Friday, May 2, 2008

The Temple and the Church's Mission - part 2 - The groundwork

To my excitement I received Beale's book the other day and decided to get right down to it. While I do not plan on doing extensive sequential posts, I do want to come back and share what I've learned from time to time. I'm hoping this will help spurn some conversation regarding some of the extant issues that surround the underlying debate, namely literal verses symbolic interpretation. So to start, I figured I'd share some thoughts on the purpose and intentions of the book and how the basis point that Beale uses to establish his premises.

In the introduction Beale states his thesis: "The Old Testament tabernacle and the temples were symbolically designed to point to the cosmic eschatological reality that God's tabernacling presence, formerly limited to the holy of holies, was to be extended throughout the whole earth. Against this background, the Revelation 21 vision is best understood as picturing the final end-time temple that will fill the entire cosmos.

Beale goes on to say that if he can substantiate the evidence for this theory, it will then offer some clarity to the supposed interpretive difficulties of Revelation 21 as well as a better understanding of the temple in both testaments with respect to biblical theology.

The issue which motivated Beale to this study was due to the former statement with respect to Revelation 21. The problem Beale had was this: why does John begin the chapter by stating he sees a new heaven and earth but then go on to describe a city in the shape of a temple that appears garden like?

Now, I'll be honest, I would have never come across this by just reading it. To me, it would seem that what John is simply saying at first he sees the new heaven and earth, but then goes on to describe an element within that, namely the Holy City and the particulars within that. But Beale is convinced that the vision John has he is equating the new heavens and new earth with the holy city (which is the Temple).

Here's is his reasoning:

Throughout the book of Revelation, anytime you get a vision and then get a statement, the statement usually interprets the vision, and vice versa. Beale uses an example from chapter 5 verse 5 where John hears about "the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered" then in verse 6 sees "a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth." Based on this, I can see his point.

Now lets bring this tool over to Revelation chapter 21. In verse 1 John sees the new heavens and earth and in verse 2 he sees the holy city. But in verse 3 he [hears] not something with respect to the heavens and earth, but rather "heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, "Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them." Beale asserts that John is speaking of the Temple here, which would lead us to conclude that he is equating verse 1 and 2.

Pretty interesting stuff so far.

I'm going to leave you with this to chew on until I read further and write another post (Heck, I need to chew on it). As I said above, Beale plan on elaborating this theme as it relates to all of Scripture. He intends to show that as early as the Garden of Eden, a temple was foreseen and symbolically represented. If what Beale is proposing is true, I wonder what ramification this will have on the entire interpretive process; particularly with reference to the interpretive approach the Premillenialist takes.

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