In Revelation, the temple is the heavenly kingdom (21:22). Pillars are probably of more importance here. In the ANE, pillars were used commemoratively, ritually, legally, and memorially. Religiously, they were often used as cultic symbols of specific deities, sometimes bearing the name of the specific deity that they represent. In some sense, pillars are signs pointing the significance of something else. For instance, Absalom names a pillar after himself (2 Sam. 18:18), Jacob sets up a stone and which he calls “God’s house” (Gen. 28:18-22), or Bethel (35:13-15), Jacob and Laban set up a pillar to commemorate their covenant of peace (Gen. 31:45-54), and Joshua set up a pillar to commemorate the covenant between Yahweh and Israel as a witness against Israel (Josh. 24:26-27). Therefore, when John incorporates this language in Revelation he says that the one who conquers will become a commemorative pillar. As the Old Testament heroes named their pillars as monuments that pointed to something significantly greater than the pillar itself, so Jesus promises that He will write the name and city of God and His own name on these “living pillars”, making them commemorative testimonies that bear significance to that which they are named for. In the same way that an Israelite would have seen Joshua’s pillar (Josh 24:26-27) and been reminded of the covenant between Yahweh and Israel, so Christians who conquer are set up as living (or dead) witnesses that demonstrate the full glory and presence of the Lord.
The inscription on these living pillars will be “the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem…and my own new name”. In Ezekiel 48:35, the name of the city of the new Jerusalem will be “The Lord is There”. This puts flesh on the bones of God’s presence dwelling among His people in their city (cf. Jer. 3:17; Zech. 2:10). These visions foresee what John sees towards the end of Revelation in 21:3, 22-26. Conquerors will be living commemorative pillars in the temple of God, God’s very presence, as He dwells with His people.
Millard, A. R. “Pillar.” Ed. D. R. W. Wood et al. New Bible dictionary 1996 : n. pag. Print.