Sorry… the Temple has to go

A brief recap:

  • I am suggesting a trajectory from a loss of identity as the corporate priesthood for the nations, through the Levitical priesthood there for the nation, to the desire for a king to be as one of the nations, and the king finally builds a Temple.
  • It is not that God is not present among the people in that process and he is certainly manifest in the midst of those landmarks, indeed in some of the most remarkable of ways.
  • I have also suggested that although we are not looking for some idealistic outcome there is the same calling for the church as was on Israel, that is to be a royal priesthood for the nations. And in the NT I now intend to reverse the trajectory. The sacred Temple is not sacred – shock, horror to the disciples then (and maybe also now).

The Cleansing of the Temple: John’s version

I do not hold to two cleansings of the Temple but that viewpoint is incidental. I consider that John’s positioning of the cleansing at the beginning of the ministry of Jesus is not making a chronological but a theological point. So first to John and the early chapters of his Gospel.

‘In the beginning’ (1:1) carries such a resonance to Genesis, and we have references to ‘the light of the world‘ paralleling that of ‘Let there be light’ from the first creation account. We then have a succession of days:

  • ‘the next day’ (1:29, 1:35): this then accounts for 3 days of ‘creation’ (two ‘next days, indicating two days after the opening ‘in the beginning day’)
  • after that disciples come and remain with Jesus ‘that day’ (1:39): a fourth day
  • we then have another reference to ‘the next day’ (1:43): a fifth day
  • no reference to the sixth day, the day when humanity was created – the truly human one is not created
  • then we have a final reference to an event that takes place ‘on the third day’ (2:1). This of course pushes us beyond the Creation narrative and forward to the new creation day / week inaugurated that will be inaugurated through the resurrection.

So in the above ‘days’ we have a movement in a week with a skipping over of day 6 – Jesus is not a new ‘adam’ with the breath of God in him but the word made flesh… Creation is being re-calibrated with the resurrection pre-figured in the event that takes place on the ‘third’ day (the wedding at Cana). There the water for the Jewish rites of purification is changed into the wine that can only be drunk in the new creation. This is described as the first of the signs and through which his glory was revealed (2:12).

We then have a pause and a ‘few days’ pass with the next event recorded is the Johannine account of the Temple cleansing. This is why I consider John has placed the cleansing right up front. The new creation has to cleanse the Temple, but even more than that for the Temple has to give way to the Temple which is his body (2:19).

The Temple cleansing – other accounts

The other accounts place the Temple cleansing where I consider it took place chronologically – in that final week in Jerusalem. The prophet has to die in Jerusalem – that centre is the place that has to be the focus. Here I might sound a little controversial, but hold with it! It is not the centre with the identity of being the holy city, but as the place where the fall from redemptive calling is centred. Break it open there and there is a break for the world. He is the Jewish Messiah, to fulfil the promises to Israel so that the call to bless the nations can be truly released. He restores this by first breaking the curse over Israel.

Nevertheless, I must go on my way today and tomorrow and the day following, for it cannot be that a prophet should perish away from Jerusalem. O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! Behold, your house is forsaken. And I tell you, you will not see me until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’ (Luke. 13:33-35.)

When he finally comes to Jerusalem he weeps over the city (Luke 19:41) as he only sees judgement ahead at the hands of the Romans. Having declared what he saw in the city he makes one further visit – to the Temple. He is looking for something here that is redemptive, that could even hold back judgement. However, he does not find in the Temple what might have been a slender life-line. The Temple is no longer a house of prayer (for all nations) but has become a den of robbers. With that the bondage is complete, and the tragic future of the Temple is outlined, for example Matthew 24:

Jesus left the temple and was going away, when his disciples came to point out to him the buildings of the temple. But he answered them, “You see all these, do you not? Truly, I say to you, there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.”

Tragic in the eyes of his Jewish disciples, and nothing less than the end of age (and remember that the question is from the disciples who could not even see the Easter events so this question should not be understood along the lines of a standard modern-day Christian perspective concerning the ‘Second Coming’). The tragedy of the Temple destruction as seen from a pre-Easter viewpoint has to give way to an incredibly expansive viewpoint of a living temple where God dwells.

The Temple and the early disciples

In as much as Jesus was not anti-Temple, neither were the early disciples. They continued to gather in that setting in Acts and Paul went through purification rites within the Temple (Acts 21:26, albeit from following the advice of James). However, there were implications through the death of Jesus for the Temple. Perhaps Stephen who was associating with a more open minded synagogue (Acts 6:9) is the first one to push hard a point that he repeats in his speech (Acts 7), namely that the visitations of God were outside the land of Israel. That perspective was what took him to the point he made about the Temple. The end result – stoning.

There is, I consider, a little literary twist in the Lucan account. Those who stoned Stephen laid their coats at the feet of a young man called Saul, who we read explicitly approved of the killing. The twist is once we get into the Pauline message we realise that if ever there was a Jew who carried the mantle of Stephen it was Paul. The coats might be at his feet, but the coat of Stephen would soon be on his shoulders. Again we will read of a 3 day incident – this time of blindness. Paul, blind until he can see that the crucified Jew was crucified not for his own sins, but for the curse on the nation. Stephen had underlined a point of the glory of God being revealed outside the land, likewise Paul’s revelation comes not within the land but within the foreign soil of Damascus!

I consider that either the early church was ambivalent about the Temple in that it no longer carried any redemptive purpose, or as Jews they were unable to come to terms that its day was over. Whether either of the above is right or not, it seems to me that there was a growing expectation of a great and imminent shift:

In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away (Heb. 8:13).

There is no evidence in early Christian writings post-AD70 of an expectation of the Temple being rebuilt. Those events were seen as the fulfillment of Jesus’ words.

Enough for today!!

We have a Temple

The Temple in its various manifestations carried great significance for Israel. In the time of Jesus we had the Temple, though not yet complete, built by Herod the Great thus validating his claim to to be king of the Jews; the Maccabean cleansing of the Temple in 164BCE gave them a strong basis to form the Hasmonean dynasty; the building of the second Temple post-exile signified some dignity and autonomy to the people. The Temple stood for something and in the time of Jesus, the obvious grandeur of Herod’s Temple communicated something about the uniqueness of this nation, Israel, and God’s promise to live with and defend this people.

The Temple, prepared for by David and constructed by his son, Solomon, was a key feature of the his reign and legitimised his unique standing before God, as his ‘son’. 1 Kings 8 is a chapter where we can pick up on Solomon’s Temple:

There was nothing in the ark except the two tablets of stone that Moses put there at Horeb, where the Lord made a covenant with the people of Israel, when they came out of the land of Egypt. And when the priests came out of the Holy Place, a cloud filled the house of the Lord, so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled the house of the Lord (1 Kings 8:9-11).

Yet even in the dedication Solomon holds on to a higher truth, ‘Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you; how much less this house that I have built!’ (1 Kings 8:27). I suspect, though, that the building of the impressive Temple did not expand the peoples’ vision to see God as inhabiting the whole earth, but as being present in Jerusalem and within the inner sanctuary of the Holy of Holies in a very intense way. The cloud of glory would even seem to endorse this viewpoint.

There is a tension within the narratives. God is present everywhere, but his intense presence is within the Temple. There are continuing tensions we face. God’s Temple is creation and God is depicted as seated within Creation (heaven = throne / earth = footstool). Humanity is placed in the original narratives, in line with ANE understanding of temple imagery, inside the sanctuary as the image of the invisible God. Hence God is present in all places, and yet he is found in an intensified way in specific places. Even a theology of ‘home’ suggests this, for we cannot impose God in all places, but we can within our own circle invite this God to take up residence with us.

The issue with the Temple was not the tension of the universal and the particular, but that the particular geo-location weakened and ultimately cancelled out the universal. Rather than the identity of Israel being located within the nations of the earth as a unique people the draw to the centre eventually resisted the push outward. Living in a strange land they were not able to sing the songs of Zion, whereas a prophet like Jeremiah who relativised the importance of the Temple provoked them to buy land and seek the welfare of the city – even of Babylon.

Reading the pages of the OT we are often left hanging in the midst of the debate, and if all we had were those pages we would find it hard to navigate to a place of clarity. It is of course to the pages of the NT that we have to come, to the ministry of the one true human, the true Israel to find how we should respond to the issues raised in the trajectory.

  • We could suggest that God never desired a priesthood, a monarchy, nor a temple.
  • Yet within each of the above the presence of God is discovered. We cannot take that presence as endorsing the container in which he is revealed.
  • Indeed the container also in parts hides or distorts the revelation.

The ultimate direction from Exodus 19 to the pages of the NT is not one of fulfilling the calling to be a priesthood for the nations, but of a decreased ability to do so. A Temple remained, a priesthood but now one compromised with Rome, and a dubious king (Herod), they are all still visible, yet the overall sense in the land was one of being in Exile, separated from their God in any real sense. The NT claim for Jesus that ‘God is with us’ (Emmanuel) is momentous. There has been a downward trajectory, indeed so much so that Paul says that the death of Jesus was to break the curse on Israel. How far has the fall been? The nations under the curse were to find their freedom through the unique nation, but now, that nation is as one of the other nations. Here is the deeper significance of Jesus coming in ‘the fullness of times’, born human, born Jewish to redeem those under the law.

The formation of a people. ‘Are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?’ might be the question of those who could not envisage a future without a Temple, and maybe the question could have been framed differently, or maybe we are meant to understand it differently / deeper along the lines of are you going to restore the kingdom call of Israel at this time? (Understanding kingdom to be a kingdom of priests not a kingdom that can rule over others.)

I end the downward trajectory with Cyrus’ declaration and parallel / contrast it to the Jesus declaration. The former ends how the Hebrew scriptures were normally framed: the last words of the Writings. The Jesus declaration coming at the of the very Jewish Gospel that is all about fulfillment of Scriptures. Here they are:

Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom and also put it in writing: “Thus says Cyrus king of Persia, ‘The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and he has charged me to build him a house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Whoever is among you of all his people, may the Lord his God be with him. Let him go up.'” (2 Chron. 37:22,23.)

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matt. 28: 18-20.)

The resonances are strong. The differences are clear! A downward trajectory has been what we have looked at. Now the great reversals!

This site

About this site

I am the main contributor to this site, though there are guest writers from time to time. Hopefully, what is presented are perspectives not the final word!

The main area that I focus on and continues to interest me is how we should understand and live out the gospel. I am convinced (a perspective!) that we have to understand the implications of the gospel as being that of impacting the world. Although the kingdom of heaven can never be identified with any 'earthly' kingdom we are called to pray, live and act, so that we see greater measures of heaven manifest on earth.

I am very grateful that I have been deeply influenced by a charismatic theology, an anabaptist understanding of hermeneutics, a long-term involvement in the various intercessory / spiritual warfare, and the (more-recent) work associated with 'kenarchy'. backgrounds. They all influence me enormously and it will not take too much discernment to read those influences in these pages.

Why Spain

Why Spain

spain-mapGayle and I have lived in Spain since 2009 (Jan. 1 - start the year as one intends to carry on?) and although Spain was not a place that was on either of our radar, the continent of Europe certainly has been. In that sense we have a focus on Europe and live in Spain, however as we have dug into the history of Spain something has got under our skin.

Spain has only a recent history of democracy (1975-1977 being years of transition to democracy, post Franco), and has been subject to a two-party domination in politics, until the end of 2015 when that was broken. Although our hope is not placed in a political party we see incredible connections between the shift of the 'powers' and the time in history that has been unlocked through prayer.

Our own focus has been on the history of the land and we have had a strong focus on the Civil War (1936-39) and its aftermath.

We plan to be based in Spain long-term and increasingly look to connect with those who are embedded in the wider European context and are seeking to live out the implications of their faith in that setting.

WordPress design

WordPress design

wordpress_logo20I began developing sites for my personal use many years ago and settled on WordPress soon after it moving from being simply a blogging platform. I find it incredibly flexible and can empower virtually any style of site. My skills are in working with clients who wish something custom made for their use.

This site here is based on WP and uses a theme that I have developed. A site can be as simple as a set of posts and some pages, or any number of elements can be added such as this animated set of tabs that are activated when clicking the tabs above. All the sites are designed to be mobile-friendly, being responsive, they adjust to the device being used to view them.

If interested in a site feel free to make contact. I also have developed various courses on WP theme development. If interested in taking one of them online, or indeed you would wish to contact me about presenting a course to a small group.

This site
Why Spain
WordPress design

About this site

I am the main contributor to this site, though there are guest writers from time to time. Hopefully, what is presented are perspectives not the final word!

The main area that I focus on and continues to interest me is how we should understand and live out the gospel. I am convinced (a perspective!) that we have to understand the implications of the gospel as being that of impacting the world. Although the kingdom of heaven can never be identified with any 'earthly' kingdom we are called to pray, live and act, so that we see greater measures of heaven manifest on earth.

I am very grateful that I have been deeply influenced by a charismatic theology, an anabaptist understanding of hermeneutics, a long-term involvement in the various intercessory / spiritual warfare, and the (more-recent) work associated with 'kenarchy'. backgrounds. They all influence me enormously and it will not take too much discernment to read those influences in these pages.

Why Spain

spain-mapGayle and I have lived in Spain since 2009 (Jan. 1 - start the year as one intends to carry on?) and although Spain was not a place that was on either of our radar, the continent of Europe certainly has been. In that sense we have a focus on Europe and live in Spain, however as we have dug into the history of Spain something has got under our skin.

Spain has only a recent history of democracy (1975-1977 being years of transition to democracy, post Franco), and has been subject to a two-party domination in politics, until the end of 2015 when that was broken. Although our hope is not placed in a political party we see incredible connections between the shift of the 'powers' and the time in history that has been unlocked through prayer.

Our own focus has been on the history of the land and we have had a strong focus on the Civil War (1936-39) and its aftermath.

We plan to be based in Spain long-term and increasingly look to connect with those who are embedded in the wider European context and are seeking to live out the implications of their faith in that setting.

WordPress design

wordpress_logo20I began developing sites for my personal use many years ago and settled on WordPress soon after it moving from being simply a blogging platform. I find it incredibly flexible and can empower virtually any style of site. My skills are in working with clients who wish something custom made for their use.

This site here is based on WP and uses a theme that I have developed. A site can be as simple as a set of posts and some pages, or any number of elements can be added such as this animated set of tabs that are activated when clicking the tabs above. All the sites are designed to be mobile-friendly, being responsive, they adjust to the device being used to view them.

If interested in a site feel free to make contact. I also have developed various courses on WP theme development. If interested in taking one of them online, or indeed you would wish to contact me about presenting a course to a small group.

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