There are a couple keys needed to decipher much of Revelation. The first comes from Josephus, and an unassuming description of the temple veil in the (second) Jewish temple in Wars 5.5.4
It was a Babylonian curtain, embroidered with blue, and fine linen, and scarlet, and purple: and of a contexture that was truly wonderful.
Revelation makes reference to the linen of the second temple, along with other ornate decor around the temple in Rev 18:12
…merchandise of gold and silver and precious stone and pearls and fine linen, and purple, and silk, and scarlet…
Incidentally, this same veil ripped in two after Jesus was crucified in the Gospel of Matthew 27:51 and Luke 23:45.
Revelation seems to make references to the 2nd temple’s decor, but it associates these colors, along with stones and cups, to the whore of Babylon.
God remembered Babylon and the Great and gave her the cup filled with the wine of the fury of his wrath
And the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, having in her hand a golden cup full of abominations…and upon her forehead a name written, MYSTERY, BABLYON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF THE HARLOTS…I saw that the woman was drunk with the blood of God’s holy people
And he cried with a mighty voice, saying, Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great, and is become a habitation of demons…
Josephus references the gold cup in Wars 1.7.6
it was not lawful for any to enter but the high priest, and saw what was reposited therein, the candlestick with its lamps, and the table, and the pouring vessels, and the censers, all made entirely of gold
The temple’s golden censer shows up in Revelation 8:5 when the angel used it to throw fire at the earth after the seventh seal was opened.
The recurring theme of the latter half of Revelation is the personification, as a whore, of the scarlet Babylonian curtain, and the structure in which it resided, the 2nd Jewish temple.
The implication is that the Christian sect(s) who wrote Revelation were hostile to the 2nd temple.
One can surmise many reasons for a growing antipathy towards the temple: perhaps it was a psychological strategy after the temple was destroyed. Another possibility is that Jewish Christians became hostile at a perceived corruption and embrace of Roman ideals within the temple walls, notably by the Sadduceees, who were accused of being pro-Roman.
But as I have written in prior posts, I believe the key to unlocking this antipathy is in Revelation 12. Below are excerpts:
A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head.…Then another sign appeared in heaven: an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on its heads...But the earth helped the woman by opening its mouth and swallowing the river that the dragon had spewed out of his mouth. Then the dragon was enraged at the woman and went off to wage war against the rest of her offspring—those who keep God’s commands
In Revelation 19:6, the rushing waters ties up the loose thread of the woman being protected by earth via its swallowing of the dragon’s river.
Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder
Revelation 21:2 gives the new mother’s triumphant return into the New Jerusalem – she was the bride dressed for her husband.
I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them
Another key to this riddle is in 1 Enoch XLII
Wisdom found no place where she might dwell; Then a dwelling-place was assigned her in the heavens.
Wisdom went forth to make her dwelling among the children of men, And found no dwelling-place:
Wisdom returned to her place,And took her seat among the angels.
And unrighteousness went forth from her chambers:Whom she sought not she found,And dwelt with them,
I looked with my eyes and saw a woman to my right. She was lamenting and crying with a loud voice, and she was experiencing deep grief. Her clothes were torn, and there were ashes on her head… While I was speaking to her, look! Suddenly her face shone brightly and her countenance became a flashing splendor. I became afraid of her, and I wondered what was happening. Without warning she let out a noise, a great voice full of fear, so that the earth itself shook with the sound. I watched, and she no longer appeared to me as a woman, but there was a city built, and a place with great foundations appeared…
Who is Wisdom? She was the lady of the temple. But not the second temple: the second temple was occupied by the whore in scarlet; rather, the lady was of the 1st temple.
The point of Revelation is to explain how the Woman, who was the original iteration of the Holy Spirit (IMHO) would come back to Earth, despite not finding a place “where she might dwell” the first time. But this time, when she came back, she would bring her son, whom the dragon (Satan, the Demiurge, Rome, Babylon) attempted to eat.
The woman’s other children, the Nasar, would reserve her holy spot on Earth, despite theological resistance given in the book which King Josiah’s high priest found – major portions of Deuteronomy (portions of Moses’s Law). This is traditionally referred to as the Deuteronomic reform, which was a Jewish reform which purged various idols from the temple and Orthodox Judaism, including the lady, who was also called the Queen of Heaven; her followers expressed lament in Jeremiah 44:18-19, when they told Jeremiah that their troubles, including famine, disease, and the destruction of the first temple, was due to their failure to burn incense for the queen of heaven.
This connection between the Nasar and the theological descendants of those displaced by the Deuteronomic reform is amplified by Epiphanius, who described them as rejecting the Pentateuch. The Nasar rejected the Pentateuch because they rejected the Deuteronomic reform. Instead, they believed they had the real writings of Moses, which would have left room for the Queen’s Wisdom.
Revelation describes the fate of the woman (the scarlet-wearing whore) of the 2nd temple. Her demise was brought on by “…great hail, every stone about the weight of a talent” (Rev 16:20). Josephus gives a parallel description of what Revelation’s author is referring to in Wars 3.7.9 – it was Vespasian’s siege engines, which killed Jesus ben Ananias (Wars 6.5.3), and helped knock down the 2nd temple:
At the same time such engines as were intended for that purpose threw at once lances upon them with a great noise, and stones of the weight of a talent were thrown by the engines that were prepared for that purpose, together with fire…
Coming back to Matthew and Luke, and the reference to the torn temple veil after Jesus Christ’s crucifixion: what was the metaphor? With awareness of this tradition from Revelation, Jesus Christ’s death was required to usher in the destruction of the temple and the downfall of the whore of Babylon in order to return the Queen of Heaven to Earth and give rise to the New Jerusalem. My speculation is that Revelation was text reserved for those more deeply initiated into the mystery, where the Gospel story (and dramatic depiction) were for newer initiates.