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The Atonement-Focused Earthly and Heavenly Temples
TitleThe Atonement-Focused Earthly and Heavenly Temples
Publication TypeBook Chapter
Year of Publication2022
AuthorsParry, Donald W.
Book TitleThe Jesus Christ Focused Old Testament: Making Sense of a Monumental Book
Chapter52
Pagination138-140
PublisherBook of Mormon Central
CitySpringville, UT

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Explicit references and intimations of a heavenly temple are scattered throughout the Bible. The book of Psalms hints at the idea of a heavenly temple (Ps. 11:4; 102:19; cf. 150:1), and Isaiah’s vision of the lord “sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up” (Isa. 6:1) with the presence of seraphim likely pertains to the heavenly temple (see also 1 Kgs. 22:19; Ezek. 1, 10; and others). John explicitly referred to the heavenly temple with such expressions as “another angel came out of the temple which is in heaven” (Rev. 14:17; emphasis added) and “there came a great voice out of the temple of heaven” (Rev. 16:17; italics added; cf. 7:15; 14:15; 15:5–8).

Writing to the Hebrews, Paul compared and contrasted the earthly temple to the heavenly temple. He called the earthly temple “a worldly sanctuary” (Heb. 9:1) and the heavenly temple the “true tabernacle, which the lord pitched and not man” (Heb. 8:2). The earthly priests, wrote Paul, “serve unto the example and shadow of heavenly things” (Heb. 8:5), but Jesus Christ is the “minister” of the heavenly temple (Heb. 8:2). Under the Mosaic law, the priests went into the “first tabernacle” to accomplish “the service of God. But into the second [tabernacle (i.e., the heavenly temple)] went the high priest [Jesus] alone once every year, not without blood, which he offered for himself, and for the errors of the people” (Heb. 9:6–7).

The accompanying chart sets forth a number of similarities between the earthly and heavenly temples. Both temples had seven-branched lampstands, officiants with sacred vestments, altars of sacrifice, and altars of incense; both had the equivalent of a holy place and a Holy of Holies, where God’s throne (i.e., the mercy seat) was located. Many differences also exist between the two temples. For instance, the earthly temple possessed manmade, lifeless cherubim, replicas of the real living creatures that exist in the temple of heaven (Rev. 4:6–8; cf. Ezek. 1, 10). The earthly temple was built by the hands of man, but the heavenly temple was erected through the workmanship of God Himself (Heb. 8:2).

In sum, the earthly temple is an image of the heavenly temple where God dwells. This is significant, as it (1) allows us to recognize that the earthly temple’s rituals help us to gain access to the heavenly temple, (2) helps us to recognize that Jesus Christ and His Atonement is the central focus of both temples, and (3) assists us in learning that various aspects of the earthly temple are symbolic representations of things in the heavenly temple.

Temple on Earth

Temple in Heaven

Description

References

Description

References

Called “worldly

sanctuary”

Heb. 9:1–2

Called “true

tabernacle” or “temple in heaven”

Heb. 8:2; Rev. 7:15; 14:17; 15:5; 16:17

Seven-branched

lampstand

Ex. 26:35

Seven-branched

lampstand

Rev. 1:12

Trumpet

Ex. 19:13, 16, 19

Trumpet

Rev. 8:2, 6

Altar of sacrifice

Ex. 27:1–2; 39:39

Altar of sacrifice

Rev. 6:9

Sacral vestments

Ex. 29, 39

Sacral vestments

Rev. 4:4; 6:11; 15:6

Altar of incense

Ex. 30:1–6; 39:38

Altar of incense

Rev. 8:3, 5

Four horns

of the altar

Ex. 30:10

Four horns

of the altar

Rev. 9:13

Ark of the covenant

Ex. 25

Ark of the covenant

Rev. 11:19

Golden censer

1 Kgs. 7:50

Golden censer

Rev. 8:3–5

Incense

Ex. 30:34–36

Incense

Rev. 5:8; 8:4

Incense bowls

Num. 7:13, 19, 25, 31, 37; 1 Kgs. 7:50

Incense bowls

Rev. 5:8

Throne (mercy seat)

Ex. 25:22;

Lev. 16:2

Throne

Ps. 11:4;

Rev. 7:9; 16:17

Holy place

1 Kgs. 7:50

Holy place

Heb. 9:11–12, 24

Holy of Holies

Ex. 26:25–33

Holy of Holies

Rev. 4:1–10

High priest

Heb. 4:14

High priest

Heb. 9:6–7

Priestly officiants

Ps. 110:4; Heb. 7:17

Priestly officiants

Rev. 8:2–5

Rites

Throughout Old Testament

Rites

Rev. 4:8–11; 8:2–5;

15:1–8

24 priestly courses

1 Chr. 23:3–6

24 elders

Rev. 4:4, 10

Cherubim

Ex. 25:18, 22; 1 Kgs. 6:23–28

Four living creatures

Rev. 4:6–8

(cf. Ezek. 1, 10)

Worshippers

Throughout Old Testament

Worshippers

Rev. 5:11; 7:9; 19:6

Sacrifice of lambs

Ex. 29:39

Slain Lamb of God

Rev. 5:6

 

Chart by Donald W. Parry. The Atonement-Focused Earthly and Heavenly Temples.

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