"A New Approach to Revelation" by Tricia Tillin (Part Nine)
how the day of atonement Temple service sheds light on the book of revelation: The Service Outlined (1)
Having examined in some depth the setting of the Temple, and its context as far as Revelation is concerned, I now come to the real meat of this study, which is the service itself and how it gives a framework to the entire book of Revelation. So much so, that certain events in that prophecy can hardly be understood without it.
John has entered through the great Nicanor Gate to watch what is happening beyond the place of the common man and women (which in this case is the earth, or at least Israel - for the men and women in the Jerusalem Temple were all of Israel). He sees not only the Sanctuary and its furniture in heaven, but the priests, who are angels going about their ministry there.
He has already told us that this vision is of "The Day" , the Day of Atonement, but on a much wider scale - that of the Judgement Day itself. Paul speaks of it in Romans 2:16 "On that Day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus". Jesus speaks of this DAY in Luke 21:34 "But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly".
Clearly this refers to a period of time and not one literal 24 hour day. However, John puts this period of time into the judgement day of his own culture and experience, which was Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. He sees events following the usual course at Yom Kippur while each action and act of worship adds to the coming judgement of mankind - and in John's understanding, especially the apostate members of his own race and religious background, the Jews.
Then or Now?
Briefly I need to speak of the debate over the early or late day of Revelation. I only refer to it because some might argue John's entire focus was the punishment of Israel for her rejection of Jesus Christ her Messiah, and her violent hatred of the Church - as well as her own apostasy and spiritual adultery. There is certainly much internal evidence on the book of that.
It is very often the desire of Preterists to prove the early date of Revelation, so as to show that John's words were a prediction of the destruction that would befall the Jews in AD70, and nothing more. While not being a Preterist I incline towards the early date too, for reasons too lengthy to elaborate on here, but I DO see something beyond the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple.
SEE for example: "Before Jerusalem Fell" which examines all the evidence and arguments at length. [Preterist]
Certain questions come to mind as we read the book, and they puzzle us:
If the worst had already happened - Jerusalem and its people had been completely and viciously destroyed - why did John not refer to that, and why did he feel the need to predict an even bigger destruction? Did John believe that judgement would still be pending over two thousand years after he circulated his prophecy? Did he expect the Church of his day to be encouraged by prophecies that had little relevance to their own time or situation? Why did he many times say these events would "happen shortly"? Could he accept that Rome and apostate Israel would not incur the wrath of God in quite the way he prophesied, in his own time? [That is, if you accept the late date theory.]
But in my mind, the early fulfillment in AD70 does not rule out a wider prophetic meaning to Revelation.
There seems to be no reason to suppose that the prophecy, having been partly fulfilled in AD70, could not have a FURTHER and more FINAL fulfillment at the end of this age. I also read the words of Jesus in that way, that is, his description of the coming calamity [Matthew 24 et al] seemed entirely relevant to the early Church when they had to flee Jerusalem in AD70, yet we know that there is much more still to come about.
I read Revelation in the same way. I am not bothered by the fact that certain of John's descriptions and words could [and probably did] have a meaning for his own day, and for all I know, THAT is the furthest his own mind could go in understanding his vision, yet in God's perfect plan the inspiration behind this book came to have a much wider scope.
That is why, despite some heavy opposition from various Church elders at the time, it was included in the Canon of Scripture, and why we find it included in the bible today. Up to the modern era there was still opposition when Luther rejected Revelation for inclusion in his own translation. He said in the Preface to the 1622 Translation: "I can discover no trace that it is established by the Holy Spirit." Nonetheless, God overruled. My point is, that God intended for us to have a prophecy for our OWN day as well as that of its writer, John.
Over the years as I have studied this book and other research in depth, I have come to see that the same arguments John made against religious apostasy in his own small world of Rome and Israel also apply today.
The "beast" that he saw - containing all the beasts of Daniel chapter seven - was then and is now a composite of the brutal dominant EMPIRE of the last days which will oppress mankind. Also, the woman that John saw was - in his day - the adulterous religion which joined hands and hearts in unity with that empire. Mystery Babylon was Israel who had fallen away from God. He foresaw a dreadful judgement on Israel which came about just as he said. Yet beyond that, we can see a similar judgement and catastrophe to befall the adulterous woman of today.
In short, we should not be overly concerned about the date of the book nor its imagery because the prophecy is not either-or, but BOTH.
The Service Continues
As described before, John joins the Yom Kippur service just at the point [in the genuine Temple service that is] when the required daily rituals would have been carried out, in the early morning. At Yom Kippur the priests had to make an early start as there was so much more to do. They rose before midnight, prepared the altar of burnt offerings and at dawn the daily sacrifice of a lamb had been made.
The remaining rituals concerned the slaughter of various sacrifices particular to Yom Kippur, including a bullock, a ram, and a goat, and certain rituals that happened on this one day only. These are the subject of the book of Revelation and therefore this study.
What happened before and afterwards, in reality, is passed over as not really relevant, even though what happened can easily be slotted into place, since the book does describe that "DAY" in detail. John was perhaps too well aware of what would have taken place in the Jerusalem Temple to ignore or distort the facts of his vision, so as to break the flow. (Remember also that the great majority of his first-century readers would have picked up on the Yom Kippur references since they also were familiar with the Temple services.)
So what John sees at dawn is the "slain lamb", the pure and everlasting sacrifice of Jesus Christ. (Rev 5:6) John sees him "in the midst of the elders" and that fact is another heads-up to the framework of the Temple services. It is a fact that the lamb, before being sacrificed, was thoroughly examined (by torchlight) by the priests to make sure it was still perfectly pure and whole, with no spot or blemish that would make it unsuitable.
So we find the Lamb of God surrounded by his elders (Rev 5:6) who conclude that he is indeed a pure sacrifice, and worthy - "You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and have redeemed us to God by your blood..." (5:9)
To this Sacrificed Lamb is given a seven-sealed scroll - an event that I cannot find specifically within the Yom Kippur ceremonies unless it refers to the "books of life and death" that were opened and finalised on that day. This hotly-debated scroll has puzzled Christians for centuries.
Is it the Books of Life and Death? It does not seem simply to contain the names of those who were to be redeemed or forgiven, because when it is finally opened it leads to the wrath of God on the earth, the atmosphere and all living things. That surely is why "every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and such as are in the sky" praised God that Jesus the Lamb [and the only JUDGE] was found worthy to open this scroll. (Rev 5:13)
For this judgement which has been delayed for so many thousands of years has finally come, to deal with the gross wickedness throughout creation. And "all creation groans..." for that day! Romans 8:21 "...creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body.…"
As the seals are sequentially opened, each event reverses a basic blessing upon mankind, and upon Israel as provided in their Covenant. Indeed, Yom Kippur does recall the giving of the Law to Moses, which has now been violated to the point of utter lawlessness.
Yom Kippur, or the Day of "atonement," is considered the holiest day of the year, called "Yom ha-kadosh" (יוֹם הַקָּדוֹשׁ).... According to the Jewish sages, on the 6th of Sivan, seven weeks after the Exodus (i.e., exactly 49 days), Moses first ascended Sinai to receive the Torah (Shavuot). Just forty days later, on the 17th of Tammuz, the tablets were broken. Moses then interceded for Israel for another forty days until he was called back up to Sinai on Elul 1 and received the revelation of Name YHVH (Exod. 34:4-8). After this, he was given the Second Tablets and returned to the camp on Tishri 10, which later was called Yom Kippur. Moses' face was shining with radiance in wonder of the coming New Covenant which was prefigured in the rituals of the Day of Atonement (Exod. 34:10). [Source]
As a prelude to the particular events of Yom Kippur, the covenant blessings so graciously provided by God, and so negligently despised by man, are overturned. That is because Israel and mankind has broken the everlasting covenant: "The earth also is defiled under the inhabitants thereof; because they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinance, broken the everlasting covenant". Isaiah 24:4. [Please see Blessings & Curses here.]
- Seal One - The blessing of victory replaced by oppression.
- Seal Two - The blessing of peace replaced by violence and wars
- Seal Three - The blessing of provision, fertility and prosperity replaced by want
- Seal Four - The blessing of life and health replaced by death and disease
- Seal Five - The blessing of safety and security replaced by persecution
- Seal Six - The blessing of the earth's protection replaced by catastrophe
- Seal Seven - The blessing of God's favour replaced by wrath
The Seal Five Martyrs
The first four seals do not have an exact correspondence in the Yom Kippur ceremonies, and in fact seem to have taken place before the services began. They are part of the preparatory tribulations of the Woman (Israel) and the rest of the world. Jesus called them "birthpangs" or "the beginning of sorrows". Perhaps they are allied to the books of life and death that are opened at this feast?
The four horsemen of the first four seals are intimately connected to the Four Living Creatures, but this is not the place to discuss it. [Again, I do hope and pray to be enabled to write what I have discovered on that subject in due course.] For the moment, we will pass over them to come to the opening of Seal Five. All these events are happening at the same place in the service as when John first enters the Sanctuary area. (That is, at DAWN, at the beginning of "The Day"). (There is a discussion of the opening of the seals discussed separately on my website through this link)
Here (left) we see illustrated the priest with special responsibility for calling out that "Day Has Dawned!" that is "BARKAI". He was sent to a high point in the Temple to watch for the day's dawning on the horizon. When he did, he cried Barkai! At that point, the Temple superintendent told the priest chosen by lot to go get the lamb for the morning sacrifice. This was the official start of the feast-day service.
But what exactly does Barkai mean? Well, amazingly, it literally means "Morning Star". When we see the morning star dawn, we know that THE DAY is to begin, and it begins with the trimming of the lamps and the examination of the lambs (in our sequence here.) And from Revelation 22:16 we know that JESUS is the Morning Star for whom we watch. "I am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and morning star."
How very interesting, for this fact sheds light (no pun intended!) on the verse in 2 Peter 1:19: We have also a more sure word of prophecy; to which you do well that you take heed, as unto a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star (or, morning star) arise in your hearts.
Isn't that amazing? It can hardly be understood outside of the Temple service, and the priest's call of Barkai. For they wait until the precise moment of light spreading across the horizon from the east to announce the day. And we hold onto the promises of God as Peter says, awaiting the LIGHT of Jesus Christ which will announce that our DAY has arrived at last. What did Jesus tell us?
"So if they say to you, 'Behold, He is in the wilderness,' do not go out, or, 'Behold, He is in the inner rooms,' do not believe them. For just as the lightning comes from the east and flashes even to the west, so will the coming of the Son of Man be. [Matt 24:26-7]
Night-time Events Before John Arrived
In the Temple, during the night, lots have been made to choose which priests will perform which part of the service. Lot One has already been drawn at or before midnight, and resulted in the cleansing of the altar of burnt offerings. After this another lot was made, and thirteen new tasks were allocated. One of them concerned the slaying of the lamb as a daily sacrifice - which event as we shall see occurs at or just before John's Revelation begins.
At this precise moment, as before discussed, the immense sanctuary door was opened. This opening of the sanctuary door was a highly significant moment for the Temple priests, worshippers and people of Israel, because its sound denoted the offering of the lamb was imminent.
At this moment, too, the first trumpet of the day was sounded. [Could this be the voice like a trumpet that John heard drawing his attention to the open door in heaven? Rev 4:1] Everywhere the people paused, stopped work and prepared to worship.
And at the same time five of the seven lamps were being trimmed and re-lit inside the Holy Place. The others were trimmed, refilled and lit at the burning of incense later on - those who are reading this study will realise the importance of that, prophetically. Only part of the Church is involved in this testing process at stage one, the other portion being dealt with in what we discover is Seal Six/Seven.
It is important to note this fact: that the slaughter of the sacrificial lamb was made at the same moment as the trimming of the lamps inside the Holy Place. And neither could be performed before the call of BARKAI, or "The Day Has Dawned".
This brings us prophetically to SEAL FIVE - the martyrs seen "at the base of the altar". (Revelation 6:9). But what then of the opening of the first four seals? They lie outside the particular scope of the Yom Kippur ceremonies, although described in Revelation as preparatory to them.
As Jesus explained to his disciples, the foregoing events [in Revelation, the four horsemen] as dramatic and terrifying as they might seem, are but the preparatory "birthpangs" and "they are NOT the End..." We have the infallible word of Jesus to back up that fact:
"Many will come in My name, saying, 'I am He!' and will mislead many. When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be frightened; those things must take place; but that is not yet the end. For nation will rise up against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will also be famines. These things are merely the beginning of birth pangs.…" [Mark 136-8]
However, as the day dawns, we progress beyond the season of the four horsemen to the short sharp persecution that precedes the END. In terms of the Temple service, it is the cleansing, trimming and refilling process of the lampstands, the churches.
The Lamps Trimmed
The candlesticks in the Holy Place are - as we have seen - the Light of the World who is Jesus the Messiah but at that same time they are the lampstands of the Church (first seen in Rev 1:20). Here they are subjected to a renewal process and made ready for all that is to follow. The trimming of the lamps suggests a preparation time for the churches, and perhaps even a genuine spiritual revival for they are cleansed and refilled with oil by the High Priest at this time.
As we know, before that great and terrible day, we need to make ready and "trim our lamps" (Matthew 25:7) We will also need the boldness, wisdom, guidance and protection of the Holy Spirit to withstand the delusions and other pressures to come upon us. Those who find themselves without sufficient "oil in their lamps" are at a disadvantage when those pressures do come, so it would be best to start making preparations right now!
From accounts of what happened in the Jewish Temple, we can discover that they decided, on biblical evidence, that they should divide the care of the lamps into: "Five and Two", that is, if the priest finds that the "eastern lamps" - on the eastern side of the sanctuary - are still burning he attends to the other five, cleaning out the ashes, filling them with new oil and wicks. But even if these other five are still burning, he has to extinguish them and start again. This is known as "Improving the Five Flames".
The other two lamps are left until the time of incense. Furthermore, the "Western Candle" is left burning continuously, and used to relight all the others. I wish we could draw an inference from this practise, that the light of the Western Church will never be fully extinguished but will stay alight to rekindle the other world churches in the time of their trial. I say that I wish it were so, but at the moment it appears that the opposite is true.
The Lambs Slain
In the same sequence of events as those in Revelation, Jesus describes the fierce persecution that will break out shortly before his return. He says:
Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. [Matthew 24:9-14]
Therefore it is no surprise that the event taking place in Herod's Temple at the same moment as the lamps being trimmed, is the slaughter and dismemberment of the lamb. Afterwards, the parts (or "members" as they are known) are reverently carried to the BASE of the altar - just where they are seen by John! They are not at this time carried up to the fire and burnt, but laid in preparation at the altar. (In the last days, perhaps, revival leads to persecution, and persecution leads to revival, for the lamps are being refilled at the same time as the lamb is being offered.)
But how can the slain LAMB be at one and the same time both Jesus Christ and the martyrs?
It is because Jesus Christ as the Head of the Church, and Christians as the Body of Christ, are ONE - one body. Of course, Jesus Christ our Saviour is not going to be sacrificed again, so Revelation does not portray that event. It is presented as a completed fact in Revelation 5;6. Nonetheless there IS an offering of a lamb, for we are one with Christ. Jesus warned us that just as the world hated and murdered him, so they will do to his followers. (John 15:18)
Parts of the Church will be honoured by sharing the same fate as Jesus, in giving their lives! These we see around the altar, asking when they might be avenged, an understandable question given what they have suffered.
However, the martyrs have a short time to wait, because there are two more priestly lots to be chosen, and daily prayers to be said, before the slaughtered 'members' [parts of the lamb] can be brought up to the top of the altar, and the incense of their prayers can rise to God (ultimately sparking off the judgement and the vengeance of God.) They are also asked to wait a little while until their fellow-servants and brethren are killed in the same way, an event we shall shortly witness both in Seal Six and the next event in the Yom Kippur ritual.
The Last Call
So the ceremonies continue, and as the 'members' are laid at the altar base, other designated priests prepare the flour, wine and similar offerings for later on. They then retire to the Chamber of Hewn Stones for private prayers, and for the choosing of the third and fourth lots. After this time, no more priests qualify for service!
This is the last choice! The last opportunity to serve! All who have not been chosen to serve that day have to remove their white garments, re-dress in their ordinary clothes and stand down.
As we shall shortly see, this coincides exactly with the LAST CALL to the Church, to stand ready in the garments of righteousness to be rescued in the Rapture, as Seal Six arrives. At that time also, at Seal Six, the priestly official in charge of the Israelites standing in the Temple would separate the defiled priests and stand them before the people so that everyone could see their unfitness for service.
And at the Rapture, the wheat and tares are separated, even resulting in some being turned away despite their claims to be genuine Christians! They do not have white garments like the priests and try to barge their way in wearing ordinary clothing, but are exposed in the eyes of all people as defiled and unworthy. (Matthew 7:22 and elsewhere)
But let us examine these events in sequence:
The Third and Fourth Lots
The process of choosing which priest would accomplish which task was repeated. Lot Three, for who would offer the incense on the golden altar before the Holiest, and Lot Four for those who would bring the parts of the offerings up to the top of the altar, and pour out the libations.
The offering of the incense (Lot Three) was the most prized task of all. Luke chapter one tells us that this was the once-in-a-lifetime privilege of Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, when he heard the voice of the angel in the sanctuary. (See interesting comment here). Jewish literature tells us that this task of offering the incense was the most beloved of all because it was "influential in subduing evil", and it amplified to the people and to the entire world the mercy and kindness of God. How vitally important then are our prayers, and even more so the cry of the suffering to God: "avenge us!". God hears and responds to the incense of prayer.
The Sixth Seal (Revelation 6:12)
Having chosen which priests would perform the next tasks, they now prepare to continue their service. (We have to bear in mind that - as far as the earthly Temple and Yom Kippur is concerned, all these tasks would be performed by the High Priest himself, aided by others chosen for the tasks. But in Revelation the work of Jesus is completed, so angels act on his command in heaven.)
What happens next explains one of the most puzzling events in Revelation - the half-hour silence in heaven.
As I said, the men who were not chosen for that day's work would unrobe and put on their day clothes. The priest chosen to offer incense would be given a shovel to obtain coals from the main altar, and a vessel of incense. He proceeds to the sanctuary door but before entering he does something mysterious that has great prophetic significance. On the next page we will look at what that is.
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© 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.