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The Two Cities

May 03, 2016

We have shown that the spiritual maturity of “those who worship” (Revelation 11:1) in the temple of God is in terms of Sabbaths, Jubilees, and feast days. In the “old standard” cubit that was used to measure the temple of Solomon, the people were measured by their willingness to keep these days in a physical way.

But the great cubit that is used to measure the spiritual temple of Ezekiel and Revelation is the measurement of the heart and one’s relationship with God. In other words, it is not about which day one keeps as a Sabbath, but on what level a person has entered into God’s rest—ceasing from one’s own works and doing only what we see our heavenly Father do. It is not about keeping a Jubilee in a physical way, but one’s ability to forgive. It is not about keeping the rituals of a feast on a particular day, but about justification, sanctification, and glorification, as well as growing in faith, hope, and love. These are the spiritual reasons behind the three feasts.

John was given a reed to measure the temple, the altar, and the worshipers. But in Revelation 11:2 he was told NOT to measure the outer court, “for it has been given to the nations.” The reason for not measuring it is explained to us in Zechariah 2:1-5, where we see a similar scene.

1 Then I lifted up my eyes and looked, and behold, there was a man with a measuring line in his hand. 2 So I said, “Where are you going?” And he said to me, “To measure Jerusalem, to see how wide it is and how long it is.” 3 And behold, the angel who was speaking with me was going out, and another angel was coming out to meet him, 4 and said to him, “Run, speak to that young man, saying, ‘Jerusalem will be inhabited without walls, because of the multitude of men and cattle within it. 5 For I,’ declares the Lord, ‘will be a wall of fire around her, and I will be the glory in her midst’.”

The scene shows an angel with a reed coming to measure the city of Jerusalem, much like Ezekiel had seen earlier, and John was to see later. This angel was met by another angel who was coming out of the city. This second angel seems to have interrupted and stopped the first angel from measuring the city.

Two Jerusalems

To measure a city is to measure its perimeter, that is, its walls. The walls of the earthly Jerusalem could be measured, of course, but we suddenly see that Jerusalem’s walls have changed into “a wall of fire.” In other words, the scene switches from the earthly Jerusalem to the heavenly city, for there are two Jerusalems in Scripture. In fact, the Hebrew name of the city is Ierushalayim, which means literally, “two Jerusalems.” We see both of them here in Zechariah’s prophecy.

The implication is that the first angel was told to measure the earthly Jerusalem, but was not to measure the heavenly Jerusalem—the city with fiery walls. (The wall is the “fiery law” of Deuteronomy 33:2 KJV.) Walls limit the size of a city, but the heavenly Jerusalem was to include too great a multitude to be so limited. Verse 4 (NASB) says Jerusalem would have no physical walls “because of the multitude of men and cattle within it.” The Interlinear Bible renders this, “Jerusalem shall be inhabited as towns without walls,” which agrees also with the KJV. In other words, this Jerusalem is more than one city. It includes towns and cattle as well as a great multitude of people.

God explains this further in Zechariah 2:11,

11 And many nations will join themselves to the Lord in that day and will become My people….

Hence, where Jerusalem was limited by measure, the heavenly Jerusalem is open and unlimited and will, in fact, include the whole earth and all nations, according to the blessing of Abraham. The distinction between the two Jerusalems is evident in Zechariah’s prophecy, but because he moves back and forth between the two cities so fluidly, it is often difficult to know which city he is talking about in any given prophecy. But in his second chapter at least, the two angels show us the distinction rather clearly—as long as we are aware that there are two Jerusalems, each having the same name.

In fact, none of the Old Testament prophets use the term “heavenly Jerusalem” or “new Jerusalem” to distinguish between the two cities. The two Jerusalems are distinguished only in the New Testament writings. As we will see later, when John describes the New Jerusalem in Revelation 21, he quotes prophecies of Jerusalem from Zechariah and Isaiah, but applies these not to the earthly city but to the heavenly city. This tells us that whenever the Old Testament prophets speak of Jerusalem, we have to discern which city they were referencing. We cannot assume, as most people do, that they were talking about the earthly city.

The bottom line is that the earthly city could be measured; the heavenly city could not be measured, because it was to include the whole earth, and all nations were to “become My people.” The earthly city was for a specific genealogy of “My people” called Israelites; the heavenly city is where all nations become “My people.”

The Outer Court Given to the Nations

Revelation 11:2 says that John was not to measure the outer court, because “it has been given to the nations.” Who gave it to them? God, of course. The reason that they remain in the outer court is because the outer court in this case represents the flesh realm. In other words, they are not yet justified by faith, but they have the potential of seeking God and finding Jesus Christ, whose blood can cleanse them of sin.

In the earthly temple in Jerusalem, they had built a wall of partition to keep non-Jews from approaching God. Only Jewish men could pass through the door of this wall. Women and “gentiles” had to keep out. The sign at the door separating these two areas of the outer court read,

“No Gentile may enter beyond the dividing wall into the court around the Holy Place; whoever is caught will be to blame for his subsequent death.”

During an excavation, the actual sign was found by M. Ganneau in 1871. This is the dividing wall that Paul referenced in Ephesians 2:14-18, telling us that Christ “broke down the barrier of the dividing wall… that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace… for through Him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.”

There is no evidence in Scripture that Solomon built a dividing wall in the original temple in Jerusalem. Neither did they build such a wall in Zerubbabel’s second temple. It was built when King Herod rebuilt the second temple into a larger structure. But Jesus came to tear down that dividing wall. Unfortunately, many today have rebuilt this wall by limiting “My people” status to those of a particular genealogy.

There is no dividing wall in the New Jerusalem, for all have equal access to God. The people are distinguished, not by genealogy, but by their actual relationship with God. All may progress in that relationship from the outer court to the Holy Place and finally into the very presence of God in the Most Holy Place. The outer court is the place of the altar of sacrifice (faith) and the laver (baptism). The Holy Place is for priests—not of Levi but of Melchizedek—who have received the baptism of the Holy Spirit. The Most Holy Place is for those who are part of the body of the High Priest and have been changed into His glorious image.

These three relationships are set forth also in three progressive feasts: Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles. As these feasts are fulfilled in us, we gain greater access to God and to the revelation of the word and the things of the Spirit.

Seeing this, we can obtain a better understanding of what it means for the nations to be given the outer court. Most people focus upon the negative element in this—“they will tread under foot the Holy City for forty-two months.” Most picture this as an occupying army of unbelievers who desecrate Jerusalem by their presence. But take note that it is only the outer court and the city in general that the nations are able to “tread under foot.” In the inner court, the temple, and the altar are worshippers, we are told.

An occupying army (such as the Roman army in 70 A.D.) would not remain in the outer court, nor would they respect any such boundaries. So John was not describing a normal military occupation of the city. Furthermore, in the next verses we find that the Lampstand still remains in the temple to give its light to the nations (Revelation 11:3, 4). We know from history that in 70 A.D. the Romans took away the Lampstand, for it appears as part of the booty on the Arch of Titus.

Revelation 11 only makes sense when we understand that the outer court was not to be measured, because it had been opened up to all nations. The outer court was not limited in size, as it was in the earthly Jerusalem. It was opened up in order to accommodate all nations. Those nations might ignorantly profane the Holy City, of course, but God has drawn them to the Holy City to learn of His ways—to see the light of truth coming from the Lampstand.

Is this not the beginning of the fulfillment of Isaiah 2:2 and 3?

2 Now it will come about that in the last days the mountain of the house of the Lord will be established as the chief of the mountains, and will be raised above the hills; and all the nations will stream to it. 3 And many peoples will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; that He may teach us concerning His ways, and that we may walk in His paths.” For the law will go forth from Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.

The nations come in ignorance, but they leave with the knowledge of God. They come with war-like motives, but they are taught to “hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks” (Isaiah 2:4). Hence, while they may tread down the Holy City in their ignorance, God yet draws them in order to teach them the way of peace. In fact, that is the underlying message of Jerusalem, “City of Peace.” While the earthly city failed to live up to its name, and thus became “the bloody city” (Ezekiel 24:6, 9), the heavenly city shines forth as the true City of Peace.

As we proceed in our study, we will see how Revelation 11 blends the two Jerusalems into a single story in order to show the contrast between the earthly and the heavenly.


This is part 79 of a series titled "Studies in the Book of Revelation." To view all parts, click the link below.

Studies in the Book of Revelation


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Dr. Stephen Jones


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