"A New Approach to Revelation" by Tricia Tillin (Part Seven)
how the day of atonement Temple service sheds light on the book of revelation: "After This..."
The scene changes dramatically when John enters through the "open door" into the Court of Israel, before the Sanctuary. He is invited behind the scenes, as it were, to see what happens "after this". Like so much else of Revelation this means two things at the same time.
In the words "after this" [Rev 4:1] clearly the Lord intended John to perceive a before and after in what was being revealed to him as a prophecy. In terms of the seven letters to the churches, the events that followed were prophetic of the coming Day of Judgement (Yom Kippur) when the Church would ascend to its heavenly home, the nations would be judged, the false christ would woo mankind and ultimately Jesus would return to earth as Ruler.
These events did not taken place immediately after the historic churches of Asia Minor received their warning letters. Nor did those events follow immediately after the earthly ministry of John. Some would teach that the events of the prophecy relate to the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in AD70. In that case the letters would be historic and the events would follow almost immediately afterwards. But the major stumbling block to that teaching is that Jesus did NOT return to the earth as predicted.
Therefore I am inclined to believe that the seven churches (as I outlined in the previous article) were the seven successive phases of Church history leading to the last days, in which we now live. The story of the Church then continues from a heavenly aspect.
The Open Door
But also, in terms of the worship service of Yom Kippur, the time had come for John to move beyond his ordinary viewpoint in the Court of Women, along with all the other representative Israelites. He mounted up towards the "open door" - the Nicanor Gate - that led into the Court of Israel. Although activities had already begun hours earlier, this was a sacred and solemn moment for all involved. (It will be explored shortly. First we must find out what has already happened there during the night - the same night in which Jesus "waited" and in which John wrote the seven letters).
At Night in the Temple
Before John arrived [speaking merely in terms of the physical Temple], there has been much activity. Preparations are being made for the great feast day. These events may not have much relevance prophetically (or perhaps they do?) but they are of interest in any case, so I'll outline them briefly before going on to the scene as described by John when he enters the Heavenly Sanctuary area.
As previously stated, at the Feast of Tabernacles the High Priest would have entered his chambers in the Temple compound seven days before Yom Kipper, but on the eve of that great Day, he would join the other priests in their quarters and dine there.
So, in Revelation 3:20 Jesus stands at the door and knocks, and "if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in and dine with him". This implies a preparedness for service and a readiness for action. It was addressed to the Laodicean Church primarily, because the "door" should have been attended throughout the night (compare Mark 13:33) and Jesus is about to return! The Laodiceans - like the unworthy servants - were saying "My Master delays his return" and were in danger of missing the knock on the door.
Luke 12:44 "…And the Lord said, 'Who then is the faithful and sensible steward, whom his master will put in charge of his servants, to give them their rations at the proper time? Blessed is that slave whom his master finds so doing when he comes. Truly I say to you that he will put him in charge of all his possessions. But if that slave says in his heart, 'My master will be a long time in coming,' and begins to beat the slaves, both men and women, and to eat and drink and get drunk; the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know, and will cut him in pieces, and assign him a place with the unbelievers.' .…"
But in the Temple it was just the same, in fact remarkably so. The priests were on duty and not pleasing themselves. They did not idle away their time but made themselves ready for activities in the feast day to come.
In particular - on the last night before Yom Kippur - they would stay awake along with the High Priest, reading the Torah and singing psalms. Could we perhaps see this situation in the night before the death of Jesus, as He prayed in the Garden? There, he urges the disciples to stay awake with Him and pray "lest you enter into temptation" (Luke 22:46). And "could you not watch with me one hour?" was his rebuke. (Mark 13:37) Unlike the Temple priests, the disciples did fall asleep.
However, it was around MIDNIGHT on Yom Kippur that the activities began - so watchfulness was very necessary. There would have been many rituals and preparations to carry out before the Overseer knocked at the door of the Priests' Chamber to call them to service. Any who were not ready, bathed, ritually purified, dressed in white garments and available at that hour were unfit for service and were turned away. Obviously also, they had to STAY AWAKE and be alert. We can learn from this the need for a similar readiness for the Lord's sudden return!
Do Not Fall Asleep
Staying awake was a theme of both the Temple services and the sayings of Jesus in regard to the endtimes. There is a similarity between them that is worth pointing out.
Matt 24:42-43 "Therefore be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming. But be sure of this, that if the head of the house had known at what time of the night the thief was coming, he would have been on the alert and would not have allowed his house to be broken into.…"
Mark 13:33-35 "Take heed, keep on the alert; for you do not know when the appointed time will come. It is like a man away on a journey, who upon leaving his house and putting his slaves in charge, assigning to each one his task, also commanded the doorkeeper to stay on the alert. Therefore, be on the alert-- for you do not know when the master of the house is coming, whether in the evening, at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or in the morning--…"
1 Thess 5 6-8 "...so then let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober. For those who sleep do their sleeping at night, and those who get drunk get drunk at night. But since we are of the day, let us be sober..."
The Night Watch
But there was a still earlier call for awareness. Before ever the Overseer knocked at the door and called the priests to their daily service, the Temple Guards were required to stand at their posts throughout the night, and watch. Falling asleep (as for the Christian) had dire consequences.
"By day and night it was the duty of the Levites to keep guard at the gates, to prevent, so far as possible, the unclean from entering. To them the duties of the Temple police watches were also entrusted, under the command of an official known to us in the New Testament as the ' captain of the Temple.' ... At night guards were placed in twenty-four stations about the gates and courts. Of these, twenty-one were occupied by Levites alone; the other innermost three jointly by priests and Levites. Each guard consisted of ten men; so that in all two hundred and forty Levites and thirty priests were on duty every night. [The Temple, Its Ministry & Service, Edersheim p147]
"Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments." These verses literally describe, as we learn from the Rabbis, the punishment awarded to the Temple-guards if found asleep at their posts; and the Rabbinical account of it is curiously confirmed by the somewhat naive confession of one of their number, that on a certain occasion his own maternal uncle had actually undergone the punishment of having his clothes set on fire by the captain of the Temple as he went his rounds at night [Ibid, Edersheim p143]
The theme continued long before dawn at Yom Kippur when, as before mentioned, the priests were called to service. Even then, they would not all minister but lots were utilised to choose who would do each task.
The Priests are Called
The Overseer who had the job of calling the priests to begin their daily tasks would knock unexpectedly at their door. This is described in terms almost identical to the bible's warning of the unexpected call of Jesus:
"The priest whose duty it was to superintend the arrangements might any moment knock at the door and demand entrance. He came suddenly and unexpectedly, no one knew when. The Rabbis use almost the very words in which Scripture describes the unexpected coming of the Master, when they say, 'Sometimes he came at the cock-crowing, sometimes a little earlier, sometimes a little later. He came and knocked, and they opened to him. Then said he unto them, All ye who have washed, come and cast lots.' For the customary bath required to have been taken before the super-intending priest came round, since it was a principle that none might go into the court to serve, although he were clean, unless he had bathed." [Ibid p149]
Following this there was a sequence of events, all of which took place before John joined the proceedings at the Sanctuary door. I speak with regard to the earthly Temple of course, and we do not know if there is any real significance to these events in a prophetic sense. However, listed they are:
- The First Lot is drawn in the Hall of Polished Stones, [or some say, the Priests' Quarters] to choose who will cleanse the altar and prepare the incense.
- The Overseer takes the keys to open the wicket gate, allowing the dawn patrol to circle the Temple buildings
- Two groups of priests circle the Temple with torches to check that all is well, and return to the sanctuary
- The First Lot priest enters unseen between the great altar and the sanctuary door in darkness. All that the priests hear is the sound of the water laver as he ritually washes his hands and feet. This sound is the signal for the other priests to spring into action.
- The other priests designated to do so wash themselves, rake the altar, and place the wood there in readiness for the new fires.
- The Second Lot takes place, where 13 more individual tasks are allocated including the preparation of incense and lamps inside the Holy of Holies.
- A priest immediately goes to check if the sun has risen, because the lamb cannot be slain before dawn; meanwhile the priests who are to prepare the incense and lamps in the Holy of Holies approach the Sanctuary door.
- Daybreak is announced, and the priest is told "go fetch a lamb" for slaughter.
- DAWN: The gatekeeper goes around to open the Sanctuary door. The first trumpet sounds! The noise of the door being opened has great significance because the people everywhere knew that the morning sacrifice was being made - the lamb was killed.
- Meanwhile the lamps were trimmed, ready for a new day, and the incense altar was cleansed.
The Scene When John Arrives
As you can see above, there has been a lot of activity throughout the night and early hours before dawn. During that time the Temple was prepared for a new day's services and the sacrifice of a lamb was made. All these preparations were part of the daily morning service, which had to be completed before the special Yom Kippur ceremonies began. The gate was not opened to any ordinary person during these events. John, as an ordinary worshipper, would not have witnessed any of this previous activity, but enters the Sanctuary as a privileged witness invited by the High Priest (Jesus).
He does so at the first blast of the trumpet that day, sounded as the great Sanctuary gate is opened. This trumpet - a threefold blast - should not be confused with the first trumpet of the sequence later on in Revelation. Listen to the shofar blowing in the link below -.
As we already established, on Yom Kippur the High Priest would make all the offerings and do all the tasks, with help from the other priests. Therefore, perhaps John joined proceedings as Jesus our High Priest "trimmed the lamps" of the churches, which takes place at the same time as the daily lamb is slain; we then see that Jesus is also the "lamb that is slain".
Historically and spiritually of course the Lamb of God HAS been slain - and this event will never take place again. But in terms of the order of the Feast Day, John begins his prophecy "after this" when the daily morning sacrifice has already taken place.
The Throne in Heaven
John enters the Heavenly Temple and immediately sees what no earthly priest or worshipper would ever see - the glorious Throne of God. Let's go on to find out what else he sees, and why.
If you are interested, intrigued, confused, or just want to give me some feedback, please e-mail me direct: Contact Page
© 2014 Tricia Tillin-Booth. All rights reserved. Birthpangs Website: http://www.birthpangs.org/ This document is the property of its author and is not to be displayed on other websites, redistributed, sold, reprinted, or reproduced in printed in any other format without permission. Websites may link to this article, if they provide proper title and author information. One copy may be downloaded, stored and/or printed for personal research. All spelling and phraseology is UK English.