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"The Lord Always Preserves His People" Revelation 11

The Measuring of the Inner Court of the Temple (vv. 1-2)

True Israel Preserved – Parallel to the Sealing

God is love and loves his people. Between the breaking of the sixth and seventh seals, John was given a vision of the sealing of the 144,000. Now, between the sounding of the sixth and seventh trumpets, a parallel interlude takes place. The message is the same. The witnessing Jewish church will be preserved. As the judgments intensify from the seals to the trumpets, so the clarity increases as to the means the Lord will use to preserve his faithful people. They bear faithful witness to him, and he will therefore preserve them. They will suffer, but they will be raised to reign with Christ. Whoever confesses him before men, the Lord Jesus will confess before his Father (Matt. 10:32). We need this promise, for wicked men hate the Lord and will do vile things to his people. The temptation is very strong to fear man and compromise God’s truth. Yet, having man’s approval is hollow now and will be worthless when we stand before the Lord. If we have lived for the praise of men, this is all the reward we shall ever receive (Matt. 6:2; John 5:44). Thus, the inner temple is measured off – in good prophetic fashion (Ezek. 4o-42). The Lord Jesus is not deceived by hypocrites, wolves, and tares in his church. It is not the outer court but the inner – symbolic of God’s true people. He will preserve them. He knows who are his, and no one can pluck them out of his hand (John 10:28-29; 2 Tim. 2:19).

Another Interlude Necessary – Matt. 24:22; Luke 21:24

We are so accustomed to think of Revelation as an apocalyptic novel that we cannot take our Lord’s warning seriously about the judgment he brought upon Jerusalem and the old Levitical order in the first century. It cannot have been that bad. Hear his words: “That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed on the earth…and unless those days should be shortened, there should be no flesh saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened” (Matt. 23:35; 24:22). What is going to happen to the church in a time of such terrible judgment? Will we survive? Remember also that when they saw “Jerusalem trodden down of the Gentiles” (Luke 21:24), this did seem like the end of the world, for Jerusalem was where God’s temple stood. The Holy of holies was his throne on earth. How could the temple be destroyed without it being the end of the world? Therefore, a double interlude with a double promise that the Lord always preserves his people is very beautiful, in terms of the structure of Revelation. It was also very necessary for his people who lived through those times. For forty-two months, about 3 ½ years, Jerusalem was besieged by the Roman armies, until the city and temple were reduced to rubble. Thus, the old covenant order ended, with the curses of that covenant falling upon the unbelieving Jewish majority who were haters of God’s word and murders of God’s prophets and Son.

Our Lord’s Witnessing Church Preserved (vv. 3-12)

At the Mouth of Two Witnesses (Deut. 19:15; Matt. 23:31-38)

Let Scripture interpret Scripture. Upon his ascension, our Lord said to his apostles: “But you shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you, and you shall be my witnesses both in Jerusalem…” (Acts 1:8). From his ascension to the destruction of Jerusalem, about 40 years, the apostolic church bore constant and faithful witness to the gospel. We should not look for “two” specific individuals. Two is the required number for a charge to be established (Deut. 19:15). Two is also a reference back to Zechariah’s vision of the two sons of oil, Joshua and Zerubbabel, who rebuilt the temple (Zech. 4). John’s “two” witnesses stood before the Lord and had power from on high, as our Lord said (Acts 1:8). They could not be hurt. Fire came out of their mouth – remember, this is a vision – like Elijah, and their prayers shut heaven. The word and prayer makes the church invincible. Like Moses, the faithful, witnessing church was empowered to bring God’s plagues upon the unbelieving Jews. When the church prayed, Peter was released, but Herod was eaten by worms. Through the hands of the apostles, many signs and wonders were done (Acts 5:12). The Jewish leadership bitterly persecuted the church, but she stood faithful and called her countrymen to faith and repentance. The faithful Jewish church was the new “sons of oil,” like Joshua and Zerubabbel, filled with the Spirit, Christ’s royal priesthood.

Jerusalem: Killer of God’s Prophets and God’s Son

No one can touch a saint until the Lord wills. “When they have finished their testimony” is a dreadful line in this book. Remember that the testimony of the first-century church in Jerusalem was not only to and for Jesus Christ but also against the apostasy of the Jewish people as a whole. “Save yourselves from this wicked generation” (Acts 2:40). Their witness finished, the “beast from the bottomless pit,” John’s first sight and mention of him, ascends and makes war against them. Unbelief in the world is stirred and used by Satan; he hates Jesus Christ. The Lord will allow him to prevail against his saints for a while, even to kill them. Preservation and sealing do not mean “no suffering” (1 Pet. 4:12). The sealed can be killed. And who killed them? This is the crux interpretum of Revelation. The church was finally cast out of Jerusalem, killed in the streets, by the great killer of God’s prophets and God’s Son. This city is Sodom (Isa. 1:10) – perverse and hardened. Jerusalem is also Egypt, a tragic role reversal – Jerusalem is now the persecutor of God’s people. To leave no doubt as to how to understand this vision, and indeed, the main theme of the book – where our Lord also was crucified. Commentators are never more limber than when trying to get around this, some even saying that Jerusalem is really Rome – or that since the crucifixion took place outside the city, it was not really Jerusalem. Why? To leave room for their various theories. The Lord Jesus is telling us plainly that this vision has reference to Jerusalem. “For it cannot be that a prophet perish out of Jerusalem” (Luke 13:33).

Jerusalem Church Raised to Heaven and Reigning with Christ

Since some of the first century Jewish believers died gruesome deaths, how can it be said that they were measured off and preserved? We think of preservation in terms of lifestyle – the trappings of present-day Western idolatry – love of this world, palatial homes, and personal self-realization. We now learn that by measuring off his church, the Lord has reference not to preserving the good of this life, which he often gives, but our immortal existence and everlasting happiness with him. These two witnesses were raised after lying dead in the street for three days. Neither their witness nor their bodies will be corrupted. Men mock and rejoice to hear the gospel no more, but the Spirit raised these witnesses, and they stood up. The Roman armies marched into Jerusalem. Their words were verified. The citizens of Jerusalem were terrified. These raised saints ascended to heaven in a cloud; their enemies watched. Remember, this is a vision. It symbolizes the life and glory of the church, raised and reigning with Christ, hated by her enemies. They can kill the body but they cannot kill the soul or stop God’s word from being fulfilled. Having destroyed Jesus Christ’s witnesses, now Jerusalem will learn the certainty of God’s word and the horror of his warnings coming to pass.

Mid-vision, mid-book, we are taught here something vital to our own faith in these times. Our witness to the glory and grace of Jesus Christ never falls lifeless to the ground. These two witnesses – the faithful Jewish church – lifeless in the eyes of the world, is raised and reigning with Christ. Jerusalem is rubble. God’s word always prevails over man’s. The best and only way to be preserved from the wrath of the Lamb is to bear witness to his Gospel. Even if we are killed for Christ, is this the end? Certainly not! Remember our Lord’s word – man can only kill the body. The soul ascends to heaven, to be with Christ, which is far better than this life, where we reign with him. The wicked, unbelieving man has only this life – nothing but judgment coming. We have this and the next life, Christ’s word now, Christ himself in the flesh later, God’s overriding promise to seal and measure us. He will always preserve us.

The Seventh Trumpet Sounds (vv. 13-15)

And now the end has come upon Jerusalem. This is symbolized by an earthquake that destroyed one-tenth of the city and killed 7,000. Given the destruction and carnage of the Roman siege, these are token numbers. The seven bowls or vials of wrath are coming. For the moment, the Lord Jesus wants us to connect the downfall of Jerusalem to its rejection of the faithful Jewish church that was so precious in his eyes. Once that witness was definitively rejected and his people cleared from the city, the seventh trumpet will blow. The third woe will fall upon Jerusalem. As with the seventh seal, we may expect the absolute end of the action, but John will be given one last round of judgments to pronounce upon Jerusalem. At the moment, when the seventh trumpet sounds, he hears rejoicing. He hears a great kingdom announcement. The Lamb’s judgment upon his enemies is good news for his church! As horrible as these seven trumpets have been, Jerusalem was not humbled but hardened. “He that being often reproved, and hardens his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, without remedy” (Prov. 29:1)

Heaven Rejoices (vv. 16-19)

God’s Kingdom in His Christ Has Come

With Jerusalem about to fall, the kingdom of God in Christ has come. His plan from the beginning was a universal church, without physical temple, for “heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool” (Isa. 66:1). This required the end of the old covenant temple and priesthood. It would never have been given up willingly by the Jews, and even the believing Jews were haunted by the older order to such a degree that some thought the Gentiles would have to become practicing Jews in order to be saved (Acts 15:1). No, Jesus Christ died for our sins and rose again. He is the true and only Priest. He will be seen as the true and only Prophet, for his warnings against Jerusalem are fulfilled. God’s kingdom of grace and mercy, not by force of worldly arms but by the sword of the Spirit piercing the hearts of men, will take center stage in history. David’s son now sits on David’s throne – in heaven, at the right hand of God, for he is also David’s Lord, the Son of God incarnate. David’s tabernacle will be rebuilt, as Amos prophesied, not in an earthly temple but in the true temple of our Savior’s body, his church. God will reign in his Son, not to destroy men’s lives, but to save them by his quickening grace. We are blessed to live in this post-Jerusalem, post-physical temple, post-ceremonial kingdom of “righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost” (Rom. 14:17). We do not appear before the Lord three times a year, and only the men, but now all God’s people meet weekly on the first day of the week, the day of the King’s ascension and accession to dominion and authority. Let us be sure to live unto the King today and every moment, by faith in him as the Son of God and Lord of heaven and earth.

You Have Judged for Your Prophets and Saints

This is the new and final order of God’s kingdom until the time of consummation, when the Lord Jesus will “deliver the kingdom over” to his Father (1 Cor. 15:24). The church in heaven in her representative elders rejoices in God’s faithfulness and power. They are celebrating the very kingdom of grace and glory in which we are blessed to worship and live! We have a kingdom that cannot be shaken (Heb. 12:28). And the Lord revealed his faithfulness in a time of wrath when the nations did not repent but were hostile to the Lord Jesus and fought against him. Nevertheless, he vindicated “his servants the prophets,” the entire army of old covenant witnesses to Jesus Christ. He honored their witness to his truth and vindicated their faithful lives and witness. He judged the saints in the opening generation of the new covenant era, found them faithful, and destroyed their worst tormentor, the apostate Jewish nation. He protected those who fear him. We cannot be moved. Now, in his Son, he has taken his great power to save and gather all things under the rule of his beloved Son. His plan for history until its conclusion is that “all men should honor the Son even as they honor the Father.” He will destroy those who make war on the earth, then and now.

The New Temple Opened

The climactic statement of this section is our verse 19: “And the temple of God was opened in heaven.” With the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem, the disciples thought it would be the end of the world (Matt. 24:3). It would not be. The end of that old shadow temple, as authorized and useful as it was in the old Levitical economy, was nothing but a shadow of the reality. The real temple is God-with-us, the Son of God incarnate. Now that he is ascended to heaven, he appears in the presence of God for us (Heb. 9:24). We may draw near to the throne of grace with boldness, as children to their Father in heaven (Heb. 4:14-16). While the old temple was standing, the full import of the heavenly temple could not be clearly understood. Even the early church continued to go to the temple as well as attend their “first day of the week” worship services. No more old covenant order; we have come to the heavenly Jerusalem. No more earthly temple – we have a Savior who “ever lives to make intercession for us” (Heb. 7:25). If only the church appreciated this privilege – not cathedrals on earth but heaven by faith! The true kingdom and temple of God has come, in his church, filled with his Spirit, built upon Jesus Christ the chief cornerstone, each believer walking in the power of the Spirit, the nations being discipled to Jesus Christ so that they bow to him as King, and not to pseudo-messianic states.

Hear! Hold Fast! Herald! Hope in God!

Why did the believers need this message of measuring? Remember, the book is supposed to be read and understood. We learn that the (1) Lord’s true temple will always be preserved. The church will never perish but grow, for our Lord builds his church (Matt. 16:18)! Who is God’s temple? For we are the circumcision, who worship God in Spirit, put no confidence in the flesh, and glory in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:3). Not the outward Israel, but those who receive and rest upon Jesus Christ alone as he is offered in the gospel (Rom. 2:28). God’s true temple trusts in Jesus Christ as the Son of God and righteousness of God. We look to him as the Lamb of God who fully and willingly obeyed his Father’s law and gives us righteousness before God. We do not look to anything in ourselves for acceptance with God but to Jesus Christ. We trust his once-for-all sacrifice as our sure cleansing. This passage screams at us to be born again. The only ones who will be protected in this world are those who are in union and communion with Jesus Christ. All else is sinking sand. Believe in Jesus Christ.

Sealed and measured, (2) the Lord will be with you and never allow anything to happen to you that will not glorify himself and work everlasting good and joy for you (Rom. 8:28). This is the key that delivers from worry and anxiety. Since we are measured and belong to him, (3) we must learn to rest in his love and purposes, even his afflictions. We belong to him. Our peace in the present and hope for the future are found here – not in getting back what we have lost, or finding what we crave. It is in the Lord – that we are his, that he is our life. (4) This settles us because it leads us away from us finding our own lives and instead believing and living, “For me, to live is Christ.” We are “not our own but bought with a price” (1 Cor. 6:20). His ownership means forgiveness, protection, and purpose. Be cleansed and released from guilt by coming to him. Be renewed in purpose and delivered from worry by bowing before your Lord! He redeemed us for himself. We will never be settled as long as we are trying to save ourselves. (5) Place your affections on the things that last – not the sacred Jerusalems in our lives that we think mean God loves us – people, self, feelings and experiences that make us feel good and loved. Set your affection upon Jesus Christ. Seek him as your good, your life, and your peace. Think often of present glory! Trust his promise: build your life upon me, and you are built upon an immovable rock.

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