Friday, 23 April 2021
After these things I looked, and behold, the temple of the tabernacle of the testimony in heaven was opened. Revelation 15:5
Due to the structure of the words in many translations, it isn’t clear what is being opened or where. A more literal rendering comes from Young’s translation –
“And after these things I saw, and lo, opened was the sanctuary of the tabernacle of the testimony in the heaven;”
It is the sanctuary (the temple) that is opened in the heaven. Also, the words “the tabernacle of the testimony” can also be translated “the tabernacle of the witness” (see Numbers 7:17). Understanding these things, the verse starts with a new part of his ongoing vision, saying, “After these things.”
This is after the verses concerning those standing on the glassy sea who had victory over the beast, over his image, mark, and number of his name. With that complete, John’s eyes are redirected, and he says, “I looked, and behold, the temple of the tabernacle of the testimony.”
The wording seems a bit cumbersome, but it is very specific. The “tabernacle of the testimony” is that which was made by Moses in the wilderness as is meticulously recorded in Exodus. The “temple” of this tabernacle is the Most Holy Place. The words are saying that this Most Holy Place of the tabernacle of the testimony is what is being opened.
The word translated as “tabernacle” is skéné. It signifies a tent, dwelling, habitation, and so on. The tabernacle of the Law of Moses was the edifice where the holy and most holy objects were placed. The holy place is where the priests would minister each day with incense and the maintaining of the menorah. The table of showbread was there also, and it was changed out weekly. Dividing that room from the next room (the Most Holy Place) was a veil. Only the high priest could go into this room, and he could only do so once a year – on the Day of Atonement. Further, he could never enter without blood.
All of these things pictured Christ and His work. As Hebrews notes –
“For every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices. Therefore it is necessary that this One also have something to offer. 4 For if He were on earth, He would not be a priest, since there are priests who offer the gifts according to the law; 5 who serve the copy and shadow of the heavenly things, as Moses was divinely instructed when he was about to make the tabernacle. For He said, “See that you make all things according to the pattern shown you on the mountain.” Hebrews 8:3-5
The tabernacle and all of the implements associated with it were only types, shadows, and representations of what actually is in heaven. That is why John’s words of this verse end with, “in heaven was opened.” As noted from Young’s translation, there is an article before “heaven.” It should more rightly say, “in the heaven was opened.” With this, we are seeing a vision of the heavenly things of which the earthly were only shadows.
This Most Holy Place, where the Ark of the Testimony is kept, is what is being opened. If no person, but the high priest could enter the earthly sanctuary under pain of death, and if even the high priest had to take the blood of the atonement into the Most Holy Place, lest he die, then what is the anticipated result of the opening of the true Most Holy Place in the heaven?
Remember, everything about the Old Covenant was given as typology of the true workings of God in Christ in the heavenly realms. How can the world escape judgment when the people are exposed to the righteous requirements of God without the covering of Christ! Remember, the previous vision was of those who had received Christ and were saved by faith in Him. The order of the vision is specific to now show what will be the judgment upon those who submitted to the beast. The words of this short vision will prepare the reader for the coming judgments upon them.
Life application: As noted above, no one was allowed access to the Most Holy Place (also called the Holy of Holies) where the Ark of the Covenant was kept, under the pain of death. However, when Jesus died on the cross, the veil was torn in two signifying that access to God was restored – completely and openly – to all people through His shed blood. So, the question is: “Why is judgment coming out of here in the form of seven angels with the seven last plagues if access has been restored?”
The answer is that the people of the earth have, at this point in the narrative, rejected the means of access – through the blood of Christ. Because of this, anyone who attempts to access God’s throne without this is subject to the full weight and penalty of God’s wrath. Jesus is the access to peace with God, but He is also the executor of the wrath of God when access through Him is rejected. Without the covering of the blood of Christ, the full weight of the law must be executed upon the unrepentant world.
This, once again, shows us that God’s Messiah is the one and only path to salvation. Apart from Him, only judgment and condemnation awaits. But thank God that He sent His Christ into the world to cover His people with His own shed blood. In this, peace, propitiation, and restoration are found. Thank God for our Lord JESUS.
Lord, You fulfilled the law that we couldn’t fulfill, and then You offered Yourself as a sacrifice on our behalf. When we accept the cross as our place for the remission of sins, then we have access to God, but without it, we only expose ourselves to the just penalty of our rejection. Thank You that Your life was given in exchange for our sin. All glory to You Lord! Amen.