In the previous video, we introduced the concept of the chiastic structure in the Book of Revelation. The chiasm divides Revelation into 8 divisions, like chapters. Having divisions helps us to know what is going on as we read through Revelation. Each division begins with a scene from the heavenly sanctuary, and that is how we can know where to divide the book.
But the sanctuary scenes reveal much more than just the beginning of each division. The concepts in this video are challenging to understand. You would benefit from a lot more study about the sanctuary than is presented here; but if you can grasp these concepts they give a powerful tool for understanding what Revelation is all about.
The Old-Testament sanctuary was a building where God met with His people, sort of like a church. God told Moses, “Have the people of Israel build me a sanctuary so that I can live among them.” (Exodus 25:8.) The first sanctuary that Moses built in the wilderness was an elaborate tent, also called the tabernacle. Later Solomon built a permanent structure with the same design, called the temple.
God did not leave it up to Moses to dream up the design of the sanctuary; He showed him a model to use. God told him, “According to all that I show you, that is, the pattern of the tabernacle and the pattern of all its furnishings, just so you shall make it” (Exod. 25:9). The book of Hebrews tells us that the pattern was modeled after the sanctuary that is in heaven.
“We have a high priest [Jesus] who is…a Minister of the sanctuary and of the true tabernacle which the Lord erected” (Hebrews 8:2). This is the sanctuary that John saw in Revelation. We can learn about the heavenly sanctuary by studying the details of the Old-Testament sanctuary that Moses built: “The priests…on earth…serve the copy and shadow of the heavenly things, as Moses was divinely instructed when he was about to make the tabernacle. For [God] said, “See that you make all things according to the pattern shown you” (Hebrews 8:5).
The sanctuary had three areas. Outside was the courtyard where sacrifices were offered. Every morning and every evening the priest would sacrifice a lamb that symbolized the sacrifice Jesus would offer on the Cross for our sins.
The priest also went into the sanctuary building every day. The building was divided into two rooms. The first room was called The Holy Place. Twice a day the priest would go into the Holy Place and fill the seven lamps that were there with oil. He would also burn incense on a gold altar that was near a veiled doorway that separated the Holy place from the second room which was called the Most Holy Place.
The smoke of the incense, which symbolized prayers, would float into the Most Holy Place where there was a box called the Ark of the Covenant. Inside the ark were the stones on which God wrote the Ten Commandment law. Above the ark of the covenant were gold figures of two angels with their wings stretching together. Between the angels, a bright light appeared called the Shekinah, which was the visible presence of God. The ark with the angels on top was called the mercy seat, and it symbolized the throne of God in heaven.
The priest would only go into the Most Holy Place once a year during a festival called the Day of Atonement. This was the most solemn day of the year.
All year long people had been coming to the temple to offer sacrifices for their sins. But on the day of atonement, there was a final judgment. Those who had truly repented and continued to trust in God were accepted. Those who were just going through the motions or ignoring God’s requirements and mercy were rejected.
Two goats were a central feature of the Day of Atonement rituals; The first was for the Lord and symbolized the sacrifice of Jesus for those who believed and repented. The other was for Azazel who represents Satan. It was not sacrificed; Instead, it was banished to the wilderness. You can read the details of the Day of Atonement in Leviticus chapter 16.
The sanctuary scenes that introduce the divisions of Revelation follow the same order as the Old Testament rituals. The first division is found in Revelation chapters 1 through 3, and consists of seven messages to the Seven Churches. In the sanctuary scene that introduces this division John “saw seven golden lampstands” (Revelation 1:12). The seven lamps were in the first room, the Holy Place, which the priest entered every day.
“In the midst of the seven lampstands [John saw] One like the Son of Man, clothed with a garment down to the feet” (Revelation 1:13). The “Son of Man” is, of course, Jesus, our great High Priest. The Greek word for His garment is pothiri, which is the garment worn by the priest as he ministered in the sanctuary day by day.
Everything about this scene points to the daily sanctuary ministry in the Holy Place which took place all year long. This indicates that the first division, the messages to the seven churches, has to do with the long history of the Christian church through the ages.
Two things help to confirm this. One is that the visions in the book of Daniel, which are the model for Revelation, always start with an overview of the experience of God’s people throughout their history until the time of the end. The other is that Jesus told John that the “Seven lampstands (that he saw)…are the seven churches” (Revelation 1:20).
Seven is a Biblical number for completeness; The seven churches symbolize the complete church during all times and in all places. This shows us that the seven letters to the seven churches are prophetic messages about the experience of the Christian church throughout its history.
The sanctuary scene that introduces the second division is found in Revelation chapter 4. John saw “a door standing open in heaven” (Revelation 4:1). He saw “a throne set in heaven, and [God sitting] on the throne…Seven lamps of fire were burning before the throne” (Revelation 4:2-5). He also saw “a Lamb as though it had been slain” (Revelation 5:6).
At first, this seems a little confusing. The sacrificial lambs were slain in the courtyard of the sanctuary, the seven lamps were in the Holy Place, and the throne of God was in the Most Holy Place.
Actually, this makes a lot of sense when we consider the Day of Atonement, which had rituals in the courtyard, the Holy Place, and the Most Holy Place. The door between the Holy and the Most Holy Place was only opened on the Day of Atonement. So when John saw “a door standing open in heaven” that allowed him to see both the lamps in the Holy Place and the throne in the Most Holy Place, this shows that the second division is an introduction to the apocalyptic Day of Atonement that was symbolized by the Old Testament festival.
The Day of Atonement was a day of judgment, and we have already seen in previous videos that the Seven Seals have to do with judgment.
The third division has a terrifying description of the Seven Trumpet plagues. It is introduced by a sanctuary scene in Revelation 8:3; John saw an angel with a censer standing before the golden altar offering incense before the throne of God.
This imagery represents a continuation of the Day of Atonement rituals; On that day the priest took burning coals from the golden altar and offered incense before He went into the Most Holy Place
In Revelation 8:5 John saw that the angel threw the fire from his censer to the earth. This indicates that his protective intercession was about to end. Immediately the destructive Seven-trumpet disasters began to break out one after another. We will see in later videos that this is the beginning of a fearsome time known as the “Great Tribulation”. It is a part of the final events that are symbolized by the Day of Atonement.
The fourth division is the climax of the first half of Revelation, which is the story of Satan’s attempts to thwart God’s purposes for the people of planet earth.
In Revelation 12 and 13 Satan, the great red dragon, pulls out all the stops, sending fearsome beasts that represent oppressive religious and political powers, which impose the image, mark, and number of the beast.
The sanctuary scene that introduces this division is found in Revelation 11:15-19. John saw “the temple of God opened in heaven, and the ark of His covenant was seen in His temple” (Revelation 11:19). This is the next phase of the Day of Atonement when the priest went into the Most Holy Place where the ark of the covenant was located. The ark contains the Ten Commandment law which judges and condemns sin. This shows us that Satan and his beast followers who are so prominent in this division will be judged and condemned.
The fifth division is the climax of the second half of Revelation which emphasizes God’s victory over evil. It also begins with a scene from the Day of Atonement in the Most Holy Place. John sees the lamb before the throne, but the Lamb no longer appears to be slain; it symbolizes Jesus in His resurrection glory, and He is standing before the mercy-seat throne of God. Everything points to salvation, and that is the emphasis of this division.
We see “the 144,000 who are redeemed from among men, being firstfruits to God and to the Lamb” (Revelation 14:3,4). We see three angels, “having the everlasting gospel to preach to those who dwell on the earth—to every nation, tribe, tongue and people” (Revelation 14:6). And we see the great “harvest of the earth” (Revelation 14:15) when “those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus” (Revelation 14:12) are rescued into God’s eternal kingdom.
The sixth division includes the Seven Last Plagues and the destruction of Babylon, as the tables are turned and the persecutors of God’s followers are themselves defeated.
This section is introduced with a view of angels leaving the temple with bowls “full of the wrath of God” (Revelation 15:7). Then “the temple was filled with smoke so that no one was able to enter the temple” (Revelation 15:8).
This corresponds to the stage of the Day of Atonement when the priest left the temple, and the time for sacrifices and forgiveness was over. This division describes the final stage of the Great Tribulation when all who would accept salvation have done so and those who have proven their enmity against God by persecuting His followers receive the judgments they deserve.
In the seventh sanctuary scene, there is no clear indication that John saw anything. He “heard a voice from the throne” and somehow knew that “the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God who sat on the throne” (Revelation 19:4).
Four times in this introduction he says what he heard as if he was away from the sanctuary. This corresponds to the final stage of the Day of Atonement when the goat Azazel was taken far away from the tabernacle to the wilderness. And this is exactly what we see in this division as Satan is chained in the bottomless pit, and after the 1000-year millennium, he and his followers are burned up in the lake of fire.
In the final division John “saw no temple in [the New Jerusalem], for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb, are its temple.” (Revelation 21:22).
The sanctuary was there to deal with sin, and now that the reign of sin is over there is no need for anything in the sanctuary except God. “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with His people, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His. God, Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:3,4).
You can see from this brief overview that the sanctuary scenes that introduce the divisions of the Revelation chiasm perfectly follow the Old Testament sanctuary rituals. They start with the everyday rituals but most of the divisions have to do with the events symbolized by the Day of Atonement.
Together they show what a disaster Sin and Satan’s rebellion have been, and how God will bring evil to a permanent end. They show us clearly that despite the daily reminders that sin and Satan reign and rule, God will ultimately be victorious and will save us into His glorious eternal kingdom.
To see all the videos in this series check out the Revelation of Jesus playlist. These videos are based on the book “A Revelation of Jesus” by David Lackey; you can order a copy of the book on Amazon or other online bookstores, or read it online at RevelationofJesus.net