The Dispensational Myth of Replacement Theology| Replacing the Shadows – #9
We closed our last installment with these comments:
“As Jesus foretold that coming destruction, he said: “This gospel of the kingdom will be preached into all the world, as a witness to the nations, then comes the end.” Do you catch that? It is a statement that is mostly overlooked.
Jesus called the message of the impending destruction of Jerusalem and that Temple “this gospel of the kingdom.” How in the name of reason could Jesus call that horrific catastrophe the “good news” i.e. the gospel, and then, how could he call it “this gospel, good news, of the kingdom”? How is the destruction of the Old Covenant city and Temple related to the kingdom?
As we suggested in the previous installment, it is critical to realize that Israel and the Old Covenant world that identified her, set her apart from the nations, was typological. It foreshadowed the “better things to come” as Paul expressed it in Colossians 2. (And don’t forget that Paul said those better things foreshadowed by the New Moons, feast days and Sabbaths, were “about to come”). That means that the shadow form of Israel was about to pass because what the types pointed to was about to become a reality.
But look again at this: the arrival of the “body,” the reality, meant the passing away of the shadow, the type. This brings us to answer the question posed just above: How could Jesus’ statement that the impending destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem was to be proclaimed as “gospel” i.e. good news, indeed, the “good news of the kingdom”? After all, that horrific catastrophe was described by Jesus’ himself as the worst tribulation in the history of the world– the worst that would ever be? So, again, how was that, how could that be, good news?
The “True” Temple of God – Replacing the Old!
The answer is to be found in the fact that the Old Covenant Temple, as well as the Old Covenant city of Jerusalem, was a type of the better, the heavenly, the “real” Temple of God! Notice Hebrews 8:1-2: “Now this is the main point of the things we are saying: We have such a High Priest, who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, a Minister of the sanctuary and of the true tabernacle which the Lord erected, and not man.” Simply stated, the passing of the Old could be good news because that passing meant that the “Real,” the “True,” was to be established!
Did you catch it? The New Covenant Temple / Tabernacle that was established by Christ, which is unequivocally the church of the living God (1 Corinthians 3:16; 2 Corinthians 6:14-16; Ephesians 2:19f, etc.) is called the “True Tabernacle.” Let me give again Beale’s comments on Hebrews 8:1f:
“Hebrews refers to the heavenly tabernacle as ‘true’ because it is the fulfillment, not only of direct prophecies of the eschatological temple, but, of everything the Old Testament tabernacle and temples foreshadowed” (Greg Beale, The Temple and Church’s Ministry, (Intervarsity Press, Downers Grove, Ill. 2004)296.
Beale also comments on how the OT tabernacle was not “true” because it was temporary, but that the church, as the New Temple, “cannot be changed, nor can it ever pass away.” — “The former temple was not the ‘true one’ because it was a mere shadow of the one to come but because it would cease to exist. To believe that a physical temple will be built after the eschatological one has been inaugurated would be to return to the former ‘shadowy’ stage of temple existence. Once the end-time, eternal temple that corresponds to the reality of the heavenly one comes, it would be a strange reversal for God to commend a return to the shadows. To believe that Israel’s temple or one rebuilt by human hands would last forever is a false view because it mistakes the symbolic temple (Hebrews 9:8-10) for the real one (Hebrews 9:11).” Likewise, Lane says the use of “true” “Implies genuine, of effective value, and the expression ‘true tabernacle’ is used in contrast not to what is false, but to what is symbolical and imperfect.” (William Lane, Word Biblical Commentary, Hebrews 1-8, 47a, (Dallas, Word, 1991)205+.
The fact that the Old Covenant Temple pointed to something else, something better, the “real” Temple of God, is shown in Hebrews 9:23-24: “Therefore it was necessary that the copies of the things in the heavens should be purified with these, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. For Christ has not entered the holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us.” Here, the writer sets before his audience that the heavenly Temple is the real one, and that it was what the earthy temple, “made with hands” looked forward to, foreshadowed.
Notice also that the text says that the heavenly Temple was “better.” It was sanctified by “better sacrifices” (i.e the sacrifice of Jesus) than the Old Covenant Temple. There are two things that should impress us here.
Old Testament Indications of Replacement Theology
Even in the Tanakh, we find the recognition that the earthly Temple, no matter how magnificent it might be, was totally insufficient to hold the Presence of YHVH! When he dedicated the wonderful Temple he had built, Solomon acknowledged this fact: “But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain You. How much less this temple which I have built! (1 Kings 8:27).
At a much later period, after the destruction of that temple, Israel longed for the restoration of that glory. Yet, God warned them to not place too much emphasis on a physical edifice, and to look to Him: Thus says the Lord:
“Heaven is My throne, And earth is My footstool. Where is the house that you will build Me? And where is the place of My rest? For all those things My hand has made, And all those things exist,” Says the Lord. “But on this one will I look: On him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, And who trembles at My word.” (Isaiah 66:1-3). It is important to see also that in this text, that emphasized the importance of the heart (faith) as the criteria for the Presence of YHVH, the text goes ahead to predict the coming destruction of the Old Covenant City– and by implication of Temple that would reside there:
“Thus Says the Lord.: “But on this one will I look: On him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, And who trembles at My word. “He who kills a bull is as if he slays a man; He who sacrifices a lamb, as if he breaks a dog’s neck; He who offers a grain offering, as if he offers swine’s blood; He who burns incense, as if he blesses an idol. Just as they have chosen their own ways, And their soul delights in their abominations, So will I choose their delusions, And bring their fears on them; Because, when I called, no one answered, When I spoke they did not hear; But they did evil before My eyes, And chose that in which I do not delight.” Hear the word of the Lord, You who tremble at His word: “Your brethren who hated you, Who cast you out for My name’s sake, said, ‘Let the Lord be glorified, That we may see your joy.’ But they shall be ashamed.” The sound of noise from the city! A voice from the temple! The voice of the Lord, Who fully repays His enemies! (My emphasis, DKP).
So, we have here a declaration by YHVH that the Temple was insufficient. It was not glorious enough. He likewise castigated Israel for refusing to hear Him (and Paul cites this text (and Isaiah 65:1-2) as being fulfilled in his day! We then find the prediction of a coming desolation of the city and the temple in the Day of the Lord! This is incredible!
With all due respect, I believe that every Dispensationalists should ponder these words carefully. How could it be possible that YHVH wants to one day rebuild a temple when He constantly emphasized how insufficient any physical edifice was, and how, in contrast, He desires to dwell with those of faith? Essentially from the beginning, YHVH told Israel that physical temples were not what He wanted. They could not hold Him! He likewise told them that the Old Covenant Temple looked to something else, something “better” than the glorious Temples constructed in Jerusalem. So, given the indisputable fact that the New Testament teaches us, undeniably, that the church of the living God is the True Temple to which the Old Temple looked, why in the world would anyone look with eager expectation to the rebuilding of a physical temple in Jerusalem? Physical temples can never be the True Temple of God! And neither can the literal city of Jerusalem! It cannot be the True City of God because it always – always – pointed to the True City of God, the “heavenly Jerusalem.” We will explore the incredible implications of this in our next installment.
In the meantime, let’s summarize.
(By the way, we have not yet fully or specifically addressed the question of how Jesus could call the impending destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple the “good news of the kingdom” but, I think, hopefully at least, that the reader can see where this is headed! I will, I promise, address this question very specifically, because it is fundamentally tied to the question of replacement theology).
The New Testament says that the Old Covenant Temple – and its entire cultic praxis – was a type and shadow of the True Tabernacle / Temple.
The True Temple of God, the church of the living God, was better than the Old Covenant Temple in every way! The priesthood is better. The sacrifice by which it was sanctified is better.
The New Testament shows us that the Old Covenant Temple, as the shadow of “better things to come” was supposed to be replaced by the True Temple, the body of Christ! How could anyone believe that is a bad thing? It was what was supposed to happen. It is what the passing of the shadow demanded.
Here then is, once again, the true replacement theology. But, it is not a replacement theology of failure as posited by some paradigms. No, this is the replacement theology that God intended, that God foretold, all the time. The Shadows would be – were – replaced by the reality!
More to come.