Revelation 11:1-2. Then there was given me a measuring rod like a staff; and someone said, “Get up and measure the temple of God and the altar, and those who worship in it. 2 “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.
After John eats the little book and is told to keep warning the people about the coming judgments, he is next given a measuring rod and is told to measure the temple, the altar and the worshippers. We are not told why he is to do this, but we could make some conjectures.
Looking at it in a spiritual way, I think we can see the measuring as how God is evaluating the spiritual conditions of the temple and its people. Tim LaHaye writes,
The fact that John was told to measure the temple is an indication that he would find it woefully inadequate as compared with the Temple of Solomon, which was inspired by God. The word “measure” could well be a reference to the fact that Israel will be severely judged for her rejection of the Messiah in view of the astounding light she has and will have.12
Indeed, God is not in favor of building another Temple. We as believers have been taught that God does not any longer dwell in a temple made with hands; we are God’s temple and He dwells in us (1 Cor. 6:19-20). Also notice that the court given to the nations is not to be measured. This may symbolize God’s rejection of the unbelieving Gentiles.
Now, looking at this in a more practical way, it could be that God is prophetically previewing the placement of the new third temple; and of course, He knows where exactly it will be built and how the building of it will not conflict with the present Moslem Mosque.
Verses 3-6. “And I will grant authority to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for twelve hundred and sixty days, clothed in sackcloth.” 4 These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth. 5 And if anyone wants to harm them, fire flows out of their mouth and devours their enemies; so if anyone wants to harm them, he must be killed in this way. 6 These have the power to shut up the sky, so that rain will not fall during the days of their prophesying; and they have power over the waters to turn them into blood, and to strike the earth with every plague, as often as they desire.
John’s next focus is on God’s two witnesses. Apparently, they will have some connection to the temple. In fact, they are told that they are “the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth [in the temple].” John MacArthur comments:
Olive oil was commonly used in lamps; together the olive trees and lampstands symbolize the light of spiritual revival. The two witnesses’ preaching will spark a revival, just as Joshua’s and Zerubbabel’s did in Israel after the Babylonian captivity.13
Theses witnesses will be given great power to preach the truth in contrast to the false words of the Antichrist. Hal Lindsey writes, “The two witnesses will make it a point to prove that everything in the Temple has already been fulfilled by Christ, and that this magnificent new building is nothing but a nationalistic sham!”14
We are not given a lot of information about them and their ministry, but because they stand for the truth in direct contrast to the Antichrist, they will surely stir up things, and they will have to defend themselves with fire that will come out of their mouths. And they will also have the power to shut up the sky and to turn the waters into blood. Hence, God will see to it that they have a clear road to preach His truth without any hindrance.
Verses 7-10. When they have finished their testimony, the beast that comes up out of the abyss will make war with them, and overcome them and kill them. 8 And their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city which mystically is called Sodom and Egypt, where also their Lord was crucified. 9 Those from the peoples and tribes and tongues and nations will look at their dead bodies for three and a half days, and will not permit their dead bodies to be laid in a tomb. 10 And those who dwell on the earth will rejoice over them and celebrate; and they will send gifts to one another, because these two prophets tormented those who dwell on the earth.
After the two witnesses were finished with their ministry—which lasted for three and a half years, it was time next for the Antichrist. He will also have three and a half years to deceive the nations.
Some scholars insist that the two witnesses will have their ministry during the second half of the Tribulation. But this passage I think confirms that it will be during the first half. Why? Because it appears that no one will be able to stop the two witnesses during their ministry, including the Antichrist—because this is when he is restrained (2 Thess. 2:6). But as soon as his restraints are removed (at the midpoint) God will then allow him to display himself as God in the temple and to do all kinds of lawless acts (2 Thess. 2:3-4), including killing the two witnesses.
It also should be noted how evil it will be in Jerusalem at that time. Though I am sure the two witnesses will manage to persuade many to follow the Lord, it will be a city like Sodom and like Egypt, cities known for their wickedness. Hence, the city will be divided, with a few strong believers, but I think most will be very wicked and followers of the Antichrist and Satan.
Verses 11-14. But after the three and a half days, the breath of life from God came into them, and they stood on their feet; and great fear fell upon those who were watching them. 12 And they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, “Come up here.” Then they went up into heaven in the cloud, and their enemies watched them. 13 And in that hour there was a great earthquake, and a tenth of the city fell; seven thousand people were killed in the earthquake, and the rest were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven.
14 The second woe is past; behold, the third woe is coming quickly.
I have a feeling that more people will be saved after the earthquake than during the three and a half years of preaching by the wit nesses. And so, this will become part of the great promise to Israel that all will be saved (Rom. 11:26).
12 Tim LaHaye, Revelation: Illustrated and Made Plain (Zondervan Publishing House: Grand rapids, Michigan) 1973, p. 150.
13 John MacArthur, John MacArthur’s notes of Revelation 11:4.
14 Hal Lindsey, There’s A New World Coming, p.148.