Revelation 11 and the Temple

The Temple
What is the temple spoken of in Revelation 11? Is it an end-times temple constructed by faithful Jews in present-day Jerusalem? Or, was it Herod’s temple which was destroyed in 70AD? Perhaps it is a picture of God’s people. Here are a few (not all) of the pros and cons with each of these understandings.

The Restored End-Times Temple in Jerusalem
Pros

    • This would be the literal, natural meaning – we see a literal temple, two real witnesses, in the actual city of Jerusalem, the times are literal, etc..
    • The linguistic argument – it is called “the temple” using the same terminology consistently used throughout the Bible
    • A third temple is prophesied in Ezekiel 40 – 48 and measured in the same way
    • Daniel 9 speaks of the Abomination of Desolation taking place during the tribulation, 2 Thessalonians 2 speaks of the lawless one in the temple before the coming of the Lord and Revelation 13 picks up these themes.
    • It is located in “the holy city,” Jerusalem
    • Israel is established in the Land and plans are under way to restore the Temple according to Ezekiel’s plans
    • John draws a distinction between the worshippers at the Temple and Gentiles, so they must be Jewish
    • Church Fathers generally related this chapter to the end-times

Cons

    • This view does not relate well to chapter 10 and other indications that the message of Revelation is universal
    • Those who hold this view admit that some aspects are symbolic – you can’t “measure” worshippers.
    • The language in Ezekiel 47 seems to indicate the Temple is figurative, particularly describing a river Ezekiel can swim in flowing out and turning the ocean to fresh water.
    • The temple worship was fulfilled in Christ and God now dwells in His church and individual believers.
    • A literal temple would reverse the work of Christ in making peace between Jew and Gentile, raising the partition that divided the two (Ephesians 2:11ff)
    • A literal temple would, in effect, re-hang the curtain that Christ tore in half, providing entrance into the Holy of Holies at the cross
    • A return of a temple for worship would involve a return to the Law and its commands for worship, yet Acts 15 and Galatians seem to reject such worship
    • The temple and its worship after the cross represents a rejection of the Messiah and His work at the cross, according to Hebrews

Herod’s Temple Before and During Its Destruction in 70 AD
Pros

    • The linguistic argument – it is called “the temple” using the same terminology consistently used throughout the Bible
    • The events described in the first two verses and the abomination of desolation, appear to have been fulfilled during the Jewish war ending in 70 AD.
    • Jesus predicted these events, almost word for word, in Luke 21:24
    • This view takes a literal view of the Temple and Daniel’s prophecy — it does not project it forward by a non-literal “gap” of 2000 years between the 69th and 70th week of Daniel
    • The church inherits the promises of Israel in the NT

Cons

    • This view rests heavily on a dating of the Book of Revelation before 70 AD, against tradition and the majority of NT scholarship
    • It results in an inconsistent hermeneutic, shifting from literal in verse 2 to symbolic in verse 3
    • The temple was completely destroyed in 70 AD, not just trampled
    • Paul and other NT writers continue to make a distinction between Jews and Gentiles
    • This view does not relate well to chapter 10 and other indications that the message of Revelation is universal
    • Church Fathers generally related this chapter to the end-times

A Figurative Description of Jewish Believers, Whose Salvation Is Secure Through the Tribulation
Pros

    • Romans 11 speaks of an end-times remnant of Jews coming into the church after the fullness of the gentiles.
    • The Temple and the “Holy City” in chapter 11, together with the picture of Ezekiel’s end-time temple are a natural picture of Jewish believers, whose salvation is secured through the Tribulation and trampling of the Gentiles (Luke 24)
    • Zechariah prophesied this would take place in Chapter 2 & 3
    • The Temple is consistently applied to the church throughout the NT letters – both Jewish and Gentile believers
    • John draws a distinction between the worshippers at the Temple and Gentiles, so they must be Jewish
    • Church Fathers generally related this chapter to the end-times

Cons

    • The passage nowhere says these are Jewish believers.
    • This would violate the literal, natural meaning of “temple”
    • The “temple” speaks of a literal building more consistently and more often throughout the Bible than as symbolic of the church or individual Christians
    • A third temple is prophesied in Ezekiel 40 – 48 and measured in the same way
    • The Abomination of Desolation is spoken of as a real event involving the Temple.
    • This view does not relate well to chapter 10 and other indications that the message of Revelation is universal
    • It is located in “the holy city,” Jerusalem

A Figurative Description of the Faithful Church and The Apostate Church
Pros

    • The church is called the Temple of God and members are “living stones,” as well as “priests” who offer sacrifice – both Jew and Greek
    • The Temple is consistently applied to the church throughout the NT letters
    • God measures out His people for protection and though apostates will “trample the outer courts of the visible church,” the “gates of hell will not prevail against it.”
    • The letter is written to actual churches in the first century, who are promised that they will be “pillars” in God’s Temple in the new Jerusalem
    • They will be persecuted and martyred: a consistent theme in Revelation
    • Whenever John uses the word “Gentiles” in Revelation, it is always speaking of those in rebellion to God and he even groups unbelieving ethnic Jews in that category
    • Church Fathers generally related these events to the end-times

Cons

    • This would violate the literal, natural meaning of the passage in Revelation 11
    • The “temple” speaks of a literal building more consistently and more often throughout the Bible than as symbolic of the church or individual Christians
    • A third temple is prophesied in Ezekiel 40 – 48 and measured in the same way
    • Daniel 9 speaks of the Abomination of Desolation taking place during the tribulation, 2 Thessalonians 2 speaks of the lawless one in the temple before the coming of the Lord and Revelation 13 picks up these themes.
    • The Temple is located in “the holy city,” Jerusalem
    • Paul and other NT writers continue to make a distinction between Jews and Gentiles

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