Revelation 21-22

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Revelation 21-22 is John’s climactic vision of the new Jerusalem and new earth. Not unexpectedly, there are deep Old Testament roots underlying his vision. But it is often a surprise to note that John specifically informs us that his end of days vision about the new, forever presence of God on earth does not include a new temple (Rev 21:22). What do we make of this absence give the Old Testament expectation of a new temple after the exile of Israel has been completed? This episode focuses on the broad Old Testament context of Rev 21-22 by examining Israelite “temple consciousness” before and during the exile. How did Israelites think about the concept of “temple”? How does that help us see what John is trying to communicate?

No Temple

Well, there’s just a ton of stuff in these last two chapters by way of the Old Testament, which of course… If I have to remind you of what we’re doing thematically here at this point when we’re at the end of the book, well, that’s pitiful in a way. But I’m going to do it anyway. Our thing is the use of the Old Testament in the book of Revelation. And there’s so much in these two chapters that we are going to split… We’re going to combine the chapters but split it into two parts.
Today, I’m going to more or less just take a general look at how the Old Testament sort of sets the table for these last two chapters. What I mean by that is, there would be some that you either look at the chapters and you think, “Boy, this is kind of weird stuff. Like in the new Jerusalem, there’s no temple. Like, what happened to the temple? Because there’s all this emphasis on building a third temple.” And as I’ve told people before who are of the persuasion to expect that if a new temple got built in Jerusalem it’s a fulfillment of biblical prophecy, I personally don't think that. But if you have someone who does, well then what happens to that temple? Because the temple gets rebuilt, there’s Armageddon, and now all of a sudden in the new city, there is no temple. I mean, Revelation 21:22 says that point-blank. There’s no temple.
So this is one of the reasons why so many scholars have opted for a symbolic interpretation. And there would be a lot of people in the audience who sort of think that that’s cheating, and they don’t like the idea of not looking forward to a third temple. And by the way, just because it’s not a fulfillment of prophecy in my view doesn’t mean it couldn’t happen. I mean, it very well could for political reasons or religious reasons, whatever, in the Jewish community over there. But
I think it’s a mistake to view that as a fulfillment of any particular prophecy. But it still could happen for other reasons. So I’m not opposed to it. But a lot of people who run into other believers that are not looking for this tend to think, “Well, you just want to spiritualize Revelation. You want to make it go away. You must be an amillennialist,” or whatever—those sorts of things. Well, actually, what I want to do is show how, in the Old Testament… You know, that’s the three quarters (and really the 90% if we include the New Testament other than the book of Revelation)… Ninety percent of your Bible does not point to a literal temple at the end. And the Old Testament does not either.

What do Prophet’s Say

So what we’re going to do today is we’re going to go through the Prophets in sort of broad strokes and how the Prophets will take an Old Testament/new temple expectation… Because that’s certainly true. If you were an Israelite, especially if you’re living in the days leading up to (and, of course, after) the destruction of the Jerusalem temple, you are thinking that “God is not going to abandon us, and we’re going to have our temple back. It’s going to be rebuilt.” You are certainly thinking that. But at the same time that the Old Testament lays that out there, it will conflate the idea of a new temple with (believe it or not) a new Jerusalem and a new earth. It does exactly what Revelation 21-22 does. So if you’re going to accuse the book of Revelation (or someone interpreting the book of Revelation) of being anti-literal or spiritualizing the temple stuff, well, I’m sorry, you’ve got to do the same thing to your Old Testament.
And we’re going to look in broad strokes at how the Prophets do this—how they combine these ideas—so that when we get to Revelation 21-22, it’s stuff we’ve already seen before. Jewish readers would’ve been expecting this as well. It wouldn’t have come as a shock. “What happened to that third temple we all wanted?” You know, if you had people who knew the Scriptures, they would say, “Well, you know, there’s this passage in Ezekiel or Isaiah or Jeremiah or Zechariah (all of them, frankly, do it) where we have this hope for a new temple cast in terms of a new city and a new creation.” And lo and behold, that’s what we get in the end, in the book of Revelation.
So I want to go through that material. And then next time, Part 2, we’ll be going through chapters 21-22 with an eye toward very specific items, kind of after the pattern that we’ve been wont to do up to this point. But we’ll look at very specific items and their Old Testament connections.
So as we proceed, I think it’s going to be helpful in grasping the larger idea of “temple”—what’s… I mean, everybody knew what a temple was. It’s a place you go to worship. You bring sacrifice. So on and so forth. But there’s a larger concept in Old Testament theology of “temple.” It’s not just a place where you bring sacrifices. It means more than that. And I’m going to refer here to a dissertation that has since been published. And you can get it. It’s not frightfully expensive. But if you have access to the ProQuest dissertation database, you can get this for free in pdf (I think even online if you google the name and the title, the University of St. Andrews might have an archive of their own for this dissertation, that you could get it for free). But the author’s name is Pilchan Lee. So Pilchan Lee. And it’s entitled “The New Jerusalem in the Book of Revelation: A Study of Revelation 21-22 in Light of its Background in Jewish Tradition.” And this is a 1999 dissertation done by Dr. Lee at the University of St. Andrews, over in the UK.
So I want to sort of track through a few specific points that he spends lots and lots of time—devotes a lot of word count and space to each one of these. But he looks at Ezekiel. Really the whole book gives us what I would call “temple consciousness”—the concept of a temple. Again, it’s more than just a building or a place that you brought sacrifice. And then Isaiah 65-66 are really important. Jeremiah 30-31 are really important. And then Zechariah, the whole book, but I’ll just pluck out a few chapters where the concept of a temple… what it means. What would an Israelite have thought of if you were playing some kind of word game or Pictionary or whatever? I mean, there are lots of images—lots of thoughts and concepts—that are wrapped up and tied to, and that accrue to, the word “temple.” Again, it’s more than a building.

Some Highlights

So we’re not going to, obviously, be able to devote the kind of space that Lee does in his dissertation. But we’re just going to track through here and give you some examples of what we’re thinking about, and I think you’ll see pretty quickly how this sets up Revelation 21-22.
So if we look at Ezekiel… Let’s just start with Ezekiel. The book opens (as we know because we are doing a whole series on Ezekiel) with the throne of God descending to the earth. This is Ezekiel’s weird “wheels” vision. And we know it’s the throne of God because that’s what the account tells us, that there’s a divine man (God in human form) seated on a throne. The throne has wheels. There’s a throne platform. I mean, it’s very clear this is the throne of God descending to earth. And it’s a vision of global sovereignty by virtue of the four faces of the cherubim. We’ve talked about this in Revelation 4-5 in our episodes there and also, of course, our own episodes in Ezekiel in chapter 1 back in the Ezekiel series. The four faces of the cherubim are the cardinal points of the Babylon zodiac. That is not a mistake. It’s deliberate. It’s intentional. Ezekiel is using imagery that would be familiar not only to the captives in Babylon but to Babylonians as well. If we have a vision here of the four cardinal faces of the cherubim (points of the zodiac), then the messaging is obvious: God rules from his temple, and his temple is descending. The messaging is that he is still in control, even though he has allowed his people to be sent into exile for their idolatry. That doesn’t mean he is beaten. It doesn’t mean his program is beaten. God’s program is not going to be thwarted even by the disobedience of his own people. He is still in control. So the fact that his throne is portrayed in this manner (where you have the four corners of the earth accounted for) means that the scope of his rule is the whole earth and all the nations—not just Israel, but all the nations. The heavenly temple is the focus because the earthly temple is about to be destroyed. We learn that in the book of Ezekiel. So when the captives hear this news, the intention is for them to remember God is still on the throne. We saw this as Ezekiel began his ministry in this vision that he related to us via his preaching.
When you get to Ezekiel 2, we have the glory departing. Of course, it departs in stages, and that runs through a number of chapters after chapter 2 and beyond. And I want to read a little bit of what Lee says in his dissertation on page 3. He writes:
Following the description of the heavenly things [ the cherubim specifically and the throne], accusations about the rebelliousness of the people of Israel and predictions of judgment against the rebelliousness are narrated in [Ezekiel] chs. 28. This serves to justify God's action of the withdrawal of His glory from
Jerusalem/Temple [ the temple and Jerusalem itself] in chs. 9-11. The process of the withdrawal is gradually carried out through three steps. The first step of the withdrawal of the glory occurs in [chapter] 9:3. This text shows that when the glory of God moved from the cherub in the Temple to the threshold of the Temple, God executed his judgment against the rebellious people through the agent who is called 'the man in linen'. God also protected the godly people by placing a mark on the foreheads of those who were sighing and groaning over all the abominations that were committed (9:4).
We’ve had this imagery directly from Ezekiel 9 in the book of Revelation, with the mark put upon the 144,000. This is drawn directly from the same chapter here in Ezekiel. Back to Lee:
This immediate action of 'the man in linen' [ putting the mark on the foreheads of the godly] indicates that the removal of God's glory from the Temple necessitated the judgment against Israel [ everyone who doesn’t have the mark is going to be judged, and this is outlined in Ezekiel] (cf. 10:2-9)... In 10:1819 the process of the removal is once again advanced. In particular, the phrase, 'the cherubim rose up from earth' in 10:19 clearly represents the departure of the glory of God from the earthly Temple. At last, the cherubim stopped at the entrance of the east gate of the house and the glory of the God of Israel was
there also. 11:22-23 demonstrates the final stage of the process of removal. The foregoing text shows that the glory of God is not completely removed from the city of Jerusalem but only from the earthly Jerusalem Temple. The glory remains on the mountain east of the city. This position leaves open the possibility of restoration as well as judgment against the rebellious people. These twin aspects establish a pattern for the following chapters until the full detail of the restoration is given in chs. 36-48 [ that’s the big temple description in the book]... In 11:17-20, the promises of restoration are provided as follows [ now listen to the list that you actually get in Ezekiel 11 about the restoration of God’s presence in the city and of course at this point in the temple—the temple expectation]: 1) returning/gathering from exile to the land of Israel (11:17); 2) removal of the detestable heart and endowment of a new heart and a new spirit within them (11:18-20a) [ that’s the new covenant]; 3) renewal of the [ old] covenant (11:20b). Therefore [ to conclude from those three things], God being the Temple for Israel in the exile promotes a sense of expectation for restoration.
Now what does Lee mean by that? If you look at those things, you have a return of the Israelites (the Judeans) to the land of Israel. We have a new covenant—a new heart—given to those people and a new spirit within them. And then we have a renewal of the relationship between God and his people, just the covenantal relationship that we would expect to be there since the times of Abraham and Moses. All three of those things happen in the New Testament. They precede the second coming. We have in Pentecost the fulfillment of this regathering. We have the Spirit coming. The new covenant is fulfilled at Pentecost. The family of God is essentially reborn, and now it’s renewed. Yes, there’s a covenantal idea that has always existed, all the way back to Abraham and Moses. But this new covenant is going to include new people (the Gentiles).
So we’ve had all these things and they’re easy to detect in the New Testament, but they’re all precursors to this idea of getting this new temple—getting the very presence of God back on earth and a new city. Because the city was destroyed, too, by the Babylonians. It’s not just the temple; it’s all of Jerusalem. So the expectation is to have a new Jerusalem that’s as good or better than the old and a new temple. And all these things in the prophecy of Ezekiel preceded that.
Now Lee goes on to outline a series of events in his dissertation. He goes through Ezekiel 12-35. And he goes through a whole series of these. Again, this is the part where we just can’t reproduce this in a podcast. There’s a dozen of them that demonstrate the opportunity for and expectation of restoration of the people of God and a new city, a new temple, all this.
Now the first of those is “the establishment of an everlasting covenant by the remembrance and the renewal of God's covenant with Israel in the past.” We get some of that in Ezekiel 16. Then there’s “the gathering of the people” that he refers to in chapter 11. It gets referred to again in Ezekiel 20. The third example: there’s a prophecy of a “peaceful, safe, and bountiful life upon their return to Jerusalem from exile.” The returning captives have safety in life; they build houses; they plant vineyards. This is Ezekiel 28:25-26. The fourth is a prophesied new creation itself cast in Edenic terms. And here I’m going to quote from Lee’s summary. He says… Especially this third and fourth illustration of the events of Ezekiel 12-35. He summarizes this way. We read about the…
…banishment of wild animals from the land; sending of seasoning showers as God's blessing; the trees' yielding fruits and the productiveness of the land; acknowledgment of God; no more plunder for the nations; no more animals of the land to devour them; life in safety; provision of splendid vegetation with no more hunger in the land; an end to suffering from the insults of the nations; Israel belonging to God as His sheep in His pasture.
And that really derives from Ezekiel 34:25-30. It sounds a lot like Eden, doesn’t it? It’s supposed to. Because this, ultimately, is where everything is headed back toward.
So we have prophecies of the new covenant, national resurrection, national restoration, an Edenic set of circumstances in the land. This is Ezekiel 12-35. And when you hit Ezekiel 36, then the national resurrection idea gets really ramped up. Ezekiel 37 is the dry bones. I mean, all these chapters we’ve done episodes on, and specifically Episodes 150-157, 341-342, and then 391-392, to loop in Ezekiel 38-39.
Now for our purposes here today, there are several points to be made from all of this as it pertains to the book of Ezekiel, what Lee is trying to embed in our consciousness about how Israelites (especially those coming out of exile or expecting to come out of exile) would have thought about temple.
(1) First there’s a restoration of a new Jerusalem with a temple. That was certainly expected by Israelites. So they anticipate getting back what was lost.
(2) This new Jerusalem, strangely enough, gets cast in restored Edenic terms. So rather than specifically talking about a building or any one element of a city, the whole land is in view. And again, you get this Edenic description about “no more hunger; no more disease, and there’s always enough to eat, always enough rain. Even the animals that would kill us aren’t going to kill us anymore. There’s no nations around us to threaten us.” You know? If they rebuilt a temple today in Jerusalem, there are plenty of nations around them that would still want to threaten Israel. In fact, the circumstances of a third temple would make it worse. Okay? So it doesn’t really conform to what Ezekiel is talking about here. The end (the new city, the new Jerusalem, and the new Eden—the new earth)… It certainly fits the description. But all the way back in the Old Testament you get this Edenic feel for what’s going on.
(3) Since the new temple/new Jerusalem was essentially recast as a new Edenic earth in the Old Testament, this sets the stage for Revelation 21, which opens precisely that way. It describes a city (the new Jerusalem) as the heart of a new creation, and that city actually lacks a temple. I’m going to read Revelation 21, the first three verses, and then I’m going to skip to verse 22. So if we actually look at what Revelation 21 says…
Revelation 21:1-3 (ESV)
Revelation 21:1–3 ESV
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.
And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb.
Okay, this is right after what? It’s right after the second coming. It’s right after chaos has been dealt with in the lake of fire. We talked about these things in two installments with Revelation 19. It’s after all these things (the demise of antichrist and whatnot).
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.
That’s probably my favorite verse in the New Testament. Sea is a chaos image. There’s no more chaos.
2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man.
Now let me just stop there. He’s not describing a new temple. He’s describing a new city (Jerusalem).
3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
And you go down to verse 22 and John is very clear. He describes the city with the streets of gold like clear glass and all these different gemstones—the imagery of the city and its splendor, the spectacular nature of it. And then he hits verse 22 and says:
22 And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb.
That’s the temple—God himself and, of course, the Lamb, who is the risen Christ. There’s no building there. It’s them. Okay?
So I think it’s important to just hear how Revelation 21 starts out, that there is no temple. And we would think it’s odd. “Why are you fixated on describing this city, John? What’s all this new earth, Edenic stuff going on? What about the new temple?” “The temple is God. The temple is the returned Christ.” I hate to use this language, but it looks like John spiritualizes the temple. [laughs] You know? And according to some, that’s what he’s doing, because he’s not talking about building a structure. He’s not talking about a structure at all. He’s talking about the body of Christ. Christ himself is the temple. Okay? God and Christ are the temple.
So right away, it takes you into this mode, and this is the point of our episode today: that’s not at odds with the Old Testament. It’s actually in concert with it. Because the Old Testament will take expectations of a new temple and it will conflate them with a vision of a new city and a new earth. That’s exactly what Revelation 21-22 does.
Now if you recall our earlier podcasts on Revelation 19 (when we did two parts), in Revelation 16-19 you have this cycle of the end of chaos, the return of Jesus, the consummation of the new earth. We’ve spent a lot of time going over that ground. Did you notice, none of it involved building a new structure in Jerusalem? None of it involved building a temple, either before or after those events. And now that we’re after (Revelation 21-22), it still doesn’t. Recall, as well, that New Testament temple talk… When I say “temple talk” I mean how the New Testament uses “temple” to talk not about a building, but about something else, namely the body of Christ. And this begins in John 2, who incidentally, written by John… This is the John that most scholars would argue is the same author as the book of Revelation. So John (if that’s the case, and you can certainly build a really good case for that), when John thinks “temple,” yes he knows about the literal temple. He’s a Jew. He grew up in Jerusalem. He knows all that. But his concept of temple is so much bigger. And in John 2, this is the passage where Jesus gets in trouble with the Pharisees when he says, “Destroy this temple and in three days it’ll be restored.” And the Pharisees are like, “What’s this dude talking about? It took over 40 years to build this thing, and he’s talking about he can rebuild it in three days?” And John tells us he wasn’t speaking about the literal temple; he was speaking about his body. The body of Christ is the temple in John 2.
Again, this is an Old Testament thought. It’s not just something John’s making up because he needs to finish the second chapter and doesn’t know how. And Peter and Paul follow John in this thinking in their own descriptions of believers (the body of Christ). Believers are the body of Christ. They are the temple of God (1 Corinthians 3, 1 Corinthians 6, 2 Corinthians 6). You have the description in Peter about believers being living stones and Christ the cornerstone. You know, this language is deliberate. It’s about the returned Christ. It’s about the body of Christ, we who are him. He gets the promises of messianic rule in the new earth, and guess what? So do we. He hands them to us. He shares them because we are his body. “To him that overcomes, I will set him over the nations. He will sit with me on my throne to rule.” So Revelation 21-22 does not come out of the blue. Its elements, the way it understands temple, is not lacking precedent. The precedent is the Old Testament, and if we want to loop the New Testament in there, too (other parts of it.)
Now let’s go to Isaiah 65-66. You get more of this from Isaiah. So that was Ezekiel, how this temple talk is leading to something much bigger. And if you’re wondering about the temple vision in Ezekiel 40-48, again, we did a whole series on Ezekiel. I recommend listening to the last two episodes of the book. Ezekiel
40-48 we devoted two episodes to that. The first one we said, “If this is a literal temple, how do we read this? And are there any problems?” And yeah, there are. And then the second part is, “Well, is there any indication this might not be best understood literally?” And there’s some crazy stuff. And if you’re not used to thinking in this mode, it’s some amazing stuff from both the Old Testament and the New Testament that should influence our temple thinking. But let’s go to Isaiah 65-66, and Lee on page 12 writes this:
The Book of Isaiah is full of the restorational messages. They are largely but conclusively confined to chs. 40-66. Among chs. 40-66, [Isaiah] 65:16-25 is the most systematized passage about the restoration of the New Jerusalem. In this respect, this study [ his own study and of course his book, if you choose to buy it] aims first to provide a thorough exegesis of that passage.
So he spends a lot of time on Isaiah 65 and on into Isaiah 66. And that alone is worth the price of the book. Because this passage is so key. He says:
Moreover, motifs in 65:16-25 appear to be similar to those in 66:1-24.
And if you look at that, Lee says, if you look at the similarities between what is said in chapter 65 to what’s in chapter 66, you’ll see that the latter (Isaiah 66) complements—dovetails, supplements—chapter 65.
Isa. 65: 16-25 is divided into two parts [ and here they are]: the New Creation and the New Jerusalem (vss. 16-18) and Life in the New Jerusalem/the New Creation (vss. 19-25).
So that’s interesting is that when Isaiah begins to allude to getting the temple back, he talks about that idea in connection with the new creation and the new Jerusalem, just like Revelation 21-22 does. I hope what’s ringing around in your head is, “Well, isn’t it logical to assume that John, when he wrote Revelation 21-22 used and repurposed Ezekiel and Isaiah 65-66 to say what he wanted to say?” And the answer to that is, “Of course. Sure.” That’s exactly what I’m trying to get you to see. The descriptions there are not random. They come out of the Old Testament. It’s not just sort of wishful thinking on the part of an amillennialist or something like that. This is Old Testament. A lot of us typically neglect this stuff, but it’s there. Now let’s look at Isaiah 65. And I’m going to read verses 16-18 to you. It’s already going to sound like Revelation 21 because I just read the first few verses in Revelation 21. But here we go with Isaiah 65:16-18:
Isaiah 65:16–18 ESV
so that he who blesses himself in the land shall bless himself by the God of truth, and he who takes an oath in the land shall swear by the God of truth; because the former troubles are forgotten and are hidden from my eyes. “For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind. But be glad and rejoice forever in that which I create; for behold, I create Jerusalem to be a joy, and her people to be a gladness.
In fact, it is Isaiah 65:17that John quotes in Revelation 21 about former things not being remembered or coming to mind. He quotes this verse.
Now if you look at the two verses here (verses 16-17), they parallel each other. And Lee writes:
Both 16 and 17 emphasize the removal from the memory of 'the former troubles…
Remember verse 16: “’The former troubles are forgotten; they are hidden from my eyes,’ says the Lord.” And verse 17 says the same thing: “The former things shall not be remembered or come to mind.” Now in Isaiah’s context, this is the Babylonian exile. This is the terrible thing that’s going to happen to the people of
God. They’re going to be judged, forsaken by God (not forever, because there is
restoration planned). But this is their punishment for idolatry. They’re going to go into exile in Babylon, into the domain of chaos, right into the heart of the lion—the heart of chaos. Now Lee comments and he says the structure of the two verses…
…shows that the New Creation in [ verse] 17 [ remember Isaiah said, “for behold I create a new heavens and a new earth”] and the New Jerusalem in 18 [ “for behold, I create Jerusalem to be a joy”] are given as the compensation for the past shameful history, namely the Babylonian exile…
In other words, the solution to the exile is not building a third temple—a literal temple. The solution to the exile, ultimately, is a new city and a new earth.
The New Creation and the New Jerusalem are so powerfully introduced to the Israelites that they may be able to erase the period of the Babylonian exile. Moreover, 18 illustrates God's creative work spoken of the New Jerusalem in 18d as well as the New Creation in 17. In this case, the summons to joyfulness in 18
stresses the greatness of the New Jerusalem by its insertion just before the reference to the New Jerusalem [ in the actual passage].
Now Lee goes on in his dissertation. He goes on in regard to how the new Jerusalem is closely related with the new creation. And he writes this:
[T]he restoration of Jerusalem entails the restoration of creation just as Isa 65:1925 will show below...
Let me just stop there, with that first sentence. Do you realize that there are a number of passages in the Prophets that link the restoration of Jerusalem to the restoration of creation itself? So what that means in practical terms is that if you build a third temple today and let’s say you cleaned up Jerusalem—you got rid of all the terrorists, you had no crime, you had this wonderful society where people are dwelling in peace… I mean, none of this would happen if we built a third temple today anyway, because it would infuriate Israel’s enemies. But let’s just say it did. What’s supposed to happen along with it is the new earth—the new creation. Those things go hand in hand in the Old Testament. And I have yet to come across someone who really enjoys… And it’s not a crime; it’s not a sin. They enjoy the idea of Israel getting a third temple. It would be cool. And I’ll admit, it would be cool. I’d hold my breath, again, because of the enemies around her. But I have yet to come across anybody who really is into this idea of a third temple mention that, “Oh, and when this happens, then we get the new Eden— we get the new creation,” which of course involves the destruction of the old one. What I’m getting at here is, there are a lot of people who look for the former, but they forget the latter because they don’t know their Old Testament well. They only see part of it. You can’t talk about a restored Jerusalem without talking about the restoration of creation unless you just don't mention the Prophets. Well, good luck with that. That would really be cheating on a grand scale, to be honest with you. These two things go hand in hand in the prophets’ minds. So back to Lee, he says:
[G]enerally speaking, Jerusalem or Zion is the center of God's rule in the history of Israel (cf. Jer. 3:1 7, Ezek. 5:5)… While God rules the whole universe, He focuses his rule on the nation, Israel. While he rules the whole land of Israel, he reveals his ruling power through the city, Jerusalem. Therefore, Jerusalem is the place which illustrates the fact that God rules the whole universe. People see God's glory through the city. Therefore, it is possible to say that the New Jerusalem is the center of the New Creation [ it certainly is the book of Revelation]. In the New Creation, the New Jerusalem is the place which reveals God's sovereignty more gloriously than any place else, though the New Creation itself also reveals it. Therefore, without the New Jerusalem, the New Creation is meaningless. Accordingly, the restoration of Jerusalem results in the restoration of God's sovereignty, and the restoration of God's sovereignty results in the restoration of creation.
You know, pardon me if we dip back into Revelation 19 a little bit. But can we see
now why Armageddon is not about the plains of Megiddo (again, there’s no mountain there anyway)? It’s about Jerusalem. It’s about Zion. Jerusalem is the lynchpin to all of it. And by the way, an amillennialist wouldn’t say that. I would because I’m not an amillennialist. (Again, we talked about this in Revelation 19 as well.) It doesn’t bother me in the least that I don't fit the typical nomenclature. Oh, well. These things are in the text. And it’s up to us to try to figure out how to understand—how to connect the dots that are in the text. And not surprisingly, Beale and McDonough in their Revelation commentary… Specifically, it’s the Old Testament in the New Testament commentary edited by Beale and Carson, which we have used throughout this series, so it’s a great tool. But Beale and McDonough, who wrote the chapter on Revelation, pick up on this trajectory— this linkage. And they write this:
The new cosmos will be an identifiable counterpart to the old cosmos and a renewal of it, just as the body will be raised without losing its former identity... The qualitative antithesis between the first world and the second one is highlighted by Isa. 65:17; 66:22
Let me just read both of those. I’ll read them in tandem here. Isaiah 65:17 says:
Isaiah 65:17 ESV
“For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind.
and then
Isaiah 66:22 ESV
“For as the new heavens and the new earth that I make shall remain before me, says the Lord, so shall your offspring and your name remain.
add next verse
Isaiah 66:23 ESV
From new moon to new moon, and from Sabbath to Sabbath, all flesh shall come to worship before me, declares the Lord.
I mean, these two things go together. Like Beale and McDonough say, “the qualitative antithesis between the first world and the second one is highlighted by” these two verses…
…which stand behind the wording of Rev. 21:1 [ which dips into] Isa. 65:17 LXX: “For there shall be a new heaven and new earth; and they will by no means remember the former” (cf. 66:22).
And if the one is going to endure (like Isaiah 66:22 says), well, so is the other one. Because they’re linked. Back to Beale and McDonough, they say:
Isaiah 65:16–18 makes a qualitative contrast between the “former” earth, where the “first affliction” of captivity occurred, and “a new heaven and a new earth,” where there will be only enduring “joy and exultation.” Isaiah 66:22 affirms that one of the qualitative differences is that “the new heaven and new earth” will “remain” forever, in contrast to the old, which passed away. Revelation 21:1 portrays the future fulfillment of the two Isaianic new creation prophecies. Judaism [ more widely, Second Temple Judaism] also conceived of the new creation as a renewal or renovation of the old creation [ and he cites a bunch of Apocryphal passages here] (see Jub. 1:29; 4:26; 1 En. 45:4–5; 2 Bar.32:1–6; 57:2; 4 Ezra 7:75; Tg. Ps.-J. Deut. 32:1; Tg. Hab. 3:2).
And these ideas are linked together. And when we try to interpret these things, we need to honor the linkage. We need to not put asunder what God has joined together [laughs] in the text.
Now one last thought before going to Jeremiah (because we have Jeremiah and Zechariah to pick up yet). Scholars have noticed that the blessings or conditions described for the new Jerusalem and new creation are the reverse of the covenantal curses found in Deuteronomy 28. Remember Deuteronomy 28-29? These are the blessings and the cursings (or the cursings and the blessings) that have to do with remaining in the land or being expelled from it. So Pilchan Lee in his dissertation writes this. He says:
In the New Jerusalem, nature will be restored into the original peaceful condition of the Garden of Eden where wild animals will not prey on the domestic animals
(cf. [ Isaiah] 43:20). This peace in the animal world provides safety and
security for people in the New Jerusalem. This is also the reverse of the covenantal curses in Deut. 28:26 (cf. Isa. 13:20-21).
So scholars have noticed this, that these blessings that are summarized in these
Isaiah passages with the new Jerusalem and the new heaven, they reverse the
expulsion curses in Deuteronomy 28. And here’s why I bring it up. That reversal linkage is another sign that the circumcision-neutral Body of Christ is a new Israel. Again, it’s not thenew Israel. I’m not a supercessionist. But the Body of Christ is a new Israel. We have a circumstance that plays itself out in the Church. We’re in Revelation 21-22 now, folks. We’re dealing with Gentiles in the Church. We’re in a book (the book of Revelation) that has called Gentiles a kingdom of priests, along with the Jews. We’ve seen plenty of places where the people of God… There’s only one people of God. It has a Jewish component; it has a Gentile component. But there’s one people of God. And the fact that the curses put on the original people of God (the Jew who went into exile because of their idolatry) are reversed by the circumstances of the new people of God (that includes Gentiles) is interesting, to say the least. Isaiah 66 ends with Gentiles being grafted into the family and worshiping the Lord at Jerusalem. It’s just another trajectory that shows the unity of the people of God. It’s tied up with what the new Jerusalem is. There are no insiders and outsiders. There are only insiders. And of course, the new earth... We go back to Eden before there was such a thing as a Jew and a Gentile. There is one people of God. That’s the way it started at the beginning and this is the way it’s going to end, because God will run everything full circle. There will be no more nations to plague the people of God as a nation. Those who survive among the nations are believers. They follow the risen Christ. They follow the gospel. They are happy to be part of a new Jerusalem and God doing something new with the old. And all of it focuses on Zion and Jerusalem. The city and the land are linked to a new creation itself. I mean, all these things are interrelated. But none of this is literal temple talk.
And this is what I’m hoping that you see as we go into Revelation 21-22 in Part 2. You know, restricting the Old Testament and New Testament temple language to one building in one place diminishes the impact of all the concepts that the temple embraces.
Now it should also be noted that at various places in Isaiah leading up to chapters 65-66, Isaiah contains passages that, like Ezekiel, lead the reader to expect the rebuilding of a lost temple. So there is this expectation. Again, we’re not denying it. But what we miss is that there are certain passages that, while they have this expectation, they do something different with it than you and I would perhaps expect. Let’s look at Isaiah 28. Isaiah 28 is one of these passages about expecting a new temple. So let’s read Isaiah 28. I’m going to go back to verse 14 here. I’ll read 14-18. But the verse that we want to focus on is verse 16. So listen to this:
Isaiah 28:14–18 ESV
Therefore hear the word of the Lord, you scoffers, who rule this people in Jerusalem! Because you have said, “We have made a covenant with death, and with Sheol we have an agreement, when the overwhelming whip passes through it will not come to us, for we have made lies our refuge, and in falsehood we have taken shelter”; therefore thus says the Lord God, “Behold, I am the one who has laid as a foundation in Zion, a stone, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone, of a sure foundation: ‘Whoever believes will not be in haste.’ And I will make justice the line, and righteousness the plumb line; and hail will sweep away the refuge of lies, and waters will overwhelm the shelter.” Then your covenant with death will be annulled, and your agreement with Sheol will not stand; when the overwhelming scourge passes through, you will be beaten down by it.
What he’s alluding to here basically is the BS that the Jerusalem leadership had been telling the people. “Oh, yeah, things are bad. We have enemies and the enemies are going to come and we’re going to have war. But we’ll be okay. We’ll be okay. The Lord is with us”—all the while being idolaters. They’re living out the lies they tell. Okay? And God knows it. What they’ve actually done is make a covenant with death.
So you’ve made your… You’ve aligned yourself with other gods, gods who can’t promise you anything (certainly life), gods who have lied to you and you’ve just bought their lies and now perpetuate their lies and live them out. “The end thereof are the ways of death” because only with Yahweh is there life—this whole idea. And the Lord is saying, “It’s not going to work. When it hits the fan, your covenant with these other gods, it’s over. It’s not going to stand, and you’re going to get overwhelmed. Now look at what he says in the middle of this.
16 therefore thus says the Lord GOD,
“Behold, I am the one who has laid as a foundation in Zion, a stone, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone, of a sure foundation:
‘Whoever believes will not be in haste.’
And then he talks about justice and righteousness. Now that passage I’m sure sounds familiar. “I lay in Zion a stone, a chief cornerstone.” So let’s ask ourselves the question. How does Isaiah 28:16 get fulfilled? Because you would think if you’re reading Isaiah 28 (and especially if you’re an Israelite in hindsight after the temple has been destroyed—let’s say you’re living in the Second Temple period and you read this), you’re naturally going to think, “Wow! The Lord isn’t going to forsake us entirely. He’s got a foundation cornerstone laid there. In other words, he’s going to finish what he started there. We’re going to get the temple back. We’re going to get it back. The Lord has not forgotten us.” I mean, this is a natural way to look at it. But the question is, “How does it actually get fulfilled?” Was the third temple built and Israel’s covenant with death (you know, the exile) resolved? No. So we can’t look at anything prior to the New Testament like that. But when we look at the New Testament, where is this verse actually cited? Let’s go to Matthew 21:42.
Matthew 21:42 ESV
Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures: “ ‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes’?
So what’s the stone he’s talking about? He quotes that verse right after the parable of the tenants. You know, there’s a master in the house who planted a vineyard. Okay? And when the season for its fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the tenants to get its fruit. And the tenants watching over the field (who would be the leadership in Jerusalem if we take it back to Isaiah) reject his servants. They beat them and kill them and they stone them. And then he reasons, “Well, surely they won’t do that if I send my son. They’ll respect my son,” the master of the house thinks. He sends his son and they kill him, too. So the son (and, of course, Jesus in context) is this cornerstone. Now think about that. If you’re a Jew and you know Isaiah 28 and you’ve been thinking all along that this means we’re going to get the temple back, here’s the question: “Did you get the temple back?” Be careful how you answer. You didn’t get a literal building. But you got the messiah. He did come. He did die. He did rise again. He did ascend to the Father. He did everything that he was asked to do by the Father. Yeah, you got the messiah. Have you rejected him? See, the messiah turns out to be the cornerstone. It has nothing to do with a literal temple. In fact, here we go again. The temple turns out to be the body of Christ—Christ himself. He is the temple.
So that’s Matthew 21:42. How about Acts 4:11? This is the other place where the passage is quoted (the Isaiah 28 passage). So we’ve got Acts 4:11. And this the apostles preaching to the rulers of the people and the elders (the perfect audience) after they’ve healed someone, and of course the leadership is irate
Acts 4:8–11 ESV
Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders, if we are being examined today concerning a good deed done to a crippled man, by what means this man has been healed, let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by him this man is standing before you well. This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone.
Now again, if you’re a Second Temple Jew and you know Isaiah 28 and you’re expecting a literal building to come out of that prophecy and you’ve heard about (or maybe seen) the events of Pentecost… You’re living in Jerusalem where you see the followers of Jesus telling you that the new covenant has come, you’ve seen the gathering of Jews from all over the world for Pentecost and how they go back believing and preaching about the messiah, how that’s going to be a reversal of Babel—Babylon, the whole exilic situation… And then you hear about this healing, or maybe you witness it, and then these guys who just healed this man and who did what they did on the day of Pentecost, where 3,000 people believe and are saved, say, “Hey, you know that cornerstone passage back in Isaiah 28 that we were all kind of thinking at one point was about rebuilding a temple?” By the way, they have a temple. [laughs] You know? The one that hasn’t yet been destroyed by the Romans. Guess what? That’s not really the temple. The chief cornerstone—the stone that Isaiah talked about—is Jesus. And this is what I mean by New Testament (and now we’re finding out Old Testament) temple consciousness. It’s just a bigger concept than a building.
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