[Rev 11:1-2 NLT] (1) Then I was given a measuring stick, and I was told, "Go and measure the Temple of God and the altar, and count the number of worshipers. (2) But do not measure the outer courtyard, for it has been turned over to the nations. They will trample the holy city for 42 months.

11:1 καὶ ἐδόθη μοι κάλαμος ὅμοιος ῥάβδῳ λέγων ἔγειρε καὶ μέτρησον τὸν ναὸν τοῦ θεοῦ καὶ τὸ θυσιαστήριον καὶ τοὺς προσκυνοῦντας ἐν αὐτῷ

11:2 καὶ τὴν αὐλὴν τὴν ἔξωθεν τοῦ ναοῦ ἔκβαλε ἔξωθεν καὶ μὴ αὐτὴν μετρήσῃς ὅτι ἐδόθη τοῖς ἔθνεσιν καὶ τὴν πόλιν τὴν ἁγίαν πατήσουσιν μῆνας τεσσεράκοντα καὶ δύο


4 Answers 4


There are several allusions to other OT and a few NT passages here using quintessential Johannine symbolism.

Measure: The Greek word "metreo" is probably an allusion to judgement as suggested by its association in Matt 7:2, Mark 4:24, Luke 6:38, 2 Cor 10:12. There is also its use in 2 Sam 8:2 where measuring was used as part of judgement. There might also be Yom Kippur allusions here as well since it was associated with judgement as confirmed by the parallels of "sanctuary, altar and people" which only occurs in Lev 16.

Temple of God: The Greek word used here is "naos" and not "hieron" which refers to entire temple complex including the courtyard (Matt 4:5, 26:55, Luke 21:37, John 2:14, 7:28). "Naos" refers to the Most Holy Place [which was only entered on Yom Kippur] but the word sometimes signified the building as distinct from entire complex. Several views about what "Temple of God" represented are popular such as:

  • The literal temple in Jerusalem (Matt 26:61) - this is unlikely as the temple had been destroyed by the Romans some years before John wrote Revelation. In any case, the earthly sanctuary/tabernacle/temple was only ever intended as an iluustarion or "shadow" of the heavenly temple and work of Jesus (Heb 8:1, 2)
  • The people of the Christian community (1 Cor 3:16, 17, 6:16). The problem here is that John appears to very carefully distinguish between the temple and the people in Rev 7:17, 11:2, 15:8.
  • The heavenly temple - see Rev 3:12, 7:15, 11:19, 14:7, 15:5-8, 16:1, 17 where John constantly refers to the heavenly temple and the things and activities in it.

The Altar: - almost certainly the golden altar of incense because the outer court (where the altar of burnt offering was located) is excluded.

Gentiles/Nations: In Revelation these are people hostile to God and His people. Rev 11:2, 18, 14:8, 16:19, 18:3, 23, 19:15, 20:3, 8.

Trample: The word also occurs in Rev 14:20, 19:15 but these mention the trampling of the wicked by God. In the OT the same idea is used of the oppression of God people by enemy nations (Isa 63:18, Jer 12:10, Dan 7:7, 19, 23). It is also reminiscent of the persecutions of the saints (Dan 7:25) and Jesus' own words in Luke 21:24 where He said that Jerusalem would be trampled by Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.

42 Months: - this prophecy occurs seven times in Scripture in various forms. These are:

  • Dan 7:25 - 3½ times (years) saints persecuted by little horn
  • Dan 12:7 - 3½ times (years) end marks the beginning of the end of time
  • Rev 11:2 - 42 months gentiles trample on the holy city
  • Rev 11:3 - 1260 days two witnesses prophesy in sackcloth
  • Rev 12:6 - 1260 days woman flees to the desert to escape the dragon
  • Rev 12:14 - 3½ times (years) woman out of dragon’s reach
  • Rev 13:5 - 42 months beast blasphemes & exercises defiant authority

This is consistent with the numerous verbal parallels between the activity of the sea beast (Rev 13:1-8) and Daniel 7.

So what does this mean? That is very controversial. Let me propose a radical idea. The central idea here appears to be some kind of judgement on the heavenly sanctuary. The Bible says that all sins are, ultimately, sins against God (1 Cor 8:12, Prov 14:31, Ps 51:4, Deut 20:18. See also 2 Sam 12:13, 14, Gen 39:9, 1 Sam 12:23, 1 Sam 14:34, 2 Chron 19:10, Prov 17:5, Jer 34:19, Eze 13:19) Further, this sin against God is often represented in the OT as defiling the sanctuary (Lev 20:3, 15:31, Num 19:13, Eze 9:7, 5:11, Mal 2;11, Jer 7:30, 32:34, Eze 23:38, 24:21, 25:3, Zeph 3:4, 2 Chron 29:4-7, 36:14, etc.) So in some sense, measuring the temple of God appears to some kind of allusion to judging God as confirmed by Rom 3:4, "You[God] may be justified in your words and prevail when you are judged." See also Eph 3:10, 11, 1 Peter 2:12, 2 Thess 1:4, 5.

Thus, following the extended oppression of God's people (see the question in Rev 6:10) lasting a symbolic 42 months, God's name appears to be vindicated. Just how this happens is another matter that is possibly discussed later in Rev 11 and the rest of the book, especially Rev 16:5-7.

  • I think your objection to the idea of the measuring pertaining to the then current temple for being written after its destruction is at odds with the claim to be a prophetic vision given to announce the events of the very near future, not to recount the past.
    – Ruminator
    Commented Mar 21, 2019 at 22:07
  • The almost universal view places the composition of Revelation somewhere in the 90's, well after the destruction of the Temple by Titus. I fully agree that large portions (NOT ALL) Revelation is prophetic and looks forward (in part) to the second coming of Jesus, eg, Rev 1:7, etc.
    – user25930
    Commented Mar 21, 2019 at 22:11
  • So do you think that John was engaged in "prophecy after the fact" or that he was warning his readers and the seven assemblies in Asia that there was a different, more horrendous temple catastrophe coming imminently (shortly after the one in Jerusalem)? Either way seems rather unreasonable, no?
    – Ruminator
    Commented Mar 21, 2019 at 22:17
  • I am saying that the messages to the seven assemblies were certainly a literal set of local messages. However, much of the subsequent material is prophetic. Rev 1:19 is helpful: Write, therefore, what you have seen, what is now and what will take place later. That is, John writes about both the current situation and about future events. As Daniel, much of the material is about the events that occur between the time of John and Jesus' return (Rev 6:14-17, 11:15-17, etc)
    – user25930
    Commented Mar 21, 2019 at 23:08
  • Prophecy written after the event is called "Preterism" to which I do not subscribe. Most of the references to the temple are to the heavenly temple (whatever that means), eg, Rev 11:19, 15:5, 16:4-6, etc. So the earthly temple is beside the point.
    – user25930
    Commented Mar 21, 2019 at 23:11

In Revelation 11:1-2 why does the angel tell John to measure the temple?

[Rev 11:1-2 NLT] (1) Then I was given a measuring stick, and I was told, "Go and measure the Temple of God and the altar, and count the number of worshipers. (2) But do not measure the outer courtyard, for it has been turned over to the nations. They will trample the holy city for 42 months.

John was told to measure the Temple of God and the altar, what does this mean?.There are prophesies in the Hebrew scriptures that tell us, of such measurings which help us understand the meaning of the commandment given to John to measure the Temple.

The prophetic measuring of Jerusalem during the reign of wicked King Manasseh shows God's resolve to have Jerusalem destroyed.

2 Kings 21:13 (MEV)

13 "I will stretch over Jerusalem the measuring line of Samaria and the level of the house of Ahab, and I will wipe out Jerusalem as one wipes out a bowl, wiping it and turning it upside down."

The prophetic measuring of Jerusalem by Zechariah confirms God's resolved to have Jerusalem rebuilt.

Zechariah 2:2-8 (MEV)

2 And I said, “Where are you going?”And he responded, “To measure Jerusalem and to note what is its width and length.”3 Then the angel who was speaking with me went out, and then another angel came out to meet him,

4 "And said to him, “Run, say to this young man: Jerusalem will be inhabited as villages without walls, because of the multitude of men and animals in her.5 And I will be like a wall of fire all around her, says the Lord, and I will be as glory in her midst."

6 "Up, up, flee from the northern land, says the Lord, for I have spread you abroad like the four winds of heaven, says the Lord. 7 Deliver yourself, O Zion, you who live with the daughter of Babylon. 8 For thus says the Lord of Hosts: He has sent Me after glory to the nations which plunder you, for he who touches you touches the apple of His eye."

The detailed measuring of the Temple seen in a vision by Ezekiel 40:3-49 was an assurance by God to the exiles in Babylon, that the Temple would be rebuild and that true worship would be restored in Jerusalem.

Ezekiel 40:3-4 (MEV)

3 "He brought me there, and there was a man whose appearance was like the appearance of bronze, with a line of flax and a measuring reed in his hand. And he stood in the gate. 4 The man said to me, “Son of man, look with your eyes, and hear with your ears, and set your heart on all that I shall show you. For you have been brought here to show it to you. Declare all that you see to the house of Israel.”


Thus the commandment to John to measure the Temple and those worshiping in it, shows that God has resolved to fulfill his purpose to establish the Temple arrangement in the last days. Isaiah wrote:

Isaiah 2:2-4 (NASB)

2 Now it will come about that In the last days, "The mountain of the house of the Lord Will be established [a]as the chief of the mountains, And will be raised above the hill.

3 And many peoples will come and say,

“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,To the house of the God of Jacob; That He may teach us [b]concerning His ways And that we may walk in His paths.”For the law will go forth from Zion And the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. 4 "And He will judge between the nations, And will [d]render decisions for many peoples; And they will hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not lift up sword against nation, And never again will they learn war."


"ZION" in the verse above does not refer to earthly Jerusalem which rejected Jesus, but heavenly Jerusalem , Paul wrote:

Hebrews 12:22-24 (NASB)

22 "But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to myriads of [a]angels, 23 to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the Judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, 24 and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks better than the blood of Abel."

  • That is odd - if the above verse refers to the heavenly (I agree) then how could the earthly one be rebuilt by measuring the heavenly - this is inconsistent.
    – user25930
    Commented Mar 22, 2019 at 4:26
  • Mac's Musings :I do not believe that there will any be any need to have an earthly temple again. The spiritual temple is in Heavenly Jerusalem and new scrolls will be opened with new laws and commandments . God's Kingdom- Isaiah 9:6-7, Ezekiel 38:23 .Rulers- Dan. 7:13-14 , Rev. 5:9-10, Rev.14:1-3 and Dan. 2:44 .I notice that you are an Australian, so am I. Commented Mar 22, 2019 at 9:33
  • I said God's arrangement or will, which is the spiritual altar , forshadowed by the literal altar where animals were presented for sacrifice.That is why Paul wrote: By this will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.(Hebrews 13:10) I did not say that the Temple will be rebuilt. Commented Mar 22, 2019 at 18:37

Perhaps at its most basic level Revelation can be described as "A Tale of Two Cities":

  • earthly Jerusalem, which represents the unbelieving, old covenant, unregenerate Israel after the flesh of Jesus' generation upon which Jesus said would fall the "stored up judgment" of Deuteronomy 32. The earthly Jerusalem is referred to as spiritual "Sodom and Egypt" and is the enemy (called "Satan") against which Michael fights alongside Rome's armies.

  • heavenly Jerusalem, which represents the new covenant, regenerate Jews, miraculously ingathered from all of the 12 tribes, baptized with power from God, filled with heavenly wisdom and miracles

Revelation is dense with symbolism but becomes completely understandable once one understands the main themes.

The figure of the measuring line suggests that the measurement will be used in determining the fate of the thing measured - in this case, the earthly temple, which is long overdue for judgment:

[Mat 24:1-2 NLT] (1) As Jesus was leaving the Temple grounds, his disciples pointed out to him the various Temple buildings. (2) But he responded, "Do you see all these buildings? I tell you the truth, they will be completely demolished. Not one stone will be left on top of another!"

The existing structure that is measured indicates that it will be removed completely in preparation for its replacement. (Where there is no existing structure then it is the first [or at least very early] step in building a new structure, which is not the case here).

Since the outer court is NOT measured, it will not be a feature of the heavenly temple. This is discussed also in Hebrews:

[Heb 9:6-12 NLT] (6) When these things were all in place, the priests regularly entered the first room as they performed their religious duties. (7) But only the high priest ever entered the Most Holy Place, and only once a year. And he always offered blood for his own sins and for the sins the people had committed in ignorance. (8) By these regulations the Holy Spirit revealed that the entrance to the Most Holy Place was not freely open as long as the Tabernacle and the system it represented were still in use. (9) This is an illustration pointing to the present time. For the gifts and sacrifices that the priests offer are not able to cleanse the consciences of the people who bring them. (10) For that old system deals only with food and drink and various cleansing ceremonies--physical regulations that were in effect only until a better system could be established. (11) So Christ has now become the High Priest over all the good things that have come. He has entered that greater, more perfect Tabernacle in heaven, which was not made by human hands and is not part of this created world. (12) With his own blood--not the blood of goats and calves--he entered the Most Holy Place once for all time and secured our redemption forever.

So according to Hebrews, the physical layout of the first tabernacle and the limitation of access to the holy place to a single priest, once per year demonstrated that there was no public access to God's heaven. And the author says that it speaks of his own, then current time.

In fact, Revelation is careful to point out many features of Jerusalem that are not needed in the heavenly Jerusalem:

  • the Jews referred to their temple as "heaven and earth". The "new heaven and new earth" here seems to refer to the new temple which, instead of having a dead laver will feature a river of life:

[Rev 21:1 KJV] (1) And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea.

  • the heavenly Jerusalem has no need of a temple, so there is no outer court:

[Rev 21:22 KJV] (22) And I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it.

  • no need of the sun:

[Rev 21:23 KJV] (23) And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof.


Interestingly, an angel measures, with a golden measuring stick, not the temple but the the walls of the new Jerusalem:

[Rev 21:15 NIV] (15) The angel who talked with me had a measuring rod of gold to measure the city, its gates and its walls.

Might this be a symbol of "eternal peace from all enemies" such that the wall is to be taken down?

[Rev 21:24-27 KJV] (24) And the nations of them which are saved shall walk in the light of it: and the kings of the earth do bring their glory and honour into it. (25) And the gates of it shall not be shut at all by day: for there shall be no night there. (26) And they shall bring the glory and honour of the nations into it. (27) And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb's book of life.

[Eze 38:11 KJV] (11) And thou shalt say, I will go up to the land of unwalled villages; I will go to them that are at rest, that dwell safely, all of them dwelling without walls, and having neither bars nor gates,

[Deu 12:10 NIV] (10) But you will cross the Jordan and settle in the land the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance, and he will give you rest from all your enemies around you so that you will live in safety. [Deu 25:19 NIV] (19) When the LORD your God gives you rest from all the enemies around you in the land he is giving you to possess as an inheritance, you shall blot out the name of Amalek from under heaven. Do not forget! [Jos 23:1 NIV] (1) After a long time had passed and the LORD had given Israel rest from all their enemies around them, Joshua, by then a very old man, [2Sa 7:1, 11 NIV] (1) After the king was settled in his palace and the LORD had given him rest from all his enemies around him, ... (11) and have done ever since the time I appointed leaders over my people Israel. I will also give you rest from all your enemies. " 'The LORD declares to you that the LORD himself will establish a house for you: [1Ch 22:9 NIV] (9) But you will have a son who will be a man of peace and rest, and I will give him rest from all his enemies on every side. His name will be Solomon, and I will grant Israel peace and quiet during his reign.

According to Hebrews, we know that Joshua's "rest" was not the eschatological rest because there were still enemies:

[Jos 1:13 NIV] (13) "Remember the command that Moses the servant of the LORD gave you after he said, 'The LORD your God will give you rest by giving you this land.'

[Heb 4:8-11 NIV] (8) For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken later about another day. (9) There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; (10) for anyone who enters God's rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his. (11) Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will perish by following their example of disobedience.

So the eschatological rest is characterized by there being NO enemies left and the heavenly Jerusalem is described as having the gate open all day (and there being no night there).

So to answer the question:

  • he measures the holy place indicating that it would be torn down and replaced

  • he does NOT measure the outer court because it will not be a feature of the heavenly temple

  • the angel later measures it with a golden rod, perhaps indicating that after the millennium (the time of Jerusalem's glory, from Pentecost until the end of the ages), in the eschatological rest in the heavenly city of God there will no longer be any enemies

I should also point out that there is a brief period of time between Jesus' ascension and the placing of his enemies beneath his feet which represents the time from Christ's ascension until the day of Israel's visitation circa 70ad. Upon the subjection of God's enemies (IE: rebellious natural Israel, death and the freeing of the captives of hADES and the judgment)

[1Co 15:23-28 KJV] (23) But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ's at his coming. (24) Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. (25) For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. (26) The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death. (27) For he hath put all things under his feet. But when he saith all things are put under him, it is manifest that he is excepted, which did put all things under him. (28) And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all.

So when every foe has been vanquished, God will be all, in all.

IE: For those who are faithful to Christ unto death, eschatological rest.

Those outside (whom I take to be unbelievers/sinners of various stripes) are the dogs, the chaff who were left behind to eventually perish, tormented day and night in their godless lives like those who did not enter the ark. But are bidden to wash their robes so that they may enter into the New Jerusalem and have access to the Tree of Life. It is all metaphor for the Kingdom of God, which was birthed in the first century and will endure, world without end, continually gathering sinners into the Forever Family inside its gates. IE: It is the "Church."

  • Can you clarify your last paragraph, are you saying all people on Earth right now are those outside the city and are goal then would be to be found worthy to enter the city?
    – Restlee
    Commented Dec 14, 2020 at 14:59
  • Much to my chagrin, the divine plan has never been universal sweetness and light. It has always been about winners and losers. I did not nor do I approve of this schema but it is intrinsic to the Judeo-Christian scriptures. From the beginning, before "the fall" of Eden, Eden was sacred space and outside was the unsacred. That's just how God rolls. Please see: youtube.com/watch?v=wTnq6I3vUbU&t=1s God like Hunger Games.
    – Ruminator
    Commented Dec 14, 2020 at 15:10
  • I have no issue with how God rolls, for me God gives everyone the opportunity to roll with him and more than once. I will watch the video but my question was more to the point that in your view would you say we are born out of the city and in this life we are drawn to make a choice to enter the city or remain outside for eternity?
    – Restlee
    Commented Dec 15, 2020 at 17:13
  • 1
    Yes. The Body of Christ is the New Jerusalem. It is in the KOSMOS but not of it. The dogs outside are unbelieving. But the PNEUMA calls "come" to the dogs, to wash their robes in baptism and enter through the gates, into Christ and his People, fused to him in the New Covenant aka his Bride.
    – Ruminator
    Commented Dec 15, 2020 at 17:19
  • This is all good work, Ruminator. I also hold to the view that, "The Body of Christ is the New Jerusalem". but i cannot find a scripture to back this up. Could you help me please?.
    – Bagpipes
    Commented Jan 17, 2022 at 14:46

Why should we measure the Holy Temple? That's because there are several types of people in a church. Some come in, attend a service and that's it; Some read Bible and try to live as they learn; some look devoted but in fact disturb and make bad blood between people.

We have to DISCRIMINATE all these people because the gifts they will get in the heaven will differ.

And of course, the angel said John to tell US to do the same.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.