In the previous lesson on Chapter 11 there was not time to adequately deal with verse 19 and I promised to continue it at my next opportunity.
At 11:15, the seventh and last trumpet introduces the end of the world and announces that the sovereign rule of all creation belongs to Jesus Christ.
“The sovereign rule of this world belongs to the Lord and His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever.”
In Chapter 11, John is given a measuring rod and told to “measure the temple of God, the altar, and those who worship there.” This is no earthly temple of stone; it is the invisible Church, the complete number of which is known only to God, but which John saw as a “great multitude which no one could number” [7:9], who in the NT epsitles is called the temple of God. John is told not to measure the “outer court” of this “temple” because the “outer court” symbolizes the hypocrites in the visible church who claim to be Christians but are false.
Chapter 11, v. 19 takes us to the end of the world and a scene in heaven:
11:19 Then the temple of God was opened in heaven, and the ark of His covenant was seen in His temple. And there were lightnings, noises, thunderings, an earthquake, and great hail.
“The temple of God was opened in heaven….”
Can you think of the word “temple” and not think of a stone building?
One commentary says that the temple in 11:1-2 is a literal structure to be built in the future and then goes on to say that the temple in 11:19 is in heaven. He needs to decide how many temples there can be. The former temple in Jerusalem was after the fashion of the heavenly temple but the old temple is gone forever because that system of worship only pointed to substation and that was fulfilled in Christ.
Paul and Peter most clearly teach that the True Church is the temple of God and John is not going to contradict them in this final book of the Bible.
At this point I must make my usual disclaimer and say that most of this spiritual interpretation of the Book of Revelation is from Charles D. Alexander’s Revelation Spiritually Understood. I have interspersed his commentary with other ideas that I stole from Ray Summers, Worthy is the Lamb; Edward A. McDowell’s The Meaning and the Message of the Book of Revelation; and Herman Hoeksema’s Behold He Cometh.
Charles Alexander writes:
“There is a temple of God and it is the Church of redeemed men and women who worship God in spirit and truth. It is not confined to that fragment of that whole Church that resides at any one time on the earth, for the true believer has come to a spiritual Mount Zion, a Heavenly Jerusalem, and has been united to the society of the angels and to the spirits of just men already made perfect (Hebrews 12:22-23), awaiting in heaven the grand moment when all Christ’s work will be ended, the last of His elect gathered in, the temple finally completed, and the headstone brought forth with rejoicing, and cries of Grace, Grace, unto it (Zech. 4:7). Of this temple Paul speaks, “Ye are the temple of God”. (1 Cor. 3:16)
“The temple of God in Revelation 11 is the church, in her testimony on the earth, with her courtyard usurped by the trampling feet of false religion, but she is perfect and secure in the inner core of her life which is hid with Christ in God (
The “two witnesses” are identified as the testimony of the Word of God; the Law and the Prophets symbolized by allusions to Moses and Elijah. The Word of God is faithfully preached. Sometimes the preaching of the Gospel appears to have been killed but then it is revived by the “breath of life from God.” This is a repeating cycle of martyrs [witnesses] that will continue over the centuries until the end of this present age.
“The ‘opening’ of the temple of God in heaven, signifies the end of the period of building. All things are accomplished. The ‘opening’ is the complete revealing of God in Christ, in the midst of His redeemed people from every age and clime and tongue and nation.” CDA
… and the ark of His covenant was seen in His temple. And there were lightnings, noises, thunderings, an earthquake, and great hail.
There is no better commentary on this last part of verse 19, in my opinion, than that of Charles D. Alexander.
THE ARK IS SEEN
“And there was seen in his temple the ark of his testament (covenant).”
“The ark of God in the Old Testament was a box overlaid with gold, on its covering a representation of the cherubim of glory, in gold, overshadowing the mercy seat (the covering lid). Inside the ark, as constructed by Moses and his helpers, were first of all the tables of stone with the Ten Commandments inscribed by the finger of God.
“There was also placed therein a golden pot containing a sample of manna gathered in the wilderness by the tribes for their sustenance during the weary desert wanderings. Finally there was added Aaron’s rod which budded, as the token of the validity of the priesthood in the line of Aaron. The years passed by, and the ancient tabernacle constructed by Moses was replaced by the magnificent temple constructed by Solomon according to the pattern bequeathed to him by his father David. They opened the ark ere it was carried into its last resting place, and found in it only the tables of stone. (1 Kings 8:9)
“The ark had passed through many a crisis. Once it had been in the hands of the heathen Philistines, its capture causing the death of the old High Priest, Eli. Somewhere along the line two of the precious memorials had been lost - a prophecy, this, that the Old Covenant was unstable and temporary. Aaron’s priesthood was to be abolished when the time of Melchizedek came (that is, when Messiah should be set up as High Priest for ever (Psalm 110:4). He who was Himself the heavenly manna, the bread of life sent down from heaven, would fulfill the wilderness type: “The bread which I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world .... Moses gave you not that bread from heaven .... my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven .... I am that bread of life. Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness and are dead…. This is the bread that cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof and not die”. (See John 6:32-58)
“How long the tables of the Law survived we do not know -certainly not beyond the final destruction of the temple by Titus in A.D. 70. Their preservation no longer had meaning or purpose. He who kept the Law and fulfilled its last demand, on the Cross, became thereby:
THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.”
20 Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin.
21 But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets,
22 even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference;
THE ARK IS “SEEN”
But what means this - that the heavenly temple is opened and the ark of God is seen? Hengstenberg expresses the meaning of this figure thus, “When the Ark of the Covenant is made visible the meaning can only be that the covenant receives its most signal accomplishment.” In other words, all the promises and undertakings of Christ on behalf of His covenant people, given to Him by the Father as His inheritance before the world began, have at last been realised. All His work is ended. Nothing remains to be done.
A covenant is an agreement or contract. All of God’s covenants with men are unilateral; not depending on man’s agreement.
THE TRUE COVENANT THEOLOGY
This is the true ‘Covenant Theology’ - a much misused term nowadays. Covenant Theology sees two covenants by which man’s relation to God is regulated. There was the original Covenant of Works, implicit in man’s creation, wherein man was required to render to God true obedience under promise of endless life. Then
there is the New Covenant, or the Covenant of Grace, under which sinful man, fallen under the first covenant finds deliverance from death and condemnation through the righteousness and obedience of Another who by divine decree has taken up man’s breach of the first covenant and by fulfilling it under trial, total and absolute, obtained everlasting salvation on behalf of all whom the Father had given Him (John 17:2). The Mosaic covenant was designed to give a picture of this great redeeming work of Christ. The blood of bulls and goats could never take away sin: that was ordained for the time then present, until the seed should come to whom the promise was made, even Christ. This then is the everlasting covenant of redemption by which the Father bound Himself from all eternity to fulfill the promise of life made in Christ Jesus on our behalf. What is to us a covenant of grace was to our glorious Mediator, a covenant of works and death and condemnation. On the one hand He fulfilled the obligations of obedience which man had never rendered, and on the other He expiated on the tree, by awful death, the offence which had brought down the curse. Only One who was God could make the sacrifice or undertake man’s obligations, and only by God becoming Man could deity place itself under obligation to death and so by dying overcome death and destroy him who had the power of death, man’s great adversary, the devil and Satan.
Perceiving this more clearly than most men, even in the great days of Puritan Theology, Oliver Cromwell exclaimed on his death bed “THE TWO COVENANTS ARE ONE”. What was death to Christ became life to us. What was Law and Justice to Him, became grace and life and immortality to us.
Jim Gunn’s view of Covenant Theology:
You won’t find my view in any of the standard commentaries and I didn’t copy this interpretation from Charles D. Alexander, although his quote from Oliver Cromwell, “THE TWO COVENANTS ARE ONE”, seems to convey a similar view. I have been meditating on this view for a long while and have not yet organized it into a study. You theologians out there may immediately refute my view and I welcome your constructive criticism. The reason that I bring it up now is because I believe the text calls for its exposition.
“… the ark of His covenant was seen in His temple….”
Before I expound my personal interpretation of Covenant Theology we need to briefly review some of the other views.
There has been much serious study given to the covenants of God. Good men have debated the extent and meaning of the covenants for centuries and who am I to think that I have it correct? Especially, since I don’t agree completely with any of the standard interpretations. Now I would be the first one to caution you to be watchful when a man discovers something “new” that great theologians have not seen for several centuries and he says he has it all figured out. But I believe that I have the solution to most of the controversy over covenants.
A. By “Covenant Theology” I do not mean the contrived idea of the paedobaptist that God makes a “covenant” with the children of believing parents who present their offspring to be sprinkled. In more than 38 years have read the Bible cover to cover way more than 50 times, and in at least a half-dozen different translations, and I cannot find any such “covenant”. This is like so many theories that are decided beforehand and then imposed on the Scriptures. Unlike Prego, “It’s not in there!”
The error of my paedobaptist “Covenant Theology” brethren comes from their attempt to make NT baptism the antitype of OT circumcision. They say that baptism simply replaced circumcision and because unbelieving infants were circumcised that it is correct to “baptize” unbelieving infants.
But regeneration is the antitype of circumcision in both the OT and the NT and it is called the “circumcision of the heart”. OT circumcision and NT baptism are both symbolic of regeneration and cannot be the instrument of regeneration. That is true for an imagined promise of regeneration or the actual “baptismal regeneration” as taught by the Roman Catholics.
Now if OT circumcision could not be the cause of regeneration, how in the world can an imagined NT replacement of circumcision, i.e. baptism be the cause of regeneration?
28 For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh;
29 but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God.
One paedobaptist pastor wrote that infant baptism does not guarantee that every baptized infant will be generated. My answer was that if a single child is regenerated because he/she was baptized it amount to salvation by works.
If physical circumcision, prescribed as a sign of a covenant, had no actual power to effect regeneration; neither does any mode of water baptism. So even if the paedobaptist were correct in their association of circumcision with baptism they have missed the point that Paul makes; that it is the circumcision of the heart that is needed to make you a “covenant child”.
B. Another wrong view of the covenants that is taught by some good men is that God actually justified souls in the Old Covenant days through the sacrificial system. The essence of the OT system of worship was the blood sacrifice that was only a type of the blood of the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ.
The NT makes it plain that “it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sin.” Hebrews 10:4
C. Other good men have written volumes about the Covenant of Works and the Covenant of Grace and go on for hundreds of pages about how these two covenants are related or not related depending on which theologian you read. This view is the one held by the puritans and many Presbyterians and Baptists today .
D. And yet some other good men believe that the Old Covenant was embodied in the Law, specifically the Ten Commandments, and that Jesus Christ established a “New Covenant” that abrogated or materially changed the Ten Commandments; and we now have the “Law of Christ”.
But I reject any idea that the Ten Commandments are no longer operative as they were always intended to operate because Paul says in Romans chapter 7, which I believe is still in the NT and written after the resurrection of Jesus Christ, that it was the Law that killed him, specifically the 10th commandment not to covet. Paul further uses the Ten Commandments in Romans 13 as the justification for loving your neighbor as yourself. The Ten Commandments are as much in effect as they were before Moses received them on tablets of stone because they are written on the heart. The only purpose of the Law is to convict of sin.
So Jim if you reject all of those views of Covenant Theology what do you have left? My simple answer is this and Oliver Cromwell said it first,
“The Two Covenants are one!”
Jesus said before He was crucified that Moses wrote about Him: “For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote about Me.” [John 5:46]. Jesus said after His resurrection from the grave that it was foolish and slow of heart to not understand all that the prophets have spoken! [Luke 24:25-27; 32]
25 Then He said to them, "O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken!
26 Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?"
27 And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.
32 And they said to one another, "Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us on the road, and while He opened the Scriptures to us?"
If Moses wrote about Christ and if the Lord Jesus opened the Law and the Prophets to explain the purpose of the death of Messiah don’t you see that the Law and the Prophets is the key to understanding the Gospel?
Paul based the entire Book of Romans on that fact:
1 Paul, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated to the gospel of God
2 which He promised before through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures,
3 concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, …
Just this past Friday morning in my devotional Bible reading I read something in Nehemiah. The context is the worship of God after the return from Babylon and the rebuilding of the temple and the wall around Jerusalem.
32 "Now therefore, our God,
The great, the mighty, and awesome God,
Who keeps covenant and mercy: NKJV
32 "Now therefore, O our God, the great, mighty and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love, NIV
What Nehemiah says, and all of the translations that I have support this, is that there is a single covenant of mercy; a covenant of love.
And when Malachi, the last prophet before John the Baptist, prophesies about the coming of the Lord to His temple, he writes:
"Behold, I send My messenger,
And he will prepare the way before Me.
And the Lord, whom you seek,
Will suddenly come to His temple,
Even the Messenger of the covenant,
In whom you delight.
Behold, He is coming,"
Says the LORD of hosts.
Did you see it? Malachi calls it “the covenant”, not covenants. But you may point out that in the day of Malachi there was only the “Old Covenant” but did not Malachi refer to “the Messenger of the Covenant?” The Old Covenant and the New Covenant are one so far as regeneration and justification are concerned.
Now in Revelation 11:19 John sees the “ark of His covenant” and there is only one covenant to be seen.
Now I am not denying or diminishing the importance of the various covenants in the OT. What I am saying is that for centuries some men may just be confusing the single covenant that goes to regeneration and justification and the purpose of the other covenants; Noah, Abraham, et al. Also, I realize that there are overlaps of purpose in the covenants, e.g. the covenant God made with Abraham most definitely has to do with Christ, but it also deals with material blessings.
It is my belief that there is only one covenant that has to do with regeneration and justification and it is eternal in the mind of God before the foundation of the world. In the eternal mind of God, the Father chose a people and gave them to the Son; the Son redeems His sheep with His own precious blood; and the Holy Spirit reveals the Son to the sinner through the Gospel.
The Eternal Covenant of Redemption is not a process of deliberation in thought by God as He considers one plan of redemption after another; but it is the eternal purpose of God in Christ! This idea echoes Brother Gables’ point that God did not labor in thought to devise a “plan of salvation”. God is eternal and He is not learning anything.
So the from the first hint of grace in the Garden of Eden; to the covenant with Noah; to the promise God made to Abraham’s holy Seed; to the covenants with David and to Solomon, et al are simply amplifications and insights into the single covenant of love that God made in the Eternal Trinity concerning His elect.
There is one God and one way of salvation and that by grace!
In the matter of redemption no other covenant matters.
God keeps His covenant with man.
Man never keeps a covenant because he is a sinner.
Guilty and condemned sinners are convicted of sin and brought from spiritual death to life in Christ Jesus, the Holy Spirit being the Agent for the New Birth.
God deals with individuals and not with nations in the matter of regeneration and justification, and from Adam and righteous Abel and Abraham and on down through the ages until the last one of God’s elect has been convicted of sin and guilt and brought to faith in Jesus Christ, the world will continue with wars and rumors of wars and then the end will come! God’s Covenant of Redemption is all there is, and that, I believe, is the only covenant that will matter to the Church!
1 Jesus spoke these words, lifted up His eyes to heaven, and said: "Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You,
2 as You have given Him authority over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as You have given Him.
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ,
4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love,
5 having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will,
6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.
7 In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace
8 which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence,
9 having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself,
10 that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth — in Him.
11 In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will,
12 that we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His glory.
13 In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise,
14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.
That then is my interpretation of the “covenant that was seen in His temple”.
In heaven there is only one covenant to be seen and it involves the elect Church.
We are having out fellowship meal today and I was struck by another verse in Nehemiah at 8:12:
And all the people went their way to eat and drink, to send portions and rejoice greatly, because they understood the words that were declared to them.
I truly hope that is true for you today and if it is then to God be the glory!