The Concordant Version
19And opened was the temple of God in heaven, and seen was the ark of God's covenant in His temple, and lightnings and voices and thunders and an earthquake and a great hail occurred.
THE TEMPLE SECTION
GOD now makes His home in the bodies of His believing people (1 Cor.6:19; 2 Cor.6:16). So long as the temple stood, and its ritual was recognized, this august indwelling was true only of His beloved Son. In Him the divine spirit dwelt, but not in His disciples. It came on them for power, as at Pentecost (Acts 1: 18), and cleansed them by baptism (Acts 1:15), and filled them for service (Acts 2:4), but it did not make its permanent habitation in them. By congregating in the sanctuary, the Pentecostal disciples showed their reverence for the sacred shrine. Their action clearly indicated two great facts. They did not have the divine indwelling or they would not repair to the sanctuary. They were drawn thither by the feeble vestige of the sacred Presence which made it the only house of God of which they were aware.
Temples are temporary tenements. After Yahweh had taken up His abode in the tabernacle in the wilderness He found it necessary to change His residence to Solomon's splendid house. After the Shekinah Presence left this temple tenantless it was destroyed. Zerubbabel built another in the days of the restoration. Later, Herod rebuilt the shrine. But it was not until Christ came that the divine Presence reentered the sanctuary. Herod's temple also was destroyed, so that God had no place to dwell. Hence He now homes in the hearts of His saints. But in the conclusion of this eon, as we have seen (11:1), there will once more be a temple made with hands, the reputed dwelling place of deity. This will be replaced by Ezekiel's magnificent structure in the holy oblation during the millennial era. Even this will disappear in that blessed eon when no temple bars the approach to God (21:22).
Besides these earthly habitations there is the pattern of them all in the heavens. It is this which comes before us as we turn to the Temple Section of the Unveiling. We have considered the Prophetic Section, the messages to the ecclesias (1:4-3:22), in which Christ appears as the great Prophet to His earthly people. We have traversed the Throne Section (4:1-11:18), and witnessed the political redemption of the earth, with Christ acclaimed as King over the nations. Now we are about to enter the Temple Section (11:19-20:15), which sets forth the religious redemption of the earth. In this Christ is the great Melchisedec Priest, Who not only rules the people for God, but leads them in the worship of God.
So much light has come to me through the recognition of the religious character of this portion of the Apocalypse that I am eager to impress its importance on all who wish a clear conception of this scroll. It is very evident that the Temple Section brings before us the same era as the previous portion, for both end with the establishment of Christ's kingdom. It is also clear that many of the same characters come before us, such as the hundred and forty-four thousand (7:4; 14:1), and the wild beast (11:7; 13:1). If we are occupied with the same characters at the same time, it is clear that they must be considered from a new standpoint.
The outstanding fact that the previous section is introduced by a vision of a Throne, and this one by a Temple is sufficient for the anointed eye. A throne has to do with dominion, a temple with worship. These are the two major aspects of God's dealings with mankind. Too often are we impressed with the fact that the millennium is the time of good government. It is far more than that. It is the era of world-wide worship of Yahweh. The earth must not only be purged of political offenders, but it must be rid of false religions and philosophies of every kind and creed.
The manward and the Godward aspects of truth are ever distinguished in the Scriptures. Not only were there priests and kings in Israel, but the nation's history was recorded from the divine as well as the human standpoint. Chronicles is not a mere repetition of Kings, though of necessity it must be much like it, seeing that it covers the same events.
It will help us to appreciate the religious character of this section of the Unveiling if we take a hasty glance through it and note how this is emphasized at every turn. The first sign gives us Israel under the figure of a woman. Later we will find the apostate nation under the same metaphor. Now this pictures their relation to Yahweh. The faithful woman has celestial array. It is Israel in covenant with their God.
The next sign is similar. The dragon is not an earthly potentate but the head of the heavenly hosts who are opposed to God. The first battle is fought in heaven. The earthly confederacy, which is the counterpart of the dragon, cannot be a merely political combination. The wild beast comes forth at Satan's call, and insists on worship as well as fealty. Once we see that the whole world, just before the time of the end, is to be divided into four great religious federations, and the western one a decemvirate, we are able to orientate ourselves, and determine our true relation to these coming events, for this is very nearly the present status of the religious world.
The presence of the false prophet, doing signs, and calling for worship, as well as the great image with its miraculous powers, are in themselves sufficient to settle the sacerdotal scope of this section. The hundred and forty-four thousand reappear in the company of the Lambkin. In the midst of the prevailing religious prostitution they are celibates (14:1-5).
The eonian evangel, preached to all on earth, calls upon men to worship their Maker (14:7).
It is the worship of the wild beast which draws down the judgments of this section (14:9-12). The harvest and grape vine are both reaped at the instance of a messenger out of the temple (14:15,17).
The figure of the bowls is taken from the temple furniture. The previous seals and trumpets were associated with the administration of government, in peace and in war. The civil power, suggested by the seals, is enforced by the trumpets, the military arm of government. But the bowls are closely connected with Babylon and the religious apostates of the chosen nation.
The binding of Satan and the corresponding millennial reign compose the climax of this section. Satan, the god of this eon (2 Cor.4:4) will not blind the minds of the peoples of the earth until the close of the thousand years. It will be a day of unhindered worship through the priestly offices of Israel.
But the most suggestive of all are the two temple openings (11:19; 15:5), which divide this section into two parts. In the first, Yahweh's covenant is seen; in the second, the testimony, or law. In both the judgments are based on God's previous dealings with His people and make them a blessing; second, He judges the law-breakers among them by that holy law which He gave them at Sinai. If we would view these judgments aright we must view all from the vantage of the temple and its ritual.
In the former division of the Temple Section we are given an insight into the false religions of this eon and are shown how they are under the control of Satan and his minions. We are fully informed of the conflict between Judaism, the one true religion (we have no religion in this economy), and the various Satanic cults among the nations. These will unite under the leadership of Satan's human emissary and use their combined force to blot out the knowledge of God. Then Christ Himself comes and consigns Satan to his prison, and consumes his rebellious host.
In the latter division of the Temple Section, Yahweh deals with the defection of His own people Israel, according to the law He gave them. Their many prerogatives and privileges greatly increase the measure of their guilt, hence the bowls are the severest of all the terrific visitations of this judgment era. The extended account of great Babylon shows how much God's heart is affected by the apostasy of His own people.
Perhaps one hindrance to the great truth we are seeking to enforce lies in the unfortunate chapter break which puts the introductory vision to the succeeding section at the end of chapter eleven, with which it has no connection. May God help all who seek to understand this unveiling to grasp the special significance of the Temple Section, and view all its events in their true religious light! It will be of the greatest help, not only to the intelligent understanding of this prophecy, but it is also the key which unlocks some of the deepest difficulties of Daniel's visions.
We are through with the Throne. The political sovereignty of the earth is in the hands of Yahweh and His Anointed. Now we should charge our hearts to attend to the Temple, and see the sacerdotal supremacy of the earth pass from the hands of pontiff and prelate, Brahmatma and Lama and Calif, into the hands of Him Who will be a Priest for the eon according to the order of Melchisedec.