This additional Hebraic understanding cannot be ignored. Most commentaries will describe how the measuring rod in scripture tends to indicate construction, specifically construction of the temple. And while that appears to be true in a few passages, such as Revelation 21:15-15 where actually dimensions are given, it may not be the case here. Instead, it seems that Jesus was giving John a glimpse into his future, showing John what would be required of him during the great tribulation of his people. Israelis will be under intense persecution in those days as the Muslim nations surrounding them finally succeed in trampling Jerusalem, and presumably all of Israel. However, God has always preserved a remnant of His people in every persecution, and in this instance that remnant will be covered by John. However, those outside the temple complex will not be so lucky.
“Exclude The Outer Court”
The symbolism behind the exclusion of the “outer court” seems self-evident. In the adjacent illustration we can see where the outer court was located, and how it was otherwise known as ‘The Court of the Gentiles’. During the celebrations of the festivals of God, the Jewish people would occupy the inner court of the temple complex and the Court of Women, but these areas were off limits to gentiles on penalty of death. Instead, this outer court area south of the temple was established for gentiles, and was later expanded several times in order to accommodate the growing number of pilgrims that were coming to Jerusalem each year during the high holy days.
Today, this outer court on the southern portion of the mount includes the Islamic buildings known as the Dome of the Rock and the Al Aqsa Mosque. So in a sense, the outer court has ALREADY been given to the gentiles. And since the Islamic people will be the very group that will be trampling Jerusalem during the time of Israel’s great tribulation, John was specifically told NOT to measure or protect their outer court area. The implication is that these gentiles will be subject to the plagues that the two witnesses will generate during the 42 months of their ministry, and that there will be no protection for those in this outer court that trample the city.
“They Will Trample The Holy City”
When we read that the gentiles will “trample” Jerusalem during the end times, it seems to indicate that they will simply run amok throughout the city. However, the term ‘trampling‘ actually has a specific connotation in Hebrew thought. It literally suggests a trampling of grain on a threshing floor in order to break open the hulls and reveal the seeds. The illustration to the left shows how this process would take place in ancient times, where animals were used to trample the grain against the threshing floor. This speaks to the wheat harvest, and that should bring to mind a number of passages and parables in scripture, which indicate Israel will be ‘threshed’ and “trampled” in the last days before God‘s wheat (the saints) can be brought into His barn (heaven).
When this analogy is expanded a bit further, it implies that those doing the trampling of the wheat are also those that are breaking the commandments of God. The word ‘parar’ in Hebrew is translated as ‘break’, and while it often is used to indicate the breaking of a commandment, it once again refers to the treading of grain on a threshing floor in order to break open the hulls and remove the seeds. So this word has a dual purpose. While these gentiles are trampling Jerusalem to break open the wheat, they will be breaking the commandments of God at the same time.
“Fire Comes From Their Mouths”
This is another one of those points where it’s helpful to remember that the Revelation was given to John in a vision, and visions recorded in the Bible were always transmitted through sometimes bizarre symbolism. So when we read that fire will come “from their mouths”, we should understand this as a symbolic way of saying that the two witnesses will be able to call down fire from heaven to destroy any and all that would attempt to harm them during the time they are prophesying.
In the same way, at the end of Revelation we see Jesus riding on the white horse with a sharp sword that comes out of his mouth. In symbolic terms, this means that he will simply speak destruction upon his enemies, and they will be slain at His command. As with the entire Revelation, the text is not literal in itself, but reveals a literal truth through it's symbolism.
So as long as we’ve been discussing the Apostle John in this role, isn’t it interesting that back in the 1st century John seemed to understand that he already had this power to call down fire;
When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, “Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?” (Luke 9:54)
While Jesus chastised James and John for their over-zealous offer, it’s likely that John’s perspective on judgment has been quite refined over the past two millennia. When he calls down fire on his enemies this time, he will do so with the wisdom and prompting of the Holy Spirit.
“He Will Do Even Greater Things”
There is yet another very persuasive passage in scripture that I believe identifies two of the disciples of Jesus as the two witnesses of the Revelation. Consider the following account, where Jesus is speaking with the disciples just before his crucifixion, telling them of their futures and the things to come;
“I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father.” (John 14:12-13)
This particular passage is rather pregnant with implications. Jesus turned water to wine, cast out demons, calmed a roiling sea, healed the sick, and even raised the dead. But here, He told the disciples that they would do even greater things than He did. This begs the question ‘When?’
Though the disciples did perform healings, raise the dead, cast out demons, and do many of the same miraculous signs that Jesus did, none of these acts appear to be ‘greater’ than those signs. At least none that history records. After all, what would be considered "greater" than raising the dead? However, there is still time for this to happen, because aside from their power to impose a three and one-half year drought in Israel during the end times, they will be able to strike the earth with every kind of plague ‘as often as they want’. Given this, it’s quite possible that their signs and plagues will be so profound that they will be construed as "greater" than the miracles performed by Jesus during His 1st century ministry.
Next time we’ll finish with the two witnesses, which will set the table for the end of this age, and the coming of Messiah Jesus for His own.