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NO TEMPLE IN HEAVEN.
REV. xxi. 22. And I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it.
THIS book contains a prophecy of the state of the church, from the time in which it was communicated, to the consummation of all things. It includes the principal revolutions to which it was to be subject, and the assaults it was to sustain, during a series of ages, from the time of John to the end of the world. The chapter out of which my text is taken, is, with great probability, considered as a description of the heavenly world. In the chapter preceding, we have a striking description of the day of judgement. “And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.”* After this, a new heaven and a new earth are described, very similar to the language of Peter: "For we look for a new heaven, and a new earth, in which dwelleth righteousness." The perfection of the state represented here is such as
* Rev. xx. 11, 12.
can agree only with the heavenly world. God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.' Among the other privileges, access to the tree of life is specified, evidently denoting a state of immortality. "Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city."+
Considering this as a description of the heavenly state, we shall first endeavour to point out the meaning and import of this declaration, and next attempt some practical improvement.
I. Let us endeavour to point out the meaning and import of this declaration, "I saw no temple therein," &c.
1. It cannot be intended to insinuate that heaven will not be a state of devotion. It is in every part of the word of God, and in this book in particular, represented as a state of the highest and most exalted devotion. Devotion will then be carried to its highest perfection. The absence of the temple does not denote the absence of devotion as it is the noblest employment of creatures here, it is impossible to suppose it will be neglected in the heavenly world.
2. Nor is it intended to intimate, that there will not be most glorious and supernatural manifesta
* Rev. xxi. 4.
Rev. xxii. 14.
tions of God in that state. Having the glory of God is a most distinguishing part of its description. The peculiar presence of God is announced as one of its [especial] privileges.* "Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell amongst them." Contrasting the present with the future state, the apostle says, "Now we see through a glass darkly, but then face to face: then shall I see as I am seen, and know as I am known."
The import of this declaration may probably be expressed in the following particulars. There will be no place in the celestial world, distinguished by peculiar tokens of the divine presence above others.
(1.) A temple is a building set apart exclusively for the honour of God, where he was accustomed to manifest his presence by a visible symbol, in distinction from other places. The ancient temple was divided into three compartments. The court, at the door of which stood the brasen altar of burnt offering. To this the victims were brought, and the Israelitish people had access. The second was the court of the priests, at the farthest end of which stood, on one side, the golder altar of incense, and on the other, the table of the shew-bread. This it was the prerogative of the priests only to enter. It was styled, in distinction from the other, "the Holy Place." The third was the Sanctum Sanctorum, or "Holy of Holies," where was placed the mercy-seat, surrounded on each side by the cherubim, whose wings were stretched
Rev. xxi. iii.
out so as to cover it; and upon it the Supreme Being manifested himself in a visible glory, like a king sitting upon his throne. Hence he was invoked by the saints of old, as "he that sat between the cherubim." This, which was the inmost recess of the temple, was the chamber of audience, and the place of the oracle. And to this the highpriest only had access, once a year, upon the great day of atonement, which was the tenth of the seventh month. No other part of the Holy Land was ordinarily favoured with similar manifestations. As it was the peculiar distinction of the temple at Jerusalem, it conferred a [specific] sanctity on the place, whence it was styled the Holy City.
In heaven, the presence of God will not be restricted to a particular place: it will diffuse itself everywhere; in consequence of which the whole will become holy. There will be no part of it consecrated as a local temple, because the whole will be a temple. As it is said of the sun, that the city will have no need of it, because the Lord God will enlighten it, and the Lamb be the light thereof; so it will be with respect to [this] temple. The whole will be so illuminated with the glory of God, so adorned with the most impressive exhibitions of his august presence, that there will be no distinction possessed by any part above another. Every region of it will be equally replete with the glory of God, which is the [thing] chiefly meant by the latter clause of the text, "The Lord God Almighty and the Lamb will be the temple
thereof." The inhabitants will have no occasion to remove from one place to another, or to approach to a particular spot, in order to [behold] the glory of God; but, where they [are, they] will be alike sensible of his presence, and equally awed and transported by it. None will have occasion to adopt the language of the devout Psalmist, and say, "When shall I come and appear before God?" for they shall always appear before him alike; "they shall continually behold his face, and serve him day and night in his temple."
In the passage just now quoted, we find mention made of a temple; which is perfectly consistent with the declaration of the text, [in which] John declares he saw none. He is now describing heaven itself: in heaven he perceived no temple, no particular place assigned by way of distinction for the worship of God. In the former, he intends to represent heaven itself under the appellation of a temple.
(2.) A temple is distinguished by having certain services allotted to it, which it is unlawful to perform elsewhere. Thus, after the temple at Jerusalem was erected, it became criminal to perform certain rites of worship in any other place. The burning of incense, and the offering of sacrifice, were limited and restrained to that spot.* "Take heed to thyself that thou offerest not thy burnt offerings in every place that thou seest; but in the place which the Lord shall choose in one of thy tribes, there shalt thou offer thy burnt offerings, * Deut. xvi. 5; xv. 20; xii. 13.