N. T. Wright’s The Day the Revolution Began, Part 7 (God’s Temple under the Covenants; the Intersection of Heaven and Earth)

dayrevolutionbegan

N. T. “Tom” Wright has just released another paradigm-shifting book suggesting a new, more scriptural way of understanding the atonement, The Day the Revolution Began: Reconsidering the Meaning of Jesus’s Crucifixion. Wright delves deeply into how the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus accomplishes our salvation.

Covenant and Temple

Adam and Eve worshiped God in the temple of the Cosmos — Creation.

Abraham had no physical temple. He built altars as he felt the need to worship God.

Moses built the tabernacle as the place for God to be worshiped and for sacrifice to be made. After the tabernacle was built, we no longer read of sacrifices being made to God apart from the tabernacle or Temple. God insisted that he be worshiped in this one, special location.

[JFG] “Worship” in the tabernacle and Temple was primarily the sacrifice of animals or agricultural products. While the Jews chanted or sang songs and prayed at the Temple, these were generally spontaneous acts, not a regular liturgy led by priests. The priests primary job was to assist with animal sacrifice (an elaborate, bloody process) and to perform the Levitical rituals, such as burning incense and leading various national festivals.

[JFG] Synagogues were not instituted until after the time of the Babylonian captivity, and no sacrifices were ever made at a synagogue — and the Jews did not think of a synagogue as a place of “worship.” They prayed to God and studied the Tanakh (OT) there, but there was no sacrifice, no singing, or the like so far as is revealed by our available sources. The song service seems to have developed after the Temple was destroyed in 70 AD.

David designed and Solomon built the Temple.

Jesus prophesied the destruction of the Temple by the Romans due to the sinfulness of the Jews and replaced the Temple with the new, eternal Temple — himself.

The church, as the body of Christ, is also the new Temple. The NT repeatedly refers to the church as a temple for the Holy Spirit. But this is just one temple — as Jesus is one with the church.

[JFG] The Christian assembly does not replace the Temple as the unique place of worship. Rather, because Christians are always in the “temple,” they are always permitted to worship. In the NT, “worship” is defined by analogy to OT worship, that is, sacrifice. Hence,

(Rom. 12:1 ESV) I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 

[JFG] This is OT worship language applied to Christian living.

At the Second Coming, there will be no temple.

(Rev. 21:22-23 ESV)  22 And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb.  23 And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. 

In effect, the NHNE become the Temple, just as the original Creation was made by God to be a cosmic temple for himself. We will have come full circle.

Merger of heaven and earth

As Wright explains in Simply Christian, the same story can be understood in terms of the separation of heaven and earth/God and and man.

In the Garden, man walked and spoke with God in the cool of the morning. The Garden was an intersection of earth and heaven, where both God and man could dwell together.

God’s special presence did not leave mankind entirely after sin entered the world, but it was greatly lessened and soon was nearly gone entirely — so much so that God allowed the world to be flooded and all but Noah and his family killed.

God’s presence returned with the accounts of Abraham. God spoke directly with Abraham as he’d spoken with Adam and Eve. This brought about the covenant relationship between God and Abraham. And when God appeared to Abraham, heaven and earth briefly intersected.

Over time, the Israelites in Egypt seem to have very nearly forgotten about God. We know nothing of their worshiping God until they cry out to him in their anguish due to Egyptian oppression. This led to God’s very presence among Israel — through Moses, atop Mt. Sinai, and in the column of smoke and fire that led them through the wilderness, which rested in the Holy of Holies in the tabernacle.

Wherever God’s special presence was — on Mt. Sinai or in the tabernacle — was a place where heaven and earth met.

The same happened when Solomon’s Temple was dedicated and God’s presence rested there.

In Ezekiel, as the Babylonian army approaches Jerusalem, the prophet pictures the Glory of God — his presence — leaving Jerusalem, exiting to the east via the Mount of Olives. Heaven and earth were separated, resulting in Exile.

When Jesus returned, he entered Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives and so heaven and earth met. This was plainly visible at the Transfiguration but also at the crucifixion as the curtain that barred everyone but the High Priest from the Holy of Holies was torn down by God’s earthquake — opening God’s presence to all with faith in Jesus.

Under the new covenant, God the Holy Spirit has a special dwelling in the church, as the Temple of the Holy Spirit. The church itself is also the body of Christ. Heaven and earth meet in the church and in each individual Christian (but the church is emphasized in the NT). When we pray to God, we no longer look to the east to find God in his Temple. We look inside or we look among us, because God’s special presence is in his church.

In theory, the church is therefore a bit of heaven on earth. Sometimes it even seems that way. Sometimes it seems the furthest thing from reality. Our vocation, our mission, is in part to let God make the church into the church — the church as it actually is must become the church as it is meant to be.

The Temple as a Mini-cosmos

The Temple was designed as a mini-cosmos, with elements reflecting the Creation. This is because the original Temple was the Creation itself. Wright adopts the teachings of John Walton regarding the meaning of Genesis 1. Walton is an expert to the literature of the Ancient Near East, and he teaches that if we read Gen 1 as an Ancient Near East (ANE) document (inspired, of course, but written to ANE people in ANE terms), we’d find that it’s a description of the dedication of a temple to a god (the God, of course). I explain this in more detail at How to Study the Bible: The Cosmic Temple.

 

Profile photo of Jay Guin

About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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12 Responses to N. T. Wright’s The Day the Revolution Began, Part 7 (God’s Temple under the Covenants; the Intersection of Heaven and Earth)

  1. Larry Cheek says:

    Jay,
    I have been searching scriptures in an attempt to find any concept which would support the idea that heaven and earth has ever been separated, as is being suggested my Mr Walton and Mr. Wright. I find the exact opposite, heaven and earth has never been separated. Mankind separated himself from God by committing sin. Conflicts have only been between man and God, never between God in heaven and the earth. God never withdrew from earth even in the flood that has been mentioned. He did destroy much of creation in the flood, mankind and air breathing animals but it was only mankind that had separated himself from God the balance of the creation which was destroyed was not at odds with God.
    Jer 23:24 ESV Can a man hide himself in secret places so that I cannot see him? declares the LORD. Do I not fill heaven and earth? declares the LORD.

    I believe that there is a very good analysis within this statement.
    “Walton is an expert to the literature of the Ancient Near East, and he teaches that if we read Gen 1 as an Ancient Near East (ANE) document (inspired, of course, but written to ANE people in ANE terms), we’d find that it’s a description of the dedication of a temple to a god (the God, of course).”
    That being, the concept being presented is totally mans idea, an assumption, because I can find nothing in scriptures to support this concept. Notice it carefully, is there any documentation to back up his conclusion? The only authority which is noted here is (he is an expert) of what, literature which man has written. We all know that literature that man writes is never written like the inspired message from God. Does he have any such relationship with the scriptures. If he or any of his supporters has, maybe someone can locate support in God’s Word. Remember we will not be judged by man’s words, concepts or assumptions.

    Jay,
    Where do you find evidence to support this claim?
    “The church, as the body of Christ, is also the new Temple. The NT repeatedly refers to the church as a temple for the Holy Spirit. But this is just one temple — as Jesus is one with the church.”
    The following quotes from scripture are not identifying a Temple being connected with the assembled body of Christians and not within each and every un-assembled Christian.
    1Co 3:16-17 ESV Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? (17) If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.
    1Co 6:15-20 ESV Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! (16) Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, “The two will become one flesh.” (17) But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. (18) Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. (19) Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, (20) for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.
    2Co 6:15-16 ESV What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? (16) What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, “I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
    I find that “The Holy Spirit” is never spoken of in a relation to being a Temple. The Church is never within the concept as being a Temple, the temple is only related as being within each and every Christian.
    You do realize that I suggest these problems I see even after already reading much of your earlier posts. The answers to these were not found there either.

    I did notice this, “But this is just one temple — as Jesus is one with the church”. I thought that the church was to be the Bride of Christ, is he now just in the temple just as the other members? Or is Jesus and the church a Temple of God, where God can be worshiped?

  2. Dwight says:

    “The church, as the body of Christ, is also the new Temple. The NT repeatedly refers to the church as a temple for the Holy Spirit. But this is just one temple — as Jesus is one with the church.”
    I believe this is a coC theology concept, as when I read the scriptures the church is not the Temple, the people are the Temple. God doesn’t dwell within the church, but with in the people who make up the church. The church is the people and not a thing.

  3. Alabama John says:

    Dwight
    That is why so many coC around here have on their road sign nearest the building driveway the wording: The —- Church of Christ meets here. The COC is not the building.

  4. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Larry,

    There is one passage, in 1 Cor 6, which identifies the individual Christian as temple for the Spirit. But there are at least 3 that identify the church as the Spirit’s temple. This is no contradiction because the Spirit dwells in the church through the individual indwelling within each member. It’s like piling lit charcoal. There’s a flame. Which charcoal produced it? Well, they all did.

    (1 Cor. 3:9-17 ESV) 9 For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building. 10 According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. 11 For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw– 13 each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. 14 If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire. 16 Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? 17 If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.

    Every “you” in this passage is plural in the Greek. Paul is speaking of the congregation as a single temple for the Spirit.

    (Eph. 2:18-22 ESV) 18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.

    Here Paul takes the same concept and applies it to the church-universal. It’s the church-universal that is built on a foundation of the apostles and prophets. God dwells in the church-universal as a temple by his Spirit.

    (1 Pet. 2:4-7 ESV) 4 As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, 5 you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6 For it stands in Scripture: “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.” 7 So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,”

    What is a “spiritual house”? “Spiritual” translates pneumatikos, which does not mean “religious” or “churchy” but “empowered or given by the Spirit.” BDAG says, “In the great majority of cases in ref. to the divine πνεῦμα (s. πνεῦμα 5) having to do with the (divine) spirit, caused by or filled with the (divine) spirit, pert./corresponding to the (divine) spirit.”

    So the idea of the church as the temple of the Spirit is well-established and only controversial to those who deny the contemporary indwelling by the Spirit. It makes sense that the Spirit in each Christian means the Spirit dwells in each congregation (which is made of Christians) and the church-universal (which is made of congregations that are made of Christians).

  5. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Larry,

    Read Rev 21-22. Note especially —

    (Rev. 21:2-3 ESV) 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.

    If there is no separation between heaven and earth, God and man today, what does this passage mean? What changes when this happens?

  6. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Larry asked,

    That being, the concept being presented is totally mans idea, an assumption, because I can find nothing in scriptures to support this concept. Notice it carefully, is there any documentation to back up his conclusion? The only authority which is noted here is (he is an expert) of what, literature which man has written. We all know that literature that man writes is never written like the inspired message from God. Does he have any such relationship with the scriptures. If he or any of his supporters has, maybe someone can locate support in God’s Word. Remember we will not be judged by man’s words, concepts or assumptions.

    In the main post, I said to see http://oneinjesus.info/2015/06/how-to-study-the-bible-the-cosmic-temple/ for further background. Have you read this post? Have you read the materials cited in this post? There is in fact very substantial support in the scriptures for Walton’s teachings. In that post I provide links to a great deal of additional material that can be read and checked. Many other authors have come to the same conclusion and are finding more and more in the scriptures to support the argument. Walton was not the first to make the argument, nor is he the last. He just happens to have the expertise in the ANE literature to greatly expand the arguments in support of that interpretation.

    Walton has also written the Genesis commentary in the NIV Application Commentary, which is very readable and often found on sale. I think I got my copy for $5 — but we’ll likely never see that price again. And he argues his case in a number of YouTube videos. He is a very engaging teacher.

  7. Larry Cheek says:

    Jay,
    If I understand correctly what you are saying then we agree. I believe that the Spirit dwells in each Christian and when multiple Christians are gathered together then there is not a separate Spirit that is only in the congregation or the church assembled. Some teach that the Spirit is not within each Christian and when they are assembled they pray for the Spirit to come in (arrive) and expect the Spirit not be with them when they are not assembled. Of course, the Spirit then is always with the church universal even while they are not assembled. Therefore, each Christian is a temple of the Spirit and the temple does not cease to be the temple when multiples are assembled, neither does the temple become some kind of super temple because of this assembly.

  8. Dwight says:

    AJ, I haven’t’ seen a sign like of which you speak in the South Texas area. It would be a good thing.
    Jay, there may be one that identifies man as the temple for the spirit, but at least four that identify man as the temple of God.
    The fact that “you” is plural in these passages indicates not the church as a group, but the individuals, otherwise he would have used a singular sense to identify one group.
    Eph. is often relegated to the church as a group, but he is talking to individuals…” but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God…”
    ‘As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house…’
    Individuals come to Christ, not groups.
    But if as you say, the Spirit is in the people, then when the people gather the spirit is there as well, which only makes sense. Many try to argue that the “when two or more are gathered I am there” means that the collective creates the condition, but in reality this passage has to do with testimony of faith which creates the condition.

  9. Larry Cheek says:

    Jay,
    You have asked about a separation between God and man.
    If there is no separation between God and his people today, how could there be a separation between Heaven and Earth? Those who have become God’s people are sons and daughters today, not in the future. Is God separated from his adopted family now? Is God not giving us blessings as his offspring as of today? Do we not consider Him as our Father today? Does He not communicate with us, teach us, protect us, feed us, answer our prayers, comfort us, and guide us, forgive us, in our lives today? How much less is He doing for us today than we will receive in the future?
    2Co 6:15-18 ESV What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? (16) What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, “I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. (17) Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you, (18) and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty.”

    Read Rev 21-22. Note especially —

    (Rev. 21:2-3 ESV) 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.

    If there is no separation between heaven and earth, God and man today, what does this passage mean? What changes when this happens?

    Maybe we are asking the wrong questions. When did this happen? I know that you do not have relief from all pain in the physical body that you now occupy. But do you have any comfort from God? Think about this a little, we as Christians are promised that we will never die (do I need to offer scripture to back it up), yet this physical body will die and there will be pain involved. So is this promise true today or not (Christ told Mary that she would never die). So how could both of these physical things still be with us and these promises be true? It is simple, these messages are part of the Spiritual World where Christ is from and God is, but this Spiritual World is present with us today just as the Kingdom is present. Christ is ruler of this Kingdom today and we are within it. You have mentioned how you can identify Christians in the course of providing papers for a living will, these people do not fear death, you might even say they are anxious to proceed into the future, knowing their position there. They understand the mortality of this body but also believe that the Spirit survives this death. Even in while the body is in the grave the spirit lives.
    A few posts back I remember a communication about the difference between the world and heaven was like being in a different dimension, which can occupy the exact space and that is exactly how the Spirit world (remember God is Spirit) and the physical world can coexist. Problems only occur when man, who cannot comprehend this different dimension attempts to force it into his understanding of the physical world.

  10. Dwight says:

    (Rev. 21:2-3 ESV) 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.”

    Didn’t this happen when Jesus came to earth as the Son of God. God came down and dwelt with man as a man, but was to be God.
    And aren’t we told that the church is the betrothed of Christ, to be presented? II Cor.11:2

    The problem with Revelations, to us in our thinking, is that it mixes past, present and future events into one with imagery we are not familiar with because we are not Jews and much if not all of it figurative after a certain point where the imagery starts. Revelations is about painting a picture, not showing a chronological order of events.

  11. Larry Cheek says:

    In many of the posts we have heard about how important it is that when we find a phrase in the NT, that we compare it to a similar text in the OT using the OT text to better understand what we read in the NT. Now we are presented with a dilemma. How would we respond if we find a similar text in the NT in two different places which if compared as has been done with text of the old and new Testaments, results in a different view of a conclusion which has been considered as authority for a very long time? Well let us see the text in question.
    Rev 21:2-3 ESV And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. (3) And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.

    2Co 6:16 ESV What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, “I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

    Here are both messages.
    “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.

    “I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

    Now for a little history about both.
    Important considerations about these writings.
    2 Corinthians was written by Paul approx. A.D. 57
    Source of authority (inspiration).
    Paul’s identification of time is presently, (now).
    Written to is found in this verse.
    2Co 6:11 ESV We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians; our heart is wide open.

    Revelation was written by The Apostle John approx. A.D. 95-96
    Some doubt the authorship, but can anyone doubt the source of the message? Source of the message, written by and to whom which is found in the first verse.
    Rev 1:1 ESV The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants the things that must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John,

    Who can produce evidence that the event in the scene John saw was not the same event which produced the message Paul is identifying as present even in the time period almost 40 years earlier? Can anyone deny that God/Christ is presently dwelling with us just as Paul proclaimed to the Corinthians?
    “For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, “I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.”

    What will this do to the concepts that have been developed about Revelation’s predictions of the end of time?

  12. Dwight says:

    Larry, such is the reality of Revelations. It is a timeless message and therefore even as it was addressing those when it was written in their present it also cut across the past and into the future. We can try to fit happenings into every passage, but it may not fit perfectly and there is the possibility that one passage, as prophecies tend to do, can apply to two happenings.
    Now in regards to Rev.21 I believe that this has happened and will happen again. We already know how God came down to man in the form of Jesus and dwelt as a man and how God is now dwelling in those that follow Christ, but in the resurrection this will happen again in a more perfect sense. We will not only be in the Kingdom, we will see the Kingdom. We will not only have the promise of salvation while we are floating on the sea of this world, we will be on dry land.
    I believe the “holy city, new Jerusalem” is figurative of the center and Kingdom of God, as it was the Kingdom of God in the past and this will happen when the King comes again to judge the world. The whole world will be a witness to that which those saints that follow Christ know.

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