Measure the Temple of God

06 Oct

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How would you measure the Temple of God, especially if the Temple is a spiritual Temple, whereby the Apostles and Christ are its foundation, Jesus, himself, being its chief cornerstone (Ephesians 2:20-21)? If the disciples of Jesus are living stones, built up into a spiritual House or Temple (1Peter 2:4-5), with what tool would any of us be able to measure such a Temple. Yet, this is John’s task, and John does what he is commanded to do with the tool that he is given, and he describes it all in apocalyptic language in order to convey to us what human words are unable to describe (2Corinthians 12:4).

John was given a reed (Revelation 11:1), which was like a rod. A reed is a plant that grows in the wetlands. It’s stalk is jointed like the bamboo, and it can be used for measuring rooms, small buildings, walls etc. (Ezekiel 41:8; 40:5). It can also be used as a light walking stick (2Kings 18:21), but as such it was likely to shatter, piercing a man’s hand or body, causing him to fall. A better walking stick was a rod, such as Aaron’s rod, which was made from an almond tree.[1] A rod could also be used as a weapon or a shepherd’s staff.

The mighty Angel of Revelation 10:1 spoke to John, and he told him to rise and measure the Temple of God and the Altar and those who worship within the House itself (Revelation 11:1).[2] It seems John was commanded to use the reed to measure in a spiritual sense, because, if he was told to literally measure with the reed, how would he measure the people who worship in the Temple’s two rooms (Revelation 11:1)? Moreover, the dimensions of the Temple[3] and the Altar,[4] if the intent were physical, were already well known and could be found in Scripture. However, if John was told to measure a spiritual Temple, measuring it might make sense metaphorically, since such a spiritual House is made of “living stones” (1Peter 2:5), the number of which is unknown. Additionally, this spiritual House was also a spiritual priesthood in itself, who offered up spiritual sacrifices, as Peter testifies in the Scripture just mentioned.

The text doesn’t actually tell us how John measured the Temple, the Altar or the people who worshiped therein. It says only that the Angel told him to do so. What seems to be recorded afterward are the words of the Angel (Revelation 11:1-14), and then the seventh trumpet sounds in Revelation 11:15. Does this mean the words of the Angel are John’s prophecy (cf. Revelation 10:11)? If so, then the Angel would have had to have been the reed in John’s hand. On the other hand, is John’s prophecy recorded in Revelation 12 & 13, where the woman in the wilderness is mentioned with her son who would rule the nations with a rod of iron, and where a spiritual battle in heaven is recorded and where a mysterious, eerie looking beast rises out of the bottomless pit to make war with Christ and his disciples? Looking at John’s task in this manner might be worth considering when we get to those chapters.


[1] Jacob made rods of poplar, hazel (some scholars say almond) and plane trees (Genesis 30:37).

[2] Some manuscripts omit the phrase: “and the angel stood.” However, if the reed wasn’t given to John by the Angel who immediately told him what to do with it, then we have to say the reed told John what to do with the reed, and this would be quite illogical, even in a metaphorical sense. What would be the sense of it? Where is the example in scripture of a metaphor speaking about itself? Therefore, it seems more likely that the questionable phrase is authentic, if one judges from sense alone.

[3] The dimensions of the Tabernacle were 30 cubits by 10 cubits (i.e. 45 feet by 15 feet – a cubit is 18 inches). This is known by showing the boards that make it up were 10 cubits in length and a cubit and a half in width (Exodus 26:16), so if 20 boards were used on the north and south sides (Exodus 26:18, 20), that would be 30 cubits long. The back of the Tabernacle was made up of 6 boards totaling 9 cubits plus 2 more boards of shorter widths for the north and south corners to make up the additional cubit needed for the side to total 10 cubits in width (Exodus 26:22-25). Curtains were made to cover the Tabernacle and they were 30 cubits in length by 4 cubits in width. If they stretched upward 10 cubits, across the top for 10 cubits and down the other side for 10 cubits, this would mean that the breadth of the Tabernacle was 10 cubits total. So the two corner planks of the back side of the Tabernacle had to be one half cubit each, which was added to the 6 other boards of a cubit and a half each, totaling 10 full cubits. It is interesting that the actual dimensions of the Tabernacle are never given in scripture. It only says that Moses was told to make everything having to do with the Sanctuary after the pattern he was shown on the mount (Exodus 25:9, 40), which may be the reason why Solomon, when he built the Temple enlarged the Most Holy Place to twice the size of that of the Tabernacle, and likewise the Holy Place, so that, together, they totaled 60 cubits in length instead of 30.

[4] The Altar of Incense was one cubit in length and one cubit in width and two cubits high (Exodus 30:2; 37:25).

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Posted by on October 6, 2019 in Apocalypse, Book of Revelation


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