who have already been judged and sanctified will be protected in the coming tribulation. Although there is much debate in the church about whether Christians will be raptured before or after the tribulation, the Lord Jesus tells overcoming believers in Philadelphia, “Because you have kept my word about patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world, to try those who dwell on the earth” (Revelation 3:10). It is clear that some overcoming believers will be protected from suffering. Additionally, in the fifth trumpet judgment, the locust can only harm “those people who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads” (9:4). From these passages, it is evident that God protects those who have marks on their foreheads. At every step of God’s judgment, some people will be shielded from suffering. Some Christians live their lives in the Spirit, while others are trapped in the world, and still others are deeply drowning in the flesh and sin. At each stage of the tribulation, some will repent and be saved. I believe that when God judges the outer court, some Christians who are deeply involved in the realm of evil spirits (the outer court) will be judged severely so they can repent and be saved. But other Christians may be protected by God from these calamities.
The Significance of the Two Witnesses Who Prophesy for Three-and-a-half Years
While there is debate about whether Christians go through the Great Tribulation, many agree on this fact: Even during the final judgment, God will graciously provide opportunities for people to repent. The appearance of these two prophets is the proof of this fact. Although there are different understandings of who these two prophets are, we know that they will prophesy and testify for God and for Jesus. “The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy” (Revelation 19:10). The purpose of their testimony is to bring people to repentance.
These two witnesses, dressed in linen, prophesy for 1260 days. Linen represents righteous deeds. Revelation 19 says that the Lamb’s Bride “clothe[s] herself with fine linen, bright and pure—for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints” (19:8). The two prophets are dressed in righteous deeds. They are the first-fruits and manifestation of the Bride of Christ. They prophesy and testify for three-and-a-half years, encouraging people to repent before the last three-and-a-half years of the Great Tribulation. In symbolic terms, they are the olive trees, lampstands, and oil of God, empowered by the Holy Spirit.
These two men have the authority to stop rain from falling from the sky, turn water into blood, and strike the earth with plagues (11:6). But in the end, the beast that comes up from the bottomless pit will kill them (11:7). People who dwell on the earth will celebrate the death of the two prophets because they have been a torment (11:10). How hardened people’s hearts have become! They refuse to repent. Later, God raises the prophets from the dead. There is an earthquake, and a tenth of the city collapses, killing 7,000 people (11:12-13). Only then do people repent. The Bible says, “The rest were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven” (11:13).
Sometimes, God allows people to die in order to bring others to Himself. God did not hesitate to put Jesus Christ on the cross in order to save his lost sheep. Throughout the ages, God has allowed countless martyrs to bear witness for the Lord, all in order to save sinners. The two prophets here are also martyrs, and the story of their death and resurrection will bring many people to repentance and salvation.
The Seventh Trumpet Brings the Transformation of the Era
The visions inserted between the sixth and seventh trumpets give us a glimpse of God’s work in the spiritual world. There seems to have been some sort of delay in God’s work before the seventh trumpet is sounded, because Revelation 10:6 specifically mentions that “there would be no more delay but that in the days of the trumpet call to be sounded by the seventh angel, the mystery of God would be fulfilled, just as he announced to his servants the prophets” (10:7). Sure enough, “Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, ‘The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever’” (11:15). This was a major turning point.
At least four times, the Bible mentions the twenty-four elders who worshiped before God’s throne. The first mention is when the church is being judged. John sees a vision of heaven being opened. He sees twenty-four elders bowing down before God’s throne and saying, “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created” (4:11). During this stage, the elders are saying that God deserves all the praise, even if many people on earth are not yet praising Him.
The second reference to the twenty-four elders is when the Lamb opens the book. The Bible says, “The four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints” (5:8). Here, the twenty-four elders offer the prayers of the saints to God. These prayers advance the work of God.
The third time occurs in chapter 11. When the seventh trumpet is sounded, “the twenty-four elders who sit on their thrones before God fell on their faces and worshiped God, saying, ‘We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty, who is and who was, for you have taken your great power and begun to reign’” (11:16-17). This vision of the twenty-four elders allows us to see that God’s work has reached a new stage. At this stage, “The nations raged, but your wrath came, and the time for the dead to be judged, and for rewarding your servants, the prophets and saints, and those who fear your name, both small and great, and for destroying the destroyers of the earth” (11:18). God was judging the Gentiles, the demons, and the wicked ones who destroyed the earth, also known as Babylon the Great.
The fourth time occurs after the judgment of Babylon the Great (Revelation 18). “And the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God who was seated on the throne, saying, ‘Amen. Hallelujah!’” (19:4) At this point, God’s work is nearly complete, and the chant of the twenty-four elders is full of pure praise.
These four accounts of twenty-four elders reflect the progress of God’s work. This is the first time that I noticed this unique progression.
God Opens the Heavenly Temple to Prompt the Final Judgment on Evil Spirits
The last verse of this chapter states, “Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and the ark of his covenant was seen within his temple. There were flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, an earthquake, and heavy hail” (11:19). The Ark of the Covenant is often associated with battles. In the Old Testament, the Israelites sometimes took the Ark of the Covenant into battle. Numbers 10:35 says, “And whenever the ark set out, Moses said, ‘Arise, O Lord, and let your enemies be scattered, and let those who hate you flee before you'”. The Ark of the Covenant represented God’s exaltation and victory over his enemies.
We talked earlier about the three steps of God’s judgment (the judgment of the church, of the world, and of the evil spirits). In order to judge evil spirits, the overcoming believers must arrive on the scene. This is represented by the birth of the male child in Revelation 12. God has promised that the church will judge angels, but in order to do so, it must mature. The overcoming believers (represented by the male child) will judge evil spirits on behalf of the church. I believe that the moment when the temple opens in heaven marks the beginning of the judgment on evil spirits. On the one hand, God is helping the church in its battle against the enemy by sending lightning, thunder, earthquakes, and hailstones. On the other hand, God is demonstrating that the church has matured sufficiently to approach the Holy of Holies, where it can begin to judge evil spirits on God’s behalf.
Hebrews 4 tells us that we can enter the Holy of Holies through Christ. Jesus, our great high priest, can sympathize with our weaknesses (4:14-15). Because of this, “let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (4:16). This is a spiritual reality, yet not all believers have accessed the reality of entering the Holy of Holies. Just like God’s Tabernacle consisted of three parts (outer court, sanctuary, and Holy of Holies), we each possess a body, soul, and spirit. Even though God has given us access to the Holy of Holies, we often live at a distance from him in the outer court. It is as if we are living far from the Promised land, in Egypt. This represents the flesh. If we draw a little closer to him, we draw near to him in our soul, which represents the sanctuary. It is as if we are wandering in the wilderness, getting closer to the Promised Land. Finally, sometimes we are able to draw near to God in our spirits. We enter the Promised Land and the Holy of Holies. We need to leave the flesh and the world and enter the fullness of spiritual life. Believers must collectively be built into a unified, mature body of Christ. (Ephesians 4:12) “Until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13).
Just like Jesus Christ’s victory could open the scroll in God’s right hand, the maturity and victory of the church can open the temple of God. Then the Ark of the Covenant will appear, and God will send lightning, rumblings, thunder, earthquakes, and hailstones. We have said many times that the prayers of the saints advance the work of God from his throne. And the maturity of the church can prompt God’s final judgment on evil spirits.
Some people spend their time guessing when the Lord Jesus will return. Others become lukewarm and apathetic as the Lord continues to delay. However, there is no need to speculate about when the Lord will return. We are not the ones who are waiting for Him to come. He is the one who is waiting for our lives to mature! Only when the church matures enough to open God’s temple will God’s final judgment on evil be unleashed. That’s why Jesus said He would come soon, but not yet. He longs to return at any time, but the maturity of church is delaying His return.