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The Temple-Sanctuary and Court of Revelation 11
Revelation 11:1 And there was given me a reed like unto a rod. And the angel stood, saying, “Rise, and measure the naos [lit. sanctuary] of God, and the altar, and those who worship in it. 2 But the court which is outside of the naos cast out and measure it not, for it is given unto the Gentiles; and the holy city they shall tread under foot forty-two months.
The Greek term naos does not mean a whole temple complex, for which the Greek word hieron is used. Naos refers only to a temple’s innermost holy place, its sanctuary. The word hieron is never used in Revelation. A naos is mentioned 16 times:
– 10 of them directly speak of it being “in heaven,” or are linked to a near verse that does: 11:19 (twice); 14:15, 17; 15:5, 6, 8 (twice); 16:1; 16:17 ;
– 2 of them refer to it being the Holy One Himself: 21:22 (twice);
– 2 more of them, 3:12 and 7:15, also are clearly heavenly, but you can check them out for yourself to decide.
NOT A SINGLE VERSE in Revelation speaks of a “Temple/naos on earth,” or “in Jerusalem,” or “in the holy city.” Therefore, there is no good reason to presume an earthly exception for the other two uses of naos in Rev. 11:1-2; especially since later in the chapter, verse 19 says “the naos in heaven.”
Questions: How could the outer court of a heavenly sanctuary be trampled by the Gentiles? And when it says “don’t measure the outer court, as it is given over to the Gentiles” – could that be the case in heaven?
Answer: Let’s read it literally: “And the court the [one] external/outside [G1855 exothen] of the sanctuary expel [G1544 ekballo (from G1537 ek/out of + G906 ballo/throw)] out [G1544 exo]…”
Clearly, the exterior court of God’s sanctuary is to be cast out outside – but outside of what? Outside of heaven, that is, the realm of God’s Presence, is the reasonable answer.
The outer court of the earthly Temple in Old Testament days was the Court of the Gentiles. There, uncircumcised and unsanctified Gentiles were allowed, but no closer. In heaven, no unsanctified souls will be allowed to remain at all. Therefore, this place for the congregation of unsanctified ones cannot be allowed to remain near the heavenly sanctuary, the place of the Presence of God.
The principle behind this was explained in the blog post The Three Heavens: “In the heavens, there is no distance in terms of space, because there is neither space nor time. Distance in the heavens is determined by similarity and oppositeness. For instance, the holier the spirit, the closer its proximity to the Divine; while spirits that rebel against God are by their very nature at vast ‘distances’ (in appearance) from Him.” All summed up in these words of Jesus:
John 3:20 “…everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. 21 But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen…”
The souls that comprise the outer court of God’s spiritual Temple cannot remain anywhere near the heavenly sanctuary, because they are unsanctified. Therefore, they are far in spirit from God’s and the heavenly saints’ very nature. (How this collective group of unsanctified souls will temporarily be able to come into heaven at all will be explained below.)
The sense given by the three “outs” of verse 2 is that the outer court is to be expelled WAY away from the heavenly naos – and where else to but earth? This soulish congregation will therefore likely dominate the Temple Mount on earth, or part of it, which “glorious holy mountain” (Dan. 11:45) Gentiles have been “treading underfoot” since the first century, as Jesus foretold in Luke 21:24.
The same word ekballo was used to describe the event when Jesus “CAST OUT all those who bought and sold in the temple” (Matt. 21:12): it indicates a violent expulsion.
Question: In 2 Thessalonians 2 – if God’s naos is the heavenly sanctuary, does the Son of Perdition eject God from His naos and then set himself up as a god? How does the Son of Perdition get into the heavenly sanctuary?
Answer: 2 Thes. 2 doesn’t indicate that the naos spoken of there is in heaven, and neither do I. Those events take place on earth.
Question: The two witnesses prophesy on earth, would you agree?
Answer: Absolutely. The passage shifts in Rev. 11:2 from the heavenly to the earthly perspective. Such shifts back and forth from heavenly to earthly perspectives is common in Revelation.
Question: If so, the context could be seen as continuing in an earthly view. But how do we have Gentiles or ‘nations’ in heaven, where part of the holy precinct is given over to them, and not counted with the rest? If no unsanctified souls are allowed in heaven, how is it that there is an outer court to be cast out?
Answer: This scripture will help to explain the coming scenario of Rev. 11:1-2 :
Matthew 22:11 And when the king came in to see the [wedding] guests, he saw there a man which did not have on a wedding garment. 12 So he saith to him, “Friend, how did you come in here not having a wedding garment?” And he was speechless. 13 Then said the king to the servants, “Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him [Gr. ekbalete] into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
Clearly, there will be some weeding out of those who ascend, but don’t belong.
Now, how come folks with no wedding garment can make it into the heavenly wedding in the first place? How come Jesus will cast out (ekballo) his unprofitable servant? Matt. 25:30 How come Satan and his angels have to be cast (ballo) from heaven? Rev. 12:7-10
In heaven, no unsanctified souls or spirits will be allowed to remain. Clearly some do get in, then are cast out. This gets us into some deep mystical issues, such as “the eye single” that Jesus spoke about. Matt. 6:22 When Jesus appears in the clouds, to be “seen by every eye” (Rev. 1:17; 6:16 = 6th Seal) – every eye of both the living and the dead (Matt. 26:63-64) – that seeing shall be with spiritual sight. Such spiritual sight will freak most people out, and they will “hide themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains, and say to the mountains and rocks, ‘Fall on us, and hide us from the [All-Seeing] Face’…” Just like they essentially did at the First Shofar at Mount Sinai: “when the people saw, they removed, and stood afar off.” Ex. 20:18
Now, there are some people who are spiritually adept, shall we say, who will be able to withstand this spiritual opening, and who will go in, believing themselves to be chosen and worthy. But their souls will not have born the fruits of the Spirit which comprise heavenly “fine linen” garments – “for the fine linen is the RIGHTEOUS ACTS of the saints.” Rev. 19:8 Without such garments/works of righteousness – chiefly including saving faith in the cleansing blood of Jesus, which faith then matures fruits/works via the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:22; 1 Cor. 12:4-11) – they will not be found worthy to stand in the presence of the host of heaven:
Luke 21:36 “…pray always that you may be accounted worthy…to stand before the Son of Man.”
Rev. 7:14 “These are the ones who…washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. 15 Therefore they are before the throne of God…”
“Faith without the works of the Holy Spirit is garmentless,” to paraphrase James 2:26.
Many of this group in the outer court of the Gentiles will be unsanctified professing believers in Jesus. There is a great body of those who believe that they are saved and are going to heaven, merely because they have voiced a sinner’s prayer, and maybe had some spiritual experience. But again, these will not have the white wedding garments required to be a part of the celebration, because their mere belief-of-the-lips never matured any Spirit-begotten fruit.
Finally, let us now turn this whole debate upon its head, and consider the proposed alternative. If this is a physical temple and court, as so many believe, then how could John – because that is whom the angel is addressing – bodily pick up the court and cast/throw it? And yet the Gentiles in it remain alive to “tread the holy city underfoot”? That whole scenario is patently absurd.
The only sense in which a temple court filled with a vast number of people (souls) could be expelled would be in the spiritual sense. And for this we have clear precedence, with scriptures that speak about Satan and his angels being cast out of heaven, and the spiritual ruler of Tyre being “cast…out of the [heavenly] mountain of God.” Ezek. 28:16, 14