Christ speaks here to John and we immediately see the three elements present in this passage: temple, altar, and the worshipers. In other translations, the word ‘count’ does not appear and the act of measuring appears to include all three elements. The number ‘three’ indicates again that this is an act of God working with perfect justice and resolve with his people, which is here depicted as the full extent of the church.
We read in several places in Scripture that God will measure Israel and the temple, such as
Isaiah 28:17 I will make justice the measuring line and righteousness the plumb line; hail will sweep away your refuge, the lie, and water will overflow your hiding place.
Ezekiel 40:3, 4 He took me there, and I saw a man whose appearance was like bronze; he was standing in the gateway with a linen cord and a measuring rod in his hand. 4he man said to me, "Son of man, look with your eyes and hear with your ears and pay attention to everything I am going to show you, for that is why you have been brought here. Tell the house of Israel everything you see.”
Zechariah 2:1, 2 Then I looked up--and there before me was a man with a measuring line in his hand. 2I asked, "Where are you going?" He answered me, "To measure Jerusalem, to find out how wide and how long it is.”
II Kings 21:13 - 15 I will stretch out over Jerusalem the measuring line used against Samaria and the plumb line used against the house of Ahab. I will wipe out Jerusalem as one wipes a dish, wiping it and turning it upside down. 14I will forsake the remnant of my inheritance and hand them over to their enemies. They will be looted and plundered by all their foes, 15Because they have done evil in my eyes and have provoked me to anger from the day their forefathers came out of Egypt until this day.
In Rev 11, however, the measurement of the temple, altar and the worshipers is rather an act of setting apart than determining the measure of judgment. The church is set apart from the unbelievers, which is an act of making it holy, separating it from the work for God’s purpose.
Zechariah 2:5 ‘And I myself will be a wall of fire around it,' declares the LORD, 'and I will be its glory within.’
We further see that this act of measuring is setting the church apart from the unbelievers when we read Revelation 11:2 in which John is commanded exclude the outer court.
Scripture reveals to us in the New Testament that the sanctuary of God is the people of God and not the physical temple any longer.
We read in Revelation 3:12 the promise that those who overcome will be a pillar in the God’s temple.
Revelation 3:12 Him who overcomes I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will he leave it. I will write on him the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on him my new name.
Other Scripture passages that give us ample testimony that we should not look to a physical temple in this era are as follows:
I Corinthians 3:16, 17 Don't you know that you yourselves are God's temple and that God's Spirit lives in you? 17If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy him; for God's temple is sacred, and you are that temple.
Ephesians 2:19 - 22 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God's people and members of God's household 20built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. 21In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.
I Peter 2:4 - 9 As you come to him, the living Stone--rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him-5you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6For in Scripture it says: "See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.” 7Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe, "The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone," 8And, "A stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall." They stumble because they disobey the message--which is also what they were destined for. 9But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.
But the spiritual character of the new temple is not a New Testament invention; it has been prophesied from the beginning.
Leviticus 15:31 "'You must keep the Israelites separate from things that make them unclean, so they will not die in their uncleanness for defiling my dwelling place, which is among them.'"
Psalm 118:19 – 23 Open for me the gates of righteousness; I will enter and give thanks to the LORD. 20This is the gate of the LORD through which the righteous may enter. 21I will give you thanks, for you answered me; you have become my salvation. 22The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone. 23The LORD has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes.
Isaiah 28:16 So this is what the Sovereign LORD says: "See, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation; the one who trusts will never be dismayed.
Zechariah 6:12, 13 Tell him this is what the LORD Almighty says: 'Here is the man whose name is the Branch, and he will branch out from his place and build the temple of the LORD. 13It is he who will build the temple of the LORD, and he will be clothed with majesty and will sit and rule on his throne. And he will be a priest on his throne. And there will be harmony between the two."
Isaiah 65:17 – 19 "Behold, I will create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind. 18ut be glad and rejoice forever in what I will create, for I will create Jerusalem to be a delight and its people a joy. 19I will rejoice over Jerusalem and take delight in my people; the sound of weeping and of crying will be heard in it no more.”
Isaiah 66:22, 23 "As the new heavens and the new earth that I make will endure before me," declares the LORD, "so will your name and descendants endure. 23From one New Moon to another and from one Sabbath to another, all mankind will come and bow down before me," says the LORD.
Later on in Revelation, the New Jerusalem is called the bride and the wife of the Lamb – a portrait of the church, composed of people from every nation who hold to the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. John receives instructions to measure God’s temple, its alter, which is associated with the suffering church, and the worshipers as a sign of the ultimate invincibility of the Christ’s church.
This passage shows that the unbelievers (Gentiles) will not share the same space as the worshipers, which have been set apart from the Gentiles on the inside to glorify God. This image relates to the temple that Herod built in Jerusalem in which the unbelievers were allowed to trade in temple courts.
John 2:14, 19, 20 In the temple courts he found men selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. 19Jesus answered them, "Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days. 20The Jews replied, "It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?"
By excluding the outer court, those who are in it will not be preserved on the Day of Judgment and only the true believers, those whose names have been written in the book of life, who are worshiping in the temple, will survive it, although they are all in the same temple.
Matthew 7:19 - 21 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them. 21"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven."
Isaiah 48:1 - 3 "Listen to this, O house of Jacob, you who are called by the name of Israel and come from the line of Judah, you who take oaths in the name of the LORD and invoke the God of Israel--but not in truth or righteousness-2you who call yourselves citizens of the holy city and rely on the God of Israel--the LORD Almighty is his name: 3I foretold the former things long ago, my mouth announced them and I made them known; then suddenly I acted, and they came to pass.
Nehemiah 11:1 Now the leaders of the people settled in Jerusalem, and the rest of the people cast lots to bring one out of every ten to live in Jerusalem, the holy city, while the remaining nine were to stay in their own towns.
Matthew 4:5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple.
Matthew 27:53 They came out of the tombs, and after Jesus' resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many people.
Ephesians 4:9 – 13 (What does "he ascended" mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions? 10He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.) 11It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, 12to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
Genesis 3:15 And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.
John 7:7 The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify that what it does is evil.
John 15:19, 23 If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. 23He who hates me hates my Father as well.
John 17:14 I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world.
James 4:4 You adulterous people, don't you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.
I John 2:15 Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
I John 3:13 Do not be surprised, my brothers, if the world hates you.
Romans 8:7 The sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God's law, nor can it do so.
Galatians 1:10 Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.
Ezekiel 47:12 Fruit trees of all kinds will grow on both banks of the river. Their leaves will not wither, nor will their fruit fail. Every month they will bear, because the water from the sanctuary flows to them. Their fruit will serve for food and their leaves for healing.
John 4:35 Do you not say, 'Four months more and then the harvest'? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.
Job 39:2 Do you count the months till they bear? Do you know the time they give birth?
Daniel 7:25 He will speak against the Most High and oppress his saints and try to change the set times and the laws. The saints will be handed over to him for a time, times and half a time.
Daniel 12:7 The man clothed in linen, who was above the waters of the river, lifted his right hand and his left hand toward heaven, and I heard him swear by him who lives forever, saying, "It will be for a time, times and half a time. When the power of the holy people has been finally broken, all these things will be completed.
Daniel 7:21 – 27 As I watched, this horn was waging war against the saints and defeating them, 22until the Ancient of Days came and pronounced judgment in favor of the saints of the Most High, and the time came when they possessed the kingdom. 23"He gave me this explanation: 'The fourth beast is a fourth kingdom that will appear on earth. It will be different from all the other kingdoms and will devour the whole earth, trampling it down and crushing it. 24The ten horns are ten kings who will come from this kingdom. After them another king will arise, different from the earlier ones; he will subdue three kings. 25He will speak against the Most High and oppress his saints and try to change the set times and the laws. The saints will be handed over to him for a time, times and half a time. 26"'But the court will sit, and his power will be taken away and completely destroyed forever. 27Then the sovereignty, power and greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven will be handed over to the saints, the people of the Most High. His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all rulers will worship and obey him.'"
Daniel 8:23 - 25 "In the latter part of their reign, when rebels have become completely wicked, a stern-faced king, a master of intrigue, will arise. 24He will become very strong, but not by his own power. He will cause astounding devastation and will succeed in whatever he does. He will destroy the mighty men and the holy people. 25He will cause deceit to prosper, and he will consider himself superior. When they feel secure, he will destroy many and take his stand against the Prince of princes. Yet he will be destroyed, but not by human power.
Matthew 24:21 – 24 For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now--and never to be equaled again. 22If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened. 23At that time if anyone says to you, 'Look, here is the Christ!' or, 'There he is!' do not believe it. 24For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect--if that were possible.
Mark 13:20 If the Lord had not cut short those days, no one would survive. But for the sake of the elect, whom he has chosen, he has shortened them.
Deuteronomy 19:15 One witness is not enough to convict a man accused of any crime or offense he may have committed. A matter must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.
Matthew 18:16 But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that 'every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.
Matthew 11:21 "Woe to you, Korazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! If the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.
Isaiah 37:1, 2 When King Hezekiah heard this, he tore his clothes and put on sackcloth and went into the temple of the LORD. 2He sent Eliakim the palace administrator, Shebna the secretary, and the leading priests, all wearing sackcloth, to the prophet Isaiah son of Amoz.
Jonah 3:5, 6 The Ninevites believed God. They declared a fast, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth. 6 When the news reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, took off his royal robes, covered himself with sackcloth and sat down in the dust.
Judges 7:2 The LORD said to Gideon, "You have too many men for me to deliver Midian into their hands. In order that Israel may not boast against me that her own strength has saved her.
Psalm 51:17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
Isaiah 57:15 For this is what the high and lofty One says--he who lives forever, whose name is holy: "I live in a high and holy place, but also with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite.
Isaiah 66:2 Has not my hand made all these things, and so they came into being?" declares the LORD. "This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word.
I Corinthians 9:16 Yet when I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, for I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel.
II Corinthians 12:5 I will boast about a man like that, but I will not boast about myself, except about my weaknesses.
Ephesians 2:8, 9 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-9not by works, so that no one can boast.