The first installment of this article may be found here.
The Image of Man
This brings us to a substitutionary atonement which we do understand, the fulfilment of the cruciform Tabernacle in the cross of Christ. Although Jesus’ execution was Physical and Social, it was primarily Personal. Beginning in Galilee (World), working through Judah and Samaria (Land) and ending in Jerusalem (Garden), Christ alone ascended to rule all nations.
The murderous High Priest himself moved the focus from the Social to the Personal, predicting that one man should die for the people (John 11:49-53). The cross was the death of one man, but this man (Personal) represented not only Israel (Social Land) but also all nations (Social Sea). As James Jordan has observed, Christ was condemned by legal representatives of all domains, in the house of the High Priest (Garden), by Herod (Land) and then handed over to Pilate (World).
Christ ended the division of humanity in His own body, and the legal testimony of this microcosmic “deluge” was the blood (Land) and water (Sea) which flowed separately from His corpse (John 19:34-35). As a blameless substitute for all mankind, Jesus became the “model,” the entire Creation magnified, concentrated in a single sacrificial “tabernacle” (John 1:14). Being the Creator Himself, Jesus was not a cheaper option but a very expensive model, the reverse of the substitution of Isaac on Moriah. As God in human flesh, Christ was heaven and earth made indivisible. The entire world is judged in and by Him, which is why He used cosmic language to describe His own death.
Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not mine. Now is the judgment of this world (cosmos); now will the ruler of this world (cosmos) be cast out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth (land), will draw all to myself. ( John 12:30-32)
Notice that Jesus does not say “all people” but “all.” This can mean all people, depending upon the context, but the word carries the idea of “all kinds.” Certainly, His personal ministry resulted in a new Social order, but it will culminate in a restored Physical order. Covenant history is thus symmetrical or chiastic, shaped like an hourglass, with the cross of Christ at the center of reality. And here were find that this entire process was prefigured for us not only in the shape of biblical covenants, but also in the first five chapters of the Bible.
This pattern also explains the structure of the book of Leviticus, which does not make sense unless its architectural foundation is taken into consideration. The High Priest moves from the courtyard (Physical Place) into the Holy Place (Social Time) and finally alone into the Most Holy (Personal Holiness). Once his representative ministry was complete, the order was reversed: Holiness, Time, Place.
(World to Land)
(Adam to Noah)
(Land to Garden)
|Time (Holy Place)
(Abraham/Moses to Christ)
|Holiness (Most Holy)
Lev. 13-18 / 19 / 20-22
(The cross of Christ)
||Social Order corrupted
|Time (Holy Place)
(Christ in the Church)
|Succession||Physical Order condemned
The Veil in the Temple was torn at the death of Christ, but the Temple itself was not. Not yet. A new “cosmic house” would have to be built before the old house was judged and torn down. God never leaves His people without a shelter, and never leaves the world without legal representation, either from earth to heaven (priest), or from heaven to earth (prophet).
The four “Gospel” horses in Revelation 6:1-8 carry the message of the resurrection from the Garden (Most Holy) into the Land (both the blessings and the curses), and establish a new representative house, the Church of Christ. Then the slain and exalted Apostolic Church accompanies Christ on white horses through the divided Abrahamic Land into the World (Revelation 19:11-21).2 A generation after the three-year ministry of Christ, the campaign of Titus Vespasian followed exactly the same “microcosmic” course, and the smoke of Jerusalem was an ironic ladder to heaven, ascending as an eternal memorial to her destruction.
The Oncoming Storm
This “hourglass” structure not only explains the differences and similarities between Israel and the Church as part of a process of judicial maturity (a transformation from flesh to smoke), it reveals why the “cosmic language” of the circumcision is no longer required.
From Abraham to AD 70, the nations were the Sea and Israel was the Land. The divide was Social, and the means was circumcision. But after AD 70, any cosmic language is again cosmic. The “Land and Sea” are again the actual land and sea. Or are they? If we want the pattern above to be truly chiastic, and for the final restoration to be truly Creational, the current “Sea” must still be representative, still “Social.”
Just as the flaming sword of judgment was given to men, so the sword of the Word in the mouth of the glorified Christ is the “cosmic language” of the Gospel. The “tongues” of fire on the Day of Pentecost did not reverse the division of tongues at Babel. Rather, it was a sign that the Gospel would invade, inhabit and transform every tongue, every nation, as an inheritance for Christ. Apparently ceasing before AD70, this miraculous gift bore witness to the circumcision that there was a new universal language, the esperanto of the Gospel. The first “universal language” (Greek) and “worldwide travel” (Roman roads) were merely vehicles for something truly cosmic.
From AD 70 until the final judgment, a process of “ethnic cleansing” is being carried out, but this is not a battle against flesh and blood. Our weapons are spiritual. The sword is the Word, the “Covenant oath” in the mouths of the saints. The ministry is not representative destruction but irrigation, not blood but water, not priesthood but prophecy. The cleansing is not a bloody genocide, nor a conversion by coercion (a jihad), but a washing by the Word, a “purge” that wipes out the old enmities and unites us by giving us the one sound mind, the mind of Christ.
For the earth will be filled
With the knowledge of the glory of the Lord,
As the waters cover the sea.
Revelation 20 describes for us this present age, in which Satan is bound from deceiving the nations. While the Gospel continues to gather the nations together, a boundary is set that the evil one might not gather them against the Church until this work is done. As it was in Leviticus, the focus of ministry has now moved from Holiness (Christ) to Time (1000 years), and this enigmatic span is an allusion to the history of Israel: a millennium of tent worship, and a millennium of Temple worship. The restoration of the Physical order (Place) will see the destruction of the last enemy, which is death.
The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead. (Acts 17:30-31)
It is the Church which now holds back, or restrains, the judgment of the world. Not only are the saints salt and light, we are martyrs, that is, sacrifices without blemish. The saints in heaven and on earth are a “representative cosmos,” models of kingdom citizens. The people of God are no longer the Land but the heavenly Sea, which is why the Covenant sign is no longer circumcision but baptism. Pentecost moved the people of God from a defensive ministry to an offensive one, from Priesthood to Prophecy, from being guarded by God to invading for God. As Israel was under Joshua, the Church herself is the oncoming storm, and the shipwrecks of various utopian dreams strewn throughout Christian history are evidence of the nations’ failed attempts to protect themselves from her.
Whereas the “cosmic temple” language concerned the forming of the house, the Gospel, a language of cosmic hope, is one concerned with the filling of that house, a confession that unites all nations and will eventually lead to the Physical restoration of the Creation. It is the life giving decree of the resurrection of Christ, in whom all the world was plunged into the abyss and raised up to live a new life. Until then, His resurrection must be “preached to every creature.”
Mike Bull is a graphic designer in the Blue Mountains of Australia, and author, most recently, of Sweet Counsel.
1. An offshoot of full preterism known as “Covenant Creationism” claims that since Jesus described the Jewish War as being like the days of Noah, the flood of Noah must have been merely local. However, the dichotomy is not global/local so much as Physical/Social. Their error results in Covenant history becoming entirely Social, with no Physical Creation at the beginning and no Physical Restoration at the end.