The Cosmic Temple & Spiritualized Eschatology, Part 2

Read Part 1.

Firmer Ground

Following the biblical narrative it appears that the design and furnishings of the tabernacle/temple have some correspondence with the Paradise which Adam forfeited. This “remembrance” would only increase the sense of what was lost and what the Promised One (Gen. 3:15) would restore. It would act as an encouragement to faith. And the expectation would only be heightened once it was also revealed that the sanctuary was modeled after one in heaven (Exod. 25:9; Heb. 8:1-5).1 These ideas taken together form the backdrop for viewing the earthly temple sanctuary as a place of meeting between God and (one) man.2 Once the Redeemer completes eventually His work3 however, all saints may enter the true Holy Place (cf. Rev. 21:21-26).

If this view is accepted then neither Eden nor the later temple should be seen, in the first place, as a model of the whole Cosmos, but as a “pattern” or “imitation” of “the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, not man.” (Heb. 8:2).4 Of course, if the true sanctuary does model the Cosmos then so would the copy.5

Cosmic Temple and Typology

However, the usual way this idea is presented in evangelical theology is as a theological motif: a launching pad for a certain typological reading of biblical eschatology. This motif also depends much on seeing parallels in the way the ancients in other civilizations built their temples to represent their understanding of the universe. As we’ve seen, sometimes the idea of Eden as a tri-tiered arrangement of garden, land of Eden, and outlying lands is invoked.6 Then extrapolation takes over, as one inference is laid upon another.

As imagination kicks into top gear we soon have Adam the priest-sentinel charged with pushing out the borders of Paradise into the wild spaces beyond his habitat while combating the evils which dwell there. Adam does this so as to supposedly reenact the struggle of God against Chaos in Creation week.7 As the biblical story continues Abraham and Israel are “new Adams”8 doomed to recapitulate the same scenario, which only ends with Jesus, who, in His resurrection, empowers the Church (which is seen as the “new Israel”) to finish the job. Presumably Adam (and the other “Adams”) was expected to do this feat literally, but it is now being done spiritually by Christ in the Church.

So according to Beale, who has written many pages describing the garden of Eden as a temple,

The prophecy of the latter-day temple begins in Christ’s first coming and the church through God’s special revelatory presence, the essence of the old temple…Christ was the first expression of this divine presence that had left the old temple, and then his Spirit indwelling the church was the continuing ongoing expression of the beginning latter-day temple. All along, the symbolic design of the temple was to indicate that God’s “holy of holies” presence would eventually fill the entire cosmos, so that the cosmos, instead of a small physical house, would be the container of this glorious presence…at the climax of all history, the inaugurated indwelling presence of God completely fills the entire cosmos, which appears to have been the design of the Ezek.40-48 temple prophecy all along.9

This scenario plays nicely into the hands of amillennial and postmillennial advocates.10 Eden, Adam, the land covenanted to Abraham, the tabernacle and the Jerusalem temple, the people of Israel, are all types of Christ and the Church: the “true temple,” which may typify the Divine Presence filling the whole Cosmos. The proper interpretation of God’s program resides in the types.11 And they supposedly contain the grand story of the Bible, not the covenants, which (naturally) resist typological interpretation!

The groundswell of enthusiasm for this view comes into focus once one has bought into the typology. The garden of Eden and its recapitulations are interpreted as types of the “true” eschatological temple being extended through Christ’s Church—Christ and His Body being the antitype. This encourages; indeed it necessitates a supercessionist view of the eschaton.12

Notes

1A straightforward reading of the texts in question makes it unmistakable that this was intended. The problem then, for both Christian and Jewish interpreters, is what to do with this information. Sadly, many Christians simply choose to disbelieve it because they adopt theological positions at variance with it. Some Jewish writers see the Book of Hebrews as a piece of supercessionist polemics, and do not take seriously the agreement between Exodus and Hebrews. For the latter, see Jonathan Klawans, Purity, Sacrifice, and the Temple, 243.

2 That man being the High Priest on the Day of Atonement.

3 What I mean by this is that Christ only completes His great work once Satan is forever vanquished and the “Creation Project” is at an end. There is much still to be said about this theme.

4 I.e. As opposed to the one Moses pitched.

5 The reader is reminded that in the case of Israel’s temple the three-tiered arrangement of the structure is said to correspond to the three-tiered structure of the universe.

6 This is what G. K. Beale does in, The Temple and the Church’s Mission, 32-33, and G. K. Beale and Mitchell Kim, God Dwells Among Us, 52

7 G. K. Beale, A New Testament Biblical Theology, 40. Here is a contrary opinion: “The red thread of opposition to pagan mythological notions is also visible in the fiat creation by raising the firmament or expanse (Gen. 1:6, 7) without any struggle whatsoever…The ancient cosmologies are not absorbed or reflected in Genesis but overcome.” – Gerhard F. Hasel and Michael G. Hasel, “The Unique Cosmology of Genesis 1 against Ancient Near Eastern and Egyptian Parallels”, in The Genesis Creation Account and Its Reverberations in the Old Testament, (Berrien Springs, MI: Andrews University Press, 2015), ed. Gerald A. Klingbeil”, 22. Cf. John W. Oswalt, The Bible Among the Myths, 67-68.

8 E.g. G. K. Beale, A New Testament Biblical Theology, 39, 60, 62. Israel is called a “corporate Adam.”

9 Ibid, 647.

10 Even though it’s major proponents tend to be amillennial.

11 I refer to this as typological predetermination. It will be necessary to enter for a while into the subtleties, not to say the meanderings of typological interpretation. But I shall do that in volume two.

12 E.g. Beale entitles chapter 19 of his A New Testament Biblical Theology ; “The Story of the Eden Sanctuary, Israel’s Temple, and Christ and the Church as the Ongoing Eschatological Temple of the Spirit in the New-Creational Kingdom..” One cannot escape the prevalence of replacement theology in this book (e.g. 161, 173, 182 n.65, 215, 307, 574, 770, etc.). On page 211 the redeemed nations are called “authentic Israel,” and new covenant believers (i.e. the church) are “true Jerusalemites.” (671). In his comments on the supercessionist test-text Matt. 21:41 Beale speaks of God “rejecting ethnic national Israel as God’s true people” (680), and of Israel’s stewardship being taken from them and given to the gentiles (681). He says, “Jesus identifies himself with Daniel’s stone which smashes the ungodly nations, which also includes…Israel.” (682). Proponents of this kind of approach regularly complain that they are not supercessionists, but that is because they have so attenuated the word that it no longer retains its true meaning.

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There are 8 Comments

Andrew R.'s picture

Not only does this cosmic temple scenario play nicely with the amillennial and postmillennial positions, it harmonizes nicely with theistic evolution:

. . . Adam the priest-sentinel charged with pushing out the borders of Paradise into the wild spaces beyond his habitat while combating the evils which dwell there. 

This description (which I recognize is not a direct quote from the cosmic-temple proponents) makes much more sense in a world dominated by Darwinian struggle rather than in a "very good" completed creation. Perhaps this is another reason why this position is popular among academics.

J. Baillet's picture

Andrew R. wrote:

Not only does this cosmic temple scenario play nicely with the amillennial and postmillennial positions, it harmonizes nicely with theistic evolution:

. . . Adam the priest-sentinel charged with pushing out the borders of Paradise into the wild spaces beyond his habitat while combating the evils which dwell there. 

This description (which I recognize is not a direct quote from the cosmic-temple proponents) makes much more sense in a world dominated by Darwinian struggle rather than in a "very good" completed creation. Perhaps this is another reason why this position is popular among academics.

Andrew, I can think of another statement which would seem to fit your Darwinian, evolutionary conclusions. It emphasizes the importance of reproduction and the fight to achieve dominance over lower life forms.

Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.

Neither the “cosmic temple scenario” nor Genesis 1:28, rightly understood, fit, harmonize, or otherwise lead to theistic or Darwinian evolution. From the beginning, the plan of God always had a global, indeed cosmic, scope. When God rested on the (literal 24 hour) sixth day of creation, His creation was very good but it was not yet fully consummated. God’s work of creation was finished but there was providential work yet to do.

JSB

Paul Henebury's picture

It is true that some promoters of the cosmic temple are evolutionists (e.g. Walton, Middleton).  And it is true that it plays into their agenda.  However, for men like Beale I think their purpose is different.  I think it is eschatological.  

One thing that is true is that this is an old-earth position, as I reference later.

Dr. Paul Henebury

I am Founder of Telos Ministries, and Senior Pastor at Agape Bible Church in N. Ca.

Andrew R.'s picture

Indeed, it's fairly easy to combine cosmic-temple with young earth creationism, just as it's fairly easy to combine it with premillennial eschatology. My point, of course, was that it seems to lend itself more naturally to theistic evolution—not that it absolutely necessitates TE. (Please do note that the "Darwinian, evolutionary conclusions" are not my conclusions--I hold to a young-earth understanding.)

Paul Henebury's picture

I don't think it is.  I can't see how the cosmic temple motif as I've outlined it can easily fit within YEC.  I also think it is more difficult to fit within premillennialism; especially of the dispensational type.  But I may be wrong

Dr. Paul Henebury

I am Founder of Telos Ministries, and Senior Pastor at Agape Bible Church in N. Ca.

J. Baillet's picture

I agree that the significance is eschatological. If the Biblical concept of “temple” is broader than a stone and mortar building, then the importance of another, future, stone and mortar temple tends to diminish. Genesis 1:28 can be employed to support evolutionary theory as well as if not more so than this cosmic temple paradigm. Neither does.

The cosmic temple paradigm does not necessarily require an old-earth view, but I can see how it could be employed to support such a view. I am interested in reading your thoughts on the issue.

JSB

J. Baillet's picture

Andrew, I did not intend to imply that you hold to Darwinian evolutionary conclusions but that you concluded that the cosmic-temple paradigm leads to evolutionary conclusions. I would be interested in learning the reasons why you think so.

My initial reaction was that Dr. Henebury has a point in thinking that the cosmic-temple view is not aligned with dispensationalism. I don’t believe those writing about it are dispensational. However, I am now not sure that it is necessarily incompatible with dispensationalism. I must think it through a bit more.

JSB

J. Baillet's picture

The cosmic-temple paradigm does seem to have captured the imagination and minds of many in the evangelical community. Perhaps because there is something to it. The question is how far is it Biblically warranted to be carried, which I believe is Dr. Henebury’s point.

JSB

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