Why did God tell the apostle John to measure the temple and the altar, and to count the number of worshipers there? The key is in the words temple and altar.
Then I was given a measuring rod like a staff and was told, “Go and measure the temple of God and the altar, and count the number of worshipers there. But exclude the courtyard outside the temple. Do not measure it, because it has been given over to the nations, and they will trample the holy city for 42 months.”Revelation 11:1-2
So, why did God tell the apostle John to ‘measure the temple of God and the altar, and count the number of worshipers?’ To understand why, you must dig deeper into the words temple and altar.
The ‘temple’ (Greek, naos) only includes the ‘Holy Place’ and the ‘Most Holy Place.’ God told John to count the worshipers because when the full number of ‘living stones’ is attained, God’s naos in heaven will be complete. These living stones are God’s kingdom of priests who worship at the spiritual ‘altar of incense’ within the naos–the holy place within our heart.
Continue reading for a complete explanation of these concepts.
Measure the Temple of God, the Naos
What is Included in the Naos?
In the diagram below, the Naos of God only includes the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies. (The Holy of Holies is also called the “Most Holy Place.”)
God said the Outer Court is not included in the temple, the Naos of God.
Spiritually, you can think of the Outer Court as your body; your heart is the Holy Place; and your spirit is the Holy of Holies, where God wants to dwell.
Most Christians Choose to Remain in the Outer Court
Most professing Christians in the world think they are placating God through their busyness in many religious activities in the Outer Court. They convince themselves that God must be pleased with them because they sacrifice so much for Him. Their sacrifices are real, but they’re on the brazen altar in the Outer Court.
They want salvation, but they don’t want God to change them. They don’t allow God’s Spirit permission to confront their carnality by writing His words on their heart.
this is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD. I will put My law in their minds and inscribe it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they will be My people.Jeremiah 31:33
Every believer must make this choice–stay carnal or follow the Lamb into holiness. Our carnal, selfish nature doesn’t want to change, and most people submit to their carnal nature’s dominance in their life. As a result, they do outwardly-religious activities, but unless they crucify their carnal nature they cannot become a priest and enter the Naos.
The Holy of Holies
The Holy of Holies is the innermost sanctum, the place where God wants to dwell–in your spirit.
God’s Glory Filled the Temple
Whenever Israel completed building a tabernacle or temple, (according to the pattern of God’s heavenly temple that God revealed to Moses), the Spirit of God filled that tabernacle or temple with His glorious presence. Here’s an example:
And Moses set up the courtyard around the tabernacle and the altar, and he hung the curtain for the entrance to the courtyard. So Moses finished the work. Then the cloud covered the Tent of Meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. Moses was unable to enter the Tent of Meeting because the cloud had settled on it, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle.Exodus 40:33-35
Chapters 5 to 7 in the book of Second Chronicles details the exact same pattern on a much grander scale when Solomon dedicated ancient Israel’s most beautiful temple and God filled it with glory.
“And Count the Number of Worshipers There”
God told John to “measure the temple and the altar, and count the number of worshipers there.“
Today, God’s temple is built with ‘living stones.’ When this living temple is complete God will fill it with His glory in an event called “the manifestation of the sons of God.” This is why God told John to “measure the Naos and the Altar, and count the number of worshipers there.”
The Holy Place
A Kingdom of Priests
Ancient Israel included millions of people but God only allowed priests to go inside the ‘Holy Place’ of the Naos. The people of Israel could bring their sacrifices to the Outer Court and they could participate with the priests in making sacrificial offerings on the Bronze Altar. But non-priests couldn’t enter the Naos. In Israel’s tabernacle and temple, only the sons of Aaron could perform priestly duties in the Naos.
However, God’s desire (and His original plan) was always for all of Israel to be a holy kingdom of priests.
And unto Me you shall be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words that you are to speak to the Israelites.Exodus 19:6
In the living temple God is building today, YHWH will see this desire fulfilled. YHWH’s living stones will be a kingdom of priests.
You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign upon the earth.Revelation 5:10
Three Items In the Holy Place
The Holy Place within the Naos is where God gave priests illumination and bread. The Holy Place is also where priests continually burned incense that wafted over into God’s presence in the Holy of Holies.
Priests saw three furniture items in the Holy Place: the Golden Menorah or Candlestick, the Golden Table of Showbread, and the Golden Altar of Incense.
Notice that every piece of furniture in the Holy Place is made of gold. This symbolizes the requirement for holiness and godliness in God’s presence.
The Golden Menorah
The Menorah’s 7 lamps continually provided light inside the Holy Place.
Today, the Holy Spirit gives the light of spiritual revelation within our hearts.
The Golden Table of Showbread
According to the verses below, on every Sabbath the priests placed 12 loaves of fresh leavened bread onto the Golden Table of Showbread. They also placed pure frankincense near the loaves. Later, they ate the previous week’s 12 loaves.
You are also to take fine flour and bake twelve loaves using two-tenths of an ephah for each loaf and set them in two rows—six per row—on the table of pure gold before the LORD. And you are to place pure frankincense near each row so that it may serve as a memorial portion for the bread, an offering made by fire to the LORD. Every Sabbath day the bread is to be set out before the LORD on behalf of the Israelites as a permanent covenant. It belongs to Aaron and his sons, who are to eat it in a holy place; for it is to him a most holy part of the offerings made by fire to the LORD—his portion forever.”Leviticus 24:5-9
Meaning of the Table of Showbread?
Exactly what the showbread represents is a mystery. Even the famous Jewish rabbi Maimonides confessed, “I do not know the object of the table with the bread upon it continually. And up to this day I have not been able to assign any reason to this commandment.”
I believe the 12 loaves represent the 12 tribes of Israel, and the bread represents Yeshua. He is the living Word of God, the bread of life, the Living Manna who came down from heaven (John 6:32-51).
Frankincense on the table of Showbread?
As I’ll show in the next section, frankincense represents the prayers of the saints, ‘an offering made by fire‘ on the Golden Altar of Incense. I believe God commanded the priests to place it on the Table of Showbread for two reasons:
- To show the relationship between prayer and the bread of God’s word:
- God said to “place pure frankincense near each row, so that it may serve as a memorial portion for the bread.” So, for our prayers to be effective we must hear God’s voice, His rhema.
- The Table of Showbread was the only surface available in the Holy Place to lay the frankincense for the Altar of Incense.
Only the priests (Aaron and his sons) who ministered in the Naos could eat this bread. In the same way, only those who minister within the Naos of their heart today receive the living manna of God’s living Word.
Measure the Golden Altar of Incense
God told John to measure the temple of God and the altar, and count the number of worshipers there.
In the diagram below, the Golden Altar of Incense was the closest a priest could get to the physical presence of YHWH, who dwelt in the Holy of Holies. A thick curtain, or veil, prevented priests in the Holy Place from seeing anything inside the Holy of Holies.
When the priests burned incense on the Golden Altar, the smoke wafted into the God’s presence behind the veil. In the same way, our fiery prayers rise up to YHWH whom we cannot see.
The Golden Altar of Incense Represents Fervent Prayers
These two passages in Revelation prove the correlation between the Golden Altar and our prayers:
When He had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.Revelation 5:8
When the Lamb opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour. And I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and they were given seven trumpets. Then another angel, who had a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense to offer along with the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar before the throne. And the smoke of the incense together with the prayers of the saints rose up before God from the hand of the angel. Then the angel took the censer, filled it with fire from the altar, and hurled it to the earth; and there were peals of thunder, and rumblings, and flashes of lightning, and an earthquake. And the seven angels with the seven trumpets prepared to sound them.Revelation 8:1-6
Access to God Opened
Finally, in the diagram below, notice the words in the upper-left where it says “The Veil (taken away in Christ).”
The thick veil (that separated the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies) no longer hides YHWH’s presence from us. This is because YHWH tore the veil in two (from top to bottom) at the moment when Jesus died for our sins.
The New and Living Way Into God’s Presence
As a result, as priests of YHWH we’re no longer limited to ministry in the Holy Place like the sons of Aaron. We can now confidently enter God’s presence by a new and living way:
Therefore, brothers, having confidence for entering the Holy of Holies by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which He dedicated for us through the veil that is His flesh, and having a great priest over the house of God, we should draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, our hearts having been sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our body having been washed with pure water.Hebrews 10:19-22
Therefore, since God opened the veil that separated them into two spaces, the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies are now one room. Spiritually, this means when YHWH’s kingdom of priests enter the Naos (in their hearts), they enter God’s presence.
Ordination to Enter God’s Presence
Before a priest enters the Naos he must undergo an ordination ceremony (Leviticus 8).
In the ordination ceremony Moses put a sacrificed ram’s blood on the priests’ right earlobe, right thumb, and right big toe. This symbolized a covenant of consecration regarding the priest’s whole life: his hearing, his works, and his daily walk. Paul wrote,
Therefore I urge you, brothers, on account of God’s mercy to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.Romans 12:1-2
In like manner, before you can enter the spiritual Naos in your heart you must wholeheartedly commit your hearing, works, and daily walk to YHWH. This is required to become ordained as a living stone in YHWH’s Naos.
Doing religious things doesn’t earn any credit with God. Rather, His living word judges every thought and intention in your heart:
The word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it pierces even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow. It judges the thoughts and intentions of the heart.Hebrews 4:12
The Courtyard Outside the Temple
God told John,
Go and measure the temple of God and the altar, and count the number of worshipers there. But exclude the courtyard outside the temple. Do not measure it because it has been given over to the nations, and they will trample the holy city for 42 months.Revelation 11:2
The courtyard outside the Naos (‘the Outer Court’) includes the bronze Altar of sacrifice and the bronze Laver of sanctification. The bronze Altar and Laver are symbols that represent the initial steps of our salvation. Our consciousness of sin requires sacrifice and sanctification before a person can enter YHWH’s sacred space–the Naos.
But, unfortunately most professing Christians choose to remain in the Outer Court rather than making the priesthood’s ordination commitment of their hearing, their works, and their daily walk. That is, they choose to remain carnal, molded by the thinking of this world rather than becoming a living stone in God’s Naos.
Deceive Even the Elect?
Who are the elect? The elect are disciples who follow the Lamb wholeheartedly, in the Naos of their hearts.
For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform signs and wonders that would deceive even the elect, if that were possible.Mark 13:22
Jesus warned that ‘false Christs’ will powerfully deceive almost everyone. Unfortunately I believe this deception will include those carnal believers who choose to remain in an ‘outer court’ relationship with YHWH.
Measure The Temple of God and the Altar
God told the apostle John to measure the Temple (Naos) of God and the Golden Altar of Incense and count the number of worshipers there.
In the Old Testament the Naos included the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies, but it excluded the Outer Court.
A Kingdom of Priests
Today God is building a kingdom of priests, who commune with YHWH at the spiritual ‘Altar of Incense’ within the Naos–the Holy Place within their heart. The Veil in the Naos is opened; we can directly commune with YHWH, ‘face to face’ within our spirit–our Holy of Holies.
The Outer Court
Unfortunately most professing Christians choose to remain in the Outer Court (of carnality) rather than making the ‘priesthood ordination’ commitment of their hearing, their works, and their daily walk.
Since the Outer Court is not part of the Naos, people who choose to remain in an Outer Court relationship with God decline the opportunity to be ‘living stones’ in God’s Naos. As a result, Jesus warned that false Christs will deceive them and the nations will trample them during the 42-month ‘Great Tribulation.’