Friday, January 22, 2010

a good book about an even better book!

I just finished reading this excellent book by Greg Beale, entitled The Temple and the Church's Mission: A biblical theology of the dwelling place of God.  It is quite profound and spans the whole Bible from Genesis to Revelation.  I highly recommend it if you want to get the big picture of the message of Scripture. 

This book has been so helpful in giving me an overall framework for understanding Scripture and explaining it to the JW's who are meeting with me. I wanted to give you a taste of what I've learned in the book.  We serve an indescribable God and His Word is just amazing!

As the title suggests, Beale focuses on the concept of the temple, or dwelling place of God.  God was first present to Adam and Eve in Eden, but Beale demonstrates that God intended for Adam and Eve to extend the boundaries of the garden paradise until His presence filled the whole earth.  (A world-wide garden of Eden!) Because they failed to do this, they lost their role as 'priests' in the garden temple.  Later, God chose to make his presence most tangible in the tabernacle, and then the temple, which was also intended to grow until it filled Jerusalem and then the whole earth (see Isaiah 4:5-6; 65:17-18 and Jeremiah 3:16-17).  Israel failed at her mandate to mediate God's presence to the world.  They were exiled and the temple destroyed.  When they returned home to rebuild, they were deeply disappointed with the results.  It was not glorious, and we're never told that God's glory descended to fill it.  But John tells us that Jesus came and "tabernacled among us, and we beheld His glory" (John 1:14).  He announces that He is the new temple (Matt 12:6; John 2:19-22).  And by faith in Him we become part of the temple, the place where God's glory dwells (Eph 2:19-22; 1 Pet 2:4-10).  The grand finale is found in Rev 21-22 where all of creation becomes a temple, and there is no place where God's glory is not tangible.  Have you ever wondered why the New Jerusalem in Rev 21 is cubic?  The only other structure in the Bible which is said to have a cubic shape is the Holy of Holies, the most sacred part of the temple where God's glory dwells.  Only the high priest is allowed inside, and only once a year to make intercession for God's people.  But in John's vision the "new heavens and new earth" (i.e. the entire new creation) is a cubic garden-city where God is fully present.  The veil has been torn and now all believers live in the light of God's unhindered presence.  The Holy of Holies is all there is!

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