Thursday, May 22, 2014

The World is a Cosmic Temple

I have been doing a study on the temple motif of Scripture and recently discovered, to my great pleasure, that the first Temple (apart from the abode of God) is the created cosmos itself. Dr. Jim Hamilton, in his book What is Biblical Theology?, makes the case when he writes:
The world is a cosmic temple. Reflecting assumptions common in the ancient Near East, and showing that he saw the literary connections. Moses built into his narratives of Eden and the tabernacle in Genesis and Exodus, Asaph writes of the temple in Jerusalem:
He built his sanctuary like the high heavens,
Like the earth, which he has founded forever (Ps. 78:69)
This comparison reflects a profound theological reality: the temple is meant to be an image of the cosmos. The temple and, earlier, the tabernacle were small-scale versions of the world God made. Isaiah saw this same reality. The Lord’s footstool is the ark of the covenant in the Most Holy Place in the temple (cf. 1 Chron. 28:2), but Isaiah knows that the earth was built to be god’s dwelling place. The Lord says through Isaiah:
Thus says the LORD:
“Heaven is my throne,
And the earth is my footstool;
What is the house that you would build for me,
And what is the place of my rest?” (Isa. 66:1)
The place of God’s rest was the world that he built (Gen. 2:3). This idea that the world is God’s global dwelling place is also what we see when the New Jerusalem come down from God out of heaven, and the dimensions and adornments of the new heaven and earth show it to be a massive Most Holy Place. There is no temple there, but god and the Lamb are the temple (Rev. 21:9-27). This is why the bells of the horses in the new Jerusalem will bear the inscription put on the high priests’s headgear (Zech. 14:20; cf. Ex. 28:36).

The idea that creation is a temple also helps us understand humanity, the image of God. Those who worship idols put carved and decorated pieces of wood or stone in their temples to represent their gods. In the world’s true story, the living God puts is living image in the cosmic temple: a walking, talking, worshiping human being. God’s image represents him n his temple.

Once again the symbol, in this case the temple, summarizes and exposits the Bible’s story: when the glory of God filled the tabernacle and, later, the temple (Ex. 40:34; 1 Kings 8:10-11), God gave Israel a preview of the way he will fill the cosmic temple with his glory. What God did in the microcosm, he will do in the macrocosm. What God portrayed in the symbol, he will fulfill in reality. (72-74)

For more:
"What is Biblical Theology?" by James Hamilton: A Review
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