And there was given me a reed like unto a rod
A measuring reed, which with the Jews was six cubits long, ( Ezekiel 40:5 ) ; with the Greeks and Romans, ten feet long; the Ethiopic version here calls it a "golden reed", as in ( Revelation 21:15 ) . This was given unto John very likely by the same angel that gave him the little book, since he afterwards bids him arise and measure with it; and by it seems to be designed the holy Scripture, or the word of God, which is sometimes called a line, a rule, and rod, ( Psalms 19:4 ) ( 110:2 ) ( Galatians 6:16 ) , and which is the rule and measure of doctrine and faith; and by it all doctrine is to be tried and measured, and whatsoever is not agreeably to it is not of God, nor to be received, but rejected; and it is the rule and measure of all discipline, worship, and practice; it lays down the plan of a Gospel church, which should be gathered out of the world, and separated from it; it shows who are the proper materials of it, what officers are to be constituted in it, and what ordinances are to be administered, and what laws and rules should be observed in receiving and rejecting of members, and according to which the whole community should walk; in short, it directs to all the forms, laws, and ordinances of God's house; and this is the use John, or those whom he represents, were to make of it:
and the angel stood;
the same that stood with his right foot on the sea, and his left foot on the earth, and gave to John the little book, ( Revelation 10:1 Revelation 10:2 Revelation 10:9 ) ; though it may be not in the same place and situation, but rather at the gate of the temple, as in ( Ezekiel 40:3 ) . This clause is not in the Vulgate Latin, Arabic, and Ethiopic versions, but is in the Syriac version and Complutensian edition, and is rightly retained, or otherwise it would seem as if the reed spoke:
saying, rise and measure the temple of God, and the altar,
that worship therein;
the allusion is to the temple of Jerusalem, with its appurtenances; there were the most holy place, and the holy place, which was the inner court of the priests, into which they only entered, which was strictly speaking the temple, and is referred to here; and there was the altar of burnt offering, which was in the court of the priests, and the altar of incense, which was before the vail that divided between the holy and holy of holies; and then there was the outer court for all the Israelites to worship in, referred to in ( Revelation 11:2 ) : and by "the temple of God" is here meant the church, of which the temple was a type; and so particular congregated churches are called temples, ( 1 Corinthians 3:16 1 Corinthians 3:17 ) ( 2 Corinthians 6:16 ) ( Ephesians 2:21 ) . Solomon, a man of peace, was the builder of the one, and Christ, the Prince of peace, the builder of the other; Solomon's temple was built of hewn stones, made ready before they were brought thither, and a true church of Christ consists of lively stones, hewed and fitted for this spiritual building by the Spirit of God; the temple at Jerusalem was built on a high mountain, and on the north of the city, the church is built upon the rock Christ Jesus, and the Gospel church, or churches, in the times of the sixth trumpet, which this vision refers to, and to the close of it, are in the northern parts of Europe; and as the temple was for religious use and service, for the worship of God and sacrifices, so is the Gospel church, and so are Gospel churches, for the ministry of the word, and administration of ordinances, and for the offering up the sacrifices of prayer and praise; and as in the most holy place were the ark of the covenant, and the mercy seat, and as it was the place of the divine Presence, where God granted communion to his people, so in the church are held forth the mysteries of the covenant, Christ as the mercy seat and the propitiatory, in whom the displays of grace are made, and through whom the saints have fellowship with God, and enjoy his presence: "the altar" may design Christ himself, by whom the saints draw nigh to God, offer up their sacrifices, and are accepted with him; or the whole of Gospel worship and ordinances, as prayer, preaching, singing of praise, and the administration of baptism and the Lord's supper: and they "that worship therein", or "thereat", are the royal priesthood, or such who are made kings and priests unto God, for none went into the inner court, or served at the altar, but priests; and who make use of Christ, the altar, of his person, blood, righteousness, and sacrifice, in their approaches to God; and who are praying souls, wait at the altar of incense, and draw nigh to the throne or grace with a true heart, and worship God in Spirit and in truth: now "measuring" of these respects not the primitive church for the first three or four hundred years, and the formation of that according to the rule of God's word, and as a pattern to other churches; for though the apostolic church, or the church as it was in the apostles' time, and as described in their writings, was such a church; yet the church for such a space of time as above was not; there were great departures both from doctrine and discipline, the mystery of iniquity began to work, and way was made for the man of sin and it was far from being a pattern to be imitated; and besides, this measuring refers to the times of the sixth trumpet, and the close of it: nor does it respect the sealing of the 144,000 between the sixth seal and the opening of the seventh seal, which was for the protection and security of them during the times of the six trumpets, which brought desolation into the empire, and apostasy into the church; though measuring sometimes may seem to denote protection, as in ( Zechariah 2:1 Zechariah 2:2 Zechariah 2:5 ) ; and though the outer court is, and will be, a protection to spiritual worshippers, so long as it is not in the hands of the Gentiles, yet this is not the sense, at least not the whole of it: nor does this refer to the hiding of the church in the wilderness, during the reign of antichrist; which might seem to be signified by the internal worshippers retiring to the altar, and to the holy and the most holy place, and being concealed there; and especially since the opening of the temple in ( Revelation 11:19 ) , may seem to be opposed to this; but that takes in too large a compass of time, this being an affair relating only to the close of the sixth trumpet, and which was to be before the seventh trumpet sounded: it seems rather to respect the times of the Reformation by Luther, Calvin, and others, when the measuring reed of the word was taken in hand, and used; but then it was used chiefly for the restoration of pure doctrine, and with good success, but not so much for the regulating and orderly discipline of the churches, for the purity of Gospel worship and ordinances; most, if not all the reformed churches, set out upon too broad a bottom, being national, provincial, or parochial; there was a temple, and an altar erected for God, and there were internal and spiritual worshippers; but then they took in the outward court, which should not have been measured in, and circumscribed with them, but should have been left out; but the time for this was not yet come, but now is: in short, I take it that this measuring refers to what was done in the last age, particularly in our nation; and that it has respect to the separation from the national church, when churches, more or less, were gathered and formed according to the Gospel plan and the primitive institution; a work which never was set about and so effectually done before since the age of the apostles: the baptized and congregational churches are the temple, altar, and worshippers measured, who have both the true doctrine, worship, and discipline of God's house among them; a set of men in the last age were raised up, who drew a plan of churches, and of church discipline, according to the ancient model; gathered churches out of the world, and constituted them according to the order of the Gospel; circumscribed them, and enclosed them according to the rules of God's word, admitting none but such into communion who were judged by the churches subjects of the grace of God; and rejected and excluded from among them such as were wicked and scandalous; and so reduced the pure members of churches to a small number, a little flock, a few names in Sardis: and I am of opinion that the measuring reed must be used again; we have got of late, through negligence, or a want of a spirit of discerning, too many of the outward court among us; who must be left out, in order to be given up to other hands, as follows.