The Heavens Being on Fire?

10 Jan
Heavens on Fire

from Google Images

In the ancient Jewish Temple, which was burned up and destroyed in 70 AD, there was a veil that hung between the Holy Place, which was the place where the priests ministered, and the Most Holy Place, which was understood to be the dwelling place of God or the place of his Presence. Josephus describes the Temple, its stones, its room, its furniture etc in his two great histories of the Jews. In his first work, Wars of the Jews, he described the temple that Herod built, and he tells us that the things found in the Temple, the altar of incense, the lampstand, and the table of shewbread, all had mystical or religious significance. Even the veil separating the two holy rooms of the building had a mystical significance—its colors, its embroidery, and its composition, all had a religious meaning.

It was a Babylonian curtain, embroidered with blue, and fine linen, and scarlet, and purple, and of a contexture that was truly wonderful. Nor was this mixture of colors without its mystical interpretation, but was a kind of image of the universe; for by the scarlet there seemed to be enigmatically signified fire, by the fine flax the earth, by the blue the air, and by the purple the sea; two of them having their colors the foundation of this resemblance; but the fine flax and the purple have their own origin for that foundation, the earth producing the one, and the sea the other. This curtain had also embroidered upon it all that was mystical in the heavens, excepting that of the [twelve] signs, representing living creatures.[1] (emphasis mine)

Furthermore, Josephus went on to describe the furniture that occupied the Holy Place:

Now the seven lamps signified the seven planets; for so many there were springing out of the candlestick. Now the twelve loaves that were upon the table signified the circle of the zodiac and the year; but the altar of incense, by its thirteen kinds of sweet-smelling spices with which the sea replenished it, signified that God is the possessor of all things that are both in the uninhabitable and habitable parts of the earth, and that they are all to be dedicated to his use.[2] (emphasis mine)

Obviously, the Temple was built not just as a place of worship, but its whole structure reflected the creation of God. Everything about it was pregnant with meaning. It wasn’t simply a building or a place for worship. It embodied the whole of creation and its structure implied that God’s Presence permeated all that he created. In this context the Temple was the House of God, a Place where all men might come to worship the One who created all, and who is above all, through all and in all (Ephesians 4:6).

In Josephus’ second work, Antiquities of the Jew, he described the Tabernacle in the wilderness, its colors, furniture and their mystical or religious meaning. Even the clothing of the high priest had its spiritual significance. In fact, everything, whether priestly garments or the structure and contents of the Tabernacle – everything was: “… made in way of imitation and representation of the universe.”[3] Moreover, Moses separated the complex into three parts: the outer court, the Holy Place and the Most Holy Place. The first two parts were for the priests and were accessible and common to men, so Moses there “…denoted the land and the sea, these being of general access to all; but he set apart the third division for God, because heaven is inaccessible to men.”[4] (emphasis mine).

Therefore, if the veil was torn in two, one might say that the “heavens” were rolled up like a scroll (Isaiah 34:4; Revelation 6:14). If one burned the Temple, one would be setting the heavens on fire (2Peter 3:7, 10, 12). So, in reality, if one destroyed the Temple, one might describe such an event as “the heavens and the earth have passed away” (cf. Matthew 24:35; Revelation 21:1).


[1] Josephus; Wars of the Jews; 5.5.4

[2] Josephus; Wars of the Jews; 5.5.5

[3] Josephus; Antiquities of the Jews; 3.7.7

[4] Ibid.

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Posted by on January 10, 2018 in Eschatology, Prophecy


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