Coming of God – Riley O’Brien Powell

Jerusalem SiegeThere is much confusion in Christianity today surrounding the milieu of biblical eschatology. Specifically, there is widespread misunderstanding about the nature and timing of Jesus’ coming, arrival or presence (parousia in Greek). In popular preaching and imagination, it’s often called his “second coming” or “return.” Many life-long Jesus-followers are surprised to learn that these are not terms found in the Bible – and then to consider how these terms effect our thinking on just what this all means.

But the rabbit-hole goes even deeper: What if the confusion about Jesus’ coming reaches even farther back, to a more basic misunderstanding about what a ‘coming of God’ really was in the first place? What was a coming of God according to the Hebrew Scriptures?

In this series, I’d like to try and shed some light on this concept of a ‘coming of God,’ and why it matters to us today.

Before looking at what a ‘coming of God’ is according to the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament), let’s see if Jesus fit the pattern of a ‘coming of God’. Did Jesus come when, and to whom, he said he would come? Can we show that Jesus kept his promise to come again, in the glory of his Father, to his first-century believers?

Where Do We Begin? Jesus.

In taking a deeper look at this often-taken-for-granted concept, let’s refresh ourselves on when and how Jesus said he would come again. Most Christians today have picked up a futuristic paradigm through osmosis – it’s in the religious air we breathe. Because of an a priori commitment to the idea of a future second coming of Jesus, we bring the baggage of a futuristic paradigm to Scripture, not even stopping to question whether a solid interpretation of Scripture allows for this or not!

Our inherited futurism causes us to inadvertently run right over the plain teachings of Jesus about when and to whom he said he would come. It causes confusion because ministers have not been taught how Jesus fulfilled his prophecies to come, and yet they feel compelled to preach that “the Bible is true.” So while Christians believe Jesus is trustworthy – even the Son of God – their futuristic worldview causes them to necessarily (and yet needlessly) deny what Jesus plainly taught. And that’s a big deal.

Just for a moment, let’s set aside our futuristic presuppositions and open ourselves to questioning the idea of a future second coming – a proverbial “sacred cow” in conventional Christianity. Let’s ask: What do the Hebrew Scriptures show a ‘coming of God’ to be? Then let’s compare this to what Jesus actually taught about his coming. Then let’s hold this in light of what actually happened during the time Jesus said his prophecies would come true.

If a divine pattern emerges out of this that substantiates Jesus’ promise to come to his generation of believers, and if this pattern is different than what traditional Christianity has taught us to expect, then we may need to be open to questioning our previously-held beliefs. We may need to ask ourselves: Who do we trust more – the teaching of tradition or the promise of Jesus?

Let me introduce a thought that will help the rest of this make sense: why did this ‘coming of God’ need to happen, and why did it need to happen when Jesus said it would? Because Jesus didn’t teach that he was coming back to judge the whole physical world – this is something we read into Scripture. He was coming back to judge his conceptual world: the generation that crucified him, and to reward his first century saints.

Jesus was coming to end the world of political and religious power that the old temple system centered upon. It was called the ‘heaven and earth’ of the Old Covenant world. It was a world of concentrated power, burdensome laws and temple sacrifices. It had served its purposes, but its time was up. That world killed Jesus and yet, Jesus made this system obsolete with his life, death and resurrection.

My possibly-provocative assertion – that we will flesh out in upcoming posts  – is that after the Great Revolt beginning in AD 66 and subsequent Roman siege of Jerusalem and destruction of its temple in AD 70, God no longer lived in a temple made with hands. God lived in a temple of people now – his Kingdom of people on earth. So Jesus was coming back to establish the ‘heaven and earth’ of the New Covenant world. And Jesus would be the Sun of Righteousness who would never stop shining in this new Kingdom of hearts and lives. Like the new wine that burst the old wineskins, Jesus was coming to establish the new ‘heaven and earth’ and to speed the passing of the ‘heaven and earth’ of the Old Covenant world.

When – and to whom – did Jesus promise to come?

When? This first question is so important. All New Testament eschatology is based on Jesus’ teachings about his coming. And Jesus’ teachings are based upon earlier teachings in the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament). Jesus taught that he would come to his first generation of believers, both explicitly in direct statements, and implicitly in parables and other typological fulfillments of Hebrew Scriptures. I will only be able to touch on a small sample of Jesus’ many consistent teachings to this end.

To Jesus’ followers:

Truly I tell you, some of you who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom. (Matthew 16:28, cf. Mark 9:1, Luke 9:27, emphases mine here and throughout)

To Jesus’ followers:

When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next, for truly, I say to youyou will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes. (Matthew 10:23)

To Jesus’ disciples who explicitly asked him when he would come again to end the Old Covenant age:

So also, when you see all these things [seven signs], you know that he is near, at the very gates. Truly, truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. (Matthew 24:33–34)

To Jesus’ disciples:

These are days of vengeance, to fulfill all that is written…when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is near…when you see these things taking place, you know that the Kingdom of God is near. (Luke 21:22, 28 31)

Therefore I say to you, the Kingdom of God will be taken away from you, and be given to a nation producing the fruit of it.’ …When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they understood that he was speaking about them. (Matthew 21:40-41,43,45)

From now on, you [Caiaphas, the chief priests, the scribes, the elders, the whole Sanhedrin] shall be seeing the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven. (Matthew 26:64; Mark 14:62; Luke 22:69)

To Peter:

If I want him [John] to remain until I come, what is that to you? (John 21:22)

When did Jesus say he would come? Certainly within the lifetime of his first believers. Jesus taught he would come to his then-living generation of followers to fulfill the Hebrew Scriptures, end the Old Covenant age, fulfill the Kingdom of God and dwell with them forever.

But instead of trusting this teaching of Jesus, we are taught from traditional pulpits that Jesus did not come when he said he would come or fulfill what he said he would. This nonoccurence is thought to be so obvious that evidence for it is not even needed. After all, we are all still here, people are still crying and dying, and no new ‘heaven and earth’ or utopian world has replaced our world. But is a physical body floating down from the clouds to take up residence in a new physical planet really what Jesus promised? And did Jesus massively fail in doing this?

If we deny the clear time statements of Scripture pertaining to when Jesus’ coming would occur, then Jesus failed. And if we interpret the nature of the presence of Jesus and the new ‘heaven and earth’ through a physical-literal lens, instead of seeking to use Scripture to interpret Scripture as to the nature of these events, then Jesus failed to keep his promise. If Jesus missed to boat on such a frequent and blatant assertion, we have no reason to believe or follow him. There is no getting around this. We cannot make excuses and call a 2000 year nonoccurence a minor “delay.” It is a massive failure. Especially when Holy Writ holds itself to the mat in asserting that this great coming of God would be happening, posthaste:

For yet in a very little while, he who is coming will come, and will not delay. (Hebrews 10:37, circa 60s AD)

Looking anew at what a ‘coming of God’ was according to Scripture will shed new light on what Jesus and the whole Bible teaches about the nature and timing of Jesus’ coming into his Kingdom. If we set aside futuristic presuppositions for just a moment, letting Scripture and Jesus speak for themselves, these very time statements that have confounded so many become a reliable guidepost for Jesus’ right-on-time arrival. And Scripture itself helps us define the nature of the presence of Jesus and the new ‘heaven and earth,’ or Kingdom that was to come.

This work of discovery is taking context into consideration. It is reading Scripture in light of the ancient near-eastern apocalyptic context that these words were first breathed in. Jesus taught to a predominantly Jewish audience, and he used Jewish ideas – often quoting directly from the Hebrew Scriptures – to communicate with them in a way that his hearers would have understood more readily than we do today. This contextual view must be taken into account. When we do this, a whole new world – and a whole new kind of ‘coming of God’ – appears.

“Did Jesus’ AD70 coming fit the biblical pattern of a ‘coming of God’?” If it does, then far from being wrong, failed, or inexplicably delayed, as many teach today, Jesus’ promise to return to his first followers came right on time.

Stay tuned to this series to see how Jesus is quite vindicated in the pages of both Scripture and history – and why this matters to us today.

RileyRiley O’Brien Powell earned her BA in Art History from Wheaton College, M.Div from Princeton Seminary, and M.A. in Education from Harvard University. She is a mother of four, raising them with her husband, Skip Powell, MD. She is a covenant participant and theologian-in-residence at Solomon’s Porch in Minneapolis, Minnesota. You can find more of Riley’s writing on her blogs, at Living the Question and Mostly Raw Mom.

Doug King and Kurt Johnson: Getting to the Heart of Interspirituality

InterspiritualWhat are the spiritual implications of a global, multicultural civilization? Where can Spirit, wholeness, and empathy be found in our shared humanity?

Doug King interviews Kurt Johnson (author of The Coming Interspirtiual Age) about  growing our way through old boundaries into an interconnected way of being!

 

 

Elements of Fulfillment: Tabernacle

Temple Hands

Last week, we examined the blueprints of types and shadows versus the finished dwellings of fulfillment. Beginning today, we’re going to look at different rooms of this dwelling, in both type and fulfillment.

First in our elemental tour is the tabernacle. Under the law, this tabernacle was made of a material substance, having a temporal mandate. The shape, design, and nature of this tabernacle are fully described in Exodus 26 and 27. The writer in Hebrews 9:9-10 had this tabernacle in mind when he said,

 It was symbolic for the present time in which both gifts and sacrifices are offered…

They said that these services were “concerned only with foods and drinks, various washings, and fleshly ordinances imposed until the time of reformation.”

But now, under Christ, we have the tabernacle fulfilled:

But Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation. (Hebrews 9:11)

Thus it is clearly established that the “greater and more perfect tabernacle” is the spiritual one under Christ, that was typified by the temporal one under the law of Moses. To look for a material tabernacle in some future time results in exalting the “flesh” over the spirit (to use biblical terms), and the law over the truth. Certainly, the tabernacle under Christ is of a different material or substance from the first under Moses, but this does not destroy the meaning or validity of Bible prophecy. Nowhere in the Bible is it stated that prophecy given in a temporal context must have a temporal fulfillment. Many are asking for proof for the “right” to change from the flesh to the spirit in application of prophecy; but the proof is contained in these scriptures that we’ve been exploring. Abraham had two sons to teach this very lesson. One has as much right to change from the flesh to the spirit as one has to leave Ishmael (who has now been cast out), and come to Isaac, who has now received the inheritance.

While the law paradigm still stood, Amos prophesied concerning the rebuilding of the tabernacle of David. He said:

On that day I will raise up The tabernacle of David, which has fallen down, and repair its damages; I will raise up its ruins, and rebuild it as in the days of old. (Amos 9:11)

Since this prophecy was given under a temporal paradigm, it might appear from that viewpoint that Amos was speaking of a time when the material tabernacle would be raised up in a material form. But now the spiritual significance of that prophecy is seen since the time of its fulfillment is under the truth paradigm of the gospel, and therefore it was to be raised up into its true spiritual form as taught in Hebrews 9:11 and 24.

But are we just making this up as we go along? I think we can demonstrate that, in fact, our turn of phrase – prophecy is figurative language describing temporal events in terms of their spiritual significance – is borne out by the internal testimony of Scripture itself.

A confirmation of this is given in the testimony of the Holy Spirit, who made spiritual application of the Amos 9:11 prophecy in the meeting at Jerusalem in Acts 15. The meeting was concerning the Gentiles, who had been accepted into the church, and the problem of whether or not they should keep the law, particularly circumcision. After Peter made his speech showing how God had accepted the Gentiles by the gospel, purifying their hearts by faith – that is, the gospel paradigm in contrast to the law paradigm of works – he concluded that they should not be brought under the yoke of bondage of the law. At this point, James arose and agreed, noting that this was the very meaning of the prophecy of Amos, with respect to the raising up of the tabernacle of David. He said,

And with this the words of the prophets agree, just as it is written:

‘After this I will return and will rebuild the tabernacle of David, which has fallen down; I will rebuild its ruins, And I will set it up;

So that the rest of mankind may seek the Lord, even all the Gentiles who are called by My name, says the Lord who does all these things.’

Known to God from eternity are all his works (Acts 15:15-18).

If the prophecy of raising up the tabernacle of David must have a material fulfillment, then it is yet future, which would exclude the Gentiles from any right to seek after God until that tabernacle comes. But there is another tabernacle now, confirmed in the Scriptures, where the Gentiles can now seek God. On this basis, one may safely agree with James and the Holy Spirit, that the tabernacle of David has been raised up in the work and person of Jesus Christ, and that it is the tabernacle described in the Scriptures as being made without hands. The true son of David (Christ) is the minister and high priest of this sanctuary, and this true tabernacle is God-born and not humanly conceived (Hebrew 8:2).
The prophet Ezekiel prophesied this same tabernacle when he identified it with David (Christ) and the New Covenant. He said,

David My servant shall be king over them…

Moreover I will make a covenant of peace with them, and it shall be an everlasting covenant with them; I will establish them and multiply them, and I will set My sanctuary in their midst forevermore.

My tabernacle also shall be with them; indeed I will be their God, and they shall be My people.

The nations also will know that I, the Lord, sanctify Israel, when My sanctuary is in their midst forevermore (Ezekiel 37:24, 26-28).

In Revelation, John identifies this tabernacle with the coming of the holy city, the New Jerusalem, at the end of the ancient Jewish world when the kingdom of God came in fullness, or when Ishmael was “cast out” and Isaac was “brought in.” John describes it:

Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea.

Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.

And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God (Revelation 21:1-3).

To many this is yet future because it is commonly believed that most Revelation has a future fulfillment. Our contention, however, is that Revelation, like the rest of Scripture’s prophetic texts, has been fulfilled. John was writing of things that must shortly come to pass (Revelation 1:1), and the time was near (Revelation 1:3). The Scriptures cited above clearly show that the tabernacle prophesied by Ezekiel and Amos has its fulfillment under the truth brought by Jesus Christ. Revelation takes place before the fall of Jerusalem, and is a book describing events that would take place at the end of the Jewish world as they knew it.

Join us each Monday as we blog through The Spirit of Prophecy by Max King. (And if you get impatient, of course, you can always get the book inspiring these posts here.) Next week we’ll begin looking at the complete transformation of the element of the priesthood as we move from shadow to fulfillment.

Spiral Dynamics and The Biblical Narrative – Part III

Spiral PlanetIf the great eschatological promises about the end of an age (and beginning of another) were fulfilled within a generation of Jesus’ life and ministry, why did hardly anyone in the first century seem to see it that way?

Did Jesus come to displace one religion with another?

Why does progress seem to be so slow – and why didn’t a Messiah show up in the 21st century instead of the first?

These are just a few of the questions explored as Doug King completes his overview of Spiral Dynamics from “Blue” traditionalism onward, to today’s developmental leap to an entirely new vista of empathy and transformation.

You don’t want to miss this video!

Spiral Dynamics and The Biblical Narrative – Part II

Are we stuck in a moment? In Part Two of our exploration of Spiral Dynamics and the Biblical narrative, Doug King looks at how the Blue (Traditional) meme has served us well in the age of religious particularism – and why we just might be beyond its expiration date.

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Let us know what you think below!

Dwelling in Spirit: Not Built with Hands

Temple Blueprint

When building a house, a blueprint is very valuable. The various contractors and builders working on the house must consult the blueprint. They must follow its precepts, and adhere to its pattern. It becomes a kind of law that assures the proper construction of the house. Once the house is finished, however, the blueprint has served its purpose.

The family is not going to move into the blueprint!

The blueprint, as valuable as it was, cannot serve the same function as the house that it pointed to. This is a lesson yet to be learned by those who insist upon a literal fulfillment of Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) prophecy. They are still looking for a temporal return to the types and shadows of the law, rather than dwelling in the house of reality that these patterns have produced.

In addition to shadow and pattern, the law is said to be a figure. Hebrews 9 tells us of the first tabernacle:

It was symbolic for the present time in which both gifts and sacrifices are offered which cannot make him who performed the service perfect in regard to the conscience –

Concerned only with foods and drinks, various washings, and fleshly ordinances imposed until the time of reformation. But Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation (Hebrews 9:9-11).

The word “symbolic” (“figure” in KJV) is not the same as “type,” but it is roughly the same as a metaphor or parable. It means “to place alongside,” which suggests a comparison, and it is used here in the sense of image or symbol – something that represents something else. The first tabernacle, with all of its temporal services, was a representation of the tabernacle to come under Christ, and stands in contrast to this spiritual tabernacle not made with hands. Since we are not normally capable of understanding spiritual things directly, the Bible uses physical things to represent the spiritual. This explains the difference between the first and second tabernacles. Hebrews 9 reads,

For Christ has not entered the holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us (Hebrews 9:24).

Those who hold to the literal interpretation of prophecy want Christ to return in flesh and blood to enter into a literal tabernacle, but the only one ever intended for Christ to enter is the one made without hands, and he entered this tabernacle nearly 2,000 years ago. This tabernacle set forth the “good things to come” as foreshadowed by the law (Hebrew 10:1; Hebrews 9:11). The “good things” have come in this spiritual tabernacle.

Hebrews 8:5 tells us that the law system was an example, and in Hebrews 3:5 it is presented as a witness, or a testimony:

And Moses indeed was faithful in all His house as a servant, for a testimony of those things which would be spoken afterward.

The things that were to “be spoken afterward” are the same as “the good things” that were to come under the heavenly or spiritual paradigm. These things have come to us in truth. The things of which the law testified have been spoken, and the good things of which it was a (fore)shadow are now a reality. The house has been built, and we dwell in it.

Once we understand the law as a type or a foreshadowing, pointing to better things to come, we are in a better position to understand the truth spoken of in John 1:17. If Moses gave the law for the purposes just stated, then it follows that truth is the paradigm that was to come after the pattern or shadow of the law. If the law was a shadow, then truth is that which is affirmed by Paul with respect to Christ and the Sabbath,

So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ (Colossians 2:16-17).

If the first tabernacle was a pattern or figure, then one may expect to find a second tabernacle, which is said to be “of truth.” We might expect this tabernacle to be spiritual in nature. Hebrews 8 points to this:

Now this is the main point of the things we are saying: We have such a High Priest, who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, A minister of the sanctuary and of the true tabernacle which the Lord erected, and not man (Hebrews 8:1-2).

The true tabernacle refers to the one that was typified – blueprinted or foreshadowed – by the first tabernacle of the law; this true tabernacle is one that the Bible says is made without hands, spiritual. This is further explored in Hebrews 9:24:

For Christ has not entered the holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us.

Again, the word “true” is found in relationship to the tabernacle built by Christ, which helps one to see what is meant by the truth that was given by Christ in contrast to the law given by Moses.

To say that the true tabernacle arrived under Christ does not mean that the one given under Moses was false in design or faulty in construction. It was everything God wanted it to be, as a pattern or figure of the one to come. But it was not of the state or nature that God wanted as a permanent tabernacle. The true, permanent tabernacle is made of that which is beyond the local and material, drawing humanity together in a transcendent, inclusive way. This is the basic meaning of the term truth as given by Christ.

Truth is the spiritual nature of the New Testament paradigm in contrast to the temporal or fleshly nature of the Old Testament paradigm. The flesh had to be first that it might be followed by the spiritual. This is to be seen in the nature of the two sons of Abraham, Ishmael and Isaac. Ishmael, who was first, was born after the “flesh,” but Isaac, who was to eventually receive the inheritance, was born after the Spirit (Galatians 4:21-31). In an upcoming post we’ll examine these two sons in greater detail.

The law was for the purpose of typifying the spiritual state under Christ. A literal application of Old Testament prophecy returns one to the temporal conditions of the law, and denies the truth or spiritual paradigm of the gospel as the culmination of God’s revelation. The literalistic approach to prophecy reduces the truth or spiritual paradigm of the New Testament to a temporary period of substitution, until the time comes when Christ shall return and restore humanity to the temporal, by means of a fleshly fulfillment of all Old Testament prophecy. It results in a turning away from the state of fulfillment to a pattern of foreshadowing, which feels foreign to the trajectory of Scripture. It is moving precisely backward.

When we look at last week’s delightfully anachronistic chart, we see the idea behind the Law and the Truth. It illustrates the shadow and the body; the pattern and the product; the figure or type, and the antitype. This basic picture is presented in the two sons of Abraham, the one being born after the flesh, and the other after the Spirit. In Galatians 4 we see that the mothers of these two sons represent the two covenants, and the two sons represent the two nations born of the covenants – namely fleshly and spiritual Israel. We have already seen in the book of Hebrews that the first covenant contained temporal ordinances as a type or shadow of “good things to come” under the second covenant, which, as typified by Isaac, is spiritual by nature. It is constituted of things “not made with hands,” but born of the Spirit of God.

Join us each Monday as we blog through The Spirit of Prophecy by Max King. (And if you get impatient, of course, you can always get the book inspiring these posts here.) Next week we’ll begin looking at ten things which existed under the law paradigm in a temporal (or literal) sense, and then their truth/spiritual fulfillment counterparts, witnessing the change made from the flesh to Spirit.

“I love the guy, but alot of the fan club really freaks me out” – Comedians on Atheism and Belief

Totally BiasedWhat do The Onion, The Colbert ReportThe Daily Show and The Nightly Show have in common?

We seem to trust them more than our sanctioned network news sources. In our era, our truth-tellers are the tricksters, jesters, satirists and stand-up comics.

With this in mind, check out the following debate discussion story-sharing between an atheist comedian and a believing comedian over the existence of God and a life well-lived.

We think Kamau Bell, Jamie Kilstein, and John Fugelsang handle this conversation with more candor, grace and perspective than many talking heads – religious and atheist  alike – who get far greater media play.

What do you think? Are our questions – and how we live them – just as important as the answers we settle on?

Spiral Dynamics and the Biblical Narrative – Part 1

Presence Dusty Bible
Is your Bible dusty? Have you been on a journey of growth, but aren’t sure how to reconcile your life with the Scriptural narrative you grew up with? In this first of several videos, Doug King introduces a developmental reading of the biblical narrative, in a way that doesn’t shy away from either Scripture’s content or our contemporary needs as we mature. Let us know what you think below!

Spiral Dynamics and the Biblical Narrative Overview from Presence on Vimeo.

 

Shadows and Reality

That's right - an old-school comparison chart, right here!

That’s right – an old-school comparison chart, right here!

For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.
(John. 1:17).

In this next cycle of blogging through “Eschatology 101” we examine these words of John about Christ, their meaning, and what impact they have on our study of prophecy. The Law contained a foretaste or a shadow of what was to come. The “real deal” fulfillment would come through Christ, but the Law gave us images and concepts to help us understand the spiritual reality that is ours in Christ. Things like the tabernacle, the priesthood, sacrifice, the temple, etc., all pointed to the coming everlasting world where righteousness dwells.

To fully understand prophecy and the nature of fulfillment, we must look at the difference between the Old and New covenants.

The many pairs of contrasting words – flesh and spirit, works and faith, earthly and heavenly – point to the differing natures of these covenants.

John writes in his gospel, “For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (John. 1:17). Since it is clearly stated that Moses gave the law, and Christ gave truth, it is evident that two paradigms existed that are different by nature. This raises the question: What law is spoken of, and what is meant by truth? Responding to this question may not be as easy as we think. To define truth, for instance, it would be easy to go to John 17:17 and apply the statement of Christ,

Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth.

While the word of God is truth, this is not “truth” being spoken of in John 1:17! The “word of God” contains the law, as Exodus 20:1 tells us: “And God spoke all these words….” There was nothing contained in the law devoid of divine revelation. Paul said, “Therefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good” (Romans 7:12). One cannot make truth in John 1:17 mean merely the word of God without making the law something other than the word of God. The law was not the truth given by Christ, nor was this truth the law, but both were the word of God. What, then, is the difference?

If we can understand what the law was, especially in this context, we will be in a better position to understand what truth is. The book of Hebrews is devoted mainly to describing the nature and purpose of the law system. Hebrews 10:1 says,

For the law, having a shadow of the good things to come, and not the very image of the things….

The law, to some extent, was a temporal system of services and ordinances that were shadows or types of “good things to come,” but there’s not a 1:1 correlation. The “good things to come” were spiritual realities – “truth” – the very Good News of the in-breaking reign of God (“the gospel” itself). The purpose of the law was to foreshadow these spiritual things by their types, or shadows. This is the only way we can really understand spiritual dimensions. The physical realities, the types and shadows, had to be established so that they might serve as metaphors for spiritual reality. The picture here is of God as a divine author, establishing characters and settings in the first chapters so that the climax might make sense to the reader. The law was first necessary as a schoolmaster to bring us to Christ (Galatians 3:24), or to the truth. This relationship is illustrated in this delightfully old-school figure you see here. (We’ve been exploring these ideas since the early 1970s, y’all!)

This relationship between the law and truth is further explained as a pattern (KJV) or copy. The writer states,

So it was necessary for the copies [patterns] of the heavenly things to be cleansed with these sacrifices, but the heavenly things had to be cleansed with better sacrifices than these. (Hebrews 9:23)

“Patterns” here refers to elements of the law system that were purged or sprinkled with the blood of animals. The heavenly elements were purified with better sacrifices, the sacrifice of Christ rather than animals. The law system contained the copies (patterns) of the gospel system, with the patterns being “only about food, drink, and various ritual ways to wash with water. They are regulations that have been imposed until the time of the new order.” (Hebrews 9:10) The things reflected by the copies were heavenly – or spiritual – in nature. The temporal ordinances were imposed on them until the time of the new order, or the time that truth would be brought by Jesus Christ.

This truth also is presented in Hebrews, that describes the priests under the law:

Who serve the copy and shadow of the heavenly things, as Moses was divinely instructed when he was about to make the tabernacle. For [God] said, ‘See that you make all things according to the pattern shown you on the mountain.’ (Hebrews 8:5)

The tabernacle built by Moses never was intended to be anything more than a pattern or copy for the purpose of leading humanity to the archetypal – the heavenly or spiritual tabernacle – the one made without hands (Hebrews 9:11).

Those who served in this first tabernacle served to foreshadow heavenly things. Moses gave the temporal patterns, but the heavenly or spiritual product came by Jesus Christ. Those who are looking for a rebuilding of a temporal temple, and a restoration of national Israel to Palestine, fail to see the spiritual application of those temporal patterns given under the law. The pattern period has been completed, never again to be restored with divine blessing. These patterns have served their purpose – they have illuminated the spiritual copy that was intended.

Join us each Monday as we blog through The Spirit of Prophecy. (And if you get impatient, of course, you can always get the book inspiring these posts here.) Join us next week as we take a deep-dive into the symbolism of the Tabernacle!

The Last Eve

Presence Last EveA Last Eve in the New Heaven and New Earth
– JoAnne Gerety

Images in the biblical narrative are special phenomena. Exploring these images can reveal heavenly assets and a helpful way to envision the completed work of Jesus Christ.

I have been meditating on the narrative of Genesis in particular:

God plants a garden in Eden. There are elements in this garden that are quite clear. God is present. There are archetypal humans: Adam and an Eve.  There are two trees that are named: the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and the tree of life. And there is a talking serpent.

In chapter two of Genesis, Adam was alone until God causes a sleep to fall upon him and then the woman is removed from Adam. She is later identified as Eve.

The law that God commanded in Eden was that Adam and Eve were not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. One law, one horrible punishment (if you eat, you shall die – Genesis 2:17).

The talking serpent in Eden beguiles Eve; she disobeys the law and eats. Adam joins in the noncompliance and they are expelled by God from the garden to prevent them eating from the tree of life. A barrier with a flaming sword guarded by cherubim is placed between God and the unhappy couple. Connection with Adam resulted in death (or separation from God) for all humankind (1 Corinthians 15:22). Humanity was prevented from partaking of the tree of life.

Jesus fulfilled all prophecy between the time of his crucifixion and the destruction of the Jerusalem temple in A.D. 70. Could Jesus repair the breech between God and humanity? Can the imagery in Genesis be found in the New Testament?

Jesus is referred to as the last Adam in 1 Corinthians 15:45. Is there a last Eve – and where is she? We know from many of the epistles, that people who believed in Jesus in the first century were being placed “in Christ.” This group of people were collectively called the body of Christ, the church, or the “called-out ones.” Like the Eve of Genesis, they were taken out of Adam – in this case the last Adam – to be presented as a bride. It was possible for these people to be corrupted by the serpent like Eve was in the Genesis account (2 Corinthians 11:3). As members of the body, they were to remain as a chaste virgin to be presented to Christ.

The tree of the knowledge of good and evil was symbolic of the law. And we know that this tree was thriving in the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) because God gave God’s early people a total of 613 commandments to obey. Because there was a law, there was also an accuser (Revelation 12:10). The serpent was running amok on the pages of the New Testament having acquired additional names: the great dragon, the Devil, and Satan (Revelation 12:9). The serpent thrived while the law was in force and unfulfilled!

Jesus began the battle with Satan immediately when he began his ministry, and the battle continued until his coming in A.D. 70. In the interim forty- year period, however,  Jesus removed the curse of the law when he hung on the tree (Galatians 3:13). Believers in Christ’s death and resurrection were the ones who were placed in his Body in the first century. They would be preserved from the first-century wrath that was to come, which included the defeat of Satan.

The whole New Testament provides in detail the battle that Christ waged to complete all things; the book of Revelation paints a marvelous mural of these events. Finally, a New Heaven and a New Earth emerges; a bride is standing with the Spirit, issuing a call to “Come and drink freely.” (Revelation 22:17). The bride has partaken in the marriage to the Lamb in Revelation 19. She is the total of those believers who had been placed “in Christ” during the first century. She has been resurrected in the likeness of her husband’s resurrection, and removed from the last Adam like Eve was from the first. She remains eternally in the New Heaven and New Earth, along with the tree of life. There is no talking serpent or tree of the knowledge of good and evil in this place. Nor is there any barrier between God and humanity. Jesus restored it all, and the future is ours.

JoAnne Gerety lives in Riverton, N.J. A resident “Oldie but Goodie at 67 years old,” JoAnne loves spiritual studies and is a long-time devotee of Max King’s theological works.