'This one was born in Zion'

The Little Book of the Revelation - Eleventh in a series

In the final verse of Chapter 10 John is told he must prophesy again about many peoples and nations and tongues and kings. (Rev 10:11) This instruction is given after he has eaten the booklet and developed a sour stomach.

We begin now to consider the message of the Little Book (Rev 11:1-14), verse by verse.

  • Rev 11:1
    And there was given me a reed like unto a rod: and one said, Rise, and measure the temple of God, and the altar, and them that worship therein.

John is asked to measure his fellow Jews. Scholars generally agreed that The Revelation was written in AD 95, so the temple that John had known no longer stood— it had been destroyed by the Romans in AD 70. The temple with its altar in John’s vision was symbolic of those Jews who continued to look to the practice of ritual sacrifice in worship. Or if he saw a third temple, one not yet constructed, it was devoid of the light of the Gospel.

John saw that the Jews fell short of their prophesied renewal of heart and mind. (Ez 34:15) They did not measure up to God’s standard of enlightenment through embracing Christ’s atonement for their sin.

John is told not to measure the outer court of the temple:

  • Rev 11:2
    And the court which is without the temple leave without, and measure it not; for it hath been given unto the nations: and the holy city shall they tread under foot forty and two months.

The Temple's outer courts are thus envisioned as occupied by gentiles, and beyond these courts, they tread on the holy city as well. Thus would John be grief-stricken to see the Jerusalem of his vision.

The first century Temple

Herod the Great embellished the Temple Mount as a building project during the generation before Christ was born. More about Herod’s temple can be read here. A model of it is shown.

Conrad schik 6070220 (cropped).JPG
By Ranbar - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

Perhaps John saw the Temple as he knew it, with its environs as Herod had embellished them. Herod had made it a crossroads of humanity for trading and a vacation spot for travelers, a place of international repute which some called the Eighth Wonder of the World.

Who or what is in view?

If the practicing Jews fell far short of God’s standards and enlightenment, how much more deficient would those be who live outside of them? To try to measure their demonstrated ignorance would take a reed too long for anyone but the Lord to grasp. (Hab 3:6) Many cultural Jews reside today in the outer courts, figuratively, and they did in former generations as well. (Rev 2:9; Rev 3:9)

Some would point out that Jerusalem today is under the rule of Jews, not gentiles. Retaking Jerusalem from the Arabs in the Six Day War of 1967 returned its governance to the Jews. So, does John’s vision portend a new turn of events for us today, where gentiles, other nations, overtake Jerusalem? Or, that the influence of heathens will be overwhelming? Or, is the Jerusalem of the Little Book a symbolic one?

Upon whom or what are these gentiles (heathens) treading for 42 months? Are they simply occupying the ‘holy city’— the city of Jerusalem in some future political turn of events? Is ‘treading’ the same as governing?

Zechariah 12 states that Jerusalem ‘in that day’ (the time of the end of days) will become a burdensome stone for all people— “All that burden themselves with it shall be cut in pieces, though all the people of the earth be gathered together against it.” (Zec 12:3) That chapter also prophesies a glorious victory for the inhabitants of Jerusalem in the day when they realize Christ is Lord. Would that Jerusalem not be the geographic one?

Nevertheless, in a broad sense, Jerusalem symbolizes the city of God, Zion, where all Messianic Jews and Christians are born and reside. This imagery is introduced in the Psalms:

  • And of Zion it shall be said, This and that man was born in her: and the highest himself shall establish her. (Ps 87:5)

It is significant that later in the Little Book, Jerusalem is referred to as the ‘great city which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified.’ (Rev 11:8) So, is the ‘holy city’ of verse 2 also the ‘great city’ of verse 8?

Two Jerusalems

Paul speaks of two Jerusalems, one on earth still in bondage with her children (Gal 4:24-25), that is, those measured by John in the Temple or perhaps in the outer courts, who adhere to the covenant of Mount Sinai, and one above which is free, the mother of the children of the promise. (Gal 4:26-28) In the Little Book both Jerusalems are in view along with hateful enemies who are not in the Remnant of Israel that seems to be indicated in the 144,000.

We had read that the ‘peoples, tongues, nations and tribes’ who stood before God’s throne had emerged from the great tribulation in Revelation 7. (Rev 7:9) We will also read in the Little Book that ‘people and kindreds and tongues and nations’ hate the people of God. (Rev 11:9) A dilemma of language is in play. Yet, this confusion of groups may assist to contrast the Jerusalem that is trodden under by gentiles with the Jerusalem that is a holy city. (Rev 11:2) Those in bondage despise those who are free. This points us to a view of Jerusalem as a symbol that is a duality.

As well, there are the natural branches of the olive tree and those grafted into it, (Rom 11:17-23) that is, both the Messianic and the ‘remnant’ Jews— and the Christians. Messianic Jews and Christians are friends, but from the perspective of the end-times, the ‘remnant ’ Jews are yet the enemies of Christians, making the two a warring brotherhood, but a new day will come. Were not both ‘born in Zion?’

These groups are in a family feud. In Posts 5 and 6 they were described, and a contrast was drawn between them, with the Jews having a mark from God to protect them, but the Christians would not need such a mark, for they are already marked for security by the blood of the lamb.

But would the Christians’ special identity denoted by ‘the blood’ protect them from persecution? Their security in the Lord prevented them from going to hell, but it did not prevent them from dying as martyrs. (Rev 6:9-11)

They were the witnesses whom the Jews needed to see, to understand what it means to be saved. We will consider the portion of Scripture that describes the two witnesses in the next post.

And what about the enemies who are irretrievably lost souls? The ones not in the symbolic 144,000 and the reprobate gentiles? The fate of these, too, is addressed in the Revelation, but not so much in the Little Book.

Prev | Next

Things that are

The Little Book of the Revelation - Third in a series

Rollover the Scripture links to read the referenced Bible verses.

In Chapter 4 we see the ‘one on the throne’ (Rev 4:2) who appears as a jasper and a sardine stone, that is, brownish and blood red. This scene shows ‘things that are’ as did Chapters 2 and 3.

God’s throne, encircled by an emerald rainbow, rests on the banks of a crystal sea where he basks in the praises of his 24 elders and attending beasts. These lovely beasts or creatures have eyes all over and within!

Perhaps the number of elders combines the 12 Old Testament tribal heads of Israel and the 12 New Testament disciples of the Lord, all with crowns of gold (Rev 4:4). In heaven there is unity and reward.

The four beasts seem to be a lion, calf, man, and an eagle (Rev 4:7). There are many points of view about these beasts. See here.

Thunders and lightnings show God in complete control, in glory with his companions, conversing and ruling from his throne (Rev 4:5), and before it are seven lamps of fire. These are identified as his seven spirits, viewed by numerous theologians as the Holy Spirit. We see these again in Chapter 5—the slain lamb has seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent forth into all the earth. (Rev 5:6b)

The book sealed with seven seals is presented in Chapter 5 (Rev 5:1) and a strong angel proclaims, not asks, Who is worthy to open the book, and to loose the seals thereof? (Rev 5:2)

No one is found who can, not in heaven or earth or under the earth; in fact no one could even look at it. This made John weep profusely but an elder tells him not to, because the Son of Man has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals. (Rev 5:5)

Some commentators believe the sealed scroll is a title deed to the earth (ref Jer 32), which Christ alone may open, proving his right of ownership. Others say that John’s Revelation continues the prophecies given to Daniel, and describes the consummation of those which he was told to seal up till the time of the end. (Dan 12:9) Whichever view one takes, the sealed scroll and the Little Book are integral to God’s providential work in salvation and judgment. Each person will form his or her understanding. The author is a layperson, not a pastor or professor.

The Son is seen “in the midst of the throne” (KJV) or next to it (ESV) as a lamb slain (Rev 5:6), where he also takes the book from his Father and is worshipped by the unusual beasts and by the elders who hold golden bowls filled with believers’ prayers that manifest as scents. (Rev 5:8)

Things that are?

John next sees hundreds of thousands of angels around the group, also worshipping Christ, and hears every creature in heaven, on earth, under the earth, and in the sea saying, Unto him that sitteth on the throne, and unto the Lamb, be the blessing, and the honor, and the glory, and the dominion, for ever and ever. (Rev 5:11-13; refs: Isa 45:22-25; Rom 14:11; Phil 2:10)

This may be a ‘vision within a vision’, for the worship of God by all his creatures has not yet occurred.

Will the opening of the seals also begin a ‘vision within a vision’? Are we about to see events yet to unfold? Or, isn't the procession of the four horses of the Apocalypse— deceit by antichrists, wars, famines and death, characteristic all of history?

Do the seven seals of the Revelation only relate to the final days on the earth when God moves to shake all nations, so that those things which cannot be shaken may remain? (Heb 12:26-27; refs: Is 13:13; Joel 3:16) Or do the four horsemen not revisit mankind each century?

Bible commentators differ on this question, yet it does not seem reasonable for the Lord to show John a vision of how things have always been if this final book of Scripture pertains to the last days. Of course, some say we have been in the last days since the resurrection of the Lord.

The course of history goes from bad to worse, then back to better, but one day it will go from bad to much, much worse, and the pendulum will return to a place where there shall be no more death, sorrow, crying or pain. (Rev 21:4)

The current world of lockdowns, lies, food shortages, fiscal ruin, sexual mayhem, and the erosion of the rule of law, brings to mind David’s question: “If the foundations be destroyed, What can the righteous do?” (Ps 11:3) Vaccine passports have begun to facilitate buying and selling. Yes, we do sense that lines are being drawn and a different day is dawning. But of course, “of that day and hour knoweth no one, not even the angels of heaven, neither the Son, but the Father only.” (Mat 24:36 ASV)

Prev | Next

In the course of the wonders

The Little Book of the Revelation - First in a series

In the Book of the Revelation, in the course of the wonders, warnings, blood-spattered events, glittering visions, trumpets, cries of angels and spectacular catastrophes— we come upon a Little Book.

John is presented this unsealed scroll by an angel, and told to take it and eat it.

This surprising command and some related discourse are found in the 11 verses of Chapter 10.

  1. And I saw another strong angel coming down out of heaven, arrayed with a cloud; and the rainbow was upon his head, and his face was as the sun, and his feet as pillars of fire;
  2. and he had in his hand a little book open: and he set his right foot upon the sea, and his left upon the earth;
  3. and he cried with a great voice, as a lion roareth: and when he cried, the seven thunders uttered their voices.
  4. And when the seven thunders uttered their voices, I was about to write: and I heard a voice from heaven saying, Seal up the things which the seven thunders uttered, and write them not.
  5. And the angel that I saw standing upon the sea and upon the earth lifted up his right hand to heaven,
  6. and sware by him that liveth for ever and ever, who created the heaven and the things that are therein, and the earth and the things that are therein, and the sea and the things that are therein, that there shall be delay no longer:
  7. but in the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he is about to sound, then is finished the mystery of God, according to the good tidings which he declared to his servants the prophets.
  8. And the voice which I heard from heaven, I heard it again speaking with me, and saying, Go, take the book which is open in the hand of the angel that standeth upon the sea and upon the earth.
  9. And I went unto the angel, saying unto him that he should give me the little book. And he saith unto me, Take it, and eat it up; and it shall make thy belly bitter, but in thy mouth it shall be sweet as honey.
  10. And I took the little book out of the angel’s hand, and ate it up; and it was in my mouth sweet as honey: and when I had eaten it, my belly was made bitter.
  11. And they say unto me, Thou must prophesy again over many peoples and nations and tongues and kings.

What was in the Little Book? Why would its content be both sweet and bitter for John?

We must be content to set aside the Seven Thunders, but for the Little Book, we will pry for discoveries that will help to establish the true religion, as Sir Isaac Newton urged that studies in the Revelation ought to do.*

For context, we will begin by summarizing the contents of chapters 1 through 9, beginning in the next post.

*Sir Isaac Newton Commentary on the Revelation