The Gospel Doctrine lesson #46 manual objective is “To encourage class members to face the future with hope because they know that the forces of evil will be overcome and the Savior will reign in triumph.”
To link the images and symbols of John’s vision to God’s grand narrative of happiness.
Sweet as honey
“And I took the little book out of the angel’s hand, and ate it up; and it was in my mouth sweet as honey” (Revelation 10:10). So records John the Revelator in the last book of the New Testament. Together with Jeremiah (Jer. 15:16) and Ezekiel (Ez. 3:3) of the Old Testament, and Lehi and Nephi of the Book of Mormon (1Nephi 8), John is invited to eat of the gospel message and he finds it sweet. These prophets taste, hear, see, and internalize the word of God.
Shared sensory images such as these place the Book of Revelation within a literary tradition of apocalyptic texts that can be found throughout ancient scripture. This genre can be defined as prophetic literature that describes a symbolic conflict between good and evil, as well as a future day of peace. The narrator of apocalyptic writings is often accompanied by a heavenly messenger whose task is to show and explain the visionary experience. Readers familiar with the Old Testament will find many images and symbols common to various prophetic books, while LDS readers can find similarities between Revelation and the Book of Mormon visions of Lehi and Nephi.
Although this lesson focuses on a small selection of chapters (5-6; 19-22), its images and themes are repeated throughout the book of Revelation, just as they are repeated throughout the canon of holy scripture. Finding the connections between Revelation and these other scriptures help us appreciate the beauty and deep meaning in John’s words. They demonstrate the grand narrative of Christ’s plan of redemption.
Temple imagery and God’s covenant family
Few Christians had access to the Temple of Herod in Jerusalem. In fact, some historians place the writing of Revelation soon after the temple’s destruction by the Romans in 70 AD. Nevertheless, in New Testament writings, such as the letter to the Hebrews, temple imagery is central to explanations of the covenants and redemption of Christ. Both the temple’s physical architecture and the experience of temple priests are invoked throughout the Book of Revelation. John hears, “a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God”(Rev. 21:9). With this declaration, God offers his people (not just the Jews, but all those for whom Christ died) the same covenant that he established in the days of Moses; that is, a covenant of belonging. His words echo those of Christ’s foremother, Ruth, who offered her loyalty to her mother-in-law, Naomi: “whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God.” (Ruth 1:16-17). Just as Ruth bound herself to Naomi, we covenant with both our fellow men and our God to be family, to be one. He in turn covenants with us to be our family, to be one with us. The construction of a holy house gives reality to that covenant.
When God declares that he will build his house or tabernacle among his people, we can expect the familiar furnishings of the temple to appear in surrounding verses: Golden candlesticks (Revelation 1) were placed in the holy of holies of the temple of Solomon (1 candlestick in Herod’s temple). The six-winged beasts of Revelation 4 evoke the cherubim guarding the ark of the covenant (Exodus 25) or the six-winged seraphim who call Isaiah to his prophetic ministry, also in the temple (Isaiah 6:1-3). Altars and incense appear throughout the Book of Revelation. Thus although John is traditionally thought to have received this vision while in exile on the Isle of Patmos, far away from a physical temple, with these allusions, his vision reenacts the experience of temple priests entering the holy of holies.
A city of priests and kings
The temples of Solomon, Zerubabbel, and Herod became holy centers of the city of Jerusalem. Likewise, temple allusions in the Book of Revelation help readers envision the building of a kingdom or city of God. While the temple has historically been a holy place set apart from unsanctified activity, it is also crucially connected to a much larger vision of a holy society.
In Revelation 1, John praises Christ who “made us kings and priests unto God and his Father” (1:6), expanding the priesthood established in Exodus into a more inclusive Christian priesthood. The foundations of precious stones in John’s vision of the city (Rev. 21:19-21) evoke the twelve stones worn on the breastplate of the levitical priests, which represented the twelve tribes of Israel (Exodus 28:15-21). They also recall a passage in Isaiah, directed to a once forsaken, once barren woman. Declaring her redemption, the Lord says, “O thou afflicted, tossed with tempest, and not comforted, behold, I will lay thy stones with fair colours, and lay thy foundations with sapphires. And I will make thy windows of agates, and thy gates of carbuncles, and all thy borders of pleasant stones. And all thy children shall be taught of the LORD; and great shall be the peace of thy children” (Isaiah 54:11-13). This nameless woman, like the widowed and childless Ruth, is promised an inheritance that cannot be depleted. She is a symbol of the people of God: once oppressed and sorrowful, now abundant and strong. As Isaiah promises, the inheritance of the Lord is knowledge, peace, and a bright future embodied in children. The Book of Revelation expands this covenant to be ever more widely reaching in that in the building of a New Jerusalem, all things have become holy. In Revelation 21:22, “And I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it.” The city itself is the house of the Lord; the people are his family.
Joy for sorrow
Revelation’s message is one of joy after sorrow, peace after war–giving expression to a sensory and emotional experience of salvation. When Adam and Eve introduced the human family into a life of sorrow, pain, and death, they were promised “the joy of redemption” (Moses 5:11). Thousands of years later, the Revelation of John envisions the realization of that joy, when “God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away” (Revelation 21:4). This vision is indeed sweet.
Related Mormon Women Project Interviews
How Far Can I Soar?, Seraphine Kapsandoy Jones
My dad’s first goal was to get the church registered and his second goal was to get his family to the temple. By the time he died, the church was registered, but we hadn’t gone to the temple yet. We started saving money to make the trip to the Johannesburg South Africa Temple. We fasted and prayed and, though it seemed so impossible, we felt peace that everything would work out. Soon after, there was a Relief Society group in the U.S. that put money together to help us go to the temple. It was a miracle and answer to our prayers. Our family got sealed, and I think that’s when my faith really started to grow.
Seeking Peace That Passeth Understanding, Patty Gutshall
God lives. He loves us more than we can imagine. He does hear and answer every sincere and heartfelt prayer. We are known and loved by Him, and He longs to encircle us in the arms of His love. He has said, “Draw near unto me,” and in return has promised, “I will draw near unto you.” He is who He says He is: He is the God of Miracles and the God of Love. He is the Good Shepherd. He is the Prince of Peace. He is the Healer of our Souls, and He is our Savior and Redeemer. He guides us patiently, waiting for us to decide that we need Him more than we need the world or the struggles in it and realize He was there with open arms all along.
Other Related Women’s Voices
Covenant Daughters of God, Jean A. Stephens
Temples are an expression of God’s love. He invites us all to come, learn of Him, feel His love, and receive the priesthood ordinances necessary for eternal life with Him. Each covenant is made one by one. Every mighty change of heart matters to the Lord. And yours will make all the difference to you.
All Things Shall Work Together for Your Good, Susan W. Tanner
I testify that Heavenly Father is a tender, loving parent who desires to bless us with all that He has. As we search, pray, and believe, we will recognize miracles in our lives and become miracle workers in the lives of others. We will be persuaded of His promise that all things shall work together for our good.
Daughters of God, Gordan B. Hinckley
Logic and reason would certainly suggest that if we have a Father in Heaven, we have a Mother in Heaven. That doctrine rests well with me.