The Preterist view: They see this passage as a reference to Ezekiel. To measure is seen from Ezekiel, chaps 40-47, to divide from what is holy from what is profane and corrupt as what defines a true Temple of God; the results from the examination mean judgment and destruction. The call to remain pure and reform was rejected by the Jews and thus the Temple was destroyed (Is. 1:12; Jer. 10:16; 51:19; Ezek. 22:26; 40-43; Zech. 2:1-5; Dan. 7:25; Luke 21:24; Rev. 21:15-16). (Forty-two) 42 months is seen as the length of Nero’s war with the Christians and/or the siege of Jerusalem. The two witnesses seem to have baffled many in this camp, as it seems to point to a hole in their theory. (All these views have holes because our reasoning is limited and we tend to look to our own education and agendas, not at the big picture, and do not do all of the inductive research to see what the text is really saying.) Many see them as symbolic of a testimony to corrupt Judaism, as two literal people or prophets who are lost to history, as the “lamp stands” and “olive trees” from Zechariah 4:11-14, or as representative of the witnesses of Christ. Some have said they were Peter and James.
The Futurist view: They see to “measure” as representing God’s ownership of his faithful during the tribulation and/or His preservation and protection of them. The “Temple of God” is seen as a new one, yet to be rebuilt, which, citing examples from Ezekiel, people in this camp see as an even essential prior to Christ’s return. However, a major exegetical, textual problem occurs with this view as the Temple had already been destroyed, then rebut twice, once right after Ezekiel’s prophecy and again under Herod. It was destroyed in 70 AD. The Temple represents faithfulness and/or the Church: the people of God and the “outer court” are seen as representing apostasy and/or the distinction of people remaining faithful or not during the tribulation. The “two witnesses” are viewed as literal forerunners to Christ’s return, those faithful ones who preach and prophecy during the tribulation, or that Moses or Enoch and Elijah actually come back to do that. The “42 months” and “1260” days are seen as the first half of the great Tribulation, the last half, or a time after the tribulation.
The Idealist view: They see to “measure” as God’s awareness of His worshipers—those who are true and those who are not as referenced by the “outer court.” Also, this refers to apostasy invading the Church such as liberality and worldliness. (It is ironic that most who hold this view are mainline liberals.) The “Temple of God” is seen as the inner sanctum, the Holy of Holies where the high priest entered once a year to dust, which to this view refers to those who are true worshipers of God (1 Cor. 3:16-17; 2 Cor. 6:16; Eph. 2:19-22; 1 Tim. 3:15; Heb. 3:6; 1 Pet. 2:5). (Forty-two) “42 months” is seen as grace, limiting the time of persecution (Dan. 7:25). The “two witnesses” refer to the church as a witness to the world from mission movements. “Sackcloth” refers to bringing the message of repentance. The “olive trees” refer to Zerubbabel and Joshua who were agents of restoration. “Fire from mouths” means those who bring harm to the Church will be judged.
The Historicist view: They see to “measure” as to look over and examine the church and see what is real, true, and devout, and what is distorted from God’s call and God’s authority given to those who are to reform the Church. The “Temple of God” is seen as the church of true, devout believers drawing from other N.T. passages (1 Cor. 3:16; 6:19; 2 Thess. 2:4). The “outer court” or Court of the Gentiles is seen as the visible Church that becomes a corrupt institution, devoid of real, heartfelt worshipers, such as the Roman Catholic Church or liberalism. These were the indicators that gave the Reformers the vision and reassessment to reform the Church back to God and away from corruption which led to the Reformation. (Forty-two) “42 months” is seen as 1260 years, the duration of the Catholic Church and its persecution of true believers up to the Reformation. The “two witnesses” are representative of the faithful Christians who tried to reform and stand against the Catholic Church such as Huss and Wycliffe. The miraculous power given is seen as an instrument and reason for God’s judgments and/or clothed in God’s power (Deut. 32:2; Is. 55:10). “Fire from mouths” means the power of preaching and the power of the Spirit and/or from Jeremiah 5:14. The plagues are seen as the evils resulting from the corruption of the Church, such as wars and the inquisitions.