New Jerusalem is missing the temple
After seeing the New Heavens and the New Earth recall that John saw the New Jerusalem in the distance. The angel took John in the spirit from one point in his vision to another. That point was one of New Earth’s mountains and was close enough that John could see the New Jerusalem in greater detail.
The foundations, the walls, the gates were beyond imagining. The magnitude of glory exceeded what John could have expected. Look, then, at his next comment, that of verse 22.
22 And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. (Revelation 21:22–ESV)
What was missing? The Temple. I can only imagine that John, being a Jewish man, extrapolated from the magnificence of the New Jerusalem to the temple. If, after all, the wall and the foundation, the gates, and size of the city were like this what then must the temple be? Or if you prefer food analogies if your salad at a banquet is beyond anything you’ve ever known what are you thinking the main course will be?
The temple should stand above all else. That building John may have expected to be an order of magnitude beyond all else. Would anything else be fitting? Well, there was no temple. I do not know whether this initially shocked John, or whether he laughed recognizing a fitting irony in its absence. It is the first thing he told us of the inside of the New Jerusalem, however. Maybe as he smiled, he thought to himself, “What the Jews took 46 years to build lasted centuries while what God built in 3 days will last forever.”
How can this be fitting?
Think about what a temple represents. A temple is a sacred place where man and deity come together. In Israel’s early days, those in the desert, Moses was instructed by God to build the Tabernacle. The innermost of the two interior chambers of that tent was where God’s presence would manifest.
In the Tabernacle and the temples which followed God’s presence was there. God granted a twinge of access to himself, but while a great honor such access to God was severely limited and dangerous at that. Even so, the temple was needed. It was a portal of grace coming from God to men, not the other way around.
When Jesus died the felt curtain blocking men’s access to God was torn from top to bottom. No longer did God have to protect unholy men from his purity. The atonement of the penultimate Passover accomplished God could now dwell with men, and not behind a curtain.
That was the earth shape from the crucifixion to our very moment now. In eternity God and men will dwell together. A temple would be incongruous for it tells of sacrifices, blood, death, a separation between God and humanity. That was not his original intent. We see that by the lack of an eternal temple. Its absence is only striking until one thinks about it a moment. John must have, and then John told us of it.
Temples are portals
What is a portal? It is a window or a passageway from one place to another. Think of Jacques Cousteau’s submarines; only in them could the deep sea creatures be seen. The Jewish Tabernacle and Temples were portals from men’s world to God’s. When God finally dwells with men, no gateway will be necessary. Presence is better than portal.