It isn't until Revelation
11:14 that we are told that "the second woe is past." This implies
that everything that is recorded up to 11:14 is to be understood as contemporary
with the second woe. This would make the first mentioned concern of this
woe the military activity. However that is not the only concern. The rest
of the woe addresses issues that call us out of, and beyond military activity.
Let’s examine the rest of the second woe.
In the first few verses of chapter 10 John describes a mighty angel. Since his description of this angel is much the same as that of Jesus in Revelation 1:15 and 16 we need to see this angel as Jesus. In His hand is a little book, and it is open. Unlike the sealed book which only the Lamb - Redemption - could open, this book is already open. Since the sealed book represents history, this little book must be seen as also representing history. Jesus as the Lamb, made it possible for history to continue. He was the only one who was found worthy to break the seven seals of history. Since the Lamb fulfilled all of God’s requirements for history to continue, the history represented by the little book is already opened in His hands. As we read we discover that John becomes vitally involved in that history. Since John represents the Church, we can conclude that the Church becomes vitally involved in the history described by the little book. Let us consider the details that John gives of this event.
Jesus stands with His right foot on the sea and his left on the earth. An interesting stance. The earth and sea are the very two places from which the beasts of Revelation 13 arise. Those beasts are yet to be described. So it appears that we are now given the “good news” concerning this second woe. That good news is that Jesus is the one who has dominion and final authority over the earth and sea. Figuratively the earth and sea stand for society. Jesus as the Lamb, made it possible for unrepentant society to continue to march through history. However Jesus Christ as ruler will not allow socities sinful actions to be the final act of history.
After Jesus takes His stance, John hears His loud cry like that of a roaring lion. The lion like voice intentionally suggests this strong angel to be Jesus in His portfolio as ruler. So the lion like voice implies that Jesus takes the stance of ruler over society. His cry as ruler is immediately followed by seven thunders. Seven thunders whose speech John understands. John is about to record what they say but he is commanded not to do so. Instead he is told to seal up the revelation of the seven thunders. Such a directive is rare in scripture. It only happens here and in Daniel 12:4.
Obviously John saw it as important to record what the seven thunders said, but he is told not to. Does God tease us with His revelation, or is revelation held in reserve until the appropriate time? A statement by Paul suggests the latter to be true. Paul speaks of revelation that "was not made known unto the sons of men as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets." (Eph. 3:5) Hebrews 1:1 declares: "God who at sundry times and in divers manners spoke in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken unto us by His Son." Scripture therefore supports the position that revelation is given at an appointed and appropriate time. So the seven thunders indicate a desire on God’s part to give the Church further revelation. However that revelation waits for an appointed and appropriate time. Because John is shown this in the context of the second woe suggestes that to be the period when the revelation will be made known. We are living in that period of time! Is the Church prepared to receive that revelation?
In verse six the mighty angel declares "there will be no more delay". (literal translation) The time for completing the mystery of God has arrived. Since John represents the Church, John’s experience describes the Churches role during this period. The Church represented by John is commanded to go, take the book! John does as he is commanded.
"Give me the little book", John demands.
This is almost unbelievable! How does the Church move from supporting military action, which is the worship of devils, to obeying the command of God? It seems that John is only giving us the highlights of a fuller story. Since those highlights are given in the context of the second woe they are telling the Church to be prepared and ready to do God’s command. Like Israel of old, the Churches track record, given in the breaking of the seals, in following God’s direction is dismal. However we have seen, and will see that God is preparing His Church for a transformation that will seem like a quantum leap from where she is today. So it is of paramount importance for the Church to understand Revelation.
John is then commanded to: "Take it, and eat it up."
With that command he is also informed that it will be sweet to the taste but become bitter in his belly. So it is. What is described here is the natural process of eating and digestion. It is therefore implied untill this period in history the Church has not digested the purposes of God. So the Church is depicted as not only tasting the sweetness of God's mystery, but she will now digest it, and it becomes her sustaining strength. In that strength she is called to "prophesy again before many peoples, and nations, and tongues, and kings." (v11) Note it: the Churches activity doesn’t cease with the coming of the millennium, her activity only intensifies. That activity will have the force and strenght of apostolic utterance, because it is brings God's mysteries to fulfillment..
John describes things that we have never considered to be part of Revelation. This little book like the sealed book represents the unfolding of history. A history that takes us beyond the period covered by the sealed book. A period of history that most definitely includes the establishment and fruition of God's kingdom on this earth. The Church - represented by John - is depicted as being vitally involved in the process. As the Church ingests what God has for her she makes history and the mystery of God come together. This suggests that her call and commission is not that she be taken from this earth, but that she be a servant of God in it.
As a representative of the Church, John was told not to record what the seven thunders said. Now that same voice tells him he will prophesy again. The word “again” implies that what John was told to seal up will be revealed. Since that directive comes to an apostle, the revelation of what the seven thunders uttered will be in the power and authority of apostolic utterance.
John is told he will prophesy to peoples, nations, tongues, and kings. The reference to these various people groups suggests that the establishment of God's kingdom on this earth will not come by cataclysmic change. There will not be a great upheaval of cultures, kingdoms, and languages. Thus the text suggests that the transition into the millenium kingdom will be no different than the move from the Old Testament days to the days of grace. So lets pay attention! To insist - like the Jews did - that the Kingdom can only come marked by certain activity sets us up to miss it just like they did.
Since Jesus reveals this before the sounding of the seventh trumpet indicates that Jesus is giving us the time and opportunity to prepare for it. Is the Church of today prepared to receive revelation that will be in the order of canonicity? Is she prepared to bring the mystery of God and history together? Jesus said to be watching and ready. Are we? A vast number of the Church today is looking to escape this earth by a rapture, rather than being ministers in it. Is that being ready? Much is said today about all of the signs that are being fulfilled around us: but remember the words of Jesus: The kingdom of God doesn’t come with observation because the kingdom is within you. (Luke 17:20) So if you haven't got it inside you, your ability to identify signs here or there doesn’t mean anything. For if you as a Bible believing follower of Jesus Christ can’t even recognize the kingdom within you, then you’re missing it!
It is obvious from what has been shared in the breaking of the seals and the sounding of the trumpets that we missed experiencing the Kingdom. The Church didn’t hold the provisions of Jesus Christ as sacred. We went our own way. We never stopped to consider that we were deceived, and living in diminished light. We assumed that our theology was infallible; it couldn’t be faulty! We assumed and preached that it was the world system that was the problem. However when those who claim to be God’s kingdom people deny the power of their ambassadorship, that is a problem. Jesus Christ wants the Church to be prepared for the ministry He called her to. Because of that calling Revelation 11 and 12 speaks to the issue of the Churches role in history.
In Revelation 11:1 John is given a reed which is like a rod and he is told to measure the temple, the altar, and those who worship in the temple. He is instructed not to measure the outside court of the temple because it is given unto the Gentiles. They will trample under foot the holly city for forty two months.
Dispensational theology holds that this is a reference to a literal temple in Jerusalem. John is therefore seen as measuring a literal reconstructed temple. The wording and details John gives in this passage call the dispensational position into question.
In order to arrive at a proper understanding of Revelation we must insist that an image or symbol must have the same meaning throughout the text. If we accept John as a representative of the Church in Revelation 4:1 we must do so throughout the book. So we arrive at Revelation 11:1 with an established fact: John represents the Church. Therefore it is the Church that is given a measuring reed like a rod.
According to the text, what is measured is protected from defilement. What isn’t measured isn’t protected. Obviously this can’t be a reference to a literal act, for measuring something doesn’t protect it. We must therefore see the measuring rod as symbolizing a standard. So what the Church subjects to a standard is protected from defilement, what is not subjected to a standard is defiled. Has the Church subjected the temple and its worshippers to a standard? If we aren’t sure about the identity of the temple, what do we subject to a standard?
Jesus referred to Himself – His body - as the temple. He said: "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up." (John 2:19) In 1 Corinthians 3:9 and following Paul gives support to this concept. He presents the Church both individually and corporately as the temple of God. In verses 16 and 17 of that same chapter Paul makes it explicitly clear that our body is the temple of God. Our body is the temple in which the Holy Spirit dwells.(see 1 Cor. 6:19) It is important to note that both Jesus and Paul use the Greek word "naos" and not "hieron" when speaking of the body as God’s temple. A study of scripture shows that “hieron” is the word used to designate the entire temple complex.(See Strong’s Concordance #2411) “Naos” designates the holy of holies, which was separated from the rest of the temple by the veil. (see Matt. 27:51) So both Jesus and Paul are agreed “naos” designates the dwelling place of God. So the Church – corporate and individually is the dwelling place of God. For this reason the New Testament speaks of the Church as the body of Christ. (Examples: Eph. 1:23; 4:4;12;16 5:23;30)
In Revelation 11 John uses the term “naos” when speaking of the temple. If John was predicting a literal reconstruction of the temple complex why did he use the word “naos” instead of “hieron”. Since he uses the word “naos” we must insist that he, like Jesus and Paul, is referring to us – our bodies – as the temple and dwelling place of God.
Hebrews 8 and 9 make it very clear that the Jewish temple was only a figure of the true temple. Jesus ministers in the true temple and He calls John as an Apostle and representative of the Church to raise a standard for us to steer by. The purpose of that standard is to protect the worshipper from defilement. Has the Church of today focussed on protecting the worshipper and their worship from defilement?
When we see scripture as teaching the re-establishment of what Jesus made obsolete, what is that saying about our guardianship of the true temple? How can we raise up a standard for something we don’t understand, or can’t even identify?
Given the parabolic use of the term “temple” suggests that the term “Gentile” must also be parabolic. It is evident that scripture allows for a spiritual Israel, which is not reckoned after the flesh. (Rom. 9:6-8) It is also evident that Gentiles of the flesh are reckoned to be included in this spiritual Israel. (Rom. 1:12,13 Gal3:7;29) So in Christ there is neither Jew nor Gentile but all are one.(Gal.3:28) Therefore John’s use of the term Gentile should be understood as designating those who are not true worshippers of God.
John’s call to measure the temple was so that the individual worshipper would be protected from defilement. Everything around the individual came under the attack of the “Gentiles”. The breaking of the seals and the sounding of the trumpets reveals how the “Gentiles” had full and free access to that which is designated the outer court. However those who truly worship God are contrasted and separated from the Gentiles who do not worship God. Even the saints of God come under attack by the Gentiles. Gentiles tread under foot the holy city, a reference to the Christian community, the true worshippers of God as a collective group.
We have already seen the fulfillment of these words in the breaking of the seals and the sounding of the trumpets. Society trampled under foot the holy city, but they could not hurt the oil and wine.
John informs us that the holy city would be trampled under foot for 42 months. The 42 months is an actual 1260 years - remember a day equals a year. As we saw in the breaking of the seals Christianity suffered its greatest abuses after the decline of the Apostolic era. The purity of the gospel was adulterated by worldly philosophies and practices. Eventually the possession and reading of scripture by anyone other than the clergy was forbidden and designated a crime. However this began to change in the 13th century. Scripture became available to the laity, and the work of the reformers established the importance of individual Bible study.
Therefore the “times of the Gentiles” came to an end at about the year 1260. I am not dogmatic on that date. We as humans acquire a false sense of security by setting dates for prophetic events. We assume that because we know the date we now understand the event. But knowing the date of when a prophecy is fulfilled does not constitute full understanding. To fully understand prophecy I must know Jesus, the person of prophecy. So my point in giving the date of 1260 is to suggest that the time of trampling under foot the things of God has come to an end. It is time for the Church to get back to her first love, and to follow through on the messages given to her in the letters to the seven churches. Those letters call the Church - take note - call the Church to repentance. She is called to grieve for the loss of her high and holy calling. Why? As we study Revelation 11 we will find the reasons.