John’s Gospel Theme of the Lord Christ as God’s New Temple

In the Gospel record Jesus’ overt teaching and his subtle conduct prepare us for the temple’s removal as both liturgically no longer necessary and spiritually corrupted. John’s Gospel is especially interesting in this regard:  In John 1:14  John presents Christ as God’s true ‘tabernacle.”

‘The Word became flesh and tabernacled among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.’

This theme of Jesus replacing  Israel’s religious features recurs repeatedly in his ministry.

1.) John 1:51 —  He then added, “Very truly I tell you, you will see ‘heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on’ the Son of Man.”

Here it is the Lord Christ, rather than the Jewish temple or High Priest, who is the nexus between heaven and earth as seen in the fact that “the angels of God (are) ascending and descending on’ the Son of Man.’

2.) John 2:19-21 —  Jesus answered, and said unto them, Destroy this Temple, and in three days I will raise it up again. 20 Then said the Jews, Forty and six years was this Temple a building, and wilt thou rear it up in three days? 21 But he spake of the temple of his body.

Here the Lord Christ declares His body to be the true temple.

3.) John 4:21-23 — 21 Jesus said unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor at Jerusalem worship the Father. 22 Ye worship that which ye know not: we worship that which we know: for salvation is of the Jews. 23 But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in [j]Spirit and Truth: for the Father requireth even such to worship him.

Here the Lord Christ tells the Samaritan woman that the physical temple will soon be unnecessary.

4.) John 7:37 Now in the last and great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying,If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. 38 He that believeth in me, as saith the Scripture, out of his belly shall flow rivers of water of life.

Here the Lord Christ is attending the festival of Tabernacles (cf. John 7:2ff), and he presents himself as the living water. This festival reminds Israel of Moses’ producing  water from the rock (Ex. 17:1-7, Nu. 20:8-13). This event also reflects the promise of the Temple (Zec. 14:8, Eze. 47:1-11).  In John 8:12 the Lord Christ calls Himself the “light of the World,” which reflects the festival ceremony.

5.) In the “I am” debate in John 8:13-59 the Lord Christ appropriates to himself the whole essence of the temple as being the dwelling place of the divine name.  Here we see the Lord Christ, immediately after declaring Himself as the “I am” (8:58) departing from the temple (8:59) which in John’s Gospel serves as his sign that God has departed the temple much as God’s s presences departed the Temple in Ezekiel 10. This departure scene here in John 8 may explain why John does not chronicle the 2nd temple confrontation at the close of Christ’s ministry as is recorded in the Synoptics. For John, when the Lord Christ departs the temple in 8:59 the presence of God has left the Temple.

6.) John 10:22-39

While the Jews are celebrating the Feast of Lights which recalls the re-consecration of the temple under the Macabees, the Lord Christ presents himself as the one who is “sanctified and sent.” Here the Lord Christ comes to the Feast of Dedication in Jerusalem, which celebrates the Maccabean victory in reclaiming the temple and re-consecrating the altar and temple. The Lord Christ does not enter the temple at this time, but comes only to Solomon’s portico (John 10:23, cp. John 11:56). During this temple celebration the Lord Christ declares Himself to be the one “whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world.”  The Lord Christ shifts the emphasis from the temple to Himself as the one consecrated by God. (John 10:36) The true temple has come. All preoccupations with the old temple are past.

7.) John 12:41 — “These things said Isaiah when he saw his glory, and spake of him.”

Here the Lord Christ quotes Isaiah 6:5 but now we know that it is the Lord Christ who is the Shekinah glory of the temple that Isaiah witnessed.

Peter Walker argues, in his “Jesus and the Holy City,” that the upper room teaching session in John 13-17 reflects a “temple experience” beginning with foot-washing as an initiation ritual (John 13:33f) and ending with “the high priestly prayer” (John 17). Thus it appears “John’s over-riding message is that the Temple has been replaced by Jesus.”

The necessity of a new temple is seen in the fact that the profanation of the place of Gods’ dwelling. So bad is this profanation that the Lord Christ cleanses the Temple both at the beginning and the ending of His ministry. These temple cleansings are not so much an effort at reform as they are a testimony against the present temple cultus. The true temple is testifying against the corrupt temple.

These thoughts taken from Ken Gentry’s
Navigating the Book of Revelation — pg. 99 – 100


Scripture and Light

In the Genesis record, God said, “Let their be light” (Gen 1:3) and that light appears overcoming the darkness, saturating the creation realm with God’s authority.  In Isaiah the Servant of the Lord was promised to be a light both to Israel and to the Nations who were not yet covenanted with God as Israel was,

“I am the Lord, I have called You in righteousness,
I will also hold You by the hand and watch over You,
And I will appoint You as a covenant to the people,
As a light to the nations.” Isaiah 42:6

He says, “It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant
To raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the preserved ones of Israel;
I will also make You a light of the nations
So that My salvation may reach to the end of the earth.” Isaiah 49:6

In the Gospel accounts, that Servant of the Lord promised … the Lord Christ is the Redemptive light come to inaugurate a new age, a new realm, and a glorious new day as from the Father of lights (James 1:17). He is the light who enlightens every man (John 1:19) Christ is the new covenant age light that shines in the darkness (John 1:5). The Apostles saw He who was the radiance of the glory of God (Hebrews 1:1) as the glory of the One and only who came from the Father (John 1:1-4). As the age to come Light, the followers of the Lord Christ never walk in darkness (John 8:12). Christ as the Redemptive light of the age to come demonstrated and revealed itself with a white hot intensity at the transfiguration wherein even His clothing became dazzling white (Mark 9:1-4).  In the crucifixion He who is “the Light of the World” is snuffed out and as on cue, the light goes out for three hours Christ (Matthew 27:45). Light is picked up again in John’s Revelation wherein John the Revelator falls as dead as before a super nova God-man (Rev. 1:14-17). Finally, as the Scripture started with light, it forms an inclusio by ending with He who is the light, as it closes with the motif of Christ as the light which illuminates the new Jerusalem.  He who ever was very light of very light remains the light of the world (Rev. 22:4).

The Historical-Critical Method Briefly Stated & Examined

The Historical critical hermeneutical method of reading the Biblical text, per Ernst Troeltsch, sits upon three tenants.

1.) Skepticism — This means one must read the Scripture as any ancient near Eastern text.

2.) Analogy — This means testing the text according to modern experience. So, for example, if modern people do no experience virgins getting pregnant or world being created or dead men rising to life again that means those things can not have happened in the past.

3.) Coherence — This means that every event has a natural, and historical cause and so there is no need to posit divine intervention.

Note that all of this can be reduced to one idea. The Historical critical method reduces to reading the Biblical text with a anti-supernatural presupposition. To read the text “historically-critically” is to read the text presupposing Naturalism. No God, except as that god is subjectively projected so as to create reality. No inspiration, except as inspiration is subjectively spoken of. And so really no reason to even bother with the text at all except for some residual silly idea that the text is sacrosanct.

Also, note that, at best, all that is left after the Historical-Critical method is applied is some kind of Historicism where the interpreter is the one who is super-imposing his meaning on the text.

Finally, note that, speaking generally, where there is any intellectual life left in the pulpit it is generally committed to this type of reading of the text. Here is just one example of this methodology being used and defended by a minister I personally know,

“Some clarification. Genesis 1 is not a scientific report. Genesis 2 and 3 is not an eyewitness account. And Revelation 21 and 22 is neither. What we have in these biblical texts is literature. Literature intended to evoke awe and wonder. Literature intended to sustain faith and hope. Literature intended to give understanding. To read these biblical texts not literarily but literally is misguided. It’s misguided to read them literally and then to dismiss them as hopelessly out of touch with reality.”

Do you see how the Historical-Critical methodology is being used here? We are not to believe the supernatural accounts. We are to reinterpret the text through a naturalistic prism.

Jonah & The Charge Of “Racism”

The post below was inspired by this sermon though I have collected other information and it is in my own words.

Many in the Evangelical world (those who write commentaries and those who preach) insist that Jonah’s sin for not wanting to go to the Ninevehites is a early world example of the Racism that God hates. For example, John Piper does just that in this quote from one of his sermons. Piper here has imagined God speaking to the prophet Jonah ,

“Jonah, forsake your racism. Forsake your nationalism and follow me.” 

Earlier, in the same sermon, Piper had explicitly said,

“Jonah was a racist, a hyper-nationalist. He did not want to go to Nineveh because he knew God would have mercy on his enemies.”

Now, Piper isn’t alone in this error of reading the 20th century sin du jour back  into the ancient world and on to the Prophet Jonah but he is a glaring example of it.

We should note here that “Racism” has become the sin that most preachers love to hammer. It is a politically correct sin to hate and it makes for great points among the Politically Correct indoctrination crowd. It’s become so bad that I have in my memory a ordination from years ago where the candidate up for ordination, though knowing literally nothing regarding the doctrine of the Christian faith, passed the exam because he could impressively denounce racism.

Now, the points for calling Jonah Racist that many of the commentaries give are as follows, 

1.) Jonah did not want to go to Nineveh.

This by itself proves that Jonah was a Racist. If Jonah hadn’t been a Racist he automatically would have had no problem in going to Nineveh.

2.) Jonah did not want the Ninevehites to Repent.

This is construed to mean that Jonah did not want them to repent because he was an evil racist.

3.) Jonah was disappointed and angry when Nineveh did Repent.

This clinches the “Jonah was a Racist” argument.

However, when examining matters more closely it may be that modern commentaries and modern preachers like Piper are wrong.

There are ways of understanding that allow us to not call Jonah a “Racist.”

Jonah’s sin is not found in his putative “racism” but in his falling into the sin of Rationalism. Jonah lifted his well intended reasoning above God’s Revelation. God had told Jonah to go to Nineveh. That is all Jonah needed in order to go. Instead Jonah reasoned that God would be dishonored by his going to Nineveh and by the Assyrians repentance. Jonah didn’t want to go to Nineveh because he knew that God would give repentance to Assyria (Nineveh) and Jonah reasoned that would detract from God’s glory if the God haters who were not God’s people repented while the Northern Kingdom who Jonah labored in calling to repentance did not repent.  Jonah understandably believed that if those who were not God’s people repented it would blacken God’s glory because those who were God’s people (Northern Kingdom) did not repent.  Jonah had labored all his life in Samaria among his own people calling for repentance with no fruit.  Those of the Northern Kingdom were God’s people. It was there that repentance should have been expected.

Secondly, Jonah did not want “to be the instrument that God would use to bring Nineveh to repentance, because such a action would make Jonah look like a traitor to his own people. The rabbis held a similar position. According to M. Avrum Ehrlich, many rabbis concluded that “their actions (Nineveh’s repentance) would show the Hebrews to be stiffnecked and stubborn.”  Another Midrash explains that “Jonah… chose to disobey God so as to save his own people.”

So, contrary to modern evangelicalism’s knee jerk insistence that Jonah was a racist, we might instead see Jonah, whose sin was not Racism, as committing a sin of a rationalism that found Jonah lifting his own ratiocination above God’s explicit command. Jonah’s sin was born of two instincts gone wrong,

1.) A wrong headed desire to protect God’s glory that defied God’s explicit command
2.) A desire to protect his own people, born of love now misguided, from being shamed

This great affection of Jonah’s for his people is something that was shared by others in God’s Revelation. Paul could say in Romans 9,

I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience bearing me witness in the holy Ghost, That I have great heaviness, and continual sorrow in mine heart. For I would wish myself to be separate from Christ, for my brethren that are my kinsmen according to the flesh,

 And Moses uttered this same desire, that somehow his death may be the propitiation for his people when he said in Exodus 32:32,  “Therefore now if thou pardon their sin, thy mercy shall appear: but if thou wilt not, I pray thee, raise me out of thy book, which thou hast written.”

So if we are going to fault Jonah, let us fault him for the proper reason. Jonah’s fault was found not in some kind of 21st century version of racism. Jonah’s fault was that he loved his conception of God and God’s glory above the God of the Bible. Jonah was zealous for God’s glory according to his fallen human reason as opposed to being zealous for God’s glory according to God’s command. Secondarily, Jonah’s fault was that he loved his own people, just as Paul and Moses had done, above loving God’s command. Jonah’s sin was the sin of a wrongly directed love. Jonah’s sin was not the sin of a wrongly directed hate. Not wanting to go to Nineveh had to do with Jonah’s falling into the same kind of Rationalism that Adam and Eve fell into when they lifted their reason above God’s command.

In God’s economy the repentance of Nineveh was a delay to the upcoming judgment on Israel by the Assyrians. Jonah should have known the prophecies of Amos (3:11) and Isaiah (7:17) concerning the upcoming Assyrian invasion.

Amos 3:11Therefore thus saith the Lord God, An adversary shall come even round about the country, and shall bring down thy strength from thee, and thy palaces shall be spoiled.

Isaiah 7:17 The Lord shall bring upon thee, and upon thy people, and upon thy Father’s house (the days that are not come from the day that Ephraim departed from Judah) even the King of Assyria.

Jonah knew that these Ninevehites would repent as a result of this missionary trip (Jonah 4:2).

Jonah 4:2 And he prayed unto the Lord, and said, I pray thee, O Lord, was not this my saying, when I was yet in my country? therefore I prevented it to flee unto Tarshish: for I knew, that thou art a gracious God, and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repentest thee of the evil.

Jonah should have been keenly aware that the generation which would invade Israel would be a generation who would have returned to its wickedness (Isaiah 14:25).

Isaiah 14:25  That I will break to pieces Assyria in my land, and upon my mountains will I tread him under foot, so that his yoke shall depart from them, and his burden shall be taken from off their shoulder.

This would mean that the same generation which heard Jonah’s message would not be the generation which would invade Israel, because Israel was not invaded by a righteous nation, but rather by an evil nation. This means that the Assyrian invasion would happen, at its earliest with the succeeding generation. As such God’s grace to Nineveh was God’s grace to the Northern Kingdom as Ninevah’s repentance would therefore buy Jonah and the Northern Kingdom some time and would give his own people, Israel, perhaps another 40 – 100 years (the time of a generation) to repent before God.

Jonah should have trusted to God’s reasoning and not his own fallen reason.

Jonah’s sin was not racism. Jonah’s sin was rationalism. Before we try to out think God we should remember Jonah’s attempt to do so. We should remember that obedience to God’s explicit command is our charge above our thinking that obeying God would lead to bad consequences. We should remember that God’s ways are higher than our ways and that God uses the foolish things of the world to confound the wise.

Ask the Pastor — What of Babel and Pentecost?

Dear Pastor,

I’m confused a bit. I’m hearing some people who call themselves Theonomists saying that the division of languages at Babel was not a curse. So, in light of that I’m wondering if you could help me out on that issue.

“Is the division of language and geographical location in Genesis 11 to be considered a curse? ”

Peter Bryans

Dear Peter,

Thank you for writing to ask.

First, you have to recognize that the Theonomic and Reconstruction movement has changed a great deal in the short time since Rushdoony’s death. What is happening is that Rushdoony and Theonomy is being reinterpreted through a Libertarian grid. The consequence of that is great division in Rushdoony’s legacy of  Theonomic / Reconstruction heritage. For my part, I believe that RJR is being overturned.

As to the question at hand I would say that the confusion of the languages and the scattering of the peoples recorded in Genesis 11 was a curse. Consider the parallels with Eden that one finds in the Babel account. God had given a specific command (fill the earth) just as Adam and Eve were given a specific command (keep the Garden).  In both cases the sin was one of denying God’s requirement of the Creator creature distinction.  In both cases the consequence of sin is alienation between the people in question (Adam contra Eve and The people of Babel contra one another.) In both cases we learn that God investigates the matter and in both cases those who had violated the commandment were “cast out,” and so cursed.

So, if we consider Adam and Eve cursed as a result of their sin then the juxtaposed narrative of Babel suggest that the scattering and confusion of tongues was indeed a curse, temporally considered.

Now at to Pentecost God reinforces the theme of Unity in diversity. Yes, understanding is facilitated by the speaking of tongues but the understanding of the Gospel proclaimed is a understanding of the Gospel that reinforce distinct Nationhood. Many are those who will say that “Pentecost reverses Babel.” I think that inaccurate Peter. I think it more accurate to say that “Pentecost sanctifies Babel,” or alternately “Pentecost takes the sting out of Babel in the context of Christianity.”

I hope that helps Peter.