Do vs. Done

The law says, “do this”, and it is never done. Grace says, “believe in this”, and everything is already done.

The first part is clear from what has been stated by the Apostle and his interpreter, St. Augustine, in many places. And it has been stated often enough above that the “law works wrath” and keeps all men under the curse. The second part is clear from the same sources, for faith justifies. And the law (says St. Augustine) commands what faith obtains. For through faith Christ is in us, indeed, one with us. Christ is just and has fulfilled all the commands of God, wherefore we also fulfill everything through him since he was made ours through faith.

Martin Luther, Heidelberg Disputation

Blogging the Institutes | 1.13.9 | Proof that the Son is God

“Blogging the Institutes” is my on-going attempt to paraphrase John Calvin’s work, the Institutes of the Christian Religion. You can find out more about the series in the Introduction. For all the posts in this series, check out the Master List

Proof that the Son is God

I’m not going to talk about the Son as the Mediator just yet. I first want to show that the Son is God. First, Psalm 45:6 says, “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever.” The Jews quibble that the name “God” is applied to angels or rules of government. But no Scripture passages indicates that God’s throne would ever be set up for a mere creature, angelic or otherwise. In the passage, he is not only called God, but also the eternal Ruler. Furthermore, the title of “God” is never applied to a human being except when there is some qualifying remark such as the time when Moses would be “like”  God to Pharaoh (Exodus 7:1). Some read this verse as if it were in the genitive case, but that is a weak point. I will admit that anything which has a great excellence can often be called “divine.” But from the context is clear that the throne is not divine! The Messiah is.

But if Psalm 45 doesn’t convince them, then Isaiah should. In Isaiah 9:6, Christ is not only introduced to us as God but also as having the attributes of God: “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace.” Jews object to this passage too and invert the order. They believe that the only name the “Might God” will call the Messiah is Prince of Peace. But why would so many titles for God the Father be piled up when Isaiah’s purpose is to present the Messiah with certain attributes which would stir faith in us? There can be no doubt that the one called “Immanuel” a little earlier in Isaiah (7:14) is called “Mighty God” here.

Also, there can be nothing clearer than the words of Jeremiah: “In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which he will be called: ‘The LORD is our righteousness'” (23:6). Jews claim that other names of God are mere titles. But in this passage, the covenant name of God (“Yahweh”) is used. This name is substantive and expresses God’s essence. In this passage, then, the Messiah receives the very same name as Yahweh. The Son is God too. And the Son also receives the exclusive glory of God, as elsewhere, God declares, “My glory I will not give to another” (Isaiah 42:8).

Now, the Jews try to evade this argument and claim that the name “Yahweh” was applied to the altar which Moses built and to the New Jerusalem by Ezekiel. Thus, there is nothing special about receiving the “name” of God.

However, in both of those instances, each thing was made to testify to God’s glory. For example, the prophet Ezekiel reports about the Lord’s presence returning to the city and thus bringing glory to Him (Ezekiel 48:35). Also, Moses built an altar and named it, “The LORD is my Banner” (Exodus 17:15), testifying to the work that God had done on behalf of the people. It received the “name” of God because it was meant to glorify God.

The Jews use a similar argument about Jeremiah 33:16, where Jerusalem receives the “name” of God: “ In those days Judah will be saved, and Jerusalem will dwell securely. And this is the name by which it will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness’” (Jeremiah 33:16). But rather than cutting down the truth I am arguing for, actually defends it. The prophet first declared that Christ is the true God from whom righteousness flows (Jeremiah 23:6). He then declares that the Church would be made so knowledgeable of Christ that she would be to glory in assuming His very name. In the first passage, the source of righteousness is laid forth: Christ. In this passage, we see the effect of Christ’s righteousness: we, too, are declared righteous and receive His name.

Out of Exile (Psalm 126)

When the Lord brought back the captive ones of Zion,
We were like those who dream.
2 Then our mouth was filled with laughter
And our tongue with joyful shouting;
Then they said among the nations,
“The Lord has done great things for them.”
3 The Lord has done great things for us;
We are glad.
4 Restore our captivity, O Lord,
Like streams in the South.
Psalm 126:1-4

 

When God chose Israel to be his people, he made a covenant with them. A covenant is a binding agreement which makes people family. In a sense, God “adopted” Israel and made the people His own “family.” He pledged loyalty to them. He expected loyalty in return.

But instead of loyalty, God only received rebellion. Israel walked away from Him. And so God eventually walked away from the people. He kicked them out of the Promised Land and scattered them among the nations in exile.

But that’s not the end.

God had promised that they would come back to the land after 70 years:

“This whole land will be a desolation and a horror, and these nations will serve the king of Babylon seventy years” (Jeremiah 25:11).

Psalm 126 was written when the 70 years were up. The people are now back in the land. God had brought back the exiles!

Now back in Israel, the people think they are dreaming!

But there’s more context behind this song. Although the psalmist thanks God for bringing the people back from exile, he also prays for a return from exile: “Restore our captivity, O Lord, like streams in the South.”

So what gives?

Why is the psalmist praying for a return from exile when the people are already back?

That’s because there are two kinds of exile in the Bible: physical and spiritual exile.

Yes, the people were kicked out of the land. But more important was why were they kicked out: their hearts were far from God (Isaiah 29:13). That’s spiritual exile.

And the spiritual exile began all the way back at the very beginning when Adam and Eve were kicked out of God’s very presence in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:22-24)

The psalmist knows that a physical return without a spiritual return is pointless. Because it doesn’t really matter if you are near your homeland, if you are far from God.

Which is why Jesus came to die: to end the exile. “But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly  were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” (Ephesians 2:13).

All of us enter this world in spiritual exile, separated from God. Our sins have created an insurmountable mountain to get to God. Our sins have created an unbridgeable gap to get to God. We have been far off, and we are dead in our sins (Ephesians 2:1-3). But God has shed the blood of Jesus to bring us near. Through His death on the cross, we are forgiven and made new. And God makes a better covenant with us, a new covenant. A new covenant where God is loyal to us not because of our loyalty to Him but because of Jesus’ obedience on our behalf (Hebrews 7:23-28; 8:6-13)

Blogging Beale | The Temple and the Church’s Mission | Chapter 2, Pt. 2

This is the third installment of the series, Blogging Beale, working through G.K. Beale’s work, The Temple and the Church’s Mission.  From now on, the posts will be in Q&A format, summarizing Beale’s arguments. Part one. Part two. 

Chapter 2: The Cosmic Significance of Temples in the Old Testament, Pt. 2

How does the priest’s robe relate to the temple’s symbolism?

It was made of “blue, purple, and scarlet” like the veil of the temple. Square breastplate corresponded to the square shape of the holy place and the temple (Exodus 27:1; 30:2; Ezekiel 41:21; 43:16) The jewels on the priest’s breastplate, which were a small replica of the Holy of Holies, also symbolized heaven and earthly cosmos. The same jewels are part of the city-temple in Revelation 21:19-20.  The three sections of the priest’s garment match to the three sections of the temple:

  1. Bottom of the garment with flowers = outer court = earth
  2. Main body of garment which was blue = holy place = sky
  3. Square ephod = Holy of Holies = invisible spiritual dimension

How much precious material was put into the temple and why is this important?

Foundation of temple laid with gold, silver, and precious stones (1 Kings 5:17). Inside was pure gold (1 Kings 6:20-21) The altar, cherubim, floor, and engraved work were all overlaid with gold (1 Kings 6:20, 28, 30, 35). The same precious stones and metals used in the construction of the of the temple were also used in making the priest’s clothing (Exodus 28:1-43). The precious metals and stones were to symbolize the stars, which in turn symbolized God’s dwelling place (heaven)

What is the connection between the priest’s clothing and temple?

The precious stones reflect the glory and beauty of the stars and also of the temple, which in turn reflects God’s glory and beauty. The main light sources of the old creation were representations, though only faintly, of the glorious light that God would shine in the new creation. The earthly temple was called “beautiful” because it was a reflection of God’s “beautiful” dwelling place in heaven.

What is the connection between God “resting” and the temple?

There are parallels between the creation of the world and the construction of the tabernacle (Genesis 1:31; 2:1-3 with Exodus 39:32, 43; 40:33) Parallels between “seven acts” of God: “And God said,” (Genesis 1:3, 6, 9, 14, 20, 24, 26) and “And the Lord said,” (Exodus 25:1; 30:11, 17, 22, 34; 31:1, 12). Parallel of sevens with the temple (seven years to build the temple, dedicated it on the seventh month, during the Feast of Booths, and prayer structured around seven petitions (1 Kings 6:38; 8:31-55).  Thus, the building of the temple seems to have been modeled on the seven-day creation of the world. Just as God “rested” on the seventh day from His creative work, so when the tabernacle was finished (and especially the temple), God takes up a “resting place” in it (Psalm 132:7-8; 13-14) The purpose of the temple was to be divine “resting place” (1 Chronicles 28:2; Isaiah 66:1; 2 Chronicles 6:41). There is a connection between resting and conquering of chaos (cf. Creation account, Genesis 1:1, 2). Solomon recognizes that God had given him “rest” (1 Kings 5:4-5; 1 Chronicles 22:9-10; 18-19; 23:25-26). God’s “sitting” in the temple is an expression of His sovereign rest or reign, which is underscored by God being described as “sitting” or “enthroned above the cherubim” (Exodus 15:17; 2 Samuel 6:2; 2 Kings 19:15; 1 Chronicles 13:6; Psalms 80:1; 99:1)

 

Blogging Beale | The Temple and the Church’s Mission | Chapter 2

This is the second installment of the series, Blogging Beale, working through G.K. Beale’s work, The Temple and the Church’s Mission.  From now on, the posts will be in Q&A format, summarizing Beale’s arguments. 

Chapter 2: The Cosmic Symbolism of Temples in the Old Testament

Why do pagan temples resemble Israel’s temples?

It is due, in part, to a refracted and marred understanding of the true conception of the temple that was present from the very beginning of human history. In other words, common grace. People have a vague conception of the truth which is twisted and distorted by sin. Also, Israel shared a common culture with the pagans, and they filled common ideas and structure with theological significance.

What is the OT’s view of Israel’s earthly temple as related to the heavenly, or cosmic, temple?

They saw the earthly template reflecting the cosmic temple. The OT temple was a microcosm of the entire heaven and earth. See texts: Psalm 78:69. Furthermore, the tabernacle was patterned after the “heavenly” temple (Exodus 25:9).

What is the general symbolism of Israel’s temple?

  • Outer court=habitable world (i.e. earth)
  • Holy Place=visible heavens and light sources (i.e. sky)
  • Holy of Holies=Invisible dimension of the cosmos where God dwells (i.e. “heaven”).

What evidence suggests the Outer Court represents the earth?

The wash-basin in the outer court is called the “sea” (1 Kings 7:23-26), and the altar in the temple courtyard is called the “bosom of the earth” (Ezekiel 43:14). Furthermore, twelve bulls encircled the sea and lily blossom decorated the brim calling to mind “earthly” images. Plus, the twelve bulls were divided into four groups of three, indicating the four points on a compass. Plus, all Israelites (representing humanity) could enter at large.

What evidence suggests the Holy Place represented the sky?

Seven lamp stands may be associated with the seven light-sources visible to the naked eye (5 planets, sun, and moon). Genesis 1 uses the word “lights” for these things, when in the rest of the Torah it is used ten times all in reference to the lamp stands. Revelation also associates lamps stands with stars (1:20).

What evidence suggests the Holy of Holies represented God’s dwelling place in heaven?

Just as cherubim “guard” God’s throne (Revelation 4:7-9), there were sculpted cherubim around the ark of the covenant (1 Kings 6:23-28) and cherubim loves into the veil (cf. 2 Sam. 6:2; 2 Kings 19:15). No human could enter into the Holy of Holies and see God’s glory. Only the high priest could enter in once a year with a cloud of inches so thick that he could not see God’s glorious appearance (Leviticus 16:13). The cloud could easily represent the visible heavens which point to the invisible realm. The ark was God’s “footstool” of the heavenly throne (1 Chronicles 28:8; Psalm. 99:5; 132:7-8; Isaiah 66:1). The ark is part of God’s heavenly throne room and appropriately, the space above the ark is empty.

How does the temple symbolize both the visible and invisible heavens?

The “cloud” filled Israel’s temple when it was completed, pointing to the invisible heaven (see above question) (1 Kings 8:10-13; 2 Chronicles 5:13-6:2). The “cloud” was like a “bridge” between the visible and invisible heavens, for some times it’s used to mean the visible heavens (Job 26:8-9) and at other times God’s glory is likened to a cloud (Ezekiel 1:4, 28). The earliest forms of the temple (i.e. the tabernacle) was also associated with clouds as God met Israel at Sinai (Exodus 16:10).

Temple is built as an “lofty” house which refers to both visible and invisible heavens (Habakkuk 3:11; Isaiah 63:15). The “winged” creatures around the ark also give upper-atmospheric connections (1 Kings 8:6-7). The veil was made of different colors which resembled the sky (blue, purple, and red): Red represented lightning and sun. Blue and purple represented the sky. The screen of the “gate of the court” was also “blue, purple, and scarlet” (Exodus 26:36; 27:16; 36:37; 38:18). Even the “loops” of the edge of the curtains were be blue and the priests were to cover the tabernacle with “blue” when they transported it (Numbers 4:5-13).

Blogging G.K. Beale | The Temple and the Church’s Mission | Chapter 1

G.K. Beale’s groundbreaking work, The Temple and the Church’s Mission, is worth close interaction, even if you ultimately disagree with his conclusions. The book is massive and dense with Scripture. So slogging through all of the details is hard work. But I think it’s worth it because Beale’s book unlocks many things which were previously a mystery to me, especially in the Old Testament. Today we begin working through the book slowly to understand Beale’s argument and unpack the implications.

Chapter 1: Introduction

Beale begins in the New Testament, specifically in the book of Revelation. For Beale, he is especially puzzled by Revelation 21, where John sees a “new heavens and a new earth” and then a temple. So Beale asks a key question: Why does John see a “new heavens and new earth” but then “zoom in” on the temple-city?

For Beale, one answer could be that John is first given a panoramic shot of the new heavens and earth and zooms in on city of which it is part. Beale find such an answer unsatisfactory because he sees in Scripture the new heavens and earth being equated with the new temple. Why should they be equated? Beale provides three lines of evidence:

  1. There is a parallel between the temple and the new creation: Nothing unclean comes into temple. No uncleanness in temple also means new creation is clean because the wicked are in the lake of fire (Revelation 21:27, 22:15)
  2. There is the “seeing-hearing” pattern of Revelation. John often first “sees” a vision and then “hears” an explanation (e.g. Revelation 5:5-6). John first “sees” the new creation and then hears what this means—the new Jerusalem descending down from heaven.
  3. The Old Testament equates “heaven and earth” with Jerusalem or its temple (Isaiah 65:17-18).

Beale then lays out the thesis of his work: The Old Testament tabernacle and temples were symbolically designed to point to the cosmic eschatological reality that God’s tabernacling presence, formerly limited to the holy of holies, was to be extended throughout the whole earth.

In other words, the Old Testament temples were symbols of God’s presence. And one day, God’s presence would one day invade the whole world. Therefore, in the new creation there is no longer any temple.

 

A Way Out (Psalm 124)

Blessed be the Lord,
Who has not given us to be torn by their teeth.
Our soul has escaped as a bird out of the snare of the trapper;
The snare is broken and we have escaped.
Our help is in the name of the Lord,
Who made heaven and earth.
Psalm 124:6-8

God is our helper who comes through in the clutch for us. David is so thankful for God because He did not allow him to be torn by his enemy’s teeth. It’s like running out and scaring away a hungry hawk about to scoop up your Chihuahua. God’s help comes at just the right time.

The very day that my and I took our new baby home from the hospital, God spared me. After spending four days in the hospital, we finally got home. When he arrived, I had to go to the pharmacy to pick up some medicine for my wife.  I was extremely tired having just spent four days being woken up at all hours of the night. As I was driving to the pharmacy, I got distracted looking out the driver’s side-window. When I looked up, an Escalade was barreling towards me head on. I jerked the wheel so hard to the right, and we barely missed each other. When I got to the pharmacy parking lot, I was praising God. In an instant, my life could have been over. My family had just went from a family of three to four with the birth of our daughter. But it could have gone back down to three that day. God spared me and delivered me just at the right time.

What has the Lord done in your life?  How has the Lord saved you? God makes a way for us to escape. Even though there may be times when we are flailing in life like a trapped bird, God breaks the net. God has a way of making a way when there is no way. And He did that for Jesus too.

God made a way for us even through death. In Jesus’ situation, it looked absolutely hopeless. Jesus never did anything wrong, so no one could justly blame Jesus for anything. And yet He was unjustly condemned. The powers-that-be worked the system to make sure that Jesus was condemned. How unfair is that!

Jesus also found out that there was no other way to save the world than straight through death and darkness. As Jesus was praying in the Garden of Gethsemane, he desired to save the world any other way than death on the cross. Yet He still submitted Himself to God. So Jesus had no way out. And He died. But even in the darkest hour God punched a hole through death and made a way by raising Jesus from the dead. He can make a way out for you as well. Are you facing enslaving sin? Remember that you are a new creation, freed from the bondage of sin! Are you facing opposition? Remember that what people intend for evil, God uses for good! Are you tired and worn down by life? Remember that God will raise you up with new strength!