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What is the temple of the tabernacle of testimony alluding to in Revelation 15:5

And after these things I looked, and the temple of the tabernacle of the testimony in heaven was opened.

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    Welcome to the site, and if you have not already done so, please take the 'Tour' link at the bottom l.h.s. of this page to see how to form questions. One point worth noting is that evidence of research is hoped for, so at the very least, quoting the verse in question (adding which translation you are using) would be good. Also, do you have any linked verses in the OT to direct us to, for our consideration?
    – Anne
    Aug 1, 2023 at 13:04

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With the one Bible text directly asked about, the beginning of an answer can come but a better understand could come from comparing it with two Old Testament events to do with similar fillings of God's holy place on earth, with smoke and God's glory being so supernatural that no human could stand there.

To give some background, I start with two relevant events in the O.T., first when the tabernacle in the wilderness was newly set up, and the ark placed in that tent, with all the other items God had specified; this astounding event happened:

"Then a cloud covered the tent of the congregation, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. And Moses was not able to enter into the tent of the congregation, because the cloud abode thereon, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle." Exodus 40:34-35 A.V.

Much later, when King Solomon prepared to dedicate the newly build temple in Jerusalem, he had the ark of the covenant brought up and placed in its spot in the holiest place. Then came this other glorious event:

"When the priests were come out of the holy place, that the cloud filled the house of the Lord, so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud: for the glory of the Lord had filled the house of the Lord." 1 Kings 8:10-11 A.V.

Bearing that in mind, now consider the Revelation 15:5 verse that is asked about, but think well on how Revelation 11:19 had shown the temple of God opened (in vision) in heaven, and the ark of God's testament was seen in the temple. But not now, in 15:5 - the ark is no longer seen. Here is commentary on Revelation 15:5-7, which verses read:

"'And after that I looked, and behold, the temple of the tabernacle of the testimony in heaven was opened: and the seven angels came out of the temple, having the seven last plagues, clothed in pure and white linen, and having their breasts girded with golden girdles. And one of the four living creatures gave unto the seven angels seven golden vials full of the wrath of God, who liveth for ever and ever.'

...Under the old testament Moses had led the people through that great howling wilderness to the promised land. Then, the testimony - namely, the ark of God - was kept in the tent of the tabernacle. This was carried by the priests across the vast and barren wastes, the Levites bearing the tabernacle on earth throughout their pilgrimage.

In Revelation 15:5, however, the testimony is not kept in the tent on earth... the tent of the tabernacle is in heaven. Nevertheless it is still a tent: that is, it is not permanent. It is 'the tabernacle of the testimony in heaven.' That is the testimony of the ecclesia, or church.

What appears through the opened portals of the temple of the tabernacle of the testimony is the heralding of the dawn of that day which presages the dreadful last plagues about to be poured upon the earth...

But what man could enter into the temple? The priests? The High Priest? The Intercessor? Once, but not now. No ark is seen; no propitiatory is accessible; no intercessor can enter; no priest could minister; no mediator might conciliate; the smoke and the glory forbid all entrance till the end of this world in judgment. Then, no mercy shall be obtained henceforth forever. The day of forgiveness is past. God cannot be reached..." The Revelation of Jesus Christ, pp.431-4, John Metcalfe http://wwwjohnmetcalfepublishingtrust.co.uk/contact_us.htm

In summary, the passage itself gives the significance of, and the reasons for, this opening up in heaven.

A. For the 7 angels to come out of the temple, to be given 7 vials full of the wrath of God.

B. Then they can pour out onto the earth these 7 last judgments from God.

C. Then is the righteous judgment of God and his glory manifested, as Revelation 15:4 makes clear:

"Who shall not fear thee, O Lord, and glorify thy name? For thou only art holy; for all nations shall come and worship before thee; for thy judgments are are manifest."

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First, "the temple of the tabernacle of the testimony" is unique in all the Bible. Thus, in this sense, there is no OT precedent.

However, "tabernacle of the testimony" occurs often in the OT, eg, Ex 27:21, 29:11, 32, 30:16, 26, 36, 40:2, 22, 28, Lev 4:18, Num 1:53, etc. It always refers to the sanctuary at the center of the Israelite worship system. We note the following:

  • The tablets of stone with the 10 Commandments are called “the covenant” (Ex 34:27, 28, Deut 9:9, 11, 15) and placed inside the "Ark of the Covenant"(Ex 25:16, 21, 40:20, Heb 9:4), because it contained the Covenant, namely the 10 Commandments.
  • The tables of stone were also called “the Tables of Testimony” (Ex 31:18, 32:15, 34:29), or just, “The Testimony” (Ex 25:16, 21).
  • The “Ark of the Covenant” (Num 10:33, 14:44, Deut 10:8, 31:9, 25, 26, Josh 3:3, 6, 8, 11, 14, 17, 4:7, 9, 18, 6:6, 8:33, etc) or, “Ark of the Testimony” (Ex 25:22, 26:33, 34, 30:6, 26, 31:7, 39:35, 40:3, 5, 21, Lev 16:13, Num 4:5, 7:89, Josh 4:16, etc) is described thus precisely because it contained the stone tablets inscribed by the finger of God (Ex 31:18, Deut 9:10) with the Israelite Covenant of the 10 Commandments. 1 Kings 8:9, 2 Chron 5:10.
  • The Tabernacle (ie tent) of Testimony is called such precisely because it was built to contain the "Ark of the Testimony" which contained the "Tables of Testimony". (See above references.)

Now, why John in the book of Revelation refers to "the temple of the tabernacle of the testimony" is another matter. Note that the opening of the Most Holy Place, where the Ark of the Covenant was housed is also unprecedented because it was never opened in the OT and never seen by anyone except the High Priest. (Heb 9:7)

However, this fact may be the clue - Jesus is our Great High Priest (Heb 4:14, 15, 5:10, 7:26, 8:1, 9:11, 10:21, etc) and that the way to the throne of God is open -

Heb 10:19-22 - Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Placed by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way opened for us through the curtain of His body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.

This fulfills what Jesus said:

John 14:6 - Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.

and

John 16:24 - Until now you have not asked for anything in My name. Ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be complete.

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