ALL THINGS NEW: THE TEMPLE IN REVELATION

           

reflective photo of clouds

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. In that space, God placed Adam and Eve to dwell with him in harmonious fellowship. Sin came. God kicked Adam and Eve out of the Garden temple. God himself abandoned that defiled dwelling. But there was a promise of return. There was hope for a latter time. There was the promise of a new Paradise in which God and redeemed humanity could dwell together eternally.

            That hope of a new temple dwelling for God and man is pictured as a reality in Revelation. All that was lost through Adam had been restored in Christ and enjoyed by the redeemed together with their Redeemer. John’s apocalyptic style in Revelation can be a massive hurdle for modern readers, but the central message of Revelation was proclaimed by a loud voice from the throne that said, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.” (Rev. 21:3).

            This promise of God’s dwelling with man was promised throughout the Old Testament. The prophet Ezekiel is particularly important because it is quoted as being fulfilled in Christ’s eschatological temple dwelling with man (Ezk. 37:26-28).[1] There are several expressions of this temple theme in Revelation. A few of these expressions will be studied so that the great message of Revelation can be seen. That great message is that relationship and dwelling with God that mankind lost has been restored in Christ and when he comes again the redeemed will be raised to life everlasting in his perfect Paradise—the new temple for God and man.

Temple Themes

Christians Have Been Made Priests—1:6

            Revelation 1:6 is a praise to Jesus: “To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.” Christians are now what Israel was and was supposed to be. Christians are the royal priests. For the current study, it is vital that we note that Christians are described as priests. Priests serve under the High Priest (Christ) in the temple service.

            From the very outset of the book, John is comforting his Jewish readers who still remember that magnificent temple of Jerusalem and worried about what remained for them. It is understandable that they would have been despondent. They had grown up for generations with the temple being the symbol of their faith and their national existence. That temple had been taken away. Had God’s promises been taken away? No. They remained and Christians are the priests who serve God in his temple.

We also need to notice that this priestly service was ongoing. It was not a future temple in which they were offer future service. They were currently priests. They were currently serving in the current temple. This tells us that it was not the old temple in Jerusalem. It was rather the temple of Christ’s body in which the priests are able to serve.

Christ Walks in the Midst of the Lampstands—1:12-13

            The seven lampstands are the seven churches (Rev. 1:20). These lampstands are of course reminiscent of the golden lampstand which stood in the temple. That lampstand had famously been carried away by Titus in the destruction of Jerusalem. We can still see it’s capture depicted in carvings from that time. But the lampstands in Jesus’ temple had not been taken away by Rome. The soldiers could not knock them over. Jesus, the High Priest, walked in the midst of the lampstands. Unlike the Garden temple and the Jerusalem temple which had been abandoned, Jesus himself stood guard over his lampstands and enjoyed fellowship with his priests as he walked in their midst.

Christians Have Access to the Tree of Life—2:7

            The Tree of life may not seem like part of the temple theme at first, but it is actually key to the entire motif. The original Garden Temple had the Tree of Life as a prized possession. Now the Tree of Life is available for those who dwell “in the paradise of God” (Rev. 2:7). The Hebrew word for garden is paradise. Consequently, the blessed intermediate state of the afterlife became known as the paradise because the people went to be with God. Then finally, we see that Heaven itself is here described as paradise. The Tree of Life was cut off from Adam and Eve because of sin. That tree would have provided life for them, but its absence proved to be death to them. Now the Tree of Life is available again in the true Paradise of God.

Christians Eat of the Hidden Manna

            The hidden manna is another image which may not immediately take one back to the temple, but perhaps it is another important temple image. The manna which God provided from heaven in the wilderness was a beautiful description of God’s providence and became an image of Christ himself. As a reminder, some of the manna was placed in the ark of the covenant in the temple. In that way, the bread became a “hidden manna” because no one ever saw it. The people surely thought of it in the ark, but it remained hidden to them. Now that “manna,” if the allusion is correctly seen, would be available to the Christian priests as they served in the temple of Christ’s body. The separation was taken away. Fellowship between God and man had been restored and exalted beyond belief.

Christians Have Been Made Pillars in the Temple—3:12

            The pillars of the Jerusalem temple would have been impressive. The Christians may have remembered leaning on them as they waited after worship. They may have remembered looking at them proudly as they thought about the splendor of the temple. They had been torn down. They were and are gone. The great pillars were no more.

            But Christ promised to make the Christians priests and pillars in his temple. Even though the old physical pillars were gone, the new pillars would stand. Jesus said, “Never shall he go out of it, and I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name” (Rev. 3:12).

Christians Serve in the Temple After this Tribulation Time—7:14-15

            The great tribulation is the time from the beginning of the Christian age till the end of it. We know that the tribulation was present in the first century because John addressed his readers as “partners in the tribulation and the kingdom” (Rev. 1:9). They were not waiting for the tribulation to begin. They were in it. We shouldn’t be waiting for the tribulation to begin. We are in it too.

            But at the close of this present age, Jesus will usher in a greater and perfect reality of temple dwelling with his people. This is described in Revelation 7:14 as those who are “the ones coming out of the great tribulation.” These who are faithful through this life will find a great temple themed reality in God’s presence. John wrote, “Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence” (Rev. 7:15).

Christian Prayers Are Incense in Heaven—8:1-4

            Instead of the alter of incense, the prayers of the saints go up before God in his temple. The saintly aroma has replaced the old physical echo. The true reality now exists with God and his people as they serve in his temple.

Christians Are the Measured Temple—11:1-14

            The temple is measured in Revelation 11:1 so that the people will know that God knows who are is and that they can have confidence that they will escape the upheaval they experienced. This trampling of the temple ended and the true temple remained. This is in opposition to the former temple which had been leveled several times and finally by Rome at God’s hand. Now the Christian temple is measured and protected.

Christ’s Heavenly Temple Joins with Earth—11:15-19

            In ways in which we are not accustomed to thinking, heaven invaded earth in the souls of the redeemed. So Revelation 11:15 says, “the kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever.” This will be true in its fullest degree when God’s people are at home with him in glory. This is true in measure now as Christians are the temple of God and body of Christ.

Christ’s Judgment on the Earth Flows From the Temple—15:1-8

            The “sanctuary of the tent” in 15:5 is another image of the tabernacle which was the forerunner of the temple. Both images are used to depict the dwelling of God with man. Out of God’s presence, judgment flows upon the wicked until they are overtaken. The angels who proceed from the tabernacle are clothed in materials reminiscent of the ancient priestly attire. In 15:8, the sanctuary is filled with smoke from the glory of God and from his power. These are typical images associated with the temple and the priestly work of the temple. Although in the ancient temple, the smoke was given, in part, to protect the people from God’s glory. Now God’s glory itself is the smoke that comes from the temple and consumes the wicked.  

Christ’s Promised New Temple Paradise is Becoming Reality—21

            We conclude here at the beginning of eternity. The final image in Scripture is the redemption of all things. John said, “I saw a new heaven and new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people.. and God himself will be with them as their God” (Rev. 21:1-3). G, K. Beale wrote:

But now in Rev. 21:3 the divine presence is not limited by the physical boundaries of an Israelite temple, since not only all believing Israelites but even all “peoples” experience God’s intimate tabernacling presence. Since a physical temple was a particularistic, nationalistic institution, a sign of God’s and Israel’s separation from the unclean nations, it had no room in John’s new Jerusalem, not only because believing Jew and Gentile are united in Christ in the new Jerusalem but also because they have all gained the status of priests serving before God’s presence (20:6; 22:3–4).[2]

The old temple was destroyed. The old city wasn’t needed. Israel. the faithless bride had been replaced in redemption.

            God’s people will then dwell with God. Beale stated that “there is no literal temple in the new Jerusalem, which will be explicitly stated in 21:22, where the ultimate redemptive-historical reason for the absence of a physical temple is that God and Christ are the final, enduring form of the temple, to which the physical OT temple always pointed.”[3] The old appetizers are dismissed for the great feast of fellowship in eternity.

Conclusion

            The final Heavenly temple pictured in Revelation is the replacement of the first temple we found in the Garden. It is the replacement of that temple, but it is also the purpose of that temple. This is one of the reasons why God made the heavens and the earth—to dwell with mankind in glory. This is the accomplishment of God’s will for his creation and for his redeemed. This is the glorification of the Son by the Father through the redeemed and the glorification of the Father by the Son through the same.

            We do not know what that new “temple” will be like, but we can look forward with great expectation and certainty. Jesus’ final words to man was not recorded in the Great Commission. Jesus’ final words to his people were “Surely I am coming soon” and we can reply with the close of Scripture, “ Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!” (Rev. 22:20).

“Come, Lord Jesus.”

D. L. D


Beale explained, ““The reference to the multitudes being “in his temple” (ἐν τῷ ναῷ αὐτοῦ), where God “tabernacles over them,” is a clear echo of the prophecy of Israel’s restoration in Ezek. 37:26–28 (cf. LXX). There God says, “I will establish my sanctuary (ἅγια) in the midst of them forever. And my tabernacle (κατασκήνωσις) will be over them … when my sanctuary (ἅγια) is in the midst of them forever.” The link with Ezekiel is confirmed from the parallel in Rev. 21:3, where Ezek. 37:27 is quoted more fully and is immediately followed in 21:4, 6b by the same OT allusions found in 7:16–17. Yet again, the innumerable multitudes of redeemed in the church are viewed as the fulfillment of a prophecy concerning Israel’s latter-day restoration. The application of Ezek. 37:27 to the church is striking because Ezekiel emphasizes that when this prophecy takes place the immediate result will be that “the nations will recognize that I am the Lord who sanctifies Israel, when my sanctuary is in their midst” (37:28).”[1] G. K. Beale, The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text, New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI; Carlisle, Cumbria: W.B. Eerdmans; Paternoster Press, 1999), 440.

[2] G. K. Beale, The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text, New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI; Carlisle, Cumbria: W.B. Eerdmans; Paternoster Press, 1999), 1047–1048.

[3] G. K. Beale, The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text, 1048.

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