The Royal Arch
"He that humbleth himself, shall be exalted." These words are familiar to all Royal Arch Masons and should be to all people that profess to be Children of God. To put it in the language of the streets, "If you want to get up, then you got to get down!"
The Royal Arch degree of Freemasonry in former days, was the epitome of the Master Mason's degree, culminating in what was then the "sublime degree of a Master Mason, including the Royal Arch." In those days, only actual Past Masters could be members of the August degree, and as in all such cases where membership is contingent upon a narrowed membership supply, the order will soon die. In using what God gave them, the Masonic fathers then founded the degree of 'Virtual Past Master' in order to keep the York Rite alive.
This writer likes to look at the Royal Arch degree as a 'bridge' between the several orders 'above' the Master Mason's degree and the Symbolic degrees. The astute student of Freemasonry finds himself going back to Genesis in the Bible in search of the meaning of the degree, and winds up in Revelation. The degree of the Royal Arch is complimented by the Heroines of Jericho degree, and the two gives us a very interesting story of "the Scarlet Line."
In the Royal Arch, the several Temples that were built for the worship of God, are traced throughout the Tabernacle in the wilderness (Moses); Solomon's Temple, and Zerubbabel's Temple (Royal Arch).
Zerubbabel's Temple is the main one of the last degree of the several that make up the Royal Arch Degree, the seventh, sometimes rendered, the Cardinal Degree. Zerubbabel, which means, "born in Babylon," was the surviving member of the Judean family that was to rule Judea, following the Davidic line of royalty. With him was Joshua, a priest of the Aaronic line, and in later years, Haggai, a prophet that was highly instrumental in getting the Jews to finish the Temple after many years of inactivity.
In Royal Arch legend, these three formed the council of administration while the work was going on. It had been a long trek from Babylon.
As God had promised, Jerusalem and the Temple fell to the Chaldeans under Nebuchadnezzar, and over a period of years, 70,000 captives were taken to Babylon, along with the golden vessels and vast sums from the Temple treasury. No one was left in Judea except old men, women and children, and all around them was destruction.
While this may have been a period of captivity (70 years), it was also a period of great miracles, for it was in Babylon that we hear of Daniel; the three Hebrew children in the fiery furnace; Ezekiel and the 'wheel in the middle of a wheel.' It was here that Daniel was saved in the lion's den; it was here that he wrote the apocalyptic book that bears his name. It was here that Esther saved her people. It was here that Cyrus, through God's revelation to him, issued a decree for Zerubbabel to assemble a host and return to rebuild the Temple at Jerusalem.
The Royal Arch degree is mainly about what was done at the ruins of the Temple, what was discovered, and how the past was brought into the future. One of the things that comes out in the degree, is how the candidate and the Royal Arch Mason is caused to remember 'the former things of old.' There is even a question put to the Israelites by God, "How do you view the Temple now? Is it not as nothing in comparison with the old Temple?" What could the Hebrews do but acknowledge the truth? It was a prophetic warning by God for man to not build his hope on materialistic things, for Zerubbabel's Temple was not to last too long either.
While Zerubbable was a "Prince of Judah" as proclaimed by Cyrus, another "Prince" was coming, a Prince of Peace. One that would establish God's kingdom in the hearts of man, causing each to be a "Temple of God." The covenant as exemplified by the rainbow, the Royal Arch of the Noahchide promise, must give way to the Royal Decree of, "This is my beloved Son. Hear ye Him!"