Take A Reed Like A Rod...
This part of the Commentary covers the Apocalypse from 9:12 to 22:21; its principal objectives are:
(1) to explain terms.
(2) to clarify the order of events.
Underlining in any excerpt from Scripture will be emphasis mine. I will begin in the classical manner by leaping in medias res, into the middle of things: please read Chapter 11.
Here is a rather literal translation of 11:1-3,
And was given me a reed like a rod, as he said, “Come and measure the sanctuary
of God and the altar and the ones worshipping in it. And the court the
outside of the sanctuary cast outside and not it measure, for it was given
to the nations, and the city the holy they will be trampling months forty-two.
And I will give to the two witnesses of me and they will be prophesying days thousand
two hundred sixty, all-clothed of sackcloth.”
Regarding the above verses, almost every modern edition of the Bible, including the New American Bible, translates the noun “naoV“ [naos] as “temple,” and the imperative “ekbale” [ekbale] as “omit” or “exclude.” Ever and everywhere, it is both prudent and fair not to opine, but rather to seek and find, the meaning of any term or expression that the Bible uses.
A few references out of many will help clarify the term “temple”:
“Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up”... But he [Jesus] was speaking about the temple of his body. - John 2:19, 21
You are the body of Christ and individually members of it. - 1 Cor. 12:27
…for we are the temple of the living God; as God has said: “I will dwell in them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” - 2 Cor. 6:16 [cf. Lev. 26:11-12]
It opened its mouth to utter blasphemies against God, blaspheming his name and his dwelling, that is, those who dwell in heaven. - Apoc. 13:6
Hence, the term “temple” means the Church. For the Church is the Brethren, collectively and individually.
The Speaker, however, commands John to omit or to exclude the court outside the temple and measure it not. The command seems redundant and unnecessary, because one does not have to omit or to exclude what is already outside.
The term “ekbale” [ekbale] is the imperative singular of “ekballein” [ekballein], which is composed of the prefix “ek-” [ek- = out] and the verb “ballein” [ballein = to throw, cast, hurl].
Moreover, the adverb “exwqen” [exöthen], which means “outside” or “on the outside,” emphasizes whither the court is to be cast.
Note that the same word is used in apposition with the term “court”: it is thereby intimated that the court outside is, in some sense, already outside. Thus, the command is,
“And the court the one outside the temple cast outside and measure it not.”
The command still seems not to make any sense. But, remember the beginning of Chapter 4: John was suddenly “in the spirit,” and he looked through a door that “stood opened in heaven” and saw “one seated on the throne...” and “the twenty-four elders,” etc. This means John perceived in a spiritual manner the inside court of “heaven,” or the Church.
The physical or visible is symbolic of the spiritual or invisible. The description is graphic so that the human imagination has something to grasp more easily.
Now verse 2 begins to make sense, except for the translation “temple.” The New Testament writers consistently used the noun “naos” [naos] instead of “ieron” [ieron = temple] to denote the Church.
In Acts 17:24, Paul tells the members of the Aeropagus that God does not live “en ceiropoihtoiV naoiV“ [en kheiropoiërois naois = in hand-made shrines]. In Luke 11:51, Christ mentioned,
“Zechariah ... who perished between the altar and the house” [ton oikon = ton oikon];
but, in Matthew 23:35, He said,
“...between the sanctuary [ton naou = ton naou] and the altar.”
The term “house” is often translated as “sanctuary”, regarding the Temple of Solomon.
A perusal of the New Testament finds that the Temple had a “proanlion” [proanlion = forecourt], then further inward an “anlh“ [anlë = court, where beasts were kept overnight], and furthest in, the “mesauloV“ [mesaulos = the inner court behind the “anlh”, anlë]. Finally, Christ's comment in Matthew 23:20-22 sheds light on the matter,
So whoever swears by the altar swears by it and by everything on it; and whoever swears by the sanctuary swears by it and by the one who dwells in it; and whoever swears by heaven swears by the throne of God and by the one who is seated upon it.
The description John gave in Chapter 4 limits the Church to an inside court, the one in the middle, and an outside court; the “door” implies that there is a wall separating the two courts. If this is compared to a church, the altar and tabernacle [God's throne] are located in the sanctuary.
Therefore, the term “naoV“ [naos] should be translated as “sanctuary,” the “mesauloV“ [mesaulos], the one in the middle or midst of the Church. This concept is very important: remember it.
Also, the sanctuary in the Temple of Solomon was sometimes called “the holy place” or, simply, “the place”; but, in a Roman Catholic Church, the sanctuary would be “a holy place,” because God is present in each tabernacle.
Thus, the Speaker's command now makes a little more sense: John is to measure the Church's inside court, but its outside court he is to cast outside--the Church. Not yet, not quite yet, is reason fully satisfied, because the text still implies that the outside court is, in some sense, already outside.
The measuring instrument given to John is a “kalamoV “ [kalamos], a kind of reed that grows as high as twenty feet along the Jordan River.
24 And when the messengers of John were departed, he began to speak to the multitudes concerning John. What went ye out into the desert to see, a reed shaken with the wind? [Luke 7:24].
But, ominous is the phrase added to it: “like a rod.” The “rod” is a prophetic term that symbolizes authority of divine origin; it signals the terrible severity with which God will separate the good from the bad, the faithful from the unfaithful
5 Woe to the Assyrian, he is the rod and the staff of my anger, and my indignation is in their hands. [Is. 10:5].
Since the Speaker commands John to measure only the sanctuary and cast the rest outside, the measuring connotes that those in the sanctuary have a “Thau” on their foreheads and are “sealed,” and that they will cooperate with God's grace to persevere to the end of the judgment about to begin; whereas, the rest in the outside court will be cast outside into the spiritual darkness about to flood the world, where, in the end, there will be, as Christ warned, “weeping and the gnashing of teeth” [Mt. 8:12].
So, had John been given a measuring line, an increase in the size of the Church would have been indicated; but the “rod” portends the contrary.
1 And I lifted up my eyes, and saw, and behold a man, with a measuring line in his hand. 2 And I said: Whither goest thou? and he said to me: To measure Jerusalem, and to see how great is the breadth thereof, and how great the length thereof. 3 And behold the angel that spoke in me went forth, and another angel went out to meet him. 4 And he said to him: Run, speak to this young man, saying: Jerusalem shall be inhabited without walls, by reason of the multitude of men, and of the beasts in the midst thereof. [Zach. 2:1].
And he brought me in thither, and behold a man, whose appearance was like the appearance of brass, with a line of flax in his hand, and a measuring reed in his hand, and he stood in the gate. [Ezek. 40:3].
As a parting comment here, I point out that a reed is not as hard and solid as a rod, for it is tacit that the term “rod” signifies an iron rod. The reed is not for shattering “pottery”;
9 Thou shalt rule them with a rod of iron, and shalt break them in pieces like a potter's vessel [Ps 2:9];
the iron rod can shatter it, easily and totally
31 For at the voice of the Lord the Assyrian shall fear being struck with the rod. 32 And the passage of the rod shall be strongly grounded, which the Lord shall make to rest upon him with timbrels and harps, and in great battles he shall over throw them. [Is. 30:31, 32].
This means that the most severe part of the judgment will not come during the time of measuring the sanctuary, but after it. God will give to the “nations,” as secondary agents, the task of inflicting judgment upon those cast outside the Church. This is only fitting and proper.
But, reason still stands: the text emphasizes the idea that the court is already, in some sense, “outside.”
In Greek, the aorist forms of a verb are used to convey the idea that “an action or act is single or simple rather than repeated or prolonged.” For example, a present infinitive often indicates a continuous or progressive action or state, while an “aorist infinitive” indicates a single act:
Present Infinitive Aorist Infinitive
Eqelo blepein thn polin. Eqlo blepsai thn polin.
Ethëlo blepein ten polin. Ethëlo blepsai ten polin.
I want to see the city. I want to see the city.
[I want to keep seeing the city.] [I want to take one look at the city.]
The verb “metrhson” [metrëson = measure] in verse 1 is a direct positive command in the aorist active voice, second person singular; the direct negative command “mh...metrhshV“ [më...metrësës = not... measure] in verse 2 is the aorist active voice, second person singular, subjunctive mood: each verb conveys the idea that “the command is to be carried out only once.”
The present participle “proskunountaV“ [proskynountas = worshipping] near the end of verse 1, though used as a plural noun, nonetheless, conveys the idea of “continuous or repeated action. This means the worshipers at the altar are those who daily keep the commandments of Jesus and often partake of the Eucharist.
The future participle “pathsousin” [patësousin = will be trampling] in verse 2 modifies the noun “nations”; the future participle “profhteusousin” [prophëteusousin = will be prophesying] in verse 3 modifies the noun “witnesses”: each participle conveys the idea of “continuous or repeated action.”
Finally, note the verb “edoqh” [edothë = was given] at the beginning of verse 1 and also at the start of the dependent clause in verse 2: both are in the aorist passive voice, third person singular; and each indicates a single act or action, which agrees with the aorist sense of the direct commands.
All versions known to me translate the former as “was given,” but the latter as “is given” or “has been given.” The obvious fact is that the same verb in the same form is used in both places, and, therefore, should be translated the same way: “was given.”
Since the future participle “will be trampling” modifies “nations,” the outside court, by being given to the nations, is also given to the same tract of time, namely, the forty-two months during which the nations will be trampling the holy city.
In other words, the aorist “was given to the nations” can be understood as “will be being given to the nations.”
The connective “kai” [kai = and] after the noun “nations” indicates the synchronism of both “was given” and “will be trampling.”
Here, reason again confronts the question of how the court can be outside before it is outside. The answer to the court question comes in verse 3, when the Speaker says,
“And I will give to the two witnesses of/from me [genitive of possession/origin] and they will be prophesying...”
Obviously, the Speaker is God Himself, for only God can give the office of prophet. Since God is infinite, He is omniscient; therefore, knowing all of the finite creation, He alone can see the future of the present, that the court not yet formally outside the Church is, in spirit, already outside: THOSE IN THE OUTSIDE COURT SHALL NOT STAND BEFORE THE THRONE, BUT APOSTATIZE.
The text is signaling the reader, regarding Christ's letter to the church at Laodicea, the SEVENTH letter [3:16]. The outside court represents those whom Christ will “vomit” out of his mouth. They are the tepid brethren, the half-hearted who do the minimum, at most, to stay within the Church, the timid souls who keep to shadows and will not come full into the light. Spiritually weak, they shall not be able to withstand the storm of evil about to burst over the whole earth. The words of 1 Peter 4:17 apply,
“The time has come for judgment to begin with the house of God.”
As the evil grow toward the extreme of evil, so must the good grow toward the extreme of good--just to remain good.