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:
- 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)
- 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.
- 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.