Monday, December 10, 2007

Alcohol in Recent Church History

The abuse of alcohol was a problem in the early frontier years of America. Of course, drunkenness has always been and will always be a problem until the Lord returns.

The Temperance Movement
Preaching against drunkenness is nothing new, but in the late eighteenth century, preachers began to focus their preaching against alcohol itself. Alcohol was a great evil that need to be abolished. This kind of preaching spawned the Temperance Movement.

Ironically, temperance means “moderation” or “self-restraint.” Yet the goal of the Temperance Movement was not temperance or moderation, but the total prohibition from all alcoholic beverages.

Several states banned alcohol by the mid-nineteenth century. After the Civil War, the national Prohibition Party was formed, whose sole goal was the prohibition of alcohol.

Soon after, the Women’s Christian Temperance Union was started. This organization was well known for such stunts as marching into saloons singing songs like, “Lips that Touch Liquor Shall Never Touch Mine.”

In 1919, the Eighteenth Amendment was added to the Constitution of the United States of America. This prohibited the manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors.

Of course, making alcohol illegal did not eliminate its abuse. The roaring twenties were one of the most debauched decades in American History. Although alcohol was prohibited, it did not stop people from getting drunk. It did not stop people from sinning.

In fact, people now had license to be creative about their sin. Bathtub gin, moonshine, and other illegal distilleries were prominent. Not only this, but organized crime got its major start in America by making, selling, and transporting liquor.

In 1933 the twenty-first Amendment was ratified, which repealed the eighteenth Amendment of Prohibition.

Of course, today, the abuse of alcohol is still a rampant problem. Most would agree that Prohibition and the Temperance Movement had the opposite effect of its intention. Sin actually increased when alcohol was prohibited.

Prohibition and the Church
More than that, the Temperance Movement has had a profoundly debilitating impact upon the church in America.

The Temperance Movement united both theological liberals and theological conservatives. Theological liberals denied doctrines such as inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture, the virgin birth, the deity of Christ, the resurrection of Christ, etc. Theological conservatives affirmed all of these doctrines.

Theological liberals and theological conservatives were opposed on nearly every issue. However, when it came to the prohibition of alcoholic beverages, these two factions put aside their theological differences and joined in opposing all alcoholic beverages. In other words, they considered alcohol to be a greater evil than false doctrine.

The results of this unholy alliance are notorious. During the years of Prohibition, the theological liberals were busy taking over every mainline denomination.

In 1924, the Auburn Affirmation was signed, which allowed Presbyterian ministers to deny the fundamentals of the faith, yet still retain their ordination.

Of course, theological liberals did not just appear in 1919, but they gradually infiltrated the church during the nineteenth century. While the church was consumed with warring against alcohol, the theological liberals were allowed to come in and take over the denominations.

This is the legacy of the Temperance Movement. Not only did it fail to slow or even curb alcohol abuse, but the Temperance Movement was one of the distractions that allowed false doctrines and false teachers to creep into the church.

The church was right to preach against drunkenness, but wrong to preach against alcohol. Ignorance of the Biblical teaching on alcohol contributed to downgrade of the American church.

Yet, this ignorance continues today. Prohibition and abstention are still trumpeted as the answer to the problem of drunkenness. Alcohol is blamed, rather than sinful hearts.

American Exile
For the first 1800 years after Christ’s death and resurrection, the church has unanimously used wine in communion. Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Anglicans, Lutherans, Presbyterians, and Baptists all used wine in celebrating the Lord’s Supper.

All of the creeds that name the elements of the Lord’s Supper specify wine, not grape juice (Heidelberg Catechism, Westminster Confession and Larger Catechism, Baptist Confession of 1689).

All of this changed during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries because of the Temperance Movement. American churches discarded wine in favor of non-alcoholic grape juice.

In a sense, the American church has exiled herself. She has thrown out the wine, and thus, thrown out something that God has deemed good and a symbol of blessing.

It is fitting that most American churches serve grape juice. As a society, we have rejected God, and now we suffer the curses of breaking covenant – the blessing of wine has been taken away. Our gospel is inert, just like our grape juice offered in communion.

The gospel is the power of God for salvation. God has declared that wine is a picture of this powerful gospel. Let us not reject the blessing of God.

Ho! Everyone who thirsts, Come to the waters; And you who have no money, Come, buy and eat. Yes, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price (Isaiah 55:1).

Monday, December 03, 2007

Alcohol and Common Objections

Despite the Biblical evidence that wine is a gift of God and a blessing to be enjoyed, many are still opposed to the Christian use of alcohol. In this chapter, we will examine a few of popular arguments for abstention.

The Weaker Brother

Many argue for abstention out of concern for the weaker brother, based upon Romans 14 and 1 Corinthians 8. This is an important issue that ought to be seriously considered by all who claim to love the brethren.

Paul writes that those who are mature ought to be careful not to cause weaker brothers to stumble into sin:

But beware lest somehow this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to those who are weak (1 Corinthians 8:9).

Paul even mentions wine specifically:

It is good not to eat meat or to drink wine, or to do anything by which your brother stumbles (Romans 14:21).

The primary teaching of these passages is that we should put love for our brothers in Christ ahead of some concern for our “rights.” If that means voluntarily abstaining from the public use of some food or drink when a brother with a sensitive weaker conscience is present, we should not object.

The weaker brother argument is a legitimate concern and a legitimate reason for voluntarily abstaining from the public use of alcohol in certain situations. However, two caveats are required.

The Weaker Brother and the Lord’s Supper
First, the weaker brother argument does not affect the use of wine in the Lord’s Supper. There were alcoholics in the early church, yet this did not stop the apostles from using alcohol in the Lord’s Supper.

More importantly, Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper with wine. Those who advocate removing wine from the Lord’s Supper are implicitly condemning Jesus.

Jesus loves his church far more than we do. He instituted the Lord’s Supper with wine. We ought to assume that Jesus knew what he was doing. Woe to those who attempt to be smarter than Jesus.

Weaker Brother or Legalist?
Second, we must distinguish between the weaker brother and the legalist. Although these two categories of people look similar, they are miles apart, and are to be treated differently.

Paul portrays the weaker brother as one who has a weak and sensitive conscience. The weaker brother is probably new in the faith; he is not confident about what to do in every situation. He is not sure if certain things are Biblical or unbiblical. He is impressionable and tempted to copy another Christians’ behavior, even in violation of his own conscience.

We should love such weaker brothers so much that we are willing to give up our own liberties so that we do not cause them to violate their consciences. This may mean abstaining from the consumption of alcohol in certain situations.

However, the legalist is not the same as the weaker brother. The legalist is arrogant and unteachable. He has appointed himself as judge. His conscience is not weak, but cold and hardened. Unlike a weaker brother, the legalist is confident that he knows exactly what is right and wrong in at all times.

While the weaker brother is tempted to imitate an action even though he thinks it might be wrong, the legalist would never violate his conscience. Whereas the weaker brother’s conscience may be wounded by seeing mature Christians drink alcohol, the legalist’s conscience is offended. Herein lies the crucial difference.

So, what is the church’s response to the weaker brother? The church has the responsibility to help the weaker brother to grow into maturity. The church is to instruct him, rather than coddle him and allow him to remain a spiritual infant forever.

What is the church’s response to the legalist? The church should not be afraid of offending the legalist. Jesus went out of his way to offend legalists.

Additionally, the church has the responsibility to confront the legalist on his sin of substituting a man-made standard for the word of God. To add to or subtract from the word of God is an abomination.

The weaker brother should be a legitimate concern for moderationists. We should not hesitate to give up our liberty for immature believers.

However, concern for the weaker brother cannot be stretched into a universal principle of abstention. The weaker brother applies to specific situations, not all situations.

Even abstentionists know this, as they eat meat without giving much thought to the weaker brother. Paul says that we should be willing to give up both drinking wine and eating meat for the sake of the weaker brother (Romans 14:21). Abstentionists who eat meat are inconsistent; they ought to be teetotalers and vegetarians.

Defiling the Temple of the Holy Spirit

In the Old Testament, the priests were not allowed to drink alcohol when they were serving in the temple. Many well-meaning Christians argue that we should likewise refrain from consuming alcohol because we are now the temple of the Holy Spirit:

Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? (1 Corinthians 6:19).

We do not want to defile our bodies as temples of the Holy Spirit. However, this passage has nothing to do with alcohol. The context of 1 Corinthians 6 is sexual immorality, as seen in immediately preceding verse 19:

Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body (1 Corinthians 6:18).

Sexual immorality defiles our bodies; the consumption of alcohol does not. Jesus drank wine while the Holy Spirit was dwelling in him. He was not defiled.

Jesus even stated that we cannot be defiled by what we eat or drink:

Do you not yet understand that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and is eliminated? But those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies (Matthew 15:17-19).

Sin comes from our hearts, not from consuming alcohol in moderation.

Fencing our Liberties

Most of the popular arguments against the consumption of alcohol are motivated by wanting to eliminate its abuse. This is certainly a worthy goal, but the means employed are often inconsistent with how we handle other sins.

For example, compare alcohol with food or sex. God created both food and sex our enjoyment. However, our enjoyment must be confined to God-ordained parameters.

Food is fine when enjoyed in moderation. However, over-eating is the sin of gluttony.

Sex is fine when enjoyed within marriage. However, sex outside of marriage is the sin of immorality.

Likewise, alcohol is fine when enjoyed in moderation. However, a large quantity of alcohol produces the sin of drunkenness.

With food, sex, and alcohol, there is both a godly use and an ungodly use. Unfortunately, the abuse of this triad is rampant in our society. Gluttony, immorality, and drunkenness are all widespread sins.

Yet, does anyone argue for the prohibition of food or sex? Does anyone call for Christians to abstain from food or sex in order to prevent gluttony and immorality?

Of course not. These are good gifts that are to be enjoyed in their proper contexts: food in moderation, and sex within marriage. Why, then, is alcohol treated differently?

Martin Luther said it best, “Do not suppose that abuses are eliminated by destroying the object which is abused. Men can go wrong with wine and women. Shall we then prohibit and abolish women?”

Sin comes from our hearts, not from food or sex or alcohol. Sin cannot be controlled by external rules. In fact, God says that external controls have zero impact on our flesh:

Therefore, if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations-- “Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle,” which all concern things which perish with the using--according to the commandments and doctrines of men? These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh (Colossians 2:20-23).

Man-made regulations are of no value against our flesh. Abstaining from alcohol has no effect on the desires of our heart. Prohibition may suppress some instances of drunkenness, but it does not keep us from sinning. In fact, external regulations only increase our sinful desires.


Each of these three objections largely ignore the copious Biblical evidence that alcohol is a gift from God to be enjoyed in moderation. Unfortunately, most who argue against the Christian use of alcohol are unwittingly more influenced by the Temperance Movement than the teaching of the Scriptures.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Alcohol and the New Testament

Jesus, Peter, and Paul condemn drunkenness and the abuse of alcohol.

But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly (Luke 21:34).

For we have spent enough of our past lifetime in doing the will of the Gentiles--when we walked in lewdness, lusts, drunkenness, revelries, drinking parties, and abominable idolatries (1 Peter 4:3).

And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18).

The abuse of wine and drunkenness are explicitly condemned in the New Testament, as well as in the Old Testament. However, one never finds any hint that the godly use of wine is prohibited.

Jesus Drank Alcohol

Jesus drank enough wine that some people accused him of being a drunkard:

For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine, and you say, “He has a demon.” The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, “Look, a glutton and a winebibber [drunkard], a friend of tax collectors and sinners!” (Luke 7:33-34).

Jesus is drawing a parallel between himself and John the Baptist. The Jewish leaders condemned John for being an ascetic, for not eating bread and for not drinking wine.

Jesus was condemned for the exact opposite, for eating much bread and for drinking much wine. Jesus shocked the Jewish leaders by not only befriending sinners, but also by eating and drinking alcohol with them.

This passage ought to give pause to those who argue that we should abstain from alcohol for the sake of avoiding “any appearance of evil” (1 Thessalonians 5:22). Jesus never sinned. He avoided all appearances of evil, yet he also drank alcohol. Let us not try to be holier than Jesus.

Jesus Made Alcohol

Jesus’ first miracle was to turn water into wine, creating 120-180 gallons of wine. This not “new wine,” but fine-aged wine:

And he said to him, “Every man at the beginning sets out the good wine, and when the guests have well drunk, then the inferior. You have kept the good wine until now!” (John 2:10).

Jesus’ first miracle not only testified to his deity, but it also announced the return from exile. Remember that throughout the Old Testament, the abundance of wine is a symbol of blessing. By creating a massive amount of wine, Jesus provided a vivid picture of the return of blessing. The kingdom of God was being established, and Jesus’ first miracle proclaimed this fact. There is wine! There is much wine! There is much fine-aged wine! Ho! Everyone who thirsts! Come! This miracle was an announcement and an invitation into the kingdom of God.

Wine and the Lord’s Supper
When Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper, he says that the cup symbolically represents his blood:

Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins” (Matthew 26:27-28).

Notice that the contents of the cup are not in doubt:

But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom (Matthew 26:27-29).

The cup contained the “fruit of the vine,” which is an obvious reference to wine. Some prohibitionists and abstentionists argue that this was non-alcoholic grape juice. While this may seem possible, no scholar takes this claim seriously.

Furthermore, the early church used wine in their celebration of the Lord’s Supper.

Therefore when you come together in one place, it is not to eat the Lord’s Supper. For in eating, each one takes his own supper ahead of others; and one is hungry and another is drunk. What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and shame those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you in this? I do not praise you (1 Corinthians 11:20-22).

Paul berates the Corinthians for getting drunk while celebrating the Lord’s Supper. Notice, though, that Paul does not tell them to remove the alcohol from the Lord’s Supper. He condemns them for abusing alcohol, not for the mere use of alcohol.

As Jesus, his disciples, and the apostolic church all used wine in the Lord’s Supper, so we ought also to use wine in our celebration of the Lord’s Supper. If we remove wine from the Lord’s Supper, then we are removing a sign of blessing.

The communion cup is supposed to be a cup of blessing:

The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? (1 Corinthians 10:16).

In the Bible, prohibition is a curse. The church that prohibits wine from the communion cup is self-imposing a curse upon what is supposed to be a blessing.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Alcohol and the Old Testament

Wrong Uses of Wine
All Christians agree that drunkenness is a sin. The Bible is replete with commands and warnings against the abuse of alcohol.

Do not mix with winebibbers,
Or with gluttonous eaters of meat;
For the drunkard and the glutton will come to poverty
(Proverbs 23:20-21).

Woe to those who rise early in the morning,
That they may follow intoxicating drink;
Who continue until night, till wine inflames them!
(Isaiah 5:11).

Woe to men mighty at drinking wine,
Woe to men valiant for mixing intoxicating drink
(Isaiah 5:22).

Many other passages condemn drunkenness. Prohibitionists, abstentionists, and moderationists all agree that drunkenness is a sin.

The Godly Use of Wine

Yet, the condemnation of the abuse of wine does not entail a condemnation of all uses of wine. Rather, God says many positive things about wine. Most who oppose the Christian use of wine do not reckon with how the Bible endorses the proper use of alcohol.

Wine is a Gift of God
The Psalmist sings that God wants us to enjoy wine.

He causes the grass to grow for the cattle,
And vegetation for the service of man,
That he may bring forth food from the earth,
And wine that makes glad the heart of man,
Oil to make his face shine,
And bread which strengthens man’s heart.
(Psalm 104:14-15).

This is one of the most positive statements about wine that God has made. Just as God provides the conditions that allow man to cultivate food and oil, so God provides the conditions that allow man to produce wine. Wine is a gift from God to man.

Notice, too, that wine is given to make our hearts glad. It is virtuous, godly, and righteous to enjoy the warmth that a glass of wine gives. Feeling some of the effects of alcohol is not the same as drunkenness.

Those who argue against the righteous use of wine are rejecting one of God’s good gifts. This passage alone ought to be enough to cause abstentionists to pause. If we take God’s word literally, then we will not shrink from believing this passage. Alcohol is a gift from God.

Wine is a Gift to God
God commands wine to be given as an offering to himself.

Now this is what you shall offer on the altar … with the one lamb shall be one-tenth of an ephah of flour mixed with one-fourth of a hin of pressed oil, and one-fourth of a hin of wine [approximately one quart] as a drink offering (Exodus 29:38-40).

Its grain offering shall be two-tenths of an ephah of fine flour mixed with oil, an offering made by fire to Yahweh, for a sweet aroma; and its drink offering shall be of wine, one-fourth of a hin [one quart] (Leviticus 23:13).

And one-fourth of a hin of wine as a drink offering you shall prepare with the burnt offering or the sacrifice, for each lamb … and as a drink offering you shall offer one-third of a hin of wine as a sweet aroma to Yahweh … and you shall bring as the drink offering half a hin of wine [two quarts] as an offering made by fire, a sweet aroma to Yahweh (Numbers 15:5, 7, 10).

God demands that nothing unclean or unholy can ever to be offered to him. Yet, God also commands Israel to regularly include wine in their offerings. Therefore, it is impossible that wine is inherently unclean or unholy. God was pleased when Israel gave wine to him as a gift.

Look at what God also commanded as an offering:

And its drink offering shall be one-fourth of a hin for each lamb; in a holy place you shall pour out the strong drink to Yahweh as an offering (Numbers 28:7).

God commands not only wine, but also strong drink as an offering. Again, it is inconceivable that God would allow something sinful to be poured out on his holy altar. God was pleased to receive alcohol from Israel as an offering.

Wine is a Blessing
Isaac blessed Jacob, praying for plenty of wine:

Therefore may God give you
Of the dew of heaven,
Of the fatness of the earth,
And plenty of grain and wine.
(Genesis 27:28).

Throughout Israel’s history, God promised an abundance of wine for faithful obedience:

Honor Yahweh with your possessions,
And with the firstfruits of all your increase;
So your barns will be filled with plenty,
And your vats will overflow with new wine.
(Proverbs 3:9).

Then it shall come to pass, because you listen to these judgments, and keep and do them, that Yahweh your God will keep with you the covenant and the mercy which He swore to your fathers. And He will love you and bless you and multiply you; He will also bless the fruit of your womb and the fruit of your land, your grain and your new wine and your oil, the increase of your cattle and the offspring of your flock, in the land of which He swore to your fathers to give you (Deuteronomy 7:12-13).

As a reward for faithful obedience, God also commanded Israel to purchase not only wine, but also strong drink, which was even more alcoholic than wine.

And you shall spend that money for whatever your heart desires: for oxen or sheep, for wine or strong drink, for whatever your heart desires; you shall eat there before Yahweh your God, and you shall rejoice, you and your household (Deuteronomy 14:26).

The abundance of wine and strong drink is a sign of godliness and blessing. Indeed, God promised an abundance of wine for those returning from exile:

“Behold, the days are coming,” says Yahweh,
“When the plowman shall overtake the reaper,
And the treader of grapes him who sows seed;
The mountains shall drip with sweet wine,
And all the hills shall flow with it.
I will bring back the captives of My people Israel;
They shall build the waste cities and inhabit them;
They shall plant vineyards and drink wine from them (Amos 9:13-14).

Wine is a also part of the great eschatological feast:

And in this mountain Yahweh of hosts will make for all people A feast of choice pieces, A feast of wines on the lees, Of fat things full of marrow, Of well-refined wines on the lees (Isaiah 25:6).

An abundance of wine is one of the signs of blessing that God graciously promised throughout Scripture. God would never tell his people that wine is a blessing, if it were actually a curse or sinful or foolish.

The Absence of Wine
The absence of wine is always regarded negatively, as a sign of the absence of God. For example, God threatens to curse Israel by preventing them from drinking their wine:

But it shall come to pass, if you do not obey the voice of Yahweh your God, to observe carefully all His commandments and His statutes which I command you today, that all these curses will come upon you and overtake you … You shall plant vineyards and tend them, but you shall neither drink of the wine nor gather the grapes; for the worms shall eat them (Deuteronomy 28:15, 39).

As a further curse, God threatened that foreigners would drink Israel’s wine:

Yahweh has sworn by His right hand And by the arm of His strength: “Surely I will no longer give your grain As food for your enemies; And the sons of the foreigner shall not drink your new wine, For which you have labored (Isaiah 62:8).

Just as God promises an abundance of wine as a blessing for faithfulness, so God also promises the removal of wine as a curse for unfaithfulness.

In Scripture, prohibition is a curse, the result of disobedience. Those who object to the use of wine on the grounds that it is inherently evil, and that its use is sinful, should pause to consider the fact that they are declaring to be a curse that which God has declared to be a blessing, and a blessing that which God has declared to be a curse. This is a grievous error.

Wine is a Symbol of the Gospel
Isaiah uses wine as a symbol of the gospel:

Ho! Everyone who thirsts, Come to the waters; And you who have no money, Come, buy and eat. Yes, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price (Isaiah 55:1).

It would incongruous for God to use wine as a symbol of the gospel and yet prohibit his people from enjoying it. The consistent testimony of the Old Testament is that wine is a gift and a blessing and is to be enjoyed by God’s people.

Monday, November 12, 2007

The Alcohol Content of Wine in the Bible

Those who oppose the Christian use of alcohol often argue that the alcohol content of wine in Bible plays an essential role in determining whether the use of alcohol is permissible for Christians.

Two Kinds of Wine in the Bible?

The Scriptures mention “wine” over two hundred times, both in positive and negative contexts. Some Christians have used this positive/negative distinction to argue that the Bible is speaking of two different kinds of wine.

When the Bible speaks positively of wine, then this is referring to “wine” as non-alcoholic grape juice. When the Bible speaks negatively of wine, then this is referring to “wine” as alcoholic wine.

This argument was very popular among prohibitionists, particularly those that led the Temperance Movement. The advantage of this position is that it seems as though one is able to account for all of the Scriptures.

However, the alleged distinction between alcoholic wine and non-alcoholic grape juice does not exist in the Bible. The Bible uses the same word for wine in both positive and negative aspects.

The positive/negative distinction has to do with the use/abuse of alcohol. When the Bible speaks positively of wine, this is referring to the moderate use of alcohol. When the Bible speaks negatively of wine, this is referring to the abuse of alcohol, or drunkenness.

Was Wine Heavily Diluted?

Some Christians maintain that the wine in the Bible was almost non-alcoholic. It is argued that all wine in ancient times was filtered and dried into a paste, which was then mixed with water. Thus, small amounts of alcohol were present in wine, but the wine was so diluted as to minimize the intoxicating effects. The alcohol that was used was strictly for preservation purposes.

According to this view, the Bible does not prohibit the use of wine, provided we understand wine to be heavily diluted so that it was basically grape juice with only enough alcohol to preserve the grape juice from spoiling.

In our day, we have purified water, pasteurized grape juice, and refrigeration. There is no need to rely upon alcohol as a preservative. Thus, Christians should abstain from beverages that have a significant alcohol content, which would include all of our modern beers, wines, and liquors. This is the argument of many abstentionists.

This particular abstentionist argument demands that all wine was heavily diluted. While dilution was certainly used in some circumstances, this was far from the universal practice. The Biblical admonitions against drunkenness should suffice to prove that not everyone was diluting. Obviously, at least some people were getting a hold of the real thing and becoming drunk. If all “wine” was so low in alcohol content, then one would have to consume gallons and gallons to get drunk.

Moreover, this low-alcohol content argument has no support in historical scholarship. Virtually every scholar agrees that the alcohol content of wine during Biblical times was usually between 5-20%, which is enough to intoxicate.

Ironically, one popular abstentionist argues that the burden of proof should fall on those who claim that Biblical wine contained alcohol. This bold claim is precisely the opposite of reality. The burden of proof always falls on those who are against the consensus of historical scholarship. Such abstentionists have failed to prove that dilution was the universal practice.

Furthermore, many Biblical texts become silly or meaningless if they refer to non-alcoholic grape juice. Would the Shulamite have said to Solomon, “Your love is better than grape juice” (Song of Songs 1:2)?

If wine was super-diluted, why did the good Samaritan pour grape juice on the wounds of the man going to Jericho (Luke 10:34)? Why did Paul counsel Timothy to drink a little grape juice for his stomach (1 Timothy 5:23)?

If wine was basically grape juice, then the weaker brother argument is pointless (Romans 14; 1 Corinthians 8). Why would anyone object to the consumption of grape juice? No one’s faith is threatened by grace juice.

The wine of the Bible had to have been alcoholic. Alcohol can intoxicate, clean wounds, and heal stomach troubles. Grape juice does none of these things.

Is Alcohol Sinful?

Those who argue that some or all of the wine in the Bible was non-alcoholic or low-alcoholic are operating from a presupposition: alcohol is sinful. Both prohibitionists and abstentionists read the Scriptures through this presupposition.

However, material things are not sinful. Sin does not reside in objects, but in the human heart. Sin comes from the misuse of God’s gifts, not the godly use of God’s gifts. As we will see in the next chapter, alcohol is a gift from God. There is a godly and moderate use of alcohol.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Alcohol and the Bible

Although not all Dispensationalists are opposed to alcohol, many are among the more vociferous challengers to the Christian use of alcohol. So, I will be posting this series called "Alcohol and the Bible." Cheers!

The use of alcohol among Christians is one of the more controversial issues of the last two centuries, particularly within American churches. Three main positions were forged:

Prohibitionists hold that Scripture strictly forbids Christians from consuming wine and alcohol. Thus, the use of alcohol is a sin.

Abstentionists argue that Scripture does not explicitly forbid the consumption of wine and alcohol. However, Christians should refrain from most uses of alcohol.

Moderationists teach that Scripture endorses the enjoyment of alcohol as a good gift from God. Moderate use of alcohol is permissible; drunkenness is not.

In this study, we will argue for the moderation view while exploring two core issues: alcohol in the Bible and alcohol in recent church history.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Jesus and the Future of Ethnic Israel

Israel → Jesus → Church → World
We have been surveying the various relationships between Jesus, Israel, and the Church. We have examined four key aspects of these relationships: descendents, temple, law, and land of Israel. Each of these key aspects has been fulfilled in Jesus Christ, shared with the church, and are now spreading throughout the world.

Descendents → Jesus → Church → World
The true descendent of Abraham is Jesus Christ (Galatians 3:16). The church is related by faith to Jesus Christ and are now heirs of the promises to Abraham (Galatians 3:29). Our task is to now make disciples of all the nations (Matthew 28:19).

Temple → Jesus → Church → World
The true temple of God is Jesus Christ (John 2:19). Because Christ dwells in us through the Spirit, the church is now the temple (1 Corinthians 3:16). This temple is being spread to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8).

Land → Jesus → Church → World

The promised land was given to Israel (Joshua 21:43-45), but they failed to possess it because of their unbelief. God has now given the promised land and the rest of the world to Jesus (Matthew 28:18) who is sharing it with the church (Psalm 72:8).

Law → Jesus → Church → World
The law was given to Israel, but they did not keep it by faith (Romans 9:31-32). The law is fulfilled in Jesus Christ (Romans 10:4). The church is now under the law of Christ (Galatians 6:2). We are to teach this law to all the nations (Matthew 28:20).

All that was promised to Israel has been fulfilled in Jesus Christ, shared with the church, and universalized to encompass the entire world.

2Cor 1:20 (NKJV) For all the promises of God in Him {Jesus Christ} are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us.

Shadows vs. Reality
What was the purpose of the Israel, the temple, the land, and the law? These were “copies” and “shadows.”

Hebr 8:5 (NKJV) who serve the copy and shadow of the heavenly things, as Moses was divinely instructed when he was about to make the tabernacle. For He said, “See that you make all things according to the pattern shown you on the mountain.”

The Old Covenant system with the tabernacle, the temple, and the animal sacrifices were copies and shadows of heaven. Now that Christ has come, he has fulfilled all of these things, so that there is no longer any use for them.

Hebr 8:13 (NKJV) In that He says, “A new covenant,” He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.

The Old Covenant system was “becoming obsolete” and “growing old” and was “ready to vanish away.” This was accomplished in AD 70 when the temple was destroyed. With the destruction of the temple, the Old Covenant system has become obsolete.

The Old Covenant pointed towards Jesus Christ. Now we are in the New Covenant, God will not return to the Old Covenant system. That would be turning his back on Jesus Christ.

There is no going back to any of the unique characteristics of the Old Covenant:

· There will never again be a significance for an ethnic Israelite nation.

· There will never again be a literal temple of stone where God dwells.

· There will never again be a holy land.

· There will never again be an animal sacrifice securing forgiveness and atonement.

What about the OT Promises?
There are hundreds of OT promises regarding the nation of Israel, the temple, the land, and the law. What happens to these? Are they going to be fulfilled?

Yes, all the promises of God will be fulfilled. They are not all fulfilled at the same time and in the same way. Just as many were surprised at how prophecy was fulfilled at Jesus’ first coming, so we will likely be surprised at how prophecy is fulfilled at Jesus’ second coming. Thus, we need to be careful in assuming we have it all figured out.

Here are five suggestions for how the promises might be fulfilled.

1) Some Promises Were Conditional and Unfulfilled
Some Old Covenant promises were conditioned upon Israel’s faith. Since Israel lacked faith, the timeframe of fulfillment has passed. These promises will go unfulfilled, but this is not due to a failure on God’s part.

Remember, also, that conditions are not always stated or recorded in the text. Many times, repentance and faith are implicitly connected to a promise (e.g., the preaching of Jonah).

2) Some Promises Were Fulfilled in Jesus Christ
Some Old Covenant promises were fulfilled in the birth, life, death, resurrection, and ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ.

This is especially true of the ascension, which is often overlooked. Many of the promises such as 2 Samuel 7, Psalm 2, and Psalm 110, were fulfilled in the ascension of Jesus Christ.

3) Some Promises Were Fulfilled in the Early Church
Some Old Covenant promises were fulfilled in the early church as recorded in the book of Acts.

Pentecost is another event that is often disconnected from the OT, yet this was the rebirth of Israel, the reunion of Judah and Israel. The early church was the rebuilding of the tabernacle of David, fulfilling Amos 9:11, as James says:

Acts 15:14 (NKJV) “Simon has declared how God at the first visited the Gentiles to take out of them a people for His name.
15 “And with this the words of the prophets agree, just as it is written:
16 ‘After this I will return
And will rebuild the tabernacle of David, which has fallen down;
I will rebuild its ruins,
And I will set it up;
17 So that the rest of mankind may seek the Lord,
Even all the Gentiles who are called by My name,
Says the Lord who does all these things.’

4) Some Promises Are Fulfilled by the Church in History
Some Old Covenant promises are fulfilled by the church on earth in history up until the second coming of Christ. The church is the New Jerusalem and as such, she will fulfill many of the promises that ethnic Jews thought they were going to fulfill.

5) Some Promises Will Be Fulfilled by the Church in Eternity
Some Old Covenant promises are fulfilled in eternity by all believers from all ages. In the New Heavens and the New Earth, all of God’s people will live together in harmony. This will be the final fulfillment of some of the promises.

Thus, in eternity, we will be able to look back and say that all of the promises were fulfilled, either in Christ or his church, in history or in eternity. This gives us a Christ-centered expectation in how we look at the fulfillment of prophecy. All is fulfilled in Christ and his church.

The Future for Ethnic Israel/Jews
If all of the Old Covenant promises are fulfilled in Christ and his church, then is there a future for ethnic Israel? Yes!

Past Salvation of Ethnic Israel
In Romans 9-11, Paul defends the righteousness of God. Some are questioning the righteousness and the faithfulness of God because many ethnic Jews are perishing even after the coming of their Messiah. If God is faithful, how can he allow this?

Paul begins by saying that this is not God’s fault:

Roma 9:6 (NKJV) But it is not that the word of God has taken no effect. For they are not all Israel who are of Israel,

God has not failed nor has God’s word has not failed. God never promised to save all of ethnic Israel.

Present Salvation of Ethnic Israel
Furthermore, God is presently saving some of ethnic Israel.

Roma 11:1 (NKJV) I say then, has God cast away His people? Certainly not! For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin.

Paul is an example. He is an ethnic Jew, and God has saved him. In fact, there were many ethnic Jews in the early church. God continues to save ethnic Jews throughout the history of the church.

Nevertheless, many ethnic Jews are not saved. This is because Israel has been hardened. They have stumbled and fallen. Israel’s fall has brought salvation to the Gentiles.

Future Salvation of Ethnic Israel
However, look at what God’s purpose is in bringing salvation to the Gentiles:

Roma 11:11 (NKJV) I say then, have they stumbled that they should fall? Certainly not! But through their fall, to provoke them to jealousy, salvation has come to the Gentiles.

God is saving Gentiles so that ethnic Israel will be provoked to jealousy. Paul describes this further:

Roma 11:12 (NKJV) Now if their fall is riches for the world, and their failure riches for the Gentiles, how much more their fullness!

Notice that Paul speaks of the future of ethnic Jews. They will experience a “fullness.”

The Olive Tree

Paul uses the metaphor of the olive tree:

Roma 11:17 (NKJV) And if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive tree, were grafted in among them, and with them became a partaker of the root and fatness of the olive tree,

Ethnic Israel was broken off of the olive tree. Gentiles were grafted in. Yet, Paul expects ethnic Israel to be grafted in again.

Roma 11:24 (NKJV) For if you were cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and were grafted contrary to nature into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these, who are natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree?

Paul elaborates on the future of ethnic Jews.

Roma 11:25 (NKJV) For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in.

Paul indicates that ethnic Israel’s blindness is temporary. His expectation seems to be that when the fullness of the Gentiles comes in, then God will deal with ethnic Israel.

All Israel Will Be Saved
Paul then builds to his great conclusion:

Roma 11:26 (NKJV) And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written:
“The Deliverer will come out of Zion,
And He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob;
27 For this is My covenant with them,
When I take away their sins.”

Who is “all Israel”?
Some notable theologians, including Calvin, have argued that “all Israel” does not refer to ethnic Israel, but to the church. However, this goes against the entire context of Romans 9-11. “All Israel” must refer to ethnic Israel.

When will they be saved?
This could be fulfilled either gradually or cataclysmically.

1) “All Israel Will Be Saved” could refer to God’s plan to gradually save some ethnic Jews throughout the history of the church. Thus, at the end of time, God can say, “All Israel was saved. I did not lose one of my people.”

2) “All Israel Will Be Saved” could refer to God’s plan to save all ethnic Jews that are alive just before the second coming. Thus, there is a point in time when God will save a massive number of Jews.

Neither view is conclusive, and since this regards the future fulfillment of a prophecy, we don’t need to be dogmatic. God may surprise us.

Nevertheless, notice that Paul is speaking of the salvation of ethnic Israel. This means that they will become part of the church. They will be part of the living temple of God. They will be co-heirs with us of the world. They will be under the law of Christ and in the New Covenant.
However, saved ethnic Israel does not and will not have a special status in the kingdom of God. Romans 11 says nothing about a return to the types and shadows of the Old Covenant. Ephesians 2-3 state that God has united Jew and Gentile in Christ.

Ephe 2:14 (NASB) For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one, and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall,

Therefore, the final salvation of ethnic Israel is just that: salvation. In no way do we expect a return to an ethnic Jewish kingdom in the Middle East.

Israel Today
So, what is unbelieving ethnic Israel’s status for today?

Roma 11:28 (NKJV) Concerning the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but concerning the election they are beloved for the sake of the fathers.

They are enemies of the gospel in that they persecuted the early church. Yet, there will always be ethnic Israelites who become believers. Some ethnic Jews are elect. We don’t who they are. We must share the gospel with them. God will move the elect ones by jealousy to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ.

Thinking about the salvation of ethnic Jews brings Paul to his knees in praise of God.

Roma 11:33 (NKJV) Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!
34 “For who has known the mind of the Lord?
Or who has become His counselor?”
35 “Or who has first given to Him
And it shall be repaid to him?”
36 For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen.

This has to be the purpose of all of our studying. If we develop a smug attitude about understanding any truth in the Bible, then we are in sin. We understand nothing. The beginning and end of all of our studies should be for the glory of God, for the praise of God. The goal of all theology is doxology.

If our study of the Bible leads us to pride, to critical spirits, to judgmental hearts, or to boastful words, then we have utterly failed.

If at the end of this study, your thought is, “How stupid of anyone for not understanding this!” then you’ve reached a deadly conclusion. You’re in sin, and you need to repent.

We should remember Paul’s plea for humility:

1Cor 4:6 (NKJV) that none of you may be puffed up on behalf of one against the other.
7 For who makes you differ from another? And what do you have that you did not receive? Now if you did indeed receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?

If we understand anything, it is because of God’s grace to us. There is no room for pride or boasting.

As we think about God’s plan for the salvation of ethnic Jews, we should be driven to praise God. The goal of all theology is doxology.

Roma 11:33 (NASB) Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways!
34 For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who became His counselor?
35 Or who has first given to Him that it might be paid back to him again?
36 For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Jesus and the Law of Israel

The law is a broad, expansive topic that we could easily spend weeks or months or even years studying. This time, we are going to look at two issues:
1) How the sacrificial laws relate to Israel and to Jesus Christ
2) How the law relates to the church

Animal Sacrifices
One of the key issues that we need to understand is the role of animal sacrifices for Israel. The Bible is very explicit that a properly administered sacrifice would “make atonement” and secure “forgiveness”

Levi 4:20 (NKJV) ‘And he shall do with the bull as he did with the bull as a sin offering; thus he shall do with it. So the priest shall make atonement for them, and it shall be forgiven them.

Levi 5:13 (NKJV) ‘The priest shall make atonement for him, for his sin that he has committed in any of these matters; and it shall be forgiven him. The rest shall be the priest’s as a grain offering.’ “

Seventy-three times in Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers, atonement is used in reference to animal sacrifices. How did these sacrifices “atone” for sin and secure “forgiveness” in light of Christ’s once-for-all sacrifice?

Down Payment?
A frequently heard answer is that animal sacrifices were “down payments” until the sacrifice of Christ. However, a down payment is a partial payment. This would mean that animal sacrifices paid for some sins and Christ paid for the rest. This is obviously incorrect. Jesus Christ did not pay for some of sins. He paid for all of our sins.

Hebr 10:12 (NKJV) But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God,

Another frequently heard answer is that the word atonement means “covering.” Thus, the animal sacrifices atoned for sin in that they covered sin until complete atonement was secured through the death of Christ. Temporary forgiveness was earned through sacrifice until complete forgiveness was secured through the death of Christ.

However, this answer is inadequate. The word atonement does not mean “to cover.” It means “to appease” or “to expiate.” This fits with the idea of forgiveness. The language of atonement and forgiveness of sins is inescapable. So, what kind of “appeasement” and “forgiveness” did the Animal sacrifices bring?

Animal Sacrifice vs. Christ’s Sacrifice
Comparing the atonement of the animal sacrifices with the atonement of Christ reveals their differences. The value of the atonement of animal sacrifices was temporal, finite, and external. In contrast, the value of Christ’s atonement is eternal, infinite, and internal.

1) Temporal vs. Eternal
Animal sacrifices need to be repeated.

Hebr 10:11 (NKJV) And every priest stands ministering daily and offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins.

Animal sacrifices had to be repeated because they did not offer lasting benefits. Any benefit from animal sacrifices was only temporary or temporal because they did not permanently take away sin.

On the other hand, Christ’s sacrifice is eternal because He died once for all time.

Hebr 10:12 (NKJV) But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God,

It does not need to be repeated because the benefits last forever.

2) Finite vs. Infinite
Animal sacrifices were finite because the sacrifices were only good for particular sins. The daily sacrifices, such as the sin offering and the guilt offering, were only good for one sin. They had to be repeated for each sin, as often as necessary. Likewise, the Day of Atonement only covered the sins committed for the previous year.

Hebr 10:3 (NKJV) But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year.

On the other hand, Christ’s atonement is infinite because He paid for all of the sins of believers.

Hebr 9:28 (NKJV) so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation.

Christ’s sacrifice is good for all of our sins that we have ever committed or ever will commit.

3) External vs. Internal
The animal sacrifices were external in that they did not necessarily produce a changed heart. On the other hand, the benefits of Christ’s sacrifice are internal. God regenerates believers, giving us a new heart.

The Purposes of Animal Sacrifices
There are at least two purposes for animal sacrifices.

1) Atonement and Forgiveness on Earth
If properly administered, the sacrifices provided a temporal, finite, and external exemption from physical death on earth.

Animal sacrifices provided temporal atonement in that they only excused the sinner from immediate stoning or burning, but they did not excuse him from eternal damnation. Forgiveness was temporal not eternal.

Animal sacrifices provided finite atonement in that they only excused the sinner from the immediate physical death of one sin at a time (the sin and guilt offerings) or one year at a time (the Day of Atonement). Each new sin required a new animal sacrifice. Forgiveness was finite not infinite.

Animal sacrifices provided external atonement in that they only pardoned the sinner from the external, physical consequences of sin, but had no impact on the sinner’s eternal destiny. Forgiveness was external not internal.

In summary, we might say that animal sacrifices were good for earthly atonement and earthly forgiveness. They allowed a sinner to remain alive on the earth.

In contrast, Christ’s sacrifice is good for heavenly atonement and heavenly forgiveness. It allows a sinner to remain alive in heaven.

2) Foreshadowing Christ’s Sacrifice
The author of Hebrews refers to the sacrificial system as a shadow.

Hebr 10:1 (NKJV) For the law, having a shadow of the good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with these same sacrifices, which they offer continually year by year, make those who approach perfect.

The sacrifices foreshadowed Christ’s death on the cross. Each animal sacrifice pointed to Jesus Christ. Now that Christ has come, there is no longer a need for animal sacrifices.

The Law and the Church
Is the church under law? We can answer this in two ways, depending upon our understanding of law.

Our English word “law” generally reminds us of rules. “Do this” or “don’t do that.” While rules are important, they don’t encompass all that God means by the word law.

Law comes from the Hebrew word Torah, which means “instruction.” When God gave his Torah to Israel, it did not just consist of a list of rules. Torah is not merely a legal code or a rule book. Torah includes much more.

The first five books of the OT are called the Torah. Yet, a perusal of these books shows that they are not all rules or “law.” Furthermore, even in the sections where there are heavy concentrations of “law” (Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy), God never gives just a list of rules. He intersperses history, prophecy, poetry, songs, and other genres of literature.

Thus, if we take a narrow understanding of Torah (rules, “laws”), then we will be mistaken when we speak of the Torah. It is much better to think of the Torah as instruction, part of which includes rules.

We err when we think of the Torah as a rule book. The Torah is not a rule book; it is a covenant book. The Torah is the instruction of God to Israel concerning their covenant together. We call this the Old Testament or Old Covenant. The Torah is the Old Covenant instructions for Israel.

Jesus Fulfills the Torah
Jesus came to fulfill the Old Covenant.

Matt 5:17 (NKJV) “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill.

Jesus did not come to do away with or to simply destroy the Old Covenant. He came to fulfill it. He lived a perfect life and died as a perfect sacrifice for our sins. Jesus fulfilled the Old Covenant.
A Change of the Law
Because the Old Covenant is fulfilled, the church is not under the Old Covenant. As the author of Hebrews states:

Hebr 7:11 (NKJV) Therefore, if perfection were through the Levitical priesthood (for under it the people received the law), what further need was there that another priest should rise according to the order of Melchizedek, and not be called according to the order of Aaron?
12 For the priesthood being changed, of necessity there is also a change of the law.

The priesthood has changed from the sons of Levi to Jesus Christ. A change in priesthood requires a change of the law, a change in Torah, a change in covenant.

You are not under law
Thus, we should be able to say with Paul,

Roma 6:14 (NKJV) For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace.

We are not under the Old Covenant law. We are no longer required to sacrifice animals. Jesus is the perfect sacrifice, as Paul later states:

Roma 10:4 (NKJV) For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.

The Old Covenant law has ended. Jesus Christ has fulfilled it. We are not under law.

You are under law
At the same time, we are under law. Paul calls this the law of Christ.

Gala 6:2 (NKJV) Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

One of the first things we notice is that Jesus repeats many of the commands of the Old Covenant. In fact, Jesus even summarizes the entire Old Covenant:

Matt 22:36 (NKJV) “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?”
37 Jesus said to him, “ ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’
38 “This is the first and great commandment.
39 “And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’
40 “On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”

The Old Covenant is summarized by loving God and loving your neighbor. So, the essence of the Old Covenant is retained in the New Covenant. As Jeremiah prophesied:

Jere 31:31 (NKJV) “Behold, the days are coming, says Yahweh, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah--
32 “not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says Yahweh.
33 “But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says Yahweh: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.

The Old Covenant law is still present in the New Covenant. It has been transformed (e.g., the sacrificial laws are not literally binding).

Nevertheless, the church is now charged with bringing God’s law to the nations. Jesus makes this clear in the Great Commission.

Matt 28:18 (NKJV) And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.
19 “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
20 “teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.

Part of making disciples is teaching them to observe all things that Christ has commanded.

In previous weeks, we have seen the pattern that the promises to Israel have been fulfilled in Christ, expanded to the church, and are spreading throughout the world.

Israel → Christ → Church → World

The descendents, or seed, of Israel was fulfilled in Christ, then expanded to the church, and are now spreading throughout the world.

The temple of Israel was fulfilled in Christ, then expanded to the church, and is now spreading throughout the world.

The land of Israel was fulfilled in Christ, then given to the church, and now encompasses the world.

The law of Israel was fulfilled in Christ, then given to the church, and is now taught throughout the world.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Jesus and the Land of Israel

Last time, we looked at how the tabernacle and temple are fulfilled in Jesus. We are not expecting or waiting for another temple to be built on earth. Jesus is building his temple, which is the church.

This time, we are looking at the land that was promised to Israel.

The “Promised” Land
God had Abraham move away from his family to a new land:

Gene 12:1 (NKJV) Now Yahweh had said to Abram: “Get out of your country, From your family And from your father’s house, To a land that I will show you.

God promised to give this “promised” land to Abraham’s descendents:

Gene 15:18 (NKJV) On the same day Yahweh made a covenant with Abram, saying: “To your descendants I have given this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the River Euphrates--

The land was indwelled by the Canaanites, but God was giving it to Abraham’s descendants:

Gene 17:8 (NKJV) “Also I give to you and your descendants after you the land in which you are a stranger, all the land of Canaan, as an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.”

God promised to give this land to Isaac and his descendents:

Gene 26:3 (NKJV) “Dwell in this land, and I will be with you and bless you; for to you and your descendants I give all these lands, and I will perform the oath which I swore to Abraham your father.

The Promised Land is God’s
The reason that God can give the land is because it is his.

Levi 25:23 (NKJV) ‘The land shall not be sold permanently, for the land is Mine; for you are strangers and sojourners with Me.

Because the land is God’s, it is holy land. The holy land required holiness of the people who dwelled on it. The holy land would vomit out unholy people.

Levi 18:26 (NKJV) ‘You shall therefore keep My statutes and My judgments, and shall not commit any of these abominations, either any of your own nation or any stranger who dwells among you
27 ‘(for all these abominations the men of the land have done, who were before you, and thus the land is defiled),
28 ‘lest the land vomit you out also when you defile it, as it vomited out the nations that were before you.
29 ‘For whoever commits any of these abominations, the persons who commit them shall be cut off from among their people.

Part of the reason for giving the people God’s law is so that they would be holy and be able to live in the land.

Entering the Promised Land
The promise of the land was secure. God does not lie. However, possession of the land was always conditioned upon faith.

For instance, God was ready to give Israel the land.

Numb 13:1 (NKJV) And Yahweh spoke to Moses, saying,
2 “Send men to spy out the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the children of Israel; from each tribe of their fathers you shall send a man, every one a leader among them.”

Joshua and Caleb urged Israel to trust in God:

Numb 14:7 (NKJV) and they spoke to all the congregation of the children of Israel, saying: “The land we passed through to spy out is an exceedingly good land.
8 “If Yahweh delights in us, then He will bring us into this land and give it to us, ‘a land which flows with milk and honey.’
9 “Only do not rebel against Yahweh, nor fear the people of the land, for they are our bread; their protection has departed from them, and Yahweh is with us. Do not fear them.”

Unfortunately, the congregation rebelled and did not trust God, and so the entire generation was sentenced to death.

Numb 14:26 (NKJV) And Yahweh spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying,
27 “How long shall I bear with this evil congregation who complain against Me? I have heard the complaints which the children of Israel make against Me.
28 “Say to them, ‘As I live,’ says Yahweh, ‘just as you have spoken in My hearing, so I will do to you:
29 ‘The carcasses of you who have complained against Me shall fall in this wilderness, all of you who were numbered, according to your entire number, from twenty years old and above.
30 ‘Except for Caleb the son of Jephunneh and Joshua the son of Nun, you shall by no means enter the land which I swore I would make you dwell in.

Of the generation that was led out of Egypt, only two people actually inherited the promised land. This does not nullify God’s promise. Remember, God’s promises are only inherited by those who are of faith. Abraham’s descendents are spiritual descendents. The heirs of the promise of the land are those who share Abraham’s faith.

God was faithful, but Israel as a whole was unfaithful. The promised land was to be possessed by faith, not grasped by strength.

This was a lesson that Moses’ generation did not learn. After they failed to trust God in entering the land, Israel foolishly attempted to seize the land by their own military might.

Numb 14:39 (NKJV) Then Moses told these words to all the children of Israel, and the people mourned greatly.
40 And they rose early in the morning and went up to the top of the mountain, saying, “Here we are, and we will go up to the place which Yahweh has promised, for we have sinned!”
41 And Moses said, “Now why do you transgress the command of Yahweh? For this will not succeed.
42 “Do not go up, lest you be defeated by your enemies, for Yahweh is not among you.
43 “For the Amalekites and the Canaanites are there before you, and you shall fall by the sword; because you have turned away from Yahweh, Yahweh will not be with you.”
44 But they presumed to go up to the mountaintop; nevertheless, neither the ark of the covenant of Yahweh nor Moses departed from the camp.
45 Then the Amalekites and the Canaanites who dwelt in that mountain came down and attacked them, and drove them back as far as Hormah.
Israel tried to grasp the land by their own strength, but the land was to be grasped by faith. The Promised Land cannot be possessed by military might.

The Fulfillment of the Promised Land
God led the next generation of Israel into the promised land. Although the conquest was not perfect, Joshua summarizes it this way:

Josh 21:43 (NKJV) So Yahweh gave to Israel all the land of which He had sworn to give to their fathers, and they took possession of it and dwelt in it.
44 Yahweh gave them rest all around, according to all that He had sworn to their fathers. And not a man of all their enemies stood against them; Yahweh delivered all their enemies into their hand.
45 Not a word failed of any good thing which Yahweh had spoken to the house of Israel. All came to pass.

It is interesting to note that at the time that Joshua wrote this, Israel did not possess all of the promised land, nor had they driven out all of the Canaanites.

At the same time, we must note the comprehensiveness of this passage. “All” is mentioned six times, including the summary: “All came to pass.” How do these two facts fit together?

We need to understand that this passage is written from God’s perspective. From God’s perspective, he had given them the land. Any failure to fully possess the land or drive out the inhabitants was Israel’s fault. God was not at fault. He had given them all the land that he promised. If Israel had been faithful, they would have possessed the land perfectly and kept it forever, just as God promised.

The rest of the OT tells the story of how Israel disobeyed and distrusted God and lost the land. If at any time, Israel would have been faithful to the Lord, they would have possessed the land. Yet, time and time again, they were unfaithful.

NT and the Land
In the OT, “land” is one of the central themes, used 1493 times. However, “land” is used 52 times in the NT, most of which are the gospels and none are the epistles. There are many reasons for this, but one of the main reasons is that the land promised to Israel has been universalized into the earth.

The Great Commission
Jesus came to reach the lost sheep of Israel. He labored primarily within the historical boundaries of the Promised Land. At his ascension, Jesus was crowned as King, not just King of Israel, but King of the Universe.

Jesus has authority over not just Israel, but all heaven and earth.

Matt 28:18 (NKJV) And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.
19 “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,

Because Jesus now has authority over the entire earth, the nations are to be discipled.

The disciples were still looking for the ethnic kingdom of Israel.

Acts 1:6 (NKJV) Therefore, when they had come together, they asked Him, saying, “Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?”
7 And He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority.
8 “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

The disciples were correct in that the kingdom started with Israel. The timing was yet unknown, but the kingdom was going to start in Jerusalem, with three thousand Jews converted at Pentecost. The gospel would then proceed to Judea and Samaria, and eventually encompass the whole world.

The Land vs. The Earth
The promise to obedient children has changed from land to earth.

Exod 20:12 (NKJV) “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you.

Deut 5:16 (NKJV) ‘Honor your father and your mother, as the Lord your God has commanded you, that your days may be long, and that it may be well with you in the land which the Lord your God is giving you.

Ephe 6:2 (NKJV) “Honor your father and mother,” which is the first commandment with promise:
3 “that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth.”

This shows that the promised land has now become the promised earth. Furthermore, Gentiles now get in on the promises through Christ.

Abraham’s Understanding
Abraham understood that he was going to inherit the world:

Roma 4:13 (NKJV) For the promise that he would be the heir of the world {cosmos} was not to Abraham or to his seed through the law, but through the righteousness of faith.

God promised Abraham a land, but Abraham understood this to also embrace the entire world.

Abraham and the City
Abraham did not put his hope in the land of Israel, but in the city of God.

Hebr 11:8 (NKJV) By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going.
9 By faith he dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise;
10 for he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.

“The city” is what Abraham was waiting for. Indeed, all the OT saints desired a heavenly country, or a city.

Hebr 11:13 (NKJV) These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.
14 For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland.
15 And truly if they had called to mind that country from which they had come out, they would have had opportunity to return.
16 But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.

Hebr 11:39 (NKJV) And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise,
40 God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us.

“The city” is better than the land of Canaan. It is superior.

The Heavenly Jerusalem
What is this city that the book of Hebrews speaks of?

Hebr 12:22 (NKJV) But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels,
23 to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect,
24 to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel.

Notice this says, “you have come.” This is past tense. We have already come to Mount Zion and the heavenly Jerusalem. So, what is this heavenly Jerusalem?

The author of Hebrews is speaking of the church. The church is “Mount Zion,” “the city of the living God,” and “the heavenly Jerusalem.”

John uses similar language to describe his vision:

Reve 21:9 (NKJV) Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls filled with the seven last plagues came to me and talked with me, saying, “Come, I will show you the bride, the Lamb’s wife.”
10 And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God,

The church is the bride of Christ, the Lamb’s wife. The church is called “the great city” and “the holy Jerusalem.” Notice also that the church is descending out of heaven from God. As the church grows, she continues to descend from heaven to earth. The Kingdom of Heaven is coming to earth.

Heaven and Earth
The relationship between heaven and earth is one of the keys to understanding the eschatological significance of Jesus and the land of Israel.

The Separation of Heaven and Earth
During the creation week, God blessed all the days of creation except for the second day (Genesis 1:4, 12, 18, 21, 31). God never said, “It was good” about the second day. Why is this? What happened on the second day?

Gene 1:6 (NKJV) Then God said, “Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.”
7 Thus God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament; and it was so.
8 And God called the firmament Heaven. So the evening and the morning were the second day.

On the second day, God separated the heavens from the earth. Why did he not bless this? Because this separation was temporary. God never intended the separation of heaven and earth to be permanent.

He created man to unite heaven and earth, or to bring heaven down to earth. Adam failed in the Garden. Israel failed in the Promised Land. Jesus Christ is now fulfilling this task through the church.

Uniting Heaven and Earth
Paul describes how heaven and earth are going to be united.

Ephe 1:10 (NKJV) that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together {unite, sum up} in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth--in Him.

Jesus rules not just over Israel, but over the whole world, and not just over the whole world, but also over the whole universe, and not just over the whole universe, but Jesus is the One who is going to unite the physical universe with heaven, and he will rule over this one realm as its king.

The Lord’s Prayer
In the Lord’s prayer, we learn more about the relationship between heaven and earth.

Matt 6:9 (NKJV) “In this manner, therefore, pray:
Our Father in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.
10 Your kingdom come.
Your will be done
On earth as it is in heaven.

We learn two things immediately:
1. God dwells in heaven.
2. God’s will is done in heaven.

We learn two more things after a little thought:
3. If God’s will is done in heaven, then God’s name must be hallowed in heaven.
4. If God’s will is done in heaven, then God’s kingdom must be in heaven. Matthew prefers to refer to God’s kingdom as “the kingdom of heaven.”

These four truths are basically synonymous. Where God dwells, his name is going to be hallowed, his kingdom exists, and his will is done. Or, where his will is done, his kingdom exists, his name is hallowed, and he must dwell there.

Notice how Jesus tells us to pray. We don’t have to pray for God to dwell on earth, because his temple is already spread over the earth. Jesus already does dwell through his Spirit in the church throughout the world. However, we are to pray for the other three requests.

2. God’s name to be hallowed on earth.
3. God’s kingdom to come to earth.
4. God’s will to be done on earth.

This is the task of the church. As we preach the gospel through the indwelling Spirit of God, God’s kingdom comes to earth, a little bit at a time. God’s name becomes regarded as holy, a little bit at a time. God’s will is done on earth, a little bit at a time.

This is the coming of the kingdom. The kingdom of God gradually descends from heaven to earth. As heaven and earth become one, the kingdom of Christ encompasses the whole earth.

The was prophesied in the OT.

Psal 72:8 (NKJV) He shall have dominion also from sea to sea,
And from the River to the ends of the earth.

We have seen a pattern with respect to Jesus, Israel, and the Church.

· The descendents of Abraham are narrowed to Jesus Christ, and then expanded to include both Jews and Gentiles, the church.

· The temple of God narrowed to Jesus Christ, and has now been expanded to include the church throughout the world.

· The land has now been expanded to include the whole earth because Jesus rules not just over Israel, but over heaven and earth.

Next time, we will look at Jesus and the Law of Israel.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Jesus and the Temple

The Temple in Heaven
The tabernacle or temple of God is the place where God dwells. John saw this temple in heaven.

Reve 11:19 (NKJV) Then the temple of God was opened in heaven, and the ark of His covenant was seen in His temple. And there were lightnings, noises, thunderings, an earthquake, and great hail.

God’s primary dwelling place is in heaven. This is described as his temple.

The Tabernacle
After the Exodus, God gave his people instructions to build a tabernacle. The tabernacle was where God dwelled among his people.

Exod 40:34 (NKJV) Then the cloud covered the tabernacle of meeting, and the glory of Yahweh filled the tabernacle.
35 And Moses was not able to enter the tabernacle of meeting, because the cloud rested above it, and the glory of Yahweh filled the tabernacle.

The tabernacle was also the place of atonement. If God, the holy God, were to dwell in the midst of Israel, an unclean, unholy, and sinful people, atonement had to be made by sacrifice. God’s presence required cleansing from sin. Thus, the tabernacle was where God dwelled and where sacrifices were made.

A House for Whom?
David wanted to build a permanent residence, or a house, for God.

2Sam 7:1 (NKJV) Now it came to pass when the king was dwelling in his house, and Yahweh had given him rest from all his enemies all around,
2 that the king said to Nathan the prophet, “See now, I dwell in a house of cedar, but the ark of God dwells inside tent curtains.”

However, God did not give David permission to build a “house” for God.

2Sam 7:5 (NKJV) “Go and tell My servant David, ‘Thus says Yahweh: “Would you build a house for Me to dwell in?
6 “For I have not dwelt in a house since the time that I brought the children of Israel up from Egypt, even to this day, but have moved about in a tent and in a tabernacle.
7 “Wherever I have moved about with all the children of Israel, have I ever spoken a word to anyone from the tribes of Israel, whom I commanded to shepherd My people Israel, saying, ‘Why have you not built Me a house of cedar?’ “ ‘

God has never asked to dwell in a house. Instead, God is going to build a house for David.

11 “since the time that I commanded judges to be over My people Israel, and have caused you to rest from all your enemies. Also Yahweh tells you that He will make you a house.
12 “When your days are fulfilled and you rest with your fathers, I will set up your seed after you, who will come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom.
13 “He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.

God promised to build a house for David, and that one of David’s descendents would built a house for God’s name. Obviously, this is a long-term prophesy about Jesus.

The First Temple
In the meantime, David’s son, Solomon, builds a permanent house for God, the temple. The temple is patterned after the tabernacle and takes over its functions.

1Kin 8:10 (NKJV) And it came to pass, when the priests came out of the holy place, that the cloud filled the house of Yahweh,
11 so that the priests could not continue ministering because of the cloud; for the glory of Yahweh filled the house of Yahweh.

Like the tabernacle, the temple was the place of God’s presence and also the place of atonement.
However, God warned that he would withdraw from the temple if Israel was unfaithful.

1Kin 9:6 (NKJV) “But if you or your sons at all turn from following Me, and do not keep My commandments and My statutes which I have set before you, but go and serve other gods and worship them,
7 “then I will cut off Israel from the land which I have given them; and this house which I have consecrated for My name I will cast out of My sight. Israel will be a proverb and a byword among all peoples.
8 “And as for this house, which is exalted, everyone who passes by it will be astonished and will hiss, and say, ‘Why has Yahweh done thus to this land and to this house?’

This is precisely what happened. Israel misunderstood the temple. The people thought that God’s presence was automatically guaranteed by the temple in Jerusalem. They thought that the city and temple could never be destroyed. The temple had become a guarantee of safety, an idol.

Jeremiah warned against such an attitude.

Jere 7:4 (NKJV) “Do not trust in these lying words, saying, ‘The temple of Yahweh, the temple of Yahweh, the temple of Yahweh are these.’

Israel did not heed Jeremiah’s warnings. Ezekiel records what happened.

Ezek 10:18 (NKJV) Then the glory of Yahweh departed from the threshold of the temple and stood over the cherubim.

Ezek 11:22 (NKJV) So the cherubim lifted up their wings, with the wheels beside them, and the glory of the God of Israel was high above them.
23 And the glory of Yahweh went up from the midst of the city and stood on the mountain, which is on the east side of the city.

Ichabod! The spirit of Yahweh departed, and then the Babylonians destroyed the temple and the city of Jerusalem.

The Second Temple
Ezra led the rebuilding of the temple. However, this paled in comparison to Solomon’s temple.

Ezra 3:12 (NKJV) But many of the priests and Levites and heads of the fathers’ houses, old men who had seen the first temple, wept with a loud voice when the foundation of this temple was laid before their eyes. Yet many shouted aloud for joy,

In the NT era, Herod remodeled and greatly expanded the second temple. This was a beautiful and magnificent structure.

Jesus and the Temple
Jesus indicated that, in his day, the temple still retained significance as the place of the presence of God.

Luke 2:49 (NASB) And He said to them, “Why is it that you were looking for Me? Did you not know that I had to be in My Father’s house?”

Matt 23:21 (NKJV) “He who swears by the temple, swears by it and by Him who dwells in it.

Jesus Cleanses the Temple
Nevertheless, Jesus indicates that the temple was not what it should be.

Mark 11:15 (NKJV) So they came to Jerusalem. Then Jesus went into the temple and began to drive out those who bought and sold in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves.
16 And He would not allow anyone to carry wares through the temple.
17 Then He taught, saying to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations’? But you have made it a ‘den of thieves.’ “

This passage is referred to as Jesus “cleansing” the temple. Usually, this is interpreted as Jesus protesting against the moneychangers who were ripping the people off. Actually, there was nothing wrong with having money changing and the selling of animals near the temple.

The sacrifices required animals that were pure. Most likely, those traveling to Jerusalem to make a sacrifice did not bring animals from their home. Instead, the travelers purchased such animals near the temple grounds. There’s nothing inherently wrong with such practices.

Now, there is something wrong with exploiting such situations, and perhaps some of Jesus’ actions were to correct this, but this was not his major intention.

Den of Thieves
Jesus says that the temple has been made into a “den of thieves.” “Den of thieves” is not necessarily a condemnation of the swindling of the moneychangers. The word for “thieves” is not the word for a swindler or an embezzler. The word is much more rogue. The word for “thieves” is a robber or a bandit.

Jesus is specifically referring to the leaders of the temple. They are thieves, robbers, and bandits. Remember, it will be the high priest that supported the release of Barabbas, the true criminal. Jesus was soon to be crucified between to robbers.

Certainly, Jesus is implicating the corrupt moneychangers, but the true guilt falls upon the leaders of Israel. They have turned the temple into a den of thieves.

House of Prayer for All Nations
Jesus says that the real purpose of the temple is that it would be a house of prayer for all nations. Jesus is quoting from Isaiah 56.

Isai 56:7 (NKJV) Even them I will bring to My holy mountain,
And make them joyful in My house of prayer.
Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices
Will be accepted on My altar;
For My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations.”

Isaiah is prophesying what Israel will be like after the exile. Israel was supposed to fulfill this. Yet, here we find Jesus judging Jerusalem for falling from this standard. Jesus’ perspective seems to be that the foreigners were supposed to already be worshipping God on his holy mountain.

The Jewish leaders had restricted foreigners to the court of the Gentiles. Yet, believing foreigners were supposed to have the same access to the temple that Jews had. Leviticus 22 describes such a procedure.

However, at the time of Jesus, the Temple had a barrier that kept out the Gentile God-fearers. This barrier was an offense against God. Jesus is clear that the Temple was for all nations.

True Worship
As Jesus explains the woman at the well, worship is no longer going to be local, in the city of Jerusalem, and at the temple.

John 4:19 (NKJV) The woman said to Him, “Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet.
20 “Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, and you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship.”
21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father.
22 “You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews.
23 “But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him.
24 “God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”

After Jesus’ resurrection, true worship is not localized at the temple in Jerusalem. The temple will no longer be the dwelling place of God. Jesus is the new temple of God.

Jesus is the Temple
Jesus claims to be superior to the temple.

Matt 12:6 (NKJV) Yet I say to you that in this place there is One greater than the temple.

How could Jesus be greater than the temple? Because Jesus is the true temple. He fulfills both functions of the temple:

1) God Dwells in Jesus

John 2:18 (NKJV) So the Jews answered and said to Him, “What sign do You show to us, since You do these things?”
19 Jesus answered and said to them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”
20 Then the Jews said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?”
21 But He was speaking of the temple of His body.
22 Therefore, when He had risen from the dead, His disciples remembered that He had said this to them; and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had said.

Jesus was not just speaking metaphorically. When He refers to his body as the temple, he is saying that God dwells in him. Jesus is challenging the Jews by saying that He is the true temple.

John describes the incarnation as God dwelling among us.

John 1:14 (NKJV) And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.

When God took on humanity, this was a “tabernacling.” Jesus is the tabernacle and the temple because God dwells in him.

2) Jesus Forgives Sin
Jesus forgives sins directly, apart from temple sacrifice.

Mark 2:5 (NKJV) When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven you.”
6 And some of the scribes were sitting there and reasoning in their hearts,
7 “Why does this Man speak blasphemies like this? Who can forgive sins but God alone?”
Jesus fulfills both functions of the temple. He contains the presence of God, and he forgives sins, through the sacrifice of himself. In Jesus, the temple becomes the sacrifice.

Ichabod – Part 2
At Jesus’ death, the temple ceased to be the dwelling place of God.

Mark 15:38 (NKJV) Then the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.

The veil of the temple meant that God had departed from the temple. Icabod! Although the Jews continued to worship in the temple, God was not there. The temple was now a place of idolatry.

About forty years later, in ad 70, the temple was destroyed once and for all. It has never been rebuilt.

The Church and the Temple

After God left the temple in Jerusalem, God now dwells in his people.

1Cor 3:16 (NKJV) Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?

Since God dwells in us, we are the temple of God.

1Cor 6:19 (NKJV) Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?

The church is being built into a living temple.

Ephe 2:19 (NKJV) Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God,
20 having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone,
21 in whom the whole building, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord,
22 in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.

This is precisely what Jesus promised:

Matt 16:18 (NKJV) “And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.

Jesus used “building” imagery to describe the growth of the church. As we grow, we are being “built” into a temple of God.

1Pet 2:4 (NKJV) Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious,
5 you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
6 Therefore it is also contained in the Scripture, “Behold, I lay in Zion
A chief cornerstone, elect, precious, And he who believes on Him will by no means be put to shame.”
7 Therefore, to you who believe, He is precious; but to those who are disobedient, “The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief cornerstone,”
8 and “A stone of stumbling And a rock of offense.” They stumble, being disobedient to the word, to which they also were appointed.
9 But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;
10 who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy.

Peter uses Israelite language to refer to the church. The church is now the temple of God.

The Church is the Temple of Ezekiel
In between the first and second temple, Ezekiel saw a vision of a new temple, which he recorded in Ezekiel 40-48. We do not have time to address the details of those nine chapters, but we can summarize this by saying that the church is the fulfillment of the temple that Ezekiel saw.

Ezekiel 37 is a glorious description of the rebirth of Israel, the dry bones being brought to life. This is generally interpreted as setting the stage for temple of chapters 40-48. Ezekiel makes this statement near the end of chapter 37:

Ezek 37:27 (NKJV) My tabernacle also shall be with them; indeed I will be their God, and they shall be My people.

The apostle Paul quotes this exact verse and applies this to the church.

2Cor 6:16 (NKJV) And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will dwell in them And walk among them. I will be their God, And they shall be My people.”

Ezekiel saw a temple of glory in the midst of a new city and prophesied that God would dwell in the midst of his people. Now, in Jesus, God dwells with his people and creates out of the church a people who love one another. At the center of this community the glory of God becomes visible. Ezekiel’s temple is fulfilled in Jesus and his church.