Eschatology

The Cosmic Temple & Spiritualized Eschatology, Part 3

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Objections to the Cosmic Temple Motif in Scripture

In Beale’s book The Temple and the Church’s Mission, both the garden of Eden and the Jerusalem temple are types of the Church, which is confusingly called the literal non-physical temple.1 Beale’s thesis, which is fed by many ingeniously interpreted though vague allusions – mainly reliant upon reinterpreting OT texts by privileged interpretations of the NT – is that the OT stories of Adam, Abraham, and Israel recapitulate the same story of failure to extend God’s spiritual kingdom throughout the world. Jesus, the final Adam, the final Israel, and the final temple (though apparently not the final Abraham), will set everything to rights when He comes, and then it’s a wrap as far as this present creation is concerned.2

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The Cosmic Temple & Spiritualized Eschatology, Part 2

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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

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What’s the Big Deal with Eschatology?

“So do you think we’ll be able to get ordained?” I remember the words well because they echoed my own thoughts. My friend and I had just left another class on Biblical Prophecy. We both grew up in independent Baptist circles. We both knew dispensational theology and eschatology like the back of our hands. We knew the charts and the graphs. We knew names like Darby, Ryrie, and Scofield. Yet, for both of us, there was a nagging verse that echoed in both of our ears as we sat in this class: “Immediately after the tribulation of those days…”

His question expressed a sentiment that was increasingly becoming a worry for me as I neared graduation from my undergraduate studies. After 4 years of study and the prospect of at least another two years in seminary, I became concerned that it may have all been wasted because no one in our circles would touch someone unless they held dispensational, premillennial, pretribulational eschatology. As our conversation progressed, we admitted to each other that it seemed like the only way to get ordained and begin ministry was to lie. Graciously, the Spirit convinced us this was not the correct path to take.

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The Cosmic Temple & Spiritualized Eschatology, Part 1

Israel’s temple was a symbolic shadow pointing to the eschatological “greater and more perfect tabernacle” (Heb. 9:11) in which Christ and the church would dwell and would form a part. If so, it would seem to be the wrong approach for Christians to look in hope to the building of another temple in Jerusalem composed of earthly “bricks and mortar” as a fulfillment of the OT temple prophecies. (G. K. Beale, A New Testament Biblical Theology, 634)

The above quotation presents one of the logical outcomes of adopting the position that the garden of Eden was designed as a “temple,” which in turn symbolized the created cosmos, which needed to be subordinated to its Creator. This micro-cosmos Eden “temple” was to be expanded by mankind, we are told, until it covered the surface area of planet earth. The tabernacle and the temple of Israel were related to the Eden “temple” in that they too were mini-cosmoses; yet they also functioned as types of the final temple, the church in Jesus Christ. The church is the new and real temple which is to expand its “sacred space” until it spreads over the whole of creation.

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Eternity: All Praise, All the Time?

What will eternity be like for believers? Recently, in a couple of separate conversations, I heard two believers express the idea that in our eternal state, we won’t care about any of the kinds of things that interest us here and now. We won’t be curious, won’t be seeking answers, won’t be striving to be productive or improve ourselves or our surroundings. One of the two indicated that “ignorance is bliss” and that not knowing or caring about answers to life’s questions will be a key feature of the joy of heaven.

I suggested that there are compelling reasons to believe our experience of life in eternity will not be that different from life as we know it now—that we were created to be curious, creative, intellectual, and productive, not just spiritual and relational, and that our final form must include all of what we were originally intended to be.

So will eternity reveal a glorious perfecting of our original design as humans, or a scrapping of that design for something fundamentally different?

Big Changes

Scripture does provide ample evidence that major changes await believers after this life. One of the most loved examples comes from the apostle John.

Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. (ESV, 1 John 3:2)

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A Review of ‘Israel, the Church, and the Middle East’

This compendium of new essays follows the only occasionally stellar The People, the Land, and the Future of Israel, edited by the same two men. This book marks Israel’s seventieth anniversary. It is divided into four parts, Biblical Foundations, Theology and the Conflict, Yeshua in the Midst of the Crisis, and Current Challenges to Peace in Israel.

This book takes a good look at these four issues through the various viewpoints of the authors. There are few weak contributions (e.g. a surprisingly tame essay from Bock), the general standard is high. Here are my thoughts on a few of the articles:

First, Richard Averbeck’s opening piece on the biblical covenants starts things off well. He is clearly uncomfortable being identified either as a covenant theologian or as a dispensationalist, but he has no time for replacement theology (22). More notable to me though was this line:

The system of theology known as “dispensational theology” describes the historical biblical covenants as subsumed under a set of dispensations in God’s program … (22)

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Some Notes on Daniel 7 (Part 1)

Detail from the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel - Michelangelo Caravaggio

Just as there are four kingdoms represented by the materials in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream-image in Daniel 2, four kingdoms are also present in Daniel’s vision of the four beasts in chapter 7. Since we find weird creatures, portents of the last days, a supernatural guide and such, this vision is associated with apocalyptic genre.1

Saying something is “apocalyptic” is enough in some quarters to designate it non-literal, but comparison of biblical apocalypses with plain prophetic passages strongly suggests that they can refer to the same things, and that therefore, apocalyptic texts should not be understood apart from the more straightforward prose of comparative prophetic literature.

Each of the four beasts arises out of the sea (Dan.7:3). This “great sea” (v.2) is not interpreted, but it possibly refers to the Mediterranean, although it has additional value as a symbol for the world, especially in resistance to God (v.17; Isa. 57:20).2

The standard opinion of conservative commentators is that the beasts in Daniel 7 represent Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece (Macedonia), and Rome, exactly as in Daniel 2.3 I believe this is the correct understanding of the four beasts of Daniel 7:4-7, although I shall have to leave more detailed explanations to the commentaries.4

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