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Where is the Court of the Gentiles?

The Court of the Gentiles is referred to in Revelation chapter 11:

"But the court which is without the temple leave out, and measure it not; for it is given unto the Gentiles: and the holy city shall they tread under foot forty and two months." (Rev 11:2)

Revelation refers to something called the court (in association with the temple) and describes it as being "given unto the Gentiles." We will refer to it here as "the court of the Gentiles" because, at least for a time, it is given to them.

The Historical Court of the Gentiles
The innermost court from which the holy place of the temple itself could be accessed through the veil was called the court of the Priests (also called the court of Israel). Only the priests had regular access here except that an Israelite could enter it to offer a sacrifice. To the east of that was the Court of the Women which was as far as women were allowed in the temple. In its four corners were rooms for different purposes. These were: the temple treasury where people would give their monetary offerings (Mark 12:41), a room for storage of oil, a room for storage of wood for the sacrifices and a room for the priests to do inspections for things such as leprosy. Outside of this but inside the outer wall of the Temple complex was a large area called the Court of the Gentiles to which anyone, even a non-Jew had access. This is the area being referred to in Revelation 11:2.

The Court of the Gentiles is the area from which Jesus drove out the money changers. He was clearing the Court of the Gentiles the purpose of which was described by Isaiah:

"My house will be a house of prayer for all nations,"(Isa 56:7)

The "all nations" connects with this area where anyone was able to come to worship. It is shown as the large open area shown here:

Court of the Gentiles
The Court of the Gentiles is the large open area within the Temple compound.
Note of interest: In March of 2011, the Vatican sponsored a meeting at the UNESCO headquarters in Paris. It was known as the first Courtyard of the Gentiles meeting the name being taken from the outer space around the Temple in ancient Jerusalem. There non-Jews could come to inquire about the Jewish faith and, if they desired, to pray to God.

The Court of the Gentiles in the Future
Revelation 11:2 is referring to the area of this court in a future context - there isn't even a temple on earth today. So, we want to determine where this court referred to in verse 2 is. A comparison of the earthly and heavenly sanctuaries using the chart below and the following discussion will be helpful.

Component of Sanctuary
Earthly Sanctuary
Heavenly Sanctuary
place of judgment Exo 28:29 Dan 7:9-10
holy place yes yes
courtyard yes not mentioned
altar of sacrifice yes not mentioned
sacrifice lambs and other animals God's only-begotten Son

The sanctuary includes a place and function of judgment; indeed, that is a major purpose of the sanctuary. There is a heavenly judgment scene described in Daniel:

"I beheld till the thrones were cast down, and the Ancient of days did sit, whose garment was white as snow, and the hair of his head like the pure wool: his throne was like the fiery flame, and his wheels as burning fire. A fiery stream issued and came forth from before him: thousand thousands ministered unto him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him: the judgment was set, and the books were opened." (Dan 7:9-10)

This scene could not have happened in the earthly sanctuary with more than a hundred million angels in attendance. It was referring to judgment happening in heaven. It happened in heaven where there is also a sanctuary:

"For he hath looked down from the height of his sanctuary; from heaven did the LORD behold the earth;" (Psa 102:19)

In both the earthly and the heavenly sanctuaries there is a holy place and a most holy place and it seems that they contain equivalent pieces of furniture though on quite different scales.

The Holy Place
From the courtyard, a person would first enter the Holy Place of the Temple. The Holy Place contained the table of showbread on the north side, the candlestick on the south side and the altar of incense to the west in front of the veil beyond which was the Most Holy Place. The pattern and layout and the articles of furniture in the earthy structure matched that in the heavenly.

The Most Holy Place
The earthly sanctuary had the Ark of the Covenant as the only item in the Most Holy Place. The events of the Day of Atonement that happened each year involved the Most Holy Place and pointed to a heavenly reality to come. The heavenly equivalent these events pointed to were very much related to judgment the purpose of which was to bring atonement and reconciliation.

So we see that for both the holy and the most holy places there was a correspondence between the earthly and the heavenly. But what about the courtyard?

The Courtyard
The earthly courtyard is described as having the altar of sacrifice and the laver which was where the priests washed at times while going about their duties dealing with the sacrifices. Scripture speaks of the various sacrifices that were offered here and what was to be done with them but seems to say nothing about sacrifices in a heavenly courtyard scene. Since everything that happened in the earthly system pointed to something in the heavenly, the obvious question is: were there sacrifices in the heavenly sanctuary system?

Of course, the answer is quite plain: the sacrifice of the only-begotten Son of God was what all the other sacrifices pointed to. So Jesus was the sacrifice of the heavenly system but where did He die? - On the cross of Calvary on the earth. So it would be correct to say that the earth itself is the courtyard of the heavenly sanctuary and the cross of Calvary was its altar.

"Thus saith the LORD, The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool: where is the house that ye build unto me? and where is the place of my rest?" (Isa 66:1)

Again, if one studies the sanctuary and looks at any Biblical descriptions of the heavenly sanctuary you see no mention of an altar for offerings there. There is certainly no record of any sacrifice being offered in heaven. The earthly sanctuary and its types were symbolic of the heavenly. Animals were slain to symbolize the death of Christ who was the great antitype to which all of the sacrifices pointed. Jesus' death was the sacrifice of the antitypical or heavenly system but that sacrifice happened on earth, not in heaven.

So where is "the court which is without the temple" referred to in Revelation 11:2? It is not in heaven. It is either the court of a temple on earth of which there is not one at present or it is the whole earth considered as a part of the heavenly sanctuary.

So, by saying "the court ... is given unto the Gentiles" revelation could be telling us that the earth will be controlled by the Gentiles or the Nations or non-believers for a period of time.

"But the court which is without the temple leave out, and measure it not; for it is given unto the Gentiles: and the holy city shall they tread under foot forty and two months." (Rev 11:2)

 
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