“Then I looked and saw that the Temple in heaven, God’s Tabernacle, was thrown wide open. The seven angels who were holding the seven plagues came out of the Temple. They were clothed in spotless white linen with gold sashes across their chests.”
Revelation 15:5-6 NLT
For anyone who is of a religiously non-conformist outlook, all these references to the Temple, “God’s Tabernacle”, may seem a bit strange. Particularly if their church-going involves a rented room in a hotel or conference centre, or even a bare utilitarian building of the Presbyterian faith. But to the Jews of old, the Temple had a significance far beyond its architecture.
John’s vision of Heaven was incredibly detailed and he seemed to be able to zoom in and out picking up details of this wonderful place. So far we have seen God’s throne there, with other thrones occupied by twenty four elders. We have seen a glassy sea intermingled with fire. Countless martyrs with harps. Four “living beings” of a form unknown in our earth-bound experiences. And the music and song emanating from Heavenly choirs was breathtakingly beautiful. But now John’s vision exposes the Temple. John rubbed the spiritual sleep from his eyes as he noticed that the Temple was wide open. A bit like one of these artist’s impressions of how a building looks inside but from without. Even like a film set, where the cameras have unfettered access from outside a room but giving the impression that the viewer is inside along with the actors. The Temple was wide open. God’s Tabernacle was internally visible to all those qualified to be in Heaven with Him – and of course John through his vision.
There was another time when God exposed His earthly home. When Jesus died on the cross, something significant happened in the Temple, the building in Jerusalem at that time. We pick up the narrative in Matthew 27:50-51, “Then Jesus shouted out again, and he released his spirit. At that moment the curtain in the sanctuary of the Temple was torn in two, from top to bottom…”. The curtain was a very heavy and thick piece of fabric that hid the Most Holy Place from outside scrutiny. It was only entered once a year by the priest on duty. He entered with considerable fear and trepidation, to the extent that he had a cord tied to one of his ankles, so that he could be pulled out by those outside the curtain, in the event that God had zapped him because of some misdemeanour. There’s a fascinating story about one of the priests in Luke 1, called Zechariah. He was the father of John the Baptist. We read, “One day Zechariah was serving God in the Temple, for his order was on duty that week. As was the custom of the priests, he was chosen by lot to enter the sanctuary of the Lord and burn incense. While Zechariah was in the sanctuary, an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing to the right of the incense altar….. Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah to come out of the sanctuary, wondering why he was taking so long. When he finally did come out, he couldn’t speak to them. Then they realised from his gestures and his silence that he must have seen a vision in the sanctuary.” (Luke 1:8-9, 11, 21-22 NLT). The Jews expected something significant to be associated with the Temple, God’s Tabernacle.
But here we have in John’s vision God’s Temple exposed for all those in Heaven to see. God and His presence totally transparent and visible. Any relevance here for 21st Century pilgrims? Yes there is, because when Jesus died, the veil, that heavy and dense curtain, was torn in two. Not just a little tear in a corner, but a total schism from top to bottom. I visualise it as the complete disintegration of the curtain, which ended up as a pile of dust on the Temple floor. We read about the significance of this in Hebrews 10:20-22, “By his death, Jesus opened a new and life-giving way through the curtain into the Most Holy Place. And since we have a great High Priest who rules over God’s house, let us go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting him. For our guilty consciences have been sprinkled with Christ’s blood to make us clean, and our bodies have been washed with pure water.” There is now no veil to stop blood-bought Christians from entering God’s presence. Through Jesus’ death at Calvary, He took on board our sins and instead made us righteous in God’s sight, to the extent that we can enter His space, and refer to Him as “Abba”. We read in Galatians 4:6, “And because we are his children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, prompting us to call out, “Abba, Father.”” What does this word “Abba” mean? It means “Daddy” or “Papa”. Folks, we have the opportunity to enter into the very presence of our Heavenly Dad. How amazing is that? Let’s not hold back. Let’s rush in and grasp all that He has for us. He’s the perfect Dad!
Dear Dad, thank You for allowing us to enter the presence of the One who loves us and cares for us. We may hold back in awe from You but nothing delights You more than to welcome us in to Your very home. We are so grateful. Amen.