The Coming of God: Like Father, Like Son – Riley O’Brien Powell

Silver Surfer Above Earth

This is great for comics, but might not be what’s going on with Jesus.

Last week, we looked at what Jesus had to say about the timing of his own parousia, or “coming.”

So where else does the ‘coming of God’ show up in Holy Writ? Was a ‘coming of God’ like the world-devourer Galactus‘ herald Silver Surfer, gliding in from the sky all bright and shiny? Or was it a demonstration of God’s power in spiritual, physical and the visible realms? Let’s delve into the internal language of Scripture to discover what this concept means to its original speakers.

In the Hebrew Scriptures, a ‘Coming of God’ had many forms; a voice in the Garden, a burning bush, and a pillar of fire. A ‘coming of God’ in judgment was usually when God used the means of an enemy army to discipline a city and its inhabitants. God’s presence was recognized in that hostile army because God sent a prophet to warn of the event beforehand. In the biblical narrative, the pattern looks like this:

  1. A Prophet uses apocalyptic language to Tell people that ‘God is coming‘ to change the ‘heaven and earth’ of their society ->
  2. The Prophet tells people to repent and turn to God->
  3. The People don’t turn to God ->
  4. An Enemy army comes. and people “see” God – meaning, they recognize that God visited them in judgment ->
  5. God reorients the ‘heaven and earth’ of the political and religious order of their society.

Like Father, like Son: 

“For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done.” (Matthew 16:27)

We sometimes forget the poetic stirrings in the ancient Hebrew writers, setting their evocative words in concrete, beyond all original recognition. Max King’s depiction of prophecy, though, brings me back to a primary understanding of how prophetic language functioned for its earliest hearers: “Prophecy is figurative language describing the spiritual significance of temporal events.”

This is how God came in the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament), and this is how Jesus was prophesied to come “in the glory of the Father” in the New Testament. Many Christians do not know this, but in 70AD, that is exactly what happened. The presence of God, in the paradoxical form of Roman armies, trampled the city of Jerusalem for 42 months, or 3 1/2 years – just as prophesied, “…it is given to the nations, and they will trample the Holy City for 42 months” (Revelation 11:2). Afterwards, even the Jewish historian, Josephus, recognized that this was a Divine intervention – a Coming of God – breaking into and changing history forever.

But Different? 

The main difference between God’s comings in the Hebrew Bible and Jesus’ coming was that Jesus’ coming would be the climax of comings of God in history. His coming would consummate the New Covenant age of God’s Kingdom of people on earth.

Now once at the consummation of the ages he has been manifested to put away sin.” (Hebrews 9:26)

Jesus’ coming would simultaneously cause the heaven and earth of the Old Covenant to become obsolete, disappearing from the relationship between God and humanity. And it would give way to the dawning of the New Covenant age, the heaven and earth of the New Covenant Kingdom of people.

“When God speaks of a “new” covenant, it means he has made the first one obsolete. It is now out of date and will soon disappear.” (Hebrews 8:13)

Jesus’ glorious arrival would be into his New Kingdom – and that New Kingdom is us! Jesus arrived to give life to his own body on earth – the body of Christ.

Through Us, Not To Us

It’s time to adjust our lens. The purpose of God’s coming wasn’t to physically renew the earth into a utopian state in an instant. It was to consummate the marriage relationship begun, the New Covenant relationship, with the New ‘Israel of God’ in Christ. Historically, marriage has had the purpose of producing legally recognized descendants who could be designated as heirs to a father’s land or Kingdom. Such is the case with God, his bride and his children. God came and consummated a New Covenant world, making a new relationship with his bride, the New Humanity, so that they could begin producing spiritual children, heirs with rights to all the promises and benefits as God’s all-pervasive Kingdom.

This consummation has nothing to do with the end of the material world, or the beginning of a utopian earth. It is about belonging to a spiritual reality that we can live in now, amidst our material world. It is a Kingdom that is coming into the physical world through us. You can opt into it and recognizing your belonging into it at any time.

It is not that God isn’t changing and powerfully transforming this world toward God’s own victorious influence of  justice, mercy, hope and glory. No, its that these changes are breaking into the world through us, as we live out our lives seeking to be a benefit and blessing to all the world, opening ourselves to the very real and powerful presence of an all-in-all God. God is coming into this world through us, right now, not coming in one earth-ending future installation “to” us.

To End a Covenant World

So let’s look at the pattern in the text again.

There were many “Coming of God” events prophesied in the Hebrew Bible, complete with earth-ending and cloud-coming apocalyptic language, signifying great change. But was this language describing the end of the physical planet? Or was it the end of a society’s religious and political order – the end of their world as they knew it?

The Bible and history both confirm that this apocalyptic language was consistently describing the end of political and religious worlds  – or societies – like Greece, Edom, Babylon, Egypt and Israel, as you can see from Scriptures we’ll explore below.

A Coming of God, in biblical literature, was never literally a physical deity dropping out of the ‘sky,’ although this cloud-coming language occurs to many modern ears that way. But an ancient person at all familiar with the Hebrew Scriptures would have recognized that Jesus was quoting the Hebrew descriptions of past comings of God from Isaiah and Ezekiel. Thus, they would have reason to hear Jesus’ words in the same way – as a poetic and apocalyptic way of describing God’s end of Israel’s Old Covenantal world through the use of an enemy army. Jesus was not as describing the end of the material world – not in his future, nor in ours.

Jesus, a prophet in the line of Hebrew prophets, predicted a ‘cloud-coming’ judgment on Jerusalem in his generation. Jesus was not predicting the end of the world, time or history! Jesus simply quotes his Hebrew Bible and follows the same Hebrew biblical pattern set by many before him, in a way his first century Jewish audience would understand. Jesus was predicting great covenantal change, as signified by his paradoxical presence in Jerusalem being given over to its violent strategies via Rome in AD 70, having ignored Jesus’ Way of Peace (Luke 13:34-35).

Stay tuned – we’ll be exploring more about the coming of God next week!

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: Shared Heart, Shared Legacy

Sharing the PlanetWhat empowers our planet’s collective spiritual experiences? What lays beyond them?

Doug King interviews Kurt Johnson (author of The Coming Interspirtiual Age) about our global acceleration toward a shared stake in common humanity, and truly common Spirit.

 

Elements of Fulfillment: Priesthood

Radiant ChristContinuing our series looking at fulfillment, we’ll next put our attention on the priesthood. Following our spiritual application of prophecy, we would expect to find a “spiritual” priesthood under the New Covenant. The priesthood of the Law paradigm was temporal in work and nature, with the priests being dressed in robes of distinction. For a complete description of the Levitical priesthood, see Exodus 28-30. Since we have a spiritual tabernacle under Christ in the New Covenant, it is only reasonable to look for a spiritual priesthood, as a temporal priesthood would be out of place in a spiritual tabernacle. We find this spiritual priesthood in 1 Peter:

You also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 2:5)

There is a spiritual house built of living stones, in which spiritual sacrifices are offered by a spiritual priesthood (called “a royal priesthood” in 1 Peter 2:9). What greater proof is needed in order to see that the change from the law paradigm to the fulfillment paradigm is a change from flesh to spirit? The priesthood today is not dressed in robes of distinction for the purpose of offering fleshly sacrifices and ministering in temporal ordinances, nor is there any Old Testament prophecy of such a priesthood to come at some future time. There is prophecy of a prosperous priesthood to come, but this priesthood shares a spiritual nature with the New Covenant in which fulfillment takes place. It is not, and was not intended to be, a mere copy or replacement of the Old Covenant priesthood.

The writer of Hebrews clearly points out the need for a change in the Levitical priesthood, and therefore a change in the law or the covenant. There is a New Covenant for the very reason that there is a new priesthood, and the nature of the new is spiritual. Therefore all prophecy of the new priesthood to come may well be expected to have a fulfillment that corresponds to the nature of the new law under which such changes have been made (Hebrews 7:11-12).

One such prophecy of a new and prosperous priesthood is found in Jeremiah 33:

‘In those days and at that time I will cause to grow up to David a Branch of righteousness; He shall execute judgment and righteousness in the earth.
In those days Judah will be saved, and Jerusalem will dwell safely. And this is the name by which she will be called: THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.’
For thus says the Lord: ‘David shall never lack a man to sit on the throne of the house of Israel;
Nor shall the priests, the Levites, lack a man to offer burnt offerings before Me, to kindle grain offerings, and to sacrifice continually’ (Jeremiah 33:15-18).

There are several things stated in this prophecy that identify it with the work of Christ under the New Covenant. First, Christ is the branch that was to grow up unto David (Isaiah 4:2; 11:1, 2; Zechariah 6:12). Second, Christ was given the power to execute judgment and righteousness in the land (John 5:27). Third, in Christ, the need for a continuous kingship and priesthood is supplied. “But he (Christ), because he continues forever, has an unchangeable priesthood” (Hebrews 7:24). Not only does he have an abiding priesthood, but he also is a king as well as a priest, “…forever according to the order of Melchizedek.” (Hebrews 7:21) He is King and Priest, having a throne that “is forever and ever” (Hebrews 1:8), and “an unchangeable priesthood” (Hebrews 7:24). Thus, the kingdom and priesthood are united in Christ in fulfillment of Zechariah 6:

… Behold, the Man whose name is the BRANCH! From his place he shall branch out, and he shall build the temple of the Lord;
Yes, he shall build the temple of the Lord. He shall bear the glory, and shall sit and rule on his throne; so he shall be a priest on his throne, and the counsel of peace shall be between them both (Zechariah 6:12-13).

Christ could not be both a King and a Priest if these prophecies were to have their fulfillment in the temporal paradigm. In the first place:

For he of whom these things are spoken belongs to another tribe, from which no man has officiated at the altar.
For it is evident that our Lord arose from Judah, of which tribe Moses spoke nothing concerning priesthood.
(Hebrews 7:13-14).

For this reason the author stated, “For if he were on earth, he would not be a priest…” (Hebrews 8:4). But he is a priest upon his throne, which shows that this prophecy was not to be fulfilled in a literal context here upon this earth. Being in the heavens, Christ can be both priest and king after the order of Melchizedek, who was priest and king of Salem (Hebrews 7:1). So, according to the prophecy of Zechariah 6:12-13, the man whose name is “The Branch” would build the temple, rule upon his throne, and be a priest upon his throne. That Christ built this fulfilled temple is clear from Ephesians 2:

Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit (Ephesians 2:19-22).

This is the spiritual house made of the living stones that Peter speaks of in 1 Peter 2:5. As for the uniting of the kingdom and priesthood in Christ, this is affirmed in Hebrews:

Now the main point of what we are saying is this: We do have such a high priest, who sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, and who serves in the sanctuary, the true tabernacle set up by the Lord, not by a mere human being. (Hebrews 8:1-2).

So the prophecies of Jeremiah 33:15-18 and Zechariah 6:12-13 are fulfilled in Christ under the spiritual paradigm of the New Covenant. This is the only place where such a fulfillment was possible. Scripture says it cannot be fulfilled in a temporal way (Hebrews 7:13-14; 8:4), and that should settle the matter of literal versus symbolic interpretation. The spiritual tabernacle and priesthood in the spiritual temple are the offspring of the temporal or fleshly types and shadows of the Law. They are in harmony with the nature of the New Covenant and produce children born after the spirit and not after the flesh. Those who fail to see the spiritual significance and application of Old Testament prophecies are not “rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)

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 metamorphosis of the element of sacrifice as we move from shadow to fulfillment.

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?