Monday, May 24, 2010

Liturgical Movement in the Revelation

The "movement" in Revelation follows Jesus' ascension, and the significance of that ascension. In the book we see, as it were, movement from the Holy Place to the Holiest of Holies.

At the beginning of Revelation, we see Jesus attired as the high priest, standing in the Holy Place -- the anterior room to the Holiest of Holies. We know this because of the presence of the seven lamp stands (Rev 1.12, cf., Ex 25.37). This is, as it were, where the normal course of daily religious business went on for the OT priesthood -- taking care of the lamps, changing out the show bread on the sabbath & etc.

But with Jesus' death, resurrection and ascension (in particular the ascension, the implications of which is the particular focus of the Revelation, Rev 1.7 w/ Dan 7.13), humanity once again gets to approach and dwell with God. We see this in the movement from the Holy Place in Rev 1 to the Holiest of Holies in Rev 21.

Before getting to the argument, however, recall that the significance of the ascension is not that the Second Person of the Godhead sits enthroned in heaven. God is always king over all. The significance of the ascension for redemptive history is that once again a human sits enthroned in God's very presence and over the earth. This is the position that Adam ceded to Satan by believing Satan's word rather than God's word. Jesus, the second Adam, takes back what the first Adam lost. (A lot of the book of Revelation is about this precise point.)

In the OT, God's special dwelling presence was localized in the Holiest of Holies, which was a cube-shaped room in the Temple (1 Kings 6.20).

When we get to the new Jerusalem in which there is no sun and moon because God's glory and the Lamb illumine it -- and where God dwells with his people -- we see here, too, that the shape of the city is shaped in a cube like a huge Holy of Holies(Rev 21.16).

So we see this overall movement, not only in Revelation, but throughout the Scriptures. The movement of humanity, as it were, is first exile from God's presence in the Garden in Genesis 3. This is illustrated in the almost total exclusion from the Holiest of Holies in the OT. (Even the high priest did not fellowship with God in the Holiest of Holies, but was still separated from God's presence/throne by the cherubim.)

Salvation history then is completed with the reestablishment of this relationship (albeit, in a glorified fashion) in the New Jerusalem in the greater Holiest of Holies.

We see this broad "movement" in Revelation itself, from the Holy Place in chs 1-3, "through" the door to the action in the Holiest of Holies in Rev 4.1. (The action here of course implicates what happens elsewhere in heaven and on earth, so the "action" is not thematically limited to the Holiest of Holies subsequent to Rev 4.) To the now eschatologically-finished Holiest of Holies, which is the New Jerusalem.


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