Feb 132015
 

fountain_tree_of_lifeAt the very end of the New Testament John described the holy of holies that he saw in his vision. There was the throne of God and the Lamb, there was the river of the water of life, and there was the tree of life. The servants of God and the Lamb saw his face and had his name on their foreheads. They stood in a place of perpetual heavenly light, needing neither lamp no sun, and the reigned fore ever (Rev.22.1-5). For the first Christians, this was their vision of heaven.

They were standing in the temple, but not the temple rebuilt by Herod and completed only a few years earlier. They were standing in the temple as it should have been, as it had once been and as they hoped it soon would be, because in their vision they  were standing in the true temple. The temple they knew – or had known, since there is no way of dating this vision – had  neither the heavenly throne nor the tree of life in the holy of holies. Josephus says that at the end of the second temple period, the holy of holies was empty.

In another part of the vision of the temple, John saw the ark (Rev.11.19) which had been lost for centuries. Later tradition remembered it had disappeared in the time of King Josiah, during the temple purges of 623 BCE. It would be restored in the time of the Messiah, along with the other things that had been in the first temple but not in the second: the fire, the menorah, the Spirit and the cherubim. Since the first temple furnishings symbolised the temple teachings, this was saying that the faith of the second temple was very different from the faith of the original temple.

Margaret Barker, The Mother of the Lord