A subject I have been thinking about for some time. Not an exhaustive treatment but pretty long. Nevertheless, many important points left out or not sufficiently covered.
Spirit versus the Flesh/Reality versus Shadows
1 Corinthians 15: 46 However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural; then the spiritual. 47 The first man is from the earth, earthy; the second man is from heaven.
There is an age old debate—what is more important—the physical or the spiritual? Does one replace the other? Once the spiritual has come is the physical no longer needed? What are the consequences of abandoning one in favor of the other?
Yeshua (Jesus) made strong statements concerning intent versus deed. In Matthew 5:28 when discussing the command prohibiting adultery he said that looking at a woman with lust in your heart is committing adultery. Furthermore the prohibition against murder makes one “liable to the court” but he stated that being angry with your brother also makes one “guilty” before the court. These statements remind us that the intent to sin is comparable to committing the actual sin.
For most Christians the physical commands of the Old Testament are considered unnecessary and non-binding. The vision of Peter where he is instructed to rise, kill and eat unclean animals is cited as evidence that God has changed his mind and no longer cares about such ceremonial law but only about moral laws such as murder and stealing. Even though in Acts 10 the text makes clear that the vision was about people and not food we can eat.
Even the Sabbath is seen as something you can keep every day or in your heart or on a convenient day. If the intent is good, then no sin is committed. I have read excellent Christian commentaries on Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14 which speak of clean and unclean food. These all say that the problem is not eating swine but eating what swine represents. Thus the letter of the law is seen as the actual physical obedience to the law but the spirit of the law is seen as keeping the spiritual “intent” of the law.
This thinking also figures in another current hot topic among both Christians and Messianics. Will a 3rd temple be built? If so, will it be sanctioned by God? Many are saying that since we are the temple (1 Cor 6:19) that the body of the Messiah is the third temple.[The first temple is Solomon’s temple and the second the one built by Zerubbabel and refurbished by Herod.] Paul says in Ephesians 2: 19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, 20 having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Messiah Yeshua Himself being the corner stone, 21 in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, 22 in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit.
In the same vein Peter proclaims in 1 Peter 2:9b “you also, as living stones, 10 are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Yeshua the Messiah.” Similarly in Revelation 3 Yeshua speaking to the church of Philadelphia says “12 ‘He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he will not go out from it anymore; and I will write on him the name of My God, and the name of the city of My God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God, and My new name.”
Based upon these passages many are saying that the temple prophesied in Ezekiel is a spiritual one, a structure of people, not an actual building. Many also say that the 2nd exodus forecast in Jeremiah 16: 14 is a description of people coming to the Messiah and not an actual physical event. “Therefore behold, days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when it will no longer be said, ‘As the LORD lives, who brought up the sons of Israel out of the land of Egypt,’ 15 but, ‘As the LORD lives, who brought up the sons of Israel from the land of the north and from all the countries where He had banished them.’ For I will restore them to their own land which I gave to their fathers.”
In the last few years many in the church are backing away from this dichotomy when it comes to the people of Israel. For years most of the church taught that we are spiritual Israel and that we have replaced literal Israel (in this case, the Jews.) Much of the reason for abandoning this teaching stems from the horrible consequences of replacement theology. First we replaced the Jews as Israel and then we started down a slippery slope that ended with us calling Jews an accursed race that wasn’t fit to live. To say our theology contradicted scripture puts it rather mildly.
There are some important ideas to consider when we view the idea of the physical versus the spiritual. First, metaphors and similes are not literal. Yeshua is not a lamb with wool that chews the cud—he is the Messiah, the King who is likened to a lamb. In Romans 11 Paul makes an impassioned claim that Israel is the domestic olive tree and the Gentiles coming in are branches of wild olive trees being grafted into the root that Israel rests on. It is an apt metaphor but it is a metaphor. We are talking about people here and not trees. Certainly not a dicot tree that grows from the ground and produces a fruit that can only be eaten after processing. Regardless of the number of parallels this tree may have to Israel, it remains a tree and Israel a people. In my thinking this also applies to us being the temple. It is a wonderful metaphor with striking reality but we are not really a building. We are people--not sticks and stones.
Second, exaggeration is useful in making a point but it remains exaggeration. Lusting after a woman can certainly lead to sin but in no way does it create the damage that actual commission of the sin does. A person dealing with illicit lust can repent and confess his/her sin and go through a process of transformation and restoration. A person who has committed adultery can also go through this same process in obedience to Biblical instruction. However, the aftermath of committing adultery is infinitely more damaging and life-altering than the consequences of lust even though if left unchecked it may lead to committing adultery. The same is true of murder and being angry with your brother. They may be sins on the same downward path but physical implementation of the temptation carries a much greater weight of consequential damage than the temptation not acted upon.
Third, saying that the spiritual principle is binding and true but the physical principle unimportant, can be foolhardy. The Bible testifies in several places that the worst adultery that people commit is in following other gods and being unfaithful to the true God. No one would ever argue that as long as one remains a believer in the God of the Bible that physical adultery is unimportant as it is the spiritual principle that carries priority.
Another thing we can do is look at history. What has resulted when people spiritualize the Bible and emphasize the moral code at the expense of literal and physical commands contained therein?
For over a thousand years most of the Christian church believed that God’s covenant with the Jews (Israel) had been replaced by a new covenant with the church. All scriptures throughout the Tanach (Old Testament) spelling out God’s promises to Israel were co-opted by the Church but we generously let them keep the judgments and disasters meted out to them in passages like Deuteronomy 28.
The Torah (Pentateuch) repeats the promise 100 times that the children of Abraham will have the land of Canaan as an earthly inheritance. In the prophets God strengthens this promise by saying his covenant with Israel and her land will last as long as day follows night. Yet you can go on Christian radio today and find well-known Bible teachers and authors proclaiming that the Jews have no claim to the Land and that God no longer has an active specific covenant with them. Furthermore, Jerusalem no longer has any significance as a place God chose for a specific purpose.
What happened as a result of spiritualizing the promises to Israel? 1- The church became the stronghold of Anti-Semitism in the world. 2- Pogroms, holocausts, unthinkable horrors were visited upon Jews at the hands of the church or with at least their approval. 3- Scriptures in the New Testament that promoted loving Jews were ignored or completely overlooked i.e. Romans 3:1-2 “What advantage then has the Jew?.. Much in every way.” Romans 11:28 From the standpoint of the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but from the standpoint of God’s choice they are beloved for the sake of the fathers; 29 for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.
If you doubt this analysis, consider this: why did Casper Ten Boom and his family hide Jews from the Nazis and endanger their lives to protect Jews? Of course, they believed it was their Christian duty. But why did they represent such a tiny fraction of the Christian population? Because they also believed that God’s covenant with Israel was still in effect and that the Jews were God’s chosen people. What we believe dictates our actions.
Where do we hear the statement that “the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable” in our churches? Generally in regard to the charismatic gifts. That interpretation may be true but its primary meaning is that God’s covenant with Israel stands and cannot be abrogated.
Another serious consequence of minimizing the literal meanings of scripture is the forgetting of the city of Jerusalem. If you study the rupture between the Northern Kingdom and the Southern Kingdom many factors operated together to impel the split. But the Achilles’ heel that drove the Northern Kingdom’s headlong descent into idolatry was the decision made by King Jeroboam to abandon the city of Jerusalem and build his own houses of worship at Bethel and Dan. Making the golden calves, instituting his own feasts and creating his own priesthood all stemmed from his abandoning Jerusalem and the House of God there.
Reading the New Testament we see scripture that speaks of the Jerusalem that is above, the New Jerusalem, and the Jerusalem that is our mother. While recognizing the validity of these descriptions I think it is dangerous to think this abrogates God’s covenant with Israel and the city of Jerusalem. One of the hallmarks of Biblical thinking is its circular or cyclical nature. There can be an earthly Jerusalem and a heavenly Jerusalem and both can be an indispensable part of God’s plan for mankind. The fact that John sees the New Jerusalem as a metaphor for the bride doesn’t require us to throw out all of God’s promises to the place, the real estate, the mountains of Jerusalem. He proclaims in Zechariah “that once more I will choose Jerusalem” and I suspect he means exactly that.
My comments clearly reveal my bias. I suspect that an earthly temple will be rebuilt. I may be wrong but I think it is important to recognize that the temple and tabernacle are metaphors of the body of Messiah and its individual members. The temple itself is a pattern of something structural in the heavenly places as the books of Hebrews and Revelation so aptly point out. The temple is a picture or pattern of our approach to His Majesty, our King. Granted we are all temples of the Holy Spirit and when we relate to each other properly we provide a corporate structure where the presence of God dwells.
This is an important discussion but one that need not divide us. We can all admit that we don’t know all the answers nor exactly what the future holds. My concern is that we not fall into historical pitfalls that cause us to denigrate or castigate others of God’s children. Does God fill the heavens and the earth? Certainly. But does he choose particular places? Absolutely. Deuteronomy 12: 5 But you shall seek the LORD at the place which the LORD your God will choose from all your tribes, to establish His name there for His dwelling, and there you shall come.
There is a place where Abraham offered Isaac—where David offered sacrifice to atone for his sin in counting the people—where after Solomon built a temple the presence of God drove the priests out of the temple because the presence was so heavy and powerful. This same place God sent his Ruach (Holy Spirit) upon Yeshua’s disciples and transformed their world and ours. I suspect this place has not stopped being important and essential to our lives. The validity of spiritual truth is not abrogated by recognition of the physical basis of that spiritual truth but is, in fact, substantiated.
House of Aaron Articles/ Teachings
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