A Heavenly Temple of Worship for All Mankind
MANY are the temples throughout the earth that the peoples of the nations and various religions view as the dwelling place of their gods or the place where they can approach their God and have communion with him to receive his favor. They are usually very ornate and costly, placing a heavy financial burden on the people who support them. They are filled with statues of gold and ornamented with precious jewels. Some are covered with gold. Many of these temples have been found to be inadequate for supplying the spiritual needs of the people, failing to bring them to the true God, and have, therefore, fallen into decay or have been destroyed.
At the present time millions of people gather to temples for worship, many of them in Christendom, where their churches and religious buildings are called temples of God. Are these temples supplying the spiritual needs of the people and bringing them to the true God? Sad to say, they are not. Instead of bringing peace and unity they have brought division. Even now there are serious internal upheavals in the religious organizations. And some of the most bitter wars that have been fought have been so-called “holy wars.” All the world’s religions have been dominated by the nationalism of their respective countries and therefore have not brought the people together in communion with the one true God of the universe.
The temple at Jerusalem was a magnificent one indeed. Nevertheless, unlike the temples of worldly religions, its construction and its priesthood were not supported at a great burden of cost to the people. God gave the entire Promised Land to the twelve tribes of Israel. The temple tribe, Levi, would have had its own share. But God selected Levi for priestly and ministerial service. The Levite family of Aaron worked hard at the temple sacrificial work and in teaching God’s law. They were, therefore, freed from taking care of an allotment of land and instead subsisted on the tithe brought by the other tribes. The remaining tribes, in effect, were merely supplying to God’s priesthood and his temple that which the Levites normally would have owned, had they not been used by God for this special service.
As long as Israel’s priesthood and its kings were faithful the temple served to bring Israel into communication with Jehovah God, and great prosperity and blessing were the result. But when apostate religion set in, the nation went into decay and finally Jehovah allowed the temple to be destroyed by Israel’s enemies.
In Israel there were not hundreds of temples dotting the land. The one temple was set on Mount Moriah. After Israel’s return from exile in Babylon people met in their various cities in synagogues, but these meeting places were not temples. They were merely places for instruction and learning in the law of God. Only at Jerusalem was the temple with its sanctuary where the people could approach God through the priesthood that was established there. At least three times a year all males were required to come up to Jerusalem to the temple, and many made the trip much more frequently.
ONE TEMPLE FOR ALL
Now, God has said that he would establish one temple for all mankind. One temple, with the one right worship of the one true God, would certainly be a strong force for unity among mankind. But would such a thing be practical? How could all mankind go regularly up to one location? Jehovah God the Creator of the universe is already in the process of completing such a temple. He gave John a vision of it in its fully constructed state. The time is very near when it will be open for all mankind to come and for all to receive through it the full blessings of God.
It was one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls containing the seven last plagues of God’s anger who had shown the apostle John the judgment of the “great harlot,” Babylon the Great, the bitter enemy of the bride of Christ. (Rev. 17:1-6) It was quite appropriate, then, that an angel of the same group should show to John who the bride of Christ is, the bride who remains a virgin for Christ and who escapes Babylon’s plagues. John writes:
“And there came one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls which were full of the seven last plagues, and he spoke with me and said: ‘Come here, I will show you the bride, the Lamb’s wife.’ So he carried me away in the power of the spirit to a great and lofty mountain, and he showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God and having the glory of God. Its radiance was like a most precious stone, as a jasper stone shining crystal-clear.”—Rev. 21:9-11.
NO LITERAL BUILDING
We notice here that when the spiritual temple class is mentioned, it is called Jerusalem. The ancient temple was built on Mount Moriah in Jerusalem. In this vision we find that the apostle John saw, not a temple building, but the “holy city Jerusalem.” Since the Christian congregation is the temple of God and the bride of Christ, New Jerusalem, being the bride, is identified also as God’s temple. (1 Cor. 6:19; 1 Pet. 2:5; Rev. 21:2) It is a symbolic temple, which is neither a literal building nor a literal city, but of which Jesus Christ is the Foundation Cornerstone. It is a heavenly organization, coming down, that is, extending its benign influence toward humankind. This reveals how it is possible for all mankind to approach God’s true temple, for it is not located on one earthly spot, but it is in heaven, and is therefore approachable by all and can give attention to all.
John goes on to describe the city: “It had a great and lofty wall and had twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and names were inscribed which are those of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel. On the east were three gates, and on the north three gates, and on the south three gates, and on the west three gates. The wall of the city also had twelve foundation stones, and on them the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.”—Rev. 21:12-14.
The fact that the twelve gates had inscribed on them the names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel helps us to see what constitutes this symbolic city. It makes understandable that it represents spiritual Israel, composed of 144,000 members, as described in Revelation 7:4-8.
Twelve angels are seen guarding the city gates. This is a comforting thing for us, for it gives us assurance that no one will get into the city who is not righteous and who therefore does not belong there. No one who desires to carry on a false religion or who is likely to defile this temple and corrupt its worship as did the priests of ancient Jerusalem can get admission there.
THE TEMPLE’S FOUNDATIONS
The city’s wall had on each of its twelve foundation stones the name of one of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. Now, if John had envisioned the Christian congregation when it was first established on the day of Pentecost of 33 C.E., one of these names would have been Matthias. But John’s vision is of the completed, glorified congregation of God in the heavens at the beginning of Christ’s thousand-year reign. Therefore, not the name Matthias, but the name Paul, might be there, inasmuch as he was directly chosen to be one of the apostles by Jesus Christ himself, as were the other eleven. (Acts 1:15-26; 9:15; Gal. 1:1) Of course, the name of Judas Iscariot would not be included. Such a person could have no part in this symbolic city because he loved dishonest gain and was therefore a self-idolater, dying in the “second death,” as the “son of destruction.”—John 17:12; Acts 1:16-20; 1 Pet. 5:2.
Accordingly, the names on the foundation stones would be: (1) Simon Peter, (2) Andrew, (3) James, (4) John, (5) Philip, (6) Bartholomew (Nathanael), (7) Thomas, (8) Matthew, (9) James of Alphaeus, (10) Thaddaeus (Judas son of James), (11) Simon the Cananaean, and (12) Paul.—Matt. 10:1-4; Luke 6:12-16; John 1:45-49; Mark 3:16-19.
In the ancient temple of Jerusalem the Most Holy compartment was a perfect cube. (1 Ki. 6:20) This signified the perfection and foursquareness of Jehovah’s heavenly temple, which is shown to be a perfect cube of tremendous size. It extends into the third dimension, exceeding the foursquareness of ancient Babylon, which also was a sacred city and, according to the historian Herodotus, was built as a square on both sides of the Euphrates River. It is far greater than the Assyrian capital Nineveh, which was reported by Diodorus Siculus as being built foursquare. The measurements of the heavenly Jerusalem were given to John:
“Now the one who was speaking with me was holding as a measure a golden reed, that he might measure the city and its large gates and its wall. And the city lies foursquare, and its length is as great as its breadth. And he measured the city with the reed, twelve thousand furlongs; its length and breadth and height are equal. Also, he measured its wall, one hundred and forty-four cubits, according to a man’s measure, at the same time an angel’s. Now the structure of its wall was jasper, and the city was pure gold like clear glass. The foundations of the city’s wall were adorned with every sort of precious stone: the first foundation was jasper, the second sapphire, the third chalcedony, the fourth emerald, the fifth sardonyx, the sixth sardius, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh hyacinth, the twelfth amethyst. Also, the twelve gates were twelve pearls; each one of the gates was made of one pearl. And the broad way of the city was pure gold, as transparent glass.”—Rev. 21:15-21.
While it is not said how long the reed in the hand of the angel was, the unit of measurement is understandable, for the Bible says it is “according to a man’s measure” so that the city’s dimensions are expressed in our known human terms. Apparently the angel measured around the city, the perimeter being twelve thousand furlongs or 1,500 miles, making each side of the city 375 miles long—its height being the same, 375 miles. In John’s day only an angel could have measured anything so high. Sitting on the earth, the top of the city would reach into what is now called “outer space.”
The wall of the city was 144 cubits or 216 feet in height. This made the city itself more than 9,000 times as high as the walls and it must have been an awe-inspiring vision for the apostle to behold, symbolizing the greatness of the New Jerusalem and making other cities with their temples look flat by comparison.
This heavenly city far surpasses in beauty and riches anything known on earth—a city of such size built of metals and precious stones, everything in it being precious. The spiritual things it symbolizes are much more valuable. This should illustrate to us that the city is most precious to God and should be so to all of God’s faithful people at the time that it comes from God out of heaven, that is, out of God’s new heaven of his new order. Just as the bride of Christ is said to be lovely, pure and chaste, so the purity of this city is pictured as extreme cleanness, the righteousness of it being represented by pure gold, like clear glass.
A PALACE OF GOD
It is interesting that in the Bible the Hebrew word most often translated “temple” also means “palace.” This temple of God being sanctified for him to dwell in is therefore the habitation for the great King of the universe and is his heavenly palace. John says:
“And I did not see a temple in it, for Jehovah God the Almighty is its temple, also the Lamb is. And the city has no need of the sun nor of the moon to shine upon it, for the glory of God lighted it up, and its lamp was the Lamb.”—Rev. 21:22, 23.
Since the symbolic city is in itself a temple and a palace, the abode of the God and King of the universe, it is obvious that there would not be any temple sanctuary in it. Men are accustomed to go to a temple building to worship God. But the 144,000 inhabitants of this city do not need to go up to some temple to approach Jehovah God the Almighty, for he dwells right there by spirit. They can approach God directly. In that sense he is like the temple. It is not necessary for the inhabitants of this city to approach him through some building, with something inside of it to represent him. For related reasons the Lamb Jesus Christ is also the city’s temple. The temple at Jerusalem was served by a high priest. Jesus Christ is Jehovah’s High Priest. He is also known as the Husband of this symbolic temple-city. He is the Foundation, the Cornerstone of the spiritual temple and, since the temple endures through the millennium, he will always be there as its High Priest, directing the worship of the peoples according to Jehovah’s will and instructing them in God’s way, according to the duties of a priest.—Eph. 2:19-22; Rev. 20:4-6.
In the ancient tabernacle and temple at Jerusalem there were oil-burning lamps in the Holy compartment, but Jehovah’s Shekinah light was miraculously there in the Most Holy to provide light. An earthly city needs light by means of the sun in the daytime and either the moon or some artificial light at night. But the New Jerusalem is a heavenly city. Its light being Jehovah God himself and its lamp being the Lamb, there is never any need for such luminaries, not even the sun or moon.
LIGHT FOR THE NATIONS
The nations on earth, however, do need the sun and moon and they also need the spiritual enlightenment of heavenly Jerusalem. Revelation’s description continues: “And the nations will walk by means of its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it. And its large gates will not be closed at all by day, for night will not exist there. And they will bring the glory and the honor of the nations into it.”—Rev. 21:24-26.
Those on earth will be guided by this heavenly city. The Bible will be completely clarified for them, also the scrolls to be written, which will include God’s righteous and enlightening rules, laws and instructions, will be made so plain that none will violate these through ignorance. The spiritual temple will indeed serve in its intended function and will bring mankind all into full relationship with God so that they can walk on the way that leads to everlasting life without stumbling. This temple made up of the Seed of Abraham will truly carry out the blessing of all the families and nations of the earth.—Gen. 12:3; 22:18.
Who are the kings of the earth who will bring their glory into this heavenly city, New Jerusalem? Certainly they are not the kings of the political nations. The preceding chapters of Revelation have shown that, by the time Jehovah’s city has presented itself to mankind, the kings of the earth will have been killed off in the battle of Har–Magedon. Since the days of the kings of Judah, the only kings ever appointed to office by Jehovah God are Jesus Christ and his 144,000 world conquerors, who will rule as heavenly kings with him for the thousand years. (Rev. 5:8-10) These while on earth give full devotion to Jehovah God and give their lives and integrity to God in support of his universal sovereignty. They are not kings when on earth. They are tried and proved here. In their kingly and priestly position in heaven they will be zealous to bring all their God-given glory into the holy city, New Jerusalem, to magnify the royal organization to God’s praise and to the support of his universal sovereignty. (1 Cor. 15:24-28) Under the rule of such a godly government, Jehovah’s purposes will be fully carried out to bring perfection on a paradise earth, to mankind’s everlasting benefit.
RESULTS TO MANKIND
The response from the people will be that the glory and the honor of the nations of earth will be brought into that heavenly city. As they forget their past national and religious differences, the practice of the true worship of Jehovah and allegiance to his heavenly government will bring their heartfelt praise and gratitude to God and true love and real peace among men.
Today Christians are in only a relative subjection to the “superior authorities,” the political governments of this world, because their primary subjection must be to God. But then there will be total subjection to God’s Messianic government, for the temple as the center of worship will also be the palace of the King of the universe. It will be with delight that the nations will subject themselves to its sovereignty. As they recognize to a fuller and fuller extent its glories, the glories of the present national political governments will gradually fade away from human memory. Full trust and confidence will everlastingly be placed in God’s Messianic government by the peoples of earth. No politics, false religion or any trace of corruptness will ever enter into God’s sanctuary, the sacred city: “But anything not sacred and anyone that carries on a disgusting thing and a lie will in no way enter into it; only those written in the Lamb’s scroll of life will.” (Rev. 21:27) This city’s inhabitants, the kings over the “new earth,” will be worthy of fullest confidence.
If we are to worship the true God at his temple and be among the nations that walk in the light of the New Jerusalem, we must take an interest now in the same Book that tells us of the operation of God’s heavenly temple. We there find clear-cut instructions that will enable us to be among the first ones of the nations that will walk in the light of the holy city. It will enable us to survive the destruction that comes upon the false religions and political systems of this world and to drink of the life-giving waters that will flow forth from the temple. Even now Jehovah through his Messiah has taken power to rule as King. He has almost completed the building of the temple. The psalmist uses ancient Mount Zion in a beautiful description, along with instructions for us, when he says:
“Jehovah is great and much to be praised in the city of our God, in his holy mountain. Pretty for loftiness, the exultation of the whole earth, is Mount Zion on the remote sides of the north, the town of the grand King. In her dwelling towers God himself has become known as a secure height. March around Zion, you people, and go about it, count its towers. Set your hearts upon its rampart, inspect its dwelling towers, in order that you may recount it to the future generation. For this God is our God to time indefinite, even forever. He himself will guide us until we die.”—Ps. 48:1-3, 12-14.
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The Apostle John’s Vision of New Jerusalem