How Was the Announcement of the Fall of Jerusalem “the Gospel of the Kingdom”? #13
It Was When Man Could Enter the Most Holy Place and Receive Salvation! It Was The End of the Ministration of Death!
As I suggested in the previous article, the end of the Old Covenant age in AD 70 was the time when the types and shadows of the Old Covenant were fulfilled. Understanding the centrality of Israel’s cultic world – centered in the Temple – comes into play here.
Jerusalem was consider the center of the world (Ezekiel 5:8f). The Temple was the center of the center of Israel’s entire world. The Jews believed in ten concentric circles of holiness.
The Most Holy Place was the center of the center of the world. Josephus informs us that in Jewish thought, the Holy Place was called “earth” because that is where the priests, representing man, functioned. The Most Holy was called “heaven” because it was the dwelling place of God Himself (Josephus, Antiquities, 6:3:4). That inner court was sacrosanct, inviolable. Standing between the Holy Place the Most Holy was the marvelous veil. This veil represented the natural creation with its four main colors, but, it also stood as a constant symbol of the separation between God and man.
As Josephus indicated, and as Jewish authorities and countless scholars have noted, the MHP represented the very presence of God. Because of the inability of the Old Covenant cultus to remove sin – “the blood of bulls and goats can never take away sin” – (Hebrews 10:1-3) no one was allowed into that sacred place except the High Priest on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. No matter how many sacrifices were offered, they did not provide objective “real time” to use a modern term, forgiveness. In fact, in those sacrifices “there was a remembrance of sin” every year (Hebrews 10:1-4). Not forgiveness – remembrance of sin!
Consider in light of all of this, Hebrews 9:6-10:
“Now when these things had been thus prepared, the priests always went into the first part of the tabernacle, performing the services. But into the second part the high priest went alone once a year, not without blood, which he offered for himself and for the people’s sins committed in ignorance; the Holy Spirit indicating this, that the way into the Holiest of All was not yet made manifest while the first tabernacle was still standing. It was symbolic for the present time in which both gifts and sacrifices are offered which cannot make him who performed the service perfect in regard to the conscience— concerned only with foods and drinks, various washings, and fleshly ordinances imposed until the time of reformation.”
Here, the inspired writer makes it clear that due to the insufficiency and weakness of the animal sacrifices and cultic praxis to take away sin, that man could not enter the MHP. As long as that system was “imposed” (from epikeimena, ἐπικείμενα Strong’s #1945) having standing (v. 8, from στάσιν , stasin, Strong’s #4714– this does not mean the simple physical edifice still “standing” but, having standing, i.e. validity) there could be no entrance into the MHP.
Now, the majority of evangelical Christianity claims that the Law of Moses, with its cultus, was “nailed to the cross.” Appeal is made to Colossians 2:14f. Unfortunately for that view, that text does not prove the case, but just the opposite. I will not discuss that here, but, see my book The Passing of the Law: Torah To Telos for a full discussion.
To put our case as simply as possible:
As long as the Law of Moses remained imposed, having standing, there could be no forgiveness, no salvation, no entrance into the Most Holy Place.
The Law of Moses would remain imposed until the time of reformation, when man could have forgiveness and salvation and enter the MHP.
To put this another way, man could have forgiveness and salvation and enter the MHP at the end of Torah, the time of reformation.
But, salvation (and entrance into the MHP) would be at the second appearing of Christ (Hebrews 9:28).
Therefore, the Law of Moses would remain imposed until the time of reformation, the time of the second appearing of Christ – when man could have forgiveness and salvation and enter the MHP.
What all of this means is that if Christ has not come the second time for salvation, there is still no entrance into heaven, there is no forgiveness, and the Law of Moses remains valid (Imposed).
Now, it is fascinating to witness the confusion in the evangelical world in regard to entrance into the MHP, i.e. heaven. Even great historical theological figures differed greatly on this issue.
It may not be too much to say that the dominant view in evangelical Christianity today is that when the faithful Christian dies, they go to heaven. Luther and Calvin were both opposed to this:
Martin Luther on the Most Holy Place:
Martin Luther said: “As for the popular notion that the souls of the righteous have the full enjoyment of heaven prior to the resurrection, Luther whimsically remarked, “It would take a foolish soul to desire its body when it was already in heaven!” – (D. Martin Luthers Werke, ed. Tischreden (Weimar, 1912-1921), 5534, cited by Althaus, op. cit), 417.
He said further: “Now, if one should say that Abraham’s soul lives with God but his body is dead, this distinction is rubbish. I will attack it. One must say, The whole Abraham, the whole man, shall live. The other way you tear off a part of Abraham and say, “It lives.” (Table Talk, cited by Althaus, op. cit), 447.)
John Calvin likewise opposed the idea that Christians go to heaven prior to the end of time. (John Calvin, Institutes, Bk III, chapter 25:6).
Westminster Confession of Faith on the Most Holy Place
On the opposite side stands the Westminster Creed says: “1. The bodies of men, after death, return to dust, and see corruption; but their souls (which neither die nor sleep), having an immortal subsistence, immediately return to God who gave them. The souls of the righteous, being then made perfect in holiness, are received into the highest heavens, where they behold the face of God in light and glory, waiting for the full redemption of their bodies; and the souls of the wicked are cast into hell, where they remain in torments and utter darkness, reserved to the judgment of the great day. Besides these two places for souls separated from their bodies, the Scripture acknowledgeth none.” (The Westminster Confession Chapter 32 – Of the State of Man After Death, and of the Resurrection of the Dead).
So, we have the two dominant views concerning the fate of the dead. One side says the faithful Christian goes to Hades -Abraham’s bosom – to await the resurrection. (Where is the “Gospel of the Kingdom” n this view?) The other side says the faithful Christian goes to heaven when they die. (There is of course, the view of “soul sleep” as well, but, that is just a modified form of saying that the Christian does not go to heaven until the end of time).
The question is, when could man enter the MHP, heaven, the presence of God? Certain things are clear from Hebrews 9:
1. It could not be while Torah remained valid. Torah had to pass before man could enter the MHP.
2. It could not be until there was forgiveness of sin.
3. It would only be at “the time of reformation.”
4. It would only be at the second appearing of Christ, for salvation.
Now, of course, most Christians believe that the saints actually received / receive objective forgiveness prior to the second appearing. But this is not a Biblical doctrine. According to Romans 11:25-27 forgiveness would become a reality at the coming of Christ in judgment. The Holy Spirit was given by the Lord to serve as the guarantee of that coming day of redemption, the coming day of forgiveness. Look carefully at Ephesians 1:7, 4:30:
“In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace.”
Notice that redemption is explained as forgiveness. In fact, many translations render this as, “In whom we have redemption, even the forgiveness of sins…” Thus, redemption is forgiveness which is redemption. Of course, if we read the text in isolation from the rest of the book, we might conclude that forgiveness was an actual, objective reality at that time. But, that would be wrong. Notice what Paul goes ahead to say:
“And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.”
Now, in chapter 1:12-13, Paul said the Spirit had been given as the arrabon, the guarantee of the redemption of the purchased possession. Here in 4:30, he says the Spirit had sealed them for “the day of redemption.” So, redemption had not yet come, even though they had received the Spirit as the guarantee that it would come. (See Philippians 1:6 on this). Redemption was an “already-but-not-yet” reality. Let me express it like this:
Redemption is forgiveness (Ephesians 1:7).
The day of redemption was still future when Paul wrote (Ephesians 4:30).
Therefore, forgiveness was yet future when Paul wrote.
This comports perfectly with the imagery of Hebrews 9 that presents Jesus as the Great High Priest making the Atonement. Christ had appeared to offer himself as the sacrifice. He entered the MHP with his blood to offer it there. He would appear the second time to bring salvation- the Atonement perfected! And we must take note that the author said that the second appearing was to be in a “very, very little while, and will not delay” (10:37).
Now, what does the writer posit at the time of salvation, the time of reformation? Entrance into the Most Holy Place because forgiveness is a reality at that second appearing!
The correlation between the second appearing of Christ, entrance into the MHP, the time of reformation, and forgiveness should not be missed. And yet, what happens so often is that commentators say that we have forgiveness, but, we are waiting for salvation! But, if we have forgiveness, we have access to the Presence of God, with is nothing other than salvation! If not, what is the difference between forgiveness, salvation and access to the Presence of the Lord?
Carefully note the following:
★ While Torah remained imposed there was no forgiveness, no entrance into the MHP, thus, no salvation.
★ Torah would remain imposed “until the time of reformation.”
★ The time of reformation is the putting right, making correct, the fault and weakness of Torah – i.e. no forgiveness, no entrance into the MHP, no salvation.
★ Salvation, entrance into the MHP, would come at the second appearing of Christ.
★ Therefore, the time of reformation, the time of forgiveness and entrance into the MHP would be at the second appearing of Christ.
Needless to say, if Christ has not come the second time, Torah remains imposed. There is no forgiveness. There is no entrance into the MHP. There is no salvation.
Needless to say, if Christ has not come the second time, Torah remains imposed. There is no forgiveness. There is no entrance into the MHP. There is no salvation. There is no resurrection life!
Take careful note of 2 Corinthians 3, where Paul spoke of the Old Covenant as the “ministration of death, written and engraven in stone” (v. 6). This was the Ten Commandments that Paul was calling the ministration of death. In the ensuing verses, he spoke of then present passing of that ministration of death – “that which is passing away.” He said the end of that Old Covenant world remained their “hope” and that hope (since it was still his hope it was not an accomplished reality!) that gave them boldness to speak of its passing, and the greater glory of the New Covenant.
In verse 18 he said that they were at that time, “being transformed, (present tense) from Glory to Glory.” That “Glory transformation” was the transition from the ministration of death to the ministration of life. This is nothing less than resurrection and since Paul said the transformation (literally, metamorphosis) was taking place, this means that the resurrection was taking place. The transition from death to life is resurrection, is it not?
Now, how does all of this relate to the Gospel of the kingdom as the message of the coming fall of Jerusalem?
Remember that Jesus and his disciples posited the coming fall of Jerusalem as the “end of the age” (συντελείας tou το aiōnos, suntelieas tou to aionos- Matthew 24:3). That temple represented – it was the ultimate of the sign of the Covenant. While the destruction of the temple itself did not automatically signify the end of the Covenant (since the Temple was destroyed in BC 586), in Matthew, that destruction was to be the sign of the end of the Covenant age of Moses and the Law. And notice that it would be the end of “the” age (singular).
The Old Covenant age was the age of the “ministration of death, written and engraven in stone.” It was the end of the age in which there was no entrance into the Most Holy Place. It was the end of the age in which there was no true forgiveness, and thus, no objective “life” or “righteousness” (Galatians 3:20-21).
In light of all of this, is it difficult to see how Jesus’ words about the impending fall of Jerusalem being “the gospel of the kingdom” were in fact true? Was it not – is it not – absolutely true that the passing of the ministration of death would be fantastic news? Would not reception of redemption, “even the forgiveness of sin” not be wonderful news (Ephesians 1:7–> 4:30)? Would not the end of the ineffective sacrificial system, giving way to the perfect sacrifice of Jesus, not be thrilling good news?
When one considers everything that scripture has to say about the ineffectiveness, the weakness and the inability of Torah to bring man to God, to provide life, righteousness, forgiveness, a clean conscious, and access to His Presence, how could the news that the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple, even though that would admittedly be traumatic, not be considered “The gospel of the kingdom”?
More to come so stay tuned!
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