The new temple in Ezekiel 43-48 is Jesus? Kenneth Gentry

This is a big quote from: Kenneth Gentry “HE shall have dominion.” You can download PDF file here:

To understand the significance of Ezekiel’s visionary Temple, we must keep in mind the conceptual idea embodied in the Temple structure and services. The essence of the Temple is that it stands as a symbol. That is, it is symbolic of the covenantal relationship of God with His people. The essence of the covenant is contained in that most important promise: “I will be your God, you will be My people.” The Temple was the special place where God dwelt among His people (1 Kgs. 6:12-13; Jer. 7:4-7), as He did in the Tabernacle preceding it (Exe. 29:42; 25:22; 30:36). The glory of God was especially present in His sanctuary (1 Kgs. 8:11; 2 Chr. 7:1-2), although no Temple could contain His immense being (1 Kgs. 8 :2’7; Isa. 66:1; Jer 23:24).

This idea is clearly related to Ezekiel’s Temple vision in 48:35: “The name of the city from that day shall be: The Lord is There.” That visionary Temple is symbolic of the glorious presence of God in the Kingdom of Christ coming in the New Covenant era. And it is so because even further defined, it is symbolic of Christ Himself. Christ is the true presence of God which could only be hinted at in the temple construction. “Ezekiel’s vision of the new temple is part of this prophetic pattern of a restoration so total that it sublimates the ceremonial structure in glory. Ezekiel’s restoration returns David to the throne, and sees a temple that is a sanctuary of Paradise, where the river of life flows from God’s throne past trees whose leaves are for the healing of the nations.”57 One of the closing prophecies of the Old Testament is Malachi 3:1: “And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple, even the Messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight.” This coming is the message of the New Testament: the Lord has come to “tabernacle” among us (John 1:14, Greek; cf. John 1:1; 1 John 1:1-3). When He came, He was first visited by shepherds, who had been out in the fields keeping sacrificial sheep destined for the Temple. When presented forty days later in the Temple, He was praised as the “glory of Your people Israel” (Luke 2:32) – language reflecting the Shekinah glory of God, which evidenced God’s presence in the Temple (Exe. 40:34, 35; 1 Sam. 4:21-22).

He so stands as the glorious realization of the meaning of the Temple that he who had seen Him had seen the Father (John 14:9), for “in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily” (Col. 2:9). He even was transfigured in a glorious display of His true identity (Matt. 1’7: 1-8; Mark 9:2-8). Consequently, He justly claims to be greater than the Temple (Matt. 12:6), for He is its fulfillment, being the very presence of God. In fact, He is “the stone which the builders rejected” which “has become the chief cornerstone” of God’s new Temple (Matt. 21 :42).

Consequently, as prophetic His ministry opens, He stands in the shadow of the earthly Temple and informs Jerusalem of this glorious truth: “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up,” by which “He was speaking of the temple of His body” (John 20:19, 21), a Temple “not made with hands” (Mark 14:58). Therefore, He offers Himself to men as the heavenly manna, which was once housed in the Ark of the Covenant in the Temple.m He offers the living waters of Ezekiel’s Temple (Ezek. 4’7; cf. Joel 3:18; Zech. 14:8) to His hearers (John 4:10-15; 7:38-39). He is the sacrificial “Lamb of God” destined for Temple service (John 1:29). As He establishes the New Covenant (Luke 22:20), He impresses upon the hearts of His followers the Law of God (Jer. 31:31-34; 2 Cor. 4:3, 6; Heb. 8:8-1 1), which was formerly kept on tables of stone in the Holy of holies (Exe. 25:21; Deut. 10:5; Heb. 9:4). Thus, when He dies, the Temple era is formally ended with the rending of the veil (Matt. 27:51). When He speaks of the absolute destruction of the physical Temple in A.D. ’70, He leaves no intimation of its God-endorsed rebuilding (Matt. 2461).

Christ, then, is the true Temple. And His people, who are in mystical union with Him, are called His “body” (Rem. 12:5; 1 Cor. 12:27; Eph. 4:12). Consequently, we who are His people are also designated a “temple.”62 This is due to His indwelling presence among His people, so that we, having the True Tem- ple within, may be called a temple. Christ in us is the hope of glory (Col. 1:27). Not only is He Who is the The Temple in us, but we are also spoken of as being “in Christ.”63

Thus, the prophetic notion of the rebuilding of the Temple (when not making reference to Zerubbabel’s Temple) speaks of Christ and the building of His Church (Matt. 16:18; cf. Zech. 6:12-1 3). He Himself is the foundation and cornerstone (1 Cor. 3:11, 16-17; Eph. 2:20). As Christ’s people we are priests (Rem. 15: 16; 1 Pet. 2:5, 9; Rev. 1:6) who offer our bodies as living sacrifices (Rem. 12: 1-2) and our service as acceptable sweet smell o~ering.s (2 Cor. 2:14-16; Phil. 4:18; Heb. 13:15-16; 1 Pet. 2:5). Thus, “we have an altar from which those who serve the tabernacle have no right to eat” (Heb. 13:10). As more people are converted by His sovereign grace, His New Covenant Temple grows stone by stone (Eph. 2:21; 4:12, 16; 1 Pet. 2:5,9). As a master builder Paul labored in that Temple (1 Cor. 3:9-17).

Through a series of Old Testament Temple and ritual allusions, Paul points to the New Temple of God: “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.’ Therefore ‘Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you. I will be a Father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters, says the LORD Almighty.’ Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God (2 Cor, 6:16-7:1). So, as Clowney well notes, “we must recognize that this is not spiritualization in our usual sense of the word, but the very opposite. In Christ is realization. It is not so much that Christ fulfills what the temple means; rather Christ is the meaning for which the temple existed.”

Taylor well distills the basic ideas in Ezekiel’s complex Temple vision. (1) The immaculate symmetry of the building portrays the perfection of God’s plan for His people. (2) The meticulous detail of the rites indicates the centrality of worship in the New Covenant era. (3) The central idea of the Temple points to the abiding presence of God with His redeemed community. (4) The waters of life flowing from the Temple express the life-giving operation of the Holy Spirit in the new age. (5) The careful allocation of levitical duties and land apportionment speak of the duties and privileges of God’s people in the future.””


Jesus, The Torah, and God’s People: Torah Observant Movement Pt 2

Jesus’s pronouncement of the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple is a key to understanding his earthly ministry. In Matthew 24 Jesus’s disciples ask him when the temple will be destroyed, and his reply is that “this generation” (24:34) will not pass until all that Jesus had predicted came to pass. Within a generation (app. 40 years) the temple was destroyed by Rome. Jesus, here in Matt. 24, connects “the sign of his coming” with the destruction of the temple. The coming of the Son of man is a clear allusion to Daniel 7; which speaks of the vindication of the Son of Man. In good apocalyptic style, all sorts of imagery is used by Jesus to invest these future historic events with theological significance. If we accept that the conversation is centered around the “sign of Jesus’s coming” and the “time of the temple’s destruction,” then we are in a pretty safe place to understand that Jesus is explicitly putting the sign of his coming (Gr. erchomenon) together with to the fate of the temple; so that, if the fate of the temple turns out to be what Jesus said it would be, then Jesus will be vindicated in his ministry and prophetic role. In support of this: the words “this generation” refer to the current contemporary generation in every other instance that it is used; it always refers to the people who are living at that time. Jesus says that everything that he had predicted before 24:34 would happen in “this generation.”

The gospel of Luke has an interesting section in chapter 19. In verses 41-44 Jesus weeps over Jerusalem and pronounces judgement on her, and the temple (same as Matt. 24 but much shorter). Immediately after in 45-48 Jesus cleanses the temple. There can be no doubt that the cleansing of the temple and the pronouncement of judgement in the preceding verse are inseparably linked to one another. I think Jesus is acting out the judgement that is to come; and expressing his disapproval at what the temple had become. Many people see this action, and Jesus’s statements about the temple, whether they were misunderstood or not, as the primary factors that led to his crucifixion. Notably, this is what is brought up at Jesus’s trial; and also, when people are preaching the gospel in Acts 6, Jesus is portrayed as the one who talked about the temple being destroyed.

If we go back to John 2:19: The Jews ask Jesus by what authority he is doing what he is doing (cleansing); and they want proof, a sign, that Jesus does in fact have the authority to do what he did; namely to cleanse the temple. He tells them the sign that he has this authority is this: if they destroy “this temple,” which I am arguing is the temple that he just cleansed, that he would raise the temple (His body, which is replacing the temple) up in three days. When he says he will raise it up in three days, this is, as I plan to get into, Jesus putting himself in the place of the temple in the ongoing life of God’s covenant people. This is significant because his body is referred by Christ as “the temple” and it is referred to as the equivalent. [Some think Jesus is referring to his body, as “this temple” in both halves: destroy this temple (my body) and I will raise it up (my body). I think his body is in the last half of the verse: destroy this temple (that I just cleansed) and in three days I will raise this temple (my body).] In either case, the pharisees, disciples, and everyone listening had no idea that he was talking about his body; they thought he was speaking of rebuilding a new brick-based temple.

No matter how we understand John 2:19; we have Jesus clearly putting himself in the place of the temple. The differences of interpretation above is inconsequential. All that is meant to be established here is that Jesus sees himself in some significant way as the temple. That is the significant point; and it should be undisputed.

Luke 19:48 is followed immediately by the chief priests and scribes coming to him and challenging his authority to cleanse the temple. This was extremely offensive to them. Jesus’s response is “by what authority does John the Baptist baptize?” Now they refuse to answer the question for obvious reasons. But there is more significance to this question than is usually recognized. As stated in my last post, “Anyone collecting people in the Jordan wilderness was symbolically saying: this is the new exodus. Anybody offering water-baptism for the forgiveness of sins was saying: you can have, here and now, what you would normally get through the Temple.” It is no coincidence that Luke places this incident immediately after Jesus’s cleansing of the temple.

John was claiming that God’s people were not recognized by their temple or torah observance, not at this critical time; no, instead, they are going to be recognized by repenting and being baptized for the forgiveness of sins in preparation for their Messiah.

Moving on from here: consider the nature of some of Jesus’s statements in Matt. 5. Consider what Jesus says about oaths for example: 33 “Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.’ 34 But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, 35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36 And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. 37 Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.

You can compare this to Lev. 19:12; Numbers 30:2. Now, I am not suggesting that Jesus is contradicting Moses. What Jesus is doing however is calling for obedience to a command that is markedly different than what was allowed under Moses. Again, what Jesus commands of his followers is not contradicting Moses on this point, it is different however. Moses didn’t prohibit taking oaths in the way that Jesus prohibited it. What Jesus’s precise meaning here is not really the issue: here, as in several other places in this section, Jesus is saying that there is a law they have heard like “do not commit adultery” and he is adding to it “do not even lust after a woman.”

What Jesus is inaugurating is an elevated ethic that is to characterize the new humanity being created in and around Himself. Christ is inaugurating God’s new kingdom and launching into being a new obedience to which the torah pointed, but which will render the torah inadequate.

When Jesus declares all foods clean in Mark 7, he is inaugurating what will be further implemented in Acts 10 through Peter’s vision. In Peter’s vision God tells Peter that he (God) has declared the previously unclean animals clean. This is significant because in Leviticus the reason God told Israel to separate the clean and unclean animals was because God had separated Israel out from the rest of the world. So, the foundational reason for separating animals, was the fact that Israel as God’s people had been marked out by God as clean, while the rest of the world is considered unclean. Leviticus 20:24-25 “I am the Lord your God, who has separated you from the peoples. 25 You shall therefore separate the clean beast from the unclean, and the unclean bird from the clean.” This is exactly why at Cornelius’s house, Peter says:“You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a Jew to associate with or to visit anyone of another nation, but God has shown me that I should not call any person common or unclean.”

These two things are held together in Leviticus 20, and this is why Peter makes the connection that he does. It would be untenable in light of this to say that Peter’s vision, and God’s statement to him, is not specifically referring to clean and unclean animals because that is specifically what it is about. And on the basis of the explicit connection in Leviticus between separating animals, and separating peoples it is self-evident that the two go together. So: if God called Israel to separate animals because He had separated Israel out from the other nations so that it was “unlawful for a Jew to associate with or to visit anyone of another nation,” then, when God declares all animals clean the theological conclusion that Peter draws is that, because of God declaring all animals clean then all men must also be declared clean. Why did he draw that conclusion. Because: in Leviticus the whole reason why they were to separate the animals was because of the seperation of the peoples from Israel; therefore when God unseparates the animals, Peter concludes that men too must be unseparated. (This makes so much sense of the NT, and table fellowship, and circumcision)

So let me recap this into a condensed point:

Jesus continues this ministry of repentance and baptism that began with John the Baptist; and Jesus also claims to possess the authority to forgive sins. He claims authority to put himself in the place of the temple, to retell the story of the passover around himself, to embody Israel as her representative, to declare all foods clean, and to reinterpret the law of Moses around his own authority.

Major Point: Jesus is in effect redrawing the boundary markers that ‘mark out’ God’s people; and he is redrawing them around himself and his own ministry; rather than around torah and temple observance. So how do we know who God’s people are, how can we tell; if not by circumcision and food laws? Answer: Those who trust in and follow the Messiah, Jesus of Nazereth. This is set in contrast to what was the previous boundary markers: circumcision, dietary laws, temple observance, and so on.

Second post: Torah Observant Movement pt: 1, Jesus and the Torah and God’s people

Some preliminary points about the temple:

1. Temple and royalty belonged closely together. When David was establishing his rule, one key move (at least in retrospect) was his bringing of the ark of the covenant to Jerusalem, and his consequent planning of the Temple. (Sam. 6–7; 1 Chron. 21–2, 28–9; cf. e.g. Ps. 132.). When Solomon built the Temple, he established the pattern that would remain true for all subsequent generations up to and including the first century: the temple-builder was the true king, and vice versa.
2. The symbolism of the Temple was designed to express the belief that it formed the center not only of the physical world but also of the entire cosmos, so that, in being YHWH’s dwelling-place, it was the spot where heaven and earth met.
3. The destruction of the Temple by the Babylonians was a catastrophe at every level, theological as well as political. It could only be explained in terms of YHWH’s having abandoned the temple to its fate. the glory, the Shekinah, had departed; (Ezek. 10:1–22; 11:22f), the Davidic monarchy had been cast aside; (Ps. 89:38–51.) heaven and earth had been pulled apart, so that worship became impossible. (Ps. 137:4–6; cf. Ps. 80:14–19.)1
One of the chief gains of the last twenty years of Jesus-research is that the question of Jesus and the Temple is back where it belongs, at the centre of the agenda. Apart from one or two dissident voices, almost all scholars now writing in the field agree on two basic points: Jesus performed a dramatic action in the Temple, and this action was one of the main reasons for his execution. But at this point agreement stops, and questions begin. What precisely did Jesus do in the Temple? Why did he do it? More precisely, what did he intend both to symbolize and to accomplish by it? In what way was this action a (or the) cause of his death? Did he foresee this consequence, and, if so, did he go ahead with the action despite it or because of it?” (Wright, 205, JVG).

The question of Jesus’s actions toward the temple is huge. Before diving in we must look at what other significant practices Jesus reinterpreted around himself to get a full picture of what is going on and precisely what Jesus’s agenda is.

First consider the passover: The final passover that Jesus celebrated with his disciples points also to the radical way in which the story of Israel is being retold around Jesus and his ministry. For centuries Jews came together to celebrate the exodus out of Israel. When they came together they would say “this is the blood of the lamb that was put over our doorposts, by which we were delivered out from Egypt.” Then they would say “this bread is the lamb that our fathers ate before they started on their great journey through the red sea the promised land.” This celebration was something that happened at the Jerusalem temple and was steeped in God’s covenant people’s identity; something they had done every year for over a thousand years. Imagine the shock when Jesus says “this is my body” and “this is my blood.” The story of the passover is being retold around Jesus, and the bread and wine are now given new, indeed greater, significance.

Second, consider Jesus declaring all foods clean: Mark: 7:19 since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled?” (Thus he declared all foods clean.)

The pharisees came and tried to push on Jesus the tradition of the elders which was not derived from the law. And so they watch Jesus to catch him and disciples to accuse him.

Later, and very significantly, Jesus tells a parable (v. 17), and the disciples don’t quite understand it. So, Jesus clarifies and says that what a person eats cannot defile him because its what comes out of the mouth that defiles a man, not what goes into it. And, Mark, the inspired writer, to make sure that no one misses the significance of what Jesus has just spoken, says “thus Jesus declared all foods clean.” Now, many people will come back and say that this is “just in parentheses,” or some other jazz. The fact is, Mark knew that people, especially of the Jewish sort, would not catch the significance of Jesus’s statement. And strictly speaking, Everything in the gospel of Mark is written by Mark, including the words ascribed to Jesus. If Mark is inspired when he says “Jesus spoke this” then he is also inspired when he tells the reader what those words mean.

Healing, forgiveness, renewal, the twelve, the new family and its new defining characteristics, the promise of blessing for the Gentiles, feasts replacing fasts, the destruction and rebuilding of the Temple: all declared, in the powerful language of symbol, that Israel’s exile was over, that Jesus was himself in some way responsible for this new state of affairs, and that all that the Temple had stood for was now available through Jesus and his movement. (This is partly what it means to destroy the temple.)

Jesus was not lightly setting Torah aside, as a false prophet urging people to abandon their ancient loyalties and embrace new ones (though that was clearly how he risked being seen, and how some actually did see him). Nor was he blaspheming against Moses, an offense which according to Josephus could have carried the death penalty; though, again, some of what he said might have been interpreted in that way. He was claiming, once more, to be inaugurating the new age in Israel’s history, to which the Mosaic law pointed but for which it was not adequate. Paul explicitly interprets Jesus’s life and ministry in this way as seen in 2 Cor. 3:7-12. Jesus intended the destruction of the temple to put in its place a better, but different, temple; namely, himself. (as I will argue later, Jesus’s pronouncement of judgment is itself the first step of its destruction.)

In the next section we are going to look at two things: Jesus’s foretelling of the temple’s destruction, the warnings that Israel had to repent with the caution that if they failed to impending judgement is awaiting them. And also, the radical nature of the ministry of John the Baptist will be considered. For us in the 21st century the words that John the Baptist uttered do not carry the shocking force they would have in the 1st century.

Here is a quote from N. T. Wright about John’s ministry:

John the Baptist’s activity was, clearly, ‘political’ as well as ‘religious’, partly in that Herod Antipas may well have been a prime target of John’s invective,62 but also because anyone collecting people in the Jordan wilderness was symbolically saying: this is the new exodus. Anybody offering water-baptism for the forgiveness of sins was saying: you can have, here and now, what you would normally get through the Temple.63 Anybody inviting those who wished to do so to pass through an initiatory rite of this kind was symbolically saying: here is the true Israel that is to be vindicated by YHWH. By implication, those who did not join in had forfeited the right to be regarded as the covenant people. In these ways, completely credibly within the history of first-century Judaism, what John was doing must be seen, and can only be seen, as a prophetic renewal movement within Judaism—a renewal, however, that aimed not at renewing the existing structures, but at replacing them. (Wright, JVG, 160).

This is what paved the way for Israel’s Messiah. This is where we will pick it up in the next post.

Torah Observant Movement

I am about to begin a series of posts that will deal with the Hebrew Observant movement, also known as Hebrew roots. This sect is identified by its insistence that God’s covenant people are called to observe the Torah, the law. The Torah, in many ways, was summed up in the first 5 books of the Old Testament, also known as the Pentateuch. Though the law has wider implications, it is the Pentateuch that is the most commonly appealed to as that which God’s people must continue to obey and observe.

I am writing these posts with the hope that I can serve the local church. My target audience is those who are in the church who have been or will be exposed to the heretical teachings of this torah-observance-movement, henceforth designated TOM. Within this primary purpose, my intention is also to challenge those who are a part of the TOM, and thereby challenge them to rethink the radical claims of Christ, the claims that eventually led to his crucifixion at the hands of his Jewish brethren; which claims were further explored by the Apostle to the Gentiles.

Let me lay out the primary texts we will examine over the next several posts:
Part 1: John 2:19, Matt. 26:61, Mark 14:58, Acts 6:14. Part 2: Mark 7:19, Acts 10, Levitcus 20:22-26, Galatians 2. Part 3: 2 Cor. 3, Romans 7, Romans 10, Acts 15.

In the first part we will examine some of the radical things Jesus said about the temple, and the way in which he treated it. It is understood that the temple played a central role in the life of a torah-observant Jew. There were periods of time when Israel was taken into captivity with no temple, and the recovery of the temple was always central to their identity and the continuation of their people in obedience to God. Jesus pronounces early in his ministry that the temple will be destroyed, that the central institution upon which torah-observance is built will be rebuilt, but with a twist. He teaches that he himself will be the temple, the place where God and man meet and sins are dealt with. Here, as in many other cases, the story of Israel is being retold around Jesus, with Jesus doing what Israel, and the temple, could not do.

“The argument…so far…is that there is a further significant fact: virtually all the traditions, inside and outside the canonical gospels, which speak of Jesus and the Temple speak of its destruction. Mark’s fig-tree incident; Luke’s picture of Jesus weeping over Jerusalem; John’s saying about destruction and rebuilding; the synoptic traditions of the false witnesses and their accusation (Matt. 26:61, Mark 14:58, Acts 6:14.), and of the mocking at the foot of the cross; the charge in Acts that Jesus would destroy the Temple (Acts 6:14): all these speak clearly enough, not of cleansing or reform, but of destruction.” [N. T. Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God, Christian Origins and the Question of God (London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 1996), 416.]

This theme will be the first thing we explore to see how Jesus was redrawing the identity of God’s people around the new Jesus-observant-movement instead of Torah observance. This will explain why he offers forgiveness of sins, which is meant to be sought after (by faith) through the temple and torah observance. Jesus claims that now, at the fullness of times, God’s covenant people will be demarcated and marked out as God’s people by faith in Jesus, and not by torah observance. (As a side note: much of the TOM’s confusion is a result of the dispensational theology that says that the OT taught salvation by works. Reformed theologians have always maintained that the OT way of salvation was by grace through faith in God’s provision through Israel; and that such a life of faith was to be lived out in torah observance. Now, in the NT, the path of salvation is still by grace through faith, and this faith must be God’s provision of Jesus the Messiah, and such faith is to be lived out in observance of his “yoke” and obedience to Him. The difference mainly is, God’s people are no longer marked out as God’s people through Torah observance, that manner of identity has been done away with, now God’s people are marked out by faith in the Messiah of Israel, Jesus Christ.)