As with every week’s topic I offer the apology that in this format the subject cannot be exhaustive. Your experiences and thoughts will be a welcome addition to the discussion. Please post them as comments and I’ll get back to you.
In this episode, I’ll discuss how, why, and what it means that the Book of Revelation is about something that has already happened. That something is the end of the world as it was known.
Week after week of confronting and ingesting scripture for Sunday sermons led to minute steps whereby, I began to put together several different theses that the scriptures divulged. One of these theses was that when Jesus of Nazareth died that day on a cross the old contract God had with human beings was repealed and a new contract begun. Blood was the ink upon which the contracts were signed.
The temple building with its altar of sacrifice was not just the symbol of Judaism but the very heart of Jewish life, worship and economy. Its destruction in 70ce was the end of a religion. No longer could Jews ritually repent or purify themselves. No longer were their priests to perform those rituals. Once the contract was finished there was no longer an agreement by God to be the god of the Jews, to accept their sacrifices, their prayers or grant them favor.
In the Gospel of John, chapter 19, verses 28-30, it says,
“After this, Jesus, knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, said, ‘I thirst!’ Now a vessel full of sour wine was sitting there; and they filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on hyssop, and put it to His mouth. 30 So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, ‘It is finished!’ And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit.”
All along, we thought Jesus was speaking about his mortal life, or about his purpose on Earth. Little have we suspected that part of Jesus’s purpose was to be the instrument by which the old contract with the Jewish people was finished; but Jesus was to be the vessel thru which the new contract would be built. And, although God ended the old contract, once and for all time, with the destruction of the Temple building, God offered a new Temple of sacrifice, repentance, and purification, as well as forgiveness, favor, and justification, so that the new contract could be forged, not only with the Jews, but with all human kind, in Jesus the Christ.
Jesus was unrecognizable as the promised Messiah to the Jews. The Rapture or Armageddon, or end of the world, though highly anticipated, came and went unobserved…
The touted Kingdom of God snuck into existence without participation. And most sadly, the destruction and resurrection of the Temple of God necessary for Judaism and the Faithful has gone completely unnoticed.
Jesus said, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.” (Jn. 2.19)
This pericope, or this line, in the gospel of John has Jesus of Nazareth making known that he is the Temple of the God of Abraham. Upon his physical death he will be rebuilt in physical form in three days. Jesus proclaims that he is the new Temple rebuilt from the blood and ash of the old temple, and he is the end of the covenant between God and the Hebrew sons and daughters of Isaac, son of Abraham. The covenant is built on the son of God.
What was once a place is now a person. No longer needed is the altar of sacrifice. Jesus has been the final sacrifice of atonement and purification. It is a sadly absent commentary that what was stored in a building is now embodied in the Son of God, crucified, and resurrected. Jesus is the Temple. The religion is changed. There is a new world and a new way of atonement, forgiveness, and righteousness.
In the Gospel of Matthew, it says: “Then Jesus cried again with a loud voice and breathed his last. At that moment, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook, and the rocks were split. The tombs also were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised.” (Mt. 27.50-52) This was the first crow of the cock that was a 35 year or so rewriting of the new covenant.
Around and about 33ce the beginning of the end of time began. In 70ce the cock gave up its last crow and the new time began. What happens to a world where God changes the rules? Where, perhaps God changes? I think a new world begins with new rules and a new way of the creatures of the world engaging that god.
On or around 33ce, Jesus of Nazareth, Son of Man, and the Living God of Abraham, was offered by the Chief Priest and Sadducees as a human sacrifice to the Roman Empire and its god, Juno. One of the great admonitions by the God of Abraham to the people of Israel was that there would be animal sacrifices but never a human sacrifice. By the blood of Jesus, sacrificed thru the intercession of Caiaphas, the Chief Priest, and the Sadducees, to Pontius Pilate, the Governor of Palestine, the Covenant with the God of Abraham was dissolved. The dissolution of the Covenant was displayed by the tearing of the curtain of the Temple, the shaking of the earth, the darkening of the sky and the opening of the tombs. (I don’t know about you, but what more evidence does a person need to understand that things have changed?)
Oh, maybe this: “From noon on, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon.” (Mt. 27.45)
The covenant began by God with Abraham by the blood of the circumcision of men, the willingness of Abraham to sacrifice his son, Isaac, only to make an animal sacrifice, and the natural affinity toward hospitality. It ended by the blood of Jesus the Christ, son of man and God.
This is what I think: God formed a contract with the Hebrew people. The terms of the contract were specific. Whether it was the Israelite lack of adhering to Jubilee Justice, the lack of faithfulness of the kings of Israel and Judea, or that God decided to move beyond a small sampling of humanity to all of humanity, it was time for a new contract.
Conveniently, the leaders of the Jewish religion violated the terms of the contract when they colluded with the Romans to sacrifice Jesus of Nazareth for their benefit.
Jesus’s death was the end of the Old Covenant by the spilling of his blood. It was also the signing by Jesus’s blood of a New Covenant between God and all humanity.
The terms of the agreement changed. God changed. No longer would God be an eminent, jealous, vengeful, genocidal god in dealing with human beings. God would now be understanding, loving, forgiving, merciful and imminent in the lives of humanity.
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May God continue to bless and keep you. Stay safe.