The Presence of God, part 6

It is important to see in scripture the correlation of Christ’s absence and the Spirit’s presence from the standpoint of Christ’s second appearing (John 14:1-3). Christ’s departure from the world of Old Testament Israel was with the view of becoming present a second time. His second appearing, however, would not occur in the world from which he departed, but in his own world ("the world above", John 8:23). As shown in past articles, these contrasting worlds are determined by "the two covenants" (Gal.4:21-31). Biblical terms such as "spiritual" (Rom.15:27; 1 Cor.9:11, 15:46; 1 Pet.2:5), "above", (Jn.8:23; Gal.4:26; Col.3:1,2) "heavenly" (Jn.3:12; Eph.1:20; 2:6; Heb.8:5; 11:16; 12:22) or "in the heavens" Heb.8:l; 9:23) are descriptive of the New Covenant realm wherein God’s promises to Abraham "in Christ" would be fulfilled. From this perspective Jesus said to the Jews, "I am from above" (Jn.8:23).

In this same connection Jesus spoke of his returning to where he was before. "What then if you should see the Son of man ascend where He was before? It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing" (John 6:62,63). These verses (Jn.6:62; 8:23) form the backdrop for Christ’s saying, "I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also" (John 14:2,3).

One cannot read the sayings of Jesus about the world above and the world below without a keen awareness that two contrasting modes of existence (flesh vs. Spirit) are in view concerning which Christ’s death and resurrection form the turning point. While the change from below to above was rooted in these decisive events, it was not accomplished instantaneously. The future revelation of Christ in glory (Lk.17:30; 1 Pet.1:13), and manifestation of the sons of God (Rom.8:18; Col.3:3,4), remained to be worked out in the closing period (the "last days") of the still existing Old Testament order, age or cosmos. This is the biblical time frame and eschatological setting for the interrelatedness of Christ’s absence (his preparing a place, Jn.14:2) and the Spirit’s presence (his disclosure of things to come, Jn.16:13) until the change between the covenant determined aeons was consummated.

From Pentecost to the "Great and Notable Day of the Lord"
The outpouring of the Spirit in Acts 2 is within itself a strong refutation of consummated change at the Cross rather than by means of the Cross. The day of Pentecost represented the beginning but not the consummation of what Joel prophesied concerning the coming of the Spirit. He spoke of things that would happen through the Spirit in "the last days" (Joel 2:28/Acts 2:17), a range of eschatological time that extended to "the great and terrible (notable/glorious) day of the Lord" (Joel 2:31/Acts 2:20).

Furthermore it is clear that the prophet Joel envisioned a work of the imparted Spirit that would culminate in deliverance and salvation for Israel (Joel 2:32). To drop this eschatological focus in Joel 2 and 3 (and in prophecy in general) is to miss the purpose for the outpouring of the Spirit on Pentecost and the eschatological direction of his transforming ministry (2 Cor.3) with respect to "things to come" (Jn.16:13; Heb.10:1). This in turn obscures the biblical world of Christ’s second appearing. It is clear from Joel’s prophecy, from Peter’s application of it, and from all that Jesus taught about the coming of the Spirit, that his time-restricted mission (the last days) was to disclose and confirm by signs and miracles Israel’s imminent future in terms of the consummated New Covenant creation in Christ. Israel’s future and New Testament salvation are inseparable in the work and ministry of the Holy Spirit.

For example, we know Christ came to be the Savior of Israel (Mt.1:21; Lk.2:11). We know he taught that "salvation is of the Jews" (Jn.4:22), and that subsequently it would embrace "all families of the earth" (Gen.12:3; Gal.3:8,14). We know that Christ, by way of the Cross, departed from Old Covenant Israel (John 14:1-3). We know he ascended to where he was before (John 6:62,63). We know the Holy Spirit was poured out on the first Pentecost following Christ’s resurrection (Acts 2:1ff). We know the Spirit could not come (Jn.16:7) until Christ had taken up his rightful place at the right hand of God in the heavenly Mt. Zion (Psa.2:6f; 110:l; Heb.12:22). We know these combined factors set the stage for the final phase of Christ’s ministry through the imparted Spirit to the effect that the awaited "consolation of Israel" (Lk.2:25), "redemption in Jerusalem" (v.38), and "blotting out of sins" (Acts 3:19-21; Rom.11:26,27) would be accomplished in Christ’s end-of-the-age parousia (Mt.24:1-3). We know that to this end the Spirit was poured out "in the last days" of Old Testament Israel. We know his specific mission was to show the "things to come" (Heb.10:1) in the "world to come" (Heb.2:5; 6:5), of Christ’s second appearing "apart from sin" (9:28). We know that in this manner Christ "made good God’s promises to the fathers of Israel" (Rom.15:8). We know that this salvation "of the Jews" constituted the only salvation of which the Gentiles were made "partakers" (Rom.15:9,27) and "fellow heirs" (Eph.3:6).

Finally, and above all else, we know that those today who claim that what happened to Israel in Jerusalem in A.D.70 would not have been of any concern to Gentiles in other parts of the world have a very inadequate understanding of biblical redemptive history that is carried through Israel to its consummation in Christ and the New Covenant. How could Israel’s judgment and destiny not have been of any concern to Gentiles? What would the Gentiles have in and of themselves – apart from Israel’s salvation? (Jn.4:22). Of what would they have been made "fellow heirs" had God failed to make good his promises to Israel through Christ and the Holy Spirit? The employment of this "no-Gentile-concern" argument in an attempt to obscure the all-encompassing significance of Christ’s coming in the fall of Jerusalem ought to be a real eye opener to the mind-set of today’s "doctors and lawyers" of Holy Writ.

The Day of Israel’s Salvation
Attention now is turned to things concerning God’s Israel that Joel saw in connection with "the great and notable day of the Lord" and their obvious fulfillment through Christ and the ministry of the Spirit in "the fullness of time" (Mk.1:15; Gal.4:4; Eph.1:10; Lk.21:22). In that day "the sun shall be turned into darkness, And the moon into blood" (Joel 2:31; 3:15). In that day God would gather all nations in the Valley of Jehoshaphat and "enter into judgment with them there on account of My people, My heritage Israel, whom they have scattered among the nations" (3:1,2). In that day "The Lord also will roar from Zion, And utter His voice from Jerusalem; The heavens and earth will shake; But the Lord will be a shelter for His people, And the strength of the children of Israel (3:16). In that day "Jerusalem shall be holy, And no aliens shall ever pass through her again" (3:15-17). In that day "the mountains shall drip with new wine" and "A fountain shall flow from the house of the Lord" (3:18). In that day "Judah shall abide forever, And Jerusalem from generation to generation…For the Lord dwells in Zion" (3:20-21).

The glorious consummation of Israel that Joel sees blends perfectly into the framework of Israel’s future as taught by Christ in his Olivet discourse (Matt.24-25). Joel 2-3 and Matthew 24-25 go hand in hand. This may appear contradictory to many because Joel speaks about Jerusalem’s deliverance whereas Christ speaks about
Jerusalem’s destruction. How can two seemingly opposite viewpoints on Jerusalem’s destiny be correlated within the same time frame? How can Jerusalem be destroyed and at the same time be cleansed and made holy – in the same "great and notable day of the Lord"?

This antithetical end-time scenario regarding Israel’s destiny runs through Old Testament prophecy and New Testament fulfillment. It confirms what is being said in this series about the "two worlds" or "modes of existence" as determined by the "two covenants," for which the Cross of Christ is the turning point. The fundamental difference between Joel and Christ is that Joel’s focus is on the heavenly Jerusalem of the world above, whereas Christ’s focus (at least outwardly) is on the earthly Jerusalem of the world below.

Leaving Matthew 24-25 and earthly Jerusalem for a moment, attention is given to the correlation of Joel’s prophecy with what is revealed through the Spirit in the New Testament about the coming of the new, heavenly Jerusalem. First, it is clear from Paul’s teachings that there existed in his time two antithetical Jerusalems (Gal.4:22-31). He illustrated this by Abraham’s two sons: "the one by a bondwoman, the other by a freewoman. But he who was of the bondwoman was born according to the flesh, and he of the freewoman through promise, which things are symbolic. For these are the two covenants: the one from Mount Sinai which gives birth to bondage, which is Hagar – for this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia, and corresponds to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children – but the Jerusalem above is free, which is the mother of us all" (vv.22-26).

It was not Paul’s aim in Gal.4 to teach a coexisting of two Jerusalems as a permanent arrangement for the coming new age. He knew that the Jerusalem from Mount Sinai, which was in bondage with her children, was destined to pass away at the end of the age just as Jesus previously had taught his disciples (Matt.24:1-3). However, the Jerusalem that would remain, that could not be shaken (Heb.12:27), clearly is identified with the New Covenant of which Sarah, the freewoman, was symbolic (Gal.4:24). With this same Jerusalem in view the writer of Hebrews wrote, "For you have not come to the mountain that may be touched and that burned with fire, and to blackness and darkness and tempest…But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel" (12:18,2-24). Two things stand out in these passages.

First, there is a correlation of things "above" or "in the heavens" with the New Covenant creation. The new Jerusalem is said to be "above" (Gal.4:24). The things of the Mosaic tabernacle were said to be copies or patterns of the things "in the heavens" (Heb.8:5; 9:23). Christ said he was from "above" (Jn.8:23). It follows therefore that everything Christ was to Old Testament Israel as the "seed of promise" would be fulfilled in the world "above", or "in the heavens", and this all pointed to the New Covenant state of affairs that superseded the Old Covenant economy. This same new order in Christ was the object of Abraham’s faith when he "waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God" (Heb.11:10). Likewise the "better, heavenly country" that he desired falls into this same covenantal framework of new things (v.16).

Second, there is no room to insert an age (i.e., a church age or Christian age) between the destruction of earthly Jerusalem and the arrival of the new, heavenly Jerusalem. An intermediate age cannot be placed between the "two covenants" in Gal.4, and such is equally clear in Heb.12 with respect to the shaking and removing of the old Mosaic order so that the things "in the heavens" – in the New Covenant creation – "may remain" (v.27). There is no question that the shaking of heaven and earth in Heb.12 (See Joel 3:16; Haggai 2:6) referred to the imminent destruction of Jerusalem – "the great and notable day of the Lord" (Joel 2:31; Acts 2:20; Heb.9:28; 10:25,37). The Holy Spirit was poured out in "the last days" to accomplish the transition from one age to the other (from below to above) by means of the transforming power of the Cross. He was not sent to be in charge of an intermediate age of some sort as a fill-in until the arrival of Christ. The world of Christ’s manifestation and presence (second appearing) follows without delay or intervention the passing of the Mosaic order. The words, "Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away" (Heb.8:13) was the impetus for the heightened anticipation of Christ’s "second appearing" in the Hebrew letter, and hence the need to hold fast, and to have boldness to enter into the holiest of all (l0:19). He who says there is no way the second coming of Christ in Heb.9:28 can refer to the destruction of Jerusalem displays a tremendous unawareness of the context. (See The A.D.70 Theory, by Wayne Jackson, p.31).

Let us now see the correlation of Jerusalem’s deliverance/ restoration in Joel 3:14-21 with the new Jerusalem revealed through the Spirit in Revelation 21-22. Bear in mind that John was writing about "The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show His servants — things which must shortly take place" (Rev.1:1). This blends perfectly with the outpouring of the Spirit in the last days to show "things to come." The word "shortly" points to the nearness of Christ’s coming/revelation, and therefore to the completion of the Spirit’s revelatory mission that took place between the absence and the presence of Christ.

Christ had assured his disciples, "I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you" (Jn.14:18). He would come again, but it is important to see the change that was accomplished through the Spirit for the second presence of Christ. Christ is absent with respect to the world below (the Old Covenant cosmos), but he becomes present with respect to the world above (the New Covenant state). To interpret Christ’s statement, "I will come again" (Jn.14:3) to mean that he comes a second time to the world from which he departed is incorrect. From the time of his departure or ascension Christ was in his world above. Everything disclosed by the Spirit pertained to that heavenly world. Christ said that the Spirit would "take of what is Mine and declare it to you" (Jn.16:14,15).

Therefore to come again did not mean Christ would leave his world above and return below, but rather he would be revealed or manifested within the new, spiritual world – the consummated New Covenant creation – where his disciples would be gathered unto him (Jn.14:3; Mt.24:31; 2 Thess.2:1). In this same connection Paul wrote, "When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory" (Gal.3:4). And again, "…if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us" (Rom.8:17,18). The reference is to the glory of Christ as it relates to his things of his world revealed through the Spirit. In this manner the Spirit, Jesus said, "will glorify Me" (Jn.16:14).

Therefore, in speaking of the glory that would follow the sufferings of Christ (1 Pet.1:11), the Old Testament prophets were addressing the things to come in the Christian age – "the age to come" (in the synoptic Gospels) or "the world above" (in the Gospel of John). While the idiom is different,
the meaning is the same. The "age to come" or the "world above" simply designates the realm of Christ’s second appearing in glory, as revealed through the Holy Spirit in the "last days" of the old aeon.

In view of the glory and prominence of earthly Jerusalem in the Old Covenant cosmos, it is not surprising to find in Old Testament prophecy and New Testament fulfillment paramount emphasis on the greater glory of the new Jerusalem in the new world of Christ’s second appearing. This is apparent in Joel’s prophecy. He sees a time when "The sun and moon will grow dark, And the stars will diminish their brightness. The Lord also will roar from Zion, And utter His voice from Jerusalem; The heavens and earth will shake: But the Lord will be a shelter for His people, And the strength of the children of Israel. So you shall know that I am the Lord your God, Dwelling in Zion My holy mountain. Then Jerusalem shall be holy, And no aliens shall ever pass through her again." (3:15-17). In that day Joel sees that "A fountain shall flow from the house of the Lord" (v.18), and "Judah shall abide forever, And Jerusalem from generation to generation" (v.19). Furthermore, he sees the vindication of the martyrs, "For the Lord dwells in Zion" (v.21).

There is a clear and remarkable correlation of the Jerusalem that Joel sees in conjunction with "the great and notable day of the Lord" and the new/heavenly Jerusalem that the Holy Spirit reveals through John in connection with "the revelation of Christ." John sees the same "holy Jerusalem" that Joel saw – "the great city descending out of heaven from God" (Rev.21:10). Likewise John sees a Jerusalem free of "aliens." "But there shall by no means enter it anything that defiles, or causes an abomination or a lie, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life" (21:27). As did Joel, John sees "a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb" (22:1). He sees an abiding city where the reign of God is established "forever and ever" (22:5), the city and dwelling place of those "who had been slain for the word of God" (6:9), whose innocent blood was vindicated in the fall of Babylon (18:20,24).

We submit to you that the Jerusalem seen by Joel answers to the spiritual/heavenly Jerusalem of the New Covenant, the city of the "world above" wherein "the things of Christ" were revealed by the Holy Spirit in "the last days" of Old Testament Israel (John 16:12-15). In the next issue it will be shown that the destruction of earthly Jerusalem is the biblical framework for the consummated work of the Holy Spirit – the coming of the perfect (1 Cor.13:10) that encompasses the coming of the new Jerusalem, of the world above, of Christ’s second and abiding presence (Revelation 21-22).