Jesus as the High Priest of the Heavenly Tabernacle in Rev. 1:10-13
(by Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg and Peter Shirokov)
10 I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day when I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet, 11 saying: “Write in a book what you see and send it to the seven churches—to Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea.” 12 I turned to see whose voice was speaking to me, and when I did so, I saw seven golden lampstands, 13 and in the midst of the lampstands was one like a son of man.
John saw his vision on the Lord’s Day (see comments to the previous section as to the identity of the day). John was looking ahead, when suddenly he heard a voice speaking from behind him. John compared the voice to the sound of a trumpet. It is not easy to imagine what trumpet sound is meant here. Is it an Israelite “shofar,” a trumpet made of goat’s horn? Is it a type of bronze trumpet also known in the Mediterranean region? It is not possible to tell what the sounds were that John actually heard, but the fact that he described it as a trumpet sound lets us know that the message John received was connected with how the trumpet was normally used – a call to prepare for action.
When John turned back to look in the direction of the voice speaking to him, he first saw the Temple menorah – a seven-branched lamp that was once located in the Holy Place in the Temple in Jerusalem. The presence of the Temple menorah showed John’s audience that his visionary experience took place, at least partially, in the vicinity of the heavenly temple/tabernacle, or, more precisely in the section of the temple that is known as the Holy Place. We read about the existence of the heavenly temple in Hebrews 8:1-5:
“Now the main point in what has been said is this: we have such a high priest, who has taken His seat at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, a minister in the sanctuary and in the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, not man. For every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices; so it is necessary that this high priest also have something to offer. Now if He were on earth, He would not be a priest at all, since there are those who offer the gifts according to the Law; who serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things…”.
The idea of a heavenly temple first surfaces in the books of Moses. Moses ascended Mt. Horev and received instructions for the construction of the tabernacle (mishkan), the tent of God’s presence when Israel was in the wilderness. As Moses did this, he was “shown” the temple in the heavenly realm (Ex 25:9, 40) and his job was to somehow reflect in the earthy structure what he had seen in the heavenly realm. Ezekiel 40 offers an elaborate vision of the heavenly temple that was yet future. The idea of a heavenly temple is also mentioned in the Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs, an apocalyptic Jewish work from the 2nd century BCE, and is quoted in several of Paul’ letters.
“And thereupon the angel opened to me the gates of heaven, and I saw the holy temple, and upon a throne of glory the Most High. And He said to me: Levi, I have given thee the blessings of the priesthood until I come and sojourn in the midst of Israel (Testament of Levi 5:1-3).
The fact that the Son of Man walks among the seven heavenly lamps (menorah), means that he (Jesus), as the heavenly high priest, was the source of this revelation. In various Jewish traditions, the figure of Metatron, who is if not identical, is very similar to the Son of Man, acts as the high priest of the heavenly temple. This temple is located in close proximity to the heavenly chariot at the base of God’s throne.
We read in 3 Enoch 15B (also known as Hebrew Enoch or Sefer Hekhalot):
Metatron (the name means “the one next to the throne”) is the Prince over all Princes, and stands before him who is exalted above all gods. He goes beneath the throne of glory, where he has a great heavenly tabernacle of light, and brings out the deafening fire, and puts it in the ears of the holy creatures, so that they should not hear the sound of the utterance that issues from the mouth of the Almighty.
The writer of Hebrews expressed similar ideas to those found in the Qumran scrolls, namely that Melchizedek is the heavenly high priest (11Qmelch). We read in Hebrews 7:1-3:
For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God, who met Abraham as he was returning from the slaughter of the kings and blessed him, 2 to whom also Abraham apportioned a tenth part of all the spoils, was first of all, by the translation of his name, king of righteousness, and then also king of Salem, which is king of peace. 3 Without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but made like the Son of God, he remains a priest perpetually.
It becomes clear that here in the book of Revelation, the Jewish apocalyptic figure, who previously appeared in a variety of Jewish Son of Man and Metatron traditions, is in fact Jesus Christ – the eternal heavenly high priest. This connection in Revelation is intentional and definite.
 1 Thess. 2:16 is a quotation of Test. Patr., Levi, 6:10; Rom. 12:19 is taken from Gad, 6:10; Rom. 12:21 is taken from Benjamin, 6:3; 2 Cor. 12:10 is a quote from Gad, 5:7.
 Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament, ed. Robert Henry Charles (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2004), Enoch 108:15.
Join the conversation (54 comments)
Thanks Dr. Blessings and Shalom.
So you are saying that the heavenly sanctuary is eternal… and when Jesus entered the
Holy of Holiest.. place… or is just a metaphor for Jesus..?
When Moses was “shown” the pattern of God’s dwelling, what did he see? The actual sanctuary in heaven the Jewish tradition asserts (quite rightly). He was to try to imitate and replicate what he saw on a small scale and in mobile format. So the original actuary (in my opinion) was always in heaven. In Exodus Israel just built a reflection of that heavenly one.
Jesus is certainly the Great High Priest who is in heaven, but is Apostle John seeing a vision of Jesus in or near the temple? The text does not necessarily speak of a temple menorah, but επτα λυχνιας χρυσας seven golden lamp-stands (plural). Whenever the menorah is mentioned in the LXX and in the Letter to the Hebrews, it is in the singular, even though it was a seven-branched object. Jesus is standing in the midst of those lamp-stands which we take to be related to the seven churches mentioned.
Jesus tells us that the lamp-stands are the seven churches (v20) and that He walks among the seven golden lamp-stands ο περιπατων εν μεσω των επτα λυχνιων των χρυσων (2:1)
Yes the imagery is amazing. This is one of the features of Revelation that captivates so much.
I agree, but I was not so much commenting on the imagery, but raising an exegetical question in the first sentence which has bearing on basing the thesis of Jesus as High Priest in Revelation from this passage. Sorry it was not made as clear as possible, but the comments have limited characters (which I think is an excellent idea) and I did not want to start another box.
So… are you then disagreeing (which we encourage in the forum!) that the imagery of Jesus here is that of the Heavenly High Priest? Just clarify your point.
Aren’t the prople of Yah the Temple of the Holy.Spirit? If so then Yeshua is walking among the Temples (churches).
I am not sure what point you are trying to make. Are you saying that Rev 2:1 is speaking about the churches as temples as symbolised by the candlesticks (menorahs)?.
Kostya, you know I love and appreciate your comments I think you are wrong in the sense that you needed it to use the term “menorah”. Seven lamps is what we conventionally call menorah. But we are talking about the same thing even if we don’t say the “the word”!
Am I out of my mind? 🙂
Sorry that I did not make my point clearer. Neither of us are mad. I am saying that in Revelation it is speaking of seven lamp-stands- seven menorahs if you like. We are not told what they look like, and they may be seven menorahs with seven lamps each or just seven lamp-stands with any number of lamps. But the text does not bear out that there was just one menorah with seven lamps because then the singular word for lamp-stand could be used, like it is for ‘menorah’ elsewhere in the Bible, and because we are told that each represents a church and that Jesus walked among them.
This would undermine your idea that Jesus appeared to John as a High Priest associated with the temple.
Aha… I c. I disagree. I think it is just that seven lamps, which makese only one menorah :-).
God has raised you up for such a time as this. We are surely nearing the end and the return of our Resurrected Lord Yeshua is near. I see the prophecies of end time are being fulfilled rapidly. All I long for is to see all Israel welcome their long awaited Messiah who is now our heavenly High Priest. I hope more Jews who do not know the Messiah learn about the courses you offer and not just the Christians. True, we talk about the same thing but differently expressed. It is good that you want to help the Christians to think the Jewish way. We all need to go back to our roots.
I see your hesitance. Here is an image for you… Imagine a really big menorah and Jesus walks in between its branches. As far as each lamp being a church it is analogical imagery no different than when Jesus says he is the door or the vine… Just a thought.
I know what you are saying, but I just don’t see that the text says one menorah (if it even is a menorah), but seven. I am no Greek scholar, and I have heard that the Greek in Revelation is a strange sort of Greek, but I do not see ‘menorah’ referred to as ‘seven lamp-stands’ anywhere. It is always singular λυχνια (lamp-stand) in the Greek LXX.
In Rev 1:13 the vision is of Jesus (presumably) standing εν μεσω των επτα λυχνιων in the midst of the seven lamp-stands. If it was one lamp-stand would it not say ‘in the midst of the lamp-stand’?
But I can see that we will have to agree to disagree.
Disagreements are good in my book. They force us to think! If you really want to have some fun with Greek I am going to toss some ideas out. There are two very similar-looking words at play here. And they are very easy to confuse! The first words is λυχνία, used here in Revelation for lamp. In LXX it is the word for “menorah”, the seven branched lamp stand. The word is feminine based on its ending. The second word is λύχνος and it is a little different because it is masculine though its meaning is very close to the first word. It is the equivalent of Hebrew “ner” a light source, or what we call a candle today. The menorah (lamp) or course consists of seven nerot (lights). This masculine noun is all over Torah in LXX and is in plural most often. λύχνος is all over the NT as well.
Now it is very easy to confuse those words in Greek (λυχνία / λύχνος) especially for a person for whom it is not native. I confuse them all the time. Beyond that the ῶν ending is the same for nouns of all three genders in Genitive as far as I recall. The conjugated form of λυχνία and λύχνος would look almost identical with exception of one extra letter – iota – in the feminine noun (the masculine would not have it) See how confusing? It could be confusing for the writer and for the copyist as well.
Even more fun when you add φως (light) to the mix!
I am a Jew and I seek to follow Jesus. Other than that I refuse to be lebeled in any way.
Dr Eli, if you are a follower of Jesus how is it that you are permitted to spread you views on what I thought was a Hebrew learning site. Just wondering. Shalom Galit
This blog is not about anyone’s personal faith. Though all of our contributors both teachers and students have theirs (whether they are Jewish, Christian or like myself outside of categories). This blog is about Jewish Studies relevant to modern Christian communities.
We are part of an Israeli educational company that cares for great quality of its educational product and does not sensor on the matters of personal faith commitments as long as they do not outwardly offend people of other faith persuasions. It is a free educational environment.
I hope you will enjoy it!
That’s cool 🙂
I agree 🙂
Thanks. Explanation very clear !
Shalom Dr Eli, com todo respeito ao senhor.
Não concordo com a comparação entre o SENHOR JESUS e o lenda judaica do metatron,.
Só as ESCRITURAS são totalmente inspiradas por DEUS e dignas de aceitação , e segundo COLOSSENSES1.15-23, JESUS é sem comparação com qualquer criatura,real ou lendária.
JESUS disse: Em verdade,em verdade vos digo:antes que Abraão existisse,EU SOU.
Medite em JOÃO 14.7-11.
Dr. Eli. from your explanation are you possibly Messianic? Shalom.
WILL YOU BE TEACHING THE BOOK OF REVELATION ANY TIME IN THE NEAR FUTURE?
CURRENTLY I AM STUDYING JEWISH BACKGROUND OF NT AND STARTING JEWISH GOSPELS AND BEYOND IN NOVEMBER. I AM ASLO STUDYING BIBLICAL HEBREW PART A WHICH WILL COMPLETE IN APRIL 2015.
I AM VERY INTERESTED IN STUDYING BOOK OF REVELATION FROM YOU
Please enjoy! We will post new material on Revelation on a regular basis.
Dear Benedicta, not in the nearest future. We are currently working on other classes. Perhaps later as we are able we will add that on.
The way you express the divinity of Christ, his holiness, is just too beautiful for me to be able to express in words. You bring out the most pure meaning of the WORD. I always look forward to reading your notes and comments. This is not just a gift but the anointing of the Holy Spirit.
Thank you for your prompt answer to my last question. I am not as familiar with Metatron as you are. It seems Metatron is always referred to as an ‘angel’ or ‘archangel.’ Hebrews chapter 1 distinguishes Jesus Christ’s inheritance as a ‘son’ to be superior and different to an ‘angel.’ The comparison in Hebrews 1.7 is particularly compelling: καὶ πρὸς μὲν τοὺς ἀγγέλους λέγει ‘and toward on-one-hand the angels says’ and Hebrews 1.8 contrasting it: πρὸς δὲ τὸν υἱόν ‘toward on-the-other-hand the son’. Christians are told they are fellow-sharers as adopted sons. If Metatron is an angel or archangel (and if its theology recognizes no other status), can Metatron still be Jesus Christ?
Angel Metatron has a special place in Jewish thinking of the Second Temple period. I cannot go into it here in comments, but I think you would really enjoy a few articles in our Links section. Check out the Two Powers section and Enoch and Metatron Traditions.
Thanks again, Dr. Eli. I’ll have a look at your Links section
I’m taking the eteacher course in January to hopefully master the Hebrew
study. My many spiritual encounters are clarified in your version of The High Priest
Tabernacle. My search has been endless.
Dr. Eli: The idea of the Archangel Metatron is a dominant theme in Kabbalah. Does your explanation have its roots in Kabbalah or is this association unnecessary?
This all depends on when you think Kabbalah began… Chicken or the egg question. In my opinion, first there were Jewish traditions about Metatron. Then in the Middle Ages came Kabbalah as we know it. We do not lean on those late sources…