“At thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore” (Ps. 16:11)
“And there was given me a reed like unto a rod: and the angel stood, saying, Rise, and measure the temple of God, and the altar, and them that worship therein. But the court which is without the temple leave out, and measure it not; for it is given unto the Gentiles: and the holy city shall they tread under foot forty and two months.”
John is given a reed to use in measuring, and the first thing we should think of is how a man is given a measuring rod in Ezekiel (40-47) to measure the Temple in the vision there. John is told to measure three things—the Holy of Holies (the word is naos), the altar, and those who worship there. This measuring is a device for indicating separation, dividing those who will be protected in the calamity to come from those who will not be protected. The measuring is intended to mark out those who are genuine worshipers of God.
But John is told not to measure outside the Temple. This is a curious expression because the open court outside the Temple was specifically named the Court of the Gentiles. The way the Jewish hierarchy had set up a market there for selling clean animals (which represented Jews), thereby supplanting Gentiles, was one of the charges Jesus had leveled against them when He cleansed the Temple. “And he taught, saying unto them, Is it not written, My house shall be called of all nations the house of prayer? but ye have made it a den of thieves” (Mark 11:17). And when Solomon had dedicated the Temple, he had specifically carved out a place for Gentiles (1 Kings 8:41-43). It was given over to them in this judgment, but it was a place that should have been theirs all along.
The measuring indicated that true Jews and false Jews were going to be distinguished in the judgment that was about to fall. The outer court was going to be turned over to the Gentiles (to whom it belonged), and their time to be measured was not yet. That would come.
“And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled” (Luke 21:24).
Another important clue is given to us in these verses. The Gentiles will trample on the holy city for forty-two months. This is a time period familiar to readers of Scripture, and in this section of Revelation it is referred to in three different ways. It is called “forty-two months,” “twelve hundred and sixty days,” and “a time, times, and half a time.” In short, we are talking about three and half years. This is the time that Daniel had said that Antiochus Epiphanes would defile the Temple (Dan. 7:25). It is how long Elijah was used to bring about a drought in Israel (1 Kings 17-18; Jas. 5:17). And this mention kicks off a flurry of references in Revelation. The Gentiles will tread down Jerusalem for this time (Rev. 11:2). The two witnesses will testify for this period of time (Rev. 11:3). The woman pursued by the dragon is chased for this time (Rev. 12:6, 14). The beast will blaspheme for this long (Rev. 13:5).
This is an important time anchor for us, one that will help us unravel what John is talking about. After Nero had a big part of the city of Rome burned, suspicion that he was behind it fell on him. He deflected it by blaming the Christians, and so the first Roman persecution broke out—in November of A.D. 64. That persecution ended when Nero was forced to commit suicide in a coup, which happened in June A.D. 68. This was forty-two months later. The first great persecution of the saints by Rome happened in fulfillment of John’s words. And there is another possible fulfillment. While the overlap was not complete, there was some overlap. The war between Jerusalem and Rome also lasted for approximately that same period of time.
This interlude between the sixth and seventh trumpets is a pause before the calamitous judgment of A.D. 70 falls upon Jerusalem.