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!

 

Do Nothing

Do we do nothing to obtain [God’s] righteousness. No, nothing at all. Perfect righteousness is to do nothing, to hear nothing, to know nothing of the law or of works, but to know and believe only that Christ has gone to the Father and is no longer visible; that he sits in heaven at the right hand of his Father, not as a judge, but is made by God our wisdom, righteousness, holiness, and redemption; in short, he is our high priest, entreating for us and reigning over us and in us by grace. In this heavenly righteousness sin can have no place, for there is no law; and “where there is no law, there is no transgression” (Romans 4:15).

–Martin Luther, Preface to Galatians

More than an Underdog

The reason for this persistent story line of the Bible is not simply because the writers like underdogs. It is because the ultimate example of God’s working in the world was Jesus Christ, the only founder of a major religion that died in disgrace, not surrounded by all of his loving disciples but abandoned by everybody whom he cared about, including his Father. He was the victim of a miscarriage of justice and he died oppressed and helpless. Jesus Christ’s salvation comes to to us through his poverty, rejection, and weakness. And Christians are not saved by summoning up their strength and accomplishing great deeds but by admitting their weakness and need for a savior.

–Tim Keller, Making Sense of God, p. 208

Blogging the Institutes | 1.13.8 |The Word is Eternal

“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

The Word is Eternal

Certain people try to deny Jesus’ eternity while not outright deny His divinity. They argue that the “Word” came into existence when God opened His mouth to create the world. They imagine some change in the essence of God. Some names of God refer are applied to Him after He did some work. For example, He is called “Creator of the heavens and earth” after He made everything. But true faith does not recognize any change in the essence of God. If change in God’s essence takes place, then James 1:17 would not be true: “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” Therefore, it is intolerable to believe that the Word, which was always with God, had a beginning at the beginning of the world.

They even go so far to argue that when Moses talks about God speaking for the “first time” that no Word existed in God before. You don’t need to go that far, however. Just because something isn’t brought out clearly until a certain time, doesn’t mean it did not exist previously. I draw a very different conclusion. At the very moment when God said, “Let there be light,” the energy of the Word was immediately exerted. Since it was immediately exerted, it must have existed long before. If people ask, “How long before?” they will find that it was without beginning. No certain period of time is defined. Jesus Himself said, “And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed” (John 17:5). Even before John mentions the creation of the world in His gospel, he writes, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (1:1). Therefore, we conclude that the Word was eternally begotten by God. The Word lived with God in eternity. In this way, the Word’s true essence–His divinity and His eternity–are established.

God is FOR You (Psalm 124)

 

“Had it not been the Lord who was on our side,”
Let Israel now say,
“Had it not been the Lord who was on our side
When men rose up against us,
Then they would have swallowed us alive.”
Psalm 124:1-2

God is on our side. Literally, Lord is “for us.” David recognizes that if the Lord was not for him and his people, then they would have been destroyed. God is for His people. The New Testament picks up this truth and expands on it in Romans 8. After describing God using all things for our good and His great plan to make us look more like Jesus, Paul writes, “What will we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us?” (Romans 8:31).

I mean, the logic is pretty sound here, right?  If you have God on your side, then who is against you? Who can stand against you?  What do you have to fear?

Now, if that’s all the Bible said about God being on our side, then it would be very easy to agree with the Prosperity Gospel preachers that say, “Hey, God wants you to be successful and He wants you to be materially rich! By the way, God is going to make everything you do prosper!” But Romans goes on to actually explain what God being for us means in the next verse:

“God did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:32)

God is on your side by not sparing His own Son from death. God sent Jesus to die on the cross. Before God can be for you, He is against you! Earlier in Romans, Paul writes, “The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness” (Romans 1:18). Because of our sin, God’s wrath stands against us.

Romans talks about how we have substituted worship of created things for the Creator (Romans 1:21-23). Because God is God and the Creator of all, He is due all of our worship. To degrade an infinite God means to deserve infinite punishment. We all deserve to go to Hell. He is against us, but the good news of Christianity is that God can be for you. He can be on your side because He did not spare His own Son. He gave His own Son as a sacrifice for our sins.

As a result of God being for us, He will give us everything (“all things” Romans 8:32) that we need to look more like Jesus. God will bring everything into our lives to make us grow and exhibit the character of Christ in our own lives. Sometimes this means rest and respite. Sometimes this means suffering and pain.

 

Lead Better: Get Pure

Nothing will gut your leadership more quickly than habitual and enslaving sin, especially sexual sin. If you want to lead better, you need to get pure.

Not only does sexual sin hamper our relationship with God, but the subsequent guilt and shame damage our leadership. Satan wants pastors sitting on the sidelines, feeling guilty and totally inadequate to lead God’s people. Satan wants shame to dampen a leader’s courage and boldness for the gospel.

Are you tired of feeling unworthy to be a pastor?

Read more about how live a life of habitual purity over at Rookie Preacher.