Monday, December 28, 2009

doing what rats do.

Well, I scurried out to watch the sunrise in the glory of all lands this morning, and lo! I had cactus mail, delivered from the mysterious ether.

"What of Ezekiel chapters 40-48 and the temple? Different in several ways to any other temple, no mercy seat, no ark, no high priest, etc. In your replacement theology, how do you 'figure' these truths away? What of the eternal promise to the sons of Zadok? And what part of the church is in the house of Israel and what part is in the house of Judah?"

Well, I've got to be honest. I had no idea anyone ever read these sermons to the rocks and cacti, mountains and sky. And a fellow believer, no less, just as put off and offended by my holistic view of the Bible (including eschatology and ecclesiology) as I am of his/hers. Sarcasm is a really bizarre phenomenon...but while it is the lowest form of wit, it is the funniest (while being the lowest form of wit, it is the highest form of intelligence!). I'll try to keep it to just the barest of answers (though there is no frivolity in that!). Oh, and I'm a lousy debater, so I'll answer the question, cast it carelessly to the ether, and end it here. That way you, dearest fellow disciple, can claim a victory in defeating any challenge to the reigning eschatology in pop-Church America.

I love Ezekiel, and have for a long, long time. One of these days I'll lead a group through a study of it, which in my mind will be akin to group bungy-cording with collected shoelaces. It'll be great! At that time I'll do a verse-by-verse exposition of Ezekiel 40-48, and maybe I'll put some of it online. I've always thought it very interesting that Ezekiel dates the vision as "fourteen years after the city was taken" (40:1), and then describes the visionary Temple as "a structure like a city" (40:2). He's also told to "see with [his] eyes, hear with [his] ears" (40:4), while giving a prophecy to a people who probably won't believe him - the prophecy itself is to be a sign to them of their own disobedience (2:1-3:11). What makes us think 40-48 must be built? Perhaps it's a monument to the way things could've been if obedience had been present, but instead 40-48 is a sign of their disobedience.

The futurists' (this includes you Dispensationalists) last stand is Temple Mount. Every aspect of your eschatology must have a fourth Temple (after the Temples of Solomon, Cyrus, and Herod). Without it, you're on indefinite hold. Sigh. I wish this would shut up the speculators, the endless parade of experts saying the end is just around the corner. What edition are we in with the "Late Great Planet Earth"? Oh well. To throw Matthew 24/Mark 13/Luke 17 & 21 into the future rather than the A.D. first century you have to have a Temple, so anti-Christ can desecrate it. We'll ignore the fact that it happened almost 1,940 years ago. No worries. I have no doubt there are a lot of Dispensationalists financially supporting those fringe loony Jews in Israel (a very small minority with no political power in that secular State) who are breeding red heifers and drawing up schematics based exactly on Ezekiel 40-48.

I call the second Temple Cyrus' since he claims it by decree, mandates its construction, and provides the finances (2 Chronicles 36:23; Ezra 1:2-4).

The plans to the Temple are conditional (I'm trying to speak your language!). In 43:11, Yahweh tells the great prophet, "If they are ashamed of all that they have done, make known to them the design of the house, its structure, its exists, its entrances, all its designs, all its statutes, and all its laws. And write it in their sight, so that they may observe its whole design and all its statutes to do them." Remember in Cinderella when the evil step-mother says, "if"? That's how I typed it. They had two chances to build this very Temple, didn't they (Cyrus' and Herod's)? Ezekiel writes out these plans in their presence, three or four decades before they'll have a chance to build them. They don't. There is no ark mentioned in Ezekiel's plans because the ark disappeared with the destruction of Solomon's Temple, never to be seen again (unless you can break into that warehouse in Area 51). Don't ever forget that the heart of Cyrus' Temple and Herod's Temple was empty.

I would suggest to you, fellow disciple, that the plans in Ezekiel 40-48 are conditioned on the people's shame. Apparently there was not enough shame! OR Ezra-Nehemiah, in building Cyrus' Temple, did try to build Ezekiel's Temple, but the people's concern with resettling the land proved more important (they are constantly tearing clothing in leading the people to repent, and a few decades later in Malachi we see things have degraded already). Zechariah-Haggai did, after all, have to twist their arms to get them to even finish the thing.

The presence of God leaves Solomon's Temple in Ezekiel 10. The last verse of Ezekiel promises that the Temple of 40-48 will have God's presence. When does it return? Not for Cyrus' Temple, or Herod's. When does God's presence return in a way similar to the event at the dedication of Solomon's Temple? Pentecost, when God returns to His Temple, so much more than a building. His glorious and beloved Church. Stephen, in the most incredible God-perspective giving of Jewish history, quotes the O.T. as they're picking up stones, reminding them (with their own Scriptures) that God can't be contained in a building (Acts 7:46-50). Are we really going to argue, given the trajectory of the N.T., that God's plan is for another building? Do we wink knowingly at each other over Jesus' naivety in insisting that the Father wasn't looking for worshipers in Jerusalem, but worshipers in Spirit and in truth (John 4:21-24)?

I don't see the "eternal promise to the sons of Zadok" in the Bible. The post-exilic priesthood was certainly to be led by the Zadokites, but "eternal" doesn't enter into the discussion. Zadok was high priest under David. Zechariah and Haggai's emphasis on Zerubbabel (the governor) and Josiah (the high priest, a descendant of Zadok) certainly point to a restoration of a Davidic ruler and Zadokite priesthood. So at least that part fits pretty good with Ezekiel's instructions to the Exiles. There were high priests from the Zadokite line at least until the Maccabean period. By the way, great resource book: "From Joshua to Caiaphas: High Priests After the Exile," by James C. VanderKam (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2004). It's scholarly, and not written from the viewpoint of either of our eschatological camps, so it's actually worth reading (yes, there are topics aside from eschatology that are important).

There was no "mercy seat" or "ark" in either Cyrus' Temple or Herod's Temple, since the ark of the covenant disappeared with the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 B.C. So I don't think we can say Ezekiel's visionary Temple is "different in several ways from any other temple." With this criteria, Solomon's Temple was the oddball.

Just because Ezekiel doesn't mention a high priest doesn't mean one wasn't intended for this Temple. Besides, what was the role of the high priest? Isn't the primary role entry into the Holy of holies on the Day of Atonement to pour blood on the mercy seat? With no mercy seat/ark, this became a largely political/symbolic role in the post-Exilic period.

This is not "replacement" theology. Jesus, the perfect Israel, contains the people of God in Him (read Galatians some time). He became the remnant. In Him all the promises and blessings of Abraham are fulfilled. I'd mention Galatians 3:28; Ephesians 2:11-22; Colossians 3:11, but I know the counter-arguments of Dispensationalists very well. Sophistry.

And I know the last question of yours wasn't serious. But in case it accidentally was serious, the goal of God is a restoration of His people in Ezekiel 37.

I used to be a Dispensationalist. I had the Clarence Larkin book with all the charts, the Walvoord compendium, the Left Behind series. I loved it. Dispensationalism cuts up the Bible in a scrapbooking theology that re-arranges events separated by centuries, throws 90% of them into the future (the Church is just a place-holder in the middle of the really cool story, Yahweh and Israel), and creates a fantasy world with all the drama and narrative of Narnia (without - sigh - the talking animals). Then the rat heard his pastor one night after Bible Study mention Acts 2:16, where Peter applies Joel to the events of Pentecost, not with double-meaning, not with a gap of millennia, but to his day. I quietly starting re-reading the Bible after that, throwing away (in some cases burning) my Dispensationalist stuff, leaving the safety of the charts and the psychotic excitement of imminent eschatology. I left behind (haha) the double-covenant and the insistence on imposing hyper-literalness on Hebrew poetry and thought. Most of all, I stopped believing this current day and time are the most important in all of the history of the world, things can't get much worse, and the anti-Christ (what a sham) is about to take over the United Nations with his charisma...of course, anti-Christ is not mentioned in Revelation or any "prophetic" material, so he is only a ridiculous straw-man for the end-times experts.

You can insist on two returns of Jesus (the rapture and then the end, separated by the seven-year Tribulation), but if I suggest a coming in A.D. 70 to judge God's enemies (so-called "Second Temple" Judaism of the A.D. first century) and an unknown coming the future, I'm unorthodox. I remember an issue of "The National Liberty Journal" (which I used to read) about five years ago that declared a person heretical if they didn't believe the modern State of Israel played a role in God's eschatological/soteriological plan ("The New Last Days Scoffers," by Dr. Edward Hindson, May 2005). I embraced heresy proudly at that point (at least heresy as defined by Dispensationalists). We can both point to different Church Fathers who seem to support our views. We aren't going to convince each other. So I suggest we both just walk away at this point...not stopping in 10 paces for a duel, but just keep walking.

Well, back to the quiet (and cold) desert. I'm harmless out here, so don't worry about it, okay? Do say a prayer for those small congregations who must endure the rat's teaching...

"Dear, damned, distracting town, farewell!
Thy fools no more I'll tease:
This year in peace, ye critics, dwell,
Ye harlots, sleep at ease!"

"A Farewell to London," 1715
Alexander Pope

1 comment:

XtnYoda said...

Thanks! Posted.