So, to finally finish our short series on the temple.
We started by looking at the Temple and the big story, here.
Then we looked at the Temple and separation, here.
Last time we pondered the Temple and the Spirit and what happens to the temple in the New Testament after the coming of Jesus, here.
Now, we turn to the future with the final pages of the book of Revelation and see both where we’re heading along with how that echoes where we’ve been.
Now of course we must remember that Revelation is apocalyptic literature; a style of writing that is very black and white in its outlook and a style that loves symbolism and story. And so in reading and understanding the book we need to read it literally – that is, we need to read it in line with its clear literary genre which in this case is apocalyptic. What we mustn’t do is read it literalistically, and ignore what it’s trying to say by reading the symbols and ignoring their context and what they’re referring to.
Revelation 21-22 gives us a word picture of where everything’s heading. Chapter 21 speaks of the New Jerusalem coming down from heaven onto the new earth. This passage has multiple echoes and allusions to the temple (and the tabernacle before it). Here’s the key verses for our purposes, Revelation 21:1-4, 15-18, 22:
1Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. 2I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away … 15The angel who talked with me had a measuring rod of gold to measure the city, its gates and its walls. 16The city was laid out like a square, as long as it was wide. He measured the city with the rod and found it to be 12,000 stadia in length, and as wide and high as it is long. 17He measured its wall and it was 144 cubits thick, by man’s measurement, which the angel was using. 18The wall was made of jasper, and the city of pure gold, as pure as glass … 22I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.
The heavenly Jerusalem is the place where God himself dwells, but now, in the new creation, that heavenly Jerusalem comes to be upon the earth. Now Heaven and Earth interlock again just as they did in the Garden in Genesis 1, just as the symbolism within the tabernacle and temple pointed to and were localised expressions of. So now God will dwell once again with his people unimpeded by sin and imperfection.
But for a city, this thing is a weird city both in its size and in its shape. Verses 15-16 point this out. In terms of its size this isn’t your normal city. It is a huge city. It’s about 2,200 kilometres in width and length. For comparison, the entire state of New South Wales is about 1,200 kilometres by 1, 000 kilometres. So this city is about twice as long and wide as the whole NSW state. It’s a big city.
But the other weird thing about this city is not only is it big, but its dimensions are the same in length, width and also height. This city is a perfect cube.
And that’s meant to tell us something. It’s meant to remind us of something. It’s meant to remind us of 1 Kings 6.
19 He prepared the inner sanctuary within the temple to set the ark of the covenant of the LORD there. 20 The inner sanctuary was twenty cubits long, twenty wide and twenty high. He overlaid the inside with pure gold, and he also overlaid the altar of cedar. 21 Solomon covered the inside of the temple with pure gold, and he extended gold chains across the front of the inner sanctuary, which was overlaid with gold. 22 So he overlaid the whole interior with gold. He also overlaid with gold the altar that belonged to the inner sanctuary.
The inner sanctuary, the Most Holy Place, where only the High priest could go and only once a year and only after hefty amounts of purification with washings and sacrifices, was a perfect cube. The inner sanctuary of the temple was overlaid with gold. The New Jerusalem is made of gold.
Two gold cubes. The whole city of the New Jerusalem is an expanded Holy of Holies. And as the city and the new earth interlock the dwelling of God is now once again with his people on the earth in unimpeded intimacy. Heaven will be a place on earth. And what was once a place only for one man to enter and always with great fear, will then be a place for every member of God’s people always with no fear but only great joy. And all because of the work of the lamb who was slain.
In this city there is no temple.