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REVELATION OF ST. JOHN THE DIVINE - Chapter 11 - Verse 2

Verse 2. But the court which is without the temple. Which is outside of the temple proper, and, therefore, which does not strictly appertain to it. There is undoubtedly reference here to the "court of the Gentiles," as it was called among the Jews—the outer court of the temple to which the Gentiles had access, and within which they were not permitted to go. For a description of this, see Barnes "Mt 21:12".

To an observer, this would seem to be a part of the temple, and the persons there assembled a portion of the true worshippers of God; but it was necessarily neither the one nor the other. In forming an estimate of those who, according to the Hebrew notions, were true worshippers of God, only those would be regarded as such who had the privilege of access to the inner court, and to the altar. In making such an estimate, therefore, those who had no nearer access than that court, would be omitted; that is, they would not be reckoned as necessarily any part of those who were regarded as the people of God. Leave out and measure it not. Marg., cast out. So the Greek. The meaning is, that he was not to reckon it as appertaining to the true temple of worshippers. There is, indeed, a degree of force in the words rendered "leave out," or, in the margin, "cast out"— ekballe exw—which implies more than a mere passing by, or omission. The word (ekballw) usually has the idea of force or impulse, (Mt 8:12; 15:17; 25:30; Mr 16:9; Ac 27:38, et al.;) and the word here would denote some decisive or positive act by which it would be indicated that this was not any part of the true temple, but was to be regarded as appertaining to something else. He was not merely not to mention it, or not to include it in the measurement, but he was to do this by some act which would indicate that it was the result of design in the case, and not by accidentally passing it by.

For it is given unto the Gentiles. It properly appertains to them as their own. Though near the temple, and included in the general range of building, yet it does not pertain to those who worship there, but to those who are regarded as heathen and strangers. It is not said that it was then given to the Gentiles; nor is it said that it was given to them to be overrun and trodden down by them, but that it appertained to them, and was to be regarded as belonging to them. They occupied it, not as the people of God, but as those who were without the true church, and who did not appertain to its real communion. This would find a fulfilment if there should arise a state of things in the church in which it would be necessary to draw a line between those who properly constituted the church and those who did not; if there should be such a condition of things that any considerable portion of those who professedly appertained to the church ought to be divided off as not belonging to it, or would have such characteristic marks that it could be seen that they were strangers and aliens. The interpretation would demand that they should sustain some relation to the church, or that they would seem to belong to it—as the court did to the temple; but still that this was in appearance only, and that in estimating the true church it was necessary to leave them out altogether. Of course this would not imply that there might not be some sincere worshippers among them as individuals—as there would be found usually, in the court of the Gentiles in the literal temple, some who were proselytes and devout worshippers, but what is here said relates to them as a mass or body—that they did not belong to the true church but to the Gentiles.

And the holy city. The whole holy city—not merely the outer court of the Gentiles which it is said was given to them, nor the temple as such, but the entire holy city. There is no doubt that the words "the holy city" literally refer to Jerusalem—a city so called because it was the peculiar place of the worship of God. See Barnes "Mt 4:5"; compare Ne 11:1,18; Isa 52:1 Da 9:24

Mt 27:53. But it is not necessary to suppose that this is its meaning here. The "holy city" Jerusalem was regarded as sacred to God; as his dwelling-place on earth, and as the abode of his people, and nothing was more natural than to use the term as representing the church. Compare See Barnes "Ga 4:26"

and See Barnes "Heb 12:22".

In this sense it is undoubtedly used here, as the whole representation is emblematical. John, if he were about to speak of anything that was to occur to the church, would, as a native Jew, be likely to employ such language as this to denote it.

Shall they tread underfoot. That is, the Gentiles above referred to; or those who, in the measurement of the city, were set off as Gentiles, and regarded as not belonging to the people of God. This is not spoken of the Gentiles in general, but only of that portion of the multitudes that seemed to constitute the worshippers of God, who, in measuring the temple, were set off or separated as not properly belonging to the true church. The phrase "should tread under foot" is derived from warriors and conquerors who tread down their enemies, or trample on the fields of grain. It is rendered in this passage by Dr. Robinson, (Lex.,) "to profane and lay waste." As applied literally to a city, this would be the true idea; as applied to the church, it would mean that they would have it under their control or in subjection for the specified time, and that the practical effect of that would be to corrupt and prostrate it.

Forty and two months. Literally this would be three years and a half; but if the time here is prophetic time—a day for a year—then the period would be twelve hundred and sixty years—reckoning the year at 360 days. For a full illustration of this usage, and for the reasons for supposing that this is prophetic time, see Barnes "Da 7:25".

In addition to what is there said, it may be remarked in reference to this passage, that it is impossible to show, with any degree of probability, that the city of Jerusalem was "trampled under foot" by the Romans for the exact space of three years and a half. Professor Stuart, who adopts the opinion that it refers to the conquest of Jerusalem by the Romans, says, indeed, "It is certain that the invasion of the Romans lasted just about the length of the period named, until Jerusalem was taken. And although the city itself was not besieged so long, yet the metropolis in this case, as in innumerable others in both Testaments, appears to stand for the country of Judaea." But, it is to be remembered that the affirmation here is that "the holy city" was thus to be trodden under foot; and even taking the former supposition, in what sense is it true that the "whole country" was "trodden under foot" by the Romans only three years and a half? Even the wars of the Romans were not of that exact duration, and, besides, the fact was that Judaea was held in subjection, and trodden down by the Romans, for centuries, and never, in fact, regained its independence. If this is to be literally applied to Jerusalem, it has been "trodden down by the Gentiles," with brief intervals, since the conquest by the Romans, to the present time. There has been no precise period of three years and a half, in respect to which the language here used would be applicable to the literal city of Jerusalem.

In regard, then, to the proper application of the language which has thus been explained, (Re 11:1-2) it may be remarked, in general, that, for the reasons just stated, it is not to be taken literally. John could not have been directed literally to measure the temple at Jerusalem, and the altar, and the worshippers; nor could he have been requested literally to leave out, or "cast out" the court that was without; nor could it be meant that the holy city literally was to be trodden under foot for three years and a half. The language clearly is symbolical, and the reference must have been to something pertaining to the church. And, if the preceding exposition of the tenth chapter is correct, then it may be presumed that this would refer to something that was to occur at about the period there referred to. Regarding it, then, as applicable to the time of the Reformation, and as being a continuation of the vision in chapter 10, we shall find, in the events of that period, what would be properly symbolized by the language here used. This will appear by reviewing the particulars which have been explained in these verses :—

(1.) The command to "measure the temple of God," Re 11:1. This, we have seen, was a direction to take an estimate of what constituted the true church; the very work which it was necessary to do in the Reformation, for this was the first point which was to be settled, whether the Papacy was the true church or was the Antichrist. This involved, of course, the whole inquiry as to what constitutes the church, alike in reference to its organization, its ministry, its sacraments, and its membership. It was long before the Reformers made up their minds that the Papacy was not the true church; for the veneration which they had been taught to cherish for that lingered long in their bosoms, And even when they were constrained to admit that that corrupt communion was the predicted form of the great apostasy—Antichrist—and had acquired boldness enough to break away from it for ever, it was long before they settled down in a uniform belief as to what was essential to the true church. Indeed, the differences of opinion which prevailed; the warm discussions which ensued, and the diversities of sect which sprang up in the Protestant world, showed with what intense interest the mind was fixed on this question, and how important it was to take an exact measurement of the real church of God.

(2.) The direction to "measure the altar." This, as we have seen, would relate to the prevailing opinions on the subject of sacrifice and atonement; on the true method of a sinner's acceptance with God; and, consequently, on the whole subject of justification. As a matter of fact, it need not be said that this was one of the first questions which came before the Reformers, and was one which it was indispensable to settle, in order to a just notion of the church and of the way of salvation. The Papacy had exalted the Lord's Supper into a real sacrifice; had made it a grand and essential point that the bread and wine were changed into the real body and blood of the Lord, and that a real offering of that sacrifice was made every time that ordinance was celebrated; had changed the office of the ministers of the New Testament from preachers to that of priests; had become familiar with the terms altar, and sacrifice, and priesthood, as founded on the notion that a real sacrifice was made in the "mass;" and had fundamentally changed the whole doctrine respecting the justification of a sinner before God. The altar in the Romish communion had almost displaced the pulpit; and the doctrine of justification by the merits of the great sacrifice made by the death of our Lord, had been superseded by the doctrine of justification by good works, and by the merits of the saints. It became necessary, therefore, to restore the true doctrine respecting sacrifice for sin, and the Way of justification before God; and this would be appropriately represented by a direction to "measure the altar."

(3.) The direction to take an estimate of those "who worshipped in the temple. This, as we have seen, would properly mean that there was to be a true estimate taken of what constituted membership in the church, or of the qualifications of those who should be regarded as true worshippers of God. This, also, was one of the first works necessary to be done in the Reformation. Before that, for ages, the doctrine of baptismal regeneration had been the established doctrine of the church; the opinion that all that was necessary to membership was baptism and confirmation, was the common opinion; the necessity of regeneration by the influences of the Holy Spirit, as a condition of church membership, was little understood, if not almost wholly unknown; and the grand requisition in membership was not holy living, but the observance of the rites and ceremonies of the church. One of the first things necessary in the Reformation was to restore to its true place the doctrine laid down by the Saviour, that a change of heart—that regeneration by the Holy Ghost—was necessary to membership in the church, and that the true church was composed of those who had been thus renewed in the spirit of their mind. This great work would be appropriately symbolized by a direction to take an estimate of those who "worshipped in the temple of God;" that is, to settle the question who should be regarded as true worshippers of God, and what should be required of those who professed to be such worshippers. No more important point was settled in the Reformation than this.

(4.) The direction to leave out, or to "cast out" the court without the temple. This, as we have seen, would properly mean that a separation was to be made between that which was the true church, and that which was not, though it might seem to belong to it. The one was to be measured or estimated; the other was to be left out, as not appertaining to that, or as belonging to the Gentiles, or to heathenism. The idea would be, that though it professedly appertained to the true church, and to the worship of God, yet that it deserved to be characterized as heathenism. Now this will apply with great propriety, according to all Protestant notions, to the manner in which the Papacy was regarded by the Reformers, and should be regarded at all times. It claimed to be the true church, and to the eye of an observer would seem to belong to it, as much as the outer court seemed to pertain to the temple. But it had the essential characteristics of heathenism, and was, therefore, properly to be left out, or cast out, as not pertaining to the true church. Can any one doubt the truth of this representation as applicable to the Papacy? Almost everything that was peculiar in the ancient heathen systems of religion had been introduced into the Roman communion; and a stranger at Rome would see more that would lead him to feel that he was in a heathen land, than he would that he was in a land where the pure doctrines of Christianity prevailed, and where the worship was celebrated which the Redeemer had designed to set up on the earth. This was true not only in the pomp and splendour of worship, and in the processions and imposing ceremonials; but in the worship of images, in the homage rendered to the dead, in the number of festival-days, in the fact that the statues reared in heathen Rome to the honour of the gods had been re-consecrated in the service of Christian devotion to the apostles, saints, and martyrs; and in the robes of the Christian priesthood, derived from those in use in the ancient heathen worship. The direction was, that, in estimating the true church, this was to be "left out" or "cast out;" and, if this interpretation is correct, the meaning is, that the Roman Catholic communion, as an organized body, is to be regarded as no part of the true church: a conclusion which is inevitable, if the passages of Scripture which are commonly supposed by Protestants to apply to it are correctly applied. To determine this, and to separate the true church from it, was no small part of the work of the Reformation.

(5.) The statement that the holy city was to be trodden under foot, Re 11:2. This, as we have seen, must mean that the true church would thus be trodden down by those who are described as "Gentiles." So far as pure religion was concerned; so far as appertained to the real condition of the church and the pure worship of God, it would be as if the whole holy city where God was worshipped were given into the hands of the Gentiles, and they should tread it down, and desecrate all that was sacred for the time here referred to. Everything in Rome at the time of the Reformation would sustain this description. "It is incredible," says Luther, on his visit to Rome, "what sins and atrocities are committed in Rome; they must be seen and heard to be believed. So that it is usual to say, 'If there be a hell, Rome is built above it; it is an abyss from which all sins proceed.'" So again he says: "It is commonly observed that he who goes to Rome for the first time, goes to seek a knave there; the second time he finds him; and the third time he brings him away with him under his cloak. But now, people are become so clever, that they make the three journeys in one." So Machiavelli, one of the most profound geniuses in Italy, and himself a Roman Catholic, said, "The greatest symptom of the approaching ruin of Christianity is, that the nearer we approach the capital of Christendom, the less do we find of the Christian spirit of the people. The scandalous example and crimes of the court of Rome have caused Italy to lode every principle of piety and every religious sentiment. We Italians are principally indebted to the church and to the priests for having become impious and profane." See D'Aubigne's History of the Reformation, p. 54, Ed. Phila. 1843. In full illustration of the sentiment that the church seemed to be trodden down and polluted by heathenism, or by abominations and practices that came out of heathenism, we may refer to the general history of the Romish communion from the rise of the Papacy to the Reformation. For a sufficient illustration to justify the application of the passage before us which I am now making, the reader may be referred to See Barnes "Re 9:20"; See Barnes "Re 9:21".

Nothing would better describe the condition of Rome previous to, and at the time of the Reformation—and the remark may be applied to subsequent periods also—than to say that it was a city which once seemed to be a Christian city, and was not improperly regarded as the centre of the Christian world and the seat of the church, and that it had been, as it were, overrun and trodden down by heathen rites, and customs, and ceremonies, so that, to a stranger looking on it, it would seem to be in the possession of the "Gentiles" or the heathens.

(6.) The time during which this was to continue—"forty-two months;" that is, according to the explanation above given, twelve hundred and sixty years. This would embrace the whole period of the ascendency and prevalence of the Papacy; or the whole time of the continuance of that corrupt domination in which Christendom was to be trodden down and corrupted by it. The prophet of Patmos saw it in vision thus extending its dreary and corrupting reign, and during that time the proper influence of Christianity was trampled down, and the domination of practical heathenism was set up where the church should have reigned in its purity. Thus regarded, this would properly express the time of the ascendency of the Papal power, and the end of the "forty-two months," or twelve hundred and sixty years, would denote the time when the influence of that power would cease. If, therefore, the time of the rise of the Papacy can be determined, it will not be difficult to determine the time when it will come to an end. But, for a full consideration of these points, the reader is referred to the extended discussion on Da 7:25. As the point is there fully examined, it is unnecessary to go in to an investigation of it here.

The general remark, therefore, in regard to this passage, (Re 11:1-2,) is, that it refers to what would be necessary to be done at the Reformation in order to determine what is the true church, and what are the doctrines on which it is based; and to the fact that the Romish communion to which the church had been given over for a definite time, was to be set aside as not being the true church of Christ.

{a} "court" Eze 40:17-20

{b} "it" Lu 21:24 {1} "leave out" "cast out" {c} "tread under foot" Da 7:25

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