PMW 2021-073 by Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.
Rev 11:1-2 is an important passage in John’s drama about Israel’s judgment. There John receives a command to actually engage an action in his visionary experience:
“Get up and measure the temple of God and the altar, and those who worship in it. Leave out the court which is outside the temple and do not measure it, for it has been given to the nations; and they will tread under foot the holy city for forty-two months.”
As I argue elsewhere, the “temple of God and the altar” symbolizes the essence of God’s true worship and points to the true Jews (Christian Jews, Rev 2:9; 3:9) and their worship of Christ (Phil 3:3; cp. Rom 2:29; 9:6). And “the court” here is the outer court of the temple, picturing the external matters of the temple. It signifies the actual physical temple which as the heart of Israel represents the old covenant worship of Judaism and its people.
Double-entendre in John
To plumb the depth of this image, we must understand that scholars recognize John’s use of double (and even triple) entendre. According to BAGD 299, scholars recognize “the Johannine love of multiple meaning” (BAGD 299). For instance, in his Gospel we read in Jn 1:5 that the darkness did not “comprehend” the light. The word used here can mean either that the darkness did not overcome the light or the darkness did not understand the light. Both are true. We also see Jesus informing Nicodemus that he must be born “again,” which can also mean be born from “above” (Jn 3:3). “Living water” in Jn 4:10 and 7:38 can mean “running, moving water” or “water that is alive.” In Jn 11:50 the high priest says Jesus must die “for” the nation, which can mean either “in behalf of” or “instead of.” On and on we could go.
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Such multiple significance is undeniable in Rev 17:9–10 where the beast’s heads represent both seven mountains and seven kings. This practice seems obviously at work locally in that the two witnesses somehow represent both “the two olive trees and the two lampstands” (Rev 11:4) and both Moses and Elijah (Rev 11:5–6).
Double-entendre also appears in Rev 11:2 as one of the more dramatic instances. What does the command to “leave out” mean? The word translated “leave out” here is ekballo, from ex (out of) and ballo (to throw or cast). Remembering that Revelation is speaking of God’s judgment-coming against Israel in AD 70 for her rejecting Christ, we can discern three implied meanings of the term ekballo in this pasage. I will deal with these three meanings in this and the next three articles.
The meaning of “leave out”
The foundational meaning of ekballo is: “force to leave, drive out, expel” (BAGD 299). Though it only occurs here in Revelation, John employs it in John 2:15 of Jesus casting out the money changers from the temple: exebalen ek tou hierou. In Scripture the term is used in three conceptually related ways that are of particular interest for our understanding of Revelation 11:2, each of which is found in the first definition of the term in BAGD.
The three closely related uses of ekballo all signify forceful removal of someone from a home area. As I focus on ekballo I will note that it signifies some forceful expulsion, either by means of exorcism, excommunication, or divorce. Interestingly, each of these ideas is alluded to in Christ’s original commissioning of his original disciples (one of whom is our author, John, Mt 10:2) before he sends them to the “house of Israel” (Mt 10:6): exorcism of demons (10:8, cp. v. 25); excommunication involving persecution (10:17-19, 23, 28, 34); and divorce involving home disruption (Mt 10:21, 35–36).
In this article I will focus on the use of ekballo in demon exorcism.
The idea of demon exorcism
First, Scripture very commonly uses ekballo for casting out demons (e.g., Mt 12:26, 28; Mk 1:34;16:9; cp. Josephus Ant 6:11:2 §211) from where they dwell in men as if in a house (cf. Mt 12:43-44). This is particularly remarkable given that the first woe (the fifth trumpet) has recently brought demons upon the land (9:1–11). Later an angel declares Babylon (Jerusalem) “the dwelling place of demons” (18:2). Thus, this “cast out” language becomes quite relevant to the flow of the drama.
The use of ekballo for demon exorcism is important for at least two reasons:
(1) John repeatedly notes in his Gospel that the Jewish leaders frequently charge Jesus with being in league with the devil and demons (Jn 7:20; 8:48-52; 10:20). In at least one of these cases they are responding to him for his declaring that they do not keep Moses’ Law (Jn 7:19-20). This issue even results in a major exchange with the Jews regarding the signs of the kingdom. They claim he is in league with Beelzebul (Mt 12:22-29; cp. 10:25), which leads to his warning them that the demons he is clearing out of the Land will come back and be seven times worse (Mt 12:43-45).
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(2) It is also significant in that John (alone among the Gospel writers) records Jesus’ charge that the Jews are of their “father the devil” who is “a liar from the beginning” (Jn 8:44). Jesus effectively repeats this in Rev when he twice calls the Jewish synagogue a “synagogue of Satan” and charges the Jews with lying about their claim (2:9; 3:9). The outpouring of demons on the land in Rev 9 is just as Jesus warns in Mt 12:45b (cf vv. 43-45a). The verb ekballo in Rev 11:2 echoes Christ’s concern in a startling way: Whereas he cast out demons, their temple (“your house,” Mt 23:38) is to be cast out itself.
Demon exorcism is an important element in Jesus’s ministry in Israel in that his kingdom is invading Satan’s. He specifically commissions his disciples to cast out demons (Mt 10:1, 8) when they are sent into Israel (Mt 10:5-6). In that context he speaks of those Jewish cities rejecting his disciples and their exorcism ministry, warning: “Truly I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment, than for that city” (Mt 10:15). Interestingly, our context calls Jerusalem “Sodom” (11:8). In that Israel is in league with Satan, she herself will be cast out (as represented here by the outer court of her temple being cast out).
Interestingly, a major back-theme in Rev is the demise of Satan (e.g., 12:9; 20:2, 10), while John focuses on Israel’s judgment (1:7). In his Gospel we read Jesus associating Satan’s overthrow with his own death, which the Jews cause (Jn 19:6-7, 11-12, 15). Despite the evil effort of Satan and Israel, Christ’s death will lead to a new era in which “all men” — not Jews alone — will be drawn to Christ: “Now judgment is upon this world; now the ruler of this world shall be cast out [ekblethesetai exo]. And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself” (Jn 12:31-32; cp. exposition of Rev 7:9ff). The casting out of the temple (11:2) is spoken of in similar terms. Again, instead of demons being cast out of the Jews, their beloved temple will be cast out from the world and from God’s presence.
Thus, it seems John’s double-entendre here involves Israel’s being cast out of her temple as if by means of demon exorcism. But there is more! See you soon.
Tagged: exorcism, Israel cast out
Great stuff as always!
“As I argue elsewhere, the “temple of God and the altar” symbolizes the essence of God’s true worship and points to the true Jews (Christian Jews… ”
Shouldn’t this read just ‘Christians’ rather than Christian Jews?
You are correct that the temple and altar can symbolize true worship for all Christ’s people, who are the true Jews. However, in this context in Revelation, the focus is on Israel and its coming judgment. Christian Jews are being subjected to persecution (Rev. 2:9; 3:9). So this vision of the temple of God (though it has broader implications) especially ministers to the Jews of the first century who have converted to Christ and are being persecuted by the old Israel.
You are correct that “the temple of God and the altar” can symbolize the true worship of God by all of Christ’s people. However, in the present context (the Book of Revelation), it is focusing on the converted Jews who are being persecuted by unconverted Jews (2:9; 3:9). So the express point of the imagery is to minister to first century Jewish Christians who are under severe persecution, though the vision can have a wider application, as you suggest.